YP Letters: True tales of dustbin lid hats and Dad’s Army heroism in Sheffield Blitz

The scene of devastation in Sheffield 75 years ago.
The scene of devastation in Sheffield 75 years ago.
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From: Frank Matthewman, Cawthorne, Barnsley.

I FOUND Chris Bond’s article (The Yorkshire Post, December 11) commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Sheffield Blitz most interesting and thought you may like to know of my experiences of that night.

I lived in Kimberworth, a hill top village suburb of Rotherham overlooking the industrial valley between Sheffield and that town.

It was a beautiful (bombers’ moon) night. About 20 of us Cubs and Boy Scouts reported to the Church Hall at 6pm for our weekly training under the watchful eye of our Akela, Miss Wini Reading.

At about 6.15pm the air raid warning blew and the anti-aircraft batteries at Brinsworth and Wentworth opened up on the Luftwaffe flying directly over us on their way to bomb the city four miles away. A blue tin-hatted policeman poked his head round the door and told us to take cover which we did by sitting on the coke in the boiler house under the hall. After half an hour Miss Reading and her sister arrived with armfuls of dust bin lids, detailed us off in threes and fours and said “keep the lids on your heads and run like hell for your homes”. Shrapnel was “chinking” down onto the roads from the flak bursting and I remember no fear only excitement before getting home half a mile away.

My mother was waiting anxiously inside the open front door, I rushed in and grabbed the bird cage containing Mickey the family pet budgie and ran down into the reinforced coal cellar air raid shelter where my grandmother was sitting clutching an attache case which contained her insurance policies. She said: “Take that bird out, it’s breathing our air.” Mickey stayed and died of old age in 1947.

My father worked at Rotherham Power Station and ran home from his afternoon shift dodging the shrapnel as he had done many times in the Great War in France serving with the York and Lancs. At 10.30pm, he donned his Home Guard uniform and reported to the local HQ in Meadowhall Road where a brave old gentleman had ventured out to tell them that he had seen two German airmen parachute into a field at Hill Top.

In true Dad’s Army style, my dad and five men fixed bayonets and ran up Hill Top Lane to kill or capture “the Jerries”.

There was a terrific explosion and all six men were knocked flat and concussed, but unhurt by a delayed action air mine that had dropped suspended by two parachutes that the old gentleman had mistaken for two Luftwaffe airmen. I am now 86, but can remember the night of the 1940 Sheffield Blitz and the aftermath as if it was yesterday.