First bombing raid on Greater London - Croydon, August 15th 1940

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by phylo_roadking, Jan 17, 2010.

  1. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Imperial Airways - Croydon Airport in the Second World War - Page 2

    On Thursday 15th August, around 7pm a number of twin-engined aircraft were spotted by an erk from 111 Sqd. These turned out to be from a special unit - Erprobungsgruppe 210 - which was formed for attacks on the British Isles, and which bombed the airfield for between 5 and 10 minutes.


    Nine Hurricanes from No. 111 Sqd were scrambled 30 minutes before the attack, and were therefore able to interrupt the bombers before they had a chance to line up their targets. This interruption meant that the bombers dropped the majority of their loads outside the aerodrome causing casualties amongst the civilian population. Six Bf 110s and one Bf 109 were shot down that day, which was a costly exercise for the Luftwaffe, especially due to the fact that the target the bombers were aiming for was Kenley.

    During the bombing Croydon had received a lot of damage - large potholes over the airfield, a direct hit on the armoury, and 'C' hangar used by Rollason Aircraft Services was hit with incendiary bombs and the training aircraft inside were all destroyed. The Rollason factory and workshop was also badly hit which caused many civilian casualties. 'D' hangar was raked by cannon fire and received blast damage, 'A' hangar was only affected with minor damage, but the officers' mess was reduced to rubble when hit by a bomb blast close by.

    Five airmen from 111 Sqd and one airmen from Station Headquarters died in the attack. But it was the civilian population that bore the brunt of the bombs dropping outside the aerodrome, with a total of 62 civilians dead. Four airmen from 111 Sqd, one officer from No. 1 (RCAF) Sqd, two civilian telephone operators and 185 civilians were injured.

    No. 111 Sqd was diverted to Hawkinge whilst repairs to Croydon were underway, but it only took two days to fill in the craters on the airfield.



    History Section - Croydon Airport

    As a fighter station, Croydon played a front-line role in the Battle of Britain, and was also regularly visited by high-ranking dignitaries. On 15 August 1940, it became a target during the first major raid of the war on the London area: the neighbouring factories of British NSF, Bourjois and Redwing were severely damaged, and six airmen and over sixty civilians were killed.



    BBC - WW2 People's War - The Bombing of Croydon Airport
    In 1940 when Roy was 10 years old he lived in Mitchum not far from Croydon Airport.
    He was out playing on the street with some friends at about 5.30 in the afternoon. Suddenly out of the clouds and behind the sun the boys saw about a dozen German planes.
    Then the boys saw bombs drop from the planes. The bombs hit Croydon Airport which was at that time a fighter drome. Unfortunately, the bombs also hit an adjacent parachute factory where a lot of local women were working.


    Does anyone know which of the three was the parachute factory, and what war work the other two were doing?
     
  2. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Some more detail....

    In the Second World War, the 32nd Surrey Battalion of the Home Guard was known as the Factory Battalion, and had the specific task of guarding the Purley Way factories: its units were mainly based on staff from the individual firms. The factories adjoining Croydon Airport took the worst of the air raid of 15 August 1940: the British NSF factory was almost entirely destroyed, and the Bourjois factory gutted, with a total of over sixty civilian deaths


    History Section - Purley Way

    British NSF seems to still exist, but is into specialist engineering. I guess it was an engineering concern then too...?
     
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Phylo
    2 pages from Times, one mentions a scent factory, that is all I could find.
    The other, 17 Aug 1940 is from photo gallery
     

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  4. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Actually - that DOES help!

    For Bourjois PARIS is still a large cosmetics company today, and I found a few references (ebay sales etc.) to things like compacts from 1940, but I thought naaaaah....

    I guess they were making for vital $U.S. credit-earning export, like the Whisky industry.
     
