The Ransome & Marles Air Raid of 1941
This article is about the Luftwaffe’s air-raid on the Beacon Hill factory of Ransome & Marles, as witnessed by people in Coddington. There is also a link to a list of the names of the people killed as a result of that raid.
Ransome & Marles
Ransome and Marles Stanley factory (later RHP and now owned by NSK), although outside of Coddington’s parish border on Beacon Hill, is very close and has undoubtedly played a large part in the life of many Coddington people.
During WWI women replaced many factory workers - in Newark women worked in Ransome & Marles and Wothington & Simpsons factories making munitions, Mumby & Sons making uniforms and Coopers making parachutes. There are a number of very interesting pictures from that time on the Newark Cemetery site created by Laurence Goff. The site also has an excellent photo of Ransome & memorial plaque to its staff killed in WWI.
The Ransome Brass Band was formed on the 1st November 1937 as the works band of Ransome and Marles. In 1939 the Ransome and Marles Band made the first of over 500 radio broadcasts - many were broadcast direct from the works canteen via a BBC direct radio link. These popular broadcasts included favourites such as "Music While You Work", "Workers' Playtime", "Friday Night Is Music Night" and "Strike Up the Band". See Charlotte Hall’s oral history, and the band’s website:
Ransome & Marles Ball Bearings Factory, provided components to all three Armed Forces during WWII, including the gun turrets of naval guns.
The Air Raid of 7th March 1941
The factory is mentioned in a number of the Coddington oral histories, as a source of employment, as a supporter of leisure activities (Cricket Club) and of course for eyewitness accounts of the German air-raid in 1941.
The reconnaissance photo for this raid taken 4th December 1940 (published in a book about the second world war in Newark) stretches as far as the borders of Coddington and includes the familiar outline of Coddington Hall (at that time incorporated into Winthorpe Airbase).
An account of the raid of Friday 7th March, 1941 (taken from a display panel, and found on Newark on Trent cemetery website):
When two German planes bombed the works of Ransome & Marles 41 were killed with another 165 people injured making the incident Newark’s “Blackest Day” during the war.
The 1st Alert was sounded at 13.35 when a Heinkel 111 made its 1st pass over the factory at 1,000 feet dropping 4 bombs. 2 hit the works, 1 hit the edge of the works and 1 hit the works shelter at the rear of Stanley Street. The works was also machine gunned.
The plane made a further 2 passes over the factory causing more damage although one of its bombs failed to explode. Shortly after that the All Clear was sounded and rescue work began and the Home Guard cleared roads to allow ambulances to get through.
At 14.24 the Alert was sounded and another enemy plane attacked the works while rescuers were assisting the casualties. It dropped 5 bombs but only 1 exploded causing a number of casualties and some damage, 4 bombs failed to explode. The All Clear was sounded at 14.51.
100 were treated at the works own underground hospital.
During WWII Newark was attacked 8 times killing 43 people, but this was by far the worst raid. There is a memorial plaque commemorating the victims of Black Friday to the rear of the Polish Cemetery on Elm Avenue. The first raid was in 1940 to RAF Swinderby; RAF Winthorpe was attacked in Nov 1940 using parachute landmines for the first time, but although the runway was damaged there were no casualties. On Jan 30th 1941 two people were killed in an attack by a single plane, which dropped 14 bombs along the River Trent and Muskham Rd.
A list of the 41 people (29 men and 12 women) who died as a result of the raid on Ransome and Marles Factory on 7th March, 1941 can be found on this webpage on this site. (The information is from the webpage of Laurence Goff, taken from the website of Newark Cemetery - who is trying to raise awareness of the raid and get a proper memorial to its victims, in an accessible and appropriate position.) :
Eyewitness / Oral History accounts of the raid by Coddington residents
Michael Sellars (People/Oral Histories)
The day Ransome & Marles (R&M) was bombed I was at home because I was sick. In the early afternoon I was lying in bed and heard a plane. I looked out of the window to-wards Newark and saw a plane flying low and heard a ‘crump’ sound, followed by another. I went downstairs to tell my mother that I thought the plane was dropping bombs but my mother told me not to be silly and sent me back upstairs to bed.
A while later, a neighbour called in to tell us that there had in fact been an air raid. My mother came upstairs to apologise and just then, we heard another plane go over. We looked out of the front bed-room window just in time to see a man, who was cycling to-wards Coddington, leap off his bicycle and take cover in the ditch which ran the down the side of the road. It would not have been a pleasant experience for him, if he landed in the water, because some houses up the road had arranged for the effluent from their cesspits to flow into the ditch so that they did not have to pump them out. The area was provided with a sewer main in mid 1951.
