de Havilland factory bomb

Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

On 3 Oct 1940, a lone Junkers 88 bombed the de Havilland Aircraft factory at Hatfield, killing 21 people and injuring 70 more. There are numerous eye-witness accounts of the raid, which happened on a dull and misty morning.  It later emerged was that Hatfield was not the prime target.  Trying to find Reading, the crew became lost in poor visibility, and at a low level, came across Hatfield.  The plane was hit by an anti-aircraft machine guns at Roe Green.  Having dropped its bombs, it flew towards Hertford with flames coming from its engine and crash landed at East End Green Farm, Hertingfordbury. 


The devastation at the factory was considerable and many were injured. The building known as the 94 shop, which received direct hits was completely flattened and burnt out. The air raid was sounded only a short time before bombs dropped and the crude shelters in the factory contributed to the toll.
De Havilland factory entrance c1950 (HALS CV/HAT/165)
One first aider later said ‘while we lay there we could hear the machine-gun bullets patting on the iron of the trench roof. I cannot describe the scene. Large fires, smoke, debris, lumps of concrete everywhere. A shelter had collapsed onto some people, crushing them to death. I saw benches similar to ours in the Toolroom. Men had sheltered under them and presumably their muscles had contracted as there were multiple compound fractures everywhere and many, many bones sticking out, up to four inches. There was no blood. Quite the reverse, they looked ash-grey, dusty and unreal.’
Wreckage of the Ju 88. The pilot, Oberlutnant Siegward Fiebig and his 3 crew members, Eric Goebel, H Ruthof and K Seifert all survived and were taken prisoner (ref HALS Acc 4947)

de Havilland factory administration building

This page was added on 09/07/2020.

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  • My father Ben Robinson was a wood pattern maker in the steel industry but moved to DE Haviland at Hatfield in I think as early as 1938 living in new houses beside the airfield with my mother and soon to be brother and sister. Was always told about the the day of the raid. My father did not say a lot but he did say they heard the air raid sirens which I think denoted planes already overhead and all jumped into shelters in the shed which were simply pits covered is sheets of some description. He said him and a women worker panicked decided last minute to leave the shelter and run to the purpose built shelters outside and actually were knocked down by the blast as they ran in. He claimed he would probably have died if he had stayed in the shop which took a direct hit. My mother living close by heard the explosions and could see the smoke rising. She and all the other wives ran towards the factory but were initially held back by guards. Families were obviously in a state of shock but thankfully my father came eventually running along the road to find her. This was around lunch time. By the evening my mother ,my brother and sister had been put on a bus back to the North of England. Dad stayed on for quite a while before being transferred back to the North East this time working on Railway wagon repairs which the government insisted he do.
    Just finally I remember him saying they worked in pairs and his mate had been a tennis racket maker for slazenger.

    By Brian Robinson (01/03/2024)
  • My aunt, Gladys Hayward, told me at my uncle Reg’s funeral in 2002, I believe, that my father, Wally Gatford and my uncle, were working in the hangar and had popped outside for a smoke when it was bombed. This is possibly one of the very few examples of smoking being good for your health! I have no reason not to believe my aunt’s story. My father died in 1966 in a civil plane crash and my uncle of natural causes in about 2002/3

    By Michael Gatford (28/09/2023)
  • My father was instructing on Tiger Moths this day. He told us about the grey day and sprinting for the slit tranches, landing on an airman, with the bullets from the machine guns flying around. He went on to be an ace on Spitfires and Hurricanes. Decades later, when I worked at Hatfield, I went to see this same machine guns in the British Aerospace Hatfield museum on site. Glad the gunner missed my Dad…….

    By Jon Foster-Pedley (09/09/2023)
  • My father said he was working as an apprentice and was sent for parts or such like. His hanger was blown up whilst away. He never told any more of the story other than huge loss of those he was working with. He died a few years ago age 94.

    By Bee (17/06/2023)
  • I have a recording of my Grandmother, Dorothy Edith Muteham (married name Knights) talking about being a spotter on the roof the night of the bomb. Sadly, she passed away last year, aged 99. She was 18 at the time of the bomb and worked in Hatfield making parts for motor gun boats. I have multiple audio interviews with her, an exercise boot of her notes from her training at the factory, photographs of the girls she worked with, etc. I would love to talk to someone who could help me piece it all together.

    By Kate Stephenson (21/03/2023)
  • Dear Kate, thank you for your comment regarding the recording of you Grandmother. If you contact Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies they should be able to advise you on how to piece the material you have together.

    By Llinos Thomas (23/03/2023)
  • My Dad, Christopher Joseph Hoy, was a skilled sheet metal worker, working on the Mosquito Prototype, when on 3rd October 1940 workshop 94 was bombed. ..He escaped death that day by being in the brick loo at the time, he was blown out through a hole in the wall. He said they had little or no time to prepare for the attack. That day he lost 21 workshop colleagues. He was referred to Hatfield House Hospital with perforated ear drums. He was lucky…After that terrible day, the Mosquito was transferred somewhere else and was enlisted into the REME , trained in Glasgow and sent to Al El Kebir, Eygpt .

    By Elizabeth Hoy (28/02/2023)
  • My father was only 4 at the time of the bombing but it was his first memory, of getting on a bus to his gran’s in St Albans, with his mother holding the baby who had a gash on his head. They never went back to the house so it must have been destroyed or badly damaged. It was an odd address: the road was called Right Away. I’ve not been able to locate it on any maps. Does anyone know where it was?

    By Jane Wilkinson (13/01/2022)
  • My mother was injured in the blast. When the twin towers collapsed she had a flash back to then and being caked in dust

    By Tina Corr (25/12/2021)
  • I am the granddaughter of Gracie, Alice Grace Toop. She was married to Lionel Alfred Toop for a few months before he died in the bombing of the de Havilland factory. It would be nice to have contact with David James as I remember the names Auntie Win, Brian and Geraldine James.

    By Patricia Kooistra (18/08/2021)
  • My Dad’s uncle, Lionel Alfred Toop was one of those killed in this raid, aged 37. He was survived by his wife Gracie Toop. His job was Aircraft Foreman Sheet Metal Worker.

    By David James (20/12/2020)
  • I remember my mother telling me (Betty Earl)) that she was late for work that morning at the factory, she had just got off the bus and was hurrying to the factory when the bombs hit. I personally am great full for a fault alarm clock. Any information would be gratefully appreciated. 18th December 2020

    By Robin Earl (18/12/2020)
  • Bombing in KingsburyN.W.9 by lone German plane.My husband now 94 years of age was standing on the doorstep of the house concerned minutes prior to this happening.He was a junior member of the local A.R.P.
    He thinks the plane that flew over was the one that bombed Hatfield aerodrome.
    Would you be interested in the information he can recall.

    By Lily Ould (01/12/2020)
  • Dear Mrs Ould. What an amazing story. We will be in touch.
    Thanks Ed.

    By Marion Hill (09/12/2020)