During the afternoon of September 7, 1940, German bombers dotted the skies over London — by the end of the war there was hardly a large city or town in Britain that had not come under attack.
As well as London, a proliferation of bombs were dropped on Southampton, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Belfast.
Around 500 German bombers dropped 500 tons of explosives and nearly 900 incendiary bombs on the infamous Coventry raid on November 14, 1940.The night raids became so frequent that they were almost continuous. Every night bar one for ten solid weeks, from 7 September to 14 November 1940, London was attacked prolifically by an average of 160 bombers. According to figures, between August 1940 and May 1941 over 43,000 civilians were killed.
Hitler believed that the Luftwaffe’s strategic aerial bombing raids would disrupt production, break morale and beat Britain into submission. Performed mostly at night, he aimed to increase the fear factor, causing Britain to lose sleep and become weak.
Britain didn’t just roll over and surrender though – instead it developed a ‘Blitz spirit' — the country protected itself by enforcing blackouts and using shelters. Corrugated steel Anderson shelters, covered over by earth, were dug into gardens all over the country and larger brick and concrete civic shelters were also put up in British towns.
Apparently many people who were fed up of losing sleep to go back and forth to the street shelters, started taking up residence in shelters. Londoners moved down in their thousands into the tube stations and this really raised a spirit of community and camaraderie.
The bombing in the end did not achieve its intended goals of demoralising the British and forcing surrender, nor did it severely damage the war economy and the eight months of bombing never seriously hampered British production.
By May 1941 the threat of an invasion of Britain had passed, and Hitler’s attention had turned to the invasion of Russia and Operation Barbarossa.
The effects of the blitz were still shocking though, and it is believed that around 60,000 people lost their lives, 87,000 were seriously injured and 2 million homes were destroyed. Without air-raid shelters, statistics could have been a lot worse.
Can any of your family members remember what life was like during World War II and the Blitz? Did any of them serve? Are you looking for more information? Why not visit Forces War Records and search our wealth of records…