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I found myself on the roof of Lloyds bank with a sweeping brush knocking incendiary bombs into the street... Swansea Museum seeks Blitz stories.

Byline: Robin Turner

LIGHT snow was falling on the frozen streets of Swansea at 7.30pm on February 19, 1941, when the bomb bay doors of dozens of black German bombers swung open.

It was the beginning of the "Swansea Blitz" when the Germans rained down 30,000 incendiary and 800 high-explosive bombs on three successive nights.

Swansea, seen to burn from as far away as Devon and Cornwall, would never look the same again.

It was one of the darkest times in Swansea's history, but people who experienced the Swansea Blitz are now being asked to share their memories.

Swansea Museum staff are on the lookout for stories and recollections from the World War II bombing of the city to help with the preparation of a new DVD.

The museum launched a DVD in December called Swansea and the Three-Night Blitz but memories are now needed for the making of the second instalment in the series.

Swansea was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe from February 19 to February 21, 1941.

The city was targeted because of its importance as a metal working area, port and docks. Its destruction was seen as key to Nazi German war efforts, as part of their strategic bombing campaign aimed at crippling coal exports and demoralising civilians and emergency services.

CARNAGE: The Blitz on Swansea Incendiary bombs were also dropped over Swansea and its town centre was engulfed in a firestorm of flames.

The grammar school that had stood on Mount Pleasant Hill since 1851 took a direct hit and was completely destroyed.

A total of 270 Swansea residents died and a further 409 were injured.

Barry Hughes, Swansea council learning officer at the museum, said yesterday: "We hope to capture the people's story and for this we need the public's help.

"Please get in touch if you or someone you know would like to contribute to this film by sharing memories."

Elaine Kidwell was one of many iron-willed air-raid wardens who braved the falling bombs to help the injured and get people to safety.

She remembers brushing incendiary bombs off the roof of a bank, running towards target areas while others dashed for shelter and she once simply dusted herself down and applied lipstick after being blown up by a parachute mine.

To make her story all the more remarkable, Elaine was just 17 years old, the youngest air raid warden in Britain.

Recalling her role, widow Mrs Kidwell, now 86, said: "I joined up as a civil defence messenger and when I was 17 years and two months I asked to be an air raid warden even though you had to be 18.

"The man in charge could see I was young and when I told him my true age he said 'In war we bend rules'. So I was in."

Talking of the three-night Swansea Blitz she said: "I found myself one night on the flat roof of Lloyds bank in the centre of Swansea with a sweeping brush knocking incendiary bombs into the street.

"They had slow burning jets of phosphorous coming out of the top and were extremely dangerous to go near but you had to get on with the job.

terrible aftermath of the "I remember another time I suddenly saw a parachute mine drift down a few yards away and it went off, blowing me backwards until I hit a wall.

"Amazingly, I was all right so I dusted my jacket down and applied my lipstick. My lipstick was like my armour so I felt safer.

"The only thing was that my father, also an air raid warden, was there and I heard him shouting: 'Ninna [her nickname] are you all right'? "I was, but my father didn't know I had lipstick. I felt more embarrassed about that than being lucky to be alive."

David Davies, who now lives in Levin, New Zealand, said of his experience of the Blitz: "I lived at 241 Gors Avenue in Swansea.

"On the first of the 'three nights' we were visiting an aunt who lived further down Gors Avenue when the siren went.

"We went to the makeshift airraid shelter in the cupboard under the stairs.

"We heard a loud banging on the front door and a warden told us to get out since there was an incendiary bomb burning away on the roof.

"The second night we were at home. The siren went and at about 8.30pm there was a rush of hot air, a muffled boom and dust everywhere.

"Our house had been hit by a bomb. We got out, scrambling over broken glass and rubble and eventually made our way to the Gospel Hall near the end of Meadow Street.

"We slept on chairs while the WVS [Women's Voluntary Service] made cups of tea.

"The following day we were not allowed back to our house, and in fact never went back there again. My brother, Haydn, and I had been in our pyjamas when the bomb struck so we had nothing except what we were wearing.

"We were given some second-hand clothes by the WVS and made our way on foot to an aunt's house in Evans Terrace. This was Friday and the siren went again at about 8pm.

"This night was a particularly heavy raid and we took cover in our aunt's air raid shelter which was up the back garden in an area which had probably been a quarry.

"Towards the end of the raid my aunt, who was an air raid warden, came into the Anderson shelter and said: 'If you want to pray, now would be a good time'.

"There was a parachute land mine coming down and it was going to land very close to us indeed.

"As luck had it that land mine did not explode or I doubt that I would be telling the tale."


CARNAGE: The terrible aftermath of the Blitz on Swansea CLEAN-UP OPERATION: Firemen work to put out the flames in Swansea following the devastating Blitz by German bombers on February 22, 1941
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 26, 2010
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