Guide The Blitz

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Some , gross tons of shipping was damaged in the Thames Estuary and 1, civilians were casualties. Loge had cost the Luftwaffe 41 aircraft; 14 bombers, 16 Messerschmitt Bf s , seven Messerschmitt Bf s and four reconnaissance aircraft. On 9 September OKL appeared to be backing two strategies. Its round-the-clock bombing of London was an immediate attempt to force the British government to capitulate, but it was also striking at Britain's vital sea communications to achieve a victory through siege.

Although the weather was poor, heavy raids took place that afternoon on the London suburbs and the airfield at Farnborough. Fighter Command lost 17 fighters and six pilots. Over the next few days weather was poor and the next main effort would not be made until 15 September On 15 September the Luftwaffe made two large daylight attacks on London along the Thames Estuary, targeting the docks and rail communications in the city. Its hope was to destroy its targets and draw the RAF into defending them, allowing the Luftwaffe to destroy their fighters in large numbers, thereby achieving an air superiority.

The first attack merely damaged the rail network for three days, [99] and the second attack failed altogether. The Luftwaffe lost 18 percent of the bombers sent on the operations that day, and failed to gain air superiority. On 17 September he postponed Operation Sea Lion as it turned out, indefinitely rather than gamble Germany's newly gained military prestige on a risky cross-Channel operation, particularly in the face of a sceptical Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. In the last days of the battle, the bombers became lures in an attempt to draw the RAF into combat with German fighters.

But their operations were to no avail; the worsening weather and unsustainable attrition in daylight gave OKL an excuse to switch to night attacks on 7 October. On 14 October, the heaviest night attack to date saw German bombers from Luftflotte 3 hit London. Around people were killed and another 2, injured.

2. London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights from 7 September 1940

British anti-aircraft defences General Frederick Alfred Pile fired 8, rounds and shot down only two bombers. Five main rail lines were cut in London and rolling stock damaged. Loge continued during October. Little tonnage was dropped on Fighter Command airfields; Bomber Command airfields were hit instead. Luftwaffe policy at this point was primarily to continue progressive attacks on London, chiefly by night attack; second, to interfere with production in the vast industrial arms factories of the West Midlands , again chiefly by night attack; and third to disrupt plants and factories during the day by means of fighter-bombers.

Kesselring, commanding Luftflotte 2, was ordered to send 50 sorties per night against London and attack eastern harbours in daylight. Sperrle, commanding Luftflotte 3, was ordered to dispatch sorties per night including against the West Midlands. Seeschlange would be carried out by Fliegerkorps X 10th Air Corps which concentrated on mining operations against shipping.

It also took part in the bombing over Britain.

10 Facts About the Blitz and the Bombing of Germany

The mines' ability to destroy entire streets earned them respect in Britain, but several fell unexploded into British hands allowing counter-measures to be developed which damaged the German anti-shipping campaign. Outside the capital, there had been widespread harassing activity by single aircraft, as well as fairly strong diversionary attacks on Birmingham, Coventry and Liverpool, but no major raids. The London docks and railways communications had taken a heavy pounding, and much damage had been done to the railway system outside.

In September, there had been no less than hits on railways in Great Britain, and at one period, between 5, and 6, wagons were standing idle from the effect of delayed action bombs. But the great bulk of the traffic went on; and Londoners—though they glanced apprehensively each morning at the list of closed stretches of line displayed at their local station, or made strange detours round back streets in the buses—still got to work.

For all the destruction of life and property, the observers sent out by the Ministry of Home Security failed to discover the slightest sign of a break in morale. More than 13, civilians had been killed, and almost 20, injured, in September and October alone, [] but the death toll was much less than expected.

In late , Churchill credited the shelters. Wartime observers perceived the bombing as indiscriminate. American observer Ralph Ingersoll reported the bombing was inaccurate and did not hit targets of military value, but destroyed the surrounding areas. Ingersol wrote that Battersea Power Station , one of the largest landmarks in London, received only a minor hit. The British government grew anxious about the delays and disruption of supplies during the month. Reports suggested the attacks blocked the movement of coal to the Greater London regions and urgent repairs were required.

The London Underground rail system was also affected; high explosive bombs damaged the tunnels rendering some unsafe. British night air defences were in a poor state. Few fighter aircraft were able to operate at night. Ground-based radar was limited, airborne radar and RAF night fighters were generally ineffective.

