Although suffering only a few bombing raids compared with Birmingham, Solihull Urban District did sustain some bomb damage and dozens of people were killed in air raids.
Local authorities kept registers of civilians killed in air raids so that they could report details to the government. During the Second World War, Solihull Urban District Council was the local authority for many places now within the present Solihull Metropolitan Borough. Meriden Rural District Council administered other areas in the north and east of the present borough.
There seem to have been four main air raids in the Solihull urban district:
• 19th/20th November 1940
• 22nd/23rd November 1940
• 11th/12th December 1940
• about 6am on 21st July 1942
When someone was killed in an air raid in the urban district of Solihull, they were taken to Robin Hood Cemetery. As part of the necessary recording of fatalities, a casualty sheet was completed by mortuary staff. 30 of these sheets have survived and are held at The Core Library, Solihull.
The sheets do not appear to include those who died at Solihull Hospital, which presumably had a separate reporting procedure. All civilian and military casualties are also included on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website. You can search by casualty name or by cemetery name. Selecting “cemetery name” and then entering “Solihull” or “Meriden” will being up a list of the civilian casualties who died in the respective local authority areas.
We know the names of 36 civilians died in the Solihull urban district (one having been injured in Birmingham and brought to Solihull Hospital), plus two military personnel from searchlight batteries and three German airmen whose aeroplane was shot down over Earlswood. However, the Birmingham Daily Gazette of 2nd October 1944 gives the following statistics for the Solihull Urban District, indicating that 41 people were killed:
- 358 air-raid warnings
- 49 air raids
- 41 people killed
- 78 people admitted to hospital with injuries
- 198 people with minor injuries dealt with at first aid posts
- 492 high-explosive bombs dropped
- 49 houses totally destroyed
- 3,850 houses damaged
19th and 20th November 1940
The first bombs were dropped in Solihull on the night of Tuesday 19th November 1940. High explosives and incendiary bombs fell in Lyndon, Shirley and also on Solihull High Street, hitting Winfield chemists, Fitters jewellers and Duddy’s wool shop. Other bombs fell in Malvern Park and Park Avenue, narrowly missing the ancient St Alphege Church.
Reports from the Warwick County News of 23rd November 1940 give vague descriptions of where the bombs fell, describing Solihull merely as a ‘residential area’ and giving the headline ‘Midland Raid’. Newspapers deliberately didn’t give a lot of detail about air raids in the hope of not divulging information to the enemy about exactly where had been hit. This can make it difficult for people today to use historical newspapers to find out detailed information about bomb damage during the war.
The newspaper article reports that there were five fatalities and 40-50 people injured. However, it appears from the cemetery casualty sheets and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website that 11 people actually died, although some died weeks later as a result of their injuries. Of the people killed, 9 were civilians and two were members of the Royal Artillery, serving in searchlight batteries.
Those killed were:
- Ivy Frith (see casualty sheet no. 4) of 15 Moreton Road, Shirley, aged 39. She was picked up at 9.10pm on 19th November and died on the way to hospital.
- At 11 Moreton Road, Margaret Gumbley, aged 34, was injured on 19th November and died in Solihull Hospital on 23rd November 1940.
- George Atkinson (see casualty sheet no. 6), aged 40, was killed at home, 57 Skelcher Road, Shirley. He was killed by the blast from a high explosive bomb and was found at 9.30pm on 19th November.
- Also killed at Skelcher Road was ARP Shelter Warden, Beatrice Foster (see casualty sheet no. 2), aged 51, of Sparkbrook. She died at 59 Skelcher Road, and was also killed by the blast from a high explosive bomb. She was found at 9.30pm on 19th November. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission also killed at the same address was Charlotte Moore, aged 43. She was injured on 19th November 1940 and died at Solihull Hospital on 20th November 1940.
