Accounts written by boys in Lyon House about the bombing of Sherborne on 30 September 1940.

Arranged A-Z by surname.

David Campbell ANDERSON (1926-2014)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1939-July 1944; Scholar; School Prefect; Head of House; tennis 1943, 1944 (captain).
Age on 30 September 1940: 14.

‘Sherborne Bombed’
On Monday afternoon, the 30th of September 1940, the siren went at about twenty five past four, a favourite time for the methodical Hun to get up to his tricks.  I was having an English lesson at the time in the Lower Library, and, as the veritable hive of historical books is considered safe enough in an air raid, we stayed where we were, and did not go to the cloisters as people in other classrooms do when the warning goes.

About a quarter of an hour later we heard the sound of aeroplane engines rather like the characteristic zoom-zoom of Bosch planes.  Then a minute or two later we heard a distant whistle and “crump”, then some more ominous bangs nearer, so we all crowded under the massive tables in the room and waited in suspense.  Nearer and nearer came the explosions, the lights went out, thud followed thud in a hideous deafening roar, the big library above seemed as if it would fall down on us at any moment, glass split and cracked; then gradually it got further and further away and stopped altogether.  We crawled out from under the tables, rather dazed I assure you!, and looked out of the windows.  The whole air was filled with dust like a thick fog.  Eventually it cleared, and we surveyed what damage we could see.  “Yes, there was a small hole in the roof above the entrance to School House, and smoke was rising from behind School House.  Goodness, some glass broken in the windows over there; Oh well we’ve had our taste of it, anyhow.  Must have been ¼ of a mile away at least, were my thoughts after the raid was over.

The “all clear” went soon after and we were told to go up to our houses.  Imagine my astonishment when on entering the courts, we behold a huge crater in the middle of the gravel, caused, I afterwards learnt, by four bombs.  Thirty yards away and I thought they were 400!  My hat!, here’s another in the road outside the Science Buildings, just by the Armoury.  Good deal of damage done what with window frames and doors blown in and walls pitted with splinter holes, not to mention glass and tiles.  And poor Big Schoolroom! And as we troop up to the House we see every now and then a crater.  We are not allowed to go through “Chief’” garden as there is a time bomb there.  All the electric and telephone wires are down.  And as we enter Richmond Road – there’s a crater in the road just in front of the house, and another further on, and yet another!

I find it hard to describe my own feelings during the raid.  To me it felt like lasting 10 minutes, but in reality it was 6 seconds.  To say I wasn’t frightened is absurd.  But even though I was scared to death, it gave me an odd feeling of pride that I had been through a raid and a bad one at that, though it is a common enough experience nowadays.

John Edward de Faye BLAMPIED (1924-2007)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1938-December 1942; Exhibitioner.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘Experience of an air raid’
At 4.30 on Monday, September 30th, the siren went off, so we of the fire-squads proceeded to the house [Lyon House], not particularly hurriedly, since all the previous warnings had been very unproductive of excitement.  We had had incendiary bomb practise on the top floor and were descending the stairs when the doors and windows began to rattle alarmingly.  I was nearly at the bottom of the stairs when I could have sworn that I saw the whole wall by the reading room shaking; at first I thought that the people upstairs were jumping heavily in the passage: and then I heard the bombs.  Everyone careered down behind me and we all fell on top of some unfortunate who had tripped over a chair in the middle of the passage.  As we were sorting ourselves out, we were thrown back on the floor by, I suppose, the bomb which made the crater that was to be Lyon House Bathing Pool.

There was an indescribable heaviness in the air and everything shook alarmingly, especially the concrete floor.  When the row and rattling had stopped we got up, shaken, and most of us rather surprised at the magnitude of the modern bomb’s results.  I cannot say that I was terrified during this little affair; that is to say, I did not feel that my last moment had come, although I was not exactly roaring with laughter all the time.

Outside, the general outlook was rather out of the ordinary: the yard was full of slates and earth and stones, the road was in a similar mess with the addition of large craters, and all the telephone wires down; the roof looked rather mashed up, although there were really less tiles off than it first seemed [17,000 in fact]. The five horses in the field opposite were trotting round nervously in a bunch; there was a bomb right in the centre of Mr Bevan’s “middle”! But I can’t go on like this.

