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Swindon Bombing 

Recounting the days when Swindon was a target of the Lutfwaffe
 
On the night of October 20, 1940, a chilling prophecy about Swindon’s role in the Second World War looked like it was about to come true.
 
Bomb damaged Swindon
Bomb damaged:
48 people died in Swindon
during WW2 as a result of
German bombers
Even before the war began, Swindon was warned by its MP that it had been "placed in that category of towns which might be expected to have to withstand heavy air attack" from German bombers.

During August and September it seemed to be getting a foretaste of what to expect.

First, on August 14, four bombs landed harmlessly near Wroughton
airfield. Then, the following day, there were nine more at Stratton,
which only succeeded in frightening cattle and creating a few craters in fields.

Nine days later, around a dozen bombs landed in allotments in
Shrivenham Road and on the County Ground cricket pitch, followed by 50 incendiary bombs at Highworth on September 26, which fell on
stubble fields and, according to reports, produced "a first class
firework display".

Then, on October 1, a single bomb fell in fields at Coate, killing a
cow.

None of these raids caused human casualties, but that would change
dramatically on the night of October 20.

Single bombs fell relatively harmlessly on Graham Street and York
Road, but a third landed in Rosebery Street, killing 10 people,
including a 12-year-old boy.

All the dead were from four adjoining houses – numbers 115 to 118.
 
Beatrice street
 
Swindon wasn’t targeted again until December 19, when a raid by a
lone bomber caused one death in Beatrice Street, but Ipswich Street, which was also hit, escaped with no casualties.

If it looked like the onset of Swindon’s own version of the Blitz,
however, we now know that it was not to be – and although the town had worse to come, it was already clear that, compared with other towns and cities, it was getting off lightly.
 
No-one has fully explained why this should be so when the town
presented not only a strategic target because of its massive Railway
Works – one of the biggest industrial complexes in the world – but
also one that was easy to spot amid the Wiltshire countryside.
 
GWR Works Swindon
GWR Works:
strategic target
It was easily within range. Indeed, bombers must have passed over
Swindon on their way to wreaking terrible bombardments of Bath and
Bristol.
 
Key aircraft manufacturing facilities at South Marston and
Sevenhampton, and the airfield at Wroughton, were still more reasons
for the Luftwaffe to have our area high on its list of targets.
 
After those isolated raids in 1940, however, they didn’t come back
until 1942, and even then the scale of the bombing again did not
match that endured by other towns and cities.
 
This time it was high summer, and three separate attacks raised the
death toll from 11 to 48.
 
The first attack was potentially the most lethal, but once again
Swindon was lucky as the first significant raid on the Railway Works
– which also turned out to be the last - failed.

In broad daylight, at 6.30am on July 27, 1942, the plane swooped low over the town, and people standing in a bus queue dived for cover as it bombed and machine-gunned the factory’s own gas works.
 
Fire broke out in a gas holder, but it was quickly put out, and bullet holes in its side were plugged with clay, preventing any major damage.
 
Cattle grazing on the outskirts of the town were said to be the only
casualties of the attack.
 
But three weeks later, on August 17, 1942, came the worst night of
bombing the town would ever see.
 
Two separate incidents caused 19 deaths in Ferndale Road and another 10 in Kembrey Street.

Four people were killed at 475 Ferndale Road, and there were also
deaths at numbers 257, 386, 465, 467, 469, 471 and 475.
 
Bombed Swindon 1942
Ferndale Road 1942:
a raid on 17 August killed nineteen
 
In Kembrey Street, occupants were killed at numbers 6, 10, 11 and 12. Among the dead that night were a mother and her "tiny child" who was "still clasped to her breast", and it took several days to remove some of the bodies in Ferndale Road.

A further 12 days elapsed before the next raid, on August 29.
 
This time, eight people were killed by a bomb falling on numbers 83, 85 and 87 Drove Road.
 
They were to be the final civilian casualties in Swindon.
 
The town saw out the last three years of the war peacefully, with its huge works and its remaining houses mercifully – and still
inextricably - untouched by the conflict.
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