Please read Ministry of Home Security - The R&E Files, before continuing.
In the early hours of 30 January 1943, Section Leader Edward James Hurry of 14 Crocker Street, Newport, duty officer in charge of the Ryde (14D2Z) section of the National Fire Service, proceeded from Station Street with two crews and appliances to a report of a domestic fire at 54 Well Street. The call to the NFS had come in the immediate aftermath of a bizarre, unwelcome, and violent set of circumstances.
No.54 Well Street was owned by 65-year-old spinster Susanah Emily Grimsdick, a retired footwear saleswoman. She shared her home with another spinster, 56-year-old retired milliner Margaret Penning who rented two unfurnished rooms of the house. Both repaired to bed by 10 pm. Just after midnight their slumber was shattered by the sound of breaking glass downstairs. Susanah expedited from the warmth of her bed, lit a candle, and opened the door to the landing where she found Margaret who was equally concerned by the noise from below but returned to her bedroom.
Opting for the light of an electric torch, Susanah descended the stairs as far as the kitchen door and shouted ‘Who’s there? at which point the shadow of a man appeared before her. As the sinister figure uttered unintelligible words Susanah slammed shut and locked the kitchen door and hammered at the party wall to gain the attention of her neighbour, her brother-in-law Albert James Burden, a 61-year-old retired insurance agent. Susanah hurriedly vacated the house via the front door and spoke to her sister Clara Jane (Albert’s wife) before proceeding down the street to No.50 to gain the assistance of Reginald Frank Russell.
Returning to No.54 Susanah opened the front door to be faced with the same shadowy figure. On shouting ‘It’s a German’ the figure lunged forward and struck Susanah below the right eye. She staggered back into the arms of Reginald Russell as her assailant slammed shut the front door and the key was heard to turn in the lock.
Susanah and Reginald ran into Clara and Albert’s home where a spare back door key to No.54 was kept. Margaret Penning heard the commotion and the slamming of the front door from her first-floor bedroom and was horrified to hear the intruder making his way up the stairs. She locked her door in hope of remaining unharmed, but instead the door rattled and thumped as the intruder attempted to force his way in. Initially she clutched the door handle and screamed at the unknown invader to leave her alone. His angry response and peculiar use of phrases in the German language convinced her to be fearful for her life. She tore down the blackout curtain, perched on the windowsill and launched herself into the blackness of the back garden.
While frantically searching for the back door key at No.52, Clara, Susanah, and Reginald heard Margaret’s whimpers approaching the back door. In a dishevelled state and bearing a serious gash to her forehead Margaret was brought into the house having survived both the assailant and a desperate leap from the bedroom window.
Alfred Edward Gatward, 2nd Bn. Royal Marines.
With the key in his possession, Reginald gathered the support of two servicemen, Corporal Robert Francis Isley, and Marine Wilfred Arthur Smith, and entered the back door of No.54 noting that smoke was issuing from the open bedroom window. They searched downstairs to no avail. Proceeding upstairs they discovered Margaret’s bedroom door open, the room full of smoke and the wardrobe and its contents burning fiercely. A mysterious figure was seen standing amid the smoke with something in his hand which they assumed to be a weapon. Cpl Isley took the initiative, pulling out the other two and slamming the door shut on the intruder before the trio evacuated down the smoky stairwell. They remained at the bottom of the stairs until the intruder staggered out of the smoke, coughing and spluttering, and without further agitation, into the hands of Police Constable Coffen.
The intruder at the centre of this bizarre episode, described by his Commanding Officer as a first-class soldier, was Royal Marine Alfred Edward Gatward of Thurrock in Essex. In his statement he described having been drinking for several hours with a fellow Marine who, on their journey back to billets, became incapable of walking any further. Gatward claimed that he had no recollection of the occurrences at No.54.
Despite the action of the two Royal Marine’s to mitigate Gatward’s drunken folly, the matter did little for the reputation of the Corps among the residents of Ryde. However, none would have wished for what was to affect the man’s unit four days later.
