The Bombing of Llanelli during the Second World War

There is an old saying in Llanelli, that "the Council destroyed more buildings in the town than the Luftwaffe did in the Second World War". But how many bombs were actually dropped on the town during those dark days? We know that the North Dock area was bombed on one occasion (see LCH0145) but there were more attacks. Newspaper reports give very little information because of wartime censorship that was in operation. It was important not to let the enemy know if they were hitting their targets.

Some records are held in the Llanelli Reference Library but these are very few. The town has some folklore about the occasional land mine being dropped and of a German pilot jettisoning his payload to escape the RAF fighters from Pembrey that were pursuing him. The nearby Royal Ordnance Factory at Pembrey was bombed and sustained some fatalities. But what do the official records show?

9th July 1940 New Dock, Morfa & Machynys
On the 10th of July 1940 the Llanelli Town Clerk's Office received a claim for compensation for War Damage from the Burry Tinplate Box Co., Ltd. Their factory in Llanelli, commonly known as the Burry Box Works, was located at Machynys. Their letter states, "We suffered damage today through enemy action and would thank you to send us a form on which to present our claim for compensation", this letter referred to a 'hit' being received on the factory on the 9th July 1940.

A similar claim was made by Thomas & Clement Ltd of Morfa, Llanelli, who also received a 'hit' on the same evening but they were more precise with the details of the night attack "We wish to report that an H.E bomb was dropped by an enemy aircraft on our works at 2:10 a.m. on Tuesday, the 9th instant. The damage was, fortunately, not very great". The company then detail the damage sustained to their water main, railway lines, crossings and points. There was also some structural damage to their buildings. A crater measuring fourteen feet by twelve feet marked where the bomb had penetrated the ground to a depth of four and a half feet.

Nearby, the Richard Thomas & Co. Ltd of South Wales Tinplate works were claiming for damage to their Burry Works and quite a number of their workers' houses in Wellfield Terrace, Seaview Terrace and Machynys Fach Road. Most of these were for broken roof slates, glass panes and plasterwork. One or two claims were made by private householders in the same area, such as that for roof damage to Westview in Embankment Road by Mr A. W. Skinner. [1]

Local author, Dorian Williams, who was a young lad at the time recollected the event:

This is what I remember about the bombing on Embankment Road. I was 5 and my brother was 7. On the night of July 9th 1940 my brother and I went to bed just like normal after playing all night in the summer sun. Little did I know what was going to happen later. We had been given gas masks and been trained in what to do in case the sirens went off. Around 2:30am there was one almighty bang that shook the whole of New Street to the core. Our parents would not allow us to go out.

The following morning on July 10th, the day the Battle of Britain started, my brother and I wanted to see what had happened. We were accompanied by other children in the street. We were all talking about the massive bang. When we all crossed Embankment Road we could see the damage that occurred during the night. There were two complete railway trucks and the railway line in bits. All the children were picking bits of shrapnel up until the railway men came and told us to get away from there and escorted us back on to the road. From New Street to The Great Western Dock there were at least 6 to 8 railway tracks that were always full of railway trucks. [2]

Recent research by Dr David Davies at the National Archives in Kew, has turned up some Home Office documents marked 'Secret'. Although these wartime papers are not as 'location specific' as the Llanelli Library documents, they do give more detail of what must be the same bombing of the Morfa, New Dock and the Machynys district. The air raid is dated as 8th July 1940 (one day out, but at exactly the same time of 2:10 a.m.)

The Home Office papers record that ten bombs fell that night causing light injuries to seven men. Three of these casualties were caused by broken glass. The target is described as 'Industrial' and records that five bombs damaged the railway sidings, tracks and open ground. One bomb fell on a 'tinplate works' causing damage to a crane and a steel roof joist. Another bomb hit a disused pattern store a further two bombs hit a sorting shed, damaging its roof. The last bomb fell on a tin plating shed causing damage to an acid tank. [3]

July 10th 1940, Pembrey & Trimsaran
The author and historian John Nicholson records that on July10th 1940, nine bombs were dropped near the entrance gates of Royal Ordnance Factory at Pembrey, killing ten people. According to Nicholson:

On that day, I saw what appeared to be one of 'our' planes glistening in the sun, following the course of the road and railway towards the factory and only realised that it was a German plane when puffs of smoke and debris appeared.
He also writes that two bombs fell near the School House in Pinged and two fell close to the cottages by Spudders Bridge, Trimsaran, causing some damage. [4]

