October 10, 2013

Attack on school

1941 FEBRUARY 27th, 12.59pm –
Dornier 17

Dornier 17

There were four air raid alerts on this day, mostly false alarms, but during one of them the roof of the school cookery room and a class room were hit by enemy aircraft machine gun fire and pierced the roof although fortunately not causing any fatalities. The attacker, a German bomber, called a Dornier 17 had a crew of four which included two machine gunners and was probably returning from a mission as it flew in from the north of the town and headed south toward the continent.

Dornier 17

Dornier 17

Was the school the target of the aircraft? Or was the school merely caught up in gunfire as the enemy attacked a nearby opportunist target? What is known is that there was low cloud that day over the UK, which prevented the majority of enemy operations against this country. However it is documented that on that day “a few inland penetrations by single aircraft taking advantage of cloud cover (took place) … and 15 people were killed by a raid on Grantham”. With Dornier 17s being based in Belgium at that time of the war would this aircraft have been the one to attack Grantham? Its purely speculation of course and the link between the events is suggested without any evidence, but a straight line from Grantham to Belgium would put Brandon in the flight line. We probably will never know.

PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS

Charlie Wharf, working at Woodrow’s on the Market Hill turned to look at the town clock. Was it lunchtime yet? The time he remembers as being one minute to one and then the sound of machine gun fire could be heard.
Harry Rumsey, a schoolboy, was going home to Coronation Place for dinner and upon seeing the plane fly past he crouched against a fence. It was still firing as it flew off south toward Lakenheath. He recalls …

“We saw the hole in the ceiling after dinner.”

Les Bond, who emigrated to Australia after the war, was working for F.J. Mount & Son in the chalk tip at the time and it was just before his lunch too when he heard the gunfire. He took quickly precautions and hid under a truck.
Ena Espie had a lucky escape. She recalls …

“We had been in the cookery room that day, and had gone home for dinner and saw the plane go over from our window. It was going down the London Road, we didn’t see any firing, but he was fairly low and when we got back they told us the cookery room ceiling had been hit.”

Colin Blanchflower, living in the U.S., remembered the day as a schoolboy clearly and gives us an indication into what the target may have been … a line of factory workers.

“We were having lunch (at home) … when it was time to go to school. The ‘Alll Clear’ had not sounded but our evacuee and me set off. It was the day for my music lesson and I was about to drop off the satchel at the music teacher’s house when I noticed a line of factory girls returning to work at Roughts. Suddenly out of the clouds came a Dornier 17 and started machine gunning the road. I grabbed the evacuee and dived to the ground at the teacher’s door. The plane flew by still firing and seconds later it seemed my Dad appeared on his bicycle and escorted us back home. One of the factory workers was reported as being injured by flying stones.”

Dornier 17

Power plant: Two 1,000 hp Bramo 323P nine-cylinder air-cooled engines.
Span: 59ft ¾in (18.00m)
Length: 52ft 0in (15.85m)
Max Speed: 265 mph (427km/h) at 16,400 ft (4,998m)
Armament: Between four and eight 7.9mm machine guns in front, rear and beam cockpit mountings and ventral position.
Bomb load: Normal load of 2,200lb (1,000kg).
Accommodation: Pilot and four gunners/navigators/bomb-aimers.
Recognition: Thin, ‘pencil’ fuselage with bulged forward fuselage featuring heavily-framed cockpit and ventral gun position. Small twin fins at the rear. Main wheels retract into engine fairings.

Dornier aircraft

Dornier 17 aircraft