  5. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    phylo, the History section does detail what factories were making pre war....
    With the opening of the new road, however, Purley Way became the principal industrial district of Croydon. The site of the National Aircraft Factory, which immediately after the First World War became the Aircraft Disposal Company, was later developed as a factory estate, occupied by firms such as Redwing Aircraft Ltd, Bourjois Ltd (perfumes) and British NSF Ltd (electrical components). Also on the site was the large Bowater factory (makers of corrugated boxes), which in the 1930s added a new facade along its Purley Way frontage in strikingly modernistic art deco style. At the northern end of Purley Way, the Standard Steel Co was joined by several other industrial concerns, including the Croydon Foundry Ltd, and Metal Propellers Ltd: some of these works had private sidings running from the railway line to their rear. South of Waddon was the large builder's yard of Grace and Marsh, and next to it Southern Foundries Ltd.

    Opposite the gas works, another factory estate (made up of Commerce Way, Progress Way and Trojan Way) was laid out in the mid 1930s. Factories here included Trojan Ltd (car manufacturers), Bailey Meters and Controls Ltd, and Tizer Ltd (makers of the popular soft drink). Powers Accounting Machines (later better known as the 'Acc and Tab' Corporation), who were based in Aurelia Road, set up their card manufacturing department on the estate in about 1938.

    Other developments along the Purley Way included two large housing estates built by Croydon Council: the Waddon Estate (developed between the late 1920s and the late 1930s), and the Mitcham Road estate (built in the early 1930s). 150 acres of land opposite the airport was acquired by the Council in 1928, and laid out as sports fields. A popular open-air Bathing Pool opened here in 1935.

    In the Second World War, the 32nd Surrey Battalion of the Home Guard was known as the Factory Battalion, and had the specific task of guarding the Purley Way factories: its units were mainly based on staff from the individual firms. The factories adjoining Croydon Airport took the worst of the air raid of 15 August 1940: the British NSF factory was almost entirely destroyed, and the Bourjois factory gutted, with a total of over sixty civilian deaths.
    Not found a reference yet to parachute factory, but perhaps one of the above changed over to war work?
    Edit: Oh, I see you already have this running on the Axis History Forum, same info.....
     
  6. KevinC

    KevinC Slightly wierd

    Phylo
    2 pages from Times, one mentions a scent factory, that is all I could find.
    The other, 17 Aug 1940 is from photo gallery
    tried to do the times crossword on that page, but failed miserably
    any chance you can post the next days puzzle so I can get the answers ;)
     
  7. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Here you go... it does present yet another puzzle of course
     

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  8. TomTAS

    TomTAS Very Senior Member

    Hi All,

    Croydon is only about 10 mintures from me so if you need a photo let me know.. They have a nice memorial for the RAF...
     
  9. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    it does present yet another puzzle of course


    ...as does Kevin's post above...

    Because there's STILL no mention of a "parachute factory" :mellow:

    THAT bit of information may have come from a small boy - but one who WAS resident close by at the time in the Mitcham housing estate mentioned in the material Kevin posted up.

    So - where has it drifted off to??? :unsure:
     
  10. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Best I can find so far is with reference to the Trojan Car Company:-
    The RE Trojan and the 1930s

    With the ending of the Leyland partnership, Leslie Hounsfield took over production himself back in Croydon but at new premises with Leyland continuing to supply some parts until the early 1930s. In spite of new body styles, sales of the cars were falling and so a new model, the RE, or Rear Engine capable of 45 mph (70 km/h) was announced in 1931. It still did without electric starter and had only rear wheel braking and was beginning to look very old fashioned and although new modern bodies were fitted only about 250 were sold. A final attempt was the Wayfarer of 1934 with the engine back in the middle but now with three speed gearbox and shaft drive but only three were sold and the 6 cylinder Mastra did no better with only two produced. The original van continued to sell well however and the Utility car could still be ordered, the last one was delivered in 1937.
    Leslie Hounsfield had left the company in 1930 to set up a new enterprise making amongst other things the "Safari" camp bed which would be made in thousands during World War II.
    Trojan Ltd continued to make vans until war broke out and during hostilities made bomb racks and parachute containers. With peace, van production restarted still with the original engine until 1952 when it was replaced by a Perkins diesel.
    Presumably the factory was in Purley Way. The report indicates that a lot of women workers were killed, but can't find any women in Civilian War Dead only 9 or 10 men at Croydon Airport for that date... perhaps another raid?
     
