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Leeds' worst World War II blitz
Bomb damage at the museum
Onlookers peer in to see the damaged exhibits in the museum after the raid.

Seventy years ago Leeds suffered its heaviest bombing raid of World War II.

Starting on the night of Friday 14 March, 1941, bombs rained down onto the city from about 40 German aircraft .

First, incendiaries designed to start fires where they landed were dropped, and then high explosives as Saturday dawned.

Before the all-clear sounded at around 3am, bombs hit areas including the Town Hall, the city's museum and City Station.

Doreen Wood, who worked at the Civic Hall at the time, saw some of the aftermath of the raid.

She said: "On the morning after the blitz I was coming through town with my father and he dropped me off at Cookridge Street and there were police there. They said ' Sorry, you can't come through'.

"Eventually they let me through and I found out there'd been some bombing.

Doreen Wood
Doreen Wood remembers the raid, as she worked at the Civic Hall.

Wiped out

"There were some chips off the pillars on the Town Hall and we found out later the lion at the Calverly Street corner had had its eye chipped out with a blast.

"Where the bombs dropped is more or less where the inner ring road is now, if it had dropped a fraction earlier it would have wiped out the civic centre."

Other landmarks that were hit included Kirkgate Market, Quarry Hill flats, the Metropole Hotel and the post office.

Members of the Auxiliary Fire Service tackled fires in numerous incidents as thousands of fireman, wardens and ambulance crews carried out their duties during the raid.

Gas and water supplies were disrupted and over 100 houses were destroyed, with thousands more sustaining damaged.

Records show 65 people were killed.

Egyptian mummies

Some long-dead Egyptians were also blown to smithereens - among the damage at the museum were fragments of ancient Egyptian mummies.

Ms Wood said: "Leeds Museum was bombed, the front of the building was damaged and had to be taken down.

Bomb damage in Armley
33-37 Model Road, Armley, one man died and another was badly injured.

"There was a mummy and we were all worried about that, and a tiger we were all thinking 'what's happened to the tiger'.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Leeds was a major manufacturing centre for textiles and clothing, and heavy engineering.

In common with many other cities a large part of the workforce was switched to war work.

Potential targets

The city's large clothing trade found a new occupation producing millions of uniforms.

There were many potential targets, including Kirkstall Forge, the railway marshalling yards and the Royal Ordnance Factory at Barnbow, across the city.

And there was a river snaking through the city that could have helped lead bombers in.

But Leeds suffered few raids and people speculated, possibly tongue in cheek, that the heavy cloud of industrial smog helped to 'hide' the city.

In all more than 70 people lost their lives during nine air raids on Leeds.


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