Cathedral blitz: “I thought this is what hell must be like”

'Cardiff Blitz' memorial stone
‘Cardiff Blitz’ memorial stone

This memorial stone in the grounds of Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff, commemorates the damage done to the building during the Cardiff Blitz.

In January 1941 the cathedral was gravely damaged when a landmine blew the roof off the nave, south aisle and chapter house. The top of the spire also had to be partially reconstructed.

In 2011, a church historian told me that many lives were saved by a stroke of luck as the parachute mine snagged on the spire before landing in a dip beside the cathedral.

He said: “This actually absorbed much of the blast although had the bomb fallen directly on the green [where there are homes] or in fact directly on the cathedral then many buildings would have been destroyed and the cathedral obviously obliterated.”

He added: The cathedral organist when he went in the next day said he saw a section of the roof fall, which had fallen like a great arrow, running through the pews and destroying much of the interior.”

One eyewitness, who was seven at the time, was sheltering under the stairs of her family home.

She remembered: “It was such a wonderful night. It was a full moon and it was what they call a hunters moon. That night the hunters were the Luftwaffe.”

Her family was forced from their shelter by a fireman banging on the front door.

“And he shouted get out, he said, the house is on fire, you’ve been hit by a bomb, get out. And I ran out past him into the street screaming. I didn’t go back to my mother and my brother. It was self-preservation!

“They were dropping flares lighting everything up. And also incendiary bombs and we were trying to avoid being hit by any of these things.

“As I was running with all this I was screaming my head off – I thought this is what hell must be like, you know, with all these flames. It was terrifying.”

This photograph shows the cathedral today.

Llandaff Cathedral
Llandaff Cathedral