Reading remembers the People’s Pantry bombing 80 years on

Reading comes together next week to mark the 80th anniversary of the People’s Pantry Bombing, where 41 people lost their lives and many more were injured during World War II.

On Friday 10 February, the Mayor of Reading, Cllr Rachel Eden, will lead a short service and lay a wreath to pay tribute the people who lost their lives when a lone German Dornier bomber dropped four 500kg bombs in the centre of town on 10 February 1943.

Tragically, only 37 of those among the dead and injured were identified, the youngest being two 10-year-old children.

Next week’s service will take place beside in the commemorative plaque on Town Hall Square, near the offices of Blandy and Blandy Solicitors, from 2pm, with members of the public welcome to join.

The plaque was unveiled in 2013, as part of as part of the 70th Anniversary commemorations of the bombing in which 150 people were also injured. Blandy’s chambers were badly damaged by the fourth bomb dropped during the raid. Shrapnel marks are still visible on the adjacent St Laurence’s Church.

Twenty-nine of those killed in the bombing had been inside The People’s Pantry, just opposite the Town Hall, which had been set up as an emergency feeding centre offering cheap meals to help supplement rationed food. A bomb passed through the roof of the building and detonated close to the Town Hall. The raid was one of around 20 air attacks to hit Reading during the war.

Paddington Bear author, Michael Bond, was installing a radio transmitter on top of the People’s Pantry at the time.

To mark the anniversary of the raids, the Berkshire Record Office has digitised original records from the day as well as many other archives from the home front. These are available from today via Ancestry for a small fee.

Berkshire, England, World War II Civil Defence Records, 1939-1945

Berkshire, England, World War II Evacuation Records, 1939-1945

Berkshire, England, World War II Home Guard Records, 1943-1958

Berkshire, England, World War II Related Miscellaneous Records, 1939-1971

Reports and photographs from the raid feature in the papers of William Seager, Reading’s Chief ARP warden.  For family historians, there are attendance registers for the London schools evacuated to rural Berkshire during the Blitz.  Also online are details of the county’s air raid shelters and plans for the evacuation scheme, as well as papers from various local units of the Home Guard.

You can read some of the eye-witness accounts of the day at Air Raids in Berkshire – Through Their Eyes:

Reading Libraries will host an exhibition of documents and photographs on the aftermath of the bombing raid from their collection as part of the 80th anniversary. It will be available for free viewing on the ground floor of Reading Central Library from 6 February.

Last updated on 02/02/2023