Home Office Papers record the same bombing at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Pembrey, giving more detail in its report, stating that ten, 50Kg high explosive bombs fell in a straight line and hit the factory at 12:20 that day killing seven people and seriously injuring fifteen. Numerous production buildings were hit including the main canteen. An electricity supply transformer and supply cables were damaged along with a water supply main. This paper concludes with a note that 'roads which appear to have acted as a guide to the raider will be camouflaged'. The general effect on production was described as 'very slight'. [3]

 July 10th 1940, Pembrey & Trimsaran

Although writing about the same event, the author Ian Hay gives a differing time, date, and casualty figures...

Of danger from without. Pembrey has had one grim experience, in the shape of a raid by a lone German flier, in broad daylight on July 12th, 1940. The pilot dropped his first bomb just inside the main gate of the Factory – you can still see the splinter-marks on the adjacent buildings – and then proceeded upon a deliberately ordered course. His second bomb fell near the Canteen. He then wove a course which included certain vitally important and vulnerable buildings. Casualties numbered 11 killed and 15 wounded.

Fortunately Teutonic efficiency, much though the Teuton admires it, is seldom of the all round type. In this case the intruder, though he contrived to find the right places to bomb, bombed them at the wrong moment – at 12.12 pm., when his prospective victims were almost all away at dinner. Otherwise he would have scored a genuine bull's-eye. Doubtless he reported to his superiors that he had done so. In any case Pembrey was in full working order again within 48 hours.

An extract from...
R.O.F. The Story of The Royal Ordnance Factories 1939-1948. p56, by
Ian Hay (Maj., Gen., John Hay Beith, CBE., M.C.) HMSO 1949

The local newspapers of the time report generally on the bombing, leaving out any details which could assist the enemy. On July 11th 1940 the Llanelly & County Guardian headlines read:

German Raiders Over Wales – A Number of Casualties

A German aeroplane made another raid over Wales yesterday. At one town nine bombs were dropped. The ambulances summoned to deal with the injured were augmented by private cars of all sorts. Later information from official sources indicate that some people were killed, but the number of persons injured had not been fully ascertained.

One bomb dropped near a canteen where a number of people were congregated. It was the explosion of the bomb in this spot which caused casualties. On a place not far away bombs were dropped without causing any damage, but the bomb explosions shook the windows in the vicinity.
And:
Seven bombs, one of which was apparently incendiary, were dropped by a German raiding aeroplane over a district in Wales early on Tuesday, but very little damage was done.

Nearby houses escaped damage excepting that one or two windows were cracked.
Other houses seemed to have been damaged by stones hurled when other bombs dropped in two gardens, and in one case a substantial piece of rock was hurled through a house roof into a bedroom which, fortunately, was not occupied. The ceiling of a downstairs room in this instance collapsed, but again the room was not occupied.
One bomb did slight damage to a corrugated iron shed. Considerable craters were formed by the bombs which dropped in the gardens.
The fire brigade, A.F.S and A.R.P. personnel were immediately on the scene, and everything is stated to have been attended to expeditiously, a small fire which started being immediately extinguished.
Night watchers speak of having heard a raider overhead for about 20 minutes before any bomb was dropped. This, they say, seemed to make off eastwards, and shortly afterwards they heard blasts as if bombs were being dropped a considerable distance away.
Chaser planes were then heard, all going eastwards, but some minutes afterwards another plane, the engine of which according to one observer, did not appear to have the recognised sound of German raiders, came back low over the town. This seemed to dive, he said, releasing the bombs during the dive.
Immediately the seven bombs had been dropped – and incidentally, they were all dropped in a straight line - this raider made off to the sea, the machine again seemingly being followed by chaser planes.
One man told the pressman that he was just sitting down to a meal when the raider dropped its bombs, the blast of which as they fell causing a rush of wind.

The Llanelly Mercury of that same week reports:

Welsh Town's First Ordeal from falling Bombs – German Raider Causes Surprisingly Little Damage. Quite a philosophical attitude has been adopted by the inhabitants of one Welsh town following its first experience of an actual bombing raid by a German plane in the early hours of Tuesday.

