Blitz remembered: Family tragedy in Jubilee Street

31 December 2015

It’s 75 years since the Blitz hit Grangetown, killing around 50 people. At 6.37pm on 2 January 1941, the air-raid began over Cardiff and Grangetown was the first and worst area to be hit. 

Here is the first in a series of stories looking back, starting with tragedy in north Grangetown.

The most poignant and tragic incident in Saltmead was in Jubilee Street.

The Nichols/Chiaramonti family at No 66, where they were already grieving a wartime loss.

Thomas and Nellie Nichols, aged 60 and 55, their 20-year-old daughter Muriel and four-year-old grandson, Neil Chiaramonti, were all killed by a land mine.

Gertrude Chiaramonti survived – but that evening lost her only child, her parents and sister. 

She had only recently been widowed. It was almost six months to the day Gertrude, 26, had lost her husband Francis, also 26, a Merchant Navy seaman. The son of a French sailor who served in World War One, he had been a junior engineering officer on board the MV Beignon, which was sunk off the coast of France by a U-Boat carrying a cargo of wheat and survivors from another ship’s sinking.

Gertrude had been a war baby herself, the fourth child born to Thomas and Neillie Nichols at 104 Saltmead Road (now Stafford Road) in 1914. Thomas, a builder’s labourer, had tried to enlist in the Great War but a varicose vein in his leg meant he was rejected. He had married Nellie Lock, the daughter of a bricklayer from Court Road.

Gertrude, who had married Francis in 1935, remarried after the war and died in 2002, aged 88.

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Jubilee Street as it looked after the bomb damage – pictured from the railway line

Leonard Atwell recalled the Jubilee Street air raid for the BBC’s WW2 People’s War: “My father went back into the house to get some blankets despite the screams from my mother for him to return. He did return with an armful of blankets just in time, for a nearby bomb blew off the sand-bag shielded door of the shelter, and the blast lifted the shelter a few inches, then it dropped back into place. My father spread-eagled himself over us, to protect us and I could hardly breathe. Until that night my mother had been afraid of thunder and lightening, but that night cured her. The following morning after the all-clear siren had sounded we emerged into the street to discover half of it had disappeared as the result of a land-mine. I had lost most of my little friends that night, some I was later told had sought refuge under the stairs in the misbelief that they would be safe. They possibly thought that it would be warmer there than the freezing cold Anderson Shelter. I doubt that they would have survived if they had used the shelter because of the close vicinity of the land-mine.”

It was likely the German bombers had been targeting the Canton railway yard, the other side of the railway. Three blocks of maisonettes were later built in the place of the damaged houses.

According to the school records from the time, as well as Jubilee Street, Compton Street, Stafford Road, Allerton Street and Court Road also sustained heavy damage.

A bomb also demolished part of Saltmead Hall in Maitland Place and Court Road School was closed due to extensive bomb damage.

 

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