On the evening of Thursday December 12th 1940 my Auntie Edna, then a teenager, put on her dancing shoes and caught a tram into Sheffield city-centre to go dancing. No sooner had she got there than the sirens sounded and she spent twelve terrifying hours in a shelter as the shops and public buildings above were bombed and burnt down.
The following morning she tramped the three miles back to the family home in the East End to be greeted by her father with “And where the bloody hell have you been?”
He had, of course, spent the night watching the red sky over the city-centre knowing his daughter was out there in great danger.
The city of Bristol suffered a succession of air-raids, one of which, on Good Friday 1941, permanently put the tram system out of use by severing the main power cable at Counterslip Bridge. The story goes that the last car to Kingswood was pushed by its passengers until it could freewheel to the depot.
I thought of Granddad panicking about his daughter’s safety when I found a fearsome memento of the Bristol Blitz, and of Bristol’s tramway, in the churchyard of the grand parish church of St Mary Redcliffe, round the corner from Temple Meads Station.
A sizeable length of tramrail remains embedded among the graves where it landed as it flew over the houses from an adjacent road.
You wouldn’t have wanted to be about when debris as heavy as several yards of tramrail was flying around.
No wonder Granddad was so upset, and so relieved to see his daughter bedraggled but in one piece after the Luftwaffe bombed Sheffield.