World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                            Joyce Spur 

Blitz On Sheffield-Thursday Night (12th December, 1940)

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Joyce Spurr
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Joyce Spurr.
I was working in the Reference Library as a junior assistant, when the alarm sounded at about 7.30 pm (we closed at 9 pm in those days). We led the public down to the Library Theatre, which was sandbagged as an official shelter. I and one of the janitors had to keep going upstairs to make sure that no incendiary bombs had taken hold. There were frightening crashes and bangs, and the building shook. Some of the noise was from anti-aircraft guns. The sky outside was red from fires of the burning buildings.

During the evening, some people came in covered in dust and debris. They had come from the evening classes in the College of Art in Arundel Street nearby. It had received a direct hit from a shell and was completely demolished, which was a great pity as it had been an ornate Victorian building with classical sculptures on the facade.

When the ‘all clear’ sounded, and we came out; the Air Raid Wardens directed us round a huge crater in which was an unexploded bomb. It was at the corner of Surrey Street and Tudor Street, just alongside the corner of the library, so we had a lucky escape.

I had to walk home to Woodseats, and everywhere in town, we were walking on crunching glass. When I saw The Moor, I was appalled as it was a blazing inferno with the black skeletons of trams silhouetted against the flames. There were lumps of debris and cables hanging down. It made such a vivid impression on me that the image remained with me for the rest of my life.

I passed over fires and saw a notably huge one at Lavers’ Timber Yard on Queen’s Road. My parents were of course, relieved to see me, but I knew I had to be back at work by 8 am, so I only had two hours’ rest before walking back to the library. There were no trams or busses of course.

The library had become a gigantic information bureau. Representatives of different parts of the Town Hall sat at desks in the Reference Library to deal with problems of people who had been bombed out and had nowhere to live, or no gas, electricity or water supply, or needed roofs repairing.

The Newspaper Room and Children’s Library were receiving people who had been bombed out, and the staff kitchen was serving tea, soup and sandwiches to them all day. The police took over the Cataloguing Department and the Library staff compiled records of the missing and dead people as the information came in. My job was to divert people to the appropriate place for their problems.

It had been well planned and organised to come into operation immediately and credit, for a large part, must go to the City Librarian, Mr J.P. Lamb.

About two years ago, I decided to paint the memory with oil before it was too late (Jan 1984)