The Leicester Blitz 1940

Published: 26 October 2020

A new exhibition commemorating Leicester’s ‘Blitz Night’ when 108 people were killed by German bombers opens in December 2020 at Newarke Houses. 

If you have a story about yours, or your families memories of the Leicester Blitz please share it with us by email, through Twitter or through Facebook. Use the hashtag #TheLeicesterBlitz

Letters to Loved Ones

Councillor Barton has unearthed a series of letters written from a family in Leicester to their daughter Vi during The Blitz. From the price of a wringle to her teenage sister almost getting hit by a falling bomb, they are a fascinating look into life in Leicester in a time of air raids and uncertainty. 


96 Anstey Lane

Leicester

Wed Morn

Dear Vi and George

Just a PC to say we are all OK after last night gave us hell for about seven hours & done tremendous damage in the centre of city. Dont know what damage as yet but great fire burning all night. Harris furniture shop started it. Vera had a narrow escape coming from night school got knocked down incendiary bomb dropped behind her came home crying glass flying everywhere

More later – Dad.


22 11 40

Dear Vi and George

Just a line to let you know that we are all okay (so far), I had a bit of a fright on Tuesday, I was coming out of night school when they dropped a flare but didn't take much notice of it and was just going to step on Charles Street corner when they dropped an incendiary bomb in Harris porch about 3 yards away from me but I didn't think it was one because it let me take a few steps before it went off. Oh! Boy I thought the end of the world had come and I went to run up London Road and one dropped in front of me against the water tank and one dropped in East Street, and everywhere smelt of sulphur and I was just coming across the Pastures (at the bottom of Church Gate) when they dropped four, that really did give me a fright.

We had an air raid this afternoon about four-o-clock. I was just going for 7 penny worth of milk when the serene (as they are called in Leicester) went.

You know how they used to scuttle in Leics. Well now they all walk about as ordinary as they are getting used to it. Well you had better hurry up and come to Leics if you want to see it in about one piece. You will have to excuse my writing but you see there is an air raid in progress now and any min. I am expecting to have to dash to the shelter.

There is an “Old Girls Meeting” tomorrow but I am not going as I have about 20 hours sleep to make up for.

It's a horrid sight to see some of these people that are wandering about looking for homes and some with there heads arms and legs bandaged up.

They dropped a land mine on Abbey Lane, but we didn't receive much of the blast.

Well I think I must close now as I have to try and doze off as I have to go to work just the same.

Your afectionate sister, Vera

PS Hope to see you soon, Talk about Vi losing her knickers, I nearly blotted my copy book on Tuesday.


Wincote

Dear Vi and George

Just received your letter 4.30 Mon after noon. Am glad to say we are alive but it wasn't F&B (Frears and Blacks) it was Squire's Narboro Rd & they bombed 2 house in Latimer St and Tyndale St. Britain and Gaul St. also Birstal and the corner of Hinckley and Fosse against the Church. I thought it was the finish for us as the first one at Birstal shook the very house's foundations we all slept on the Dining Room floor

 

Friday 96 Anstey Lane

Dear Vi and George

Just a few lines to say we are all OK and having a hell of a time this week. Commencing on Tues he has given us no rest sirens every night & again this afternoon & at the present Mam and kids are in the shelter.

Am sending a few photos out of the Mercury of the damage some of it. Mam and kids had gone to the Fosse Pictures Tues night & I went to meet them & had just got there when over he came right over the pictures & dropped a flare lit the Fosse Rd and District up oh boy & then incendiaries shortly after the siren went & out they came from the pictures & managed to get to Colwell Rd & down came his stuff & his first load hit Freeman Hardy & Willis & Faire Bros what a blaze. Lit Lester up for about seven hours & then the fun started over they came all night long till about five next morning he dropped hundreds of bombs & damage oh boy.

