Our Century

The fiery blast of an air raid

Alan Silk,
Born 1928

Alan Silk

"I remember the air attack on Walsall gas works, in 1941 most vividly. I was a pupil at Wolverhampton Road School, Walsall. The school playground had been excavated and two large shelters had been constructed underground.

"The steps going down to these shelters had to be safe, so they were covered with three large metal sheets during playtime and removed as soon as playtime finished. I know, because at one time I was one of the two shelter monitors (it took two to lift these metal covers).

"When the sirens sounded, on this particular day, I hurried from school into Forrester Street; our house was the 10th house down, but before I was half-way down I heard a plane overhead. I looked up to see it was heading straight down Forrester Street towards the Manor Hospital, its two, thick black crosses clearly on either wing.

"As soon as I reached the gate I looked across Checkett Street. From there I had a clear view across all the back gardens.

"The plane must have turned to the left at the same time as me, because, as I looked across, I saw two bombs drop followed by two fiery explosions.

"As soon as the all-clear sounded my friends and I charged down Forrester Street expecting to see the workhouse flattened, but we ended up running all the way down Pleck Road as far as Prince Street before we realised it was the gas works that had been bombed.

"In Lord Haw Haw's broadcast from Germany the following night, he said the Luftwaffe had destroyed a gas works near Birmingham. I am sure our gas supply wasn't cut off.