Episode two of four part documentary series Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain explores the ramifications of a bomb that fell on 6th Avenue in the port city of Hull, flattening two houses and changing the lives of two families forever.
The Taylors lost baby Peter and 14 year-old Vera was very badly burned. Her sisters Doreen and Tina remember that terrible night and it’s the first time they’ve talked about the trauma they endured.
Next door, Mrs Owens had put three of her children under the stairs for safety, but they didn’t survive. Their sister Janet (pictured), who was born after the war, didn’t know about their existence until she was in her 20s – her father was so traumatised that he refused to discuss anything to do with the blitz. It means she has a lot of unanswered questions – until now, when she meets Doreen and Tina and learns that her siblings were buried with baby Peter.
It’s the beginning of a poignant journey of discovery for Janet; she finds out that the bomb that fell on her parents’ house is recorded as Bomb 31 on Hull’s bomb map. Its impact is also described in a unique collection of essays that were written by Hull’s children in 1941, giving a unique insight into children’s experience of the Blitz, tragic and shocking in equal measure.
These essays were part of a survey conducted by a government scientist Professor Solly Zuckerman. In the film, his son Paul learns that his father was collating data regarding the psychological effects of bombing on civilians, which included interviews with adults.
Case number one records the trauma of dock master Albert Eastwood, who lost two children to another of the Luftwaffe’s bombs, a story that moves his grandson Phillip to tears.
Despite Zuckerman finding no evidence of a breakdown in morale in Hull’s citizens, his work was used to lend a powerful stamp of scientific approval to the decision by the British government to area-bomb German cities. Janet knows only too well what Bomb 31 cost her family, so the thought of the British bombing campaign in Germany, and its effects on innocent children, is horrifying.
Produced in partnership with The Open University.
Pictured above is Janet Gill at the University of East Anglia.
Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain Episode 2 (of 4) airs Thursday 30 November 2017 from 9.00pm-10.00pm on BBC TWO.