A few places hit are London Rd, Calais Hill, Dover St, Queen St, Evington district, St Saviours Rd, Grove Rd, Humberstone Rd, Abbey Lane just below Casseloid, Hinckley Rd, Welford Rd (Tigers) just missed power station, City Football Stand, Odean Picture Pal, Magazine Sq & several time bombs to go off one opposite GCR Station in the Paper Shop opposite Morley Factory one dropped on Victoria Park smashed the Pavillion & Underwoods where Vera goes & haven't any AA guns people are complaining about it.

There hasn't been any down Belgrave district as yet. There isnt hardly a pane of glass left in the shops on London Rd. Feared many deaths & injured up to now 28 dead & 150 injured.

Vera had narrow escape coming from night school incendiary dropped against her corner of Charles St got knocked down & glass flying all about & then she ran home. I bet she didnt half move but poor kid she was crying when she got home & done in.

Dropped an oil bomb on Steel & Busks Thurs morning about 2 o'clock smashed all Mellor Bromleys windowss & a lot of damage around there. The one that dropped around Abbey Lane blew Mr Franks down the passage as he just opened the front door & it made John and Aileen cry & when we told John it was the school he said Oh Boy now shant go school & then went to sleep & slept all night through it all.

Havent much more to say only everythings OK up to now hope the same applies to you both so cheerio & keep smiling try & get for Xmas as Mam would like to see you in fact we all should but Mam most of all she often says there is one missing in fact she said it tonight in the shelter so goodnight & God Bless you both. DAD


6 12 40 Wincote
96 Anstey Lane

Dear Vi & George

Received letter & PCs quite safe so hope you will get these alright. Was pleased to hear you are getting along you didnt say how your cold was so I suppose its about clear your Daddy has had a very bad one I think through messing about in & out the air raid shelter. I got one but on my chest but it is a lot better now thank goodness. Aileen John & Vera are in the pink. You should see John they are using yellow chalk at school & so of course he comes home looking as it he has developed yellow jaundice. It's all over his trousers jersey and shirt.

I went to get a wringer for Lily & got a little rubber one. It only cost 32/- for wringer & 18/- for the stand so now she is set up when she gets a tub & punch.

You talk about Xmas will you be home for Xmas day be sure and let me know because of getting the beds right & dont bother about presents John is having a fort so if you get a few soldiers or a gun to go on it & get Aileen a book or something like that. They have got a present for you but will save it until you come.

Can George get some chocolate at the canteen Ron bought no end home of course he bought it but we can't buy a bit here not a 2d pkt to be seen anywhere so if he can get it & I will pay you when you come home it doesnt matter what sort so long as it's chocolate.

Tell George that Vera's took the negatives in fact she was taking them & Jerry started dropping then but in the distance & they were all down the shelter & Rose played pop with her for risking her neck. George's mother & Bet were at Swithland. Bill is on nights. Would you like some bed socks knitting as you still have such cold feet.

We still get the sirens sometimes twice a day we had a 5 hour raid Thurs & we could hear them being dropped. Lily & I went up to the Highfields to see raid damage. It's awful all up Sparkenhoe St, Saxby St, & Highfields St. There is hardly a house not damaged. There is a bomb crater at the end of Saxby St. The Pavilion on the Victoria Park is damaged the Rugby Football stand was burnt down. Surridge Dawson in Central St had a time bomb inside & what a mess it made. The old pot & pan is now taking up the pen so here goes.

How did George get on with his exam I hope he has passed if not keep trying. Dont let it get you down old boy as you can see by the letter weve had a packet here & the moaning Minnie (siren) its quite common now every night apart from Thurs & often in the day time on Tues afternoon & Wed afternoon. I think we should have had it again Wed night but weather changed & heavy cloud & rain & he dropped flares around Leicester but they could not penetrate the clouds & it was a peculiar sight everywhere like the sky was lit up but no flames penetrated the thick clouds. What bombs he did drop were just outside Leicester & the load oh boy.