  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Kevin
    Ref the woman who were working in the factories the results depend on your search criteria. There are 80 civ deaths listed for that day.

    How about this NSF casualty, which I found at random:
    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    Anyone feel like checking each entry for names of factories ... :unsure:

    Edit:
    Forgot to say, some poor souls may have been discovered the following day in the wreckage, so search criteria could be for two days, rather than one.
     
  12. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    dbf: Possibly I wasn't clear enough, but the British NSF factory was mentioned as making electrical parts. I was looking at the casualties for other factories in Croydon that could give a clue to another factory making parachutes and that's where the Trojan reference comes in. There were 5 women killed Dennis, Friend, McGrattan, O'Neill and Richardson, but all were at NSF factory which is why I omitted reference to them.
    I haven't found any other reference to a parachute factory, certainly the only factory with heavy casualties was NSF. Perhaps they had a division making parachutes, or the parachute "factory" was actually in Croydon Airport perimeter, but only male casualties on a search on that basis.
    NSF had the casualties, but no link yet to parachutes. Trojan were making parachute containers, perhaps that's got confused over the years?
     
  13. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member Patron

    The sad thing is that it all seems to have been a ghastly mistake.The Defence of the United Kingdom volume in the official History of the Second World War - United Kingdom Military Series suggests that on 15 August 1940 Croydon was bombed in error page 197 ... [The German bombers] ... Intercepted within the next few minutes by at least two squadrons, including the battle-weary but undaunted No. 501, ... seem to have lost their bearings, and ultimately attacked quite different targets. One portion made for the neighbourhood of Maidstone, where they bombed West Malling under the impression that it was Biggin Hill, while most of the remainder dropped their load at Croydon, some crews mistaking the aerodrome there for Kenley and others for Redhill. Ironically enough, these attacks were amongst the most effective yet made by German bombers. Bombs at Croydon severely damaged valuable buildings, including two aircraft factories, and killed or seriously injured about eighty people.

    regarding this mistake, F. K. Mason in Battle Over Britain, records that on that fatal dayErprobungsgruppe 210 - led yet again by [Hptm. Walter] Rubensdörffer - swept in near Dungeness and made for its target at the Kenley Sector Station. The Dornier pilots had been briefed to attack Biggin Hill, thereby dividing the defences. Rubensdörffer had had a difficult decision to make. He had missed the rendezvous with his Bf 109 escort from JG 52 over France and, knowing that the Dorniers would face the whole defence alone if he abandoned the attack, decided to carry on without close fighter cover. Hoping to confuse the defences he led his Messerschmitts in a wide sweep over Sevenoaks and started a diving turn which would bring him over Kenley from the north. Sure enough, at 18.59 hours an airfield loomed up ahead and at once the raiders dropped their bombs and raked the buildings around the aerodrome with cannon and machine guns. But the airfield was Croydon - not Kenley.
    ... The bombing was murderous and effective, for it was a characteristic of Erpr. Gr. 210's bombing accuracy that its loads invariably fell among buildings rather than merely cratering the grass surfaces. Several small aircraft factories (including Rollasons, which was engaged in repairing Hurricanes) were hit, as were the famous commercial airport terminal buildings, several hangars to the north of the airfield and the equipment stores of No. 1 (Canadian) Squadron. Some of the bombs were of the delayed action type and the detonation of these, added to the constant noise of exploding ammunition in the burning armouries, gave rise to panic among the civilian population on the outskirts of the airfield. Of the 68 fatalities suffered, only six were of the airfield itself. 192 others were injured. It was more than a quarter of an hour after the attack started that the air raid sirens started...
     
