Our Century

Protecting West Brom gasworks

John Day, Great Barr Born 1912

John Day

"It was during the war, probably 1941 or 1942. I was deputy town clerk of West Bromwich and a deputy air-raid controller. After a full day in the office I spent many nights on Civil Defence duty in the basement under the town hall at West Bromwich, which housed our war room.

"I recall a visit to Control One one evening by one of our senior police officers who had with him a map taken from a German bomber brought down over the Malverns. The map clearly depicted the target for the raids. These were to be on West Bromwich and, in particular, there was a ring round the gas holder, inscribed N/W Birmingham Gaswerk.

"This would certainly have provided a heartwarming sight to the crews of the bomber. If the raid had succeeded there would have been many casualties in the surrounding residential area. I knew the gas holder well. It used to be the central feature of our own West Bromwich gas works. In fact, I once went on the top of it.

"We had two young sons and one day they were playing up and my wife said, can't you keep them occupied? So I contacted the gas works and the chap said, yes, bring them down.

"Anyway we went up on to the top of the gas holder in an outside lift. I have never been so terrified in my life. I still shake to think about it. I'll never forget it.

" My memories of the war are still vivid. I remember standing on the garden of our home in Harborne one night in November 1940 and watching Coventry burn, 30 miles away. We had some terrible raids."