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In 1942, young men called up for service in the armed forces could opt to go down the mines instead. Despite appeals from Cabinet Minister Ernest Bevin, few volunteered, so a ballot was held instead and the unlucky registration numbers were directed down the mines. The scheme was universally unpopular. The first Bevin Boy was a Frank Murphy who then lived in Manchester, he received a letter telling him to report for training on his 18th birthday in 1943.
From the beginning of the war, precautions were taken to 'black-out' all lights. This was essential as it soon became clear that most bombing raids would take place at night. It was thought that a light even from one house would be used as a target, by an enemy plane on which to drop its bombs. Each night everyone had to make sure that not one chink of light escaped from the windows and doors of their homes. Heavy curtains or blinds could be effective but some windows were simply painted over or covered with cardboard or thick paper for the duration of the war.
Going out of their home at night, people had to remember to switch off the light before opening an outside door. Once outside, there were no street lights and what few cars, buses and lorries there were, were fitted with special headlamps that gave out very little light. Lampposts and kerb edges were painted white or with luminous paint, but this did not prevent a number of deaths caused by people walking into solid objects or under the wheels of the few vehicles still running.
Night work in open air, on farms or at railway sidings had to be done with no light and in factories, nearly all with sealed windows, workers had to operate with no ventilation and only artificial lighting. The black-out was partially lifted on September 17th 1944 (coastal regions were still affected) and replaced by a 'dim-out', in reality this was only a less stringent form of black-out, but it was welcomed at the time.
There were laws against allowing light to escape from buildings and by the time the black-out ended, nearly one million people had been prosecuted for breaking the black-out regulations. Most people were only fined but one man was sentenced in February 1940 to one months hard labour for allowing light to be seen from his house. Opinion polls conducted during the war, nearly always had the black-out at the top of their most disliked inconvenience list.
The black-out occasionally came in handy as an excuse for 'wrong-doers', when a father and his son were summoned to court in Northumberland for being persistently late for work without reasonable excuse, the father stated that he had knocked a woman down in the black-out on the way to work (in January) and he didn't want the same thing to happen again, so he started out later, the son's excuse was not given in the account. The story was not accepted and the magistrates found both men guilty and fined them £2 each. They were taken to court by the Ministry of Labour and National Service.
This activity took many forms during the period of this diary, but the blockade runners that operated from Hull are the ones of greatest interest for this area. By July 1940 it became apparent that it was essential to Britain's war effort, that the supply of Swedish ball and roller bearings, must be maintained. The man chosen to organise this venture was George Binney, a metallurgist with connections in the Iron and Steel Federation, Naval Intelligence and the Ministry of Economic Warfare.
In January 1941 he organised the successful break-out, to Kirkwall in the Orkneys, of five Norwegian merchant ships interned in Swedish ports, together with their highly prized cargoes which included engineering equipment and machine tools. The importance of this venture is highlighted by the size of the escort home, provided at the rendezvous, west of Stavanger, it consisted of five cruisers and three destroyers.
The second break-out Captain Binney organised was a disaster, of the ten ships involved, two reached the port of Leith in Scotland, two returned to Sweden and six were sunk, four of the six, blew their scuttling charges. The failure of this mission was partly due to the efforts of mainly pro-German Swedish navy, they put to sea two hours before the convoy sailed to act as an 'escort', thus ensuring that the enemy knew of the convoy's whereabouts. Sweden banned any further attempts of this kind, but did agree to let ships sailing from Britain to pick up cargoes. It was decided that Motor Gun Boats (MGBs) flying the Red Ensign and operating from Hull, would be suitable for the task.
On 25th April 1943 the Admiralty allocated five MGBs for the operation. Each vessel was 117' long, a beam of 20'3" and a draught of only 3'9" to 4'2". Three diesel engines gave the boats a speed of 23 knots. The accommodation space was stripped to give a greater cargo capacity and they were armed with 20mm Oerlikons and Vickers machine-guns. Thus 'MGB 504' became 'Hopewell' - 'MGB 505' became 'Nonsuch' - 'MGB 506' became 'Gay Viking' - 'MGB 507' became 'Gay Corsair' and 'MGB 508' became 'Master Steadfast'. The boats were based at Hull under the management of Ellerman Wilson and Binney personally selected the crews, 80% of whom lived in and around Hull.
