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Battle of Britain


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cardboard_killer

[Personally, the BoB ended when sealion was cancelled, as that was the entire purpose of the BoB. Now, the Blitz. . .]

 

[80 years ago today] "• Today is generally considered to mark the end of the Battle of Britain, though “The Blitz” will continue. The RAF has lost 915 fighters while 1,733 German planes have been shot down. The RAF recognizes 2,936 Fighter Command aircrew (mostly pilots) from 14 countries who are awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp to the 1939–45 Star by flying at least one authorised operational sortie from July 10 to October 31 1940. 544 of them were killed in the Battle of Britain and another 795 died later in the war, leaving 1,597 to survive WWII. An estimated 3,800 German aircrew were lost, while 35,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Britain, killing 14,238 civilians, destroying 16,000 homes and making 60,000 more uninhabitable."

 

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[80 years ago today] " • After conducting several raids against coastal targets, the Corpo Aereo Italiano sees its first major combat against the RAF in a raid on Great Yarmouth. Fiat Br-20M bombers are escorted by forty-two CR.42s, G.50s, plus German Messerschmitt Bf-109s assigned to high cover. The G.50 mission is aborted due to bad weather, leaving only the CR.42s as close escort. Hurricanes from Nos 42, 46, and 257 Squadrons intercept and shoot down three bombers and two fighters, while four bombers and two fighters conduct forced landings, while another eight fighters return to base with damage. The extent of Bf-109 participation is unknown. The RAF has two Hurricanes damaged.

- The Italians will mainly limit themselves to night raids in future. When briefed on the raid, Winston Churchill quips of the obsolescent biplanes, “They might have found better employment defending the fleet at Taranto.” [see Raid on Taranto in battles folder]"

 

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[This plane, shot down during the raid, is on display at the RAF Museum]

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[80 years ago today] "• After directing the successful Battle of Britain, Air Marshal Hugh Dowding is removed from Fighter Command and replaced by political rival Air Vice Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas. Douglas had been an advocate of the “Big Wing” strategy of multi-squadron set piece battles with the Luftwaffe (which is what the Luftwaffe was counting on) as opposed to Dowding’s successful Fabian strategy of hit and run to take advantage of individual squadron flexibility. No.11 Group commander Air Vice Marshal Keith Park is to be replaced by another Big Wing advocate, Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory. " [Note, I think the problem with the idea of the "big wing" was timing; as a tactic it wasn't a terrible idea, just beyond the means of C&C in 1940. Also, Downing was set to retire just before the war began but was asked to remain in service due to the war. His replacement was much less controversial at the time than it became when looked at in hindsight.]

 

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[80 years ago today] • The Luftwaffe makes its fourth night raid in a row on Bristol.

• Leutnant Wolfgang Teumer is part of a fighter sweep over Kent when his Bf-109E-3 is shot up by Canadian Flight Lieutenant George Christie, knocking out his radio and radiator. He crash lands close to RAF Marston.

- The aircraft is repaired and the canopy removed so Rolls Royce’s chief test pilot can fit in the cockpit. It will be evaluated by Rolls Royce, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight RAF, known informally as the Rafwaffe. The ‘Emil’ is now in the RAF Herndon Museum. The Rafwaffe previously received a Bf-109E captured intact by the French in late 1939, and both will be used in the 1969 film, “The Battle of Britain”.

 

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Teumers Bf-109E in the "Rafwafffe"

 

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Teumers Bf-109 at RAF Herndon Museum

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[80 years ago today] "• Major Helmut Wick, the Geschwaderkommodore of JG 2, is Germany's current highest scoring ace with 56 victories. Today he is shot down by Flight Lieutenant John Dundas of No 609 Squadron over the English Channel. Dundas, with 12 confirmed kills, is shot down himself minutes later by Wick’s wingman. Neither pilot survives. "

 

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Wick in the middle.

 

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John Dundas, smoking

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[80 years ago today] "• HMS Cameron (ex USS Welles) is refitting in drydock at Plymouth when bombed. She is damaged and the drydock floods, partially capsizing the destroyer. 14 crewmen are killed. She will not enter service until 1942 and due to hull stress will be used for testing and training purposes only. "

 

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HMS Cameron bombed

 

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USS Welles, 1919 in Boston harbor.

