30th May 2022
Remembering the victims of the Baedeker raid on York
This year, 2022, marks the 80th anniversary of the German Luftwaffe raid on York in April 1942, when 94 people were killed in the city. While many of the victims were living in the Clifton, Acomb and Holgate areas of York, there were some victims in South Bank too.
The York raid was a reprisal for the bombing of Lubeck. These attacks were referred to on both sides as the 'Baedeker' raids, after the German travel guides of the same name. A German propagandist of the time stated 'We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker’. Cities selected for attack were those where there was the greatest possible effect on civilian life.
The bombing raid on 28/29 April started at 2.30 am and finished some 90 minutes later. It left 94 men, women and children in the city and its suburbs either dead, or so badly injured they were to later die. In all, 84 tonnes of bombs were dropped, together with clusters of incendiary devices, and German planes dive-bombed streets, strafing them with machine gun fire. The Railway Station and the Bar Convent were amongst buildings hit, with its east wing totally destroyed. In all 238 people were injured.
Bar Convent damage (Northern Echo)
The Raids Over York project has produced an online interactive digital map which features the raids over York in World War 2. It maps the sites which were bombed, those people who were killed in the raids, and the location of public shelters and rest shelters for example. It records the following for the Baedeker Raid in our area:
High explosive bombs hit the Bar Convent, South Bank Avenue, 54 Nunthorpe Crescent, 21 Nunthorpe Grove, 38 Scott St, 43-45 Nunthorpe Road, Buckingham Works in Buckingham St and the slipway off Skeldergate,
Incendiary bombs landed on Swann St, 13 Nunmill St, 16 Prospect Gardens.
As well as school shelters there were numerous public air raid shelters: East Mount Road, Shaw’s Terrace, Scarcroft Stray, Nicholson’s Terrace, Lorriman’s Buildings and Hawthorne Place in Price St, the Co-op building at the corner of Scarcroft Road, on the Knavesmire, Albemarle Road, also at the Herdsman’s Cottage, Nunthorpe View, Nunthorpe Crescent, Nunthorpe Gardens, Balmoral Terrace, Butcher Terrace, Nunnery Lane, Terry Avenue, Baile Hill Terrace, Lower Priory St, Albion St, Cook’s Factory in Bishophill,
There were rest centres at St Mary’s Church Hall, St Clement’s Hall and Cherry St School, There were warden posts at St Chad’s Hall, South Bank WMC, Southlands Chapel, Rowntree Park Café, St Clement’s School (Cherry St), Nunnery Lane Methodist Room, at Shearsmith’s in Blossom St, Priory St Presbyterian Church.
John Scott, whose family lived on South Bank, and who later became chief reporter on the York Press, featured in Van Wilson’s Rations Raid and Romance. He recalled standing at the top of Scarcroft Hill and seeing York burning. “I remember walking through the streets and seeing houses just spilled out onto the street, and people digging in the rubble.”
In our area Charles Milford Halliday, aged 30, was at 62 Price Street, Nunnery Lane. He was a bread baker (confectionery) from Halifax, possibly working at Terry’s at the time. Both Charles and his wife Edna were injured in the raid. Charles suffered spinal injuries and was sent to Pinderfields Emergency Hospital, Wakefield where he died on 15 May 1943 over a year after the raid. Edna died at the Ministry of Pensions Hospital (Stoke Mandeville), Aylesbury on 17 July 1949.
Betty Audrey Akers was 12, living at 49 Nunthorpe Road in South Bank, the youngest child of six born to George, a Guildhall messenger, and Beatrice. Betty was buried at the cemetery 2 May.
Ethel Boyes, aged 44, lived at 45 Nunthorpe Road and is buried at Harome.
Elsie Butler, aged 40, lived at 46 Nunthorpe Road, and is buried at Fulford Cemetery.
The Nunthorpe estate had been built in the mid-1930s, but when war came it was not possible to put up Anderson shelters, because much of the ground was waterlogged, making it unsuitable. On 29 April 1942 a bomb dropped on nos. 23 and 25 Nunthorpe Grove, destroying these, as well as nos.19 and 21. Several people were badly injured, and the body of a young ATS girl, Dorothy Thompson, was later found at the bottom of a bomb crater in no.21. The houses were eventually rebuilt in 1946. Further bombs landed on other parts of the estate, between the houses. Tom Holliday was 62 and living at 26 Nunthorpe Crescent in South Bank. Tom was a railway clerk married to Hannah, with two children Tom and Annie. Tom Senior was killed when a bomb landed in nearby Nunthorpe Grove. Some of the debris was thrown up by the explosion and crashed through the roof of his home. His wife was unhurt but badly shocked. His daughter, Lily who was a teacher, was trapped in the wreckage but rescued soon after with an injured back and legs.
There were five more victims at the Bar Convent: Fire watchers Jane McClorry (65), Margaret Murphy (60) and Mary Ann O'Connor (39), Eva Jordan (53) (Mother Mary Vincent) and Madeline Clayton (50) (Mother Mary Agnes). An exhibition at the Convent, The Baedeker Raids - 80 Years On, runs until November 2022.
In Hampden St in Bishophill, 30 year old John Henry Ruskin was another Baedeker victim. He had moved to York from Boston in Lincolnshire eighteen months previously, with his wife Hilda, and was engaged on 'work of national importance', possibly at Cooke's. A press description reports that he received fatal injuries in the raid when he went to help someone in the street, but Hilda escaped as she was sheltering under the stairs.