Photos show damage to London by German Blitz of 75 years ago
On December 29, 1940, more than 160 people lost their lives after 24,000 high-explosives bombs and 100,000 incendiary devices were dropped by the planes of Nazi Germany. As the bombing started more than 1,500 fires broke out across the city, in an evening which became known as The Second Great Fire of London.
Map showing the huge bombardment endured by London in the Blitz goes online
A map that shows in never-seen-before detail the huge bombardment endured by London in the Blitz has gone online. Each red dot shows a site where incendiary devices landed during 57 nights of non-stop bombing by the Luftwaffe between October 1940 and June 1941. Bomb clusters appear close to the River Thames and the docks, which were targeted by German generals to squeeze supplies of food and household necessities and the economy. Many streets were hit repeatedly, homes were destroyed and fires raged for days.
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Czech pilot who fought against the Germans for 3 countries' airforces identified as a Battle of Britain airman after 72 years
Czechoslovakian pilot Bohuslav Kimlicka helped save Britain from a Nazi invasion in 1940 by taking part in 4 operations against Luftwaffe. But the airman's name went under the radar and was not credited with being one of The Few, until today. Relatives of Sq Ldr Kimlicka, who remained in Britain after the war, uncovered his wartime logbook and medals in a clear-out of his widow's home. The log records the four sorties the Czech pilot made in his Hurricane fighter plane during the final days of the Battle of Britain. There are calls for his name to be added to the list of the 2,946 RAF men on the Battle of Britain memorial on the Kent coast.
Dramatic images that reveal how Norwich suffered at the hands of Luftwaffe
For the first two-and-a-half years of World War II, the cathedral city of Norwich had been safe from the Luftwaffe's air raids. But then, having seen the Blitz fail in its objectives to decisively undermine the English war effort, Hitler decided on a change of strategy in 1942. Luftwaffe's new targets were unimportant but picturesque cities in England. And this was how it came to be that on April 27, 1942, the residents of Norwich woke up to the sound of sirens and the menacing hum of incoming aircraft. "Norwich: A Shattered City", a new book by Steve Snelling, documents Norwich's plight during the raids, which turned the commercial centre to a wasteland.
Documentary film The Forgotten Blitz focuses on the city of Bath
Actress Helen Shingler had just finished her performance at the Theatre Royal in Bath when she heard the menacing drone of enemy planes overhead. As she walked out, she could see scores of Luftwaffe bombers flying so low they were able to pick off pedestrians with machine-gun fire. "Bullets were flying past me, making a strange whistling sound. I flung myself to the ground. The only reason I wasn't terrified was because it was so unreal; utterly unreal." The bombing of the city was Hitler's revenge on Winston Churchill for repeatedly bombing German towns. It was part of the Baedeker raids, so-called because they targeted strategically unimportant but picturesque British cities, as featured in the German Baedeker travel guides.
Imperial War Museum North marking the 70th anniversary of the Manchester Blitz with rare footage
70 years after the Luftwaffe bombing of Manchester, rare footage revealing the effects on the city centre will be projected onto the Imperial War Museum North's 27 foot Main Exhibition Space wall on 12 December. The film - "Manchester Took It Too" - includes scenes of Market Street and Manchester Piccadilly in the aftermath of the bombings.
Polish pilots were by far the most successful RAF element during the Battle of Britain
A small group of Polish pilots and their mechanics joined the RAF to stop the Nazi onslaught, and a new book - 303 Squadron: The Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron by Arkady Fiedler and Jarek Garlinski - claims that pilot for pilot, aircraft for aircraft, they were by far the most efficient element of the British airforce.
Blitz Infographic - The key details of the Battle of Britain
Blitz Infographic - The key details of the Battle of Britain visualized
Kennington Park's forgotten Blitz tragedy - Trench shelter took a direct hit
The Blitz brings up images of people taking cover in the Tube stations, but for many people that was not an option. An alternative was an Anderson shelter but only 25% of Londoners had a garden. Another method of shelter were the trenches built in parks, including Kennington Park which, on 15 October 1940, took a direct hit from a 50lb bomb. The trench shelter set up in Kennington Park was based on the basic design: 2 longer trenches joined by 4 shorter ones at right angles to them, making a closed grid. The walls were reinforced with sandbags and the corrugated iron roof covered with a layer of soil.
Images merge the vintage Blitz photographs with modern-day street views
Vintage WWII Blitz photographs merged with modern-day street views to showcase the destruction.
