ARCHIVE photographs recording damage done by the Luftwaffe bombing of oil tanks near Pembroke Dock during World War 2, which led to the death of five firemen, have recently been uncovered.
The August 1940 bombings of the oil tanks at Llanreath caused the biggest fire seen in the UK since the Great Fire of London and continued to burn for weeks. Five Cardiff firemen lost their lives and many others were seriously injured.
On the afternoon of August 19, 1940, a group of three German Luftwaffe Junkers Ju88 bombers, accompanied by two Messerchmitt ME109 fighters flew over the Oil Tank Farm south of Llanreath.
Four of the bombs fell short, exploding in open country, but the resulting detonation from one direct hit on a tank of 12,000 tons started a blaze that would take more than 600 men from 22 brigades 18 days to put out.
Low-level oblique shots of the inferno, taken on the August 31, when the fire had been burning for 12 days, have now been found in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales archive.
Ted Owens, 91, of Pembroke Dock’s Elizabeth Court was a 15-year-old messenger boy in the fire brigade at the time of the bombing.
Ted, a later Royal Marine Commando veteran of D-Day, said: “I saw so many things in Pembroke Dock a boy of my age shouldn’t have seen.
“I was on that for three days and three nights and never came home.
“I was frightened; it was so hot we even took sheets off a hay rick and used galvanised sheets to shield us.
“It was very, very dangerous; five of the men got burned to death; that was a terrible accident.
“The oil was coming down out of the sky; everything was black.”
Martin Cavaney of the Pembroke Dock-based Sunderland Trust said Pembroke Dock was a sitting duck for the Luftwaffe on that fateful day: “The town was completely undefended; they’d obviously done their scouting beforehand. These tanks were wide open.”