There was little sign later in the day of any serious harm having been done even to their nerves. Indeed, the general feeling was one of surprise that the ordeal of being bombed was not as hair raising as imagination had pictured. Seven bombs, one of which was apparently incendiary, were dropped, but very little damage was done. Even near-by houses escaped damage excepting that one or two windows were cracked. Other houses seem to have been damaged by stones hurled when other bombs dropped in two gardens, and in one case a substantial stone was hurled through the house roof on to the bedroom which fortunately was not then occupied. The ceiling of the downstairs room in this instance collapsed, but again the room was unoccupied. One bomb did slight damage to a corrugated iron shed. Considerable craters were formed by the bombs which dropped in the gardens. The fire brigade, A.F.S and A.R.P. personnel were immediately on the scene, and everything is stated to have been attended to expeditiously, a small fire which started being immediately extinguished.
Chaser Planes
Night watchers speak of having heard a raider overhead about twenty minutes before any bomb was dropped. This, they say, seemed to make off eastwards, and shortly afterwards they heard blasts as if the bombs were being dropped a considerable distance away Chaser Planes were then heard, also going eastwards, but some minutes afterwards another plane, the engine of which, according to one observer, did not appear to have the recognised sound of German raiders, came back low over the town. This seemed to dive he said releasing the bombs during the dive.
Bombs in a Line
Immediately the seven bombs had been dropped – and, incidentally, they were all dropped in a straight line – this raider made towards the sea, the machine seemingly followed by chaser planes. One man said afterwards that he was just sitting down to a meal when the raider dropped its bombs, the blast of which as they fell causing a rush of wind. Bombs fell in marshland and in fields in one part of Wales, disturbing cattle and hitting birds but doing little damage. One bomb fell into a roadway, causing a large crater, but no houses were struck or damaged. Altogether 17 bombs fell in the locality and, fortunately, they all exploded on open ground. There were no casualties. Bus traffic on one route had to be diverted because of the damage caused to the roadway. Two bombs were dropped in another Welsh district by an enemy raider during the night but without effect.

9th July 1940 Llangennech
That same year on the 9th July 1940, it is recorded that some bombs were dropped in the vicinity of Llangennech. The same village was also attacked in the early hours of 2nd September 1940 when a bomb fell close to Rhandir Terrace. The explosion caused considerable damage to some of the houses in this street.[5]

24th September 1940 Seaside District
The Llanelli Borough Council reports indicate that claims were made for an air attack on the 24th September 1940 causing a broken window at 25 Cambrian Street and a cracked wall reported by the tenant of No 1 'Behind' Gwyn Terrace. It is noted as 'Doubtful if damage caused by air attack'

23rd October 1940 Llanelli Town 7:35 pm
Borough Council reports indicate that claims were submitted for an air attack that caused damage to W. Phillips & Co. Ltd., of Thomas Street, Miss Ferrar, of 59 Stepney Street sustained plate glass damage & Mr. T. L. Davies of 9 Vaughan Street sustained damage to window. It also notes that that damage may have been caused by an explosion?

21st February 1941 New Dock
Mr James Howell Ayres' house at 23 Havelock Street sustained slight damage to the roof walls and floors, but there was considerable damage to the furniture in the front and middle rooms caused by anti-aircraft shells.
By the 16 May 1942, it was recorded by the Town Clerk that 34 houses were damaged in some form or other [1]

This History File is by no means complete, no doubt there are more reports of air raids in Llanelli and the nearby villages to be found scattered in the various archives about the country. There are probably a few family stories and reminiscences that can throw some light on the town of Llanelli during the Second World War that have not been recorded. And so the file remains open, just in case there are members and readers that can help to fill in this jigsaw puzzle?

Notes and Citations
We acknowledge the Staff at the Llanelli Reference Library for their assistance and for their permission to use photographs from the Local Collection. Photograph of Spudders Bridge courtesy of Mr Roger Davies. War Damage slips courtesy Paul Brookfield.
[1] Llanelli Library LC4298
[2] Dorian Williams is from Llanelli and author of the The Life and Poverty of Nan and Her Family
[3] National Archives HO198/195 Researched by Author and Historian Dr J David Davies, a member of the Llanelli Community Heritage Advisory Panel
[4] Pembrey & Burry Port. Some Historical Events and Recollections Book 4. John A Nicholson p 97, 156,157,
[5] History of Llangennech by Alwyn C Charles p270

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