The neighbour then called in again to advise us that the R&M factory had been hit and my mother became concerned because my father at the time was spending part of his work time at R&M Newark and the rest at R&M Bunny, which was in the process of being established. She also had concerns about my grandmother who lived on Beacon Hill, not far from the factory.
As with most people, we did not have a phone in those days and the only way my mother could find out if my father and grandmother were all right was to go and find out. She asked me to get dressed and then, with my little brother in the pram, we walked to my grandmother’s house. It was about 5 p.m. by about this time and, just as we arrived at my grandmothers, a car pulled up at her neighbour’s house and a woman who was sobbing got out. The sobbing lady had just been advised that her husband had been killed in the raid. (This was presumably the wife of Frederick Richards ( Beacon Hill Rd, aged 32) or of Alfred Mayfield Rudge (84 Beacon Hill, aged 68)).
My mother left my brother and myself with our grandmother while she went down to the entrance of the works but she was unable to learn anything. It was not until after 10 p.m. that my father came home. He had been at Bunny when the first raid took place and he had been called back to Newark to help make the bombed areas safe from further roof collapse and to cover over the machinery exposed by the raids in case it rained.
A few weeks later, in May 1941, we moved to Bunny so that my father could concentrate on helping to establish the new factory. We only stayed at Bunny until November 1942 when we moved to Dundee in Scotland, where R&M took over three former jute factories. ..
We returned to the Coddington area in May 1949 but it was not until November that we were able to take possession of our house at 123 Beacon Hill Road because the tenants had been reluctant to leave and my parents had to go to court to settle the matter.
… Keen to pursue engineering as a career, in mid 1951, after taking my GCE ‘O’ level examinations, I went to work for R&M, but continued my studies at Newark and Nottingham Technical Colleges, on a part-time basis.
During 1956 - 1958 I did my two years National Service in the RAF. After training as a radar technician, I was posted to Cyprus and Jordan. On completion of my National Service, I went back to R&M and continued studying part-time. By 1961 I was a Graduate Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and I was offered a three years contract in Sydney with R&M Australia, which I accepted … Around this period, having now completed all the educational and industrial experience requirements for full membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, I was admitted as a Member and at the same time, became a Chartered Mechanical Engineer.
When the contract ended I was asked to stay on with R&M Australia, which I did. However, by 1971, it became increasingly obvious that Ransome Hoffmann Pollard (as R&M had become) had no chance of being able to compete with the Japanese bearing companies and I looked around for an alternative position.
Maureen Andrews (People/Oral Histories)
Maureen remembers the air raid over Newark in the 2nd World War when Ransome and Marle’s Factory was bombed, she lost her uncle Wilfred Andrews amongst the fatalities. Another of Maureen’s uncles, Albert Thompson, was injured in Normandy and died in England from his wounds. He was the only soldier from Coddington to be killed in the 2nd World War....
John Kirton (People/Oral Histories)
I don’t remember a lot about the war as I was only 8 when it started, but I do remember bombs being dropped on Stapleford Woods as the Germans thought that it was a camouflaged munitions factory of course what they were looking for was Ransome and Marle’s at the bottom of the hill. They did bomb the factory in 1940, I actually saw them drop the bombs, myself and Ken Maltby –we were going home for dinner, as there were no school dinners in those days. We came out of school and this airplane came in low across the spinney, heading towards Newark. Ken said, " that is a bloody funny Blenhiem” (that was a type of plane) and then we saw the markings and we realized it was a German plane. We went home as quickly as we could. We didn’t hear any bangs and it wasn’t until a little time later that we heard, they had bombed Ransome and Marles. We had incendiaries dropped in the village, I can show where one landed in the stackyard. ..
Our Dad did not have to join up being a farmer, but to do his bit, he joined the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precaution) and he was an A.R.W. Air Raid Warden. They practiced running up and down the street with a barrel on a trolley to see how fast they could reach a fire. The oldest member of the crew was Jack Ingram. They patrolled the village in pairs my Dad pared with Uncle Walter. We always joked that they would be no good, but when the incendiary bombs landed in the stack yards they got there and put the fires out. Reverend Bully took his turn and did very well. Jack lived on Main Street and his house was Ist Aid Headquarters. The kids of the village helped with Sunday First Aid Practice. We were given tags on our wrists to say what injuries we were to be treated for. Well if the injuries were too severe we would be whipped into the ambulance and taken down to the hospital on London Road. We quite enjoyed that as we were given a biscuit and a bottle of pop as well as our ride in the ambulance.
