On 2 March 1946, the Air Ministry released a statement in which they confirmed their belief that the bombing of Sherborne had not been the actual target of the German bombers.
Letter from T.C.G. James, Air Historical Branch, Air Ministry, to Canon A.R. Wallace, Headmaster of Sherborne School:
2 March 1946.
Dear Canon Wallace,
Your letter of 22nd January asking for enlightenment on the reason for the bombing of Sherborne School and town on 30th September 1940 has been passed to me for reply.
The facts that seem to be beyond doubt are these:
The German target on this occasion was the Westland Aircraft Works at Yeovil. The enemy force was despatched from airfields in the Cherbourg Peninsula and consisted of between 50 and 70 Heinkel 111 bombers escorted by 40 twin-engined fighters (ME 110s) and 50 single-engined fighters (ME 109s). It was heavily engaged by five squadrons and one flight of Spitfires and Hurricanes, which took off to intercept from Fighter Command airfields at Boscombe Down, Exeter, Warmwell, Middle Wallop and Tangmere. Attacks were made by our fighters at intervals from shortly before the German force crossed the coast near Portland Bill until it was returning to France over Weymouth Bay. A heavy attack was made upon it by one of our squadrons when it was near Yeovil, during which, or perhaps shortly afterwards, the German bombers dropped their bombs. This action of the defending fighters was responsible for the German failure to bomb the Westland Works, and Sherborne was hit instead. The total weight of bombs dropped on or near Sherborne was approximately 60 tons.
Official German records state that Westlands was, in fact, attacked. In view of the distance between Sherborne and the factory, this may be hard to believe; but we should bear in mind that the German formation has been under fighter attack on its way inland, which was doubtless not conducive to precise identification of the target. Furthermore, there is evidence, also from German records, that the German pilots did not claim to have observed their bombs hitting the target.
I am sorry that we cannot be quite as precise as we would wish, but you will appreciate that in this sort of matter certainty is very hard to achieve.
Trusting that the School Historian is able to use this information.
(Sherborne School Archives, ref. S235 HM WAL/15)
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