The fundamental operation was to sail from the Humber, passing through the Skagerrak during the hours of darkness, and on entering Swedish territorial waters make for the port of Lysekil, there to load their cargo and the return trip was planned to ensure they would be well into the North Sea by daybreak and under air-cover from the RAF. The first operation ended on 31st October 1943 (see the diary entry for that date). The flotilla's first casualty occurred on 2nd November 1943 (see the diary entry for that date).
By the summer of 1944, Captain Binney's navy had brought over 340 tonnes of desperately needed ball-bearings and engineering equipment, but the short summer nights curtailed their activities. When winter returned the blockade runners were once more at sea , this time on secret trips for the SOE (see the entry for 2nd February 1945 for details of one of such trip). There are not many books, which is where I get most of my information from, that deal with this subject, but the three diary entries for the dates mentioned in brackets above, will serve to illustrate the valour of the seamen of Hull.
After an air raid, on a simple level for the family that had survived with their homes intact, there was still the problems of cleaning it, making a meal without gas or electricity and quite often without a water supply. There was also the danger of disease from contaminated water or cracked drains.
On a different level there were those unfortunate enough to have been bombed out. - What did those words mean ? - It meant, in addition to the problems listed in the previous paragraph, a total dislocation of normal everyday life. Those injured and/or trapped often lay for many hours, often in agony, unable to move, in possible danger from further falls of debris - rising water levels from burst water mains - gas poisoning from fractured gas pipes - burning buildings collapsing on top of them - the list is endless. Their problems did not end with rescue.
For those unharmed but bombed out, there was the worry of finding out how and where the rest of their families were - then find some sort of immediate shelter. The answer to these problems could usually found in the Rest Centres, these were often a church hall or converted school, where the homeless could get temporary shelter, some spare clothing, clean themselves up, and possibly a meal, it gave them time to collect their thoughts for the amount of form-filling that was about to ensue. They had to arrange the rescue of their possessions from the wreckage, and try to protect their furniture and bedding from further damage by the weather etc., then find more permanent accommodation, between which, they had to cope with finding their next meal, hospital visiting the injured and attending the funerals of those that did not survive. Slowly things did return to normal, but being bombed out left mental as well as physical scars on many people.
The repair of war damage could sometimes be a protracted affair, but normally, the War Damage Commission usually settled claims for private property in about three months. The procedure was that form C-1. had to be completed and sent to the Regional Office within 30 days of the occurrence, later, form VOW1 had to be submitted with the builders estimate. On receipt of advice from the Commission that sanctioned repairs could go ahead, the householder could get the work done, but was only reimbursed once the Commission was satisfied that the repairs had been completed and correctly charged. All of this took time, and if reimbursement did not arrive by the time the builder required payment, the onus was on the owner to settle the bill.
With Crown property like the Queen Victoria Council School, things were even more drawn out. Pupils at the school were immediately transferred to the Western Board School but partial repairs were not authorised until a year later with more work being approved in October 1943. Pupils returned in February 1944 but even as late as March 1945 the Minister was refusing to replace the front wall. In May, the PT instructor complained about members of the public using the playground as a shortcut but the claim was not finally settled until January 1947. Now the building is used as a Training Agency.
Although described as HE, IB, PM etc in the diary, there was quite a variety of missiles dropped on the populace of Great Britain during the war. The art of bomb design came into its own in WW2. The German arsenal included:-
Abbreviated in the diary as 'HE'
Sprengbombe Cylindrisch or SC ..... this was a thin cased general purpose bomb which was designated by weight in kilograms - therefore a 50kg general purpose bomb became an SC 50, they contained 55% explosive which made them ideal for general demolition. There were SCs weighing 50, 250, 500, 1000, 1200, 1800, 2000 and 2500 kilograms. A Kopfring was sometimes fitted to the smaller bombs but was a fixture on those weighing over 1000kg, the Kopfring was a steel ring fitted around the nose to prevent excessive penetration before exploding.
