13th June 1943. Butterflies But Not In The Stomach.

The blitzes on London, Coventry and other places are well-documented, but on the night of 13th and 14th June, 1943 another area was targeted, but in another form.

Butterfly Bomb.

It started in the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Centre in the basement of Grimsby’s Municipal Offices as messages were arriving at the rate of one every six seconds and a ‘red alert’ sounded, after a heavy formation of bombers had been reported heading up the Humber Estuary.

Hull which had already taken a pounding over the years was thought to be the target, but before long ‘‘immediate danger’ replaced the earlier ‘alert’.

It was a time when everyone thought the worst of the bombing was over as there hadn’t been a serious raid since August 1942.

Grimsby’s 92,000 residents and those of nearby Cleethorpes had been used to bombing and the raid on this night did not seem unusual where by 1943 the local docks had been run by the Admiralty for repairs to minesweepers, many of which had been requisitioned from trawlers.

Civil Defence rescuers.

The Home Office concluded that by the attack, the Germans had misinterpreted the activity for an embarkation to invade Europe; whatever the reason within 48 hours, 66 were dead and 100.s injured.

What was so unusual was the nature of the bombs, weighing about 2 kgs and designated SD2 ‘Butterfly Bombs’ so named because of their shape.

They rained down in their thousands, lodging everywhere in hedges, gutters, sewers, as a result they were picked-up and kicked around with devastating results. It took nearly a week to clear of those reported, amounting to 2250, representing 60% of those dropped.

However though new to Grimsby, ‘Butterfly Bombs’ were first reported back in October 1940 when a number were dropped around Ipswich and on nearby RAF Wattisham.

It appears that the SD2.s had been specifically banned after their use in 1940, and a 1943 memo of Albert Speer to Hitler might explain why, in that he said weapon development should go step by step, only enough to keep us ahead of the enemy. Clearly the ‘butterflies’ were a step too early.

The heroes apart from those who showed bravery at the scene of devastation, once again were the members of the Royal Engineering Bomb Disposal Unit under Major Parker and Lt. Wakeling, and others who had the task of dealing with the bombs.


theguardian.com/butterfly-bombs.Pic of bomb. James Roberts. 21.6.2013.

grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/Pic of rescue.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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