World War 2 Civilian Casualties in Lincolnshire
by Morris Felton.
It is often thought that the largely rural County of Lincolnshire escaped much damage during WW2. However, this is far from the case; the Luftwaffe carried out bombing raids on our towns throughout the period and casualties were significant. We should not forget that most large towns in the County were heavily industrialised: Lincoln had its armoured vehicle factory, Grimsby had a large docks complex, Grantham had its railway workshops and Stamford had its foundries; and everywhere was making munitions. And since air raids knew no borders, just across the other side of the Humber in Yorkshire lies Hull, the most frequently attacked city outside London and not far to the West lies Leicester with its heavy industry.
But what was the effect on the civilian population? Piecing together the jigsaw at this distance is not simple but it is possible to build a reasonably accurate picture using information in the public domain. Here, Grantham makes a good example of a medium size town with a target-rich environment. Each Luftwaffe Pilot had a marked map and his Bomb Aimer had a marked aerial photograph of the target area, some of which still exist. Then there are the consolidated Police Reports, ARP Reports, the CWGC records, photographs taken by the Borough Council for post-war re-building purposes, newspaper archives and meteorological data. Putting all of these together and applying some knowledge of the likely physical effects, we can focus on a single raid on Grantham, which occurred on the afternoon of 27 January 1941, as a small example.
It was bitterly cold with temperatures as low as -7°F (-21°C) in some parts. Snow had fallen and there was low cloud cover. Air Raid Alerts sounded at 1355hrs and at 1410hrs Anti-Aircraft Command reported a lone aircraft approaching from 12 miles to the East. The defences in Grantham were stood to. At 1414hrs, the aircraft was 5 miles to the East at about 1000ft with 2 Hurricanes ordered to intercept. The lone raider, a Ju 88 approached from the NE, slipping between the airfields at RAF Spittlegate and RAF Barkston Heath and began his low level bomb-run somewhere over Welby or Londonthorpe, dropping and banking to starboard and then port to correct his approach, now from NW, but could not find his target and to gain height, released 14 bombs whilst strafing the streets. At 1420hrs they struck Jubilee Avenue and New Beacon Road where 2 people were killed and a number of houses destroyed. The defences were stood down as the aircraft disappeared only to re-appear again a few minutes later, diving out of the cloud at a low angle and heading for Springfield Road. The remainder of the load (4 x HE bombs) hit the factory complex there, marked as Waffenfabrik on Lufwaffe photos but euphemistically as The Ministry of Aircraft Production in later British official reports. Here, 16 people lost their lives in what was indeed a weapons factory making machine guns, cannon and munitions for the RAF - almost certainly the intended target. However, quick-thinking Gunners manning the factory’s defences fired and saw strikes on the aircraft even as it released its bombs. It was seen to fly East with obvious damage. Later that day, the same aircraft crash-landed in a field at Fishtoft, near Boston, and the crew of 4 were taken prisoner. Later examination showed that at least 4 x 20mm HE rounds from Grantham had hit home.
Almost without exception, the victims in Grantham were local people. Today they lie in the Municipal Cemetery where a fine memorial was erected by the Borough Council at a mass grave after the War.
1. ‘Lone Raider’ attacks of this type by Ju 88s were rather more common than one might imagine. The pattern of shallow dive bombing accompanied by strafing occurred relatively frequently in our area notably at Stamford and Melton Mowbray as well as on other occasions at Grantham. Heavy industry and Munitions Works were always the intended targets - but civilians were never out of the firing line.
2. The house (a bungalow) known as “Arcadia” with its large aviary in New Beacon Road was never re-built. Today the area is known as Aviary Close.