Air Raids on Bury, Lancashire

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Air Raids on Bury, Lancashire

This is a record of the Luftwaffe air raids on Bury during World War 2 excluding the V1 attack at Christmas 1944.

There may have been more than those recorded here and I still have some more research to do, but I believe this piece covers them all.

The reason I have added it is because there is very little on the internet or in print about air raids on Bury. That is probably because Bury suffered very little – at least until Christmas 1944 when out of the blue a V1 struck at Tottington killing 7 people. Until then, there had been no deaths in Bury as a result of German bombs, though one source contradicts that.

Thus the inhabitants of Bury were very fortunate, the majority of bombs landing in fields and gardens rather than on houses.

The image above shows Walker’s Field from Chesham Road where one bomb fell – please see below under October 12 1941 for details.

Regarding the attacks it is doubtful the pilots of the Luftwaffe bombers knew exactly where they were. Some may have been opportunist attacks but other sources evidence all these attacks happened during air raids on Manchester, so it is probable the bomber crews thought they were attacking the city or intended to attack the city but could not find their target. In 1941 only 10% of RAF bombers over Germany dropped their payload within 5 miles of the intended target so it is reasonable to assume a similar success rate for Luftwaffe crews over Britain though German radio navigation will probably have had some impact on success rates.

Re; the info below, anything in italics is a quote from the Bury Times of the time. The reason the paper is vague about locations is so as to not provide the enemy with intelligence.

The first time the air raid warning sounded in Bury was June 20th 1940. This was in response to an air raid on Accrington 11 miles to the north which caused the alarm to be raised as far south as Manchester which is 8 miles from Bury. One source states 6 High Explosive bombs fell, killing 3 people in Accrington.

Below; An air raid siren was located just to the left of this electricity substation on the corner of Mather Road and Walmersley Road in Bury. On the brickwork of the substation between the two doors, you can still make out a very faded diamond shape painted black filled in with even more faded yellow paint. This was possibly an Emergency Rendezvous Point symbol? Please see here for more about them and other examples in Lancashire.

Then;
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Now;
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Listen to WW2 Air Raid sirens – this is probably how it sounded, the wail of several sirens drifting across town at the same time…

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August 29 1940

The Bury Times of 31 August ran with the headline

PEOPLE REMAIN CALM IN THEIR FIRST AIR RAID
Little Damage By Night Nuisance Bombers

This first air raid on Bury struck to the north of the town, around the area of Walmersley. Bast House near Nangreaves was damaged and there was some minor damage to the Hark to Dandler pub at Baldingstone. Houses in the area were also damaged, mostly with windows blown out.

The Bury Times reported When light-calibre bombs were dropped in a North-Western town, slight damage was caused.
“Women and children behaved wonderfully well” said an official in paying tribute to the behaviour of the people. Quick to realise the necessity of taking cover, people had hurried from their beds and taken cover either in shelters or under the stairs away from flying glass.

There is a reference to a hospital in the area being in the vicinity of the falling bombs, probably this was Bury General Hospital on Walmersley Road.

Below. Photo from the Bury Times, captioned FOUR bombs fell in open country, only small craters were made.

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There were casualties elsewhere in the area that night, 6 people were killed and 10 injured in Hulme, Manchester. HE and incendiaries also fell on Ancoats, Moss Side, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Openshaw and Platt Fields.

August 31 1940

Bury escaped the air raid on Swinton and Pendlebury of August 30 but as more bombs fell on Manchester on Aug 31, Bury again had a few bombs fall at Tottington and at Hoyle’s playing fields off Huntley Mount Rd.

Under the headline BOMBS DROP HARMLESSLY ON NORTH-WESTERN MOORLAND the Bury Times refers to an orphanage being close by but fortunately there were no casualties. That was probably Hollymount which was north of Tottington. The bombs made two huge craters near the orphanage.

The newspaper also reports A few miles across the moors thirteen bombs made much smaller craters in the fields. “I thought one of the bombs was coming straight for my place” said the licensee of the Pack Horse Inn.

