Episode three of Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain, airing on Thursday 7 December at 9.00pm on BBC Two, follows a bomb that fell on Jellicoe Street in the Scottish town of Clydebank, a tightly-knit community of ship builders and factory workers who worked hard in difficult conditions.
For the children though, life in the tenements was like being part of one big family – as Patrick Docherty and Jack Tasker remember.
But on the 13 March 1941 that would change forever. When the bomb fell on Jellicoe Street it destroyed number 78, killing 15 members of the Rocks family.
Marion McDermid’s grandmother was a Rocks. She survived and left a harrowing account of how her family had been wiped out by this one bomb. Among them was 13 year-old Tommy Rocks, Brendan Kelly’s best friend. More than 70 years later, Brendan (pictured) is still deeply affected by the events of that night. As he says: “I went to bed a boy and wakened a man.”
As the community reeled from the chaos, confusion and grief wrought by the bombs there was another war being waged in Clydebank. One young ship yard worker, John Moore, was battling to secure better pay and working conditions for his fellow apprentices. Linden Moore, his daughter describes her father’s communist politics and his role in negotiating better terms for striking apprentices on the same day the Jellicoe Street bomb fell.
Rosabel Richards’s father William Roberts was also a Clydebank man. On the night of 13 March he was an ARP warden – but Rosabel wants to know what he did during the Blitz that lead him to taking up a place at Oxford University. When her cousin in Clydebank suggests that her dad had connections to Westminster, it leads Rosabel to official records that show William Roberts was working for the government to actively counteract the influence of communists in Clydebank.
On March 14 the bombers returned and the town’s housing was largely destroyed. There was a mass exodus, with families like Brendan’s ending up in a small village 60 miles away from their home. Despite the ongoing industrial dispute, the shipyard and the factories remained largely operational and all the workers, including Moore’s apprentices, made epic journeys to return to work, despite having lost homes, friends and family members.
It’s that sense of community spirit amidst adversity that has endured across the generations and still resonates with 85 year-old Brendan Kelly, who will never forget the impact of that one bomb.
Produced in partnership with The Open University.
Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain Episode 3 (of 4) airs Thursday 7 December 2017 from 9.00pm-10.00pm on BBC Two.