On the 74th anniversary of the Coventry Blitz, the Royal Air Force Air Cadets of 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron had a visit from Mary Steele who gave her personal in-depth account of what was one of the most devastating air-raids of the war.
Mary Steele a member of the War Widows Association also has a link to the Squadron through her great-grandson, Cadet Cameron Steele which made her talk to the cadets even more relevant.
Mary gave her account of the raid that began on the evening of 14 November 1940, the most severe to hit Coventry during the war. She explained haw in one night, more than 4,300 homes in Coventry were destroyed and around two-thirds of the city's buildings were damaged. The raid was heavily concentrated on the city centre, most of which was destroyed including the Cathedral. Approximately one third of the city's factories were completely destroyed or severely damaged, another third were badly damaged. However the effects on war production were only temporary, as much essential war production had already been moved to 'shadow factories' on the city outskirts. Also, many of the damaged factories were quickly repaired and had recovered to full production within a few months.
Mary described the scene of total devastation that faced the people of Coventry as they emerged from the shelters that had protected them during the raid and the problems faced by those who found themselves without gas, electricity, water and the many who had lost their homes completely. Even worse the realisation that family and friends had been lost during the raid. However, as with many war stories, Mary also recalled some of the more memorable and one could say amusing moments such as the time when her family found themselves in their Anderson Shelter waist deep in water.
Possibly the most inspiring part of Mary’s talk was centred around the way in which the people of Coventry picked themselves up and in the face of adversary and helped each other to bring the city back to life.