I think that is a reference to the Pack Horse Inn at Affetside though it is only a mile from Tottington.

“The villagers did not think much of the raid. Here are two views;

A Youngster; “Of course we weren’t frightened”

An elderley inhabitant; “Yon pig could’ve scrat bigger holes than them craters.”

October 2 1940

Inman and Helm (Bury & The Second World War, 1995) say that 2 people were killed in the air raid of October 2 1940, but other sources say there were no casualties though they are all quite vague in reporting the attack.

The Bury Times of October 5 stated there were no serious injuries but it is possible they were people who later died of injuries. All reports refer to Jericho hospital (now Fairfield Hospital) being bombed.

A 7 year old boy, a patient at the hospital, said when asked by a Bury Times reporter if the children had cried, “We’re not THAT soft!”

Helen Jones (British Civilians in the Front Line, 2006) says that early in the war the government (and consequently the press) had expected people to panic during air raids; people had seen newsreels of the effects of Luftwaffe bombing raids during the Spanish civil war, especially Guernica in 1937. So when people appeared calm and taking it in their stride, it was reported on. Later on in the war, the press expected people to remain calm and so occasions where people panicked were unusual and worth reporting!

One bomb fell in the middle of a lawn of a town house causing a 30 foot wide crater while another landed near the home of 86 year old Mr R Parker who said, “Oh it shook the house alright but if there is nothing worse I shall not mind.”

Peter J C Smith (Luftwaffe Over Manchester, 2003) notes that night a number of oil bombs fell on Salford, on Bury Old Road, Prestwich causing some severe burns and at Whitefield an oil bomb in Thatch Leach Lane failed to ignite.

Below; Seedfield Methodist Church off Walmersley Rd in Bury was a decontamination centre and gas mask distribution centre for the area.
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October 7 1940

The Bury Times reported on Wednesday October 9th 1940 of an air raid two nights before and what appears to have been the first fatalities in Bury; some hens were killed.

A great barrage was put up by anti-aircraft guns and 2 HE bombs fell in a field a short distance from Bury Grammar School (not identified in the Bury Times report) but demolished only a small hencote. Some windows were broken but there were no casualties in Bury. There were deaths that night however in Collyhurst and in Urmston.

May 2 1941

2 parachute mines fell at Stubbins, one on the bank of the River Irwell and the other a few hundred yards away at Stubbins Street. Both exploded, incredibly causing only minor injuries and some light damage to property.

Two ARP wardens saw the mines slowly descending and thinking they were Luftwaffe airmen who had baled out of their bomber, prepared to apprehend them, before realising the true nature of what was hanging beneath the parachutes. They quickly dived for cover!
(Inman & Helm, 1995)

One source states that 286 houses were damaged at Stubbins and 18 people were slightly injured.

The Bury Times reported one family, a Mr and Mrs Harry Warwick and their 9 year old daughter Alice, who had a miraculous escape when the bombs which fell by the river blasted off the roof of their bungalow and two walls caved in yet the family emerged with just a few cuts and bruises. “Strangely enough,” said Mr Warwick, “for none of us heard the explosion, the first thing we knew was that the roof and walls had collapsed on us.”

The paper also reported a house where the heads of a bunch of daffodils were cut clean off leaving the stalks and vase untouched. These sorts of details are not uncommon when reading reports of bombings, blast patterns having some bizarre effects in terms of who and what survive.

Below; a parachute mine similar to the ones which fell at Stubbins. This one fell at Oldham in the back alley between Castleford Street and Wakefield Street, this view looking towards Lime Street.
Image © Greater Manchester Police Museum & Archives. Used with kind permission

October 12 1941

The last of the bomber air raids to strike Bury, so far as I can tell, was in October 1941 and apart from a brief spell in July 1942 where parts of Manchester were bombed again, there was no more enemy activity over Bury until the V1 attack of Christmas Eve 1944. A record from Nov 1943 notes 326 houses in the borough had been damaged (Inman and Helm) though this tally will include broken windows and predates the V1s at Radcliffe and Tottington of course.

