Unsolved Murders

Albert Eric Ross

Age: 26

Sex: male

Date: 16 Jan 1939

Place: Newton Street, Manchester

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Albert Eric Ross died in an explosion at the corner of Newton Street and Hilton Street in Manchester at 6am on 16 January 1939.

It was thought that the explosive material had been places in a manhole.

The police said that they didn't have enough information to charge anyone with murder of manslaughter, but said that they had arrested several people under the Explosive Substances Acts.

Albert Ross had been a market porter and had lived in Duke Street, Hulme.

He had just got off a bus.

The explosion had extinguished all the street lights in the area and had sent flames leaping 12 feet high from a manhole. Albert Ross was found lying about three feet from the manhole.

A Manchester Corporation bus driver said that he was driving his bus past the junction of Hilton Street and Newton Street shortly after 6am when an explosion shook the bus. He said, 'The crash blew out 22 windows and smashed the rear seat. The back panel was penetrated by a piece of stone and the steps were covered with earth and grit. I stopped the bus and jumped out. Flames were rising from a manhole at the corner of Hilton Street.'.

The bus conductor said that he heard a great noise and saw a burst of flames behind the bus. He said, 'The explosion blew me half-way down the bus. There was one man on the bus then, but he disappeared when the explosion occurred'.

A postman said that he was leaving Newton Street Post Office to go home and paused at the corner of Hilton Street when he remembered that he had something in his locker. He said that he had just decided to go back and had taken one or two steps, when he was blinded by a terrific explosion. He said, 'At the same time something struck my leg and I was sent spinning across the road. Stones and earth showered over men'. He said that he saw huge clouds of black smoke rising from the ground and was sent spinning across the road and was treated at a hospital for severe shock.

The jury returned a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown after five minutes of deliberation.

There had been three explosions in the city centre that morning at 6am, all of which had been caused by the introduction of explosive substances into three manholes. The other explosions were at the corners of Mosley Street and Princess Street, and at the junction of Whitworth Street and Princess Street. They all happened at the same time.

The explosions were thought to have been caused by members of the Irish Republican Army, IRA.

Two days later police found bags containing gelignite attached to an electricity pylon at East Didsbury. An alarm clock and a battery had been connected with the bags but the clock had stopped at 12.37. The alarm was set for six o'clock.

Two more bombs went off on 2 March 1939 when Irish Republican terrorist outrages suddenly recurred again, and attempts were made to blow up important canals in London and Staffordshire. It was said that although both attempts failed, considerable damage was done to the aqueduct that carried the Grand Union Canal over the North Circular Road near Stonebridge Park in north London. Police found what they thought were bomb fragments. A large hole was blown in the parapet wall and large quantity of masonry fell into the road, narrowly missing motorists and cyclists. The steel casing of the aqueduct however remained intact, although a crack was apparently caused and water was found dripping to the ground. It was said that whilst the explosion was heard all around the police were unable to find out where it had occurred because it was in an isolated spot in a field not far from Spencer’s tube works and not far off from what was described as the most important munition factory in the neighbourhood. On the parapet of the bridge, painted in letters about two feet high was the word, 'Die'.

The other bomb was placed on a section of the Birmingham Navigation Canal at Wednesbury in Staffordshire. The bomb was placed in a culvert under the canal and the explosion was heard for many miles. The explosion reached the parapet and cracked the aqueduct and some of the debris was blown 20 yards away.

On 21 February 1939 8 men and 2 women appeared in a guarded court at Manchester City Police Court in connection with the alleged discovery of a large quantity of explosives including Mills bombs, gelignite, electric detonators, barrels of potassium chlorate and other chemicals and were charged under the Explosive Substances Act, 1883. It was heard that elaborate precautions were taken to prevent any unauthorised person from being in court and two police officers were the only occupants of the public gallery and all the doors to the court were guarded. It was also alleged that they had conspired to cause an explosion of a nature likely to endanger life, ot to cause serious injury to property, and that they possessed explosive substances in such circumstances as to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that they were not making it or did not have it in their possession or under their control for a lawful object.

