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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Amazing Find Relating To The 1940 Pembroke Dock Bombing Raid

At 3:15pm on Monday the 19 August 1940, a group of 3 German Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 bombers, accompanied by 2 Messerchmitt ME109 fighters flew over the Oil Tank Farm south of Llanreath, Pembroke Dock. The bombers were part of Kampfgruppe 51, Edelweiss Squadron, based near Paris. They dropped their payload as they flew over the large oil storage tanks. Four of the bombs fell short, exploding in open country, but the resulting detonation from one direct hit on a tank of 12,000 tons started a blaze that would take over 600 men from 22 brigades 18 days to put out.

Although only one tank was hit, the blaze soon spread, and 11 of the 18 tanks were totally destroyed. Tragically, the wall of one of the tanks split and 5 firemen from Cardiff were killed by the river of burning oil.

Later, during one of his regular propaganda broadcasts from Germany, Lord Haw Haw spoke about the raid. He said the pilot was only 16 years old, and had flown on many raids over Britain, but had failed to return from the Pembrokeshire raid.

The Royal Commissions’ Historical Aerial Photographic archive includes the WWII era RAF Medmenham Collection. By chance, I came across a sequence of low-level oblique shots of the inferno, taken on the 31 August 1940, when the fire had been burning for 12 days.

From the top right-hand corner of frame 75, the bomb craters can be seen in a line heading towards the oil tanks. Next to the smouldering remains of the destroyed storage tanks, the one in the top-left of the frame is still well ablaze. The arcs of water from the fire hoses can be seen, spraying and cooling the walls of the storage tank.

In frame 64, the smoke is partially obscuring the Defensible Barracks, Pembroke Dockyard (NPRN 34323).

By Medwyn Parry.

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