Mapping the Southampton Blitz 70 years on

Damage to Ordnance Survey's London Road building

Damage to Ordnance Survey’s London Road building

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Blitz, and whilst for some people the word might be almost synonymous with the bombing of London, many other towns and cities across the country also suffered terribly from Luftwaffe attacks.

One of those was Southampton. As an important dockyard on the south coast of England, home of the Supermarine factory and birthplace of the Spitfire, it was a prime target.

During the nights of 30 November and 1 December 1940, the Southampton Blitz reached its climax as the city came under sustained attack. Hundreds of tonnes of bombs were dropped during the two nights, whilst on 30 November alone some 634 individual properties were left ablaze – including our then head office on London Road.

A report by the Ministry of Food describes how the resulting destruction “equalled anything so far in aerial attack on this country” but even so, it is very hard to now comprehend the scale of the damage, let alone the impact it had on the people who lived through it.

So with the help of The National Archives and Southampton City Council, we’ve built a map using OS OpenSpace that pinpoints where 712 of the bombs fell based on records from the time. We hope that by seeing the bomb sites overlaid on modern mapping, it will help people better relate to the scale of the damage and the courage and suffering of those who lived through it.

You can clearly see the heavy concentration of direct hits around the docks and industrial areas in Woolston and Itchen, as well as the city centre itself.

We’ve also included images of some of the original documents from 1940 that recount the raids and damage that was done. Within them you can read about how our offices were destroyed; the fear for patients in South Hants Hospital; the affect the raids had on food supplies; and a report by a man working for Southern Railway who travelled from Salisbury to Southampton during the raid.

To read them, simply click on the green markers shown on the map, whilst the red markers indicate each bomb impact site. We hope you find it interesting – I certainly found the research fascinating.

In terms of the damage to the Ordnance Survey offices, thankfully no one was killed, but many valuable documents were destroyed including height survey records; drawings for the New Popular One Inch map series and almost all Object Name Books, which recorded the place and feature names published on the maps of England and Wales.

Perhaps the most precious object lost was the 3 foot Theodolite of 1787 made by Jesse Ramsden and used in the scientific triangulation survey from the Greenwich Observatory to the Kent Coast in 1787-88 by Major General William Roy – the precursor to the founding of Ordnance Survey in 1791.

Tonight, Ordnance Survey staff will be at the commemorative service at St Mary’s Church, Southampton, a place which was gutted by fire during the Blitz, to remember the events of 1940 and those who gave their lives for our freedom.

UPDATE: Quite a few people have asked me to make a version of the map available for download, so here it is. It should be high enough resolution to be enlarged to around A2 size.

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114 Responses

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    1. Don Chambers

      Have you any information on the bombing of Southampton Docks during September 26th 1940. My father who worked for Southern Marine Railway,originated from Dover Kent was among 10 others killed when they sheltered in a granary in the dockyard.It had taken a direct hit 11 people were killed.According to archives the seawall caved in and those that were in the granary were drowned

      1. Gemma

        Hi Don
        I’m afraid not, our map details the bombs from two nights of raids. Our information came from The National Archives and Southampton City Library and those would be your best contact points for finding out more about the night of 26 September I would think. Good luck in finding out more about your father.
        Thanks, Gemma

      2. Mrs Messenger

        Hello Don
        I am searching for more information on this event. We have a deceased family member who survived it but it affected him forever afterwards. We are trying to learn more. Have you found anything?
        Mrs Messenger

        1. Don Chambers

          Hello I am Don’s wife Doreen,I am answering this email from you as I am the computer person.
          Don’s father was killed in the Southampton docks in an air raid which took place on September 26th 1940. He was initially a Purser on the Cross Channel boats out of Dover Kent but was transferred to Southampton during 1940.We found out from Southampton Library (excellent help) that Don’s father along with 11 other people were killed in a shelter in the dock area. It took three days before bodies could be retrieved as the sea wall had collapsed and the people would also have faced drowning.Now if there were any survivors, I haven’t researched that part, may be your relative was a witness to this horrific scene.No relatives were aloud to see the bodies. Was your relative a fireman/ambulance/police in which case they must have come across many sad situations. You can look into a book Southampton’s children of the blitz by Andrew Bissell. also please contact
          she was so helpful.
          Please keep in touch let me know how things went.
          Kind regards
          Don & Doreen Chambers

          1. Lorraine Keys

            Hello Don and Doreen, I was interested to find your message as my Grandfather was also a casualty of this horrific incident. I have been trying to find more information on this particular raid as my Dad had told me that his father was killed in this raid whilst an employee of Harland and Wolff. I have taken your advice and contacted Penny Rudkin as I no longer live in Southampton to get to the library. Regards, Lorraine Keys

    2. ANNETTE

      Does anyone have any infomation on Withedwood Park in Shirley.It belonged to the Day family(shipbuilders)they were my husbands family also 34 Winn Rd which i know was bombed a kernahan-Day

  2. I forgot to specifically mention in the post the hugely helpful people at Southampton Archive Services. Couldn’t have done this without their help.

    1. Charlie Boulter

      Hi Paul,

      I have just been reading this blog and your findings are fascinating. I am a student from the University of Southampton and we are currently undertaking a project on Southamptons Historic Buildings, with particular emphasis on how the WW2 bombings effected the city. Do you feel you could be of any assistance?


      Charlie Boulter

      1. a waldock

        do you want to hear from anyone who lived in southampton during ww2 i remember that worst night and saw all the high st on fire

        1. David Key


          I, and I know many others, would be very interested in your account of Southampton during those dark days.