The difference this made to the effectiveness of air defences is questionable. The British were still one-third below the establishment of heavy anti-aircraft artillery AAA or ack-ack in May , with only 2, weapons available. Dowding had to rely on night fighters. From to , the most successful night-fighter was the Boulton Paul Defiant ; its four squadrons shot down more enemy aircraft than any other type. Over several months, the 20, shells spent per raider shot down in September , was reduced to 4, in January and to 2, shells in February Airborne Interception radar AI was unreliable.

The heavy fighting in the Battle of Britain had eaten up most of Fighter Command's resources, so there was little investment in night fighting. Bombers were flown with airborne search lights out of desperation but to little avail. Douglas set about introducing more squadrons and dispersing the few GL sets to create a carpet effect in the southern counties. Still, in February , there remained only seven squadrons with 87 pilots, under half the required strength.

By the height of the Blitz, they were becoming more successful. The number of contacts and combats rose in , from 44 and two in 48 sorties in January , to and 74 in May sorties. But even in May, 67 per cent of the sorties were visual cat's-eye missions. Curiously, while 43 per cent of the contacts in May were by visual sightings, they accounted for 61 percent of the combats. Yet when compared with Luftwaffe daylight operations, there was a sharp decline in German losses to one per cent.

If a vigilant bomber crew could spot the fighter first, they had a decent chance of evading it. Nevertheless, it was radar that proved to be critical weapon in the night battles over Britain from this point onward. Dowding had introduced the concept of airborne radar and encouraged its usage. Eventually it would become a success. By 16 February , this had grown to 12; with five equipped, or partially equipped with Beaufighters spread over five Groups. The next night, a large force hit Coventry. Only one bomber was lost, to anti-aircraft fire, despite the RAF flying night sorties.

No follow up raids were made, as OKL underestimated the British power of recovery as Bomber Command would do over Germany from — The concentration had been achieved by accident. By the end of November, 1, bombers were available for night raids. An average of were able to strike per night. In December, only 11 major and five heavy attacks were made. Probably the most devastating attack occurred on the evening of 29 December, when German aircraft attacked the City of London itself with incendiary and high explosive bombs, causing a firestorm that has been called the Second Great Fire of London.

At , it released the first of 10, fire bombs, eventually amounting to dropped per minute. Not all of the Luftwaffe effort was made against inland cities. Port cities were also attacked to try to disrupt trade and sea communications. In January, Swansea was bombed four times, very heavily.

On 17 January around bombers dropped a high concentration of incendiaries, some 32, in all. The main damage was inflicted on the commercial and domestic areas. Four days later tons was dropped including 60, incendiaries. In Portsmouth Southsea and Gosport waves of bombers destroyed vast swaths of the city with 40, incendiaries. Warehouses, rail lines and houses were destroyed and damaged, but the docks were largely untouched. Seven major and eight heavy attacks were flown, but the weather made it difficult to keep up the pressure.

Still, at Southampton , attacks were so effective morale did give way briefly with civilian authorities leading people en masse out of the city. Although official German air doctrine did target civilian morale, it did not espouse the attacking of civilians directly. It hoped to destroy morale by destroying the enemy's factories and public utilities as well as its food stocks by attacking shipping. Nevertheless, its official opposition to attacks on civilians became an increasingly moot point when large-scale raids were conducted in November and December Although not encouraged by official policy, the use of mines and incendiaries, for tactical expediency, came close to indiscriminate bombing.

Locating targets in skies obscured by industrial haze meant the target area needed to be illuminated and hit "without regard for the civilian population". The tactic was expanded into Feuerleitung Blaze Control with the creation of Brandbombenfelder Incendiary Fields to mark targets. These were marked out by parachute flares. These decisions, apparently taken at the Luftflotte or Fliegerkorps level, meant attacks on individual targets were gradually replaced by what was, for all intents and purposes, an unrestricted area attack or Terrorangriff Terror Attack.

The effectiveness of British countermeasures against Knickebein , which was designed to avoid area attacks, forced the Luftwaffe to resort to these methods. KGr increased its use of incendiaries from 13—28 percent. By December, this had increased to 92 percent. Other units ceased using parachute flares and opted for explosive target markers. In , the Luftwaffe shifted strategy again. Erich Raeder —commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine —had long argued the Luftwaffe should support the German submarine force U-Bootwaffe in the Battle of the Atlantic by attacking shipping in the Atlantic Ocean and attacking British ports.

This meant that British coastal centres and shipping at sea west of Ireland were the prime targets. Thereafter, he would refuse to make available any air units to destroy British dockyards, ports, port facilities, or shipping in dock or at sea, lest Kriegsmarine gain control of more Luftwaffe units. He was always reluctant to co-operate with Raeder. Even so, the decision by OKL to support the strategy in Directive 23 was instigated by two considerations, both of which had little to do with wanting to destroy Britain's sea communications in conjunction with the Kriegsmarine.

