Last year, by a wonderful stroke of luck I obtained a copy of "Portrait of Coventry", published in 1972. It had been gifted to our library by one of the Coventry Rotary Groups.
I had taken it out many times, to read or check on things and appeared to be the only user. I hoped that one day it would be in the deleted stock sale! I hadn't realised, until a librarian pointed this out, that deleted stock had to be unrequested for two years before being sold off. So I was literally "shooting myself in the foot!"
I had tried unsuccessfully to obtain it when in the Coventry area in April 2000, but it was out of print, and not a copy was to be found anywhere. So I was experiencing a mixture of excitement and trepidition when I was told to attend the next library sale! Perusal of the tables yielded nothing and I began to think that I had missed out, when down the stairs came one of the Librarians, waving aloft the book! Yes, bless him, it had been put aside for me. Tears sprang to my eyes! Such a thoughtful and kindly gesture.
This book has a chapter, entitled "Coventrated", which gives graphic accounts of that trying period; not only the damage but the measures employed by the authorities, and how ordinary folk coped. My own memories of these times, aged nine and ten years old, are quite vivid.
The communal graves were sited in the large London Road
cemetery. This book quotes ---
"In proportion to the size of the population, more people lost their lives in Coventry than in any other city in Britain. For those that died in the big raids there were mass funerals. A cortege of lorries, after the November Blitz carried the coffins obtained after an appeal throughout the Midlands. Overnight they were lowered into a trench dug by an excavator."
After the two large Easter 1941 raids the mass grave had to be extended as it was not practicable to allow private burials and there was another communal funeral. I quote --- "When the war was over the grave was made into a walled garden, and a memorial bearing all 808 names, was erected there."
E.B. Newbold was a reporter on the staff of the Coventry Evening Telegraph. His book covers the history, growth, industries --- both ancient and modern, proposed redevelopment plans, Coventry between the wars and before its rapid urban spread, famous sons and daughters of the city --- et al. A fascinating read if you can find a copy.
It has become one of my "Treasures". I particularly enjoy curling up in a comfortable chair and " returning to some prewar haunts", before they became engulfed by the city!
If you do find it --- enjoy!