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Viewing the Blitz from Birmingham, by Mavis Monk


At the time of Coventry's Blitz, Mavis Monk (nee Onley) lived in Sheldon - just on the Birmingham side of what is now the International Airport. Although some miles away from our city, Mavis lived on a hill and by day could see the three spires of Coventry. She would like to share with us the memories she has of that fateful night, Thursday the 14th November 1940, as there will not be too many people left who actually remember this event first hand.


That night we could see those spires against the flames and billowing smoke, the bombers caught in searchlights and at one stage the tracers from the spitfires attacking the bombers. I was only seven years old at the time but those scenes are still very vivid; I can close my eyes and still see it happening, even feel the apprehension.

My mother's sister lived in Grayswood Avenue, so next morning we set of to see if she was alright. At Stonebridge the road was closed. My father told the policeman on duty where we were going and why. The policeman asked if we knew the back lanes through Four Oaks and Berkswell. Dad acknowledged that we did, so he was told "off you go, if you are stopped tell them I let you through."

Service in the ruined cathedral 27th April 1941 Provost R. T. Howard holds a service in the ruins of the cathedral, 27th April 1941. Just over two weeks earlier Coventry had suffered two extremely heavy raids, which between them killed almost as many people as the "big raid" itself. Fortunately, these were to prove the last of the heavy raids on our war-torn city, and thankfully very few citizens were to perish in the few remaining air-raids of the war.

We arrived to find my Aunt had had a baby during the blitz! In June 1941 my mother was taken to hospital and I was sent Grayswood Avenue to live for six months. Each weekend my uncle took my older cousin and me to climb the Cathedral Tower - the sixpence it cost him was his donation to the rebuilding fund - I have seen the new Cathederal several times.

I have lived in Australia now for forty five years. The last time I was in Coventry was in 2002 and I still have soft spot for the Old Cathedral. I think perhaps the Hall in the grounds was built by an ancester of mine, also there were two Onley mayors in the 1300s and 1400s.


 
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