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Can you help Blitz historian?
2:00pm Thursday 25th October 2012 in News
A HISTORIAN is looking for information about men from the Chard and Ilminster area who dashed down to Exeter in 1942 to help the rescue effort after the city was blitzed by the Germans.
Around 300 people were killed when the Luftwaffe struck on the morning of May 4, 1942, and a major operation was needed to help in the aftermath of the bombings.
The rescue services were on standby in the event of a major blitz in any city or town, and firemen across Somerset were sent to Exeter to help with the fires.
Now historian Dr Todd Gray, an honorary research fellow at Exeter University who has written a book about the Second World War in the city, has found cards relating to men from Chard and Ilminster who were sent to help in the rescue mission.
“Many blitzed places weren’t able to keep records and evidence like this is unusual,” he said.
“I’ve just come across these cards in the Exeter City Council collection of documents.
“I’d ask readers if anyone has any memories of the Ilminster and Chard Rescue Squads which went to Exeter on the morning of May 4, 1942, when the city was blitzed.”
“I suspect the men on the cards were older men who were not being brought into Army service or men whose jobs kept them out of the military.
“They were most likely volunteers and I imagine they saw sights that morning in Exeter that they’d never forget.”
Exeter endured three nights of bombing in April, 1942, and suddenly on the night of May 3-4 there was a fearful attack.
“Incendiary bombs, together with high explosives, devastated the centre,” said Dr Gray.
“About one-quarter of the city centre was destroyed in one attack.
“This was the first warfare in Exeter since the Civil War of the 1640s.”
Names on the Ilminster card document include Gulliford, Coombes, Gray, Bishop, Paull, Poole and Webster, while those on the Chard list include Penney, Hussey, Phippen, Shore, Bond, Larcombe, White, Turner, Cox and Case.
Anyone who can is urged to write to Dr Gray at Taddyforde House South, Tadyforde Estate, New North Road, Exeter EX4 4AT or e-mail email@example.com