Wartime Saltley

Was your house bombed during the Second World War?

Birmingham came under attack during the Second World War with extensive areas being affected by air raids. Records of the raids are in existence and include maps of areas bombed across Birmingham. The following three maps provide details of some of the air raids that affected Saltley during the Second World War. A red spot indicates a high explosive bomb, the blue indicates an incediary bomb designed to cause damamge to infrastructure by causing widespread fires and an "X" indicates an unexploded bomb.

Air Raid Map, 16th August 1940

The first map highlights the area of impact during an air raid that took place on 16th August 1940. This raid saw four high explosive bombs falling in close proximity of Alum Rock Road, Nansen Road and a further two bombs around Naseby Road. In addition, five unexploded bombs fell on Gowan Road, Hazelbeach Road, Fernhurst Road and Highfield Road. 


Air Raid Map, 17th October 1940

The second of the maps highlights the air raid of the 17th Ocotober 1940. This air raid resulted in a large number of bombs hitting the industrial strip at the edge of Saltley. This raid was more extensive than the previous one in August of the same year with eight high explosive bombs being dropped in addition to two incendiary bombs.

The third and final map highlights the air raid conducted on May 17th 1941. This map again idicates widespread bombing, but this time in the residential area of Saltley with ten high explosive bombs, three incediary bombms and a further unexploded bomb fallining in and around the vicinity of Naseby Road and either side of the Alum Rock Road.


This photograph shows the extensive damage to property in Saltley High Street during the raid on 17th May 1941. (Reproduced courtesy of the Library of Birmingham.)

As part of Saltley Stories research into the history of the area, archive material from the Saltley Action Centre contained a very special German map. The aerial warfare branch of the German Wehrmacht during World War II known as  Luftwaffe undertook a major photo-reconnaissance exercise of the British Isles with priority to gather data on industrial and communications targets. Individual factories, railway yards, tramway depots and the likes were allocated numbers and designated as target areas. The map below in dated November 1940 and as part of the photo-reconnaissance exercise highlights that the Wolseley plant was one such major target.


Wendy Kerr recounts her story of losing her grandfather in an air raid on 10th April 1941.

On 10th April 1941 my granddad William and his daughter Marjorie, my mom, came back from work to go out as fire watchers, patrolling the streets around Alum Rock so that if an incendiary bomb fell, they would put it out before the German planes could use it as a marker to drop their bombs. They came back to their house, 128, Tarry Road for a tea break when the house suffered a direct hit from a bomb dropped from an aero plane. My granddad William was killed and my mom, Marjorie, was injured and buried under the rubble. My Nan, Gertrude was working at the Wolsley in Washwood Heath, on night duty, making ammunition. My auntie Valerie had been evacuated and my auntie Doris had been staying with friends. There was nothing left of the house and its contents.

Marjorie, my mom, was dug out of the rubble and taken to what was then George Arthur Road public baths, being used as a clearing station for dead and injured civilians. Because there had been a lot of air - raids that night there were very few hospital beds and eventually mom was taken to a hospital that was used as a ‘Lunatic Asylum’, for people with mental illness

David Stevens lived at 13 Shaw Hill Road from 1930 - 1970. Here he recounts his memories of an unexploded bomb landing in a neighbours garden.

My father built the Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden, as did all the other neighbours, so if the sirens went off we all just went down into the Anderson shelter, where he’d made some bunks and just waited until the all-clear came.

It was essentially speaking a big hole, sufficient to get three or four people in it. Then there were built into the hole vertical corrugated sheets of iron, which bent over at the top and could be bolted into a sort of house. Then there were some steps so you could step down into it. The whole thing was covered with turf, or soil, and then all turf all over it. And then there were just a couple of bunks which were just bits of wood with some canvas stretched across them, very crude sort of thing.

I remember when I was eight years old and having gone to bed  I was woken up with a lot of anti-aircraft guns going, and in the half asleep state it sounded like big things dropping from the sky. Anyway, it was obviously a raid. Parents came, took me downstairs into the Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden, and I just fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning they weren’t there. They’d gone back into the house as it was daylight. So I went back into the house. Everything was OK in our house, but then some neighbours came round and said there’s a bomb landed in Mr Twigg’s garden opposite, and he’s very annoyed about it.

So I went out and the little girl who lived there, whose name was Salita, she was there as well, and we were friendly, and what Mr Twigg had done, he’d filled the hole in over the bomb, and then because there’s always some loose earth left over he’d made a little mound of it, so Salita and me stood on this mound and played King of the Castle, trying to push each other off the mound. Then one or two of the neighbours said, we’d better call the Army. And Mr Twigg said, “You don’t want to bring those in, it’s only that it hasn’t exploded, it’s alright”. But they insisted on bringing the Army, and someone from the Army, and they had a look at it, and they said, “This is not a little bomb, this is a Blockbuster, and what’s more we think the fuse is still active”. So they called an Emergency for the Bomb Disposal team to come. By this time it had got to lunch-time, and my mother said, “Let’s go to the pictures, while they defuse the bomb”.

But we couldn’t get out the front door because the army had cordoned off all the end of the street whilst the officer defused the bomb, so we climbed over all the back fences, all over people’s gardens to go to the cinema which was the Capitol cinema on the Alum Rock Road. When we came back again, of course, we weren’t too sure whether there was going to be any house left at all, and my mother must have been worried to death, but I can’t remember that she passed it on to me very much. Everything was OK. The Bomb Disposal officer had defused the bomb, they’d got it out of the hole, and they’d put it on the lorry, now quite safe. And I remember climbing up the back of the lorry, and looking over and seeing this ...it was enormous, great big, brown bomb, and so we thought, This is a jolly good game, and the bomb drove off.