HERITAGE: Using the tools of today to map out Second World War bombs dropped in Hitchin and North Herts

Incident Map

Incident Map - Credit: Archant

A Letchworth schoolboy has been busy using technology to inform people about the past – specifically where enemy bombs were dropped on North Herts during the Second World War.

As part of his behind-the-scenes work experience at the still as-yet unopened North Herts museum in Brand Street, Hitchin, Highfield School pupil Dylan Bailey has created an ‘incident map’.

The creative student’s design shows where bombs were dropped in and around the district during the Second World War, and is now available online for everyone to see.

Dylan created the map with the help of museum archaeology and outreach officer Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, using Google Earth and the Incident Map compiled by Hitchin Urban District Council during the war. Dylan plotted eight different-coloured symbols onto the base map, seven of which represent Axis bombs dropped in our area between 1939 and 1945.

Dylan said: “I was given the task of mapping the various bombs that were dropped online using on Google Earth so that people could see where they landed in relation to our present-day geography.

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“It also helps people to learn more about the district’s local history. I have a personal fascination with the Second World War and modern history in general so this was a really interesting project for me to work on.”

The team at the museum also revealed Hitchin’s only fatality by an air raid in the entire conflict through unearthing a Pictorial newspaper report on the bomb damage done in Orchard Road on August 12, 1941.

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Two houses were destroyed, and one Miriam Sims, aged 23, was killed. Mrs Sims was the wife of Cpl J Sims of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, and a daughter of Mr and Mrs Pepper. It is understood the bombs were meant for the nearby railway station as it was an important line serving London.

Missiles also landed near the railway line by Wilbury Bridge. In September 1944 one of the Nazis’ V1 flying bombs – nicknamed ‘doodlebugs’ – hit trees and exploded over Pirton.

Dylan’s interactive map shows where enemy planes crashed to the ground either by falling or being shot down – with pieces of several downed enemy planes now held by the team at North Herts Museum. Many of the other bombs shown were jettisoned by German planes to lighten their load before returning to the continent.

The original map will be displayed on the first floor of the new museum but there is still no confirmation as to when the building will open.

Councillor Tony Hunter, the council’s executive member for community engagement, added: “Despite the museum not being open yet there is still a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes.”

Ros Allwood, cultural services manager for the district council, added: “Dylan worked alongside staff at the museum this summer and made a significant contribution to projects taking place. We hope to be able to display the 1930s Incident Map when the new museum opens.”

To see the map in its entirety visit www.ow.ly/vtTf3054cTk.

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