- Edith Ellen Rawlins, aged 38, was injured on 19th November 1940, at 171 Longmore Road, Shirley and died at Solihull Hospital on 20th November 1940. A report of her death and funeral in the Warwick County News of 30th November 1940 (see image below) makes no mention of her dying as a result of enemy action, instead saying that she was badly burned whilst dealing with an outbreak of fire near her home. It seems likely that an incendiary bomb caused this outbreak of fire.
- Also killed in Shirley was Cyril Allen, aged 36, a sheet metal worker (see casualty sheet 1). He lived at 58 Solihull Road but died at 56 Solihull Road, Shirley and was found at 2.30am on 20th November 1940. He was killed by a bomb blast at the door of a shelter.
- Eveline Scragg (known as Eveline Mayne), aged 35, (see casualty sheet 7), died at 5 Clinton Road, Shirley, being killed from the blast from a high explosive delayed action bomb. She was found at 6.30pm on 20th November 1940 and is buried at St James’s church, Shirley.
- In Olton, Private Jack Guthrie Sutherland, aged 39, (see casualty sheet 3), of the Royal Artillery, 428 Battery, 59 Searchlight Regiment was killed at 3 Wadleys Road by the blast from a high explosive bomb. He was found at 10.15pm on 19th November 1940.
- At the Lyndon End Anti-Aircraft site, John Wilfred Oliver, aged 31, (see casualty sheet 5) of the Royal Artillery, 399 Battery, 59 Searchlight Regiment was also killed on 19th November 1941.
- Also killed that night was Reginald Philip Mansfield Whitehead, aged 30 who was at his parents’ house, 78 Marcot Road. His death is listed as being in the Solihull urban district on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour register but there is no surviving casualty sheet from Robin Hood Cemetery so it is possible that he actually died in hospital.
During the night of Wednesday 20th November, the Warwick County News reports that the area was again straddled with incendiary bombs. The article says that most fell on open ground and, certainly, no more fatalities are recorded at Robin Hood Cemetery until Friday 22nd November 1940, when 9 more people were killed in air raids, including three generations of one family.
22nd and 23rd November 1940
Bombs were dropped in the Elmdon area, killing people in Jillcot Road, Rangoon Road and Marcot Road.
At 6 Jillcot Road a 54-year old man, Ernest Harry Harrington (see casualty sheet 8), died along with his 12-year old daughter, Joan Margaret Harrington (see casualty sheet 9). They were both killed by the blast from a high explosive and were found at 11pm on 22nd November 1940.
At 45 Jillcott Road, Lilian Muriel Clark, aged 32, was killed on 23rd November. There is no casualty sheet record for her so it may be that she died in hospital.
At 25 Rangoon Road three generations of the same family were killed. 58-year old Tom Sainsbury Woods (see casualty sheet 10) and his 52-year old wife Martha Amelia Woods (see casualty sheet 11) died along with their daughter, 28-year old Mrs Winifred Irene Bushell (see casualty sheet 15), and their two-year old grandaughter Patricia Ann Bushell (see casualty sheet 14).
Also killed at 25 Rangoon Road were Bertie Sealey (see casualty sheet 12), aged 45, and his wife Gwendolen (see casualty sheet 13), aged 42. Their usual address was given as 43 Camden Street, Stoke Heath, Coventry, so they may well have moved temporarily to Solihull to escape the bombing of Coventry. The most severe blitz on Coventry was on the night of 14th November 1940, before Solihull had suffered any fatalities, and just over a week before Mr & Mrs Sealey were killed in Elmdon.
Also injured in this raid was Cyril Jones, aged 19, who was a member of the Home Guard. He was injured on 22nd November 1940 at home, at 91 Ulverley Green Road and died at Solihull Hospital over a month later on 20th December 1940. According to the memories of Mrs Tomes in Solihull in Wartime (available to borrow as an eBook), Cyril was in the hallway of his house cleaning his bike when he was injured by shrapnel from a bomb that scored a direct hit on a car parked opposite his house.