On 2 March 1939 22 men and a girl appeared at Bow street in London on charges arising out of the recent explosions. Eighteen men were charged with conspiring together and with other persons in Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and elsewhere to cause explosions of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property. The charges arose from an alleged plot to threaten power stations, railways, Tube stations, aeroplane factories, Post Offices and other vulnerable centres in the country. Document were also taken by the police detailing a so-called 'S' plan that was alleged to have been prepared by the IRA.

Two men were charges withe having in their possession an alarm clock fitted for timing an explosion whilst two men were charged with being concerned together in having an explosive substance in their possession or under their control. The girl was charged with having explosive substances in her control.

The police said that when they went to an address in Cambridge Street in Pimlico on 24 January 1939 they found a locked suitcase in which there were 50 Post Office envelopes and 0 sheets of embossed HM Government notepaper. They also found five envelopes marked: Aerodromes, shadow factories, officers general military and naval intelligence department, Imperial General Staff, Army Council, War Office Officials. They also found a paper folder marked 'Air Council Committee Offices'. They also found four pages of a manual of instructions and pages one and two of 'list of materials' and several maps of London and Greater London.

The police said that they also found a receipt for 2 1/2 gross of 'airship balloons' and a receipt for three funnels graduated measuring cylinders and six glass pots from a firm of scientific manufacturers.

A police inspector said that he inspected a diary with the following entries:

  • 1 January 1939: On way to Liverpool. Travelling first class on third class ticket. Very luxurious. Can't get M.
  • 2 January 1939: Back from L at 5.30am
  • 8 January 1939: On way to Cardiff. Failed to meet W last night.

At the end of the diary there were a number of entries made detailing payments made. These included: 'twenty-one pounds nine shillings and fourpence AL and £4 4s acid'.

The police said tat they were quite satisfied that they contained particular and formula for the manufacture of explosives. They also found several documents that were found to be codes. One was marked 'For GHQ only' and another 'For use in Britain only'.

The police also said that they had decoded a number of documents, one of which was a letter from te IRA and addressed to 'N Area Commander' whilst another was addressed to, 'Operations officers all areas'. A document that was signed 'PS Battalion Officer, Britain' stated: 'Send immediately a report on all explosive material in your area, that is, potash, fuses, detonators, both electrical and manual, and gelignite'.

One of the men at Bow Street Police Court was identified by a man from Scientific Glass Blowing Co., WC, as a man that had bought good from him.

One of the men was said to have said in a statement that he had bought two tons of chlorate of potash from a firm in St Helens Place, EC and said that a man he knew from the Dublin Pharmacy had called on him to buy some chlorate of potash for making throat pastilles, paying him £70 with £12 commission. He said that he had also previously bought iron oxide for the man from Dublin Pharmacy as well, who he said he understood was sending goods to various chemist in Ireland.

Albert Ross had been a porter at the Smithfield Market and after the explosion was taken to the Manchester Royal Infirmary where he died from his injuries.

It was heard that in addition to the damage to the bus, a large hole was blown in the road and the explosion had fractured a gas main. Windows were also blown out of buildings nearby.

It was also said that people living in Crosby, Waterloo, Seaforth and Litherland near Liverpool were awakened by the explosion and that houses in the district were shaken and their windows rattled.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Belfast News-Letter - Friday 03 March 1939

see Lincolnshire Echo - Tuesday 21 February 1939

see Northern Whig - Friday 03 March 1939

see Lincolnshire Echo - Monday 16 January 1939

see Surrey Mirror - Friday 22 December 1939

see Manchester Evening News - Thursday 02 March 1939

see Northern Whig - Friday 03 March 1939

see Liverpool Evening Express - Tuesday 21 February 1939

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 03 March 1939

see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 21 February 1939

see Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Friday 03 March 1939

see Birmingham Mail - Tuesday 21 February 1939

see Manchester Evening News - Thursday 02 March 1939

see Birmingham Mail - Thursday 02 March 1939

see Liverpool Daily Post - Friday 03 March 1939

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 21 February 1939