Special service commemorates Newbury bombing

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EXPLOSIONS ricocheted through Newbury leaving 15 dead, 43 injured and several buildings, including St John’s Church, flattened.

The time was 4.35pm on February 10 1943 and among those killed were children, a teacher and a caretaker left in the town’s school. A special service takes place on 11 February at 3pm to remember that day.

Two elderly women stand amid the ruins of the Almshouse that had been their home in Newbury following the bombing on February 10 1943. Photo: Shutterstock

The rubble of St John the Evangelist Church after the bombing. Photo: Newbury History Society

For survivors, the memories are still poignant. “For me it was a plume of smoke. I suppose it was a mixture of smoke and dust, which went right up into the sky. I was home from school then, and playing on Wash Common,” said one.

Another man recalls hearing the bombs drop; the huge explosion, as he was heading home from school on his bike. His first, reflex thought was: “Oh good, no school tomorrow,” followed, instantaneously, by the awful thought of what could have happened

Michael was in the Wellington pub, where he was born, and lived with his family. They were having their tea at the time. They thought the explosion, was a vehicle collision, until they realised the wall at the end of their house had been blown off. His father popped his head out and saw the rubble that was, a few minutes earlier, the church. “We were very lucky,” Michael says. A row of glasses on a pub shelf were in tact but the roof was blown off.

Doug Brindley, was 14 at the time and was at work, when the red warning light came on and went with his colleagues to the shelter. The walls shook violently as the bombs went off. Doug and his brothers were members of the choir at St John’s. His way home that afternoon took him past the ruins of his church and surrounding streets and homes. Several years later,  Doug and his wife Mary were to be one of the first couples to be  married in the newly rebuilt St John’s.

It is thought that St John’ is the only church in the Oxford Diocese to have been destroyed in WW2.

Everyone is welcome at the service at St John’s Church.