'Most bombed' village to remember night of horror
A village described in 1941 as being the "most bombed" in England is preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the night destruction rained from the sky.
Tuesday, November 19, 1940 – a date recorded as the Leicester Blitz – has lived long in the memories of residents in Kirby Muxloe.
They found themselves caught up in the devastation as streams of Luftwaffe bombers flew over the city.
At just after 8.20pm, a parachute bomb leveled the Free Church, in Main Street, while a second destroyed a house in Station Road.
During the next eight hours, another 24 smaller bombs fell in and around the village.
Although up to 400 properties were damaged in the blasts and many families were made homeless, there were, incredibly, no fatalities that night.
Colin Percy, who was 11 at the time and living with his mum and two brothers and two sisters in Station Road, remembers it well.
"I was at home, we were all there, when suddenly we heard a great big bang!" he said.
"We could hear the planes above and everyone went out into the garden.
"We were shocked. We didn't know what was happening."
"There was no school the next day and I remember walking up to the Free Church, picking up bits of shrapnel and green parachute cord as we went along the road."
Jan Timson, now 78, lived in Main Street as a seven-year-old.
She said: "My mother was ironing at our large, heavy kitchen table and I was sitting nearby.
"At the first explosion my mother shouted, 'get under the table'. She must have been very frightened."
Pam Cooper, 81, was 11 at the time and living in Desford Road.
She said: "I remember having a dance class at the Free Church Hall. It must have been just ten minutes before the bomb hit."
Pam said she was running upstairs at home when she heard "a huge crash".
"I looked out of the window and saw church go up," she said. "The force knocked me back on to the bed. I remember my mother saying, 'the swine!' It was strongest word she ever spoke."
Her husband, Peter Cooper, was 13 and living yards from the church in Main Street.
He said: "When the siren rang, my mum, sister and I went down to the bottom of the garden where my dad had built a shelter.
"Suddenly there was a massive crash and my dad and elder brother came running in telling us the conservatory roof had blown off.
"At the time, us kids thought it was all a bit of a big adventure."
Their memories and those of other eye-witnesses have been compiled in a new booklet to commemorate the bombing. It has been researched and written by Judith Upton, 63, of Kirby Muxloe History Group.
She said: "I came across an article from January 1941 in the national News Chronicle which described Kirby Muxloe as 'the most bombed village in England'.
"My idea was to write a short history of the bombing to mark the anniversary.
"So many people have come forward to speak to me about their memories and offer photographs and memorabilia from the time that I'm going to write an updated edition."
But one mystery remains. Why Kirby Muxloe?
"Many believe the enemy aircraft were off-loading bombs as they returned from a raid on Coventry," said Jan.
"Others think their target was Desford Airfield or the Reserve Flying Training School at Braunstone. My feeling is the bombs were meant for Leicester but were released prematurely by accident."
A total of 150 copies of the booklet – Kirby Muxloe – The Most Bombed Village in England – have been published. They will be available for sale and distributed to local schools and libraries.
Extracts will also be available on the Leicestershire Villages website at www.leicestershirevillages.com
See Friday's edition of the Mercury for the full story of the Leicester Blitz.