Other Stories

Alwoodley Council School fire dame

Once you have heard the sound of a bomb exploding – you will never forget it!

One of the highlights of this project was that it led people with personal or family connections to the air raid on Leeds to share their stories. These were shared with the students and were used to add further details to the West Yorkshire Archives bomb map. This page combines some of the stories that were received by email, phone and letter.

Metcalf Street

Bomb damage on Metcalf Street in 1947. Available from: https://www.leodis.net/viewimage/69493

From loss to love

Two more civilians were killed when a high explosive bomb fell on a row of back-to-back terraces in the Burley Lawn area off Kirkstall Road. The incident wrecked four adjoining properties on Thornton Street and Metcalf Street, killing Elizabeth Smith and Florence Dunn. The area was in the shadow of the Kirkstall Road railway viaduct and close to the mills and works that were clustered between Kirkstall Road and the River Aire. The incident at Burley Lawn highlights the devasting personal losses inflicted by bombing. Elizabeth Smith lived with her retired husband, their adult daughter and Elizabeth’s younger brother. Her husband, Ben, was physically unhurt, while the two younger family members suffered serious injuries but survived the raid.

On the street behind, Florence Dunn’s body was discovered under rubble by her brother, George, who lived in the same area. At the time of the raid, Florence was living with her two adult daughters, Dorothy (known as Doris) and Louisa (known as Molly). The two sisters were seriously injured in the raid but were rescued and treated in hospital. Both had a leg amputated and were fitted with prosthetics at Chapel Allerton hospital.

While convalescing, they met a soldier and seaman, who were being treated for war wounds. The two couples fell in love and were married later in the war.

The bomb in the chimney

One of the deadliest incidents occurred on Hillary Street in Little Woodhouse. The street has since demolished to make way for the Leeds inner ring road, but stood just minutes away from the home of the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Broadcasting Place. On the night of the 14 March, at least one high explosive bomb caused extensive damage to a row of large back-to-back houses on the east side of the street. The bomb lodged in a shared chimney stack which exploded and ricocheted into the terrace. The initial impact blew out the cast iron cooking range at number 63, causing a fire in the cellar kitchen.

The house was home to the Ure family. Three sisters, Patricia (aged 21), Madeline (aged 18) and Mary (aged 6), had been in the kitchen when the bomb fell. They had not gone to the shelter because Mary was recovering from measles. The force of the blast threw the three sisters from their chairs and jammed the door which led to the staircase. Thankfully, they were rescued from the smoke by their father, William, a printer who was on firewatch duty in the area.

Worse damage was caused two doors down the terrace. Civil Defence records show that six people were killed and a further two people required medical treatment. The dead were Kate Ingle, Beatrice Mitchell and Constance Mitchell from number 71, Theresa Ross and Rose Ross from the adjoining number 73 and Clive Rose from number 67.

Despite the terrifying incident, the Ure family stayed on Hillary Street, moving into a house at the north end of the row and remaining there until the 1960s. The bomb site remained undeveloped until the street was cleared.

Hillary Street, Nos. 77 and 75

The fire-damaged number 75 Hillary Street in July 1945. The adjoining properties were demolished after the raid. Available at: https://www.leodis.net/viewimage/68688

William and Margaret Bell on their wedding day

William and Margaret

A wartime wedding

The raid on Leeds disrupted other wartime weddings. William Bell and Margaret Young had been engaged in July 1940. The couple lived opposite each other on Clarendon Place in Little Woodhouse and both attended St Mark’s Church. William had been called up for military service and sent to West Sussex to train for the military police. In March 1941, he was given four days leave to return to Leeds for his wedding. The wedding took place at St Mark’s church on Saturday 15 March. In a twist on tradition, William left Margaret waiting at the altar for 20 minutes when his taxi was forced to take a long diversion around Woodhouse Moor due to a bomb crater on Reservoir Street!

The couple encountered further problems when they arrived at the Victoria Hotel for their wedding party. They and their nine guests had to enter by the back door as Great George Street was roped-off due to the bomb damage to the Town Hall. Happily, the couple were able to reach York, where they enjoyed a three-night honeymoon at the White Swan Hotel.

William was deployed to the Middle East in May 1941, ending up in Palestine, where he served until the end of the war. Back in Leeds, Margaret secured a job as a typist with the wartime Ministry of Information, which had a regional office in the city. The couple were reunited after the war and Margaret gave birth to a daughter in 1948. The family remained on Clarendon Place until the late 1950s and celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in March 1991.

Unexploded bomb

Not every bomb that fell on Leeds exploded. It is estimated that around one in ten bombs dropped during the Second World War failed to detonate. These unexploded bombs created problems of their own.

One such bomb was discovered in the early morning of 15 March by Raymond Foster, the 16 year old son of a trade union shop steward at the Marston Excelsior Motor Radiator factory.

Raymond had a weekly job working-out and delivering sick pay on behalf of the union. He had spent the raid at his family home in Armley, listening to the bombs being dropped on the surrounding area. Among the targets was the Marston Excelsior works on Armley Road, which was used to repair aeroplane parts. The works were hit by several incendiary bombs, although these were extinguished by the Home Guard before they took hold.

The following morning, Raymond went about his weekly deliveries, cycling from Armley to Kirkstall Road and on towards Wortley. Turning onto Wellington Road, Raymond found his route blocked by a tangle of tram wires and a deep hole in the bridge that crossed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Slinging his bike over his shoulder, Raymond continued onto Armley Road to deliver the final envelopes, passing the wrecked front office of Greenwood and Batley’s Albion Works on his way.

The deep hole that Raymond had passed contained an unexploded bomb, which was subsequently extracted and taken for disposal.

The bomb was one of many to fall on Armley and lower Wortley. The photograph accompanying this story shows repair work to the bridge in April 1941.

Damage being repaired on the Wellington Road bridge

Repairs to Wellington Road canal bridge. https://www.leodis.net/viewimage/81068

Woodpecker Inn, bomb damage

Repairs to the fire-damaged new Woodpecker Inn. Available at: https://www.leodis.net/viewimage/122650

The Woodpecker Inn

The Woodpecker Inn could lay claim to being Leeds’s unluckiest pub in the Second World War. It was badly damaged on two occasions in two separate locations.

The original Woodpecker Inn stood on the junction of York Road and Burmantofts Street. It had been bought by Leeds City Council for a road widening scheme in 1938 and lay empty awaiting demolition at the time of the raid. A modern replacement had been built on the opposite side of York Road as part of the scheme.

In the early hours of the 15 March, at least two high explosives fell in the area. One bomb destroyed the original Woodpecker Inn and fractured a gas main. The combination of explosion and fire caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings, including the Woodpecker’s modern replacement which was the scene of a large fire. The new pub had only recently been repaired after being hit by a bomb in an earlier raid in August 1940.

Hillary Street, Nos. 77 and 75
I had stood at the bus stop opposite the gap left in the terrace for almost seven years. Nothing mentioned. It was all a complete surprise to me some forty years later.


Thanks to the following people for submitting sotries and further information:

  • D. Bell
  • D. Brown
  • P. Cockerill
  • G. Corr
  • B. Hughes
  • F. Matthews
  • R. Pierce
  • H. Thompson