Target Head Wrightson

Head Wrightson reproduced an aerial photograph which, early in the war, accompanied instructions to the Luftwaffe that their target should be Head Wrightson. Head Wrightson published this image in their magazine (Head Wrightson & Co., Ltd and Subsidiaries, World War II: 1939 – 1945) with the hope that the pin-pointed attention directed to us by our enemies will, in a different manner, be directed to us by our friends.

Image courtesy of Robert Greenwell.

11 thoughts on “Target Head Wrightson

  1. Born in 1935 I was just old enough to see and remember these events. We sat upstairs in Hartburn to watch the early raids. I remember a German bomber caught in a searchlight cone. It flew level for some moments and then dived out of the cone. I remember also a magnesium flare they dropped – in all these years watching firework displays I have never seen anything so dramatic. Later a stick of bombs straddled Hartburn – two near Hartburn School, one between the railway and Ropner Park and one on the Ferry household further downtown. The Ferry boys survived but I believe one or both parents were killed. I suppose the Germans were no more accurate than the RAF at that stage before advanced technology ‘improved’ bombing.


    • RAF so called precision bombing did not exist, it was more myth than fact, and the same for the Germans who when over London aimed their bombs to drop anywhere around the River Thames area, which they could easily see and identify below them. The same with the River Tees, it lit up Teesside at night. As for the RAF, their navigators knew it was 1038 miles to Berlin from East Anglia, that their planes flew at 236 miles per hour, so 4 hours 40 minutes after take off they should be over Berlin, and our so called precision bombing was as crude as that. Over the target the “Bomb Aimer”. crawled into the bomb aimer’s compartment to press the button to release the bomb load onto the target. The release of the bomb load activated a flash photograph to record the target below.

      Most RAF aircrew were aged between 19 and 25, although some were as young as 16. The average age is stated to have been 21. In total 8,325 aircraft were lost in action. Bomber Command aircrews suffered a high casualty rate: 57,205 were killed, a further 8,403 were wounded in action and 9,838 became prisoners of war. RAF training was hazardous and crashes due to inexperience cost over 8,000 UK casualties. During the war these horrifying RAF death tolls figures were hidden from the public along with the fact that bombing German cities served no meaningful purpose in bringing the war to an end, The British bombing campaign only took a decisive turn for the better when the allies switched to targeting German railway-marshalling yards. Bomber Harris who headed the RAF during WW2, retired to South Africa to avoid the disgrace, censure and shame, when it was revealed his poor leadership of the RAF cost thousands of lives, and was costly and expensive disaster. RAF Thornaby came into being in 1938, and closed 20 years later in 1958.


  2. “Bomb, Der Head Wrightson Eisen Works, Thornaby, is what it says on these pilot’s instructions, which the pilot of this enemy plane flying over Thornaby, on 11 March 1943, attempted. This was to be Thornaby’s worst raid of the war with a total of 550 people being made homeless. The first bomb exploded in Darlington Street (situated 330 yards from the H & W works) the second bomb landed in Princess Street, just yards away, this bomb affected H &W production for 24 hours and caused severe road and rail disruption in the area. Three people were killed during this raid, and 72 people were injured.

    Housing damage was enormous with 541 houses seriously damaged, of which 81 had to be demolished, the Britannia Hotel, Pumphreys Sugar works, Allan’s Bonlea Foundry, and Sheldon’s Sweet factory were damaged, and the National School would not reopen for 12 months. The writer Bob Wilson was one of the rescued, the fire services had to dig him out of their house. When found, I was sound asleep (it had been a tiring night) I was covered in chimney soot and dust, but otherwise unarmed. We were rehoused. The Windmill Public house was the local headquarters for the homeless family’s Appeal Fund-efforts.

    Bob Wilson.


    • My mam Dot Crone as she was then always used to tell me about bombs dropping near my Nanas house in Queen St. Thornaby. Everyone was in the shelter in the yard except I think my Uncle Bill, who was very young then. They left him in bed for some bizarre reason, evidently they found him covered in glass and a few bricks but asleep and thankfully unharmed


  3. Ron Walton also had a great career there, advancing through the ranks, until retirement commencing as an apprentice before the War, (interrupted by war service in HM Royal Navy), as did his son, Derek, who unfortunately pre-deceased his Dad. Are any of Ron’s peers still around?


  4. The bombing targets also include the Malleable Works and Fred Kidd and Sons’ factory on Church Road.

    Although ICI Billingham was highly developed, no trace of it is on prewar Ordnance Survey Maps


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