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The Mayor's family tale

By Andrew Ross, great nephew of Mayor John Moseley

At the time of the Coventry Blitz on 14th November 1940, almost two years before I was born, my Great Uncle, Alderman John Moseley, was Mayor of Coventry.

Coventry was, of course a prime target for the Germans, with major munitions factories in the Holbrooks area, and engineering works at Parkside, Radford, Whitley, Ryton, Holyhead Road, and Canley. All of these, and many smaller concerns, were making a major contribution to the war effort. Coventry was the home of precision engineering, and its skills were hugely important in this context.

Uncle John lived with Aunt Nell in a Victorian terraced house in the district of Earlsdon, about a mile from the City centre. A stray bomb from the Luftwaffe had exploded nearby and blew the front door in and shattered the windows.

For many citizens there was little sleep on that night of awful destruction and Uncle Jack was no exception. He got no respite on the following day, either, with so many sites of wanton demolition to visit and inspect. On the morning of the 16th Uncle Jack was, perhaps unsurprisingly, later than usual getting up for breakfast. He hadn't shaved or put on a collar and tie when his wife called him down.

After breakfast, Aunt Nell started sweeping up the broken glass and debris littering the front room when there was a loud knocking at the door. She called to the visitor explaining that the door was wedged in, and they'd have to go round to the back.

A minute or so later she returned to the kitchen and looked out of the window.

"Jack," she exclaimed, "There's a gentleman in naval uniform coming down the back garden path". Uncle John scrambled to his feet and followed her gaze. "Heavens above, it's the King," he cried, "We'd better look sharp!"

Sure enough King George VI had come to the city to see for himself the devastation wrought by 500 tons of high explosive German bombs and more than 30,000 incendiaries, and to offer comfort and sympathy to the citizens. As a matter of courtesy his first call was on the First Citizen!

Uncle John lost no time and immediately escorted His Majesty on a tour of the ruined City Centre, and the Midland Daily Telegraph proudly published several pages of photographs to record the King's visit.

King George VI with the Mayor walking around Coventry on Saturday 16th November 1940.
King George VI with the Mayor and other dignitaries walking around Coventry on Saturday 16th.

One such picture shows the King, accompanied by the Provost, the Very Reverend Howard, leading the group as they picked their way through the masonry and charred timbers of the now roofless Coventry Cathedral. A few paces behind the King was Uncle Jack, clearly visible, and clearly unshaven and un-collared!

For the record, the City was bombed again during Holy Week 1941. The cumulative effect of these raids was that more than half of Coventry's 70,000 homes had suffered blast damage and at least 2,000 were wiped out.

My Mother and Brother were evacuated and when the raids came, my Dad, a Local Government officer employed in essential work and a member of the Royal Observer Corps, opened wide every window in the house. When a crippled German bomber jettisoned its bombs across nearby areas, the resultant blast did no damage to our house, whilst others had many windows shattered.

In 1951 I joined the choir of Holy Trinity Church where I learned that the vicar, Canon Clitheroe, had not only married my parents in 1937, but had been a true hero during the Blitz, scrambling over the roof of the church to douse incendiaries, and undoubtedly saving this ancient and lovely Parish Church from destruction.

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