Tale of baker who watched his bakery destroyed as thousands of incendiaries rained down on the city during major attack during the Blitz in the biggest air raid Portsmouth faced in the Second World War

BOMBS rained down on Portsmouth on this day more than 80 years ago as the city faced the biggest air raid it would experience during the Blit

Monday, 10th January 2022, 4:55 am

Caroline Tomlinson found an article written by her grandfather about the January 10-11, 1941 raid on Portsmouth - an attack which destroyed the bakery where he was working on that terrible night.

In the article. Albert Bourne, who was in charge of the Portsea Island Co-op Bakery, wrote: ‘It was Friday night, the busiest night of the week for all bakers because of the weekend and the demand for loaves for Sunday tea for the quarter of a million inhabitants of Portsmouth.

‘It was unfortunately also the night of a severe raid on Portsmouth that plunged the whole city into darkness.’

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Portsmouth blitz January 10, 1940 - damage at Hyde Park Road and Russell Street

Caroline, who now lives in Weymouth, was a Portsmouth resident in the 1980s.

Read More

Read More
Remember horses tethered on Portsmouth bomb sites? | Nostalgia

Sharing her grandfather’s story and quoting from his article, she said: ‘My grandpa and his workers were wondering "how they could produce bread by candlelight" but without the mixers and ovens and all the other equipment they normally used.

‘Then they did not "have to worry about light as thousands upon thousands of incendiaries rained down on the city".

The Portsmouth Blitz, 1941.

‘Soon the bakery staff were "working hard to put out all the incendiaries with all the pumps, sandbags and sand they had which soon ran out so the fires started getting out of control.

‘Then the water supply failed. "Many of the workers stayed until they had to leave the building because of the heat. Many had been working with wet cloths tied over their mouths, but the flames could not be held."

‘My grandpa "stood in the bakery yard and watched as parts of the building collapsed.

‘The heat was bending huge girders as though they were copper wire.

Albert Bourne, thought to have been photographed pre-war.

‘The whole of our plant and oven on the first floor then crashed down to the ground.

‘Then the huge oil storage tanks on top of the building came hurtling down into the inferno, emitting masses of black smoke."’

In the article, Albert continued: ‘Everything was destroyed, including 5,000 bags of flour and 50 chargers for electric vehicles.

‘Fortunately, the electric vehicles and some of the vans were saved by the men who at great risk to themselves, drove them out through the flames.

‘All the men survived but in a raid several weeks later, some heavy bombs fell on the ruins just where they had been working; many lives would have been lost then.’

Caroline said: ‘My grandpa was then concerned as to how to get Portsmouth supplied with bread.

‘He did not know until the next morning how many other bakers were out of action.

‘Then he found out that several bakeries were completely destroyed while others could not produce bread due lack of water, electricity and gas.

‘As soon as a phone line could be found, "requests went out to London, Brighton, Southampton and Winchester Co-ops and Allied Bakeries at Orpington, Hayes and Dagenham.

‘Every one of the firms gave immediate help.

‘The first 3,000 loaves arrived in Portsmouth at about 3pm on the Saturday and continued to arrive at intervals until about 5pm.

‘By this time, it was dark and because of the blackout and the bad state of the roads, no further supplies arrived until Sunday morning.

‘Plenty of bread was available on the Sunday, but the shop assistants could not serve it

quickly enough to prevent queues forming.

‘In all 300,000lbs of bread was sent to Portsmouth that weekend."’

Albert, who would sadly die from a heart attack in 1960, wrote: ‘By Tuesday, most of Portsmouth’s master bakers were able to make their own arrangements for bread, but the Co-op continued to get their bread from other Co-ops for some months until the bakery was rebuilt the following September.’

Date marks a bleak anniversary

THE city today remembers the lives lost during the biggest air raid on Portsmouth during the Second World War.

January 10 marks 81 years since the worst night the city experienced during the Blitz.

Portsmouth, home to the Royal Navy, was a prime target for bombing raids by the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

The city officially suffered 67 air raids between July 1940 and May 1944, and three of these categorised as major attacks.

In the major attack of January 10-11, 1941, 172 people were killed and hundreds more injured or made homeless.

Thousands of bombs were dropped during the largest air raid on the city during the war as the attack took place from 5pm on January 10,1941, and into the early hours of January 11.

In total during the entire Blitz, 930 people were killed in Portsmouth and 2,837 injured.

More than 6,000 properties were destroyed.

Last year, on the 80th anniversary of the attack, The News reported the memories of Derek Little.

Then aged 86, Derek was only six years old at the time of this most devastating Blitz attack on the city.

He said: ‘The bomb blew the pub next door into bits killing six people. We would have been blown to bits too if he had hit us.

‘Most of our house was ruined and all we could see was rubble and bits of wood. My mum, dad and us five kids were all frightened to death.

‘I am grateful to still be here.’

Another survivor, Jill Taylor of Purbrook, was five at the time of the raid.

She said: ‘I remember not being worried. We would sleep in the air raid shelters every night and hear sirens.

‘To us it was normal life...we didn’t sit there thinking how dreadful it was.’

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

Subscribe here for unlimited access to all our coverage, including Pompey, for just 26p a day.