Brave Bill rushed to aid of Chatburn bomb victim

Bill Stratton. (s)
Bill Stratton. (s)

A Chatburn man who lived through the horror of seeing his beloved village bombed in the Second World War has died at the age of 94.

William Stratton (Bill) was born on April 2nd, 1922, in West View, Clitheroe, to Fred and Clara.

After attending Ribblesdale School, Bill left at the age of 16 and went to work at Whitesides Wine Merchants.

Six months before the outbreak of the Second World War, Bill joined the Clitheroe Territorials.

The start of the war saw him join the Royal Artillery and he was posted in the south of England before leaving the country for four years and serving in both India and Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.

On October 30th, 1940, Chatburn was bombed when Bill was home on leave. He recalled standing outside his home on Crow Trees Brow, when he heard the plane, and being trained to identify enemy aircraft, noted it to be a Heinkel 111. The first bomb dropped at the top of Ribble Lane and took the end of the Post Office building down. It also blew a petrol tanker across the road, spewing petrol everywhere.

The second bomb was a direct hit on the house of Miss Robinson. Bill ran to the aid of the tanker driver, who was lying outside his cab. He said later: “He was a large man and motionless. I sat him up, put my arms under him and dragged him to the gateway of my home. My sister Betty, who was a nurse in Bradford came and we checked a found a faint pulse. We then undid his collar before he was taken away to hospital.” Sadly, the driver did not survive.

From knowledge acquired later in his military service, Bill was of the opinion that the pilot circled the village to find the best approach to the mill. Coming from Grindleton, he passed over the length of the building with a better chance of hitting his target. Luckily he missed. Bill also recounted that, had the plane been a little higher or not going as fast, the pilot would have been more successful and there would have been far more casualties.

A deterioration in his health saw Bill admitted to the Royal Blackburn Hospital on Boxing Day and he died on January 18th. He leaves his wife of 68 years Jean, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.