Did the Blitz really unify Britain: Bomb-chasers followed the raids to loot shops
The defiance of Britain as it endured 8 months of Luftwaffe bombing 70 years ago is rooted on the collective memory. Although there was some panic and chaos in those first few nights, says Juliet Gardiner - author of "The Blitz: The British Under Attack" - the term "Blitz spirit" symbolises two qualities that emerged: endurance and defiance. But it's important not to be over-sentimental about the Blitz. Some people used the crisis for their own gain: "Bomb-chasers" followed the German bombing raids so they could loot shops, while some people were charged to get a place on the Tube to sleep at night.
Previously unseen colour footage of London in the Blitz found in attic (video)
Previously unseen colour footage of London during the Blitz has been discovered after lying in an attic for 70 years. Sir Winston Churchill also makes a brief appearance in the amateur footage as he reviews a parade of civil defence workers in Hyde Park. The 20 minute film (from period Sep 7, 1940 - May 10, 1941) was shot by the mayor of Marylebone in west London, Alfred Coucher, who was also the area's chief air raid warden. The footage - discovered by Coucher's family - was given to the St Marylebone Society (an architectural preservation group). The digitised films will be placed on a dedicated website.
Battle of Britain blog - Day by Day
History blog details the Battle of Britain day by day.
How the Battle of Britain started with the Battle of Scotland
The first dogfight between the RAF and the Luftwaffe was on September 4, 1939, when a German Dornier Do 18 flying boat met an aircraft from RAF Leuchars. The first kill came on October 8, when another Do 18 was downed by another Leuchars-based Lockheed Hudson from 224 Squadron while on patrol over the North Sea 20 miles off Aberdeen. The air war began in earnest on October 16 – 8 months before the Battle of Britain – over the Firth of Forth when Spitfires of the 602 (Glasgow) and 603 (Edinburgh) Squadrons became the first British fighters to engage German raiders over the Scottish mainland, shooting down two fighters.
The Untold Battle Of Britain (Bloody Foreigners documentary series) - Polish fighter pilots in RAF
"Battle of Britain" is part of "bloody foreigners" series, which consists of documentary films covering the roles that foreign refugees had in helping Britain win during the various conflicts. In this episode, first-hand accounts show how the Polish played a big role in winning the Battle Of Britain. The Polish had to fight on two fronts: They were fighting to win the respect of the British pilots, who were not happy that the Polish were taken into the RAF. On September 7, 1940, when Luftwaffe blitz bombed London, Polish pilots downed 16 German aircraft in 15 minutes. A record unbeaten by any British RAF Squadron.
Battle of Britain: Germany's battle - Luftwaffe was overconfident and undermanned
In 1940, Siegfried Bethke, a German fighter pilot, sat at his fighter group's airfield writing in his diary - in which his fiancée had inscribed: "In these momentous times one must keep a diary. I wonder what words you will write here." Entries revealing high confidence had marked his earlier notes as the Luftwaffe had destroyed everything before it, but now the tone had begun to change. Every time they reached England, the British fighters were already there, waiting. "We can almost never surprise them." And Messerschmitt 109s did not really have the range to fly over the English Channel and engage in lengthy dogfights.
The Battle of Britain by James Holland (book review)
In modern industrial wars, battlefield outcomes are influenced by decisions made years earlier, about what weapons nations build, and where they focus their resources. Thus, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Fighter Command's leader, argued afterwards that the Battle of Britain began in September 1939. He might have backdated it even further, to the mid-1930s when the Spitfire and Hurricane were created, the commitment to a radar system made and the Luftwaffe formed. James Holland starts his own account on May 10, 1940, the date the Third Reich launched its blitzkrieg on the continent.
Sikh World War II ace was saved by his turban
A sikh fighter pilot was saved by the padding in his turban after he had to crash land his plane in a WWII dogfight. Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji, one of the Indian ace flyers in the RAF and a Distinguished Flying Cross winner, crashed into the English Channel after his Hurricane was downed in a dogfight. Rescuers boarded boats to help the ace and pulled him from the wreckage with bad head injuries. Singh Pujji's specially-adapted headgear, which had his wings sewn onto it, acted as a cushion for the crash-landing. His WWII memoirs - "For King and Another Country" - are to published in 2010.
Three Nights Blitz of February 1941 - Swansea's darkest hours told in history DVD
The 3 most devastating nights in Swansea's history are retold in a DVD release. The city was targeted due to its docks and heavy industry, and 19-21 Feb 1941, Luftwaffe bombers dropped 1,273 high explosive and 56,000 incendiary devices over 40 acres of the town centre, a higher density than on any British city outside London. The high explosives hit water and gas mains, making it hard to put out the fires. 230-270 died, over 400 were injured and 8,000 made homeless. The old town centre was wiped out by a fireball which took weeks to put out - but heavy industry was untouched and the docks soon reopened.
