German airship hits central London

German airship hits central London


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On September 8, 1915, a German Zeppelin commanded by Heinrich Mathy, one of the great airship commanders of World War I, hits Aldersgate in central London, killing 22 people and causing £500,000 worth of damage.

The Zeppelin, a motor-driven rigid airship, was developed by German inventor Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin in 1900. Although a French inventor had built a power-driven airship several decades before, the von Zeppelin-designed rigid dirigible, with its steel framework, was by far the largest airship ever constructed. However, in the case of the zeppelin, size was exchanged for safety, as the heavy steel-framed airships were vulnerable to explosion because they had to be lifted by highly flammable hydrogen gas instead of non-flammable helium gas.

The Germans enjoyed great success with the Zeppelin over the course of 1915 and 1916, terrorizing the skies over the British Isles. The first Zeppelin attack on London came on May 31, 1915; it killed 28 people and wounded 60 more. By May 1916, the Germans had killed a total of 550 Britons with aerial bombing.

One of the best-known Zeppelin pilots was Heinrich Mathy, born in 1883 in Mannheim, Germany. Flying his famed airship L13 on September 8, 1915, Mathy dropped his bombs on the Aldersgate area of central London, causing great damage by fire and killing 22 people.

The following summer, Mathy piloted a new Zeppelin, the L31 in more attacks on London on the night of August 24-25, 1916. His ship was damaged upon landing; while he was waiting for repairs to be made, Mathy received word that the British had managed for the first time to shoot down a Zeppelin, using incendiary bullets. Shortly after that, Mathy wrote pessimistically: “It is only a question of time before we join the rest. Everyone admits that they feel it. Our nerves are ruined by mistreatment. If anyone should say that he was not haunted by visions of burning airships, then he would be a braggart.” True to his prediction, Mathy’s L31 was shot down during a raid on London on the night of October 1-2, 1916. He is buried in Staffordshire, in a cemetery constructed for the burial of Germans killed on British soil during both World Wars.


7. Harrow train crash (1952)

London's worst rail accident (and the worst peacetime accident in the UK) occurred at Harrow and Wealdstone station on 8 October 1952. An express train rammed into the back of a stationary passenger train waiting at platform. The wreckage was then struck by a third train coming the other way. The ultimate cause of the crash was never fully unravelled as the driver of the express train was killed. More here.


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Some recent discoveries indicate probable very early settlements near the Thames in the London area. In 1993, the remains of a Bronze Age bridge were found on the Thames's south foreshore, upstream of Vauxhall Bridge. [1] This bridge either crossed the Thames or went to a now lost island in the river. Dendrology dated the timbers to between 1750 BCE and 1285 BCE. [2] In 2001, a further dig found that the timbers were driven vertically into the ground on the south bank of the Thames west of Vauxhall Bridge. [3] In 2010, the foundations of a large timber structure, dated to between 4800 BCE and 4500 BCE. [4] were found, again on the foreshore south of Vauxhall Bridge. [5] The function of the mesolithic structure is not known. All these structures are on the south bank at a natural crossing point where the River Effra flows into the Thames. [6]

Archaeologist Leslie Wallace notes, "Because no LPRIA [Late pre-Roman Iron Age] settlements or significant domestic refuse have been found in London, despite extensive archaeological excavation, arguments for a purely Roman foundation of London are now common and uncontroversial." [7]

Roman London (AD 47–410) Edit

Londinium was established as a civilian town by the Romans about four years [8] after the invasion of AD 43. London, like Rome, was founded on the point of the river where it was narrow enough to bridge and the strategic location of the city provided easy access to much of Europe. Early Roman London occupied a relatively small area, roughly equivalent to the size of Hyde Park. In around AD 60, it was destroyed by the Iceni led by their queen Boudica. The city was quickly rebuilt as a planned Roman town and recovered after perhaps 10 years the city grew rapidly over the following decades.

During the 2nd century Londinium was at its height and replaced Colchester as the capital of Roman Britain (Britannia). Its population was around 60,000 inhabitants. It boasted major public buildings, including the largest basilica north of the Alps, temples, bath houses, an amphitheatre and a large fort for the city garrison. Political instability and recession from the 3rd century onwards led to a slow decline.

