Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Operation Crucible: two deadly nights over Sheffield

As part of Hitler’s plans to invade Britain during the Second World War, the Germans started to bomb Britain's cities in air raid attacks from September 1940, hoping that the British would panic and surrender.  Extracts from secret German documents at Sheffield City Archives show that the Germans had long been planning to attack Sheffield and its steelworks.
Sheffield used various methods of defence from attack by German aircraft during the Second World War, including barrage balloons anti-aircraft guns, sandbags, ‘Anderson’ air raid shelters and gas masks.  Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Wardens helped to defend the city by making sure everyone turned off their lights at night time (‘blackout’), handing out gas masks, organising air raid shelters and reporting on bomb damage and helping emergency and rescue services. The city’s main information centre for air raid advice was the Central Library.

On 12 December 1940, the first wave of fire bombs were dropped over Sheffield.  The city sustained nine hours of continuous bombing with devastating effects.
‘When I got to the top of Snig Hill this was a sight I will never forget. High Street was like a river and what I thought were bodies laying all over the place was dummies out of Burton’s windows.’
The second raid came three days later.  This time the industrial east end which had previously been untouched, was bombed intensively.  Darnall, Attercliffe, Tinsley and Brightside suffered heavy attack – the big steelworks were the main targets.
‘The blast blew the roof off the house - also all the doors and windows. The blast came straight through the cellar –blew me onto the coals and the cellar grate went right over to the other side of the road. It’s a wonder I didn’t go with it...’
As part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Sheffield Blitz (Dec 1940) we have digitised and published for the first time several audio recordings of recollections of those who were living in Sheffield at the time. The recordings, made in the early 1980s, feature George Ladley, an ARP Warden on duty on the Blitz nights, and a young mother, Mrs Bullas, who lived in the Darnall area, amongst others.

The recordings are available to listen to on our YouTube channel:

These first hand accounts recall clearly, and in some detail, those two deadly nights over Sheffield 75 years ago. 

For further information on the Sheffield Blitz see our Research Guide:

Images © from the collections at Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library.