Thursday 4 February 1943, approximately 15:15
Henry William Oscar Weeks, Mayor of Ryde
It was an early-closing day, and the main streets were practically empty of residents – described the IW County Press of goings on in Ryde during that afternoon. At the Town Hall, Captain Hubert Beaumont, M.P., of the Ministry of Agriculture appointed to the Luxmoore Commission on Agricultural Education, was attending a meeting of the local Dig for Victory campaign. Ryde’s fresh food success had hit national news headlines due to initiatives launched by the Mayor Henry Weeks who had been invited to describe his techniques in a BBC radio live broadcast.
In his illustrated history Hit and Run on Ryde, author and illustrator John Worsley wrote that it was a bright and mild February afternoon when Ryde’s ARP headquarters received notification of four fighter-bombers inbound at approximately 15:15. Mrs Wickins of Upton Cross, witnessed their approach and that the aircraft split off in pairs for the attack.
Captain Hubert Beaumont, M.P.
The County Press report continued – Four enemy fighter-bombers swooped low over a coast town, which they bombed and machine gunned. Many houses were damaged, including three or four demolished by direct hits, and there were a number of casualties, some of which were fatal.
R&E File B16/27/1
Unsurprisingly the raid was another of those intended to break the public morale, evidenced in the Raid Summary of the R&E File in which the entry for Assumed Target remains vacant – it being inconceivable to state the public as a legitimate target.
The raid was timed at 15:26. Of the four bombs dropped, three were positively identified by R.E.9 Armament Section as 500kg SC bombs. The fourth remained unidentified despite its tail fin being recovered from the base of a tree where it became detached when the bomb, dropped at extremely low level, belly-slapped the ground, shed its tail, and continued on an erratic path.
As was the custom, the R&E investigator, Mr O.E. Gollins, recorded the bombs numerically, but this doesn’t necessarily define the order in which they fell. Tip-and-run raids typically lasted less than two minutes, and in some cases just a few seconds, and in all likelihood no-one would have recalled or recorded such detail. Captions attached to photographs below are verbatim as they appear in the original report. In many cases the investigator has drawn lines with corresponding alphabetical references that relate to the caption, for that reason, where appropriate, scans of photographs are broadened to include handwritten extracts on the page to which they were originally applied with adhesive. Unusually for an R&E report that features the Isle of Wight, B16/27/1 includes two Ordnance Survey maps overlaid with handwritten references, which are also included in the appropriate place below.
For the understanding of map additions, the investigator included the guidance below.
The ‘A’ and ‘B’ damage is shown, and so far is known the ‘C’ damage but it is not possible without a further visit to the scene to confirm the amount of ‘C’ damage.
“A” damage is shown in Red.
“B” damage is shown in Blue.
“C” damage is shown in Yellow.
“D” damage so far as is known is shown over an approximate area in Green, by means of a Green line around the area concerned.
The position from which all photographs Nos. 1 to 12 were taken is indicated by an arrow, the point of which marks the spot where the photographer stood, and the number refers to the numbers on the report already submitted on April 2nd of this year.*
*This report features the Raid Summary sheet from which data has been extracted and included below.
Bomb No.1 – 500kg SC
Bomb No.1 Raid Summary extract
Bomb entered school through roof passed through school, making exit hole in gable wall. Bomb then hit ground and ricocheted passing through end gable of house detonating approx. 50’ away in garden of YMCA Hostel, crater 22’ x 6’.
Damage – Only damage to school was holes at points of entry and exits of bomb and few roof timbers damaged. 50 children in building, 1 killed by falling masonry. 2 storey detached house had gable demolished by bomb first floor considerably damaged. All windows out, part of roof at points of impact demolished, remainder had all slates off and dislodged. YMCA building had roofs stripped and very badly damaged. Wall immediately opposite explosion demolished, party walls and floors intact. Windows and frames blown out (P.5) Map.
Key figures on Map given below.
1A – Bomb entered Church school at this point – see Photograph No.1.
1B – Bomb came out at this point after passing the whole length of the Church school. One child was killed by falling masonry out of the 50 who were in the school at the time – see Photograph No.2 marked B.
1C – Bomb ricocheted at this point on the garden of the Vicarage. Photograph No.2 was taken looking toward Church School at this point.
1D – The Building shown on the 1/2500 plan attached was demolished some time before this incident happened.