At some time between AD 180 and AD 225, the Romans built the defensive London Wall around the landward side of the city. The wall was about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long, 6 metres (20 ft) high, and 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) thick. The wall would survive for another 1,600 years and define the City of London's perimeters for centuries to come. The perimeters of the present City are roughly defined by the line of the ancient wall.

Londinium was an ethnically diverse city with inhabitants from across the Roman Empire, including natives of Britannia, continental Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. [9]

In the late 3rd century, Londinium was raided on several occasions by Saxon pirates. [10] This led, from around 255 onwards, to the construction of an additional riverside wall. Six of the traditional seven city gates of London are of Roman origin, namely: Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate (Moorgate is the exception, being of medieval origin).

By the 5th century, the Roman Empire was in rapid decline and in AD 410, the Roman occupation of Britannia came to an end. Following this, the Roman city also went into rapid decline and by the end of the 5th century was practically abandoned.

Anglo-Saxon London (5th century – 1066) Edit

Until recently it was believed that Anglo-Saxon settlement initially avoided the area immediately around Londinium. However, the discovery in 2008 of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Covent Garden indicates that the incomers had begun to settle there at least as early as the 6th century and possibly in the 5th. The main focus of this settlement was outside the Roman walls, clustering a short distance to the west along what is now the Strand, between the Aldwych and Trafalgar Square. It was known as Lundenwic, the -wic suffix here denoting a trading settlement. Recent excavations have also highlighted the population density and relatively sophisticated urban organisation of this earlier Anglo-Saxon London, which was laid out on a grid pattern and grew to house a likely population of 10–12,000.

Early Anglo-Saxon London belonged to a people known as the Middle Saxons, from whom the name of the county of Middlesex is derived, but who probably also occupied the approximate area of modern Hertfordshire and Surrey. However, by the early 7th century the London area had been incorporated into the kingdom of the East Saxons. In 604 King Saeberht of Essex converted to Christianity and London received Mellitus, its first post-Roman bishop.

At this time Essex was under the overlordship of King Æthelberht of Kent, and it was under Æthelberht's patronage that Mellitus founded the first St. Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to be on the site of an old Roman Temple of Diana (although Christopher Wren found no evidence of this). It would have only been a modest church at first and may well have been destroyed after he was expelled from the city by Saeberht's pagan successors.

The permanent establishment of Christianity in the East Saxon kingdom took place in the reign of King Sigeberht II in the 650s. During the 8th century, the kingdom of Mercia extended its dominance over south-eastern England, initially through overlordship which at times developed into outright annexation. London seems to have come under direct Mercian control in the 730s.

Viking attacks dominated most of the 9th century, becoming increasingly common from around 830 onwards. London was sacked in 842 and again in 851. The Danish "Great Heathen Army", which had rampaged across England since 865, wintered in London in 871. The city remained in Danish hands until 886, when it was captured by the forces of King Alfred the Great of Wessex and reincorporated into Mercia, then governed under Alfred's sovereignty by his son-in-law Ealdorman Æthelred.

Around this time the focus of settlement moved within the old Roman walls for the sake of defence, and the city became known as Lundenburh. The Roman walls were repaired and the defensive ditch re-cut, while the bridge was probably rebuilt at this time. A second fortified Borough was established on the south bank at Southwark, the Suthringa Geworc (defensive work of the men of Surrey). The old settlement of Lundenwic became known as the ealdwic or "old settlement", a name which survives today as Aldwich.

From this point, the City of London began to develop its own unique local government. Following Ethelred's death in 911 it was transferred to Wessex, preceding the absorption of the rest of Mercia in 918. Although it faced competition for political pre-eminence in the united Kingdom of England from the traditional West Saxon centre of Winchester, London's size and commercial wealth brought it a steadily increasing importance as a focus of governmental activity. King Athelstan held many meetings of the witan in London and issued laws from there, while King Æthelred the Unready issued the Laws of London there in 978.

