The Blitz

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London on September 7, 1940

In English usage, The Blitz refers to the attacks by the German Air Force on Great Britain during the Battle of Britain , especially those on London between September 7, 1940 and May 16, 1941, which the British government was supposed to give up.

Around 43,000 civilians were killed in the lightning, over a million houses were damaged or destroyed, but the hoped-for effect did not materialize. Great Britain was neither willing to negotiate nor could the war production of British industry be decisively weakened.


On August 24, 1940, the Luftwaffe flew an attack on Thames Haven , in which some German bombers also dropped bombs on London (which was probably not officially the target of the air raids at that time). A few dozen German bombers scored 76 hits, most of them in suburbs. In response, the Royal Air Force flew several night raids against Berlin and bombed Berlin-Kreuzberg and Wedding . On September 5, 1940, Hitler then ordered that the Luftwaffe should from now on attack mainly British cities, including London, day and night.

Houses in London destroyed in an air raid

The day attack on September 7th is considered the start of the London Blitz . 300 bombers and 600 escort fighters were deployed mainly against the docks of London and the East End . This was followed by a night attack by around 180 bombers. On the first day of the attack, 436 people died and another 1,500 were injured. The air defense in London quickly proved to be too weak. Only 92 anti-aircraft guns were available, the anti-aircraft searchlights were ineffective from an altitude of around 3600 meters. The fighters of the RAF had no radar and could therefore at night no bets fly. By September 11th, General Frederick Pile reorganized the city's air defenses.

A London Underground station as an air raid shelter

Between September 7 and November 15, London was attacked at night with an average of 200 German and Italian bombers, which took off and landed in Belgium.
On October 14th, 380 bombers (of which only 2 were shot down) flew the heaviest air raid on London to date. About 200 people died and 2000 were wounded. The next day, the bombers dropped 376 tons of high explosive bombs and 10 tons of incendiary bombs. Five important railway lines were interrupted.

From November 1940 to February 1941, the attacks focused on industrial centers and port cities, including Coventry , Southampton, Birmingham, Liverpool, Clydebank, Bristol, Swindon, Plymouth, Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield, Swansea, Portsmouth and Avonmouth; in April 1941 Belfast was also the target of an attack. In total there were 14 attacks on ports (excluding London), 9 on industrial targets inland and 8 on London.

On the night of December 29-30, 1940, one of the most devastating attacks on the City of London caused a firestorm which, in reference to the great fire of London in 1666, has been dubbed the "Second Great Fire of London".

In mid-May 1941 the German air offensive flagged because it had no political effect and at the same time planning for the Barbarossa company began. The Luftwaffe needed the bombers stationed in northern France for the theaters of war Africa , Yugoslavia , Greece and the Soviet Union.

The political impact was counterproductive for Germany because the American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow reported in 1940 in live reports for CBS directly from bombed London. The programs "This is London" captivated millions of listeners in the USA to the radios and carried among other things. a. helps to reduce the isolationist mood in the USA.

To commemorate the bombing , the National Firefighters Memorial was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on May 4, 1991 south of St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London .

Baedeker Blitz

After the air raid by the Royal Air Force on the historic city center of Lübeck on the night of March 28th to 29th, 1942, the order to destroy culturally important cities in England was given. This operation was called the Baedeker Blitz in England ; This is due to the alleged statement made on April 24, 1942 by the head of propaganda in the Ministry of Aviation, according to which locations with three stars from the travel guide of the Karl Baedeker Verlag were selected as targets.

The military result of the air offensive was disproportionate to the mission and only had a propaganda effect in Germany.

Baby lightning

From January 21, 1944 the Luftwaffe undertook another air offensive under the name of the Steinbock Company . This was canceled on May 29, 1944 after heavy losses by the Luftwaffe and later referred to as " Baby Blitz " by the British .



Web links

Commons : The Blitz  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ian Dear and MRD Foot : The Oxford Companion to World War II , Vol. 2. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, p. 109.
  2. The Blitz September 1940-May 1941. BBC History, archived from the original on July 7, 2017 ; accessed on July 11, 2017 (English).
  3. According to the war diary of the OKW , Volume I, p. 121 , both air fleets - Luftflotte 2 and 3 - were involved in the night attack .
  4. John Ray: The Night Blitz: 1940-1941 . Cassell Military, 1996, ISBN 978-0-304-35676-8 , p. 131.
  5. Philip M. Seib: Broadcasts from the Blitz: How Edward R. Murrow Helped Lead America into War. Potomac Books, Inc., Washington, DC, 2006, ISBN 1-59797-012-3 , Preface, p. IX.