Oldham Historical Research Group

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OUR MEMORIES & STORIES

Memories of Clarksfield and the Christmas 1944 bombing

This memory is from Ray Oliver, who also sent us the story of his Gt. Uncle James Green, who lived in Clarksfield and who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW1. Ray started the story by telling us that,

"James Green was my Great Uncle and, as a small boy in the 1940s and on into my teenage years I regularly had contact with Uncle Jim when he visited his older brother Joseph who was my maternal grandfather. If I recall correctly, he lived within walking distance of Eric St when he visited his brother Joseph in the late '40s arriving at the same time every Wednesday evening.

Both men were not given to idle chatter but they clearly derived much brotherly companionship while seated on each side of the coal fire burning in the old fashioned black iron fireplace in Eric Street, Clarksfield. I knew that my grandfather did not serve in WW1 as he was married and in his late 30s in 1914 but I was quite unaware at the time that his unmarried brother James had served in the army during the conflict."

Ray went on to tell us that,

"I can clearly remember the address of my maternal grandparents (Joseph and Martha Ann Green) in Clarksfield, it was 52 Eric Street. I was staying there when the V1 fell on Abbeyhills Rd, Glodwick at Christmas 1944 with devastating results and still have a vivid memory of the flash/bang while we sheltered under the stairs. Granddad Green (brother of James) took me to see the damage a few days later.

I was born in Greenacres Maternity Home on the 25th June 1938. My earliest recollections are of our home in Repton Ave, Hollins where we were not immune to the WW2 Luftwaffe bombs intended for the Avro factory in Chadderton, some landing nearby in farmer Horrocks' fields. Our air raid shelter was at the junction of Repton and Lyndhurst, it was close to home but not close enough as I sustained blast injuries while being transported there in my push-chair leaving me totally deaf in my right ear for life."

And, further to that, Ray goes on ...

" Having experienced it as a child I have retained an interest in WW2 history, particularly the scientific/technical aspects of the conflict. This included curiosity about the Abbeyhills V1 and how it came to impact about 1000 metres from where I was in Eric St. Oldham.

From that excellent book 'Most Secret War' by Prof. R V Jones I found that the range of a V1 was not sufficient to reach Oldham or indeed the NW of England from the fixed launching sites in France. By Christmas 1944 the allied forces had advanced into Europe and already overrun or destroyed the launching sites used to bombard London. Hitler's last throw with the V1 and V2 "terror" weapons was to mount V1s on Luftwaffe bombers and launch them at the North of England from above the North Sea and hence the arrival of one over Oldham.

The V2 rockets were too heavy for this method of launching. Both V1 and V2 weapons were, from and engineering point of view, remarkable for their time, both carried about 1 tonne of high explosive but had very different means of propulsion. V1s were propelled by a device called an Argus Tube which was fuelled by petrol with a range of just over 100 miles and sounded a little like a single cylinder motorcycle engine. As long as you could hear the 'pop pop' you were safe but if it went silent the bomb was heading your way, the RAF developed techniques for shooting them down and special shells with proximity fuses destroyed some in flight. V2s were pure rocket science and there was no defence, they arrived undetected faster than sound and the damage was caused by both the tonne of explosive and the rocket's kinetic energy.

What is technically remarkable about these two weapons is the V1 was the first cruise missile and the V2 was the start of the ballistic missile development and provided the means for the peaceful exploration of space."

Contributed by Ray Oliver

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