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London Blitz


St. Pauls stands undamaged in the centre of London

Date: 7 September 1940 – 21 May 1941

Where: London, UK

Who: German Luftwaffe

Impact: Over 40,000 civilians were killed in the Blitz on the UK, almost half of whom were in London. More than 1,000,000 houses were destroyed in Britain’s capital city.

Weapons: SC-50, a 50KG bomb carrying 25KG of TNT, carried by Heinkell IIIs. SC-500, carrying 250KG of TNT. SC-1000, loaded with amatol, a mix of ammonia nitrate and TNT. Incendiary bombs.

Significance: Biggest loss of British civilian life in WWII.

The destruction of London was largely a reaction from Hitler to RAF bombings of German cities, and the relative superiority of the RAF over the Luftwaffe. On 4 September 1940 the German High Command decision was made to extensively bomb London, and other British cities, in the hope that British public morale would be destroyed. It was also hoped that any remaining RAF fighters would be lured into battle, and subsequently their fleet would be destroyed.

While a preliminary raid was carried out on 5 September, the extensive bombing which was to plague the capital for 77 nights began on 7 September. Almost 1,000 German aircraft dropped explosives and incendiary bombs over London, killing 430 civilians and injuring 1600, on that night alone.

The bombing continued for another 76 nights, causing death and destruction to the capital, as well as to cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Cardiff. The urban population was aware that air raids were needed during the war, and certain precautions had already been taken. Families with gardens constructed Anderson shelters, and civic shelters were built for those who didn’t. A strict blackout was enforced in the hope that the bombers would be unable to pick out their targets. In London, foreseeably, thousands of people used the underground stations as shelters.

Even with such precautions, the bombings had a huge impact. By the end of the Blitz in May 1941, over 40,000 civilians had been killed, almost half of those in London. Over 1 million houses in the capital were destroyed. The night of 10-11 May 1941 was the worst night to be faced by the people of London. It was also the last major raid of the Blitz. The German Luftwaffe dropped 711 tons of high explosive bombs and 86,173 incendiaries over London, creating a fire which ultimately was to cause double the destruction of the Great Fire of London. Over 1,400 people were killed on that night, and 2,000 seriously injured.

Some tactics used by the Germans over London and the UK were emulated on a greater scale by the RAF in bombing raids over Germany, such as the use of a combination of a huge amount of explosives and incendiary bombs over a period of a few hours.