1E – Bomb passed through gable end of the property on the corner of Wray Street and Ashey Road. The gable end was demolished and considerable damage caused to the first storey of this house. See Photographs Nos. 3 and 4.
1F – Final position of Bomb No.1 in front of YMCA Hostel – size of crater 22’ x 6’. Photograph No.5 shows the point of detonation at A and a general view of the damage to the YMCA Hostel together with the position from which Photographs 3, 4, and 6 were taken at C., D, and E. respectively. Photograph No.6 shows the crater as seen from the First Floor of the damaged Hostel.
Photograph taken from front bedroom window of house opposite Church school, showing hole of entry of Bomb into school at (A).
Photograph taken in grounds of Vicarage. The photographer standing on the ricochet mark made by Bomb hitting ground after passing through Church school.
At (A) – broken branches of trees made by passing of Bomb.
At (B) – hole of exit Bomb in Church school wall.
At (C) – hole of entry of Bomb looking through school.
After ricocheting as noted in (2) above the Bomb passed through the end gable of a house on the corner of Wray Street and Ashey Road.
At (A) – demolished section of House.
At (B) – position of school house on left of Church.
At (C) – Car standing in Ashey Road.
Photograph taken from third floor window of YMCA Hostel looking over crater in direction whence Bomb came.
This photograph taken from room marked X in Photograph 4 showing:-
At (A) – the crater at point of detonation.
At (B) – Damage to YMCA Hostel.
At (C) – Position from which Photograph 3 was taken.
At (D) – Position from which Photograph 4 was taken.
At (E) – Position from which Photograph 6 was taken.
In its report the County Press wrote this of Bomb No.1 – One bomb fell near a vicarage, and bounced a considerable distance, finally exploding on a large building formerly used as a YMCA holiday home. A three month old baby girl had a narrow escape. She was blown from her perambulator and escaped with only a scratch. In its first bounce the bomb passed through a church building, temporarily used as a school, passing just above the heads of about 50 children and their teacher. Thomas Edwin* Carswell, aged 7, one of the scholars, was killed and several other children injured by flying debris. The teacher afterwards said, “The children were very brave”.
According to one of those children who in later life submitted a recollection of the events to the BBC WW2 People’s War website (November 2003), Thomas Carswell’s death was all the more tragic – One of the class had been made to stand facing the front wall as a punishment and was killed by the falling masonry.
*The records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour cite Thomas Carswell’s middle name as Edward not Edwin.
The County Press reference to the temporary use of the building as a school is correct. The formal school building had been destroyed by armament, suspected to have been a parachute mine, on 22 June 1941. If not for that the fated Thomas Carswell of 37 Southfield Gardens and his school friends would not have been present in the affected building on 4 February 1943. The June 1941 raid took the lives of 12 persons ranging from 2-months to 61 years of age, most of who were killed in their own homes. As no R&E file has been unearthed to reveal the facts of that day, they are respectfully remembered within the context of this page.
No doubt for security reasons, the County Press report didn’t refer to all fatalities and casualties caused by Bomb No.1. due to the military disposition of the unit affected.
The structure referred to in the R&E report as a YMCA Hostel was Hazelwood, a grand building off Ashey Road (today the site of Leighwood Close), described as palatial and sat in extensive well-kept grounds. It opened in 1873 as a holiday home for young city gentlemen to enjoy fresh air, relaxation, and recreation for a nominal fee under the formal title Hazelwood Home of Rest and Recreation for Commercial Young Men. From November 1914 its usage was that of Service Convalescent Home.
Hazelwood, before the Second World War.
Post-WW1 Hazelwood’s future became uncertain. In 1933 it closed for the first time during the winter season while consideration was given to sell the building to Dr Barnardo’s Homes or the Co-operative Union.
The beginning of the Second World War offered Hazelwood a brief future, with one historical appraisal alleging its adaptation for military use included the installation of a roof-mounted anti-aircraft gun (unconfirmed). In February 1943 it accommodated men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Marines. Many of the men of the 2nd, who four months later were renamed and repurposed as 43 Commando, were battle hardened from early war operations in Iceland (Operation Fork - a strategic invasion to prevent the Germans doing the same) and the ill-fated attempt to wrestle the West African French colony of Dakar from Vichy control (Operation Menace).