There were a number of variations, when armed with an Electrical Impact Fuse, El.AZ (38), the SC 250 was used as a depth charge against submarines. The SC 50 and SC 250 could be fitted with a spike on the nose, this was used in low altitude attacks against railways and roads to prevent ricocheting, this version was named Stachelbombe (Spike Bomb), abbreviated to Stabo. Small incendiary bombs were sometimes attached to the tail fins of the SC 50, they were secured by a clip, but the best known attachment to the smaller SCs was a cardboard tube about 14" long and cut like an organ pipe which gave out a shriek when the missile was falling. The Germans called this device 'The Trumpets of Jericho'.
SCs up to 500kg were painted grey-green, the Stabo version was painted field-grey, the SC 1000 called 'Hermann', the SC 1200 and the SC 1800 called 'Satan' were painted sky-blue, the SC 2000 had the body and tail painted black, the SC 2500 called 'Max' was made of aluminium alloy, all had a yellow stripe painted on their tail fin. The SC 2500 was the largest SC dropped on Great Britain. Except for the two largest bombs in the SC category, there were a number of different versions of each weight. This could be determined by a change of fuse, the number of fuse pockets, a different filling, whether or not a Kopfring was attached, the casing was a different shape or a new type of tail unit was fitted.
Sprengbombe Dickwangdig, Splitterbombe or SD ..... a medium case steel, semi armour piercing fragmentation bomb. With an explosive filling of 35% and their penetration qualities, these bombs were ideal for use against fortifications or shipping, they were also used as anti personnel bombs. The weights were 50, 70, 250 and 1700 kilograms, up to 250kg they were painted grey-green, the 1700 was coloured sky-blue, all had a red stripe painted on their tail vanes or their tail cone was painted all over.
Panzerbombe Cylindrisch or PC ..... had a cast steel body with a hardened cast steel nose cone and with an explosive filling of 20% were classed as armour piercing. They came in weights of 500, 1000 called 'Esau' and 1400 kilograms called 'Fritz' and were all painted sky-blue with a dark blue stripe on the tail vanes. Ideal for use against fortifications and shipping, rarely used on 'soft' economic or industrial targets. The 1400kg version was later converted to a radio-controlled bomb.
Sprengebombe or SB 1000/410 ..... Introduced in January 1944 this was a thin walled high capacity parachute 1000kg bomb which contained 80% explosive designed to cause maximum damage in built-up areas and shaped to fit into the bomb bay of the Messerschmitt Me 410. The fuses were arranged to provide instant detonation. The bomb was oval in shape and measured 6' overall, the body was 2'7" at its widest. The parachute had wire stiffening and was about 5' in diameter, secured to the bomb by thirty-two cords. The missile was painted field grey and the parachute was coloured red, green or blue.
Abbreviated in the diary as 'PM'
Luftmine ..... originally meant for use as sea mines and known to the Germans as Luftmine A (LMA) of 500kg and Luftmine B (LMB) of 1000kg they were known to the British public as 'land mines'. Basically there were only two sizes, 500kg, which was 5'8" long and 1000kg, which was 8'8" long and were triggered magnetically at sea, a clockwork fuse triggered the mine on land. They were first dropped in our coastal waters by Heinkel He 115 seaplanes flying at 900', in November 1939, and first employed intentionally against land targets on 16th September 1940. The luftmine had an explosive filling of between 60% and 70% and was capable of creating a lot of blast damage.
The parachute was made of sea-green artificial silk and was about 27' in diameter, secured by eighteen thick silk cords. There were two other types of parachute made up of 2" wide khaki coloured silk ribbons woven together or secured in circular patterns to form the desired shape, they fell at a rate of 40mph. Without the parachute the mines would not have withstood the landing impact.
