Monday, December 7, 2009


Sixty eight years after "the day that will remain in infamy", it seems appropriate to also remember the Redditch bombings.

During World War I a Zeppelin appeared over Redditch. Apparently back from a bombing raid in Birmingham, it was out of bombs, and flew away. During the war, in addition to bicycles and motorcycles for the war effort, Royal Enfield was producing cannon shells that were sent elsewhere to be filled with explosives.

During World War II however, Redditch was not so lucky, it was bombed several times. Strategic targets were the Royal Enfield and BSA factories that were producing all sorts of implements for the armed forces, the High Duty Alloys factory, Heywood Compressors and the Terry's Springs factory. Terry's made the world famous Anglepoise Lamp (I have one in my desk!), which was fitted for navigators in bombers with special friction mechanisms to account for the motion of the planes. It also made specialized springs. A gentleman named Terry still is the managing director of Anglepoise, though they don't have a factory in Redditch anymore. I actually stayed at the former Terry manor, now the Southcrest Hotel when I visited Redditch.

Going back to the bombings, the use of incendiary bombs was very common. There were relatively small (2.5 pounds) and planes dropped hundreds of them, several hundreds per air raid. They burned very hot and spewed molten metal that would ignite things around them. People were trained to put them out using sandbags although some models had small explosives destined to kill a person sandbagging the bombs! So stirrup pumps became the weapon of choice to control the fires. Apparently the control that the population could exert on the fires was quite effective: no significant fires occurred in Redditch as a consequence of firebombs. There was a mysterious fire in Britannia Batteries (it was adjacent to the westernmost buildings of the BSA factory, and it was a building) but it happened after the all clear of the air raid signal and no planes had been visible, so it might just have been a coincidence. It was devastating, though. Britannia Batteries and BSA occupied buildings that used to belong to Royal Enfield in the period when Eadie was with the company in the early part of the 20th century.

There were antiarcraft guns located in various strategic places, including Lowans Hill, Brockhill Lane, at the Gas Works north of the Royal Enfield factory and another one further north near Bordesley Abbey. I have tried to compose a map with all the locations, although obviously some of them are only approximate (two did not fit on the map, I indicated the general location with arrows pointing out the map), Three bombs fell on houses just to the north of Heywood Compressors, the blast collapsed the glass roof of the factory, six people were killed and twelve seriously wounded in the directly hit houses. Local artist Norman Neasom captured the bombings in his paintings.

When Coventry was devastatingly carpet bombed, people in Redditch could see the flames. The air raid siren went on all night and the all clear signal came only 13 hours after the beginning of the raid. Apparently only a few other serious bombs fell on Redditch. One of the bombs fell close to the BSA factory and failed to explode. Another unexploded bomb fell to the west of Royal Enfield in Salters Lane. Apparently the German pilot took aim for quite a while before dropping the bomb that missed on the BSA factory, which made the whole scen more terrifying. Another bomb hit the BSA factory. Here is an eyewitness account of someone trapped in the wreckage. Pilots did strafe the population and cattle using machine guns.

I have seen reports that Allcock fish and tackle, which shared a building with Royal Enfield factory number 5 in Clive Road was bombed and it affected production, but have not been able to confirm it, nor if the Royal Enfield part of the building was affected.

Four Royal Enfield workers were awarded the British Empire medal after the war: Messrs. Caine, Young, Guise and Robinson.

(Portions of this post were composed based on oral tales narrated in "Old Redditch voices" by Anne Bradford).

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