The final air raid seems relatively well known in Bury, people referring to bomb craters still in Walker’s Field at Chesham (see lead photo above)

I am uncertain which of the depressions in Walker’s Field – if any – is the result of an HE bomb and there is no consistency when asking the locals. Smith notes that while 5 bombs fell in Bury, only one of them exploded so only one of the depressions in Walker’s Field can have been made by a bomb, a detail sort of verified by the Bury Times which reported the incident, as usual, without referring to the town or the area. “A stick of bombs was dropped near a North-West inland town… windows and doorways were shattered when a high explosive bomb dropped in a field opposite a row of houses… The bomb landed a few yards away in a railing enclosed meadow.”

Oldham had it far worse that night with 27 people killed and 16 seriously injured while another 13 were killed in Denton. Bombs fell too in Bolton, Rochdale, Ashton, Clayton and Newton Heath.

Below; soldiers recover an unexploded bomb at Lilac Lane, Oldham after the air raid of October 12 1941.

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For the 1944 V1 attack which struck at Tottington please see here.

Within this gallery (Air Raids & Bomb Sites) there are also photos and details of the V1s which fell at Radcliffe and Turton and other places around Manchester.

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32 comments on “Air Raids on Bury, Lancashire
  1. Richard Tierney says:

    When I worked on the Bolton Evening News, I remember doing a feature on an old bloke who was in the Home Guard at the time.. he said the Bombers used to come in from Yorkshire ( poss from over the North Sea ) and then approached Holcombe Moor, to the NW of Bury, it seems they used the Peel Tower on the North side of the Valley, as a landmark, turned South East and then used Bury as a final Initial Point of reference, before flying SE and onto the Manchester conurbation. That way they avoided AA gun batteries to the South of Manchester. Perhaps it was tired crews, poor navigation, or a simple mistake, thinking Bury was Manchester? He also told me that Fairfield Hospital was on their target list as they operated one of the first X Ray scanners using radio-isotopes? That was deemed in their eyes a legitimate war target.

    The Tottington V1 bomb was ( as you know ) launched from a Heinkel HE111 over the North Sea, to increase its range and attack targets in the North West, again possibly an attack on Manchester that went wrong.

    Cracking research and article as always Ian.

  2. crusader752 says:

    Fascinating details as always Ian – those parachute mines must have been horrendous especially waking up to find one draped across the outside lav!
    Love the ‘Yon Pig’ quote too 🙂

  3. mick cooke says:

    brilliant story from you again ian and the photos
    take care and have a great week end

  4. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/mick_cooke_wildlife] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/29288836@N00] Thanks guys, much appreciated. I liked the ‘Yon Pig’ quote too!
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardtierney]
    Interesting observations Richard. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bombers came in from Yorkshire rather than over Liverpool, it would be short and safer for them. Peel Monument would make a good landmark – if they could see it. But flying south from Bury would still take them into range of the Heavy AA guns at Whitefield, Heaton Park and Cheetham Hill. But the route you describe would avoid the nightfighter bases at Squire’s Gate and Cranage, though Group Patrol areas extended north to Rossendale and east to the Pennines.

    Re; the hospitals, someone told me the Luftwaffe had a map of all the hospitals so as to intentionally attack them but I don’t believe that (though Bamford & Collier in ‘Eyes of the Night’ (2005) do refer to a target map found at a German airbase in 1945 showing Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital as a legitimate target). Besides, given these were night raids over a blacked out Britain it is doubtful the bomb aimer would know where they were. One person has speculated on the chimneys at Fairfield looking like mill chimneys so maybe that attracted the bombers? But there were hundreds of mill chimneys all around. My belief is the crews just opened the bomb doors over some town or other and then flew back to France.

    You are right about the V1. Certainly they were aimed only roughly at Manchester. Again people say that a V1 landed on their town because there was a factory producing aircraft parts or something, but really the aiming was not that specific. It was all vague and at that stage of the war the Nazis wanted to hit civilians, not military targets – V was for Vengeance.

