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Blitz hero Albert dies at age of 87

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

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A HERO of the Exeter blitz who battled the destruction brought by the bombs that fell in Briar Crescent, has died.

Albert Whitfield, who was 87, was at the centre of events when wartime bombers brought death and destruction to Wonford in May, 1942.

Mr Whitfield, well known as one of the leading lights of Exeter Amateur Boxing Club, was living in Briar Crescent, Burnthouse Lane, where his sister's home at number 146 was destroyed, though, fortunately, she and her two children were in an air raid shelter opposite at the time, and escaped.

Official records show that numbers 140, 142, 144, 146 and 148 Briar Crescent were all lost in the bombing and one man was killed there.

Numbers 54, 56, 58 and 60 Shakespeare Road also went and another man was killed. Numbers 76, 78 and 80 Laburnum Road and 2 and 4 Burns Avenue were also lost.

Mr Whitfield's sister Lilian lived at 146 Briar Crescent, a Mr Rookes at 144 and a Mr Warren at 142. The Whitfield's family home was on the opposite side of the road.

Lillian and her two children were in the Morrison shelter when the bombs fell and destroyed her home. Her husband, Jim, was away serving in he RAF at the time. Mr Whitfield recalled later: "When the air raid started I went out and found that incendiary bombs had set the roofs on fire on Mr Rookes' side of the crescent.

"I went to get a stirrup-operated fire pump and went up the drain pipe with the hose while Mr Rookes was down below under his porch working the pump.

"Then we heard the whistle of a high-explosive bomb dropping. I lost my grip on the drainpipe in the blast and crashed down to the ground where I took refuge in Mr Warren's underground bomb shelter next door.

"It wasn't until later that we discovered the concrete canopy built into Mr Rookes' house had collapsed on him and he was killed."

Mr Whitfield said that on that same night of the bombing the enemy planes dropped two massive land mines. One went off at the Topsham Road end of Burnthouse Lane leaving a massive crater. The other exploded at Haley Ridge, Wonford. After the blitz he joined the Royal Navy but was later transferred into the Army in which he served with Lord Lovat's Scouts and the East Surrey Regiment.

Mr Whitfield's funeral was being held at the Exeter and Devon Crematorium and Topsham Cemetery Chapel on Wednesday, January 30.

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