October 31st 1940 – The Luftwaffe Comes to Stamford
Today St Leonard’s Street is a quiet part of the town, far enough away from the High Street and Wharf Road to get little or no traffic, other than motorists trying to find a parking space.
However, on Thursday October 31st 1940 the War came to this area when a large bomb which was reported at the time to have weighed close to a ton fell on Cornstall Buildings. A low flying lone German plane, possible a Heinkel 111, dropped a bomb which took off the roofs and chimney stacks of No 2 and 3 Cornstall Buildings before passing through No 17 Cornstall Buildings and demolishing a coal shed at the rear of the property. One side of the house had gone and there was a hole above the front door where the bomb had hit the building. Luckily the bomb did not explode.
The occupier of No 17, Mrs Elsie Griffiths and her daughter Doreen had a very lucky escape as although in the house at the time sitting on the sofa, it was however reported that if they had been standing they would not have been so lucky.
Immediately the emergency services were on hand to clear the area., which stretched from Maiden Lane to Brazenose Lane, and from St Paul’s Street to Wharf Road. Stamford School could only be accessed from Elm Street.
The plane had come from the general direction of Wothorpe, spraying bullets over the Town before dropping the bomb. It was suggested at the time that the pilot had been aiming for the gas works which was only a hundred yards away on Wharf Road.
The Town Council erected market stalls on Ironmonger Street so that those shopkeepers who had had to close their shops could continue trading, allowing their ‘registered customers’ to buy their rations.
People evacuated from their houses found refuge in relatives and friends house across the town and others were found accommodation, bedding and food was provided from reserve stores held at the Fane School. Payments were made to householders under the Government Evacuation Scheme and those who had left their ration cards in their homes were issued with emergency ones from the Town Hall, and supplies of second-hand clothing was made available to those in need.
The local bomb disposal team at the time was based in Ketton and they began the job of making the bomb safe. It was found to have a ninety-six-hour fuse which could have resulted by the Monday of destroying a large area at the eastern end of the town. Luckily for everyone it was defused on the Sunday and people were then allowed to return to their homes.