By the winter of 1942/43 the 2nd Battalion had been sent to the Island for reasons not ascertained. Contemporary accounts detail their arrival at Ryde Pier and billeting at several locations in East Wight without direct reference to Hazelwood, but it is inarguable that a substantial contingent was there. Marine Carrington of the 2nd wrote that he had departed Hazelwood heading for the church when the aerial assault began. As the clatter and confusion of Bomb No.1’s trajectory induced immediate alarm, Marine Carrington could do no more than dive for what cover the walls of Wray Street offered, a fraction before the bomb erupted at the Hazelwood frontage he had passed through seconds before.
The blast took the lives of four Royal Marines and caused wounds of varying severity to 17 others. Of those killed, 20-year-old Marine James Dawson of Aberdeenshire and 23-year-old Marine Charles Frederick Jude of Edmonton, were laid to rest at Parkhurst Military Cemetery (Plot 11, Grave 195, and Grave 194 respectively).
Military archive file ADM 358/4198 evidence the post-incident administration required in the reporting of the dead and wounded and the painful process of informing the next of kin.
Hazelwood was effectively destroyed and remained a derelict edifice to the futility of war until its demolition in the 1950’s.
Bomb No.2 – 500kg SC
Key to Figures on Copy of 25” Ordnance Survey Map given below :-
2A – Bomb entered the roof of the house at the rear and passed through the chimney breast coming out of the front of the house through the Bedroom window. – Photograph No.7 shows the hole in the wall and Photograph No.8 shows the hole from which the Bomb emerged at A. in the former photograph and at C. in the latter.
2B – Bomb passed through front garden hedge and just touched the top of a low wall in front of the hedge dislocating a few bricks. See Photograph No.8 at A. and hole in hedge at B.
2C – At this point the Bomb ricocheted in the centre of Ashey Road and marks appear to indicate that the bomb turned whilst on the ground.
2D – Bomb passed through Boundary wall on East side of road and demolished a brick built gatepost, and then hit a tree cutting one of the two main branches in two at about 3’ above ground level. The Tail Unit of the bomb was found at the base of this tree. See Photograph No.9 at A. the damaged gatepost and at B. the branch of the damaged tree.
2E – Bomb passed through bedroom over passage way between two houses at this point, see Photograph No.9 at point C. and emerged at point C. in Photograph No.10.
2F – Final point of impact and detonation of Bomb No.2 – Crater size 17’ x 6’ 6”. See Photograph No.10 at A.
Bomb No.2 Raid Summary extract
Bomb entered house through roof at rear passed through centre chimney breasts, passed out through front wall of bedroom, passed through front garden hedge touching top of low boundary wall dislodging few bricks. Ricocheted in centre of road. Turned and passed through boundary wall opposite, demolished brick gate post, hit tree cutting branch at 3ft. from g.l. Tail fin found at base of tree. Bomb passed through bedroom of house over passageway between two properties, detonated in garden, crater 17’ x 6 ½’.
Damage – Holes at points of entry and exit. Houses 2-storey at approx. 30ft. had slates blown off and windows out, frame intact (see photos and map showing damage and bomb flights).
Bomb entered a Private House at the rear in the roof and passed through the centre Chimney Stack cutting it in two and leaving a section suspended by the roof timbers, the bomb then passing out through the front wall of the bedroom at (A) then passing through garden hedge, just touching garden wall at (B) – for further details see Photograph 8. The Bomb then ricocheted in the centre of Ashey Rd, hit a garden wall and Brick Gate pillar on far side passed through this – see Photograph 9 hit a tree which was cut in two, and after leaving the Tail Unit here passed through a bedroom over a passage between two houses at (C) and exploded at rear of houses – see Photograph 10.
Photograph taken from ricochet mark in the road following the path of the bomb.
At (A) see demolition of garden wall and brick gate pillar.
At (B) see main branch of tree cut off (tail unit found here).
At (C) see hole of entry into bedroom of house over passageway between two properties.
Bomb No.3 (size not stated)
Key to figures given on map below;
3A – Bomb struck fir tree at this point. The top of the tree was cut off at about 18’ above ground.
