On 18th November 1940, Blandford was bombed by
German aircraft when an estimated 100 explosive devices were dropped on the
town and its outskirts. Yet Blandford was not an obvious enemy target with
Portland’s naval dockyard, Yeovil’s Westland aircraft factory or the newly reopened
army base at Blandford Camp being more obvious targets. So why did the German
air force decide to bomb Blandford?
At the time the River Stour was in flood, so many of the
explosive devices just fell into the water. However, an incendiary device did
land on the roof of the Crown Hotel setting it alight. Thanks to prompt action
by the town’s fire brigade, led by Captain C M Timbrell, the fire was quickly
brought under control. Despite much charring to the beams, the fire fighters
were able to confine damage to the hotel roof. After the raid, the brigade’s
efforts were acknowledged by the hotel’s management in a letter enclosing a £10
cheque. It was decided, following the raid, to supplement the brigade’s water
supply by drawing water from the River Stour. During the autumn of 1940, the
German army had planned to invade the south of England with landings in Lyme
Bay. Had these landings taken place, Blandford would have played a key role in
trying to hold back the enemy’s advance. The town’s recently installed
anti-tank defences could have been the target of the 18th November
1940 air raid.
No mention was made of the Blandford air raid in the
subsequent November 1940 edition of local newspaper, the Western Gazette. It
was not until 1944, when the threat of invasion had receded, that the newspaper
reported the bombing of Blandford. On 1st December 1944, the Western
Gazette reported that between 1940 & 1944 120 high explosive bombs and some
310 incendiary devices had been dropped in the Blandford district. During this
period the newspaper reported four people were killed and five wounded. The
fatalities were at Spetisbury, Charlton Marshall and two in Tarrant Gunville.
The five injured included two German airmen.
They had survived the crashing of their Dornier aircraft which had flown
from Cherbourg on a reconnaissance flight. Royal Air Force Hurricanes from
Middle Wallop had shot the enemy aircraft down and the crew had to crash land
at Nutford Farm on 21st July 1940 just north of the town.
the time, it was considered inadvisable to publish the details of the damage
caused by air raids. In February 1943, a lone German aircraft dropped some
bombs on Blandford Camp. Sadly, Brigadier H S Woodhouse who was also Joint
Managing Director of Hall & Woodhouse was killed during the raid.