Following the resumption of Viking attacks in the reign of Ethelred, London was unsuccessfully attacked in 994 by an army under King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. As English resistance to the sustained and escalating Danish onslaught finally collapsed in 1013, London repulsed an attack by the Danes and was the last place to hold out while the rest of the country submitted to Sweyn, but by the end of the year it too capitulated and Æthelred fled abroad. Sweyn died just five weeks after having been proclaimed king and Æthelred was restored to the throne, but Sweyn's son Cnut returned to the attack in 1015.

After Æthelred's death at London in 1016 his son Edmund Ironside was proclaimed king there by the witangemot and left to gather forces in Wessex. London was then subjected to a systematic siege by Cnut but was relieved by King Edmund's army when Edmund again left to recruit reinforcements in Wessex the Danes resumed the siege but were again unsuccessful. However, following his defeat at the Battle of Assandun Edmund ceded to Cnut all of England north of the Thames, including London, and his death a few weeks later left Cnut in control of the whole country.

A Norse saga tells of a battle when King Æthelred returned to attack Danish-occupied London. According to the saga, the Danes lined London Bridge and showered the attackers with spears. Undaunted, the attackers pulled the roofs off nearby houses and held them over their heads in the boats. Thus protected, they were able to get close enough to the bridge to attach ropes to the piers and pull the bridge down, thus ending the Viking occupation of London. This story presumably relates to Æthelred's return to power after Sweyn's death in 1014, but there is no strong evidence of any such struggle for control of London on that occasion.

Following the extinction of Cnut's dynasty in 1042 English rule was restored under Edward the Confessor. He was responsible for the foundation of Westminster Abbey and spent much of his time at Westminster, which from this time steadily supplanted the City itself as the centre of government. Edward's death at Westminster in 1066 without a clear heir led to a succession dispute and the Norman conquest of England. Earl Harold Godwinson was elected king by the witangemot and crowned in Westminster Abbey but was defeated and killed by William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings. The surviving members of the witan met in London and elected King Edward's young nephew Edgar the Ætheling as king.

The Normans advanced to the south bank of the Thames opposite London, where they defeated an English attack and burned Southwark but were unable to storm the bridge. They moved upstream and crossed the river at Wallingford before advancing on London from the north-west. The resolve of the English leadership to resist collapsed and the chief citizens of London went out together with the leading members of the Church and aristocracy to submit to William at Berkhamstead, although according to some accounts there was a subsequent violent clash when the Normans reached the city. Having occupied London, William was crowned king in Westminster Abbey.

Norman and Medieval London (1066 – late 15th century) Edit

The new Norman regime established new fortresses within the city to dominate the native population. By far the most important of these was the Tower of London at the eastern end of the city, where the initial timber fortification was rapidly replaced by the construction of the first stone castle in England. The smaller forts of Baynard's Castle and Montfichet's Castle were also established along the waterfront. King William also granted a charter in 1067 confirming the city's existing rights, privileges and laws. London was a centre of England's nascent Jewish population, the first of whom arrived in about 1070. [11] Its growing self-government was consolidated by the election rights granted by King John in 1199 and 1215.

In 1097, William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror began the construction of 'Westminster Hall', which became the focus of the Palace of Westminster.

In 1176, construction began of the most famous incarnation of London Bridge (completed in 1209) which was built on the site of several earlier timber bridges. This bridge would last for 600 years, and remained the only bridge across the River Thames until 1739.

Violence against Jews took place in 1190, after it was rumoured that the new King had ordered their massacre after they had presented themselves at his coronation. [12]

In 1216, during the First Barons' War London was occupied by Prince Louis of France, who had been called in by the baronial rebels against King John and was acclaimed as King of England in St Paul's Cathedral. However, following John's death in 1217 Louis's supporters reverted to their Plantagenet allegiance, rallying round John's son Henry III, and Louis was forced to withdraw from England.