          I am currently working on a project related to the ‘dispersal’ of Supermarine following the September raids and putting it into context is crucial, so accounts like yours are really important.


  3. Thanks Alison, I’m glad you found it interesting. Our aim was to try and communicate the scale of the destruction which I think the map does really well. It amazes me how people were able to carry on with their lives. Incredible courage.

  4. Keith White

    I find this article and the accompanying map fascinating. The larger area map published in the Daily Echo yesterday was very revealing. Are there plans to make the full map available either by download or by purchase?

  5. Bob Sutton

    Thank you Paul. Very interesting indeed.My father,Sydney Sutton (much later a city councillor) served in the AFS and could very occasionally be coaxed into describing the harrowing experiences he shared with his fellow firemen as they vainly attempted to stem the fires at the factories, gasworks and docks. My mother was terrified when the sirens sounded and filled with concern did not know when he would return from duty.I did not appear until 1944, we lived as a family of nine, in Shirley Park Road and I remember, in the early post war years, playing on the cleared bomb site on the corner with Clarendon road so clearly shown on your map.

    1. eric payne

      Hi Bob
      Your mention of playing on bomb sites brought back similar memories. I came into the world (Freshfield Road, Millbrook)just weeks after the declaration of war and I too well remember us kids ploughing our way through the numerous bombed out buildings in the centre of Soton – what a fantastic playground they made! Now living in Lincolnshire and so sad when I revisit Soton to see what the planners have done to it – perhaps we need another Hitler and a few more bombs to get rid of the absolute mess that they have made of our beloved Soton and then start anew.
      Many thanks to the O.S. and all who have made this site available.

      1. Carol

        Eric, do you know if you are related to Maudy, Ethel and Constance Payne who lived in Southampton? There was a link to a hairdressers owned by the family which was bombed during the second world war? Constance was my grandmother whom I never knew because I was born abroad. Constance was married to Albert Weston. I am trying to find out a bit about the family tree. Sorry to bother you if no relation. Thanks.

  6. Jeremy

    Fascinating and sobering, especially on such a significant day for the OS itself. Thank you (collectively) for compiling all of this.
    Would you be happy for people to use the contents of WW2_bomb_sites.xml elsewhere, with due credit? It would be interesting to see it overlain on other maps and photography.

  7. mark

    thankyou for your work on this,its very interesting to see how the germans tried to wipe out the main areas . i cant imagine how the people of southampton could have kept going and how hard their lives were during this period,god rest those who died and thanks to those people who fault and rebuilt this country

  8. Steve Adams

    What an excellent map and a great piece of research, thank you. My father worked for Supermarine and I have a letter he sent to my mother [who had been evacuated to Kingston on Thames!]. In it he describes walking down Peartree Avenue and having to dive into shelter when German planes bombed the Woolston Works, later finding his Drawing Office open to the sky and a piece of shrapnel embedded in his drawing board. The same week he was in the cinema which Southern TV took over later when bombs fell locally. As a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service he rushed out to help people dig out of demolished houses. I guess the map shows just how busy the Fire Service, etc, must have been during these times.

    1. David Key

      Hi Steve,

      I’d be very interested to hear more about your father’s recollections and the letter he sent.

      I am currently working on a project about the ‘dispersal’ of Supermarine after the September raids and how they coped in the aftermath.

      I’d also be very interested in any other recollections of your father’s regarding his time with Supermarine

      So anything you have I would love to hear/see.

  9. Miffed

    Wonderful initiative, very well done. Would have loved to have been a part of it and attended the memorial if I’d known about it…

    Especially since I’m a Southampton resident and lost a grandparent in the bombing of Southampton. Possibly even more pertinently since I’ve been an OS employee for longer than I care to remember.

    Which OS staff are attending exactly?

  10. Simon Watson

    Very interesting!! I was born in Kings Park Road Nursing Home on 20th April 1940(coincidentally Herr Hitler’s birthday was also 20th April!).The Nursing Home was later bombed flat and the site is now the YWCA.
    My family were all Berkshire people but I was born in Southampton because my father was test flying Spitfires at Eastleigh.I stayed on and now live in Romsey.

  11. Dave

    I grew up in the forties on Atherley Road and knew all the local bombsites – a term that was for me synonymous with playground!
    There seems to be a lot of bombsites I knew not shown on this map. Also the extensive bombing around North Front (Kingsland Place) is not shown.

    1. Douglas Mills

      I know of the location of at least two 500 lb bombs not shown on the Map. One fell into a garden r/o 71 now 171 Midanbury Lane and the other into the refuse dump opposite number 65. Now 165.
      Being very wet soft soil neither bomb exploded.
      The bomb at number 71(171) was later laid out acroos the pavement by luchtime the next day minus its tail fin.

      1. Hi Douglas

        Thanks for getting in touch. Our Blitz Map only shows the bombs which fell on the two nights of the Southampton blitz, so there are many other bombs which fell during the war, outside those two nights, which are not shown.

        Thanks, Gemma

        1. Douglas Mills

          Thanks Gemma for your reply,

          My gandaughter also called Gemma works for White Stuff.

          The other 200 or 250 Kg bomb is still at the bottom of the tip if the tip which was was on the side of a steep hill was levelled and capped, or removed if the thousands of tonnes were all dug out.

          The milk man who deliverd by horse and cart used to collect the shrapnel for me as a kid while I collected incendary bomb cases from gardens r/o 63, ours at 65 and the upstairs bath at 67 after it passsed through the roof and fell into the bath.
          Dad, who repaired Spits at Hamble was home that night so it must have been a weekend raid.