Abbreviated in the diary as 'GM'
Bombenmine 1000kg, BM 1000 or Monika ..... known to the British Mine Disposal Service as the G Mine this was a relation of the 1000kg luftmine, but it was fitted with a tail unit made of Bakelite, which broke up on impact. With the same magnetic and acoustic functions it was designed to be dropped like a conventional bomb. Beneath a dome shaped cover there was a photo-electric cell device which when exposed to light detonated the bomb, this was a security device to protect the magnetic and acoustic components from bomb disposal units. The overall length was 9'4", the body was 6'6" long and 2'2" wide.
Abbreviated in the diary as 'APB'
Splitterbombe or SD 2 ..... known to the British public as the 'Butterfly Bomb', the SD 2 was the one that was used most frequently. These 2kg fragmentation bombs were dropped in containers holding twenty-three or more, the containers were opened at a predetermined height by an airburst fuse, releasing the missiles which became armed as they fell. The bombs looked like a mallet with a very thin, 5" long handle and as they fell, the outer shell casing opened up forming a kind of parachute the two round end pieces acted as wind vanes causing the whole assembly to rotate around the bomb which unscrewed its way up the cable and armed it before it hit the ground. Once they were armed they could not be handled and the only means of disposal was by controlled explosion or, if caught in the branches of a tree or telephone wires was dealt with by .22 rifle fire.
The bombs were 3½" long and 3¼" in diameter with a handle 5" long and painted either grey-green or yellow with a red stripe. There were five different kinds of fuse that could be fitted to the missile including impact, airburst, long delay and anti handling. A modification to the butterfly bomb was to dispense with the shell casing and substitute a simple two blade wind vane to arm the missile. The Germans also used other kinds of anti personnel bombs (the SD 1, SD 10 and SC 10 in varied forms) but none of them were used on the same scale as the SD 2.
Abbreviated in the diary as 'IB'
Brandbombe or B 1E and B 2E ..... One of the most effective weapons used against the UK during WW2 was the 1kg or 2kg magnesium incendiary bomb. World-wide, between 55% and 75% of the damage to towns and cities during the war was due to saturation bombing with incendiaries. Whilst falling the incendiaries were armed when the airflow caused a metal disc to pull a wire which in turn withdrew a pin from the lock that held the firing pin in the impact fuse in place. The bombs had a thermite filling which ignited the magnesium casing. The Civil Defence code for this bomb was IB.
The simple IB was soon made harder to handle by the addition of explosive tails (Civil Defence code Exp IB) or noses (Civil Defence code IBSEN) to deter firefighters. They were carried in containers, some of which were released with the incendiary load, the larger containers, some holding approximately 700 bombs were retained in the aircraft. The standard 1kg incendiary bomb was 13½" in length with a tail length of 4½" and a maximum diameter of 2", the body was painted aluminium and the steel tail was coloured green. The explosive nose versions, now weighing 2kg with the addition of the explosive nose, usually had a body length of 20¾" and a variable tail length, the body was painted green, the explosive section black and the tail grey.
Referred to in the diary as 'Oil Bomb'
Flammenbombe or Flamm C ..... these were incendiary bombs which came with the same external dimensions as the 250 and 500 kilogram SC bombs. The Flamm C 250 filling was 50kg of oil incendiary mixture and a small TNT bursting charge. The Flamm C 500 had a filling of 70% petroleum and 30% TNT and a small TNT bursting charge. A special electric proximity fuse which was designed for these bombs.
Referred to in the diary as 'Firepot'
Sprengbrandbombe or Spreng-Brand C 50 ..... The same shape and size as the 50kg HE but the filling was different, it consisted of a nose section that contained 20kg of TNT and black powder, the black powder was the expelling and igniting agent for six fire pots containing an incendiary substance and sixty-seven metal incendiary elements which were blown out over a radius of 100yds, having been ignited by the black powder and inflammable material, internally. About one second after the expulsion, the TNT charge was fired by the delay component in the booster reaching the detonator. The bomb length was 2'4", the tail length 1'4" and the diameter 8".
