Imperial War Museum’s images of the Blitz

 

The Imperial War Museum has published on its website a series of 15 powerful images of the Blitz: http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/15-powerful-photos-of-the-blitz

For those of us who were not born then, but had family who lived through this period, these images give us some idea of the shocking devastation that they lived with.

The Blitz began on Saturday 7 September when the Germans attacked London with 350 bombers escorted by 600 fighters. The attack lasted from 5pm until 4.30am the following morning. 335 tons of high explosive and 440 incendiary canisters were dropped during that raid.

On “Black Saturday”, 7 September 1940, 430 Londoners were killed and 1,600 injured. 41 German aircraft were shot down by RAF Fighter Command for a loss of 25. To escape the bombing 5,000 East Enders slept out in Epping Forest.

London was then bombed for 57 consecutive nights, and often during the daytime too. The most destructive raid was on 10/11 May 1941.That night the chamber of the House of Commons was destroyed and 1,436 civilians killed. Over 155,000 families were without gas, water or electricity and fires burned for ten days. 507 German bombers raided London that night dropping 711 tons of high explosive and 2,393 incendiary canisters.

Coventry, an important engineering and armaments producing centre, was raided on 14/15 November 1940 when 449 bombers dropped 503 tons of high explosive and 881 incendiary canisters (containing 30,000 bombs) on the city. The Cathedral was destroyed, 554 people were killed and 850 seriously injured. Despite the devastation production was back to normal in 6 weeks.

Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Plymouth were the most heavily bombed cities after London. Glasgow had 5 major raids, the others 8. 23,602 civilians were killed during the Blitz outside London, 1940-1941.

During heavy bombings over Manchester from 22 – 24 December 1940, over 650 people were killed and 50,000 homes damaged. For the rest of the Second World War, Manchester United had to play at Manchester City’s ground because Old Trafford was damaged by bombs.

The Second Great Fire of London took place on 29/30 December 1940, and while a relatively small number of civilians were killed -163- much material damage was done especially to historic buildings including 8 churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren. 136 aircraft raided London that night dropping 127 tons of high explosives and 613 incendiary canisters.

During the Blitz 177,000 Londoners were regularly using Tube stations as shelters. These were not always safe: 64 people were killed at Balham on 15 October 1940 while 111 died at the Bank on 11 January 1941.

In 85 major raids on London the Luftwaffe dropped 23,949 tons of high explosive. Holborn was the most heavily bombed borough with 39.75 high explosive bombs per 100 acres. 20,083 Londoners were killed during the 1940-1941 Blitz. 60,595 British civilians were killed during the Second World War.

Among the many historic buildings destroyed or damaged in the London Blitz were: The Guildhall, the House of Commons, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, St Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum and Buckingham Palace. The Imperial War Museum was also bombed several times, the worst “incident” taking place on the night of 31 January 1941. The BBC was bombed on 15 October 1940.

Coventry Bomb Damage
Coventry Bomb Damage – Taylor (Lt) – War Office official photographer

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