Coventry Blitz 70th Anniversary

Noreen Dalglish (top right)

To commemorate the 70th anniversary since the Coventry Blitz the Herbert has all sorts of events and projects happening… in fact the whole of Coventry has lots of things going on. We’ll be hosting a Blitz family day in conjunction with the Coventry Transport Museum and one of the History Learning Officers is running a project called ‘We Will Remember Them’ where people can send in photographs of themselves, family members or friends who were a part of WW2 along with some information about who they were and what they did.

As a part of this project I have been delivering WW2 assemblies for local primary schools where we have been testing out an air raid siren, trying on a gas mask and helmet and most importantly learning about the lives of some of Coventry’s citizen’s who contributed towards the War Effort.

One of the people we have been looking at is Noreen Dalglish, an Ambulance driver for the Civil Defence. Noreen was only 20 years old when she joined the Civil Defence in 1938, a year before war was declared on Germany. She said that everyone knew the war was going to happen and rather than be forced into a job she wanted to choose what to do. At the time of joining the Ambulance service, Noreen did not possess a driving licence and instead had to learn as part of her training. When it came to taking her test she drove up a road and straight into a tree, but the Civil Defence needed as many Ambulance drivers as possible so they passed her as she hadn’t caused any damage to the car!

When describing what it was like to be driving out during a blackout with a full uniform on she said, “You’re driving in the dark with your gas mask on, you couldn’t see or hear anything – or breathe! It was horrible. And you had your gas outfit on. All the trousers and the jackets and everything. And driving in that… it was awful. It was like driving down a dark tunnel with a blanket over your head. It was really awful.”

Talking about the 14th November, 1940 when Coventry received its biggest air raid that lasted through the night killing over 500 people, Noreen described this as follows, “November 14th was the big raid in Coventry. That was really dreadful… they were after the factories. The buildings were going down all around us. We had to go out. I remember going to a motor company and there was a big shelter there. We had to get the people out who had been injured. I’m very nervous of the dark, but you had a job to do and you did it. We got these people out and we took them to the hospital. We couldn’t get them in that hospital [it was full]. We had to take them to another one, but we couldn’t get them in there [it was also full].”

One of the biggest problems on the night on 14th November was the lack of water supplies around the city. The German bombers had purposely hit the water mains to stop the flow of water so the fire guards couldn’t put the fires out. Noreen witnessed this as she was going about her duties and the memory of what happened has remained with her. Of this she has said, “They’d hit all the mains, so there was no water. I went down where the end of Corporation Street is and there were all these firemen. They’d got their fire engines and everything. Two of them were standing with hoses and all that was coming out of them was a trickle. The houses were blazing all around. There was nothing they could do. There was no water. Nothing. You just had to stand there and watch it burn, and rescue any people you could”.

The bravery of people like Noreen helped to keep the fighting spirit of Coventry citizens alive during a horrendous evening that cost the lives of over 500 people, with hundreds more injured and many losing their homes. On 14th November, 2010 Coventry will be remembering the lives lost and the efforts of those helping to save Coventry by sounding the sirens around the Old Cathedral at 7:15pm. The events being held at the Herbert the day before on the 13th November will act as a way of teaching the youth of today what the War Effort was all about and to give them an active insight into the history of Coventry during WW2.

Lisa

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Posted on 27/09/2010, in Families, Learning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. A song titled Moonlight Sonata

  2. Peter L. Griffiths

    The comments fail to answer a crucial question which is Where did the German bombers come from. The short answer is from about 34 airfields in Northern France which were handed over to the Luftwaffe as part of the capitulation agreement of June 1940. Without the French capitulation, there would have been no bombing of Coventry or any of the other British cities.

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