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John's story

Pom-pom guns and scarlet fever

Photograph of young John I was only six at the time of Coventry's worst air raid, on the night of November 14, 1940, I was actually in hospital with Scarlet Fever.

It was an isolation hospital, with wards well separated, and open space in between. A delayed action bomb fell close enough to my ward that it was decided that we should be moved to another, even during the raid. I remember being carried by a soldier, and the glow in the sky from the fires in the City center.

Suddenly we both heard the 'whoosh' of a bomb actually falling and we quickly dived under a bush, and he sheltered me with his body before we continued to the new ward. With the typical resilience of children, I went back to sleep again, and in the morning we discovered that the nearest ward to our new one had suffered a direct hit, and I remember the twisted roof girders with no other roof covering left.

Coventry was defended by barrage balloons, which were there to keep the raiders at a height convenient for anti-aircraft guns. The standard naval anti-aircraft gun at the time was the bofors gun, which was a multibarrelled gun with a distinctive sound, and was therefore known as a pom-pom. They were actually made in the City, and the factory which made them had a battery on the roof. The sound of these guns so far from the sea surpised more than one sailor in the City at the time of an air raid.

John Richardson
July 1997

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