The above picture is a Ju 88. The source of the picture is unknown.
Despite a large Army presence Warminster was never a target of the Luftwaffe. However that does not mean that bombs never fell near the town. On several occasions German bombers, trying to escape RAF night fighters, jettisoned their bombs in an attempt to escape, narrowly missing the town.
This is the story of one such jettisoned bomb load that caused damage to Shepherd’s Cottage.
Warminster Journal, 19th May 1944
Transcript of original newspaper report
Terrific Effect of Bomb Blast
Plate Glass Windows Broken in Market Town
During enemy action over the South of England early on Monday morning, several tradesmen and residents of a well known Market town suffered damage from the blast of a bomb which dropped in a field. Concentrations of searchlights lit the sky and in the distance could be seen the flak from the barrage at seaside towns.
A flare was seen in a northerly direction and shortly afterwards there was a "blinding" flash followed almost simultaneously by an explosion which shook many of the houses.
A farm building and the residence of a well known horticulturist suffered the worst damage. Windows were blown out and ceilings at the farm house failed to stand up to the blast, Fortunately there were no casualties but four cows were killed and some injured.
A number of private dwellings also felt the effect of the explosion and numerous reports have been made of broken windows and cracked ceilings, The most remarkable incident was probably the shattering of the whole window of a multiple store. Other tradesmen also found their glass, broken in the shop windows. Civil defence personnel and fire guards were promptly on duty. There was however, no incident to deal with and business was carried on as usual.
This small incident only goes to show that it is always well to be prepared and people who have taken advantage of the Government's free issue of shelters should use them.
The Luftwaffe lost 15 aircraft in their two-wave scattered attacks, which was officially announced as having been directed on coastal districts in South and South West England. There was a small number of people killed in isolated districts but the weight of bombs did not seem to be proportionate to the number of raiders. The object of the attack appeared to be to obtain information as to possible concentrations along the coast. According to Berlin, Bristol was the main target for attack.
On the night of 15th May 1944 incendiary bombs were dropped at Boreham crossroads and a bomb or land mine dropped at nearby Henford Marsh. My grandfather was on fire-watch duty on the roof of the Town Hall at the time and reported events as he witnessed them, but was not permitted to leave his post.
It seems a German aircraft was being chased by night fighters and, in an attempt to escape, the pilot jettisoned his bomb load over the Henford Marsh area. The bomb blast blew down a power line and then travelled along the valley towards Warminster, eventually hitting shops facing the junction of Weymouth Street and Market Place. Blast travelling in another direction hit Shepherd's Cottage and broke the windows facing in the direction of the bomb.
The shepherd lived on his own at the time and the Home Guard sent a patrol to see if he was alright. Two of the guards found him still asleep in bed. As ceiling plaster had fallen on him they thought they should check to see if he had any wounds. When he woke he asked them what they had done to his home and it took a while to convince him that the German's had dropped a bomb nearby. In a recent email I was told that thatch on the roof and the walls at Shepherd’s Cottage was damaged by the bomb blast. Perhaps this explains the state of the roof as seen in some of the photographs on this web site.
Exactly where the bomb struck I do not know, but my mother told me it landed near the “big river” (river Wylye) close to the point where her brothers used to go swimming.
14/15 May 1944
The following information was gathered from John Penny’s Luftwaffe over the Bristol Area web pages:
On the night of the 14th of May a force of 91 bombers took off from several bases in France in order to attack Bristol harbour. The raiders flew to Guernsey where they converged, and then continued direct to Bristol. Of the 91 bombers that started out, 68 claimed to have attacked Bristol between 01.50am and 02.25am on the morning of the 15th. A further 15 aircraft attacked fighter airfields in the Bristol area. The attack force lost a total of 15 aircraft, of which one crashed at St Hellier, Jersey due to engine failure en-route to Bristol. Of the remaining 14 lost aircraft, 4 were shot down and crashed in England, 1 was shot down over the sea south of Torquay, 1 crashed on it’s return to base in France and 1 crashed in the sea off Guernsey. The remaining 7 never reached France and were presumably lost at sea.
The bomber force that attacked Bristol consisted of Junkers 88’s, it’s derivative the Junkers 188, Dornier 217’s and Heinkel 177’s. The aircraft attacking the fighter bases were Messerschmitt 410 fighter bombers. The RAF night fighter force included Mosquitos and Beaufighters. Which aircraft types were involved in the conflict over Henford Marsh I have no way of knowing. Nor can I say if the German bomber was amongst those lost on the raid or if it was successful in it’s bid to escape the night fighters.
This seems to have been the last bomber raid on Bristol as the Luftwaffe then concentrated it’s attacks on south coast ports where the D-Day invasion forces were being prepared. After D-Day the Luftwaffe had more immediate concerns, being fully occupied fighting the Allied forces in France.
For more detailed information on this and other raids on Bristol go to Luftwaffe over the Bristol Area.
BBC WW2 People’s War:
The Luftwaffe over Bristol: