SIXTY-six years ago today, the people of York went to bed not knowing that their world was about to change forever.

In the early hours of April 29, 1942, more than 70 German aircraft roared in from the North Sea, following the River Ouse and heading for York Station.

Bombs rained down on the city, hitting Clifton, Bootham, Wigginton Road, the city centre, the station, Leeman Road, the Nunnery Lane/ Scarcroft area and on into Acomb and Poppleton Road.

When the sun came up over York, it exposed scenes of devastation. Houses were destroyed, the Guildhall burned out. The Bar Convent had collapsed, killing five nuns. Pavements were littered with rubble and shattered glass.

Altogether, 92 civilians were killed and 204 injured that night, in what was York's darkest hour of the war.

Photographs galore remain of the devastation. But nothing brings it home quite like the words of those who lived through it.

John Scott was a York schoolboy at the time. In Rations, Raids And Romance, a wonderful new book of wartime memories produced by the York Archaeological Trust and the York Oral History Society, he recalls that night. The people of York had got used to the sirens sounding night after night as German aircraft flew over York on the way to bomb Liverpool docks, he says.

That night, however, York itself was the target. "Everybody was asleep in bed," John recalls. "In the early hours of the morning, bombs started to fall. We dived into the front room and the safest place was to be by the chimney breast.

"Next morning they sounded the all-clear and we all gathered at the top of Scarcroft Hill and we could see York burning. Two ladies next door had fortified themselves with a bottle of whisky and were dancing round in the street. My school had disappeared, it was all rubble."

Rations, Raids And Romances brings together the spoken memories of more than 70 York people who lived in or near the city in the 1940s.

All were interviewed in 2005 as part of an oral history project to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

The book is published tomorrow, on the 66th anniversary of the Baedecker raids - but it covers far more than just that one night of destruction. It is no less than the story - in their own voices - of how the people of York coped with the war.

As author Van Wilson says in her introduction, it is the story of "the firemen and air raid wardens who dug out the women and children trapped under two or three storeys of rubble; the members of the Home Guard, training long hours in their determination to protect their country; the families who took in other people's children; the women in facto-ries making munitions; the girls ploughing and working on the land to increase the nation's food production."

The impression left is of ordinary people mucking in, pulling together and making the most of it all in a spirit of cheery stoicism.

As one interviewee says: "We didn't do anything special, we just got on with it."

* Rations, Raids And Romance by Van Wilson is published by York Archaeological Trust priced £9.99. It is available from Jorvik, DIG, the Barbican Bookshop and other local bookshops.