A Sixteen Year old in R&M’s Stock Records Office Remembers
The day began as just another wartime Friday – booking in stock from the factory and authorising the Finished Goods Stores to pack and despatch ball and roller bearings to places across the country. Lunch was taken in the works canteen……
“As we sat there the air-raid warning siren sounded but, in spite of that, they served us our meal. As we were eating one of the firm’s own ARPwardens came and told us that there were enemy aircraft in the vicinity and that we continued our meal at our own risk – we merely laughed and carried on.
” We completed our meal in peace and returned to our office. The ‘All Clear’ went, but after two or three minutes , the warning sounded again. My workmates and I decided that it was too cold to sit in the air raid shelters so we went to the boiler room on the side of the building.
“Almost immediately we saw an aeroplane coming towards us. we could make out the cutouts on the wings which told us it was a Heinkel and we watched horrified as four bombs fell from the plane and headed towards us.
“I have no idea what the others did – I only know that I put my fingers in my ears and ducked down into a corner of the boiler house. I can’t remember hearing any bangs but the whole boiler house shook and there was dust everywhere.
“As I looked up I saw a splintered hole appear in the wooden roof and heard shrapnel or something ‘whang’ off the top of the boiler.
“The rest of the day was completely unreal – our office was covered in a layer of dust and the roof panels had shed broken glass everywhere. While we were cleaning up, the siren went again but this time we went to the proper shelter. Further bombs were dropped and the machine-gunners again opened up but I saw neither the plane nor the bombs though they shook us in the shelter.
“On hearing the ‘All Clear’ again, we went back to our work of cleaning up our own office and, at the normal time, I left work and went home to find my mother worrying about what had happened to me” (Reminiscences of Mr Geoffrey Reynolds, transcribed 1991)
The raid as seen from the cockpit of the Heinkel 111
As the Heinkel levelled out over Newark, in the cockpit was German war correspondent Hans Seidat. His account (as translated) describes the raid as seen by the pilot Premier Lieutenant Knauts:-
“Flying low, the aeroplane passed over England. There was panic on the roads and in the villages when the plane,suddenly appearing out of the clouds was made out to be German. People ran into houses and motor car drivers leapt out of their cars and hid in ditches.
“The railway line down there must lead to the factory. There it was, only one kilometre away. Five bombs hit workshops and railway sidings. There was great excitement on the factory premises. Hundreds of workmen left the buildings in panic and tried to reach shelter. The anti-aircraft artillery sent up a fairy rain of coloured tracer ammunition.
“Machine guns in the aeroplane spluttered and sent their bursts into the anti-airctaft artillery positions. Amidst a terrible fire, Knauts risked flying over the premises athird time. Photographs were taken.
“There was a noise in the aeroplane. The defences became dangerous – so, up into the clouds…..”
An R&M Draughtsman Remembers
"I was a draughtsman in the Technical Drawing Office at the time..... When the first siren went the office staff evacuated the premises and should all have gone to the shelters which were about 150 yards away, approximately where the present car park is.
"On leaving these gates I saw a plane and, being a member of the Home Gurad, identified it as a Heinkel 111. I also saw that the bomb doors were open and realising that I and my companion would not make the shelters, I ran behind the coach house wall.... We were extremely lucky as the last bomb demolished the large gate and later investigation found them [the gates] on the roof of the Technical Drawing Office!
"After the 'All Clear' a number of us returned to the offices and we were engaged in recovering the drawing boards etc. It was by then raining quite heavily and the roof was damaged in a number of places. Whilst we were engaged in this task the second siren went, but this time we were able to reach the shelters.
"When the 'All Clear' went for the second time we returned to our duties. However, shortly afterwards Mr Richardson [the then Managing Director] suggested we pack up and go home......
"As a member of the [Newark] Home Guard our standing orders were that, should an 'incident' happen in the area, then we should report to our Headquarters and await 'posting'. I went home, changed into my uniform, and duly reported at the Headquarters which at that time was located in the council offices at [No.20] Baldertongate. I was told to report the Major ----- at R&M's!. And this I did. Being at the time a sergeant I was told by the Major to take charge of the top gate, turn away those of the night shift who were not aware of what had happened, and also to try to assure the groups of relatives whose husbands had not returned home...... (Reminiscences of Mr H.D. Birdsey, recorded February 1992).
A Narrow Escape at the R&M weighbridge
Part of John Dale’s regular duties at R&M was to visit the company’s weigh bridge at the nearby railway lines to collect figures for what the company was sending by rail. This particular day he arrived to find that the person he needed to see wasn’t there for some reason. His ‘stand-in’ suggested that John could sit in the office & wait for the man to return. However, it was close to his dinnertime & he lived not far away, so John decided to go and eat his dinner then call back later.
Whilst he was at home having dinner, the factory was bombed and amongst the areas destroyed was the weighbridge! Just a few minutes difference and he would have been killed. (contributed by Jenni Dobson via email, March 2015)
A Grim Task
"As the hours rolled on, of course, it was obvious that a number of people (particularly in the Tool Room building) would not return, and this was confirmed when the mortuary section of the Royal Engineers went about their grim task, sorting the bodies in the old foundry". (Anonymous reminiscence)
"In the morning [after the attack] I took a stroll around the factory to assess the damage. I walked into the undamaged part of the building and was horrified to see sticking out of the floor the fins of a fairly large bomb. I beat a hasty retreat!" Anonymous reminiscence)
Could it happen again?
"Some time later A number of 'townies' (myself included) were transferred to the factory and were trained in the operation of 20mm anti-aircraft guns. My own gun was mounted on the roof of the canteen and whilst we were often called to man the guns, fortunately we were never to fire them in anger" (Anonymous reminiscence)