Altogether it was rather a good enlightener as to modern methods of warfare, though a very great nuisance as regards comfort, although the cellophane on the windows did its job rather well.

Alan Henry BLANFORD (1927-2004)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1940-March 1945; Head of House; XI 1944; XV 1943,
Age on 30 September 1940: 13.

‘The air raid’
In the afternoon of the 30th of September 1940 A.D. we were having a History lesson with Mr Whittle.  This was the first period of the afternoon.  The period started at 4.15 and at about 4.20 the air raid siren went.  We were quite glad as History is never very exciting and especially as that afternoon we had to write an essay on “The results of the 30 Years War” which none of us knew very well.  So we were all relieved when the siren went and we went downstairs from room 16 to the classroom beneath.

We took quite a little time to get settled as there was another class in there already.  There to our disgust we had to continue our essay, although I didn’t do anymore and I don’t think anyone else did either.

At about 4.30 we heard a large droning sound of the Germans and in the distance the thud of bombs. None of us took much notice at first, but when they gradually dropped nearer and nearer we got a bit alarmed and we all got under our desks.  Suddenly we heard a whistling sound of a bomb coming down.  All I thought was, “I wonder where this one is going to fall, I wonder if it will hit us here.”  Then it exploded just outside but a bit up the street.  With a huge crash all the glass fell in except from the two windows which were open.  The transparent paper which had been stuck on the windows worked miracles and great sheets of splintered glass curved round the stone.  The dust outside in the road was appalling and just like a solid wall, also the room got filled with dust.

Then there was another huge explosion following more whistling and the door flew open and banged shut with a crash.  After that the bombs “moved on” and soon stopped.  The whole room was covered with dust so we snatched up our books and rushed into the cloisters.  There we found that some bombs had fallen into the courts.  We had a discussion as to how many bombs had fallen altogether, some said about a dozen others about half a dozen, I said about 20-30 but most people flatly disagreed with me.  We stayed there until six and then we went back to our houses.

The “All Clear” never sounded because it was put out of action.  I never realized the danger that we had been in which was probably the better for us.

Andrew Brian BUCHANAN (1922-2002)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1936-December 1940; Scholar.
Age on 30 September 1940: 17.

‘An Air Raid’
It was about 4.45 on the afternoon of Monday September the 30th 1940, I had just arrived in the Upper Studies passage where the Home Guard were formerly stationed on receipt of a warning, and had sat down on a chair with Harcourt, Ward & Jackson.  I remember that Jackson had just handed round some cake & I was half way through it when the house suddenly began to shake.  At first I thought it was the incendiary bomb squads going back to the ground floor from the Gibbons as there had just been a practice.  However it went on, and Harcourt suddenly said “Gunfire”.  For some reason I accepted the explanation at the time, not realising its absurdity till afterwards.  It was not until there was a furious crash outside followed by a loud whizz as a splinter richocheted off the roof that I realised it was bombs.  At the same time there was a cascade of glass and plaster down the Gibbons stairs and a loud rushing and banging of falling tiles, and I honestly thought the house had been bit and would collapse on top of us.  I hurled myself on my face and the others followed suit when Harcourt said “Gunfire” and with every lull we dashed further up the passage intending to reach the bathroom wall which had no doors in it, and eventually to take refuge in the lower passage.  For not only the walls and ceiling but also the floor was shaking violently as we were upstairs.  I remember throwing Jackson’s cake away under the Upper Study Toey’s for some reason for it was excellent.  After the cascade of glass we all hurtled downstairs & I can’t think why we didn’t break our necks, but it turned out that that was the last bomb of all.

Patrick Thomas Henry CARSON (1927-1949)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1940-July 1944; Lance Corporal JTC.
Age on 30 September 1940: 13.

