During the night of 8th / 9th May 1941 the Vale of Belvoir suffered a bombardment of major proportions. Some believe this was a failed attack on the cities of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, if this was so then perhaps many lives were saved.
Below is a contemporary report by the A.R.P. Warden for Bottesford.
GROUP WARDEN'S REPORT ON AIR RAID DAMAGE
GROUP No.2 (MELTON MOWBRAY)
An intense bombing attack developed over the area comprising Bottesford, Normanton, Muston, Easthopre, Redmile, Barkestone and Plungar on the night of 8/9th May 1941. The attack commenced shortly after mid-night when bombs were heard in the middle distance. Soon after 00.30 hrs. an arc of exhaust smoke extended from distant south over the villages to distant north.
There quickly followed the light of an incendiary bomb to the S.W. of Bottesford, apparently not far away from the village. All Wardens, Messengers, First Aid and Fire Brigade services on duty were requested to remain doubly alert as developments were intensifying in the surrounding distance.
At approx. 00.45 hrs. a blaze of incendiary light was observed in the direction of Barkestone. Contact was immediately made with Barkestone Post Office (acting as Barkestone Wardens). It was reported from there that large number of incendiaries had fallen between Barkestone village and Belvoir Woods. These were promptly dealt with. H.E. bombs then began to fall. A second fall of incendiaries out at Plungar shortly afterward burst into full light, followed quickly by a similar outbreak on the north side of Bottesford near Three Arches Railway Bridge.
From that time on for nearly an hour, H.E. bomb explosions were almost continuous in all quarters of the compass, around Bottesford.
Aircraft were continually over-head, streaks of exhaust smoke caused patterns in the sky like huge nets. An extensive red glow in the west spread to large proportions. Overhead activity seemed to increase, suggesting that enemy aircraft attempting to get through to the distant fire were meeting opposition.
From that point bombs crashed in all directions. Frequent contacts were made with Barkestone, Redmile and all Bottesford points. Personal contact with Wardens at Normanton produced report Public Works party had had works under observation as well as the wardens and that there was no damage to report.
The first damage report came from Bottesford West signal box that near-by railway line had been damaged. Following quickly came the report of bombs and of an un-exploded bomb in Barkestone village. This was immediately followed by a report that the Bottesford-Harby main road was blocked between Redmile Cross Roads and Barkestone Cross Roads. Preliminary reports to Melton Report Centre were made. Contact with Sargt. Bestwick was made and an arrangement to meet at Plungar where another un-exploded bomb had been reported, was made. Supt. Stapleton, Sargt. Bestwick, Mr Littlejohn (Road and Bridges) and Mr Hesford (R.D.C.) met us first at the blocked part on the Bottesford/Harby road. Red lights were affixed by Mr Littlejohn and steps were taken to man road at diversion points.
At Barkestone Village several craters and an un-exploded bomb crater were inspected. Local house-holders were warned and advised to remain on side of house farthest from bomb.
At Plungar more craters were visited. An unexploded bomb near Council Houses rendered it necessary to advise temporary evacuation to Village Institute. Exploded bomb craters in fields within a few yards of Council Houses caused no damage to life or to house property.
A railway employee reported at Plungar that the Railway Line was damaged near Granby Road bridge, and that steps had been taken to close the line to traffic. Inspection confirmed the damage. Several additional H.E. craters were in the field near railway.
As dawn broke, we were able to see scores of H.E. craters and traces of hundreds of burnt out incendiaries. At Redmile, bomb craters were also scattered in fields surrounding the village. Several windows in Redmile village including two shops and Methodist Church were damaged.
An unexploded bomb in unfrequented open country at Muston exploded on the morning of 10th May, and one at Plungar during the night.
In spite of this terrific bombardment I am pleased to be able to report that no casualties and no serious damage to property resulted in this Group.
GROUP No.2 (MELTON DIVISION), PREVIOUS REPORT 10TH MAY
A final survey of the places damaged during the Air Raid on 8-9 May 1941, shows that the main attack in this County covered an oblong area approx. 7 miles long by 3 miles wide. This included all the villages and hamlets from Normanton (Bottesford) to Plungar. The contiguous county west of this line shows results of equal activity - a point mentioned to show the scale of attack.
Among the articles recovered were several incendiary bomb carrying rods, Fig.1 in handbook "Objects dropped from the air". These have been deposited at the police station. The survey reveals an extensive use of incendiary bombs. In addition to ordinary H.E. bombs, there were about 12 U.X.B. Roads at Barkestone and Plungar have been closed, military guards posted, and notices placed on gates etc.; in addition to evacuations mentioned in my previous report.
Before ending this report I should like to pay a tribute to the work of the Wardens and Messengers in the villages. These kept up constant patrols and observation duties throughout the period of attack. Frequently pieces of shrapnel and the whine of falling bombs caused Wardens to 'hug the road' but nowhere was there the slightest sign of fear or unsteadiness. Having regard to the small establishment and the magnitude of the incident, the situation was splendidly dealt with, and evidences were that had the damage been more personal to life and property the same coolness would, I am sure, have been shown. As it was the general public seemed greatly heartened by the knowledge that Wardens were near at hand.
The following is an approx. summary of exploded bombs:-
A. E. Silverwood
The above account is transcribed from a contemporary report, a facsimile being reproduced in "Birds Eye Wartime - Leicestershire 1939-1945" by Terence C. Cartwright. The author adds.
"Later counts of craters and U.X.B's brought this figure (171) nearer 250. One U.X.B which fell in the canal near Redmile could not be removed due to being well below the water table, in silt"