          I saw the waves of bombers coming in for the raid that hit the docks, and the huge smoke columns the next day from the top of Thorold Road.
          I was also still their when the Yanks arrived in their lorries and tanks and one tank skidded at the triangle and took out our fish and chip shop.

          Dad lost his Butchers shop in Northam road around that time but we had already moved out at the start of the war to 65 Midanbury since I guess he knew what was coming.

          our shelter was the only one styled like a WW1 shelter and was concreted with heavy encased exterior, solid concrete , anti blast angled entrance bits of which must must be still be in the rear garden .
          When the rains came the next door shelters filled with water and we ended up with 3 familes in our one shelter with me crushed on the floor at the rear. .

  12. Michael Wood-Lough

    My mothers family lived at 132 Archery Grove and she mentioned the bomb raids some years ago to me but what is remarkable from this OS map is that the only two bombs that fell that far East of the town were in the back garden (when they were in the shelter). They were all from Northam originally Millie later married a Diaper from Itchen Ferry and to this day they live in Philadelphia USA.and I live in Toronto.
    I am listening to the BBC programme as I write this and still wonder how they all coped.
    All the best and up the Saints!

  13. Thank you all for your amazing and humbling stories. It was a privilege to to a part of the programme on BBC Radio Solent last night to meet some of the people who lived through the events of 70 years ago.

    I’m so pleased that you’ve found the map interesting and worthwhile. It was fascinating to work on it.

    In answer to the questions posed – Jeremy, please feel free to use the xml file. If you can make any further use of it, I’d be delighted.

    Dave – the map only shows hits from the raids on 30 November and 1 December. As such it isn’t a total representation of all the bombs that were dropped on the town. We wanted to focus on the two biggest raids as it tied in directly to the commemorations.

    Keith – a great idea to make the map available to download. We would never expect to charge for it, I don’t think that would be right, so I’ll look to add a free downloadable version as soon as possible.

  14. Ian

    Whilst I was brought up in the East End of London in the 1950’s I have lived in Southampton for over 40 years and this mapping is a stark reminder of the adversity that affected the whole of the country at this time. I heard many personal stories when I was growing up of the hardship experienced by people, including my Grandparents house that was hit by an incendiary bomb that thankfully never went off. I also remember playing in and around the bomb sites a few houses from where I was living.

    In these times of economic hardship this should remind us what real hardship was.

    As always excellent mapping work from the foremost map makers in the world – keep up the good work.

  15. Peter

    I was 3 years old in 1940 and living in Hill Lane. The land mine which came down by parachute landed in Northlands Gardens was some 200 yards from our house and it blew out several of our front windows which remained boarded up for most of the war. More seriously some 4 houses in Northlands Gardens were completely destroyed ….I dont know how many were killed. I do remember in my childhood innocence scrambling over the bomb site and being attracted to the remains of a Hornby Model Railway set! In Hill Lane we had a shelter in the garden but it was so cold and damp that we preferred to shelter under the staircase

  16. Hi Peter, thank you for your story – I used to live on Hill Lane so I know that part of town very well. I can see from map a bomb landed just a few metres from where I used to live.

  17. Peter Dawson

    My father, Jack Dawson, had been invalided out of the Royal Engineers and returned to civilian emlpoyment at the OSO shortly before the 1940 blitz. He was lodging in Padwell Road with Ma Baker who ran the canteen at the London Road site. Shortly after the blitz he wrote a vividly descriptive account to his sister of what the city and especially the Above Bar area looked like. At the time of the 60th anniversary I sent copies of this letter to the Southern Daily Echo and to the City Archive. Neither bothered to acknowledge having received these copies. Whether they have kept them and can find them I do not know, but if you would like a copy to supplement your compilation I would be happy to dig one out.

    1. Charlie Boulter

      Hi Peter, I am a student from the University of Southampton and we are undertaking a group project on Southampton’s historic buildings. We are looking into doing part of our presentation on the old Ordnance Survey building on London Road – do you think you could be of any assistance? I find it a very fascinating story.


      Charlie Boulter

  18. Extremely interesting initiative and good to see some balance restored. Southampton is never mentioned as badly bombed compared with other places although I recall seeing a photo of a completely flattened high street – I mean no buildings standing at all. I grew up in Roberts Road, Hill Lane in the 1950s and was forbidden to play on the many bomb sites there, so near to the docks. Other raids than those described took out the house 3 from the end on the south side of our road and there was also a landmine in Alexandra Road which killed several and damaged the house next door to us. There was a church at the Shirley Road end of the road which seems to have been taken out in this November raid, and houses at the Hill Lane end on Fourposts Hill were also later destroyed. There were many holes in our playground landscape. We played on the bombies, naturally, but our parents used to get very cross!!

    My father recalled daylight raids too and seeing German aircraft coming up the High Street below Bar.

    1. David Hawkins

      Our family home was in Alexandra Road and was land mined in the bombing, i was born a year after the war ended and we lived in Newcombe Road whilst our House was being rebuilt.
      Half of Alexandra Road was flattened and the other half was ok apart fron one or two Houses which were flattened.
      When we moved back in in 1950, the bomb site was our playground, until Houses were built in the following years.

  19. George Nutburn

    During the Blitz I was tram conductor and the high st.was impassable to trams so a bus shuttle service from the junction down to the pier, docks and the floating bridge was run.Sometimes we had to work on floatbridge at rush hours etc.oneafternoon I watched a single bomber fly in and dropped
    bombs on Thorneycrofts Wolston slipway onwhich was Naval ship nearly finished I think. On the trams on Sundays the only place to get a cup of tea was where the West quay shopping centre is now, this was in the middle of devestation but all the mirrors were intact. I lived in St.Denys and we had a land mine on our house in Priory Road. Thanks for the memory, It mustn’t be forgotten. Regards

  20. Liz Irving

    I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on air raid precautions in Southampton and believe that some of the documents that appear on the green info links were amongst the evidence I used – good to see them again. I’ve just been looking at how close some of the bombs fell to house where my mother grew up, and it has sent a chill down my spine!

