The important potential of Swansea's Port during a wartime situation had not escaped the attention of the British Government and local council. It was predicted that during a war Swansea would provide the ideal location for military-based industries and munitions manufacture, with the port supplying an important distribution centre for weapons and troops. Playing an essential role in Britain's war effort would, however, highlight Swansea as a strategic target for enemy attacks.
Following pre-war government guidelines in Civil Defense and the later Air Raid Precaution Act of 1937, Swansea Council undertook enormous steps to protect its population and valuable assets from the possible risk of attack. Plans were made to dig trenches and build communal shelters, as well as strengthen the town's fire brigade and emergency services. However, lacking any real sense of urgency, these precautionary steps progressed slowly and it was not until April 1939 that work started on the construction of 500 communal shelters within Swansea's most populated districts. Anderson-style domestic shelters were distributed for private homes from March 1939 onwards, but again, with the impression that there was no cause for immediate concern, the garden shelters were not dispensed with any kind of haste.
Just five months later, however, community priorities had changed immensely due to the outbreak of war in September 1939. With only 6,549 Anderson-style shelters distributed from the estimated 30,000 needed to protect Swansea's residents, desperate measures were needed to prepare and protect Swansea and its 167,000 inhabitants from possible enemy attacks. The Air Raid Precautions committee therefore took to requisitioning the cellars and basements of privately owned buildings for use as public shelters.
After this rush of activity to safeguard the lives of Swansea citizens there followed a period of confusion. Expecting air raids to begin swiftly after war broke out, the population began to question the council's decision to invest so much time and money on Air Raid Precautions. The German attacks on Britain had so far failed to stretch as far as Swansea and many began to call World War II a "Phoney War". Retrospectively, these 10 months of uncertainty were the proverbial 'lull before the storm', for as soon as German troops gained ground in France, during June 1940, Swansea found itself within the flight range of the German bombers.
The first air raid on Swansea was heralded by a golden flare which lit the sky ablaze at 3.30am on June 27 1940. Guided by this glow, the Luftwaffe easily found their target and dropped 10 High Explosives over the east side of Swansea. The residential area of Danygraig was rudely awakened to the realities of war as the bombs dropped amongst its streets. Although the raid caused some damage to properties, there were amazingly no casualties. Together with the fact that 4 of the bombs which had fallen upon Kilvey Hill failed to explode, this initial attack was relatively ineffectual, but it did succeed by striking real fear, shock and trepidation into the hearts of Swansea's civilians.
What followed for Swansea during the years of World War II was to test the very spirit of the people who struggled to continue life against the backdrop of conflict, bombs, terror, destruction and death. The lowest point came in February 1941 during what is commonly referred as 'The Three Nights' Blitz'. 'The Three Nights' Blitz' lasted for nearly 14 hours, killed 230 people, injured another 397, wiped out entire streets of residential houses, made 7,000 people homeless and left the town centre a terrifying inferno of total destruction.
Air Raids on Swansea (1940-1943)
|Thursday 27 June 1940||6 High Explosive bombs dropped on Danygraig Road and a further 4 bombs on Kilvey Hill at 3.30am. Slight damage to property on Danygraig Road. The four bombs that landed on Kilvey Hill all failed to explode. No casualties.|
|Saturday 29 June 1940||A lone plane dropped 2 High Explosive bombs over Morriston. No reported casualties.|
|Wednesday 10 July 1940||Solitary plane dropped 4 High Explosive bombs on King's Dock during daylight hours at 10.20am, causing extensive damage. 12 killed with a further 26 casualties.|
|Thursday 18 July 1940||9 High Explosive bombs dropped with damage to railway at Jersey Marine at 1.00am - no casualties.|
|Saturday July 20 1940||2 High Explosive bombs fell at Swansea Docks and Elba Crescent in the early morning. An unexploded bomb was reported in Danygraig. No casualties.|
|Monday July 22 1940||2 High Explosive bombs dropped over Talefrewe Farm, Cockett just before midnight. Slight damage to farm buildings but no casualties.|
|Saturday July 27 1940||2 High Explosive bombs dropped over Swansea Docks. Slight damage but no casualties.|
|Tuesday July 30 1940||2 High Explosive bombs fell at Banc Mawr near Reddiffusion Station, Cockett. No casualties.|
|Friday August 2 1940||14 High Explosive bombs and numerous Incendiary bombs dropped shortly after 11.00pm on Mumbles foreshore, the Uplands (the Girl's High School and St James Church were hit) and Treboeth. 4 people injured.|
|Saturday August 3 1940||2 High Explosive bombs and numerous incendiaries dropped on Waunarlwydd with a few High Explosive bombs falling into the waters of Swansea Bay near West Cross. No casualties reported.|
|Tuesday August 6 1940||Again, 10 High Explosive bombs dropped, all landing in the sea near West Cross. No casualties or damage.|
|Saturday August 10 1940||31 High Explosive bombs dropped during a heavy midnight raid. Damage was caused to Landore's railway viaduct and also to houses in the surrounding Manselton, Cwbwrla and Brynhyfryd areas. Also bombs hit Singleton Park, Clyne and Ravenhill. 13 of the 31 bombs failed to explode but one directly hit an "Anderson Shelter" killing 5 occupants. A total of 13 were killed and 15 injured during the raid.|