Abbreviated in the diary as 'PhIB'
Phosphorbrandbombe or Brand C ..... This series of incendiary bombs were the same shape and size as the 50kg and 250kg HEs and were known to the Civil Defence as PhIB. The three versions of this IB were:- C 50A which had a 13½ kilogram filling of 86% benzene, 4% phosphorus and 10% pure rubber, the C 50B had a filling consisting mostly of white phosphorus and C 250A had a filling of 87.7% petroleum, 11.7% polystyrene and 0.5% phosphorus. The phosphorus was carried in glass bottles which burst on impact and mixed with the main filling that had been scattered by the impact fuse, it then ignited spontaneously.
The following were generally referred to as 'Flares'
Blitzlichtcylindrische Bombe or BLC ..... these were in fact photographic flash bombs, there were three versions, the BLC 50 resembled the SC 50 in shape and size, with an overall length of 3'5" and a diameter of 7¾", they were ignited by an airburst fuse 15 to 20 seconds after leaving the aircraft. The BLC 50A and the BLC 50B were metal tubes with four fins and had their noses filled with concrete to act as ballast to stabilise the bomb. The overall length was 3'6½" and had a diameter of 8".
Fallschirmleuchtbombe ..... There were two main types of this parachute flare one container holding a single, and the other four candles. Five seconds after leaving the aircraft the container expelled the flares which ignited and burned with intense light and heat, their parachutes opened and the flares drifted slowly to earth. The parachutes were of silk or artificial silk and were 10' in diameter. There was also a smaller parachute flare 1'3" long and 3" in diameter, also released from containers.
Aimable Containers ..... these were used to give a concentration of missiles over a given target. The container was usually bomb shaped and had a small burster charge activated by an airburst fuse, this could be set to operate at any predetermined height. Missile containers were grouped according to the stowage space they occupied in the plane. German classifications were simple, the AB 1000 stood for Abwurf (throw away) and Behalter (container) and '1000' for size not weight equivalent to a 1000kg bomb. If the prefix was ABB, the extra B stood for Brandbombe (incendiary bomb). Sometimes anti personnel or parachute flares were carried in these containers.
There are only two types mentioned in the diary, the AB 36 and the ABB 500, although there were over twenty different containers, the smallest, the BdC 10 at 1' long and the largest, the AB 1000-3 which was 10'5" long. The AB 36 was 3'7½" long, 8" in diameter and could carry 36 x 1kg or 24 x 2kg incendiary bombs. The ABB 500 was 5'9¾" long with a 1'6½" diameter and were painted slate grey with a red bands, they held ten single candle flares or 140 x 1kg incendiary bombs.
Non-expendable Containers ..... There were three types, BSB 320, BSB 700 and BSB 1000. They were carried externally and only jettisoned in an emergency. The release mechanism for the bombs being triggered electrically or by cable operation. The 320 was coloured black and was 7'9" and was 1'8" in diameter, it held 320 x 1kg IBs. The 700 was painted sky blue was 10'1" long and was 2'2" in diameter and held 700 IBs. The 1000 was, surprisingly, smaller than the 700. It was 8'11" long and was 2'2", coloured buff and held 620 x 1kg IBs.
Whilst the 'Butterfly Bomb' was the most dangerous to people, the 'Incendiary Bomb' was by far the most damaging to property, destroying 3¼ acres for every ton dropped as opposed to 1¾ acres for every ton of 'High Explosive' dropped.
German bomb tail units were always a permanent fixture, unlike those of the RAF and the USAAF which were attached when being prepared for bombing operations.
The arming of HE by electrical current was unique to the Luftwaffe, they also used mechanical fuses. There were many variations but broadly they fell into these categories:- impact fuse - short delay fuse - long delay fuse - airburst or proximity fuse - anti disturbance fuse and booby trap. Some of the anti handling fuses were operated by battery and could remain armed for a year.
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