10,000 people were prosecuted of looting in wartime Britain
The heroic image of wartime Plymouth has been crushed by a new book, "Looting in Wartime Britain," by historian Todd Gray. The looters moved in as Nazi bombs rained down - and shockingly, many were men and women in positions of trust. Luftwaffe's heaviest bombing raids over Plymouth's took place from March to April of 1941. It was during this period that looting was heaviest, with servicemen, wardens and firefighters all taking part. Public shock at the bombing was replaced by anger as looting spread across the country. Nationwide over 10,000 people were prosecuted.
Forgotten frontline exhibition: How Luftwaffe air crew fought on Kent marshes
The Luftwaffe bomber was in trouble. The Junkers 88 had delivered 4,000lb bombs to London but then it was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Then Spitfires and Hurricanes pounced, but they didn't seek to destroy the Nazi plane. The pilots from 66 and 92 squadrons saw that this was Junkers 88 - only two weeks old model and fitted with a secret new bombsight. Earlier an order had gone out to all units to capture Junkers 88, intact. The German pilot Fritz Ruhlandt made a forced landing on the Kent marshes. The Luftwaffe crew, armed with two machine guns, opened fire towards soldiers from the 1st London Irish Rifles - resulting the only WWII battle on the British mainland.
Family's miracle escape from Luftwaffe bomb
Tony Boardman was amazed when he saw a photo of an unexploded bomb - captured by the camera after a Luftwaffe air raid in 1942. The picture showed a young boy in a school cap, staring at a huge Nazi bomb, which landed in the back yard of RG Boardman and Co in Birmingham. "It was as if I had seen a ghost, because that little boy was me!" Miraculously, the 10ft long bomb with a parachute got stuck between a brick wall and old packing boxes which softened the impact preventing the detonation. It was the first time he had ever seen the photograph. The British Government had banned it at the time for fear it could decrease morale.
Man claims: U.S. super-fuel enabled Spitfire and Hurricane pilots to win the Battle of Britain
A US science writer has claimed that Spitfire and Hurricane were not as significant in beating the Luftwaffe as we think. Tim Palucka says that the British fighters were able to outmanoeuvre their Nazi opponents because they were running on a high-octane fuel created in the US. "Luftwaffe pilots couldn't believe they were facing the same planes they had fought successfully over France a few months before. The planes were the same, but the fuel wasn't." The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) invites experts to challenge the claims: "If it's refutable we want it to be refuted. The Spitfire is ... an icon... but the possibility should be aired."
Heritage Air museum showcases black and Asian pilots who battled for Britain
His daring feats were typical of fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain: he shot down Messerschmitts, was forced down twice and lost a lung flying at altitude. But how many other RAF squadron leaders kept a spare turban in their cockpits? Mohinder Singh Pujji was one of 18 Indian pilots to join the RAF in 1940. Now 90 he is the only one alive - and still disgusted at the lack of recognition given to the role of black and Asian airmen and women during the war. Pujji was treated as a hero in wartime UK, but, after the war, films like The Dam Busters presented a white-only view of the RAF. "The British people are foolish. They don't even know we Indians were there."
With Wings Like Eagles - A History of the Battle of Britain
Michael Korda's "With Wings Like Eagles" tells the story of the battle of Britain, analyzing the political, diplomatic, military and technical factors that shaped it. Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, head of Royal Air Force Fighter Command, was uncharismatic. Yet Korda gives us the bravery of a man who stuck to what he believed in (he was ready to confront Churchill if necessary) and cared not for his popularity. Two other characters also emerge with unexpected credit. Korda praises PMs Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain (often seen as appeasers) for their foresight in pursuing the radar, which was critical to Britain's defense in 1940.
Spitfires and Hurricanes take to the skies to prepare for the RAF's 90th anniversary [pics]
Side by side, in perfect formation, these two old warbirds soar above the white cliffs and fields of the south coast just like they did all those years ago. These photograph shows a Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane performing a striking aerial ballet in the East Sussex skies over Beachy Head. Back in the summer of 1940, this was a battleground. That's why these scenes are much more than a pretty picture: They represent this nation's darkest and finest hour. As the yearly commemorations of the Battle of Britain approach, there can be no more eloquent reminder of the heroic feats of 'the Few'.
Angus Calder disputed Blitz myth and told of looting and rape
Angus Calder, one of Scotland's leading polymaths, passed away at the age 66. A writer, poet and historian, his books altered interpretations of the 18th-century origins of the British Empire. Anything but a narrow specialist, however, he was equally at home writing about modern British and African history – especially Britain in World War II. In 1991, his book The Myth of the Blitz controversially claimed, using evidence from the Mass Observation archives, that propagandistic images of heroic resistance disguised a hitherto unsuspected amount of looting and rape.