    1. Charlie Boulter


      I am currently a student at Southampton University and I was just wondering if you could be of any assistance for our group project. It is on Southampton’s historic Buildings, with particular emphasis on how WW2 affected them. We are in the very early stages of research so any assistance would be greatly received.


      Charlie Boulter

  21. stan spargo

    The map is very comprehensive but does not include the mines which were floated down on a parachute.I saw the huge crater close by St. James church with the remainder of cloth hanging from the remains of a tree!

  22. stan spargo

    They also used “breadbaskets”. These were containers of many incendiaries which opened up creating a broad spread of fire

  23. Thank you again to everyone who has left their own Blitz story. We are delighted that it’s proved so interesting for people. If we’ve missed some bombs then I am sorry. We went by the records that were kept in 1940, and it is only for the raids on 30 November and 1 December.

  24. Bill

    Very interesting. You might have missed one though. I grew up in Bitterne having the remains of a crater in the garden which I was always told was from a German bomb. It was good to play in.

  25. Dave

    More from the US Consul, G.K. Donald.

    Southampton December 2, 1940
    Monday: 11.30 a.m.
    Bombing of Southampton night of Dec. 1/2

    We thought we would have a rest last night and that Southampton was sufficiently down to please even Hitler, but we have gone through the same thing as the night before. I would say that the town is completely finished as far as any business or commerce is concerned. The remaining large department store, which had enormous stocks of foodstuffs and general supplies (Edwin Jones & Co.) is completely burned to the ground; there is no newspaper here; Rank’s Flour Mill, apparently the last building on the docks of any importance, was destroyed last night; there is hardly a shop left on the High Street. Strange to say, the electric power plant is still standing, although it makes a wonderful target.

    My residence had two more high explosives fall within a dozen feet of the building and the largest crater I have ever seen is just across the street and every house to the corner has been destroyed. I mention this merely as an example. I understand that fire engines even came from London and Wells to fight the fires. I have been putting out incendiaries most of the night.

    All the staff is safe. There is still no telephone service.

    I am still unable to give any figures of casualties and I doubt there is any authority that knows. On my way down, I saw them taking bodies out of a shelter that got a direct hit.

  26. Sue Langridge

    Very interesting, I worked for the OS in London Road, I think we were the first office to move to Maybush, I now live in North Baddesley and our house was bombed and left to burn as a decoy, away from the factory where they were building parts for the Spitfire.

    1. Charlie Boulter

      Hello Sue,

      I am currently a student at Southampton University and I am just contacting you to see if you could be of any assistance to our group project on Southampton’s historic buildings. One we have chosen is the old Ordnance survey HQ on London Road, if you are willing to offer any help, then we would be eternally grateful.


      Charlie Boulter

  27. Derek

    Very interesting. My mother was a telephonist in the GPO Telephone Exchange in Ogle Road during the blitz. She told me of one night when they worked on during a raid to keep essential phone lines going despite there being incendiary bombs burning in the roof. Eventually they had to leave the building and ran up the road to the shelter between the burning buildings with fireman spraying them with water to keep the flames away!
    One morning, after a raid, she left work to go home and, because of the extensive bomb damage, struggled to recognise where she was.
    She always said that Southampton was never mentioned on the radio after a heavy raid. It annoyed her.

  28. Frank Matson

    I liked this idea very much. I note the map only applies to the bombing on 30th November and 1st December 1940. It is a pity it couldn’t have made as well showing all the bombs dropped on Southampton during the entire war. A map does exist of this, but does not include individual streets,so it is not easy to make out where they landed. What is noticable is the totally indiscriminate nature of the bombing, which only serves to highlight how utterly evil the Germans were! For instance, the Shanklin Road, Warwick Road and Pewsey Place area of upper Shirley area got badly hit. Were the Germans after the Spitfire dispersal factory at Seward’s Garage in Winchester Road? I would also like to find out what type of German planes were used in these raids. As far as I have been able to make out they were of three types:- Heinkel III’s, Dornier 217s and Junkers 88s. Having seen some interesting pictures of what the High Street area of Southampton looked like before the blitz, I think it was outrageous what the Germans did to our city!

    1. Douglas Mills

      Evil might be strong a word without putting the hat on ones own head. They were tasked with trying to dig out the Spit. dispersal which was said at the time to have been buried amongst the civilian population of Southampton which meant the population had to suffer a general Blitz and not just the dedicated and thorough attacks lead by Martin Lutz which finally hit the Spit. factory killing workers and civilians alike.

      As a kid I heard that the Spit pay roll offices were at Deep Dene, jigs were installed at Sunlight Laundry, whether true or not I don`t know or was it all part of the great Operation – Double Cross, again I don`t know.

      But the result was the Luftwaffe wasted a lot of bombs on Southamton instead of the real Spit dispersal so did the heavy bombing break the morale of the people of Southampton? since one British bomb did not equal one German bomb and as with all things German gave a bigger bang pound for pound, and so got they away with lighter and smaller bombs.

  29. Pingback : Happy birthday Mark Twain, Winston Churchill

  30. As promised, I’ve added a link to a downloadable version of the map. Check my update at the end of the post, click on the link and save the map once it loads. I hope this helps!

  31. Gill

    Thank you for this – it’s been extremely interesting.