3B – Bomb struck the base of a large tree at this point and cut several big pieces of timber out of the tree, and left the Tail Unit somewhat smashed up all about the base of the tree. The bomb then hit a small bank (about 18” high) and ploughed through this and then lifted over the Cemetery wall.
3C – Bomb fell at this point and exploded causing a crater of the platform type 20’ 5” x 3’. The platform was about 1’ below ground level, the earth above the platform being very soft garden soil and below platform level being solid clay.
It is not possible without a further visit to give full detail of the ‘C’ type damage.
Bomb No.3 Raid Summary extract
Struck fir tree, top cut off 18ft. above g.l., struck base of tree approx. 50ft. away, cutting several pieces of timber, left tail fin at base, hit bank, 18” high, ploughed through or lifted over cemetery wall. Exploded between two houses, crater, platform type, 20’5” x 3’ platform ft. below g.l., earth above soft garden soil, below solid clay.
Damage – 2 semi-detached houses demolished 2 other pairs badly damaged. No further information (see map).
Bomb No.4 – 500kg SC
Key to figures given on map given below;
4A – Bomb passed through garden boundary fence at ground level at this point causing a ricochet mark some 7’ long and entered the side of a house and exploded.
4B – The House was of a very modern design and it is interesting to note the hollow metal frame walls (partition) as seen in the photographs Nos. 11 and 12. particularly at B. in Photograph No.11.
4C – The Bomb exploded as far as can be ascertained in about the centre of the house and it would seem that the explosion was some few feet above ground level as there is practically no visible crater.
Bomb No.4 Raid Summary extract
Passed through garden boundary fence at g.l. making ricochet mark approx. 7’ long, entered side of house and exploded. House modern design, hollow metal frame partition walls.
Damage – House demolished. Detached house at 5ft. suffered ‘C’ damage (Photographs 11 and 12) Map. For radius of ‘D’ damage, A, B, and C damage for all bombs see maps enclosed in file.
Photograph taken from roof (flat) of private Garage showing complete demolition of the neighbouring house.
At (A) estimated point of detonation of bomb thought to be above ground level as there is practically no crater.
At (B) Parts of special metal designed partition walls.
At (C) Queens Road looking East.
The IW County Press
Having properly disregarded the loss of, and presence of Royal Marines at Hazelwood caused by Bomb No.1, the County Press report continued with other references to Bomb No.1, and the effect of Bombs Nos. 2, 3, and 4.
Mrs Isabella Elizabeth Norman, aged 70, wife of Mr A.J. Norman, a retired schoolmaster, and Mr Tom Spencer, aged 82, both lost their lives. Three houses were demolished, and damage done to many others at a road junction. One of the houses which suffered badly was the residence of a town councillor, whose monumental works a short distance away also received damage. The councillor’s wife had a narrow escape, though she had to be treated in hospital for a severe cut on one of her hands, and one of the first acts of the councillor was to escort a neighbour to hospital with various injuries.
Two of the first walking casualties, a mother and her little daughter, to arrive at a first-aid post with cuts received from flying glass, were met and treated by the woman’s husband, who was on duty.
A large house in one of the town’s most attractive thoroughfares received a direct hit, and two of its occupants, Mrs Annie Hutchinson, aged 84, and Shirley Elizabeth Horne, aged seven, were killed. A nearby school had a narrow escape, but the Parish Church fifty yards away was unscathed. The windows of the west side of a hospital were damaged.
At another house which was demolished, Mr David Coyne, aged 21, and his mother, Mrs Ellen Coyne, were both seriously injured and taken to hospital, where Mr Coyne succumbed to his injuries. Shops in the main street suffered badly from blast, but the borough surveyor and his staff acted so expeditiously in clearing the mass of broken glass that inhabitants were able to shop in comfort on the following morning.
The Civil Defence Services were very promptly mobilised, and worked with tremendous zeal, and in the rescue operations they received valuable help from the military. So quickly did neighbours and friends rally to the assistance of those rendered homeless that the billeting authorities found there was little or nothing for them to do. Yesterday (Friday) morning the Town Hall was staffed by the WVS as an administrative centre for the distribution of clothing and other necessaries.