  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    dbf: Possibly I wasn't clear enough, but the British NSF factory was mentioned as making electrical parts. I was looking at the casualties for other factories in Croydon that could give a clue to another factory making parachutes and that's where the Trojan reference comes in. There were 5 women killed Dennis, Friend, McGrattan, O'Neill and Richardson, but all were at NSF factory which is why I omitted reference to them.
    I haven't found any other reference to a parachute factory, certainly the only factory with heavy casualties was NSF. Perhaps they had a division making parachutes, or the parachute "factory" was actually in Croydon Airport perimeter, but only male casualties on a search on that basis.
    NSF had the casualties, but no link yet to parachutes. Trojan were making parachute containers, perhaps that's got confused over the years?

    :) I understand now thanks.

    Kevin,
    I would tend to agree with you, about the possible confusion over containers rather than the contents. So many factories turned production - or part of their production to supply the war machine, that it might not necessarily have been any distinct 'parachute factory' as such.

    If I remember correctly there was another raid on Croydon a few days later.

    Regards,
    Diane
     
  15. Don_X

    Don_X Junior Member

    Just like to say thank you to the posters in this thread for the reports and quoted sources that have helped me recreate an impression of the events of that evening.

    Some scenes of the resulting action can be seen here - 15081940.avi - YouTube

    I may possibly take this a stage further as a documentary ; rather than just a flight sim music video.
     
  16. barbaralawrence

    barbaralawrence Senior Member

    Fascinating thread - bumped into it by accident after posting a question about my mother, who served with the VAD/CNR at the small military hospital in the Aerodrome Hotel at RAF Croydon during the Battle of Britain. I'm almost positive she was there during the raids in August, and lost the hearing in one ear as a result of the bombing. The loss turns out to have been temporary, but returned when she was older and made her almost deaf in that ear. Thanks for the links to the Times articles. I'll get back tomorrow and read the thread more carefully - have run out of time now - but just want to thank you all for the information I've already learned from the thread.

    Barbara
     
  17. barbaralawrence

    barbaralawrence Senior Member

    My mother was a VAD working at the temporary military hospital in the Croydon Aerodrome Hotel in 1940. She was near enough a bomb, probably one that struck during the Aug. 15 raid, to be deafened, and her hearing was permanently damaged. I'm going there next month to see where she worked, and possibly, using the bombing maps, to see where the bomb that injured her may have hit. I couldn't be doing this without the amazing help I've received from a lot of people - most of them on this forum. Thanks!

    Barbara
     
  18. blitz_researcher

    blitz_researcher Junior Member

    The books that do more than mention this raid in passing are Berwick Sayers "Croydon at War" (already mentioned in the thread) and Douglas Cluett "Croydon Airport and the Battle of Britain". Neither mentions a parachute factory. I can put names to 50 people who died and they were mainly in the British NSF factory with others at Bourjois, Rollasons and in the houses east of Purley Way.
    There were a lot of wild rumours after the raid, fuelled by the implausible official press releases which referred to one person dead and minimal damage. Rumours abounded and events were misinterpreted - for instance the Hurricanes at the airfield took off shortly before the attack which some local people thought was abandoning them to their fate. It was also said the Germans used pilots who had flown into Croydon before the war when it was a civil airport because they knew the way. And people writing down their memories in the last few years still repeat the rumours that hundreds died at Bourjois (I can name two, and there were probably at least two more).
    So where does that leave us? The only source for the parachute factory story is the memory of a man who was 10 years old at the time so it is tempting to dismiss it. However, here's one possibility: there is a reference to the equipment stores for the RCAF squadron being hit. Presumbaly parachautes were part of the equipment stores - could someone have seen the parachutes among the debris?
     
  19. sheilamui

    sheilamui New Member

    I was sixteen and was due to meet a friend outside the Bourjois factory 6pm, I was late getting ready and my Mother came upstairs to tell me i was late when she looked out of the window and said look they are practicing bombing and then realised it was the real thing when as the planes flew over our house we could see the pilots and the swastikas roughly pained out. We only saw about four or five bombers and when they had finished bombing took off we never saw any of our planes at that time.Our street was two roads away from Purley way. If I am every late now I say well it saved my life once, My friend I was meeting was also a bit late but was injured coming through the factory estate. Sheila
     
  20. sheilamui

    sheilamui New Member

     

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