    My father grew up in Cawte Road, Freemantle, and joined Bomber Command in the RAF shortly before war broke out, but went home on weekend leave somewhere around this time to visit his parents. He used to entertain us, as children, with his story of having been too much the big, strong hero to go down to the shelter when the raid began. He listened as a “stick” of bombs started falling ever closer to home: 1, 2, 3, “and the next one had No. 12 Cawte Road written all over it!”

    He dived under the bed for what little protection it could offer, and waited for the next bomb – which never came. He realised later that while bomber command dropped bombs in sticks of 4, the Luftwaffe dropped them in 3s!

    Thank you for the map: I’m passing this on to my brothers and children.

  32. Gill

    @Frank Matson, please don’t be quite so hard on Germany, past or present! Indiscriminate bombing mainly means it was just plain inaccurate, and that was true on all sides. GPS and laser-guided missiles weren’t even science fiction terms at that stage; daylight raids gave some opportunity for targeted bombing, but at night, pilots were often doing well to find the right town.

    Southampton’s bad luck was that the Isle of Wight and Southampton Water made it an easy target to find, as well as being a strategically important one from Germany’s point of view, so it’s not surprising that it got hit hard and often. But that doesn’t make the Germans utterly evil – there was a war on at the time, you know!

  33. Dave

    I agree with Gill. Although Shirley, Freemantle and Bitterne received many bombs, they were quite scattered – but the city centre and docks areas were saturated and flattened over a wide area. According to US reports, in Bristol, the bombing of commercial areas was so accurate that there was suspicion that they were getting guidance from the ground.

    1. Douglas Mills

      I heard this as a street story as I lived one road away. In Bitterne Park ,Southampton, the paranoia about the bombing became so intense some women accused a French lady living in Thorold Road of signalling to guide German bombers by shining a torch up her chimney.

  34. Barry

    I think my Dad work for the OS in Romsey Road before the war. He was certainly a surveyor because he joined the army as a surveyor and was with the US Air Force.

    Just thought you’d be interested.

  35. Frank Matson

    Well, perhaps Gill doesn’t think there is anything evil in dropping bombs on people. I beg to differ! It is never right to drop bombs on anyone, under any circumstances!

  36. Martin C. Harris

    This is fantastic, many thanks for the research and the web-site.

    I was just over three and a half and after the first or second big raid in mid October 1940 my mother and I went to stay with an aunt in Salisbury. We lived at 22 Bitterne Crescent. My father stayed on and told me, when I was older than a bomb landed at the end of the back garden, he was in the Anderson shelter at the time, and demolished the three houses behind in Edwina Close. Now thanks to the map I have established that that happened on 30 November, the map shows a stick of five bombs, one of which, a little distant from th others is right by No.22.

    As I’m putting my childhood war time memories on paper for my grand-children this information will now bw included, again many thanks.

  37. Thank you for your comment Martin. The best part of carrying out this research has been hearing and reading the stories that it has encouraged people to share. I’m very glad the map has been of interest.

  38. John Player

    I came across your map quite recently. However I notice that some bombs with which I was personally involved are not recorded. I was 9 years old and living at 118 Chestnut Rd Shirley Warren with my mother and two brothers when the Luftwaffe paid us a visit. I have no recollection of the date but I recall the event vividly. We didn’t go to the shelter that night but decided to sleep on beds we had moved down into the living room. The sirens had sounded the warning earlier and we lay awake with the light on. It was a typical Southampton raid with both light and heavy ack ack and the muffled thump of bombs that seemed centred around the Old Docks area. We were used to these sounds, and the slow desynchronised beat of the bomber’s engines, and the way they speeded up after they’d dropped their bombs. It was during a pronounced lull that I heard a whine similar to a lorry engine starting up. Almost immediately it developed into a high-pitched whistling.As the bombs exploded the beds beneath us seemed to jump around, the house shook, and we were covered with ceiling plaster. The windows came in and the bed nearest them, fortunately empty, was covered in glass. The light went out and we lay for a moment shocked and in darkness. Banging on the front door roused us;it was an ARP warden. My mother confirmed that we were all ok and we were advised to leave the house as it appeared to be unsafe. As we left the ground underfoot was strewn with earth and rubble and I noticed that the whole front of our immediate next door neighbour’s was missing. We spent the rest of the night in the rest centre at the local school and next morning, kid-like, my brothers and I nipped up the road to see just what had happened. The whole front of next door was gone and there was a crater where their front garden used to be, and there was a hole in the party wall to our upstairs front bedroom. In our back garden, level with the Anderson shelter there were-two craters side by side and the shelter itself looked a bit lopsided.
    We were told later that they were small bombs and that most of the blast had gone upwards. Nevertheless it was obvious that we had had a very close call that night.
    John Player

    1. Hi John, Thank you for sharing your very vivid account – I can’t really begin to imagine what it must have been like. The reason those particular bombs are not on our map, is probably because it only shows the bombs that fell on 30 November and 1 December – the heaviest raids on Southampton. Do you think it’s possible your memories are of another night?

  39. mary

    Hi I have found this really helpful. I am a creative writing student at Winchester Uni. I live in Southampton and my Grandad was resposible for digging people out of buildings etc. He told me that there was a large bomb that had a direct hit on an air raid shelter and that there were no surviors. Can anyone tell me where in Southampton this happened. I am doing my finale year project on a story based in Southampton in WWII. So I would be greatful for any information.

    1. Hi Mary, I’m very pleased that the map is useful. I’m afraid we don’t know the exact site that you’re referring to – I fear it could refer to any number of places. My suggestion would be to speak to the wonderful people at Southampton City Archives (based in the Civic Centre) who were exceptionally helpful to me whilst working on this. Good luck!