In the aftermath discontent was expressed concerning the lack of adequate warning resulting in the inability of persons to obtain shelter before the enemy were upon them. The otherwise anonymous writer ‘Forewarned’ submitted his thoughts which appeared in the IW County Press of 13 February – May I be allowed to trespass upon your valuable news space to bring forward a matter which is causing concern to many people in the Island, namely, the time lag between certain recent incidents and the sounding of the ‘Alert’.
The mockery of hearing the air raid warning as victims of the raid are being extricated from the ruins of their homes is still with us, and under the present system it can be no different. With planes sweeping in at six miles a minute over a coastal area, there is no time to phone to various authorities for permission to sound the siren…
After detailing his suggestion to widen the expeditious method employed by Royal Observer Corps spotters to alert large industrial premises, ‘Forewarned’ closed with – we, living within 15 minutes of enemy flying fields, would have our confidence restored in a system which is quite good for inland towns, but has fallen down badly here. Cannot someone get this thing done now, and not wait for other and perhaps graver incidents?
Four days after Forewarned’s letter was published, a fighter-bomber formation appeared over Shanklin for the second time in six weeks, causing the deaths of a further eleven civilians and one fireman. The Luftwaffe pilot officer in command of the raid wrote in a letter to his parents – They seemed to be very surprised.
The Investigators Maps in Full
Larger scale photograph scans without the border captions for closer inspection of detail.
This feature is submitted in respectful memory of the fallen.
The attack of 22 June 1941
- Annie Louise Cantwell (61), of 26 Church Street, Ryde, killed at home.
- May Isobel Cantwell (20), of 26 Church Street, Ryde, killed at home.
- Emily Ethel May Dimmick (42), of 18 Church Street, Ryde, killed at home.
- Nellie Gertrude Dunk (32), of 34 Lochnagar Street, Poplar, London, killed at 22 Church Street, Ryde.
- Stephen Louis Dunk (8), of 34 Lochnagar Street, Poplar, London, killed at 22 Church Street, Ryde.
- Anthony Frederick Monk (4), of 2 Highland Terrace, School Street, Oakfield, killed at 25 Church Street, Ryde.
- Leonard George Monk (36), of 2 Highland Terrace, School Street, Oakfield, killed at 25 Church Street, Ryde.
- Michael Rhodes (4), of 22 Church Street, Ryde, died of his injuries the same day at the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital.
- Mollie Barbara Walls (19), of 18 Swanmore Road, Ryde, killed at 14 Church Street, Ryde.
- Douglas Reginald Willcox (17), of 24 Church Street, Ryde, killed at home.
- John Brian Willcox (2 months), of 24 Church Street, Ryde, killed at home.
- Mabel Ivy Willcox (38), of of 24 Church Street, Ryde, killed at home.
The attack of 4 February 1943
- Thomas Carswell (7), of 37 Southfield Gardens, Ryde, killed at St Michael's School, Church Street, Ryde.
- David Percy Coyne (17), of 67 West Street, Ryde, died of wounds at the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital.
- Marine Charles Henry Cook (27), of Newport, Monmouthshire, killed in service with the 2nd Bn. Royal Marines at Hazelwood House, Ryde.
- Marine James Dawson (20), of Banchory, Aberdeenshire, killed in service with the 2nd Bn. Royal Marines at Hazelwood House, Ryde.
- Shirley Elizabeth Horn (7), of 5 Queens Road, Ryde, killed at home.
- Annie Hutchinson (84), of 5 Queens Road, Ryde, killed at home.
- Marine Charles Frederick Jude (23), of Edmonton, Middlesex, killed in service with the 2nd Bn. Royal Marines at Hazelwood House, Ryde.
- Isabella Elizabeth Norman (70), of 23 Ashey Road, Ryde, killed at home.
- Marine James Alfred Ounsworth (24), of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, killed in service with the 2nd Bn. Royal Marines at Hazelwood House, Ryde.
- Elizabeth Jane Phillips (85), of 56 Arthur Street, Ryde, wounded at home, died at the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital, Ryde, on 15 February 1943.
- Tom Spencer (82), of 25 Ashey Road, Ryde, killed at home.