Reading Remembers the People’s Pantry Bombing 75 Years On

Bomb damage 1943
Bomb damage in Town Hall Square 1943 @copyright Reading Museum/Reading Council

READING is marking the 75th anniversary of the People’s Pantry Bombing during the Second World War, where 41 people lost their lives and many were injured.

On Saturday 10th February, the Mayor of Reading, Cllr Rose Williams, will lead a short ceremony and lay a wreath to remember the people who lost their lives when a lone German plane dropped four 500 kg bombs in Reading town centre on 10th  February 1943.

The ceremony will take place at 3.30 pm, by the commemorative plaque on Town Hall Square.

All are welcome to attend. This plaque was unveiled five years ago, as part of the 70th Anniversary commemorations of the bombing which killed 41 people and injured 150 others.

PIC BY STEWART TURKINGTONwww.stphotos.co.uk
Commemorative plaque

The devastation could have been a lot worse had it not been for the fact it was half day closing and many shops were empty. Many of those killed had been in The People’s Pantry, a restaurant just opposite the Town Hall.

Before the ceremony and wreath-laying, local historian Mike Cooper will lead an illustrated talk ‘Early Closing Day – The Day Reading was Bombed’ at Reading Museum at 2 pm.  He will look at the events of the raid – which severely damaged the Town Hall amongst other buildings in the Abbey Quarter – and describe how Reading was prepared to meet the threat of bombing in the Second World War.

Tickets for the talk, which is part of the Reading Abbey lecture series, are £5, from Reading Museum. Find out more at www.readingmuseum.org.uk/museum/whats-on

Mayor of Reading, Cllr Rose Williams, said: “It is important we mark this anniversary to remember the people of Reading who lost their lives on that fateful day in 1943. I’m sure their families appreciate this mark of respect. There must be many local people who remember that dreadful day and we welcome them, and their families, to come and join us.”

ENDS       

Notes for Editors:

The bombs fell in a line from the north bank of the Kennet to just outside the Town Hall.

The first bomb hit Simmonds Brewery and exploded leaving a 25 ft crater near a paint store. The second passed through the offices of the Labour Party on the south side of Minster Street before exploding in the restaurant of Welsteeds department store across the road.

Falling a few moments later the aircraft’s third bomb collapsed part of the Victorian arcade linking Broad St and Friar St before exploding in a yard outside the People’s Pantry in Friar St, one of the town’s ‘British Restaurants’ set up as Emergency Feeding Centres and to offer cheap meals to help supplement rationed food.

Paddington Bear author Michael Bond, was installing a radio transmitter on top of the People’s Pantry at the time.

The final bomb passed through the top of the People’s Pantry building and detonated a few feet from the south tower of the town hall, bringing down the front of Blandy and Blandy’s solicitors, damaging St Laurence’s Church and severely damaging the Town Hall itself, which was the control centre for Civil Defence in the town.

As the bomber flew off the crew machine gunned the town, injuring a woman in Hemdean Road, Caversham and damaging a school.

Tragically, only 37 of those among the dead and injured were identified, the youngest being two 10-year-old children.

Find out more by reading The Day Reading was Bombed Blog – by Mike Cooper on Reading Museum’s Blog Pages www.readingmuseum.org.uk/blog

Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email victoria.nickless@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 3957