|Friday 16 August 1940||20 High Explosive bombs dropped in the sea near Mumbles Head. No injuries or damage.|
|Saturday 17 August 1940||16 High Explosive bombs dropped over Hafod, Cwmbwrla, Greenhill, Treboeth and Cadle Commons during the early morning. 7 unexploded bombs were reported and between 7 and 12 people were injured.|
|Sunday 18 August 1940||12 High Explosive bombs (3 failing to explode) dropped over Gors Avenue, Greenhill, Cwmbwrla, Foxhole and St Thomas during early morning raid. Damage to residential property with 1 death and 3 injuries.|
|Saturday 24 August 1940||Numerous Incendiaries bombs dropped over the area stretching from Dunvant to Kilvey Hill. No damage or casualties.|
|Sunday 1 September 1940||251 High Explosive bombs and over 1000 incendiaries dropped covering the region during the largest raid in Swansea to date. Extensive damage caused together with 33 killed and 115 injured.|
|Tuesday 3 September 1940||2 High Explosive bombs dropped on Crymlyn Brook. No damage or casualties.|
|Wednesday 4 September 1940||4 High Explosive bombs dropped on farmland in Llansamlet. 1 of the bombs did not explode until the following day. No damage or casualties.|
|Thursday 5 September 1940||4 High Explosive bombs dropped over Llansamlet and Treboeth just before midnight. Unexploded bomb at Tyrhester Farm. No casualties.|
|Wednesday 11 September 1940||A single plane dropped 3 High Explosive bombs over Brynmill just before 9.00pm. 1 failed to explode. Slight damage to Langland Terrace but no casualties.|
|Tuesday 24 September 1940||Just before 11.00pm 2 High Explosive bombs dropped near New Cut Bridge and King's Dock. Incendiaries also dropped over Rutland Street and Wind Street. The old Strand Power Station and a bus were damaged. A petrol bomb was also dropped on Dyfatty Street where 2 houses were destroyed. No casualties.|
|Wednesday September 25 1940||9 High Explosive bombs and numerous incendiaries dropped over Swansea's town centre, St Thomas, Uplands, Mount Pleasant, Townhill and Mayhill. Slight damage but no casualties.|
|Wednesday October 9 1940||6 High Explosive bombs and numerous incendiaries dropped on Prince of Wales Dock, Kilvey Hill, St. Thomas, Bonymaen, Winchwen and Morriston. Only slight damage and no casualties.|
|Monday October 21 1940||15 High Explosive bombs and numerous incendiaries dropped over Gors Avenue, Winchwen, Cockett, Mayhill and Llansamlet. Medium damage to residential properties and 5 casualties.|
|Thursday January 2 1941||2 small High Explosive bombs dropped on an empty field in Ynystawe just before midnight. No damage|
|Sunday January 5 1941||12 High Explosive bombs and 200 incendiaries dropped on St. Thomas, Swansea town centre, Sketty, Derwen Fawr and Glais just after midnight. Many small fires reported but all were easily extinguished. 20 casualties reported.|
|Monday January 13 1941||2 High Explosive bombs dropped on King's Dock Road by a solitary plane just after 10.00pm. 5 people slightly injured. Only slight structural damage.|
|Friday January 17 1941||Extensive damage as 178 High Explosive bombs and 7000 incendiaries landed on a snow-covered Swansea during its heaviest raid to date. St Thomas was easily the most affected region with other significant damage being recorded at Hafod and Bonymaen. 97 casualties and 55 deaths reported.|
|Wednesday 19 February 1941
Thursday 20 February 1941
Friday 21 February 1941
|The "Three Nights' Blitz"
Over these three night's of intensive bombing, which lasted a total of 13 hours and 48 minutes, Swansea town centre was almost completely obliterated by the 896 High Explosive bombs employed by the Luftwaffe. A total of 397 casualties and 230 deaths were reported.
|Monday March 3 1941||6 High Explosive bombs deposited on open fields at Cockett and the Cefn Coed area. Only slight structural damage with 1 person reported with slight injuries.|
|Tuesday March 4 1941||12 High Explosive bombs dropped on the foreshore between Swansea and Mumbles. No damage or casualties.|
|Wednesday March 12 1941||3 deaths and 9 casualties as Hafod dealt with a total of 15 High Explosive bombs. 8 houses were demolished and others sustained significant damage. Neath Road was blocked by a bomb crater and Gas and Water mains received substantial damage.|
|Friday 14 March 1941||100 incendiaries fell over Bonymaen and Llansamlet. Minimal damage and no casualties.|
|Monday 24 March 1941||Minimal damage as 4 High Explosive bombs were dropped over Danygraig Road and Crymlyn Bog before darkness had begun to fall over Swansea.|
|Monday 31 March 1941||3 killed as The Strand and North Dock were rocked by 2 High Explosive bombs just after 9.00pm.|
|Tuesday 8 April 1941||Slight damage and no recorded casualties as 800 incendiaries and 1 High Explosive bomb were dropped over Mumbles Head and Limeslade.|
|Tuesday 22 April 1941||13 casualties as 2 parachute mines (one which failed to explode) were dropped over Frederick Place, Llansamlet at midnight.|
|Tuesday 20 May 1941||Morriston received 3 casualties as 1 High Explosive bomb was dropped on its town just after midnight.|
|Saturday 31 May 1941||4 High Explosive bombs dropped on Treboeth, Morriston again. Slight damage with 4 casualties.|
|Saturday 28 June 1941||4 High Explosive bombs landed in the sea off the cliff walk path between Langland and Caswell Bays. No injuries. An unexploded bomb was found at Mayhill Gardens.|
|Friday 28 November 1941||Swansea Strand and Burrows area and Port Tennant were targeted with 2 parachute mines. 1 person was killed with 23 casualties.|
|July 2 1942||240 incendiaries dropped over Birchgrove. No damage.|
|Tuesday 16 February 1943||32 High Explosive bombs and countless incendiaries dropped on Neath Road, Hafod, St. Thomas and Brynmill. 34 deaths, 110 casualties and severe structural damage.|