Pensioner remembers the night the Germans bombed his street
LIFE in the village of Rhos was very different 70 years ago.
Europe was at war and bombing raids by the Luftwaffe were frequent.
In the early hours of August 30, 1940, German bombers were heading for Liverpool and dockland sites on the River Mersey.
In an effort to draw the planes away from these heavily populated and strategically important sites, the men of the home guard would make their way to the nearby uninhabited mountains and light fires that it was hoped would dupe the enemy into thinking they had reached their targets.
And it worked – you can still see the craters in the mountainside to this day.
However, on this particular night, one of those missiles landed not on the mountain but on Rhos itself – on Osborne Street, to be precise.
Gareth Jones was six and living on Osborne Street at the time.
“At night we would hide under the stairs and shelter there until the all-clear was sounded. You could hear the planes going over.
“It was very scary – my younger brother was three at the time and he was terrified.
“That night, after we’d heard the all clear, I remember distinctly going up to the middle bedroom and looking out of the window.
“In those days you could see the mountain from there and it was completely ablaze.”
What Mr Jones didn’t know at that point was that a bomb had hit the ground just a few yards from his house.
It had fallen between his neighbour and neighbour but one’s house but had not – yet – exploded.
Living next door was Gwilym Parry, who was 15 years old. He lived with his parents while his grandparent s lived in the other house.
“The bomb landed at about 1am,” Mr Parry recalled. “It landed right outside the two houses.
“I slept through that and the next morning the ARP man, who was a teacher at the local school, told my father he could fill in the hole.
“About 10 minutes before that, the rescue party from the Hafod colliery had come up but they left soon afterwards as there wasn’t anything they could do.”
Despite the presence of the unexploded device, life that morning on Osborne Street continued as normal.
Mr Parry, who had a job in Wrexham, set off for the bus while the younger Mr Jones was preparing to go to school.
Mr Jones recounted what happened next: “My mother had answered the door to a lad who came to call for my eldest brother to go to school.
“The bomb exploded and she was blown straight down the hall to the back of the house.
“The boy who came to see my brother, his bicycle was later found on top of the telegraph pole.
“There was all this rubble everywhere because one side of the house had been blown in. My father carried my brother and I to safety.”
Mr Parry, meanwhile, had already left for work.
“I caught the 8.22 bus to Wrexham and I was on it when I heard the explosion,” he remembered. “I’d left school and gone to work at Burton’s otherwise I’d have been home.
“I remember the teacher saying to me, it’s a good thing you’d left because otherwise you’d have still been at home.”
He didn’t find out what had happened until he reached Wrexham.
“The police came to get me at work,” said Mr Parry. “They said ‘don’t worry – your mother and father are OK’.
“My father was knocked back on the stairs and was trapped between two walls. He was knocking on the wall which was how they found him.
“Mr Jones from next door came and carried my mother out of the building.
“My grandfather and grandmother were killed, Dorothy Reid had been coming up from Church Street and had stopped to talk and among the others who were killed were three young lads.
“My parents spent were quite badly injured and spent four or five months in hospital. We had to stay with family in Wrexham.
“We moved into the new house in October 1948 – it was built by the War Damages Committee.”
It is almost impossible to imagine what it felt like to be sheltering with your family and to hear the planes going over on their bombing runs.
But, for the likes of Mr Jones and Mr Parry, it was a nightly occurrence.
“I remember one night it was cold and there was no wind and you could hear the home guard up on the mountain,” said Mr Parry. “You could see the fires up there.
“You could sometimes hear the planes going over and the bombs dropping.
“It was quite scary sometimes. My grandfather used to say it’ll never come to Rhos and then he was killed by the bomb.”
On that August night in 1940 the Home Guard appear to have succeeded, however, one of those bombs landed not on the mountain but on Osborne Street in Rhosllannerchrugog.
The bomb landed at about 1 a.m. but, initially, failed to explode. Despite having an unexploded bomb in the street the locals carried on as normal. However, at about 8:20 a.m., the bomb exploded causing severe damage and the loss of seven lives.
Susannah HUGHES Died 31 Aug 1940 age 67 Died at her home, Stanley Villas, Osborne Street. Daughter of the late Mr & Mrs John Lloyd, of Church Street; wife of William Hughes (see below).
William HUGHES Died 31 Aug 1940 age 67 Died at his home, Stanley Villas, Osborne Street. Son of the late Mr & Mrs Thomas Hughes, of Erwgerrig. Husband of Susannah Hughes (see above).
William Henry HUGHES Died 31 Aug 1940 age 12 Died at Osborne Street. Son of John & Alice Hughes, of Belmont, Duke Street.
Donald JONES Died 31 Aug 1940 age 11 Died at Osborne Street. Son of George & Annie Ellen Jones, of 2, Cemetery Road.
Kenneth Thomas PEMBERTON Died 31 Aug 1940 age 13 Died in Osborne Street. Son of Robert Allen Pemberton, & Mary Ann Pemberton, of 5, Afon Terrace, Afongoch.
Dorothy REID Died 8 Sep 1940 age 34 Died in the War Memorial Hospital, Wrexham, from injuries sustained at Osborne Street. Daughter of the late Robert Reid. Lived at Bro Dawel, Victoria Street.
Eliza Jane (Lizzie) RICHARDS Died 31 Aug 1940 age 58 Died at Osborne Street. Wife of Edward Richards, of Glaslyn, Osborne Street.
Published date: 10 November 2010
Published by: Rob Bellis