In 1224, after an accusation of ritual murder, the Jewish community was subjected to a steep punitive levy. Then in 1232, Henry III confiscated the principal synagogue of the London Jewish community because he claimed their chanting was audible in a neighboring church. [13] In 1264, during the Second Barons' War, Simon de Montfort's rebels occupied London and killed 500 Jews while attempting to seize records of debts. [14]

London's Jewish community was forced to leave England by the expulsion by Edward I in 1290. They left for France, Holland and further afield their property was seized, and many suffered robbery and murder as they departed. [12]

Over the following centuries, London would shake off the heavy French cultural and linguistic influence which had been there since the times of the Norman conquest. The city would figure heavily in the development of Early Modern English.

During the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, London was invaded by rebels led by Wat Tyler. A group of peasants stormed the Tower of London and executed the Lord Chancellor, Archbishop Simon Sudbury, and the Lord Treasurer. The peasants looted the city and set fire to numerous buildings. Tyler was stabbed to death by the Lord Mayor William Walworth in a confrontation at Smithfield and the revolt collapsed.

Trade increased steadily during the Middle Ages, and London grew rapidly as a result. In 1100, London's population was somewhat more than 15,000. By 1300, it had grown to roughly 80,000. London lost at least half of its population during the Black Death in the mid-14th century, but its economic and political importance stimulated a rapid recovery despite further epidemics. Trade in London was organised into various guilds, which effectively controlled the city, and elected the Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Medieval London was made up of narrow and twisting streets, and most of the buildings were made from combustible materials such as timber and straw, which made fire a constant threat, while sanitation in cities was of low-quality.

Tudor London (1485–1603) Edit

In 1475, the Hanseatic League set up its main English trading base (kontor) in London, called Stalhof or Steelyard. It existed until 1853, when the Hanseatic cities of Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg sold the property to South Eastern Railway. [15] Woollen cloth was shipped undyed and undressed from 14th/15th century London to the nearby shores of the Low Countries, where it was considered indispensable. [16]

During the Reformation, London was the principal early centre of Protestantism in England. Its close commercial connections with the Protestant heartlands in northern continental Europe, large foreign mercantile communities, disproportionately large number of literate inhabitants and role as the centre of the English print trade all contributed to the spread of the new ideas of religious reform. Before the Reformation, more than half of the area of London was the property of monasteries, nunneries and other religious houses. [17]

Henry VIII's "Dissolution of the Monasteries" had a profound effect on the city as nearly all of this property changed hands. The process started in the mid 1530s, and by 1538 most of the larger monastic houses had been abolished. Holy Trinity Aldgate went to Lord Audley, and the Marquess of Winchester built himself a house in part of its precincts. The Charterhouse went to Lord North, Blackfriars to Lord Cobham, the leper hospital of St Giles to Lord Dudley, while the king took for himself the leper hospital of St James, which was rebuilt as St James's Palace. [17]

The period saw London rapidly rising in importance among Europe's commercial centres. Trade expanded beyond Western Europe to Russia, the Levant, and the Americas. This was the period of mercantilism and monopoly trading companies such as the Muscovy Company (1555) and the British East India Company (1600) were established in London by Royal Charter. The latter, which ultimately came to rule India, was one of the key institutions in London, and in Britain as a whole, for two and a half centuries. Immigrants arrived in London not just from all over England and Wales, but from abroad as well, for example Huguenots from France the population rose from an estimated 50,000 in 1530 to about 225,000 in 1605. [17] The growth of the population and wealth of London was fuelled by a vast expansion in the use of coastal shipping.

The late 16th and early 17th century saw the great flourishing of drama in London whose preeminent figure was William Shakespeare. During the mostly calm later years of Elizabeth's reign, some of her courtiers and some of the wealthier citizens of London built themselves country residences in Middlesex, Essex and Surrey. This was an early stirring of the villa movement, the taste for residences which were neither of the city nor on an agricultural estate, but at the time of Elizabeth's death in 1603, London was still very compact.

