Bombing of St Andrews - a letter from Henry Bothamley


Clifton Vicarage, Bristol 8. 4th December 1940


My Dear Delmar,

On Sunday night Nov. 24th Bristol suffered a very severe and concentrated attack and as one of the results the Parish Church and Clifton National School (educating 450 children) were completely gutted. When the raid started we had 250 people in Church at Evensong and the Bishop had just started his sermon. We got them all down into the Crypt and after getting community hymn singing started, I made an adventurous journey over to the Vicarage in order to see how my mother and sister were faring. The Bishop in the meantime most kindly consented to lead the community singing.

As soon as there was a comparative lull I once more returned to St Andrews only to be greeted by the news that incendiary bombs had struck the church. Already many willing hands were feverishly removing what was possible from the building. We made lightening dashes up the aisles laying hold on what we could until the centre roof fell in in flames. The police then ordered us out as it was considered a dangerous structure. What we had salvaged had been stored in the S.W. porch by the Tower, which we trusted would stand, even though the main portion of the building was doomed. Our feelings can better be imagined than expressed when we saw all that we had saved licked up by the flames. We had previously brought away with us what hands could carry and we had saved 2 Brass Crosses, the Baptismal Ewer, I Alms Dish, I Brass Vase and the Union Jack. Mercifully the Church safes, beyond being seared and scorched, withstood the flames and our Communion plate and registers are safe.

As we have printed in notices placed on our Church railings “Our Church has been destroyed but ‘the Church’ remains”. Daily Services are now taking place in the Vicarage Room and the Sunday Services in Berkley Place Hall.

On Monday night this week, we had another intense raid and a number of heavy high explosive bombs fell in the Parish, one of them only 20 yards from the Vicarage. It is miraculous that the house still stands and apart from broken windows, doors forced open and large holes in the roof, we have escaped more serious hurt. One thing for which we have to be profoundly thankful is that despite the widespread damage the casualties are comparatively few.

We had another raid on Friday but mercifully not so uncomfortably near. Mother and Alice are marvellous. I want them to go to a quieter spot but they won’t leave me.

Love from us all to you and Josephine.

Yours affectionately,