Reading – Air Raid of 10 February 1943

Reading was mostly free from air raids during the Second World War, with one tragic exception which is marked by this plaque next to St. Laurence’s Church, when 41 people were killed on 10 February 1943.

The plaque is located in the gap visible in the centre of the photo between the church and the house and there’s a lot more about the events of the day at the website of Reading Museum as well as an interview with the late Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear.

This isn’t a particularly clear image, but it shows the damage in front of the church and is what was used in the Reading Standard to report the incident. It’s actually a little odd, as the Reading Standard must have been operating with some censorship limitations as they had to explain that the bomb had hit a “Home Counties town”, but I think it’s fair to say that most people reading the Reading Standard would be aware which town it was, but perhaps they wanted that a secret kept from the Germans. Focusing on the positives in terms of the swift return to normal, the newspaper reported, still not naming the town:

“A number of people were killed and injured in a hit and run enemy raid on a Home Counties town, with several men and women still unidentified. The raid was soon over. One of the bombs fell in front of a church, partially wrecking it and adjacent office buildings. A police constable on street duty nearby was killed outright. Other victims included people who had rushed into the church when the enemy raider came over”.

Part of the damaged church, from the main tower, which is now in the churchyard. This could have easily been destroyed or ended up being flogged off to a private collector, I like the foresight that someone had in securing it at the rear of the church.

The plaque is just visible towards the left of this photo, an understated reminder of the tragedy that happened on that day. The German planes had tracked the railway line and had already attacked Newbury, with the bombing of Reading likely a failed attempt to hit the town’s railway station.