During the evenings of Thursday 12th and Sunday 15th December 1940, around 300 German aircraft, consisting of Junkers Ju 88’s, Dornier 17’s and Heinkel 111’s, flew to Sheffield on bombing raids.
Sheffield was targeted by the Luftwaffe due to its importance as a steel and armament centre and the campaign against Sheffield was code named Crucible.
The German aircraft were guided by an early radar style radio beam which was fixed to a target. In the case of Sheffield this beam was fixed to the eastern area of the city where steelworks and armament factories where prevalent. The English were able to intercept this beam however and bent it towards the city centre instead of the steelworks.
At the time of the bombing raids, the Vickers works (located in Brightside Lane) were the only place in the country to possess a drop hammer capable of producing crankshafts for the Rolls Royce Merlin engine which powered both the Spitfire fighter and Lancaster bomber planes. Vickers were solely responsible for manufacturing Barnes Wallace’s bouncing bombs and the heaviest ever 10 ton ‘Tallboy’ and ‘Grand Slam’ earth quake bombs. Also in 1940, Hadfields East Hecla steelworks (located in Vulcan Road and now mainly covered by the Meadowhall shopping complex) were the only steelworks in the country to produce 18 inch armour piercing shells.
Vickers, Hadfields and a multitude of other vitally important steelworks survived the bombing raids relatively unscathed but nevertheless, approximately 450 high explosive bombs were still dropped and as a result, over 660 lives were lost, 1,500 more were injured and 40,000 were made homeless. 3,000 homes were demolished with a further 3,000 badly damaged. A total of 78,000 homes received damage. Sadly, my third cousin (William Joseph Loukes) and his wife (Edith) were killed in 197 Olive Grove Road during the night of Thursday 12th December 1940. Number 197 is now the site of modern housing.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had recorded this couple with the surname of Lonkes.
I initially found the deaths of Joseph and his wife whilst browsing the Index to the “Civilian War Dead Roll Of Honour” for Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire (http://www.genuki.org.uk:8080/big/eng/Indexes/NE_WarDead/). The surname, Lonkes, rang alarm bells and sure enough, when I checked the death indexes, I couldn’t find anything for a Joseph and Edith Lonkes but there were entries in the the January quarter of 1941 for a Joseph W. Loukes (aged 68) and an Edith Loukes (aged 67). These deaths are both recorded on the same page in the same volume in the General Records Office (volume: 9c / page: 1248). This indicates that the deaths were recorded at the same time (which is likely as the couple died together).
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission wouldn’t consider a change to their records without firm documentary evidence. I visited City Road Cemetery in Sheffield in November 2008 in the hope that the couple might be commemorated on the wall of the Sheffield Blitz Garden. They aren’t however which means that the couple aren’t buried in the communal plot and will have their own burial plot somewhere else (presumably because their bodies would have been identifiable). I decided to contact the Sheffield Indexers (www.sheffieldindexers.com) in the hope that they might have a burial record for the couple in City Road Cemetery. They haven’t but Tony Morton e-mailed to me an extract of the 1936 Kellys Directory which clearly shows Joseph William Loukes residing in 197 Olive Grove Road, Sheffield (where Joseph and Edith died). I e-mailed this extract to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who accepted this as sufficient documentary evidence and have amended their records as a result.
Tragically, Joseph’s third cousin (William Kitson) was injured at 10 Tummon Road, Sheffield on Friday 13th December 1940 as a result of the Blitz and died in Wharncliffe Emergency Hospital in Sheffield on Saturday 21st December 1940. William Kitson was buried in City Road Cemetery, Sheffield on Friday 27th December 1940. William Kitson is my third cousin, three times removed.
This is a revised version of a post which was originally published on my WordPress Blog on 23/01/2009 and republished on Mollekin Portalite on 18/04/2011.