Thursday, 10th April 1941: 01.40 BDST: 18 Blackthorne Road, Smethwick England


Eyewitness testimony by Frederick John Cross, aged 10


Article ID: A4315015 taken from BBC WW2 People’s War


On the night of April the 10th 1941 an air-raid had been in progress for a few hours. My mother and I had been sheltering in the Anderson shelter at the top of the back garden.


We lived in Blackthorne Road, Smethwick, but the air-raid that night appeared to be centred on Birmingham, apart from a few incendiary bombs locally, the noise of enemy aircraft and explosions was quite faint and distant. Then we heard the sound of aircraft engines gradually getting louder and nearer until it became obvious that it was flying very low. As well as the deep note of the bomber we were able to distinguish another engine sound, faster than the bomber; and then machine gunfire. The very next moment there was a tremendous explosion.


I was a ten-year-old boy, very excited and eager to get out of the shelter to see what was happening. The scene before me was unbelievable. The blackness of the night had been transformed by a brilliant golden-red light. I could not understand why the houses in front of me looked so unusual. Instead of the drab brickwork and bottle-green painted doors and window frames, the houses were now illuminated by the brilliant golden light. The brickwork now shimmered a deep golden orange and the doors and windows were brown.


The houses were thankfully still standing, but as I turned to look behind me across the back gardens of the surrounding houses to the houses in Hales Lane, I saw the most amazing sight of giant flames leaping skywards, silhouetting the houses immediately across the gardens.


I couldn’t contain myself, I wanted to go to find out what had happened but my mother held me firmly and would not let go. I was dragged, protesting back into the shelter.