Between the 19th and 21st of February 1941, Swansea endured three consecutive nights of air raids. The heavy and sustained bombings of town were carried out with the intentions of destroying the local port, docks and oil refinery. These areas were targeted for bombing due to the parts they played in fuelling the Allied war effort.
The raids reduced much of the town centre to rubble and destroyed many homes and residential areas, leaving many families and households displaced. An eye witness later recalled the devastation caused by raids, saying: “The centre of the town was completely devastated. No buildings were left entirely and it was something you had seen only on films before – but it was complete. No buildings were standing all you could see was rubble all over the place.”
During the bombardment, police officers from Swansea and the surrounding areas acted quickly to protect the townspeople. They guarded premises which had been bombed to prevent looting and enforced restrictions on access to the town centre, where the ruins of so many buildings were dangerous.
The raids, which undoubtedly presented the Swansea force with its greatest ever challenge, would claim the lives of over 200 people. One of the lives lost during the bombardment was that of police sergeant William Flitter, who was killed on police duty when an explosive bomb fell over Orchard Street.
In the aftermath of the Blitz, several officers of Swansea Borough were commended for their actions, including Police Chief Frank Joseph May, who was awarded an OBE for his role in the response to the bombardment. Another officer recognised for his gallantry was PC Francis Dart, who received the British Empire Medal for his part in rescuing people from bombed buildings.
This week, Superintendent Steve Jones of Swansea, Neath Port Talbot reflected on the Three Night Blitz, saying: “It is hard to imagine the devastating effects that this event had 80 years ago when looking at Swansea today and it is important that we reflect and remember those was tragically lost their lives including our colleague police sergeant William Flitter.
“It’s very humbling that some of our colleagues were recognised for courageously putting themselves in harm’s way to protect their communities and we remain thankful for their actions during those dark days for the city.”
The West Glamorgan Archive Service have created a number of online exhibitions and features about the Swansea Blitz.
For more information, visit their pages on the Swansea Council Website.