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The Birmingham Blitz and the"Sand Bag" deaths

Updated: Jan 2, 2023

A survivors story at the Inquest from the Birmingham Mail 6th November 1940

An inquest was held in Birmingham on 6 November 1940 of three Indian people and two Jewish people who were suffocated by a fall of sand when a wall of sandbags collapsed on them whilst they were sleeping in a public air raid shelter which was in a basement and had been reinforced by blast walls .

The victims were Shadi Mohammed age 39, Deborah Shadi Mohammed age 26, Gulham Mohammed age 37 , Hyham Borsook age 30 , Lily Borsook age 34 . All had lived at 9 Sutton Street , near Holloway Head, Birmingham.

A member of the party Shah Sha said that they were in the habit of going to the shelter every night to sleep. On Friday night the six of them went to the shelter at 7 o’clock . He sat talking to Hyman Borsook until about 11.30pm then he went to his place about 15 yards away to sleep. He saw that five people had settled down with their heads against the base of the sandbags. The following morning he was awakened at 6 o’clock and saw that pile of sandbags had collapsed and he dug out Mr and Mrs. Shadi with his hands. All five people were covered with dry sand .

James William Tucker, a shelter Marshall ,told the coroner that on this particular night they were about 300 people in the shelter he had never received any complaint about the blast walls and he thought there was no danger from them George William Fieldhouse an occupant of the shelter described how he was going up for awash in the morning before going to work and he noticed he could see right into the street, he flashed his torch and saw some legs protruding from the pile of sand . He assisted to rescue the bodies. Medical evidence showed all five were dead on arrival General Hospital and that their death was due to asphyxia .

The corner doctor W .H .Davison in recording a verdict of “Accidental death “ in each case commented there is nothing to suggest that's such a happening could have been anticipated and that there were no warning that it was likely to happen again . It should be made known generally that is sand bagged wall even undercover may not be safe after a couple of months. I should like to add but there was nothing this shelter Marshall could have done to prevent it happening .

Shadi Mohammed d. Nov 1940 at Hanger Motor Company Shelter, Tennant Street. Birmingham

Resting in a private grave Key Hill Cemetery Section H plot 26

Ghulan ( Gluham ) Mohammed d.Nov 1940 at Hanger Motor Company Shelter, Tennant Street.

Resting in a public grave at Key Hill Cemetery Section H plot 27

Research Compiled J. Fielding 2004

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