First, the difficulty in estimating the impact of bombing upon war production was becoming apparent, and second, the conclusion British morale was unlikely to break led OKL to adopt the naval option.

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They emphasised the core strategic interest was attacking ports but they insisted in maintaining pressure, or diverting strength, onto industries building aircraft, anti-aircraft guns, and explosives. Other targets would be considered if the primary ones could not be attacked because of weather conditions. A further line in the directive stressed the need to inflict the heaviest losses possible, but also to intensify the air war in order to create the impression an amphibious assault on Britain was planned for However, meteorological conditions over Britain were not favourable for flying and prevented an escalation in air operations.

Airfields became water-logged and the 18 Kampfgruppen bomber groups of the Luftwaffe ' s Kampfgeschwadern bomber wings were relocated to Germany for rest and re-equipment. From the German point of view, March saw an improvement. The Luftwaffe flew 4, sorties that month, including 12 major and three heavy attacks.

The electronic war intensified but the Luftwaffe flew major inland missions only on moonlit nights. Ports were easier to find and made better targets. To confuse the British, radio silence was observed until the bombs fell. By now, the imminent threat of invasion had all but passed as the Luftwaffe had failed to gain the prerequisite air superiority.

The aerial bombing was now principally aimed at the destruction of industrial targets, but also continued with the objective of breaking the morale of the civilian population. These attacks produced some breaks in morale, with civil leaders fleeing the cities before the offensive reached its height. But the Luftwaffe' s effort eased in the last 10 attacks as seven Kampfgruppen moved to Austria in preparation for the Balkans Campaign in Yugoslavia and Greece. The shortage of bombers caused OKL to improvise. The defences failed to prevent widespread damage but on some occasions did prevent German bombers concentrating on their targets.

On occasion, only one-third of German bombs hit their targets. The diversion of heavier bombers to the Balkans meant that the crews and units left behind were asked to fly two or three sorties per night. Bombers were noisy, cold, and vibrated badly. Added to the tension of the mission which exhausted and drained crews, tiredness caught up with and killed many. He fell asleep at the controls of his Ju 88 and woke up to discover the entire crew asleep. He roused them, ensured they took oxygen and Dextro-Energen tablets, then completed the mission.

The Luftwaffe could still inflict much damage and after the German conquest of Western Europe, the air and submarine offensive against British sea communications became much more dangerous than the German offensive during the First World War.


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Liverpool and its port became an important destination for convoys heading through the Western Approaches from North America, bringing supplies and materials. The considerable rail network distributed to the rest of the country. Minister of Home Security Herbert Morrison was also worried morale was breaking, noting the defeatism expressed by civilians.

Roads and railways were blocked and ships could not leave harbour. Around 66, houses were destroyed and 77, people made homeless "bombed out" [] , with 1, people killed and 1, seriously hurt on one night. The populace of the port of Hull became 'trekkers', people who made a mass exodus from cities before, during and after attacks. All but seven of its 12, houses were damaged. Many more ports were attacked. Plymouth was attacked five times before the end of the month while Belfast, Hull, and Cardiff were hit.

Cardiff was bombed on three nights, Portsmouth centre was devastated by five raids. The rate of civilian housing lost was averaging 40, people per week dehoused in September In March , two raids on Plymouth and London dehoused , people. Many houses and commercial centres were heavily damaged, the electrical supply was knocked out, and five oil tanks and two magazines exploded.

Nine days later, two waves of and bombers dropped heavy bombs, including tons of high explosive and 32, incendiaries. Much of the city centre was destroyed. Damage was inflicted on the port installations, but many bombs fell on the city itself. On 17 April tons of explosives and 46, incendiaries were dropped from bombers led by KG The damage was considerable, and the Germans also used aerial mines.

Over 2, AAA shells were fired, destroying two Ju 88s. In the north, substantial efforts were made against Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland , which were large ports on the English east coast. On 9 April Luftflotte 2 dropped tons of high explosives and 50, incendiaries from bombers in a five-hour attack. Sewer, rail, docklands, and electric installations were damaged.

In Sunderland on 25 April, Luftflotte 2 sent 60 bombers which dropped 80 tons of high explosive and 9, incendiaries. Much damage was done. A further attack on the Clyde, this time at Greenock , took place on 6 and 7 May. However, as with the attacks in the south, the Germans failed to prevent maritime movements or cripple industry in the regions.

