WHEN THEY DROPPED THE BOMBS
World War Two - When the Bombs Fell on Stocksbridge.
This is an ongoing piece of research; feel free to get in touch through the Contact Us page if you can help.
Main page photograph shows a Messerschmitt 109 plane which was shot down over the south of England in 1940. It toured the country as a means of raising money, and made an appearance in Stocksbridge, behind the Friendship Hotel. This photograph was taken at Barker's Pool in Sheffield.
There are various eye-witness accounts of the day some bombs were dropped on Stocksbridge during WW2. All the accounts seem to refer to just one day. The accounts are very similar, but there are also differences; I have looked at all those I have found and tried to make a summary of the events. Stocksbridge escaped a major attack because the attention of the German bombers was drawn away from the town and towards the hills. Large bombs craters can still be seen on the moors to this day.
Only one man, a miner called Albert Cooke, remembered hearing the air-raid siren; everyone else said that they did not recall hearing the siren, but heard loud explosions and the sound of glass breaking.
As to how many bombs, again the accounts vary. There seem to have been between five and nine, though consensus seems to be that there were six bombs dropped that day. From the various eye-witness accounts, I identified eight locations, but some of these were probably related, bringing the total down to six.
1. One bomb was dropped down the chimney in the Siemens department OR it dropped in the Siemens open hearth melting shop into an empty mould which splintered, causing a Mr. Trail to suffer from shock.
2. One bomb was dropped in the spring mill – this was opposite the bottom of Park Drive and close to the Siemens department
3. One bomb was dropped at the bottom of Park Drive, destroying Park Lodge. I am unsure whether this was a direct hit - it was possibly collateral damage - though people do remember there being a bomb crater there. A second-hand wooden furniture store belonging to Mr. Len Moxon was bombed and he had to close his business as a result (this was possibly on Manchester Road, on the opposite side of the road to The Lodge). The Lodge apparently belonged to Councillor Percy Schofield, and one report says that it "concertinaed," but nobody was hurt. Amos Ridal’s outhouse at Horner House was partly demolished. The roof was lifted off two cottages [does this refer to the Lodge? Or somewhere else nearby? One person says that a bomb destroyed a pigsty and a large boulder was blown onto the roof of the cottages behind Horner House farm by the blast].
4. One bomb was dropped on the doorstep of Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s house on Spring Mill Terrace but failed to explode. This was said to have been an incendiary bomb. Another report of a bomb dropping between Spring Mill Terrace and Bessemer Terrace, which fractured a gas main, was probably the same bomb. Henry Lee and his wife celebrated their Diamond wedding anniversary on Christmas Day 1943. Henry was 80 years old and his wife Louisa was 77. They both started work when they were 11 years old and had been living at 238 Spring Mill Terrace for 50 years.
5. One bomb dropped in the Works’ scrap yard and showered metal and bolts through the glass sky lights of the Victory Club onto the billiard tables [there was a scrapyard at the side of the Victory Club]
6. Another bomb fell on the hillside at Hunshelf and left a huge crater. Locations put forward are: between the Works and a homestead known as the Barracks; the hillside just below Rose Cottage [was this in the area known as Croft?]; on the hillside opposite Brownhill Row. One lady who lived on Brownhill Row remembers the bomb, which broke all the windows; it landed in a field below White Row. Albert Cooke, a miner, reported a bomb dropping near the pit he was working at - this could be the same bomb as fell on the hillside, because old maps show a colliery in this vicinity.
The Paragon Newsletter (Autumn 1996) carries a transcript of a taped interview with Albert Cooke, recorded in 1992. He recalls the night he was at work when the bombs fell:
"We used to go out ov t’pit during the night at snap time into t’lamp cabin, well there was one particular night the sirens had gone and we were sat having snap and these ‘ere bombs dropped. We shouldn’t really have been in t’lamp cabin we should have been down t’pit but we’d gone out for a warm because they used to have big fires in the lamp cabin. And they dropped 7 or 8 bombs within about 50 yards from the pit. This bomb, I didn’t know if it were a buzzbomb or whatever it made a whirring noise, whirring and I mean we were crouched down under the benches in t’lamp cabin cause we’d no idea where it were dropping this one, anyhow it dropped just that bit away from t’pit and to tell the truth it frightened us to death, all of us. They dropped in a row across. Dropped one Siemens chimney, one in t’furnaces and 2 at bottom of t’Park where we lived. Some cottages there at the bottom, it lifted the roof off two.”
The Gate Lodge is on the right hand side of this photograph. It stood at the bottom of Park Drive, and was originally the gatehouse for Stocksbridge Hall, which still stands at the top of Park Drive. The terraced houses on the near left were Langsett Terrace, back-to-backs which have now been demolished.
The actual date for the day the bombs dropped isn't known. One report says that the first bomb dropped at five past two on a Friday morning, the 23rd August. The 23rd August fell on a Friday in 1940. Another report stated that it was the 23rd August 1941 (a Saturday). A third account thinks that the bombs were jettisoned by bombers returning from the second night of the Sheffield blitz, and that they were not aimed specifically at Stocksbridge. The Sheffield blitz occurred on the nights of Thursday 12th December 1940 and Saturday 15th December.
1931 Ordnance Survey map showing the approximate locations of the bomb drops, in no particular order
1. Siemens - the bomb possibly fell down one one of the 5 chimneys (highlighted in yellow), or it fell into an empty mould
2: Spring Mill
3. Gate Lodge at the bottom of Park Drive
4. Spring Mill Terrace and Bessemer Terrace
5. Victory Club - there was a scrap yard near here and debris fell on the Club
6. A guess at where on the hillside one of the bombs dropped; possibly near a coal / ganister mine, near Brownhill Row and below White Row. The pit where Albert Cooke was working that night is probably the one highlighted in green; this is marked as "colliery" on a map of 1908, and as "old colliery buildings" on a map of 1941 in Hazel Stansfield's book "Samuel Fox and Company"
As far as I know, there were no more bombs dropped on Stocksbridge.
Sheffield Archives has an ordnance survey map of Stocksbridge, showing war damage sites in relation to compensation claims. I have written to enquire about this [as at 14th May 2021]
Jack Branston, History of Stocksbridge
The History of Stocksbridge School, Sections 1 & 2, 1929-1971, pub. 1983. 1929-1945 was written by Mr. Keith Angus
Hazel Stansfield, Samuel Fox & Company Limited 1842-1967
The Penistone Almanacs
The Paragon Newsletters published by Stocksbridge History Society
Correspondence over the years with people who remember the bombing
Comments made on the Stocksbridge & District Bygone Days Facebook page in response to my requests for information
Note: I found nothing in the local newspapers. The South Yorkshire Times is available for 1940/41 online but as yet the Penistone, Stocksbridge & Hoyland Gazette is not [correct at May 2021]. There were some reports of air raids but details were very vague – for example, one reported air raid happened “in a N. E. town.”