    Heavy AA gun map;
    Map showing Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery sites around Manchester

  5. nondesigner59 says:

    Great historical interest..

  6. salfordlad1 says:

    Brilliant as usual, as I’m pretty new to the area it’s doubly interesting. Fascinating stuff Ian.

  7. stiemer says:

    Fantastic Ian

  8. cgullz says:

    "previous occupants of my house .." – have you thought of researching your house?

    "Yon pig could’ve scrat bigger holes than them craters." LMAO stoic and humorous to boot 🙂

    great research Ian. in all, sounds like Bury got off relatively lightly by comparison? possibly due to both it’s size and location? i like how the old school reporting [real reporting] covers incidents thoroughly.

    by the by, your local red brick is a great colour!

  9. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/nondesigner] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/stiemer] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/25305713@N04] Thanks guys.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/angwickham] Thanks Ang. Bury was just lucky I think and unlike Oldham I don’t believe the town was especially targetted. My mother and her parents in Oldham would have been sheltering from the bombs during that last raid. Re; the red brick? It is everywhere our house is red brick and I am not keen. But check out some paintings by L S Lowry if you like it though!

  10. amyrey says:

    Fascinating history Ian… like Ang, I love the quote about the pig. I can almost hear it said in a thick Lancs accent.

  11. cgullz says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/maycontaintracesofnuts] I like that how in days of old the local stone was what was used for all the village houses. it gave a kind of uniformity, but also spelt out ‘this is where we are from’ .. over here there is ‘Hinuera Stone’ from Hinuera, it is a lovely honey coloured stone [kind of like what reminds me of Gloustershire however it’s spelt] .. and Huntly Brick, from Huntly of course … which is orange. I get a bit miffed when i see modern houses being touched up with South Island shale, and river stones from completely different parts of the country. It just screams ‘money’ to me. i guess i find that bothersome. in saying that, i guess when red brick is the only colour you grow up with, something else would be nice for a change. but, from me, i like it. will check out the paintings 🙂

  12. Billy Currie says:

    Can’t believe how peaceful it looks now

  13. pasujoba says:

    Blimey Ian , you have been busy . This is a great read and a wonderful peice of detective work/reportage. A must see article for any interested party or Bury local.

  14. steve-bury-2004 says:

    I often visit the site where the bomb dropped in Tottington. I grew up there and went to the school in Laurel Street. My mum still recalls the times when the German planes flew overhead. They all used to hide under the stairs when they could hear the sirens followed by the hum and drone of the planes flying over Bury Road. She has always said to me that the bomb that was dropped was just being offloaded by the Germans after their raid on Manchester. It was probably that they didn’t want to take it back with them .

  15. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/74469824@N00] Thanks Steve, good to hear from you and of your Mum’s memories of the air raids. I agree with your Mum, Bury was not a military target. There were certain towns in the North West where specific bits of military hardware were produced and Bury, like any other town, had industries given over to production to further the war effort, the whole country was geared to it. But it does not seem to be the case that Bury was a target and more than likely the Luftwaffe either thought they were over Manchester (-ish), or had failed to find the target and were, as your Mum said, dumping their bombs.

    I don’t know if the Luftwaffe ever returned to base without carelessly offloading their bombs over British towns but RAF did avoid the same over Germany early in the conflict before total war removed any of that kind of chivalry. This Hampden crashed near Holmfirth still carrying its bombs on return after failing to find the target.
    Hampden L4055, Holme, West Yorkshire

  16. steve highway says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/74469824@N00] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/74469824@N00] The V1 ‘Flying Bomb’ that demolished Chapel Street in Tottington was launched from beneath a specially adapted Heinkel bomber as it approached the North coast of England. There were 45 of these released that night all aimed at Manchester……

  17. chrisfgr4 says:

    Another interesting feature about I place I work near to. Have you researched the Spitfire that crashed at Walmersley?

  18. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/76763515@N03]

    Thanks very much for your comments, here and on the Cirrus Moth crash site in Summerseat. Check out the Warth Camps photos on my stream if Bury’s WWII history is of interest, though one of them does make grim reading.

