Coventry Air Raids leading up to Operation Moonlight Sonata

At one time it was widely believed Winston Churchill knew that Coventry was to be attacked on 14 November 1940. Not wanting the enemy to know that we had cracked their Enigma code, he allowed Coventry to be bombed. This theory has at last been denied; although Churchill knew a city was to be attacked it was assumed until the last moment that London would be the target.

25th August 1940

Gone with the Wind - Coventry’s New Rex Cinema, which was due to show Gone With the Wind the next day, was destroyed when a bomb exploded causing the roof to fall into the auditorium. Amazingly, not a soul was hurt as the Cinema was empty at the time. Even the shocked birds in the café were uninjured. A second bomb fell not far from the first, creating a large hole in the road and puncturing the water main. Sections of the road surface were sent far into the air. Damage was caused to the roofs of neighbouring houses and residents were shaken in their shelters.

16 September 1940

Barrage Balloon - Several people were killed and injured when an enemy plane struck a barrage balloon cable and jettisoned its bombs in and around Wallace Road. Several houses were destroyed. This was especially tragic as it was a completely residential area. The plane caught fire and crash landed in a farmer’s field at Withybrook leaving wreckage over a large area. Two members of the crew, Hauptmann W Henke (Hauptmann - Captain) and Uffz H Rattaywere (Unteroffizier - Under Officer) were killed. They were buried at Oaston Road Cemetery Nuneaton. Whilst two others, Fw Baur and Fw Perlberg (Feldwebel - squad/section leader), were captured after parachuting clear. The Barrage balloon later came to rest in Broadgate where it was found by the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church.

14 October 1940

Fords Hospital - One of Coventry’s ancient Alms houses, built in 1509 and serving as a home for elderly ladies, was bombed. The Matron, Florence Yates, and a nurse, Helen Chambers, were killed along with several inmates. Fords Hospital has since been rebuilt and is still used for its original purpose.

Coventry Cathedral also suffered during this raid, a foreshadowing of the future when an incendiary punctured the lead roof and set fire to the wooden ceiling below.

The fire was spotted by the Cathedral Fire Watchers and the fire brigade were summoned. When they arrived they found the almost inaccessible fire was burning fiercely between the two roofs. It was thanks to their heroic efforts while properties all around were still being attacked, that the fire was eventually extinguished and the Cathedral saved.

(Information about Operation Moonlight Sonata, Coventry's most famous blitz air raid, can be found here.)

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Blitz (My Story): A Wartime Girl's Diary, 1940-1941 by Vince Cross

It's 1940 and with London under fire Edie and her little brother are evacuated to Wales. Miles from home and missing her family, Edie is determined to be strong, but when life in the countryside proves tougher than in the capital she is torn between obeying her parents and protecting her brother.