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[80 years ago today] "• There are no Luftwaffe raids over Britain for the first 24 hour period since August. "

 

Sleep tight, England. In one year your American partners will decide to join the war. Or more accurately, have it decided for them, but on this Saturday morning 7-Dec-1940, Pearl Harbor sleeps peacefully.

 

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cardboard_killer

[80 years ago today] "

• The Luftwaffe bombs the Liverpool docks overnight, setting an ocean boarding vessel on fire and sinking the 1,300 ton steamer Silvio. Eight other merchant ships are damaged and the heavy cruiser Australia is near-missed in drydock. Damage stops production in flour mills and a sugar refinery in the city, resulting in buildups of unprocessed grain and other raw materials. 42 civilians are killed when a single bomb destroys 2 air raid shelters (48 others in the shelters survive). Another 42 die sheltering under railway arches which are hit by bombs. 72 civilians are killed when bombs destroy a shelter in the Blackstock Gardens tenement.

"

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[80 years ago today] "• 270 Luftwaffe bombers attack Manchester, United Kingdom, dropping 272 tons of high explosive bombs and 1,032 incendiary bombs; the Piccadilly area is engulfed in large fires, while the Gibsons shelter at the Hulme Town Hall collapses without any deaths. During the same night, Liverpool is bombed for the third night in a row. A Defiant night-fighter downs one He-111 over Sussex. "

 

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"[Boulton Paul "Defiant" Mk.I (N1671) at the Royal Air Force Museum London, Hendon Aerodrome, London, England (Photos by John Shupek)"

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[80 years ago today] "• London is heavily bombed in the evening of the 29th with more than a hundred thousand incendiaries in a deliberate attempt to surpass the great fire of 1666, but weather prevents the follow-up raid after midnight on the 30th. Although many buildings are destroyed, including the centre of the London book trade with an estimated five million volumes burnt, casualties are light. The following morning the iconic photograph of St Paul’s Cathedral ringed with smoke is taken."

 

 

"- The Luftwaffe 1 kg incendiary has a charge of magnesium that burns extremely hot. A newer version includes a small explosive charge that can penetrate most roofs. Realising that much of the damage by incendiary bombs might have been avoided if they had been dealt with immediately as they fell, the Government decides to make "fire-watching" compulsory and takes powers to conscript all employers and employees to share, if necessary, in the protection of their place of work from fire bombs."46863017_LondonattheendofDecember1940.jpg.e3731214d45eba0927b4690552e8bf82.jpg

"London at the end of December 1940"

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The journalist Ernie Pyle described the evening for an American audience:

You have all seen big fires, but I doubt if you have ever seen the whole horizon of a city lined with great fires – scores of them, perhaps hundreds.

 

There was something inspiring just in the awful savagery of it.

 

The closest fires were near enough for us to hear the crackling flames and the yells of firemen. Little fires grew into big ones even as we watched. Big ones died down under the firemen’s valor, only to break out again later.

 

About every two minutes a new wave of planes would be over. The motors seemed to grind rather than roar, and to have an angry pulsation, like a bee buzzing in blind fury.

The guns did not make a constant overwhelming din as in those terrible days of September. They were intermittent – sometimes a few seconds apart, sometimes a minute or more. Their sound was sharp, near by; and soft and muffled, far away. They were everywhere over London.

 

Into the dark shadowed spaces below us, while we watched, whole batches of incendiary bombs fell. We saw two dozen go off in two seconds. They flashed terrifically, then quickly simmered down to pin points of dazzling white, burning ferociously. These white pin points would go out one by one, as the unseen heroes of the moment smothered them with sand. But also, while we watched, other pin points would burn on, and soon a yellow flame would leap up from the white center. They had done their work – another building was on fire.

 

The greatest of all the fires was directly in front of us. Flames seemed to whip hundreds of feet into the air. Pinkish-white smoke ballooned upward in a great cloud, and out of this cloud there gradually took shape – so faintly at first that we weren’t sure we saw correctly – the gigantic dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

 

St. Paul’s was surrounded by fire, but it came through. It stood there in its enormous proportions – growing slowly clearer and clearer, the way objects take shape at dawn. It was like a picture of some miraculous figure that appears before peace-hungry soldiers on a battlefield.

