City remembers victims of the Bath Blitz
People from all generations attended a special memorial service in Royal Victoria Park yesterday to mark the 70th anniversary of the Bath Blitz.
Bombing raids by the German Luftwaffe on the nights of April 25, 26 and 27 1942 left more than 400 people dead and caused terrible damage to the city’s Georgian architecture, with churches and whole streets destroyed.
The annual service at the park’s war memorial is organised by the Bath Blitz Memorial Project, and brought together not only survivors and descendants of those killed but also representatives from emergency services, including police, firefighters and St John Ambulance.
One survivor of the raids, Pat Connett, represented the Home Guard at the service. Her father John was among those guarding the water tower at Lansdown in April 1942.
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The Women’s Voluntary Service was represented by Doreen Williams, the main organiser of the service.
Her mother Florence was a WVS member in charge of 200 volunteers running the forces canteen in Bath, where they issued blankets, hot tea and other comforts to bombed-out families.
Mrs Williams’s father, Leonard Smith, served as a part-time fireman and was off duty when the raids started, but went out to help his comrades and was killed instantly by a bomb while pumping water at the Circus.
Now in her 80s, she was just 15 when her father became the only firefighter to die in the Bath Blitz.
The civil defence volunteers and messengers were represented at the service by 82-year-old Harry Hemming, from Oldfield Park.
His wife Eileen lost four members of her family when a bomb hit their house at Snow Hill on the Monday of the attacks.
A wreath in memory of all the 390 civilians who died was laid by Molly Crane, head girl of St Mark’s School.
In addition, for this special anniversary, there was a second wreath to commemorate the volunteers who lost their lives.
It was laid by Mr Hemming’s grandson, 14-year-old Oliver, who is an ATC cadet. He was accompanied by an Army cadet, Toby Symonds.
Oliver said afterwards: “I feel really proud to be representing my family, my grandfather and the air cadets.
“I didn’t know much about what happened to my family in the bombings until recently and this service has brought it all home to me even more.”
Oliver’s father Roger added: “I never knew any of my mother’s family because they were all killed. It’s amazing and fantastic to have three generations of us all here today to remember them.”
Heavy showers relented long enough for the service to take place in sunshine.
A poem, ‘The Bombed City’, was read out by Kathryn Pond-Barrett, before prayers and a minute’s silence to remember all 417 people who lost their lives. The Last Post and other musical tributes were played by members of the Bath Spa Band.
Those attending included Wendy Preece, who travelled from Leicester for the occasion.
Her grandfather Seymour Buckingham worked for the Admiralty in Bath and was killed by a bomb falling on his home in Victoria Terrace.
Wendy said: “I was born in 1945, three years after my grandfather’s death, so I never knew him. I’ve visited his grave in Haycombe Cemetery many times, but had never been to the memorial service.
“Then I saw on the Bath Blitz Memorial Project website that it was the 70th anniversary service and I just had to come. Today has been really poignant for me.”
* Don’t miss a 24-page Bath Blitz supplement paying tribute to the bravery of those caught up in the attacks, free with The Bath Chronicle on Thursday