Nancy Sleight (People/Oral Histories)
She remembers the war when not very much happened until the two German planes flew over and dropped bombs on the Ransome and Marle?s factory which was making munitions. The children saw the planes from the school and were more excited than afraid.
Colin Smith remembers going on to these sites at weekends to help father ... When war came in 1939 Len (Smith) was too old to be called up but his war effort was to build ‘gun turrets’ for the ministry of defence around Newark. ‘Bofors’ anti-aircraft guns were placed on these gun sites, they made a terrific noise when fired. Unfortunately they did not stop the German bombers bombing Ransom and Marle,s on the 7th March 1941. At the time Len was building a new canteen for the company…
Comments left on the Webpage by Laurence Goff – Chairman of Friends of Newark Cemetery:
http://newarkcemeteryuk.wordpress.com/ Ransome and Marles
“Ransome and Marles bombing which will be the 70th anniversary next year on the 7th March 2011. Newark was attacked because of its significance to airfields and war work carried out within the area. The most significant attack was on Friday, 7th March 1941 when two German planes dropped a series of 10 bombs on and around Ransome and Marles who made ball bearings for naval gun turrets. A total of 41 people were killed 29 men and 12 women with a further 165 being injured.
I have put these Websites site together as a fitting Tribute in their memory. These are my own views and do not represent Newark Town Council or Friends of Newark Cemetery as Chairman. It has been built as a means of further promoting our cemetery and encouraging interested people to join the tribute. Our courageous heroes that will live on in our memories. I am Campaigning and want to see those who died remembered with a permanent Memorial at Newark Cemetery.
During the 2nd World War there were a number of Polish stations within a few miles of Newark, from many of which operated squadrons of the Polish Air Force. A special plot was set aside in Newark Cemetery for Polish Air Force. A Memorial cross to the Polish airmen buried here was erected in the plot and unveiled on 14th July 1941 by President Raczkiewicz, ex-President of the Polish Republic and head of the war-time Polish Government in London, supported by General Sikorski, Commander in Chief of the Polish Forces and war-time Prime Minister. When both men subsequently died. General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who died when the aeroplane he was travelling in crashed over Gibraltar on the 4th July 1943.During the 2nd World War there were nearly a quarter of a million Poles in the Polish Armed Forces serving under British command. Today the Commission cares for the graves of nearly 4,500 Polish servicemen and women in 35 coutries around the World.
Newark has had close links with Poland and the local Polish community, both here and in Nottinghamshire for many years. Many Poles came to England to help with the war effort and many chose to stay on and make this country their home. Newark’s place in Poland’s heart was cemented when the remains of Poland’s war time leader, General Wladyslaw Sikorski were entrusted to the town until his return to Krakow in 1993. From the British Commonwealth are also buried in Newark Cemetery, The Royal Australian Air Force 6 buried (RAAF), British Royal Air Force 44 (RAF), Canadian 17 (RCAF) New Zealand 3 (RNZAF) and Polish squadrons were formed within the Royal Air Force. Many Polish Airmen were flying Spitfires fighters for Britain’s Royal Force. 422 Polish Airman had been buried during the 2nd World War. Former Polish airmen stayed over after the war and married also chose their resting place as Newark cemetery, Nottinghamshire .”
Charlotte Hall (People/Oral Histories)
‘In 1939, she married Cyril Hackett and they had one daughter, Patricia. Cyril was a foundry man and worked at Nicholsons, Ransome and Marles, and finally at Worthington and Simpsons …
One day during the war, a car stopped alongside Audrey Patterson, a friend of Charlotte’s, who lived in Balderton and they asked for direction to get to Ransome and Marles, she was reluctant to answer, war time ‘Careless talk costs lives’ etc. The driver saw her reluctance to answer and told her ‘This is Gracie Fields in the back of the car’. Gracie was going to sing to the workers for Workers Playtime. Cyril who was a keen member of the Red Cross, worked there at the time, has a photograph of himself and Gracie Fields on a calendar.
Cricket Club (People/Village Clubs)
John Hallam recalls that during his short time as a Coddington player (before 1953, after which as an apprentice he joined the Ransome & Marle’s team) he opened the bowling with Fred Tomlinson, under Captain Owen Taylor.
Peggy Campion (People/Oral Histories)
Charles was a foreman joiner and wheelwright at Ransome and Marles and obviously was very handy.