Bomb hero honoured on 100th birthday as World War II saviour of City Hall

Cardiff Council has honoured a man who saved City Hall from destruction when he tackled an incendiary bomb dropped on its roof during a German air raid during World War II.

On the night of February 2, 1941, 16-year-old Ronald Brignall was walking home from college where he was studying for his plumbing qualifications. As he passed City Hall, the air raid sirens heralded the onset of a German bombing attack and he saw an incendiary bomb land on its roof.

With no thought for his own safety, he grabbed two sandbags and, holding one under his arm and another gripped between his teeth, he scaled a drainpipe and climbed 25 feet to the roof and doused the flames – cheered on by the official fire-watchers standing below.

As if that wasn’t heroic enough, Mr Brignall then went down and carried a fire hose back up the drainpipe – again gripped between his teeth – and finished the job while the fire-watchers supplied water via a stirrup pump on the ground.

By the end of his mission, despite the ongoing raid, a crowd had gathered to hail him as a hero but, despite local newspapers at the time recording his exploits, there has been no official recognition of a feat that averted the destruction of one of Cardiff’s grandest and most historic buildings.

Until now.

Today, as Mr Brignall  celebrates his 100th birthday, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Cllr Bablin Molik, travelled to the care home in Sussex where he now lives to present him with a special certificate thanking him for his heroism and recording the events of that day in 1941 for posterity.

At the time, Mr Brignall’s only comment was that his jaw was sore from carrying the 12lb bag of sand up to the roof – and he’d ruined his suit – but today he said that at the time he was excited at being able to make some small contribution to the war effort. “I was only a teenager,” he said, “and I didn’t have any fear. I just wanted to make sure the bomb didn’t do any damage to City Hall.”

Determined to make even more of a contribution to the war effort, he later became an official fire-watcher, helping to protect Cardiff, and In 1944, he joined the RAF and became a rear-gunner on Whitley and Halifax bombers, featuring in Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine by the Allies, in 1945.

Mr Brignall’s son Ian said: “He’s always been a modest man and rarely talked about his war record. We only knew of his heroics in Cardiff on that day because he’d kept some newspaper cuttings from the time,” he said.

“Dad’s a little frail now, as you’d expect from someone who is 100, but I know he is thrilled to have this recognition and the certificate from the council. It’s a perfect present on his birthday, along with the lovely gift from the WRU of a rugby shirt signed by the Wales Six Nations squad.”

The Lord Mayor, Cllr Molik, said she was delighted to be able to present Mr Brignall with his belated honour. “The best part of my work as Lord Mayor is meeting remarkable people and Mr Brignall is a great example of those who have so much civic pride in Cardiff.

“I know this is a rather belated honour but it is no less heartfelt and I assured Mr Brignall and his family that the whole of Cardiff expresses its gratitude for the heroics he performed on that day in 1941.”