The Carlton Cinema Story: "Typhoon"

We are the project group from Eden Girls' Leadership Academy. We worked with the writer David Calcutt and created this poem about the Carlton Cinema bombing, which happened on October 25, 1940.

 

We invented a story about someone who had witnessed the bombing. We called the poem "Typhoon" because that is the name of the film that was showing on the day.

 

There is more information about the bombing below.

My name is Sam Dean and I am thirteen

And my story I’m going to tell

How I lost my folks in the fire and the smoke

That night I remember so well,

That night when my world went to hell.

 

We’d gone to the flicks to catch a picture

A film by the name of “Typhoon”

And I remember that night, the streets were so bright

In the light of a clear full moon

The light of a bold bomber’s moon.

 

We’d just settled down when all over the town

The sirens began to wail

The manager said, “Get down, cover your heads”

As the bombs they started to fall

Like a hard rain the bombs they did fall.

 

When the death bomb struck I reeled from the shock

It roared like lightning and thunder

With the noise and the din the ceiling crashed in

And my parents they were buried under

And my whole life it was torn asunder.

 

Through the rubble and ruin I tried to get to them

But I couldn’t help, I’m afraid

So on bleeding feet I went into the street

And saw the waste that was laid

The waste those death bombs had laid.

 

I could see buildings falling, I could hear people screaming

I could smell the smoke and the flame

And with each indrawn breath came the stench of death

And I stumbled as if through a dream

As if through a terrible dream.

 

My family was gone and I was the only one

To survive the coming of doom

And though the years have passed by, I hang my head and I cry

As I sit here alone in my room

When I remember that night of typhoon.

About the bombing

On October 25, 1940, an incendiary bomb fell on the orchestra pit of the Carlton Cinema in Taunton Road, killing 19 and injuring 20 more as they watched Typhoon, starring Dorothy Lamour.

Before the devastation, an air raid warning had flashed on the big screen. Some tried to act on it, others didn’t. But it was too late.

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Among the dead was Irish teenager Ted Byrne, who had arrived in Birmingham just before the war. Ted’s father had been in the British Army and, later, his brothers fought the Germans. Talking to Carl Chinn in 1995, Ted’s sister recalled the 15-year-old was killed because she had taken bottles back to the Antelope Pub. She claimed the money on them and gave the loose change to Ted.

“He’d asked me to do this because he wanted to go to the pictures,” she told Carl. “I also bought him five Woodbines.” When she got home after her errand, it was to hear Ted telling friends he’d already seen the film showing at the Carlton. But they persuaded him to watch it again, pointing out the Taunton Road cinema had a better programme than either the local Olympia and the Warwick. Ted gave in.

A couple of hours later, Ted’s father, who was in the Home Guard, helped carry the dead from the Carlton. Later, he was summoned by the police to Selly Oak Hospital. When he located Ted, the lad opened his eyes. He asked if his son was all right. “Yes, Dad,” he answered weakly. Then he died. He was the youngest of 10 teenagers killed in the blast. The oldest victim was 56-year-old Walter Wake from Sparkhill. There is now a memorial garden on the site (see photo).

This is a list of all the people who died.

William Bayley, 32, and Vidah Bayley, 31, of Moseley

Edward Byre, 15, of Sparkhill

Leah Clifford, 18, of Sparkbrook

Philip Coates, 16, of Balsall Heath

Stanley Davies, 18, of Sparkhill

Ernest Gauder, 16, of Sparkhill

Richard Hannon, 25, of Sparkhill

Joan Heath, 20, of Sparkhill

Horace Layton, 23, of Balsall Heath

Henry McGuirk, 19, of Dublin

Douglas Milner, 17, of Walsall

Joyce Murcott, 16, of Sparkhill

Douglas Parfitt, 17, of Sparkhill

Elizabeth Pollock, 17, of Sparkhill.

Eric Shuttleworth, 17, of Moseley

Mary Ann Rogers, 53, of Sparkhill

Walter Wake, 56, of Sparkhill

Evelyn Smith, 42, of Kings Heath

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