‘The Raid’, 12 March 1941.
On September 30th 1940, in the afternoon some German planes came over and jettisoned their bombs from above the clouds.  Unfortunately Sherborne happened to be underneath and the bombs took effect quite drastically…

At the time we were in lessons.  It was the first afternoon period, when the siren went.  I was in room seven with the rest of my form, and we went down to room 5 on the ground floor.  We had not been there very long when in the distance I heard a “boomsh”.  Then it came nearer and we could now hear the bombs very clearly, until all at once three small bombs fell unpleasantly close to us in the courts.  I remember looking round and I saw one boy sucking his finger, where it had been cut by flying glass, an unconcernedly as if bombing was an every-day occurrence.

I felt sorry for those people who were younger than myself and I wondered, as I sat under the desk, how many casualties there were, had the school buildings been hit, had any of the boys or staff been killed.  A thousand thoughts ran through my head.  I thought of the House [Lyon House].  Had it been hit?  I hope it hadn’t!

It has hardly started than it had finished and I remember getting up and going towards the door with the others, expecting to see the big schoolroom or the chapel in ruins, but I found that by some miraculous thing both had escaped serious damage, though the big schoolroom had its windows blown clear out and hardly any tiles on the roof, and the chapel had a few of the windows broken.

When I came back to the house [Lyon House] there it was, still standing and apart from a few windows and tiles off where three bombs had landed in the road, there was nothing.  We had to do without water for a little while and we slept in another house for about a week and then it was all over.

I think in the whole of Sherborne there were only seventeen casualties and the number of bombs vairy [sic] from 180-300.

Thomas Anthony Piers CLARKE (1924-2014)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1938-March 1943.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘The air-raid on Sherborne’
At approximately twenty minutes to five the “banshee wailing” turned us out of class, and I, as usual thought nothing of this. When we had been in the shelter for about five or ten minutes, I heard a rumble, like a crowd of people running over a wooden floor, I could not think what this was, but I was astonished to see everyone lie down, but soon realised what this was when the rumble increased to loud crashes and the glass of the window I happened to be looking at suddenly shot out. I knew the bombs were pretty near, but I was very surprised when I looked out, and saw several huge craters about twenty-five yards away. I was frightened at the time, but directly it was over, I did not feel frightened, but excited.  My first thoughts were if there were any casualties, and if our house had been hit.  We had to go a round about way back to the house [Lyon House], owing to an unexploded bomb.  I was very relieved to see the house unhit, but there had been bombs very close, and many windows were smashed and many tiles off the roof.

Considering that there were so many bombs so close to our house, I think that it is one of the luckiest houses in Great Britain.

That evening was spent in clearing up tiles and cleaning the house as much as possible.  We all slept either on the bottom or middle floor, that night I got very little sleep, but when I did get to sleep I was awoken by two loud crashes, which were delayed action bombs exploding, we all got up, but went to bed soon as we realised what they were.

Nothing very stirring happened after that.  It was an experience I should hate to have again, but now that is over, apart from the casualties (in the town) and the damage, I am glad that I have been in a raid, as I now know what war really means, & have been through a bit of it.  We, all of us of Sherborne have a great deal to be thankful for.

Anthony Joseph CORDY (1924-2015)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1938-December 1942; Exhibitioner.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘Impressions of an Air Raid.  September 30th 1940’
At about 4.30 p.m. on that fateful Monday, the siren started its mournful wail for the umpteenth time in the ten days or so we had been back.  I was rather annoyed because I thought that we should miss an interesting English Period, and be back in time for a not-so-interesting French Period.  Those of us whose duty called (!) us to the House [Lyon House], myself included, strolled literally up, for we had become accustomed to these uneventful half-hour alerts.  We settled in the lower passage with gasmasks, books, and cushions, and waited for the All-clear.

It was decided (I shall mention no names throughout this account) at about ten to five to have an incendiary bomb practice, and the squad in question dashed to its station.  We who were left in the passage heard loud bangs from (as we thought) above and thought them to be the squad in action.  However, it took but a second or two to realise that they were caused by something more than this, for the doors began to rattle violently.  Someone shouted that it was anti-aircraft fire, and I think most of us tried to believe this, although we knew that if any guns were so near as to make such a noise, we should have seen them.

