Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Article - Bentley folk’s true grit in face of Hitler bombs (Doncaster)

Our recent story which featured the bombing of Doncaster during World War II resulted in a number of replies reminding me of Bentley’s ordeal.
In fact that attack took place on December 21, 1940, the year before Balby suffered. The destruction at Bentley centred on the Royston Avenue area but a bomb also fell close to The Sun Inn blowing in the windows and injuring a young man standing at the bar as well as nearby pedestrians.
One gentleman who distinguished himself during the incident was miner Charles Allmand.
Mr Allmand was an ARP Warden on duty that night as residents were hurriedly taken to St Peter’s Church hall for shelter. He rescued several people during the raid, including an elderly lady who became trapped in her chair with her dog (which had been killed) still on her knees.
This brave indivdual lifted and propped up the piece of wood which had trapped the lady. He went on to help a mother and two children who were trapped in their makeshift bomb shelter under the stairs. They had to wait to be rescued by the heroic Mr Allmand.
There were many examples of bravery that night as neighbours and friends all struggled to help each other but Charles Allmand’s feats earned him official recognition from the Government which awarded him The British Empire Medal For Bravery by the Civil Defence Office. With regular rescue services stretched to capacity there was much sterling work done by volunteer members of the fire brigade and medical profession who also put their lives at risk attending to the residents.
There were several deaths and and many injured during this raid but with reporting restrictions in place at that time the local Doncaster Gazette newspaper’s headlines read “Families Buried in Their Homes, Many Left Homeless by Nazi Raiders. Women and Children Among The Victims”.
I received a letter from Bentley resident Fay Mackintosh who told me her aunt, uncle and cousin were all killed in the Royston Avenue raid and their names along with other victims are now on a memorial plaque in Arksey Cemetery.
Fay also remembers her mother was injured when the Sun Inn bomb exploded, which resulted in her losing her leg. Thankfully Fay and her father, who were close by, were uninjured.
Papers weren’t of course allowed to give casuality figures or to say where it all happened, having to describe Bentley quite simply as “an industrial village in the North” so no crumb of satisfaction should be gleaned by the enemy. True facts and figures weren’t released until much later.
One lady remembers that the family house was damaged but not demolished and it took nearly a year to make it habitable again during which time they stayed with neighbours and even managed to salvage their un-opened Christmas presents for some welcome cheer.
Smaller bombing incidents in the Long Sandall and Hyde Park areas took place, but the ferocity of the attacks increased again in 1941 with the Balby Blitz.
I would like to thank all the people who contacted me regarding this subject; there were some amazing, and poignant stories but Bentley folk were made of sterner stuff, they took it on the chin and came out fighting in true British fashion.

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