On 10th February 1943 two German Dornier 217 bombers from ll/KG40 Bomber unit in Holland on a nuisance raid followed the Great Western Railway line running west from London to Reading. At 4:35pm one of the bombers veered off towards South Reading while the other continued to follow the railway line to Newbury.
At 4:43pm the Dornier 217 bomber arrived at Newbury and dropped eight high-explosive bombs, there was no time for a warning siren.
The church was totally destroyed by the bombs, leaving only the altar standing, but was rebuilt after the war. The Senior Council School (Eastfield), St.Bartholomew's Almshouses, St.John's Church and Southampton Terrace were also destroyed and another 265 dwellings were damaged, many were later demolished.
The local civil defence commanders had to use the Police and Home Guard to keep back the crowds while there was an organised search for survivors. 15 people were killed and a further 41 people who were injured, which 25 were seriously hurt.
Eyewitnesses, which at the time were children at St Batholomew School said that they had only left school about 20 minutes before and remembered seeing the planes flying in above as they were walking home, and then the bombs being dropped. 15 people who died were 3 pupils and two of their teachers who had stayed behind to finish off some work.
Some people in Cheap Street were blown off their feet by the blast, with wood flying past them from the nearby explosions.
In contrast, the Reading raid fell across the town centre, straddling what is now the site of the Oracle shopping centre and moving north to the Town Hall. There was greater loss of life with forty-one people killed in Reading, despite an air raid warning. Thirty-five of them were dining in the People’s Pantry, a Government-sponsored restaurant behind the Market Place. The other casualties, including two children, were taking shelter as best they could.
Both bomber crews also became victims of war, their Dornier 217 bombers were brought down as they flew back South towards Germany.