The Dayroom door had not been shut, such was the laxity engendered by many fruitless warnings, and everyone shouted ‘shut that door’, and a hero, who shall be nameless, did so.  By this time we were all huddled in a heap on the floor, and I was on top of two or three other fellows, my head almost between my knees, my arms around the back of my neck. The noise was indescribable, the whole building shook to repeated concussions, and I knew that, for myself, I was, as it were, too frightened to be afraid.  I firmly believed that I should be dead within the next few moments, and I just waited for both walls to collapse in on me.  The noise died away.

We picked ourselves up from the floor and looked at each other as if to make sure we were still there.  Then someone let out a strained laugh.  The tension cleared a bit.  The air was filled with acrid smelling dust.  Two or three people went outside to see what had happened.  Then we all went out, although I know I hung back a bit for I quite thought the bombers would come back on a second run over the ‘target’.  In the yard, a most amazing sight confronted us: the whole surface was covered for a depth of four or five inches with broken tile and clods of earth.  The tiles came from off our own roof, the earth from a crater in the road just outside, and from two more in the gardens over the wall.  We wandered, with some difficulty, a bit further down the road: where the front gate had been was a twenty-foot wide crater.  The House had, in fact, been neatly straddled!

I think that one of the most noteworthy features of the raid was that everyone thought at the time that only his little area of the town had been hit.  It was with some amazement that I learnt from those who had been down at the School that bombs had fallen in the Courts, and the amazement was increased when my brother came from home to say that they were all right there: it has not occurred to them that there were bombs in the west of the town, just as I had not thought that they might have been in danger.

‘September 30th 1940’
We are chatting, joking or reading as we lean against the wall of the passage in Lyon House which, with reinforcement, serves as a shelter.  For the umpteenth time in the ten days that we have been back the banshee wail of the siren has sent us to the shelters, where all we do is to stave off the boredom until the drone of high-flying planes has ceased and a heartening blast announces that the danger, which in any case seems non-existent is past.

Suddenly, a loud rumbled in the distance, increases in volume, the house shakes.  My heart beats uneasily, faster.  “Nothing to worry about, only A-A guns!” shouts an unsteady voice.  “Shut that door, for God’s sake!” A-A guns.  Thank God, if that’s all it is.  Phew! What a racket.  It can’t be.  We’d have seen ‘em if they came close enough to make such a racket.  Racket, racket, racket!  Oh, will it stop! On the floor – crouch down – hands over neck – only chance.  O good God, how the wall shakes.  Will the ceiling fall first or will the walls fall in and bury us.  Shall I, any of us, our broken bodies, be recognisable? Will Mum and Dad ever see me again, miss me? What’s Heaven like – or Hell.  How long has this been going on?  Into eternity, or will it stop? Stop – stop did you say.  It has stopped – or has it? Am I dead? Heaven – is this Heaven? Open your eyes, m’lad and see.  It isn’t! Look, same old passage – and everyone else is getting up! We’re – are we? – safe? – safe, yes we are! It’s true, we’re safe! O God, thank God, thank, thank, thank God!

John Maxwell WARD (1922-2002)
Attended Sherborne School (Lyon House) September 1936-December 1940; Exhibitioner; House Prefect; PT Instructor with Badge; Sergeant in OTC; member of the Duffers.
Age on 30 September 1940: 18.

‘What things an air raid impressed on us’, 2 November 1940.
The afternoon of the last day of September, Monday the thirtieth, left me feeling complacent and very well disposed toward the world in general.  I had just played in a Lower game whose early finish enabled me to enjoy a cup of tea leisurely in the study next door; added to this was the comforting feeling that the next period would not necessitate my migrating down to school; kindly premonition also forewarned me that we would have an air raid warning which if long enough in duration, would even save me the postponed journey down to an English period at 5 o’clock.