I was upstairs spotting & John & Mam in the dug out. Aileen was reading by the fire & it shook the house frightening her she soon came upstairs to me nearly crying. The all clear sounded that night 10.45 just four hours. Have taken on another job spotting at the shop every where in Leicester they are having them its compulsory.

We are pleased to hear that you are gaining weight it shows it is doing you good. Had a hell of a gale here nearly lost the roof of my shed & black out shutters had to fasten one to the lavatory (Aurnhands?) blew down.

Georges Mam & Dad are at Swithland with Bet & are staying there. Ron Walker came on Sat last & he is on 3/9 a day so he says he is a rigger looks after fabric & calls himself a first class airman. Dorothy gets £2/1/0 per week & cannot understand where George gets his & I told him he was a mechanic not a fabric mender, he is only 6 miles from your camp.

By the way they say the death rate re the bombing is about 200. Mam is still awaiting cardigan as she has bought some blue material for a frock.

Well I will now close with lots of love & best of luck to you both. Dad

PS Aunt Vi's address is c/o Mrs Thompson, 135 Victoria Rd, Cleveleys, nr Blackpool

As regards Xmas wait until you come for presents as I am only getting them one thing each as presents are too dear so be ruled by me & wait until you come if you do come. I will explain to them. I think we are only having two days. If you can get some slab choc (milk) get some I will see you alright. About a pound, & bring it with you.


Undated, preceding and following pages missing

We are expecting Ken & Jack down about 5. He has a weeks leave. We have heard there were 200 killed in Leicester you should see the list in the Information Beuro & a lot not identified yet they keep finding them now a lot of APC (Army Pay Corps) in Saxby St were killed they got the time bomb away yesterday from against Central Station but the cars Haven't started yet.

We went to pics Tues it must be our unlucky night as we had just gone to bed & off went the siren. The Highfields got it bad there was a bomb dropped 3 houses away from mother's house in Brunswick St. Mr Loctee(?) Lost his sister in law 3 children & the sister in law's mother a sister & an evacuee in the house corner of Frank St direct hit. His brother had gone an errand or else he would have been killed. There were 3 policemen killed & Nora's first case was a boy of 15 with his arm & leg blasted off against Swain St. They all but got to hospital it got the houses opposite.

You didnt send Yortes(?) did you for last Sat Nov 3 Will brought his gun home last night so John is busy now cleaning it.

You ask me what GF stands for. I should have thought George would have known (Gun Fire). John's P stabber? has worn down. Daddy hasn't been round NS as....

 

We would be interested to hear any stories you may have about the Leicester Blitz. Please use the hashtag #LeicesterBlitz to share them

Gallery of Letters

Heritage Panels

As part of a campaign to honour those who lost their lives during the Leicester Blitz, heritage panels have been created and can be viewed on the corner of Rutland Street and Humberstone Gate and on Saxby Street. You can also read the information on the Story of Leicester website.

During the 'Leicester’s Blitz' on 19 November 1940 at 7.56pm, several bombs fell on businesses along Rutland Street. The well known Freeman, Hardy and Willis building was hit and a large fire took hold.

Read the story here or see the panel on the pavement looking towards the corner of Rutland Street and Humberstone Gate.

At 10.40pm, three large bombs fell on the crossroads of Sparkenhoe, Saxby and Stoughton Streets in Highfields.

Read the story here or see the panel on the corner of Saxby Street and Sparkenhoe Street in front of Mann Motors.

Rolls of Honor

Online Resources

Print the family activity sheet and bring it along with you when you visit the exhibition. Use the prompts to help you imagine what it was like to live through The Blitz and have a go at making the gas mask at home.

Leicester Now and Then

The German air raids on Leicester took place eighty years ago. Damaged buildings have since been repaired or replaced. In some places the streets themselves have been completely redeveloped.

Now and then however, the places where the bombs hit can still be seen. Sometimes the changes are almost unnoticeable. Elsewhere the new buildings really stand out. These photographs show some of those streets.

Gallery Leicester Now and Then