    Yeah, have visited the one at Walmersley. Oddly enough I was walking up there only yesterday. There are a few crash sites in the area. Clicking the map below will take you to photos of some of the sites I have visited and documented. Thanks again for your interest, it is much appreciated.
    />

  19. chrisfgr4 says:

    Thanks for the link. Very interesting. You have a superb collection of shots.

  20. Joan scull says:

    In reference to the bomb that dropped on the Hospital in Bury,
    My Mother used to tell me that on the night I was born which was the 22-08-1943, she was in the ambulance being taken to Fairfield Hospital when the said bomb dropped, and I was born in the ambulance, because they could not go any further, as a bomb had dropped on Fairfield Hospital. Years later I asked my Auntie who at the time of the bombing live near Darn Hill, about the bomb and she confirmed that the bomb dropped on Fairfield Hospital at approximately 10-50p.m. the night I was born.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Joan, thanks for your comment. Not sure about the dates though, all sources I have give the night Fairfield was hit was 2nd October 1940 and the only time alarm was raised over Manchester in 1943 was on the August 18th.

      I shall do some more checking though, have some books coming which detail German air raids the UK and will add an update if I find anything. For this piece above I read through every Bury Times from August 1939 to August 1945 but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss something, so will double check those too.

      It’s possible there may have been a newly discovered unexploded bomb at the hospital which had to be dealt with and that could account for the ambulance being held up…

      Ian

  21. Dr.Chris Brooks says:

    My grandpa was an air raid warden and I lived with him, my mother and Granny at 14 Cranbrook Drive Sedgely Park, Prestwich. My dad was a doctor on the hospital ship MV Leinster. The house was semi detached. I was only about 3 when an incendiary bomb went through the roof of the Miss Blakes house the other side of our home. Grandpa went in with sand and stirrup pump and extinguished it. The bomb was brought back to our kitchen and lived in the bottom draw of the kitchen for 30 years or so. All of us grandkids use to pick it up, run around the kitchen shouting actung Spitfire!

  22. Neville Crompton says:

    Hi Ian
    Father was a policeman in Whitefield during ww11 and I was born in 1940. In Hollins
    I remember the German prisoners digging a stick of bombs out of what is now called Aviation Way off Pilsworth rd. they got them all out apart from one. This could not be dug out as it was at the side of the brook and the sand came back in as fast as they dug it out. The site of this one is now well under the Motoway!
    They were laid out on bomb trolleys and all the kids went to look.
    The yanks and the Green Howard’s were billeted in Buckleys Mill about 100yds from this stick, and also 100yds the other way was 6 site 35MU!! Good job they were duds.
    Another on father told me about was on Hollins lane it landed at the side of the row of terrace near UNSWORTH North Chapel and allegedly blew the chap out of bed,( I don’t think he was injured.)
    He was also sent out to locate one that had been reported at the bottom of Thatch leach lane. He said he found a piece of blue tail fin at the side of a hole no bigger than a “rat hole” this also they could not get out. Because of shifting sand. ( This one is now under the Frigate pub !!!)
    One of my fathers friends was a milkman and he related being straffed by a German bomber as he was delivering milk outside the Same Yet in Simister

    • Ian D B says:

      Great tales there Neville, thank you very much for relaying them on here. Doesn’t surprise me to hear of the milkman being shot at. I suppose total war meant everyone was a legit target though whether Allied air crews did the same I don’t know. Would like to think they didn’t but probably did. Here’s a terrific page detailing 35MU by the way
      http://www.lancashireatwar.co.uk/barrage-balloons/4586812401

  23. Thanks for the stories Neville, I’ve took the liberty of adding the locations you mention to my map of Prestwich WWII sites here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=11Y1m8atZfWKqC3ujcJ72ARjIojk&usp=sharing
    You’ve just reminded me of a family legend about a stick of bombs falling on Butterstile Hills too (I’m going to get that added).

    Best wishes,

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