At 4.30 Mona stared up on her unmelodious chant, half an hour too previous to be ideally timed.  Hearing the noise of approaching aircraft two [?uninitiated] boobs, Mumford and Ward, went out into the yard “to see if we could see anything.”  We saw nothing: this and another important factor, namely apprehension lest the housemaster at the head of his flock should find us thus star-gazing, deterred us from further observation, and sent us to our respective posts to await our charges.  I retired to the Upper Studies with a small volume of selections from Hilaire Belloc, a chair and a cushion.

Not many minutes elapsed before the rest of the Home Guard took up their alert positions in the same passage.  From now on this narrative should continue under the subheading [?EYW], but that cannot be remedied, for I was at the time too preoccupied in what was doing to notice other people’s activities.

The minute hand of my watch had passed the figure eight and was well on its way to quarter to five when “crumps” became audible in the near distance.  My first reaction was that of a confirmed lunatic.  I felt impelled to go to the window to “have a look out” – some sensible fellow promptly advised me otherwise, and as the noise of explosions was most definitely on the crescendo we floored ourselves without further ado.  As I lay on the floor I saw before my eyes a large pile of official A.R.P. instructions – I metaphorically ran through the lot and, in the procedure, remembered one thing – equalise the pressure on both sides of the ear drum by keeping the mouth open – this I did and then decided that my last minutes should not be unworthy so I prayed that He would treat me with mercy.

We then bustled downstairs to the accompaniment of tinkling glass and cascading tiles.  As I passed the upper swill room door I remember seeing two pale ghosts flitting down the stairs from the top floor – my impressions of the actual event were not, funnily enough those of terror, but mainly amazement and contemplation of its inimitability.  I realised that they were bombs, and pretty close at that.

After a minute of nervous excitement in the Lower Studies passage I went in the yard where I met the housemaster [A.R. Trelawny-Ross] who announced the advent of the Palmer’s and informed me of a fatal casualty in Mr Palmer’s garden [Assistant master Mr Clephan Palmer (1881-1971) lived at ‘South Hill’, Richmond Road].  I went there & found Jimmy Lintern [Arthur James Lintern, aged 62] in the garden approximately five yards from the crater.  Hence I ran down to the first aid post and told them that there was no hope for the fellow and returned.  In the crater in the road outside Mr Palmer’s house there were a lot of little children playing despite the fact that there was a very strong smell of gas – having turned them out I came across Mrs Thorne [Ella Thorne 1875-1968, lived at Brighton Villa, Richmond Road and married to Walter Thorne], very much the worse for wear, and so led her, and I use that word literally, to the house and handed her over to the matron.  As I was coming out from the house again, some electrically-minded boy informed me that some of the wires on the road outside might be live, to which I was perforce to reply that I had tripped over 90% of them and that I was still alive!  As I went from the house this time I was in my shirt sleeves and was equipped with a  large jug of tea & several cups for the benefit of various almost hysterical people who lived in the houses round Mr Thorne’s house – one good lady asked me whether it would be safer for her to lie under the table, or the sofa, or merely in a trench in the garden – I consoled her and the like & then returned to poor Jimmy whose heart and eyes I inspected with the obvious negative results – then Hamersley appeared with a sheet to cover the unfortunate fellow.  Later on a stretcher party arrived and simultaneously an ambulance but having seen their patient remarked that it would be a waste of time to do anything and so left poor Jimmy to get colder and stiffer. A warden came up soon afterwards and later an old Morris van from a garage.  The warden and the other two then asked me if I could find some [?sacking] – I raced off and as I was passing through the house, Wilson asked me whether I had “cleared out” my study – not quite understanding what on earth he was talking about I replied “No” to which he roared in response “Well, go and do it, and BRACE UP.”  Thinking that other things were more important and that he was only doing his duty, I hurried on without paying any intention to him.

We four, the warden, two others, and myself, then lifted the corpse into the van and the latter moved off.  I then moved off in search of Thorne [Walter Thorne 1877-1953, lived at Brighton Villa, Richmond Road and married to Ella Thorne], who was weeping in the back parlour – I tried to console him.  Little did I know that I was then standing directly over a 580lb bomb!

When the night came with more contemplation I felt physically sick and very unhappy.

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