Alfreton and the surrounding district was not a target for German bombers during the Second World War, but enemy aircraft were known to follow the railway line which passed through Pye Bridge and Afreton on their way to the steel manufacturing areas of Sheffield. Due to the “blackout” in operation throughout the country, the bombers often missed their targets. Those that couldn’t locate their assigned targets would jettison their bomb load before returning to Germany.
So it was, on 8 April 1941, that a German bomber dropped “hundreds” of incendiary bombs over a wide area around Alfreton. They were reported as falling in Riddings, Somercotes, Alfreton, Westhouses and Morton.
There are various accounts told by ARP wardens and fire-watchers who were on duty that night, plus, of course, from those whose property was damaged. One recalls that “…we saw the German aircraft that was being pursued by a (British) night fighter dropping its bombs…”.
PHOTO: ARP Wardens, Market Place, Somercotes, 1942
Although newspapers were restricted in reporting such events, being unable to state exactly where the bombing took place, they were however, able to report the incident itself and print eyewitness accounts. From various sources it has been possible to establish that the bombing was indeed reported by the Derbyshire Times in their edition dated Friday, 11 April 1941. A complete transcription is given below:
RAID IN NORTH MIDLANDS
ONE DEATH FROM SHOCK
A North Midlands town and adjoining country was the scene of an enemy raid on Tuesday night, when hundreds of incendiary bombs were scattered over a wide area. Thanks to fire-watchers, incendiaries were quickly put out, and in most of the country areas there were no casualties and little damage. In one town an elderly man died from shock.
A house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. W H Bullimore was wrecked and an adjoining house occupied by Mr. and Mrs Druckley was damaged. There was one death as a result of shock, Mr H M Ollerenshaw, an elderly undertaker, who lived in a house in the centre of the bombed area.Two persons, Mr J H wetton and Mr J Vasey were taken to hospital after treatment at a first aid post. Mr Wetton was in the act of dealing with a bomb when it exploded and he received head and abdominal injuries. Mr Vasey received injuries to his arm through coming into collision with a vehicle.
One resident described the scene as like thousands of fireworks exploding, and the sky was lit up for some time.
Mr. and Mrs. Bullimore had just gone to bed when incendiaries rained on the roof and penetrated this at many points. They had fire-fighting tackle at hand upstairs but obviously were powerless to combat such destructive elements. Help was soon forthcoming by wardens, the local AFS and a fire brigade. Some of the furniture was removed, but the upper part of the house and other furniture were destroyed.
The fin of a bomb was found in the house on Wednesday morning.
Mrs. Drackley’s house escaped with less damage. From a dozen to a score of incendiaries dropped through the roof.
A Mr. Young did a very plucky act. A bomb came through the roof and bedroom ceiling and dropped near a child asleep in a cot. Mr. Young picked up the bomb and threw it out of the window, receiving burns to the hand in so doing. Not far waya a Mr. Bingham also received burns through a similar brave act.
In another house two beds were ruined and damage was done in the bedrooms of houses some distances apart and occupied by Mr. Weightman, Mr. Gilbert, Mr. Wilmott and Mr. Wallis.
A provision stores sustained some damage in the upper storey.
Mr. and Mrs. Wallis were in the dining room of their house when an incendiary burst through the roof and the bedroom ceiling, but they soon extinguished the fire, only a ben, a chair and a door being damaged.
A number of bombs fell in streets but were quickly put out.
TRIBUTE TO WARDENS
The Chairman of the ARP committee of a local council informed a reporter that the wardens, AFS and fire-watchers worked like Trojans and in their first test they emerged with honours. People everywhere were splendid.
A number of incendiary bombs fell in another area but little damage was done to property and there were no casualties.
The “W. H. Bullimore” mentioned in the above report is probably William H Bullimore, who in 1911 lived at Langley Avenue, Somercotes, but by 1939 had moved to Rowland Street, Alfreton. It is believed that he had moved to Nottingham Road, Alfreton by the time this incident happened.