As the bombs fell down on Coventry on the night of November 14, 1940, news of the city’s destruction soon travelled far and wide.
That dreadful night of the Coventry Blitz felt like a living nightmare for many city residents, who saw their beloved homes razed to the ground.
But it was also a testing time for Coventrians that were living and working away from the city, as they struggled to make sense of what was happening from afar.
Stuart Green wrote in to let us know about the role played his late father, Alan Green, at the time of the Coventry Blitz in November 1940.
Alan Green was only 20 at the time of the German bombardment, and was undertaking his basic RAF officer training in Torquay before being sent to Canada for his airborne training as a navigator in Bomber Command.
After he heard the news, he detailed in a letter his desperate attempts to get in touch with his loved ones back home.
Stuart said: “On hearing the news of the bombing, my father wrote a couple of very emotive letters, expressing his outrage and also his frustration in being unable to find out accurate information about survivors and the damage inflicted.”
On the significance of the letters, Stuart said: “Letter one was written just after my father hears about the bombing of his home city and describes his anguish on hearing about the devastation to the city and our business but his relief on hearing that no Greens were on the casualty list. I get emotional reading this letters when you he was only 20, the age of my daughter, a student, just like her grandad.”
Writing to his family after the Coventry Blitz, Alan wrote: “It was a great relief to know you are alive anyway, even if other things have gone. Very few people will have anything left after this war, and if we manage to get away with our lives, we can consider ourselves lucky anyway.”
He went on: “On Friday night, I heard rumours about here that 1000 people had been killed in Coventry, and naturally disputed this, thinking it was absolutely impossible that there could be such a death toll.”
He added that he got “the shock of his life” when he saw it was true.
“As soon as I finished at 6:30 on Saturday, I tried to get through, but it was hopeless. On Sunday morning I spent two hours in a telephone box and got Coventry, but could not get in touch with you or Griffiths or anyone. I spent two more hours on Sunday night and still could not get through.”
He went on to describe his relief when he finally made contact with his family.
“At last, in desperation, on Monday night, I rang Coventry police station, but was asked why I wanted the police. I told them, and they said they would put me through to the enquiries department they had set up at the council house.
“I spoke to a Mr Grant, who knew Pa, and said that there were no Greens on the casualty list and that 60% of the casualties had not yet been identified. He said that he would try and find something out about you and get you to wire me.”
Aged just 20 years old, Alan reassured his family over letter as he planned to take emergency leave to come to Coventry and survey the damage and help rebuild the family business.
Later in the letter he wrote: “Tell Pa that if we get through all of this we can start again, and therefore not to worry himself to death about it all too much.”
He added: “If you are short of ready cash, sell my motorbike if it is still whole.”
He signed off: “I am hoping against hopes this will reach you.
“Keep smiling, your son, Alan.”
As part of his role in RAF Bomber Command, Alan went on to take part in some of the most crucial air battles of World War Two.
Stuart said: “After returning from Canada in 1941, he went on to complete 22 missions on Wellingtons and Stirlings and was shot down twice – the first time in May 1942 (in Stirling R9313) by the ill fated Turbinlite Havoc/Hurricane combination (the Stirling being their only success!) while second occurred in June 1942 when his Stirling W7530 was shot down over Holland by a German night fighter.
“Of the crew of eight, three were killed, the youngest was only 19, while the surviving five were taken prisoner.
“My father together with the second pilot, Des Plunkett, eventually ended in up in Stalag Luft 3, made famous by the “Wooden Horse” and the “Great Escape”. As you may be aware, Des Plunkett went on to have a significant role in the Great Escape.”
After serving in the war, Alan returned to Coventry to help run the family pharmacy business. His son Stuart said: “We had a number of shops in and around the city centre and a warehouse in Tile Hill at one point. The business was started by my grandfather during World War One, and he was an ARP in the city at the time of the bombing.”
Stuart Green was 12 when his father Alan, died in 1976, aged 56. Alan served with 218 Sqn on Wellingtons and Stirlings and flew more than 20 missions, including the first 1000 bomber raid and daylight attacks on the famous battleship Scharnhorst.
To sign up for our newsletter, delivered free to your inbox, click here.