19th November 1940

19th November 2015 is the 75th anniversary of the first fatal bombings in the Solihull Urban District Council area. In 1995, local residents recalled the event and described how a German bomber, on its way to attack Coventry, had been hit by a British gun, and in order to lighten its load, had dropped high explosive and incendiary bombs on Solihull on the evening of Tuesday 19th November 1940.

Solihull High Street was hit by three bombs. The first bomb fell on Winfield’s Chemists, on the corner of Poplar Road and the High Street. The second bomb fell on Fitter’s jewellers halfway up the High Street, and the third on Duddy’s wool shop, on the corner of Drury Lane. The adjacent White Cat café was also damaged, as was a classroom at Park Road C of E School (now St Alphege Infants School).

image of Duddy's wool shop
Duddy’s Wool Shop, Solihull High Street, before bomb damage (from the John Arnold Collection at Solihull Central Library)

Duddy’s Wool Shop was too badly damaged to reopen on the site, so subsequently moved to Poplar Road, Solihull, where it was still in business in the early 1980s.

Three bombs also landed in Malvern Park, narrowly missing the ancient St Alphege Church, and taking slates off the roof of the single-storey Lodge at the entrance to the park (then the home of former park keeper, William Webb and his family). Cycling home that evening from his duty at Solihull Police Station in Poplar Road, Mr Webb rode into a bomb crater near the Lodge and was lucky to escape with only a broken wrist. It doesn’t seem that anyone was killed as a result of these bombs in Solihull town centre.

Further bombs were dropped in Lyndon and Shirley that same evening, resulting in 11 deaths (nine of whom were civilians, and two of whom were serving with searchlight batteries in Lyndon and Olton:

  • Cyril Allen (36), of Solihull Road
  • George Atkinson (aged 40), of Skelcher Road
  • Beatrice Foster (51), of Sparkbrook, an ARP Shelter Warden killed at Skelcher Road
  • Ivy Frith (39), of Moreton Road
  • Margaret Gumbley (34), of Moreton Road
  • Charlotte Moore (43), of Skelcher Road
  • John Wilfred Oliver (31), Royal Artillery, 399 Battery, 59 Searchlight Regiment
  • Edith Ethel Rawlins (38), of Longmore Road
  • Eveline Scragg (known as Eveline Mayne), of Clinton Road
  • Jack Guthrie Sutherland (39), Royal Artillery, 428 Battery, 59 Searchlight Regiment
  • Reginald Philip Mansfield Whitehead (30), who was killed at his parents’ house in Marcot Road

There’s more detailed information on our pages on Solihull Council’s website, including images of the casualty sheets completed when the bodies were found.

The following night, the area was again straddled with incendiary bombs, but there were no fatalities.

If you have any further information about any of those who died, or know anything else about the bombings or those who were injured, please contact us.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

 

 

 

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