This caused more than 2, fires. One-third of London's streets were impassable. All but one railway station line was blocked for several weeks. German air supremacy at night was also now under threat. British night-fighter operations out over the Channel were proving successful. Added to the fact an interception relied on visual sighting, a kill was most unlikely even in the conditions of a moonlit sky. Attacks from below offered a larger target, compared to attacking tail-on, as well as a better chance of not being seen by the crew so less chance of evasion , as well as greater likelihood of detonating its bomb load.

In subsequent months a steady number of German bombers would fall to night fighters. Improved aircraft designs were in the offing with the Bristol Beaufighter, then under development. It would prove formidable but its development was slow. In January , Fighter Command flew sorties against 1, made by the Germans. Night fighters could claim only four bombers for four losses. By April and May , the Luftwaffe was still getting through to their targets, taking no more than one- to two-percent losses per mission.

In the following month, 22 German bombers were lost with 13 confirmed to have been shot down by night fighters. Between 20 June , when the first German air operations began over Britain, and 31 March , OKL recorded the loss of 2, aircraft over the British Isles, a quarter of them fighters and one third bombers.

At least 3, Luftwaffe aircrew were killed, 2, missing and 2, wounded. A significant number of the aircraft not shot down after the resort to night bombing were wrecked during landings or crashed in bad weather. The military effectiveness of bombing varied. Despite the bombing, British production rose steadily throughout this period, although there were significant falls during April , probably influenced by the departure of workers for Easter Holidays, according to the British official history.

The official history volume British War Production Postan, noted that the greatest effect on output of warlike stores was on the supply of components and dispersal of production rather than complete equipments. In aircraft production, the British were denied the opportunity to reach the planned target of 2, aircraft in a month, arguably the greatest achievement of the bombing, as it forced the dispersal of the industry, at first because of damage to aircraft factories and then by a policy of precautionary dispersal.

The attacks against Birmingham took war industries some three months to recover fully. The exhausted population took three weeks to overcome the effects of an attack. The air offensive against the RAF and British industry failed to have the desired effect. More might have been achieved had OKL exploited the vulnerability of British sea communications. The Allies did so later when Bomber Command attacked rail communications and the United States Army Air Forces targeted oil, but that would have required an economic-industrial analysis of which the Luftwaffe was incapable.

They concluded bombers should strike a single target each night and use more incendiaries, because they had a greater impact on production than high explosives. They also noted regional production was severely disrupted when city centres were devastated through the loss of administrative offices, utilities and transport.

They believed the Luftwaffe had failed in precision attack and concluded the German example of area attack using incendiaries was the way forward for operations over Germany. Some writers claim the Air Staff ignored a critical lesson, that British morale did not break and that attacking German morale was not sufficient to induce a collapse. Aviation strategists dispute that morale was ever a major consideration for Bomber Command. Throughout —39 none of the 16 Western Air Plans drafted mentioned morale as a target. The first three directives in did not mention civilian populations or morale in any way.

Morale was not mentioned until the ninth wartime directive on 21 September The AOC Bomber Command, Arthur Harris , who did see German morale as an objective, did not believe that the morale-collapse could occur without the destruction of the German economy. The primary goal of Bomber Command was to destroy the German industrial base economic warfare and in doing so reduce morale.

In late , just before the Battle of Berlin , Harris declared the power of Bomber Command would enable it to achieve "a state of devastation in which surrender is inevitable". From to the end of the war, he [Harris] and other proponents of the area offensive represented it [the bomber offensive] less as an attack on morale than as an assault on the housing, utilities, communications, and other services that supported the war production effort. A converse popular image arose of British people in the Second World War: a collection of people locked in national solidarity.

This image entered the historiography of the Second World War in the s and s, especially after the publication of Angus Calder 's book The Myth of the Blitz It was evoked by both the right and left political factions in Britain during the Falklands War when it was embedded in a nostalgic narrative in which the Second World War represented aggressive British patriotism successfully defending democracy. In the Myth of the Blitz , Calder exposed some of the counter-evidence of anti-social and divisive behaviours.

In particular, class division was most evident. Raids during the Blitz produced the greatest divisions and morale effects in the working-class areas. Lack of sleep, insufficient shelters and inefficiency of warning systems were causes. The loss of sleep was a particular factor, with many not bothering to attend inconvenient shelters. The Communist Party made political capital out of these difficulties. Many Londoners, in particular, took to using the Underground railway system, without authority, for shelter and sleeping through the night.

So worried were the Government over the sudden campaign of leaflets and posters distributed by the Communist Party in Coventry and London, that the police were sent to seize their production facilities. The Government, up until November , was opposed to the centralised organisation of shelter. Home Secretary Sir John Anderson was replaced by Morrison soon afterwards, in the wake of a Cabinet reshuffle as the dying Neville Chamberlain resigned.