    2. frank matson

      Hi, Mary, There is an interesting book by Lawrence Burgess ( there is a copy in Shirley Library in Southampton) called Southampton at War 1939 -1945. In it he mentions he was living in Warwick Road in Shirley Southampton. On the night of 8th July 1941 there was an air raid and a large air raid shelter nearby in Pewsey Place received a direct hit. All that was left of this shelter was a huge crater and quite a few people were killed. Mr. Burgess himself was lucky to survive as he was going to use this shelter himself, but was previously told the owner had just sold the house in which garden the shelter was, so he used his own anderson shelter in Warwick Road instead! He was trapped in his own shelter by the rubble and debris from the Pewsey Place bomb, but was later dug out unharmed!

    3. Eve

      Hi i know this is maybe a long shot as your post was some time ago.. I believe the incident you are referring to involved my father’s family I’m sorry I didnt see it sooner as i could have given you some info


    4. a waldock

      do you want to hear from anyone who lived in southampton during ww2 i remember that worst night and saw all the high st on fire the shelter that was hit was in parks near debenhams was edwin jones there is a plaque showing where it was yes no survivers sacred ground now

  40. Dave

    Mary, My late mother told me about this direct hit. I think it was at the NW corner of the Civic Centre – but this needs confirming.

    1. Douglas Mills

      Dad, took me for a walk on a Sunday morning after the Civic centre raid, from Midanbury into town to see the Civic Centre damage and I remember seeing the cordoned off rubble. On the way back though the park there was an huge explosion and a large park tree slowly seemed to rise into the air . Before it came down dad had me flat on the pavement and was on top of me. A delayed action, fused bomb or some UXB`s that got it worng? I don`t know.


  41. stan

    The occasion you refer to was the direct hit on the Art Gallery and I believe the students were in the shelter and there were no survivors.I also understand there was no digging out, just sealed up

  42. Gill

    I don’t think that can be quite right,Stan; several students (and they were only school age) certainly were killed in that incident, but I think they were in the Art Gallery at the time. There is a very nice memorial to them inside the Civic Centre, on the North side, which tells the whole story and lists the names of all those who died.

  43. Alan

    I have two old secret german maps, I believe dating from 1938, which show areas marked in red in the docks. Interestingly these do not seem to have been targets in the actual raids They were Inner Dock and Outer Dock and the Dry Dock at Empress Docks.

  44. Steve

    Hi there,
    I’m quite late in commenting on this, but I was wondering about Holyrood Church. As I understood it, the church was destroyed during this raid, but the nearest bomb is across the road and north a bit, which I would have thought was too far away to cause any damage. Was the church damaged by incendiaries instead?
    Also, to add to the discussion immediately above, I have a hazy memory of visiting Southampton in the very early 1990s and seeing a plaque about the air raid shelter in West Park, or possibly outside the library… I’m certain it was outside though.

  45. Michael Harvey

    I was born 3 November 1936 in Southampton. My parents had a house built for them in Bitterne Way, a steep road on a hill overlooking Southampton Water. My earliest memories (I was four years old) are of the bombing and blitz on Southampton during World War Two and of this house in Bitterne Way and its air raid shelter which my father had designed and built as strong as a bunker. It was spacious with bunk beds and a large reading lamp. During bombing raids my parents could continue to read or do whatever they could to try and keep their minds on something positive whilst my sister, Margaret, and I slept or tried to. My father was the Vice-Principal of the Southampton School of Art at the Civic Centre and was killed in the school shelter on the 6th November 1940 along with those innocent children and fellow teachers. There are many accounts of what happened on that day. However, my sister, Margaret, wrote the following to me in a recent letter about our father: “I remember him coming into the kitchen and blowing kisses because he was late. That was the last we were to see of him. I went to school; there was a raid and we left our little school to come into our own shelter (Daddy had suggested the school use it). After the raid I ran up the steps to look across the Southamptpon water and there stood the Civic Centre intact (or so I thought). Later “Carpy” from next door came in to say that she had heard that the art school had been hit. Mother ran to a call box and did manage to get through finally to be told by a very frantic telephone operator that “…..they haven’t got them all out yet…..”

    Two weeks after my father was killed, the house next door to us was bombed. Fortunately, the couple and their two sons were staying with us in our bomb shelter and survived. However, my mother had to find alternative accommodation since our house was badly damaged and had to be demolished. These were extremely difficult times, and my mother found herself alone with two young children (eight and four years old) and her mother who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My mother was also a nurse in the Red Cross at this time.

    My father survived the First World War on active duty only to be killed in the Second World War.

    I have just recently visited the Memorial in the Art Gallery at Civic Center and visited his grave. I would just like to add that the staff of the Southampton Archives have been most helpful in providing me with additional information.

    1. Mike

      Most interesting. As an aside, I have just finished a book which described the first time planes were used to bomb civilian areas to attempt to intimidate the populace. This was the Germans, during the first world war. Their aircraft were huge for the times, but found it difficult to reach their targets in London, and frequently dropped their bombs around Margate, Folkestone, and Dover when turning back. Subsequent criticism of Britain who did the same to Germany in the second world war is hypocritical!

  46. This is a great application of GIS overlay software. Clearly, the cruelty of the events sit very deep. I wonder about two things:

    1. What about the silent threat of those dormant aerial bombs that have remained undetected in the grounds and riverbeds? What records exist and does government map out potentially dangerous sites requiring construction companies to screen the building ground for warfare agents?