 

The streets below us were semi-illuminated from the glow. Immediately above the fires the sky was red and angry, and overhead, making a ceiling in the vast heavens, there was a cloud of smoke all in pink. Up in that pink shrouding there were tiny, brilliant specks of flashing light – anti-aircraft shells bursting. After the flash you could hear the sound.

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[80 years ago today] "On the 7th January, during the most extensive daylight raiding that we have known for some weeks, London was raided intermittently for three and a half hours, and bombs were dropped in fifteen districts. On the same day many incidents were reported from East Anglia and the Home Counties, and one from Coventry. No important damage and few casualties were caused by these daylight raids." - From the weekly Home Security report

 

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AA shooting at He-111s

 

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[80 years ago today] • Bank Station lies under the intersection of roads in the heart of the City of London, close to the Bank of England. A direct hit by a Luftwaffe bomb collapses the station today. The blast also travels down the escalators and stairs, killing people in its path as well as people on the platforms deep underground. The final death toll is estimated at 111.

 

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Bank Station crater. The damage is so extensive that the Army will build a temporary Bailey bridge across the crater. When possible, the Luftwaffe is timing raids for when the tides are out, with aircraft targeting the water mains drawing from rivers and bays in order to hamper firefighting efforts.

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[80 years ago today]

• The RAF bombs the u-boat base at Lorient, but no boats are damaged.

• German aircraft again bomb Plymouth, damaging the Sherwell Congregational Church on Tavistock Road, City Hospital at Freedom Fields, the gas works at Coxside, and Corporation electricity works at Prince Rock. 26 are killed, 117 wounded. Patrol Officer George Wright and Leading Fireman Cyril Lidstone of Auxiliary Fire Service will be awarded George Medals for putting out a fire on an oil tank that might otherwise have exploded.

 

 

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[80 years ago today] "The RAF was still struggling to develop an effective response to night time bombing raids. Day time raids were much more sporadic but fighter Squadrons were still kept busy with convoy escort duties. It was a quiet time after a complete lull the previous week:

Fighter Command flew 155 patrols involving 351 sorties by day and one by night; hostile activity by day was reduced and consisted of a total of 155 aircraft, of which 95 were engaged on reconnaissances. Raids by single aircraft were plotted during daylight in a number of widely separated districts. No interception by our fighters was effected, but two enemy aircraft were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire.

From the Air Situation for the week, see TNA CAB 66/14/42

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Squadron Leader R R Stanford-Tuck, Commanding Officer of No 257 Squadron RAF, sitting in the cockpit of his Hawker Hurricane Mark I, V6864 ‘DT-A’, at Coltishall, Norfolk, January 1941.. The Burmese flag is seen painted on the starboard side of the aircraft and on the port side were painted 26 victory symbols.

 

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Hurricane Mk I of Squadron Leader Robert Stanford Tuck, commanding No 257 Squadron, refuelling at Coltishall, early January 1941.

 

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[80 years ago today] "• RAF No 71 Squadron is declared operational. It is the first one manned by American volunteers. "

 

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[80 years ago today] • 750 people are killed when 244 German bombers attack Portsmouth. Destroyer HMS Witherington is badly damaged. She is towed to a mud bank to avoid sinking and will be under repair for five months. Monitor HMS Marshal Soult, three other destroyers and four minesweeping trawlers are also damaged.

• Another 135 German bombers drop 122 tons of high explosives and 830 incendiary cannisters on Birmingham.

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[80 years ago today] "

  • The Clydebank Blitz
• In March 1941 Don Macintosh is 18 years old, working as a telephone operator in the police station in Clydebank, the ship building heart of Glasgow. So far the town had been relatively unaffected by the blitz. Below are his experiences during the 12/13 March raid:
 
