Wartime memories add to Kenilworth’s unknown history

The Lawrence family, with Rita Reed as a baby with her mother, and Gladys Lawrence on the far left.
The Lawrence family, with Rita Reed as a baby with her mother, and Gladys Lawrence on the far left.

The lesser known story of Kenilworth’s wartime tragedy has been told after a grandmother shared her memories of bombing in Hyde Road 75 years ago.

Rita Reed was just three years old when bombs fell on Kenilworth on November 21 1940, flattening the Globe Hotel and killing up to 26 people.

Hyde Road, Kenilworth

Hyde Road, Kenilworth

But hers is a lesser-known story of devastation when on the night of the Coventry Blitz a week earlier, a stick of bombs was dropped on Hyde Road.

The impact of the blast meant Rita’s aunt, Gladys Lawrence, was killed instantly and her father shattered a hip after debris, bricks and glass were blasted into the house.

Historians have few details other than an account from resident Stan Kelsey who saw bombs drop from a German plane heading to Coventry.

Mrs Reed, a retired school teacher, said despite having scant memories, she wants to tell her family’s story.

I was about 10-years-old when I really became aware of everything that happened. It wasn’t spoken about, people were rebuilding their lives after the war. There is a lot I will never know.

Rita Reed

The grandmother of three explained that her family was one of many to escape Coventry due to heaving bombing.

Along with her parents, aunt and uncle and 10-year-old brother, Ralph, Rita moved in with her grandmother at 14 Hyde Road. They were joined by Gladys, a former neighbour who married her father’s brother, Clifford.

Some days later Rita was sleeping upstairs while her family gathered in the living room. Her mother and 27-year-old Gladys swapped chairs just minutes before an air raid siren went off and the bomb fell - leaving the young wife exposed to the fallout.

Mrs Reed said: “Once the bomb fell the front of the house was completely blown in and Gladys was struck. She was killed instantly. Mother was sat there just before the sirens started.

Abbey End

Abbey End

“My memories are of being bundled into the church rooms, and a woman thrusting a large white toy at me, I can see it as clear as day.

“I was about 10-years-old when I really became aware of everything that happened. It wasn’t spoken about, people were rebuilding their lives after the war. There is a lot I will never know.”

She was taken to St John’s first aid station while her parents went to hospital. Her father’s recovery took months and she said glass was working its way out of her grandmother’s forehead years later.

Mrs Reed stayed in Kenilworth until the age of 18 when she went to Oxford to train as a nurse. Her parents and brother stayed in the town for the rest of their lives.

Abbey End war memorial

Abbey End war memorial

Historian Robin Leach said until now Glady’s story had not been known. But Mrs Reed is now working with history groups to piece together details ahead of a town memorial service on November 21.