Brig man making documentary on Battle of Bamber Bridge in 1943

The sound of bullets ripping through the air until 4am was forever etched into two children's brains.

By Laura Longworth
Friday, 28th January 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 4th February 2022, 6:20 pm

This terrifying memory of hearing gunfire throughout the night during the Battle of Bamber Bridge in 1943 when they were just 13 and six is one that Tom Sharples and his wife Joan would describe to their grandson many decades later.

Now Danny Lyons is honouring his grandparents' memory by making a documentary about the battle that started in Ye Olde Hob Inn, spilled out onto Station Road and resulted in the murder of an American soldier. To help him piece the film together, Danny (37) is looking for both World War Two photographs and people to interview next month at the Church Road pub who have memories of the battle.

The budding film-maker said: "My nanna and grandad used to tell me about the [Second World] War, and I'd think, 'This is mad.'

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The Battle of Bamber Bridge in 1943 began at Ye Olde Hob Inn.

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Recalling their descriptions of hearing gunfire on the night of June 24, Danny added: "Everyone could hear it as there were blackouts at 10pm so they were all on a curfew. If you were seen out by a police officer, you'd get a fine. Everything would have been eerily silent but then you could hear these guns going off. You can't imagine it. It'd have been the worst thing ever. You don't have gun fights in Britain so it must have been really scary and confusing. A battle was going on down the road and you'd have had no way of finding out what it was. You'd have to just sit and wait it out.

"I found it really fascinating - you don't expect [a battle] to have happened in Bamber Bridge but it's an important part of the war. It left a big impression on the people who lived here.

"It's an extraordinary thing so I want to document it and make it accessible to people."

The Battle of Bamber Bridge occurred in the same year as the Detroit race riots during a time when some US states were segregating black people in churches, schools, workplaces and more.

People of colour were also forced to serve in their own units in the US Army. This included a logistics unit called the 1511 Quartermaster Truck Regiment, which was based in Bamber Bridge. White officers led the unit, which would transfer supplies to other US regiments across Lancashire. The unit was segregated from the 234th US Military Police Company, which also comprised white troops and was based in the same town. The military police had the power to arrest fellow troops breaking the law or abusing their military skills.

The military police attempted to segregate black people in Bamber Bridge but the town's three pubs refused to support the ban.

Several African-American troops were drinking in the Ye Olde Hob Inn after last orders on June 24. When two passing MPs attempted to arrest one of them for a minor uniform offence, an argument broke out between the military police and the black troops, who were defended by Bamber Bridge residents. A bottle was thrown and a gun drawn before the situation was diffused, and the soldiers began making their way to their Station Road base.

While people disagree about what happened next, it is known that a gun fight broke out, and more MPs arrived in a jeep fitted with a machine gun. The violence went on until 4am, with one soldier, Private William Crossland, being shot and killed.

With Danny's nanna now being in her 80s, he believes it is vital to document the event before memories of it are lost.

He said: "I think it's really important because if you forget the things that have happened then you can't learn from them and build a better future. Time is finite."

He also thinks it is important to shine more light on local stories from the Second World War.

"People have such interesting stories, especially the real-life element, the day-to-day of people who are living it. You learn about the [key] people involved in the war but not the working people who have to get through it. I think they need to be celebrated more."

Anyone who would like to take part in the documentary can contact Danny on 07535 246 602 or [email protected] and must be available for interview after the February Half-term holidays.