  • The bell rang stridently as a small white light lit over the socket on the exchange board. “Control centre here” a young woman’s voice announced. “Air raid warning yellow. Read back, please” “Air raid warning yellow. Message received. Over and out” I put all the call lights on [each police phone stand had a flashing red call light to show the nearest bobby that there was a message] and shouted to the Sergeant next door.
  • Five minutes later, “Air raid warning purple” came through, followed almost immediately by, “Air raid warning RED. This is not, repeat NOT, a practice alert” The banshee wail of the siren started howling from the fire station across the street and the telephone switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree.
  • I heard the first faint drone of unsynchronized airplane engines and the bark of heavy Ack-Ack guns [Anti-Aircraft guns] and wondered how simulation had managed to slide so quickly into reality. I took the first call, and a voice shouted, “I’ve lost, ma cat! He ran away this mornin’, and ah huvney seen him since.” “Who’s speaking, please?” I said. “Missus McConnell, ahm frae Hamilton Crescent. It’s a big ginger tom,” she replied, surprised that I didn’t know. “Alright, Mrs. McConnell. If it turns up, we’ll let you know” I said, and pulled the plug. Silly old bag. She’ll have more than her cat to worry about in a minute.
  • I plugged hastily into the next socket. “P. Campbell here” a badly shaken voice answered. “Reporting an incident opposite the Thistle Arms at Dalmuir. As far as I can make out six people are badly injured, and two more fatally. The ambulance is here, and I’m going back now to see what I can do.” I dashed the message down on a scrap of paper.
  • Suddenly, there was a tremendous burst of gunfire from a naval ship in the shipyard behind, followed by the sound of diesel engines, as a plane flew overhead. Moments later, there was a muffled explosion, followed by a much louder one which shook the building and brought plaster down from the ceiling.
  • I plugged into the fire station extension and a breathless voice answered. “That was the library, it got a direct hit. I’ve sent some of my men to see what’s happened in the control centre underneath. Busy. I’ll call you back.” [The library, which was only about 20 yards away, had a control center underneath built of concrete, which coordinated necessities and reported directly to government]
  • Screams like the cry of a nameless beast sounded from the bombs falling directly overhead, and as they reached a crescendo, I waited for the explosion and the end. There were several thumps nearby but no explosion, and Sgt Macleod shouted, “It’s incendiaries. They’ve dropped just outside the door. I’m going out to throw sand on them.” The incendiaries never exploded, but this gave me such a jolt as to put my mind into a higher gear than I ever knew existed. I strove to keep pace with the unending calls and the board in front of me became littered with scribbled messages. In the brief intervals in the bombing when the guns fell silent, an uncanny silence pervaded the building.
  • There was a dreamlike quality about it, as if the thin crust of reality had given way beneath the town and its people, and we were falling into a nightmare. In one of the lulls I heard voices, and through the doorway of my room I saw four men followed by an elderly Inspector carrying a body covered in a white sheet on a broken-off door into the muster room at the back. This wasn’t the war I read about in the papers, where I was thrilled to read the daily news of the Battle of Britain and our army chasing thousands of Italians across the desert.
  • The Inspector came into the room, his eyes full of concern and said, in his lilting highland accent, “There’s another body to come; it’s a couple who were sheltering under a walkway opposite the library and were blown into the road. The blast stripped them naked, but otherwise there’s not a mark on them. I’ve put them in here for decency’s sake until the van comes for them.” He sighed quietly, lowering his head, and said, “I never thocht ahd see this again. It was bad enough in France, and we never let on, but here. . .” He shook his head, sadly. “Well, ah’ll see if I can dodge my way up the hill. If you contact the men, let them know I’m coming.”
  • The clock above the switchboard showed 3 am, and I began to think I might live through the night. The firing and bombing slackened, but the calls didn’t, and around 6 am the all clear sounded its steady note. It was finally over.
  • I took off my tin hat and just sat there in a daze. At the beginning of the shift I had been alone, now the office next door was filled with people in uniform – senior policemen, firemen, kilted officers, nurses and sailors, all waiting to make phone calls.
  • A young detective came in with a bearded Sub-Lieutenant in half boots, followed by two sailors. “Don, this is Lieutenant Graves and his party from the destroyer in Rothesay Dock. He’s an armaments officer. Apparently a 500 pound bomb dropped on the other side of the wall next to this room and failed to go off.”

- The experience leads Don Macintosh to apply to join the RAF as aircrew and eventually to become a Lancaster bomber pilot. In “Bomber Pilot” he vividly recounts his experiences in raids over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany as well as the three raids to eliminate the Tirpitz."