    2. I’m from Hamburg, Germany, myself and am active in geotechnical engineering. We find that the warfare agent screening methods that are being used are either very unsafe or non-existent. For instance, no detection method yet exists to spot even large British RAF bombs underneath building structures such as bridges and roadways. How do the British handle this issue?

    Feel free to view or comment on my blog article about this issue.
    http://www.iegisblog.com (GIS in Warfare Agent Detection)

  47. Have just come across your map and it is the first information I have found anywhere concerning the bomb which landed in Manor Farm Road, Bitterne Park. My home is built on the site of the building which took a direct hit from that bomb and I believe the entire family within were killed by the blast. I understand the rubble was just levelled off and my bungalow (the only one in the road) was built on top of the rubble which probably explains why my plot is raised above the surrounding plots. Would love to hear any more information or photos from anyone who might have lived in the area at that time. Many thanks for your research and the map produced from that research.

    1. Eric Payne

      Hi Eamonn

      Interested to read your comment regarding the site where your bungalow now is. I’m afraid I can’t supply any additional info but the mention of Manor Farm Road brought back memories. I lived in the area – Midanbuy actually – for about six years back in the 60’s and have traveled along Manor Farm many, many times. Don’t suppose you knew of the Macallen family who lived at, I think, number 245 overlooking Woodmill (at that time just rough ground)
      Hope you can find out more information regarding the bomb that destroyed the previous house. Next time I am visiting Southampton I will take a stroll down Manor Farm and look out for your bungalow.

      Best regards

  48. Thanks for sharing this, what an interesting use of current mapping technology. I’m going to print it off and take a wander round the city at the weekend I think just to match the sites to real life places.

  49. Pingback : (Nearly) all the bombs

  50. Alan Eldridge

    What s lot of interesting memories here. My Mum lived on the corner of Wilton Road and Wilton Cresent (the Hill Lane end) and she told me about a huge landmine that destroyed the builders yard opposite. I can vaguely remember the bombsite when I was young. Like the poster earlier she was also a GPO telephonist at Ogle Road and she told me once of being shot at in Above Bar by the tail gunner of a German bomber which was so low she could see his face.

  51. Jason

    I understand that there was a report on the air attacks on the ordnance survey offices in Southampton in November 1940. Any hints on where to find it would be appreciated


    1. Charlie Boulter

      Hi Jason,

      I am a student at Southampton University and am currently undertaking a project on Southampton’s historic buildings. Did you manage to find the report? Any advice/information would be gratefully received!


      Charlie Boulter

  52. Hayley

    Fascinating to read all of these comments. I live in English Road, Shirley, and my house was bombed in the war. There was clearly at least one bomb that fell in my road as there are a few houses in the same part of the road (including my own) which are not Victorian as the rest are, and were built in the late 1940’s. I have always been so keen to know more about what had actually happened, especially to read a news report of the event, but am not sure where to look. Any help here would be very much appreciated.
    Thank you.

    1. Peter

      Hayley, I read your letter regarding English Road regarding your house being bombed. I cannot give you any information on what actually happened. I was living in Foundry Lane at the time and later we moved to a new house at 35 English Road, where my mother lived until some 12 years ago. No doubt we were neighbours.

  53. Steve

    Hi Don and Doreen, I’ve just discovered this blog while searching for information about my Great Grandfather, Robert William Chambers who owned the Four Maries boat builders yard off Vespasian Road before it became Bampton’s timber yard (and more recently apartments). He was born in Sholing in 1881 and lived there until about 1900, then later in Victoria Road Woolston around 1911. Is it possible there is a link to yourselves? Thanks , Steve :-)

    1. Elizabeth

      Hi Steve, how are you related family wise to your great grandfather Robert William Chambers, I mean which of his children is your parent? Lol because he was also my great grandad. I am lucky and proud to be a grand daughter to his son William Frederick Chambers ( deceased sadly). I have been doing a lot of research on the family tree if you are interested or could add anything to it or have any pics we could share. Hope to hear from you. Elizabeth Bolton (nee Chambers) angeliz1977@live.com

  54. gerry

    Been looking for a map such as this for a while now and am I glad that I found this one. Born in Percy Road just before the war I remember going to the Common to scrounge food from the Americans that were billeted on there who gave us Spam – Wrigleys Gum – Candy Bars – Stewed Steak – Etc. This map brings back lots of memories including the many times one of my grandfathers would show me the DOGFIGHTS that were going on overhead, but the most unforgettable has to be the wail of the SIREN for warning and the all clear. Keep up the great work and Thank You….

  55. I lived through the blitz at 63 Firgrove Road and vividly remember the air raids over the town. I was 10 years old when the war started. My recollections of the sound when the bombs dropped was a whine and then a rush of air…..that was a close one. An incendiary bomb dropped on the outside toilet blew the walls down covering the front of the Anderson shelter blocking our exit. The explosive bomb burst the water supply and thus doused the fire. We crawled out of the emergency exit at the rear of the shelter. The burning of the cold storage plant (J A Ranks I believe) was so bright that one could see to read a comic in the street at midnight. The whole town was lit up and it was our great fortune that the Luftwaffe did not return to finish the job. As youngsters we carried on cycling to school, picking up / exchanging shrapnel etc. and never doubting our ability to win the war!!!!!

