Innocence Lost: The Children of the Leeds Blitz

On the night of 14th March 1941, and into the early hours of the following day, nine children were reported as injured or killed as a result of the German air raid on Leeds. Many more children were also caught up in the raid, although the exact figure is unknown.

Our case studies focus on three children whose lives were cut short or effected by bombs – Noreen Whitehouse, Freda Spink and Harry Brown – as well as the damage to the Saint Peter’s School in the city centre. Each shows the impact of the raid on the younger generation.

Historians like Juliet Gardiner have considered the impact of the Second World War on children, but it is an aspect of the Home Front that remains underexplored.

Children’s experiences are usually left out in studies of the Blitz, as the general assumption is that all children moved from cities to the safety of the countryside. While it is true that large numbers of children were evacuated, many stayed behind.

Not only did kids have to deal with the Blitz in the same ways as their adult counterparts, but they also had to contend with their childhood being taken from them.

(Please note that some names have been changed.)

A family sat in the ruins of a bombed building.

Children suffered in the myriad of ways that adults did, but their loss was compounded by the draining away of their normal expectations of childhood.

(Gardiner, 2005, p.6)

We hope you find this project entertaining, and that it has expanded your knowledge on a topic that is usually out of the spotlight. The children who stayed in the cities had just as much firsthand experience of the bombings as the adults they lived with.

By telling the tragic experiences of Freda Spink, Noreen Whitehouse and Harry Brown as well as the bombing on Saint Peter’s school it has brought to the surface how the Leeds Blitz impacted every individual no matter their age.

Children outside a bomb shelter

Children outside an air raid bunker