2nd World War the Good Friday Raid - Redcliffe Boys' School Bombed
Photograph : Anon (Alan Gray collection)

During the 2nd World War Bristol was quite devastated by bombing. The worst raid to hit Redcliffe was the Good Friday Raid (11 April 1941)- 153 German planes dropped 193 tons of high explosives and 36,888 incendiaries; five bombers were shot down and 180 people killed.

One of the bombs fell in the playground of St. Marry Redcliffe School and the photograph shows the teachers standing around the bomb crater in the school playground that was directly above the caves. The PT hall and woodwork building were damaged.


Betty Morris – aged 11 when the bomb fell in the School Playground.

Our family was bombed out of Orchard Square, Redcliffe, in October 1940 and moved, for 18 weeks, into the skittle alley in the old Parish Hall in Guinea Street; we slept on straw mattresses. During the air raids Betty sheltered in the cellars below Redcliffe Boys School. Late in the evening of Friday 11th April 1941 there was a large air raid. One of the incendiary bombs hit Mullets Garage behind the Lead Shot Tower and caught it on fire. The flames were reflected in the window of the school and the Fire Warden evacuated the shelter because it was though that the school was on fire and we were being moved to surface shelters in the school playground. White crossing the playground a bomb fell on the school’s Mervyn King Gym that had only just been built and had never been used. There was a massive explosion and the blast scattered the people who were heading towards the shelter.

A gentleman who was crossing the playground with Betty heard the whistling of the bomb falling and he threw Betty to the ground and fell on top of her to protect her. Unfortunately onto broken grass and Betty’s leg was cut and she still bears the scar today. She was the only one injured. Her brother, Ray, was also crossing the playground when he was thrown to the ground by the blast and lost his brand new school cap which he treasured.

The blast destroyed the front half of the gym and a week or so later when the gym was being made safe the school cap was found sitting on top of the chimney completely undamaged.

Mr Francis Gillett – left the school in 1944.

Notes relating to the photograph of the bomb crater – the Woodwork building is to the left, with a store room next to it. On the right hand side is the Gym and the Assembly Hall. Mr Friar was the Headmaster (4th from right) and also in the photograph is Lady Mrs Florence Brown (?) a councillor who later became Lord Mayor. The teacher (3rd from the right) was called Reece.

You got the cane if you were caught climbing over the wooden picket fence, that surrounded the bomb crater, to get your ball back.

Francis went into Redcliffe Caves in 1942 and there were steel cot beds stored in there that could have possibly been emergency war supplies.

When the group eventually got into the shelter there were moans and groans coming from the rear and before the raid was finished a dear lady produced a baby boy.

From the Godmother of Tom Bush

She thinks from what she can see that her father, Mr Cox, is the man on the far left. He was acting headmaster at the time. She remembers the occasion when the bomb fell and a meeting was called the following day of the management committee of the school. The vicar is in the centre of the picture and the rather tall gentleman was one of the church wardens. The lone woman was possibly either the vicar's wife or that of the church warden.

From Pat Sims

I can confirm the caves were used for this purpose by local residents. I was a very young baby at the time so have no personal memory of spending time there but I grew up knowing that the caves were used as shelters. The stories coming from family members who used them. Our family home was in Somerset Square it took a direct hit on Good Friday 1941 . In that raid my Aunt's husband and 2 children sadly died as they were in the house at the time.

When the sirens sounded my father who was on fire watch would make sure people went to the caves. He always remembered an elderly lady who kept an off licience or pub either on Redcliffe Hill , Colston Parade or there about and often gave the fire watchers a pint of beer, which at least with my Dad was much appreciated. Apparently this elderly lady didn't take kindly to the suggestion she should join the others in the caves. I never knew her name or that of the pub.

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