 

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Luftwaffe plan of attack.

 

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• The Luftwaffe bombs the Liverpool and Merseyside docks, sinking 8 merchant ships and a floating crane. The town of Wallasey, in the Wirral on the other side of the River Mersey, is badly hit with 174 people killed.

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[80 years ago today] "• 203 Luftwaffe bombers return to Glasgow and Clydebank, guided by fires from yesterday’s raid. They bomb shipyards and the Rolls Royce aircraft engine factory. The Luftwaffe also attacks Leeds and Sheffield. "

 

Clydebank-Ablaze-1941.jpg

 

"Fires burning fiercely at the height of the bombing of Clydseside, seen from the hills outside the town."

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[80 years ago today] " 370 Luftwaffe bombers attack London, killing 750 people. The Metropolitan Police go to great lengths to capture at least a summary of the damage done in each raid. The archive records for each Divisional police area, approximately equivalent to a London borough, contain page after page of records, with one or two pages for each day. Below is an example of this day:

 

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There is an interactive map of London mapping the bomb census.

 

http://bombsight.org/#15/51.5050/-0.0900

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[80 Years ago today[ "• Minesweeping trawler HMS Asama is sunk by German aircraft off Plymouth. The city itself is attacked with a large number of incendiaries. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies are visiting Plymouth when 125 Luftwaffe aircraft attack. There are no indications that the Germans knew of the Royal visit. Additional bombers attack Swansea.

 

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Plymouth burning March 21st, 1941. "

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Cleaning up after the 21-Mar-41 raid

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cardboard_killer

[80 years ago today] "

The ‘Battle of Britain’ defined

It was a necessarily a one sided account of a great victory, published at a time when Britain was devastated by the Blitz. It concluded that “Future historians may compare it with Marathon, Trafalgar and the Marne”. The pamphlet itself was hugely influential in shaping views of the period over the summer of 1940, hundreds of thousands were sold around the Empire and in the United States.

 

Battle-of-Britain.jpg

 

Hurricane-attack-battle-of-britain-595x4

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[80 years ago today] "• The Luftwaffe drop 170 tons of high explosives, 32 parachute mines and 5,400 incendiary bombs on a decoy installation on Hayling Island in Hampshire.

• Jazz vocalist Al Bowlly is killed in an air raid on London when a Luftwaffe parachute mine detonates near his flat shortly after 3am.

 

 

- He was offered a stay overnight following his last performance on the 16th at High Wycoming, but took the last train home. He will be buried in a mass grave with other victims. "

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[80 years ago today] "• The worst single loss of life in the history of the Fire Brigade occurs during the night of the 19th when 34 firemen are killed at the Old Place School in Poplar, East London. This is following raid by over 700 German bombers.

 

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Bomb damage East Ham London April 1941"

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[80 years ago today] "• During a Luftwaffe raid on North Shields, a bomb penetrates the basement shelter of Wilkinson's Lemonade factory. One hundred and seven people, more than half of those in the shelter, are killed.

 

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Wilkinsons Lemonade Factory North Shields

 

• During a bombing raid on Liverpool, the 7,700 ton ammunition ship Malakand, loaded with 1,000 tons of bombs and shells intended for the Middle East, is set on fire from adjacent burning warehouses. Shortly after midnight she blows up, tearing the Huskisson Dock to pieces and sinking six other ships. The ship’s 4,000 lb anchor is found over two kilometers inland. An ammunition train also catches fire and is shunted to a siding by railwaymen as the ammunition is exploding. Two Ju-88s are downed during this raid.

 

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Huskisson dock in Liverpool after Malakand explosion

 

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Liverpool during the Blitz"

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[80 years ago today] 

Huge raid on London

 

The 10th saw the last major raid during the London Blitz. It was not the last time London would be bombed but it was the end of the major campaign that had started on the 7th September 1940. An especially low tide on the Thames made drawing water for firefighting difficult and there were more fires than usual. Around 1,480 people were killed. There was damage to many important buildings including the Houses of Parliament, but also to thousands of ordinary homes:

 

Geoff Stanfield then nine, recalls that his family had returned to their home in Barnett, North London. It was these suburbs just as much as the centre of London that lay at risk. This was just one incident from the thousands that night:

 

The bombing had eased somewhat by April 1941, so we came home. The grass in the garden was waist high and the five sycamore trees were even higher and made for great climbing.