Woman recalls life in London during the Nazi blitz
It was a German plane, of that I was sure. As a child, growing up in London during World War II, I learned to identify the sounds of British and German aircraft. 900 planes filled the sky. Difficult as it was for us to endure the explosions, gunfire, windows breaking into peaces, and ceilings cracking, we had it easy. The might of the Luftwaffe was focused on the London docks. Around 6 p.m. the "all clear" whistle suggested it was over. Our relief was short lived, as the bombers came back 2 hours later and bombed for the next 8 hours. It was easier now for them to find targets, because London was ablaze.
Luftwaffe pilot Willi Schludecker returns to Bath to apologise for WW2 bombing
Decorated Luftwaffe Bomber pilot Willi Schludecker is to return to the city he bombed to make an apology in the annual remembrance service. He ruined dozens of buildings in Bath, Somerset, in April 1942 in his Dornier 217E-4. His dying wish is to make amends. "The war was madness. I realise now what I did and will come back to say sorry. I was afraid the British would be very angry but I find that now they are very gentle." Chris Kilminster, who lost relatives in the raid said it was a difficult decision to allow Schludecker to take part: "It took me a while to come to terms with the idea."
Hull remembers the secret blitz - Damage to 95% of the city's houses
The site of one of the last bombs to be dropped on Hull during World War II will be the central point for a service, honoring those whose suffering was kept secret from the rest of Britain as their city was reduced to rubble. During the 1941 Blitz, the importance of Hull's docks meant it endured major air raids from Luftwaffe - and later by V1 flying bombs. In spite of the huge price in human life, the destruction of the city's landscape, and damage to 95% of the city's houses, the wipeout was an official secret. "Hull was one of the most bombed cities in WWII and it was never mentioned by name in the media."
UK bid to recognise NZ war hero Sir Keith Park - Battle of Britain tactical genius
A campaign is afoot in London to win recognition for one of New Zealand's greatest war heroes. Sir Keith Park led a key group of fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain. He commanded the RAF's 11 group in 1940 and his Hurricanes and Spitfires fought furious battles with the Luftwaffe. At the RAF Museum, he is looked upon a tactical genius, but after the battle Park fell out with RAF top brass. "He was sent out to do training and he wasn't even mentioned in the official history which was written by the RAF a year later." Trafalgar Square is home to many of Britain's war heroes and Terry Smith is keen to add a statue of Sir Keith wearing his uniform and helmet.
The First Day of the Blitz - Firsthand accounts of WWII London Blitz
Peter Stansky's book "The First Day of the Blitz" mixes history, political commentary and firsthand testimony. The "Blitz," miscalled for its awaited quick knockout blow, began at 5 p.m. on Sept. 7, 1940. The bombing was extensive and lasted for 56 of the next 57 days. Over the course of the war, 40% of London's housing stock was made unliveable. Stansky focuses on the first day, when the self-satisfaction of the Phony War was replaced by shock, then terror, then resolve. Stansky covers the "myth of the Blitz": that the British people behaved calmly and the country was unified.
Battle of Britain fighter pilots badly trained, had poor kill/loss ratio
Most Battle of Britain pilots were so badly trained they could not shoot straight, reveals historian Andrew Cumming. Some went into combat after 10 hours of solo flying and without ever having fired their guns. Lack of training facilities and time hampered Fighter Command's efforts. Documents show the "kill/loss ratio" for the key air battle (24 Aug - Sept 6, 1940) was "unimpressive". The Battle of Britain pilots (The Few) have become legendary figures, not because of reality but because they helped form a heroic national identity. The RAF's performance against Luftwaffe was "ineffectual" and we owe much more to the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy.
Recapture spirit of the Blitz with tour - Air raids on Manchester
During the first major air raids on Manchester in World War II, 467 tonnes of high explosive rained down on the city. Luftwaffe bombers also dropped 1,925 canisters of incendiary bombs, killing more than 700 people and damaging 100,000 buildings. The bravery of those who faced the blitz is being remembered in a tour of Manchester. The route will take in many of the worst affected areas, such as the Manchester Cathedral, Masonic Temple and through to St Anne's Church - where an incendiary bomb was discovered on the roof in 1960. Tour leader Jean Bailo (Blue Badge guide, the highest tour-guiding qualification) will provide stories of life during the bombing.
