12 January 2017
Resident shares her experience of saving Canton Library from a bomb in WW2
Edith Spackman, 93, who lives at Regency House, our care home in Cardiff, South Wales has shared her experience of saving Canton Library from a bomb in WW2.
I started working in Canton Library in Cardiff when I was just sixteen years old. When I applied for the Library Assistant job, they took three people straight away and five went on a waiting list. I was really upset when I was one of the five, but after two short months I got the job! During the war we were always worried about bombs coming down and would have to take extra care walking to and from work. About a year after I had started working in the library, during the Cardiff Blitz in 1941, one of the air raid sirens went off and we had to evacuate everyone from the library. In times such as this, customers would leave but the staff would stay until the library was ready to be re-opened to the public.
I was doing some filing in the back room when an incendiary bomb was dropped through the roof and landed on the filing cabinet. I was in shock, but I can’t say I was scared really as at this point I was used to the raids. The incendiary bombs spat out chemicals designed to start a fire, so my first instinct was to put it out and save myself and the library. I grabbed a bucket from the store room, filled it with water and used the foot pump to squirt water onto the bomb. The library’s caretaker came running to help me and brought a bag full of sand, which he poured over it and the flames soon went out.
Once the fire was completely out and the library’s closing time had passed, I left and walked home to Ely, just as I did every evening. There were a lot of bombs going off that night, especially around the docks and Canton High School had been reduced to a shell.
When I got home, I noticed that there were lots of little holes in my dress, but at the time I didn’t think anything of it. The next morning, I got up for work and got dressed, only to see that I was covered in little red dots. I thought I had chicken pox, so I went straight to the doctors on my way to work to get some cream to sooth it and it turned out they were burns from the chemicals. From the doctors I went straight to work but I was so worried about being late, we didn’t have telephones in those days, so they may have thought I wasn’t coming in. I loved my job working at the library and I didn’t want anything to jeopardise it.
Despite the bombing the library was open as usual the next day. I used the cream the doctor gave me and the burns healed in just a week. I worked in the library until I was called upon to repair aeroplane engines in the war, but I soon returned to the library once the war had finished.
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