  56. John Player

    Hi Paul
    Re the Chestnut road bombs. Yes it was quite possibly another night. I think the big two day blitz that took out most of Below Bar Southampton occurred soon after I returned from being evacuated to a farm at Hale near Fordingbridge. While there, we were occasionally, from a viewpoint at the forest edge at night, able to see the fires raging in Southampton.The war came very close to our observation point in the shape of a Heinkel 111 which crashed one night in the garden of a house in which a fellow evacuee was boarded. It demolished a corner of his bedroom and covered him with plaster. So much for his move to a place of safety! He was fortunately unhurt. Not so the German pilot. We were told he was killed but that the remaining crew of three knocked at the owner’s door to give themselves up

  57. Graham Robinson

    Hi there I am trying to find out if the house I live in was hit by a stray bomb in World War II – 85 Warren Crescent – because my neighbors have told me it was – yet I can’t really find any info – we are opposite the Social Club.

  58. Mary Darling

    This site is an excellent help to me. I am writing a fictional book about a nurse working at the Borough Hospital. The various historical sites are excellent to read. It’s just a miracle anyone survived. Mary in Arizona, USA

  59. paul coe

    hi paul,
    i know, where i live, used to be a military base of some sort, i know this because when the mobile home next door was being changed there was a building, underground, which later i was told was the toilet block for the `base`. i live on the mobile home site off of shamblehurst lane south, no matter how hard i look i cant find it on any maps or any photographs.i even went to the trouble of getting ( what i thought ) a detailed history of the place i live and nothing. if you can direct me to a map or maps of the area or even photos id be greatfull

    1. Hi Paul

      Thanks for your message. I’m afraid we no longer maintain an historic map archive, we passed it over to specialists around the country when we were preparing to move to our new head offices in 2011. There are some useful links on our website to take you to places that allow you to view or purchase historic maps though and they may have maps showing the information that you are looking for. Good luck with your search.

      Thanks, Gemma

  60. ken short

    Hi All,
    Can’t seem to find mention of the V1 (Buzz Bomb) that hit and destroyed most of Swanmore Ave, Sholing. Luckily no serious injuries as it fell into an orchard. One side of the avenue completely gone and my home (#9) badly damaged and we all had to be rehoused at various locations, including Mayfield House. I seem to remember an article in the Echo which included a photo of the damage. I have searched the archives but obviously not in the correct place.

  61. Timothy Ward

    My mother was born and raised in Bitterne Southampton; she was 12 when the war began in 1939.
    She told us many stories of terrible things that happened in 1940 and ’41; the memories of that time never left her.

  62. Alec johnson

    Hi Paul
    Cornwall Crescent ( Midanbury ) was also heavily bombed as they were after a battery gun emplacement located in scrubland between litchfield crescent and cornwall crescent (parts of the rail still in the ground and a ring still there also just under the dirt ) … no 23 Cornwall Crescent was a direct hit and many other houses were damaged ( the landlord T Clark and sons still tells his tenants that these houses have bomb damage and not subsidence ) …. the gun emplacement was there to protect southampton airport ….

  63. Neil Cameron

    Obelisk Road

    A bomb fell and hit a house in Obelisk , 39 is the modern house (1 of 2) built in the plot of the lost Victorian house.
    Pretty close to Thornycrofts as it was . Houses are near to the junction with Church Lane and Obelisk, left hand side of the road walking from direction of Thornycrofts.
    Interesting work.

  64. Zoe

    My mother lived at 158 Regents Park Road, Shirley (born 1936) and she and her sister and mother moved out at the beginning of the war to Harpenden to stay with an aunt. Her father, Leslie Freeman, was a was a GP and had his surgery just off Shirley High Street. During the war he was called up to the RAMC. Before and after the war he did a lot of midwifery work. His partner was George Marshalsay. During the war the house was used by the Home Guard who left it in a bit of a mess! Mum still has stories of walking up the road and watching the big liners in the dry dock. I believe the house has been knocked down and has been replaced with a block of flats.

  65. Bruce McCarthy

    Hi my Father Edward George McCarthy has sadly just passed away here in Queensland Australia. He was at home aged 6 at 44 Melbourne rd Chapel with his Mum Rosina May, sister Patricia Rose aged 2 his aunt Ethel and a grandad when his house took a direct hit I believe sometime between June and August 1940. He left a vivid account in his memoirs of being under the stairs, his mum and aunt saying the Lord’s prayer, a bomb hitting in the middle of the road, then a bang blackness and choking dust, with all of them screaming their heads off. Then being dug out only to find the family next door, all 13 of them who had been sheltering in their anderson shelter in the back garden had been killed by a direct hit and that there were three workmen, putting bits and pieces of their bodies in horse drawn cart. The same day Bitterne park school was strafed by ME109’s killing a number of children on the playing field but his older Brother Bill survived. Soon after he and Bill were evacuated to somerset. Initially Horsington and then eventually he alone to Bishops Lydearde outside Taunton where he stayed until 1946. I would love a copy of the bombing map with the old pre WW2 street plan with the actual date of the raid. It could well have been 20th June, but dad remembered the gasworks being hit so it could have been a little later.
    His Dad was William Frederick McCarthy part of a very large Southampton family living in the Golden Grove chapel area around St Mary’s at the time . He worked on a tugboat in the docks and sadly died of TB with Pneumonia in 1942.

  66. Mrs Elaine Pannell

    My mum, Rita Norman (as was) worked in a hairdresser in Commercial Road for the first years of the war. On the evening of the Blitz, she left the shop and sheltered near to the church opposite the ‘Gaumont’.
    She decided to run for it and made it home to Rampart road, in Bitterne Manor. The next morning, when she went in to work, there was a huge crater where she had been, and had she not gone home, she most certainly would have been killed!

  67. denise sanger

    I worked at Young, Austen and Young, 8 Rockstone Place, opposite the side of the Ordnance Survey offices in approximately in 1964, my first job. At certain times (I believe on a Friday, once a month, the air raid siren would sound to make sure it still worked. It would make me jump each time.

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