Casualties on 19th and 20th November 1940

Searchlight battery, Ravenshaw Lane, 1939

The first bombs were dropped in Solihull on the night of Tuesday 19th November 1940.  High explosives and incendiary bombs fell in Lyndon, Shirley and also on Solihull High Street, hitting Winfield chemists, Fitters jewellers and Duddy’s wool shop.  Other bombs fell in Malvern Park and Park Avenue, narrowly missing the ancient St Alphege Church. 

Reports from the Warwick County News of 23rd November 1940 (attached right) give vague descriptions of where the bombs fell, describing Solihull merely as a ‘residential area’ with the headline ‘Midland Raid’.  Newspapers deliberately didn’t give a lot of detail about air raids in the hope of not divulging information to the enemy about exactly where had been hit.  This can make it difficult for people today to use historical newspapers to find out detailed information about bomb damage during the war.

The newspaper article reports that there were five fatalities and 40-50 people injured. However, it appears from the cemetery casualty sheets and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website that 11 people actually died, although some died weeks later as a result of their injuries.  Of the people killed, 9 were civilians and two were members of the Royal Artillery, serving in searchlight batteries.  The above picture shows the searchlight battery at Ravenshaw Lane in 1939.

Those killed on the night of 19th and 20th November 1940 were:

  • Ivy Frith (see casualty sheet no. 4, attached above right) of 15 Moreton Road, Shirley, aged 39.  She was picked up at 9.10pm on 19th November and died on the way to hospital.
  • Margaret Gumbley, aged 34, was injured at 11 Moreton Road on 19th November and died in Solihull Hospital on 23rd November 1940.
  • George Atkinson (see casualty sheet no. 6, attached above right), aged 40, was killed at home, 57 Skelcher Road, Shirley.  He was killed by the blast from a high explosive bomb and was found at 9.30pm on 19th November.
  • Also killed at Skelcher Road was ARP Shelter Warden, Beatrice Foster (see casualty sheet no. 2, attached above right), aged 51, of Sparkbrook.  She died at 59 Skelcher Road, and was also killed by the blast from a high explosive bomb.  She was found at 9.30pm on 19th November. 
  • According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission also killed at the same address was Charlotte Moore, aged 43.  She was injured on 19th November 1940 and died at Solihull Hospital on 20th November 1940.
  • Edith Ellen Rawlins, aged 38, was injured on 19th November 1940, at 171 Longmore Road, Shirley and died at Solihull Hospital on 20th November 1940.  A report of her death and funeral in the Warwick County News of 30th November 1940 (attached, above right) makes no mention of her dying as a result of enemy action, instead saying that she was badly burned whilst dealing with an outbreak of fire near her home.  It seems likely that an incendiary bomb caused this outbreak of fire.
  • Also killed in Shirley was Cyril Allen, aged 36, a sheet metal worker (see casualty sheet 1, attached above right). He lived at 58 Solihull Road but died at 56 Solihull Road, Shirley and was found at 2.30am on 20th November 1940. He was killed by a bomb blast at the door of a shelter.
  • Eveline Scragg (known as Eveline Mayne), aged 35, (see casualty sheet 7, attached above right), died at 5 Clinton Road, Shirley, being killed from the blast from a high explosive delayed action bomb.  She was found at 6.30pm on 20th November 1940 and is buried at St James’s church, Shirley.
  • In Olton, Private Jack Guthrie Sutherland, aged 39, (see casualty sheet 3, attached above right), of the Royal Artillery, 428 Battery, 59 Searchlight Regiment was killed at 3 Wadleys Road by the blast from a high explosive bomb.  He was found at 10.15pm on 19th November 1940.
  • At the Lyndon End Anti-Aircraft site, John Wilfred Oliver, aged 31, (see casualty sheet 5, attached above right) of the Royal Artillery, 399 Battery, 59 Searchlight Regiment was also killed on 19th November 1941.
  • Also killed that night was Reginald Philip Mansfield Whitehead, aged 30, who was at his parents’ house, 78 Marcot Road. His death is listed as being in the Solihull urban district on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour register but there is no surviving casualty sheet from Robin Hood Cemetery so it is possible that he actually died in hospital.

During the night of Wednesday 20th November, the Warwick County News reports that the area was again straddled with incendiary bombs.  The article says that most fell on open ground and, certainly, no more fatalities are recorded at Robin Hood Cemetery until Friday 22nd November 1940, when 9 more people were killed in air raids, including three generations of one family.

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