In his book 'Schoolboy Memories of Workd War II', the author, "Flinders", commented that "most people thought it was only a matter of time before the German Airforce bombed" the Horwich Loco Works and the De Havilland factories. And it must have been a frightening time for the locals as most were employed in war work in these places.
However, neither factory was bombed and that was in part due to a mistake by the German military intelligence services. Here is the story of when the Luftwaffe bombed the WRONG Lostock.
Lostock Hall, near Preston, was bombed several times during the Second World War. It was thought to be a target because of the nearby Leyland Motors factory - which was involved in war work. But did it get an extra attack by mistake? The German Luftwaffe map dated 1940 (RIGHT) locates the 'De Havilland' factory - according to its title. But the De Havilland factory was in fact at Lostock, Bolton, some five miles away. We don't know what the factory marked on the map did during the war, but it was neither De Havilland nor Leyland Motors (which was a ahort way south). We wonder where this (wrong) piece of intelligence came from? Unlike most targets, it is marked on a British OS map, rather than an aerial photo taken by a reconaissance plane. Was it the result of a piece of "careless talk" or perhaps a tip from a spy?
Author Peter J.C. Smith, in his book 'Luftwaffe over Manchester the Blitz Years 1940-1944' claims that there was a raid on 3rd July 1942 aimed at Lostock's De Hallivand factory which by mistake went to the Preston Lostock Hall site instead. However, the two Junkers 88 bombers failed to find their target and flew on indiscriminantly bombing and machine gunning Derbyshire - in New Mills, Hayfield, Eyam Quarry and Chatsworth House. Then, having been spotted by Nottimghamshire ROC, 12 Group of Fighter Command scrambled spitfires in Lincolnshire and they were shot down by No. 303 (Polish) Squadron.
Lostock Hall, Preston was bombed on Sunday October 27th,1940. It has always been presumed they were aiming for the Leyland Motor Company which built tanks and tank parts (see page HERE).
Photos (RIGHT and BELOW RIGHT) show some of the damage of that raid.
The photo RIGHT is of the Ward Street/Princes Street area. The attack was by a lone bomber in daylight hours, killing 25 people. Such an attack tended to be a deliberately targetted attack by the 'Experten' members of the Luftwaffe and were on specific targets. Which target did they think they were bombing? The bomb landed right next to the factory located (wrongly) as the De Havilland factory in the 1940 Lostock Hall Luftwaffe map.
The site at Lostock Hall was only a stones throw away from the Leyland tank factory - a near miss on one could easily have bombed the other.
To confuse things even further - Horwich Heritage Society have a display of various WW2 related material. This includes a Luftwaffe map which is dated February 1941. This map is clearly titled 'Lostock Junction the Northern Airscrews de Hallivand'. So according to this evidence the true location of the propeller factory was known some time before the attack that Peter J.C. Smith thinks was headed for the "wrong" Lostock.
According to the display at Horwich Heritage Centre the factory at Lostock, Bolton was built as a shadow factory in 1937. They state: "At the outbreak of war De Havilland possessed the only full-scale manufacturing facility for variable pitch propellers in the country and they built the majority of propellers used by the RAF and the Navy for the next five years. In all 146,000 propellers were made during that time."
RIGHT: The 1941 Luftwaffe aerial reconaissance photo on display at Horwich Heritage Centre.
The bomb dropped on Ward Street, Lostock Hall Preston is remembered with a memorial stone (BELOW) which lists the names and ages of the 25 dead. This included 12 children, 6 from the same family (Watson).
BELOW: The de Havilland factory courtesy of Google Earth today - looking much the same as the German reconaissance photo (ABOVE)
According to the Lancashire Lantern " Houses 48 to 68 were destroyed and demolished." There is an excellent photo of the devastation on their website.
Above Left & Abvove Right: Where the houses were demolished now stands a church and a car park.
Right: The Lostock Hall, Preston factory "wrongly" identified as de Havilland, Lostock Bolton. This is the factory as seen from Ward Street. The bomb landed on the terraced houses facing this factory.
Compare the Google Earth image of the factory below with the Luftwaffe map at the top of the page and you will note that where the bomb landed (Ward Street) was a pretty precise hit - whether or not it was a mistake.
Below: Some photos of the de Havilland factory, Lostock, Horwich/Bolton today. One of the main buildings (1st photo Below LEFT) has now been demolished - see second photo below. Much of the rest of the factory still stands in 2016.