Early December 1940
Two other casualties in the Commonwealth War Graves website are listed as having been reported by Solihull Urban District Council but there are no casualty sheets for them and they both died at Solihull Hospital. A fireman from Solihull Fire Brigade, John Garbett Richards, aged 32, was injured on 3rd December 1940, at Messrs. Fisher and Ludlow Ltd., Cheapside, Birmingham and died at Solihull Hospital on 6th December 1942. Also listed is 17-year old Sidney Wall, reported as being of 671 Stratford Road, Shirley and dying at Solihull Hospital on 5th December 1940.
No further deaths are reported then until the night of the 11th December 1940, when five people were killed.
11th and 12th December 1940
Burman Road, Shirley saw a number of fatalities on the night of 11th December 1940.
At 3.15am on 12th December rescuers found the body of Ethel Frances Robbins (see casualty sheet 16), aged 57, at 64 Burman Road, Shirley, the home she shared with her widowed father. Her 87-year old father, William Robbins, was injured and taken to Solihull Hospital, where he died the same day.
At nearby 58 Burman Road, 41-year old Violet May Tucker (see casualty sheet 17) and her son and daughter were killed. She was found at 6am on 12th December and the body of her 19-year old son, Robert Huntley Everest Tucker (see casualty sheet 18), was found two hours later. Her 15-year old daughter, Betty Tucker, was injured and taken to Solihull Hospital on 12th December, where she died the same day.
There were no further air raid fatalities in Solihull urban district until 1942, when the final fatal raid occurred on the morning of 21st July 1942, killing 10 people, including all 6 members of the Pinder family.
27th July 1942
According to Mr J Cliff in Solihull in Wartime, a bomb was dropped on the gas works drive around 6am and it bounced over trees and a field into Cornyx Lane. A diary entry by Mrs Kathleen Roger of Alston Road for Monday 27th July reads:
“lying in bed about 6-30 in morning after sirens had gone off for warning. Hear plane approaching. Think it is English. Heard a rumbling, rolled out of bed onto floor. It was bombs dropped further up the road. The Pinder family all killed, also Mrs Johnson and her mother, of Alston Road. Mrs Myat killed, also Betty Pearce of Cornyx Lane. Lots of houses damaged.”
All six members of the Pinder family at number 25 Cornyx Lane were killed. Edgar Pinder, aged 55, (see casualty sheet 22), his wife Alice Lizzie Pinder, aged 54, (see casualty sheet 30) and their children, Edith Mary Pinder, aged 24 (see casualty sheet 25), Doris Muriel Pinder, aged 21, (see casualty sheet 24), 18-year old Home Guard member Ralph Pinder (casualty sheet 28), and 16-year old ATC cadet Neville Pinder (see casualty sheet 23) were all found shortly after 7am.
Also killed in nearby Alston Road were Jane Miller, aged 78, (see casualty sheet 26) and her widowed daughter Violet Johnson, aged 48 (see casualty sheet 27). Both were killed at 6 Alston Road. At 8 Alston Road, 40-year old Beatrice May Myatt also died (see casualty sheet 29), as did 30-year old Mary Elizabeth Pearse, who lived at 19 Cornyx Lane but died at 8 Alston Road.
Some silent film footage of the bomb damage was captured by Councillor H. T. Lavender – a title slide notes that within the space of 30 seconds, ten people were killed and 32 were injured.
This raid is likely to be the same one that Stephanie Cole refers to in her opening chapter of her autobiography, A Passionate Life. She was 9 months old and living with her mother and great-aunt at 1 Cornyx Lane, above her aunt’s grocery shop. She and her mother had just got up to go to the shelter when the bomb exploded near their back garden. The blast blew out all the windows, driving huge shards of glass into the bed where they had been moments before. The staircase was blown out and the family was forced to return to Stephanie Cole’s grandparents’ house in Broad Oaks Road while the damage was repaired.
German war deaths in Solihull
The casualty sheets completed by mortuary staff at Robin Hood Cemetery also include three German airmen whose plane was shot down in May 1941 in Rumbush Lane. Further details are on our previous post about the German airmen
If you have any further information about bombing in Solihull during the Second World War, please let us know.
Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies
© Solihull Council, 2022.
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