 

On Saturday, May 10th, 1941, the biggest raid on London took place when Hitler sent over everything. For some reason, we had not gone to the Anderson shelter that night, probably fed up with all the various privations, and also things had been beginning to ease a little. We were bombed at around 11 pm. Four bombs in all; one three houses along from us, one on the allotment at the bottom of the garden and two further away.

 

The various blasts blew the curtains in and most of the windows out, some ceilings out and plaster came in. My sister and I, who were sleeping in a double bed in a downstairs rear room, were still asleep beneath curtains, dust and plaster etc. Dad had been in the kitchen making cocoa, and finished up amidst all the pots and pans. Mum had been standing in the doorway to our room and was narrowly missed by the front door, which was blown in. I can still smell the cordite, explosions, plaster, dust and fractured sewers etc.

 

We were dragged out of the house and up the front garden path, and I can remember stooping to pick up a large bomb splinter that had become embedded in the garden gate, now hanging by one hinge: I was promptly pulled away as it was still very hot, but what a souvenir to have had!

 

We were taken to neighbours for the night and Dad returned to what was left of the house, but it had already been looted, mostly food, but also some cutlery and cut glass. One particular piece was a wedding present to my parents from an uncle who had recently been killed. Dad pulled back the debris-covered bedclothes and went to bed, remarking that Mr Hitler was not going to deprive him of his bed.

Most of the windows were out, the grand piano was covered in glass and plaster as were the pictures and furniture, and about ¼ of the roof was missing.

Read more of this story on BBC People’s War.

 

The next morning John Colville, secretary to Winston Churchill, recorded his impressions of the impact on Central London:

Sunday, May 11th

I walked out into Downing Street at 8.00 a.m. on my way to the early service at Westminster Abbey. It was really a sunny day with blue skies, but the smoke from many fires lay thick over London and obscured the sun. Burnt paper, from some demolished paper mill, was falling like leaves on a windy autumn day.

 

Whitehall was thronged with people, mostly sightseers but some of them Civil Defence workers with blackened faces and haggard looks. One of them, a boy of eighteen or nineteen, pointed towards the Houses of Parliament and said, “Is that the sun?” But the great orange glow at which we were looking was the light of many fires south of the river.

See John Colville: The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955.

 

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The collapse of a burning building at No 23 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC, (Salvation Army HQ).

 

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595″ Fire fighters tackling a blaze in Victoria Street, East London on the night of 10th/11th May 1941"

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cardboard_killer

"• Last night’s heavy German raid on London killed 1,480 people. This marks the "official" end to The Blitz, though smaller air raids will continue for years.

- More than 43,000 British civilians were killed during the bombing, in which 41,000 tons of bombs had been dropped.

- OKL records between late June 1940 and the end of March 1941, the loss of 2,265 aircraft with 3,363 Luftwaffe airmen killed, 2,641 missing and 2,117 wounded.

- The RAF studied the German campaign in detail, noting inefficiencies in order to better prosecute the bombing campaign over Germany. This information is shared with the US Army Air Corps.


- Ironically, British industrial output rose steadily until April 1941 when the emphasis was shifted to harbors and port facilities. The bottleneck of materials resulted in a drop in firearm and ammunition production just as the bombers were preparing to redeploy to the Soviet Union."

 

 

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cardboard_killer

[80 years ago today] "Josef Jakobs (30 June 1898 – 15 August 1941) was a German spy and the last person to be executed at the Tower of London. He was captured shortly after parachuting into the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Convicted of espionage under the Treachery Act 1940, Jakobs was shot by a military firing squad. He was not hanged because he was captured as an enemy combatant."

 

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cardboard_killer

[80 years ago today] "An RAF technical intelligence team inspects a downed Luftwaffe Dornier Do-217 near Rye, England. The pilot and crew got disoriented while flying and thought they were crashlanding in France after running out of fuel. The Dornier wound up at RAF Farnborough for testing."

 

Dornier_Do-217.jpg.69f84527af7e907be54e7c4cf5affa83.jpg

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