The last recoverable Battle of Britain pilot exhumation called off
A bid to exhume the remains of a man who is thought to be the last recoverable Battle of Britain pilot has been abandoned. Flt Sgt Eric Williams was shot down on a combat mission over the Thames Estuary on 15 Oct 1940. No parachute was sighted when his Hawker Hurricane Mk1 aircraft was shot down - His squadron was attacked by Luftwaffe fighters led by German ace Major Adolf Galland. The operation to recover his remains from the site in Albion Parade, Gravesend, was called off. The Ministry of Defence spent 3 days excavating the area where he crashed but Flt Sg Williams' body is too deep to be reached.
The Battle of Britain Spitfire ace Iain Hutchinson was shot down 5 times
The battling spirit of Spitfire ace Iain Hutchinson, who survived combat and a German POW camp, has passed away at 88. He was shot down 5 times and destroyed a string of Luftwaffe planes. It was the actions of pilots such as him during the Battle of Britain that inspired Winston Churchill to proclaim: "Never in the field of human conflict had so much been owed by so many to so few." There are now 70 Battle of Britain pilots left. Most flew the Hurricane but Hutchinson was given the dashing Spitfire. His tally was 3 Messerschmitt 109 fighters confirmed, a Heinkel 111 bomber and a Me 110 fighter-bomber probably destroyed, and a 109 damaged.
Britain’s poor WWII defence: Nazi boat revealed Dad’s Army chaos (Article no longer available from the original source)
A 2-week delay in reporting a German dinghy washed up on the English coast in 1941 reveals a picture of Dad’s Army incompetence in Britain’s wartime defences. The 11-foot long rubber dingy, rowlocks stamped with a Nazi swastika, was found on the shore at Selsey. Was it just a piece of Nazi flotsam or had it been used to land enemy agents? But it was nearly the end of the month before the coastguard rang the Air Ministry. The local police chief was furious: "From the security point of view... The fact that a German boat can ground on this coast without information reaching either the police or the military for over two weeks is somewhat alarming."
Blitz: The Story of December 29, 1940 - Luftwaffe Air Raid
If, in 1932, any Britons were still naïve enough to cling to their island nation's sense of safety, PM Stanley Baldwin wanted to smash that illusion: "man in the street had to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through." And so, less than a decade later, the bomber did. Impatient with Nazi Germany's failure to prevail, Adolf Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to turn its attention from the few to the many. Margaret Gaskin tells the story of the Blitz through the events of a single night that saw the largest air raid on London up to that point.
Memorial to blitz dead - More than 100 died in one bomb attack
The deaths of more than 100 people in one single bomb attack in World War II have been remembered in Lambeth. A memorial was dedicated to the victims of the attack on 15 October, 1940. "There was a sort of cover-up at the time as it was not considered good morale to announce so many deaths. Then there was a considerable period of time when people wanted to forget about the horrors of the war. But interest came back and today's event follows about two years of activity," Rob Pateman said.
Sex, fear and looting: stories of the Blitz - the Battle of Britain
New history based on interviews gives unvarnished account of bombings and air battle. The slackers, the looters and the just plain terrified persons of the Blitz are being heard, more than 60 years after the bombs fell. The voices often edited out of the patriotic version of Britain's finest hour resurface in a new history of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. Alison Hancock, Women's Auxiliary Air Force: "I was at a station where you had to suck up to the sergeant because he'd decide where you were going to be posted. I remember sitting on a bench and letting him kiss me because I wanted to go to Fighter Command to be a plotter."
Royal Navy, not RAF, stopped Hitler and saved Britain
The courage of "the Few", the Battle of Britain fighter pilots who protected the country from the Luftwaffe, and stopped a full-scale invasion by Nazi Germany, remains one of the great stories of the Second World War. However, 3 military historians have claimed that it was not the gallant Spitfire and Hurricane fighter pilots who saved the country, but the Royal Navy. Operation Sealion would have attempted to land 160,000 soldiers using 2,000 barges. "The Navy had ships in sufficient numbers to have overwhelmed any invasion fleet; destroyers’ speed alone would have swamped the barges by their wash."
Mines in the sky and other wartime oddities - A Summer Bright And Terrible (Article no longer available from the original source)
Hitler's Luftwaffe was supposed to reduce Britain to rubble that summer. Everyone knew it could. The German bombers were too fast, too high and too strong for the English fighters' puny machine guns. But by 1940, Air Marshall Hugh Dowding could see them coming, thanks to radar. During the Battle of Britain, Dowding began having encounters with the ghosts of the pilots he lost. Eventually, he went the whole psychic route, worked with a medium, made contact with pilots who had passed beyond and passed along their messages to their widows. The science adviser Lindemann got the idea of seeding the sky with aerial mines on parachutes in front of the German bomber formations.