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Parnall @ 80

27 February and 7 March 2021 mark the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Parnall Aircraft Ltd, Yate; undoubtedly the most traumatic event in the history of the parish. Fifty-five men and women died during two bombing raids on Yate’s aircraft factory while another 170 sustained injuries.

Aircraft had been made and repaired on the Station Road site since 1917, with a brief hiatus in the early 1920s. Since 1935, Parnall Aircraft Ltd had been mass producing the critical Frazer-Nash hydraulic gun turret. Newman Motors had moved onto the eastern section of the aircraft site in 1932 and moved some of its production to making bombshells. Along with its busy railway to and from Bristol, Yate was a prime bombing target. In 1939, the Luftwaffe made aircraft reconnaissance sorties to Yate to record their future targets.

Before the fateful day of 27 February 1941 there had already been a total of 19 bomber sorties flown against the plant

between 1 August 1940 and 22 February 1941. All had either failed to locate their objective, aborted their missions, or were brought down by the local air defences. The Newman’s site by contrast had already sustained some physical bomb damage.

On the afternoon of 27 February 1941, the situation changed dramatically when a lone raider finally reached Yate and

released six delayed action bombs over the works. The effect was catastrophic, for not only were 52 workers killed and 150 others injured, but considerable damage was also caused to the factory and drawing office.

Amazingly, the same crew returned on the afternoon 7 March and, although only three workers were killed and twenty

injured, such was the additional damage inflicted that production came to a complete standstill. Nevertheless, the Yate factory was rebuilt and in 1944 was back in full production with 3500 employees.

The parish was determined to remember and honour the casualties of the Parnall bombing raids after 1945. The Parnall memorial was created in 1950 and every year on Remembrance Sunday a small service is conducted by the memorial to mark the loss of the 55 men and women including 3 unidentified people. It is a rare example of a memorial to civilian casualties in wartime.


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