Morrison warned that he could not counter the Communist unrest unless provision of shelters were made. He recognised the right of the public to seize tube stations and authorised plans to improve their condition and expand them by tunnelling.

How I Met Your Mother - The Blitz !

Still, many British citizens, who had been members of the Labour Party , itself inert over the issue, turned to the Communist Party. The Communists attempted to blame the damage and casualties of the Coventry raid on the rich factory owners, big business and landowning interests and called for a negotiated peace. Though they failed to make a large gain in influence, the membership of the Party had doubled by June Anti-Semitic attitudes became widespread, particularly in London.

Rumours that Jewish support was underpinning the Communist surge were frequent. Rumours that Jews were inflating prices, were responsible for the Black Market , were the first to panic under attack even the cause of the panic and secured the best shelters via underhanded methods, were also widespread. There was also racial antagonism between the small Black, Indian and Jewish communities but there were no race riots despite the mixing of different peoples in confined areas. In other cities, class conflict was more evident. Over a quarter of London's population had left the city by November Civilians left for more remote areas of the country.

Upsurges in population in south Wales and Gloucester intimated where these displaced people went. Other reasons, including industry dispersal may have been a factor. However, resentment of rich self-evacuees or hostile treatment of poor ones were signs of persistence of class resentments although these factors did not appear to threaten social order. Reception committees were completely unprepared for the condition of some of the children. Far from displaying the nation's unity in time of war, the scheme backfired, often aggravating class antagonism and bolstering prejudice about the urban poor.

Within four months, 88 per cent of evacuated mothers, 86 per cent of small children, and 43 per cent of school children had been returned home. The lack of bombing in the Phoney War contributed significantly to the return of people to the cities, but class conflict was not eased a year later when evacuation operations had to be put into effect again. In recent years a large number of wartime recordings relating to the Blitz have been made available on audiobooks such as The Blitz , The Home Front and British War Broadcasting.

These collections include period interviews with civilians, servicemen, aircrew, politicians and Civil Defence personnel, as well as Blitz actuality recordings, news bulletins and public information broadcasts. Notable interviews include Thomas Alderson, the first recipient of the George Cross, John Cormack, who survived eight days trapped beneath rubble on Clydeside, and Herbert Morrison's famous "Britain shall not burn" appeal for more fireguards in December In one 6-month period, , tons of bombsite rubble from London were transported by railway on 1, freight trains to make runways on Bomber Command airfields in East Anglia.

Below is a table by city of the number of major raids where at least tons of bombs were dropped and tonnage of bombs dropped during these major raids. Smaller raids are not included in the tonnages. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Blitz disambiguation. For other bombings, see London attack. The Blitz — British home front during World War II. Main article: Strategic bombing. See also: Anti-aircraft warfare. Main article: Battle of the Beams. See also: Organization of the Luftwaffe.

See also: Directive In mid-September, Bf units possessed only 67 per cent of crews against authorised aircraft, Bf units just 46 per cent and bomber units 59 per cent. German sources estimated 5—10 per cent of bombs failed to explode; the British put the figure at 20 per cent. London: Aurum Press. Inside Europe.

The Atlantic. Addison, Paul and Jeremy Crang. London: Pimlico, London: Aurum Press, The Myth of the Blitz. Pimlico, London, London: London Stationery Office. Collier, Richard. New York: Jane's. Kansas University Press. Stankey and Eddie J. Faber, Harold. Luftwaffe: An analysis by former Luftwaffe Generals.

WW2: The Blitz Hits | History TV

Sidwick and Jackson, London, Issue No. Autumn, , pp. Blitz: The Story of the 29th December Faber and Faber, London. The Luftwaffe Bombers' Battle of Britain. Case Studies In Strategic Bombardment. Air Force History and Museums Program, Hill, Maureen. In the first 30 days, almost 6, people were killed and twice as many badly injured. The most notorious raid took place on Sunday 29 December. The focus this time was the City of London. Nineteen churches, including 16 built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London, were destroyed.

Miraculously, however, St Paul's survived. Of the 34 guild halls, 31 were decimated. And when Paternoster Row, centre of London's publishing industry, was destroyed, around 5 million books were lost. In the end, around one third of the City was laid to waste. However, many of the main businesses streets, such as Cornhill and Lombard Street, suffered little damage and the Bank of England and the Stock Market were not hit.

The air raids continued sporadically, with major raids on 16 and 19 April More than 1, people were killed on each night in various areas across the capital. The Blitz only ended in May when the German Luftwaffe were redeployed to take part in the invasion of Russia.

Within the ruins there were some amazing discoveries.