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THE HILL AVENUE BOMBING
(First Published by Hillhead School in 1989 as a fundraiser for the school)
Pictures from Caithness.org
On the 26th of October 1940 a group of three Heinkels attempted to bomb Wick airport dropping over twenty high explosive bombs. A third of these bombs were duds. One bungalow in Hill Avenue got a direct hit and other houses were seriously damaged. Houses were damaged in Roseberry Terrace, Henrietta Street and George Street. Plaster and ceiling work was damaged in about 140 houses. The effects of the bombs were felt over a great distance. Some shrapnel landed some 500 yards away with a nose cone of a bomb coming through the roof of Liptons store (which is now Curry's - at the time this article was written - At February 2002 it is a charity shop) and narrowly missing the manager.
Once again the memories of people varied quite a lot depending on how closely they were involved in the incident. Some people had narrow escapes whilst others were only touched by the noise and vibrations of the explosions. There was no warning of the raid so like the Bank Row bombings people were taken by surprise as they went about their normal lives. We begin this section with the recollections of Mr George Cameron who had one of the narrowest escapes when his house in Hill Avenue received a direct hit. At the time he was a 14 year old schoolboy.
"I had just got the blackout curtains up on the window and as I was the oldest in the family, it was my job every night to shut out all the light in case German bombers could see it and drop their bombs. So the first job was to put up the big black curtains on all the windows. I did that about 6 o'clock and then I thought I would play with my toy aircraft. i had quite a collection of aircraft. My sister Betty was sitting by the fireside knitting and my little brother who was six was playing with his bricks. I was just bringing down my model aircraft to land as if in fun and I heard a whoosh which were German aircraft crossing over our house. We heard a clank or two - some of the bombs didn't go off. my mother said to us we'd better go in to the lobby where there was more shelter.
We all got up and made our way to the lobby with a young lade Mrs Dyer who was married to an RAF serviceman. She lived with us. Just at that I felt I'd gone to sleep and something dreadful had happened to my body. there was a great big bang and clattering of pots and pans and furniture. I felt myself being flung into the air and when I came down I was only half conscious, but I could just lift my hand to my head., I felt something wet as if it was blood or water - I don't know what it was. I could smell gas, but I couldn't hear anything because my ears were punctured with the massive bang. I heard my mother say "Lie still and someone will come and help us in a minute". It felt like ages before anyone came but I'm sure it was only a couple of minutes before some of the RAF men came down and lifted us and carried us to hospital. I was only semi-conscious and my eyes were shut but I remember being put on a table or a stretcher in Hospital and I remember myself shaking quite a bit. i must have looked quite a mess.
The house was badly damaged, all the bricks and stones had fallen down in the blast and scattered everywhere so it was level to the ground. In the blast I had my foot cracked and my legs were holed with shrapnel. all the holes had to be stitched up by the surgeon, then when stitches had to be taken out there was too much flesh growing so they had to burn it off using a special stone called blue stone. That wasn't just too nice."
Mr Cameron's house was totally destroyed and his brother John (6) and his sister Betty (10) did not survive the explosion. Their lodger Mrs Dyer (20) was also killed. Mr Cameron still has some coins which were found in the wreckage of his house. they show the force of the explosion. old pennies and a three penny bit are actually bent and buckled from the blast. Shrapnel had actually blown a hole threw two pennies. Mr Cameron and his mother recovered in hospital at Forss near Lybster before spending the rest of the war in Watten.
Others recalled the attack of the planes on Wick.
"I was with my friend and we were coming along Martha Terrace where the fire station is now. A plane went past and machine gunned the Service Bridge. Two airmen pulled us in beside the Mission Hall. they laid us down and put coats over us. They then put us home to our own home in Vansittart Street." (Mrs Sinclair)
We were coming from the Post Office about 6 o'clock on
that Saturday night past Crows grocery shop (on High Street opposite where Mackays store is now) when the planes came low over Wick.
gunned the streets. someone shouted to us to lie down. I was with my
sister and a friend and we immediately stretched our full length, face
down on the steps in front of Crows shop and then we heard the loud
explosion of the bombs. We got up and ran up High Street, up past Kirkhill and George Street. as we lived at Bellview Cottage in
Street, not far from Hill Avenue. We were so thankful to find our
parents sitting up having a cup of tea." (Mrs R Robertson)
"I can recall it very well. I was serving a customer with some sweets in Wilfred Weir's on Bridge Street, which is now Gunn's the shoe shop, when the bombs dropped. So I just threw the sweets at her and ran to the cellar. As we got to the top of the steps, the siren went, which frightened us more than the bombs. So we ran down to the cellar which was pitch black. We sat there until the all clear went. We all came up and people came into the shop and told us where the bomb had dropped. We had to shut the shop and walk home. all the things in the shop were thrown off the shelves. We went back on the Sunday to clear it all up. I can also recall my brother was fixing a watch when the bombs fell. All the bits were in a plate and the vibration put the bits flying across the room. We never got that watch fixed." (Mrs Hooker)
"It was just beginning to get a bit gloomy and I was in my house in Willowbank. A letter had arrived from my brother who was in the forces. My father was standing in the middle of the room reading it, and he went and put on the light without pulling the blackout curtains. He was standing there reading when all of a sudden the planes came over the house. They dropped a bomb at the back of our house which didn't explode. that's at the top of Barons Well. When the bombs fell we opened the front door and there had been lots of soldiers going down Willowbank. They were all lying flat out taking cover in people's entries." (Mrs Budge)
"I was at the Pavilion Picture House which is now Dominoes (Destroyed by fire a few years ago). there was a lot of RAF servicemen in the Picture House and they told us that Hill Avenue had been bombed. they told everyone to keep their seats. Next day we went down and found a big lump of shrapnel. We found it in the bus stands which is now Presto's (Safeways) car park" (Mr I Mackay)
"We lived quite close to Hill Avenue in Henrietta Terrace and I remeber the force of the explosion cracked a lot of walls in the area. there was a lamp post that was lifted out of the ground in Louisburgh Terrace (Mrs Campbell)
"I was working at the surgeons in Thurso Road. I was cook general there. It was a three storey house and I was up the stairs getting my dirty clothes for going home. I had a bag of Maltesers on the bed and they just rattled with the explosion." (Mrs Miller)
"I can recall it quite well. I was a telegram messenger boy. I had just came home from delivering a telegram when we heard the planes go past so I went back to the Post office and I heard the bombs. I was told that Roseberry Terrace and Henrietta Street was bombed and that hill Avenue was damaged. One of the girls who worked in the Telephone Exchange belonged to Roseberry Terrace. I went out and cycled up to Roseberry Terrace to have a look to see if it was damaged. I found her house was only slightly damaged but there was considerable damage at the end of Roseberry Terrace. After I had a good look I went back and told her and she was greatly relived to know that there was nobody injured in her family." (Mr Richard)
This concludes our section on the Hill Avenue bombing. It was the last bombing in Wick which resulted in civilian casualties. As well as the bombing many people had a number of other varied memories about the war in Wick
|Pulteney Project to see more buildings in the area some of which might be part of the plans to regenerate the area and awaiting news of a Heritage Lottery Grant.|