Xenophobia was rampant in London, and increased after the 1580s. Many immigrants became disillusioned by routine threats of violence and molestation, attempts at expulsion of foreigners, and the great difficulty in acquiring English citizenship. Dutch cities proved more hospitable, and many left London permanently. [18] Foreigners are estimated to have made up 4,000 of the 100,000 residents of London by 1600, many being Dutch and German workers and traders. [19]

Stuart London (1603–1714) Edit

London's expansion beyond the boundaries of the City was decisively established in the 17th century. In the opening years of that century the immediate environs of the City, with the principal exception of the aristocratic residences in the direction of Westminster, were still considered not conducive to health. Immediately to the north was Moorfields, which had recently been drained and laid out in walks, but it was frequented by beggars and travellers, who crossed it in order to get into London. Adjoining Moorfields were Finsbury Fields, a favourite practising ground for the archers, Mile End, then a common on the Great Eastern Road and famous as a rendezvous for the troops.

The preparations for King James I becoming king were interrupted by a severe plague epidemic, which may have killed over thirty thousand people. The Lord Mayor's Show, which had been discontinued for some years, was revived by order of the king in 1609. The dissolved monastery of the Charterhouse, which had been bought and sold by the courtiers several times, was purchased by Thomas Sutton for £13,000. The new hospital, chapel, and schoolhouse were begun in 1611. Charterhouse School was to be one of the principal public schools in London until it moved to Surrey in Victorian times, and the site is still used as a medical school. [20]

The general meeting-place of Londoners in the day-time was the nave of Old St. Paul's Cathedral. Merchants conducted business in the aisles, and used the font as a counter upon which to make their payments lawyers received clients at their particular pillars and the unemployed looked for work. St Paul's Churchyard was the centre of the book trade and Fleet Street was a centre of public entertainment. Under James I the theatre, which established itself so firmly in the latter years of Elizabeth, grew further in popularity. The performances at the public theatres were complemented by elaborate masques at the royal court and at the inns of court. [21]

Charles I acceded to the throne in 1625. During his reign, aristocrats began to inhabit the West End in large numbers. In addition to those who had specific business at court, increasing numbers of country landowners and their families lived in London for part of the year simply for the social life. This was the beginning of the "London season". Lincoln's Inn Fields was built about 1629. [22] The piazza of Covent Garden, designed by England's first classically trained architect Inigo Jones followed in about 1632. The neighbouring streets were built shortly afterwards, and the names of Henrietta, Charles, James, King and York Streets were given after members of the royal family. [23]

In January 1642 five members of parliament whom the King wished to arrest were granted refuge in the City. In August of the same year the King raised his banner at Nottingham, and during the English Civil War London took the side of the parliament. Initially the king had the upper hand in military terms and in November he won the Battle of Brentford a few miles to the west of London. The City organised a new makeshift army and Charles hesitated and retreated. Subsequently, an extensive system of fortifications was built to protect London from a renewed attack by the Royalists. This comprised a strong earthen rampart, enhanced with bastions and redoubts. It was well beyond the City walls and encompassed the whole urban area, including Westminster and Southwark. London was not seriously threatened by the royalists again, and the financial resources of the City made an important contribution to the parliamentarians' victory in the war.

The unsanitary and overcrowded City of London has suffered from the numerous outbreaks of the plague many times over the centuries, but in Britain it is the last major outbreak which is remembered as the "Great Plague" It occurred in 1665 and 1666 and killed around 60,000 people, which was one fifth of the population. Samuel Pepys chronicled the epidemic in his diary. On 4 September 1665 he wrote "I have stayed in the city till above 7400 died in one week, and of them about 6000 of the plague, and little noise heard day or night but tolling of bells." [24] [25]

Great Fire of London (1666) Edit

The Great Plague was immediately followed by another catastrophe, albeit one which helped to put an end to the plague. On the Sunday, 2 September 1666 the Great Fire of London broke out at one o'clock in the morning at a bakery in Pudding Lane in the southern part of the City. Fanned by an eastern wind the fire spread, and efforts to arrest it by pulling down houses to make firebreaks were disorganised to begin with. On Tuesday night the wind fell somewhat, and on Wednesday the fire slackened. On Thursday it was extinguished, but on the evening of that day the flames again burst forth at the Temple. Some houses were at once blown up by gunpowder, and thus the fire was finally mastered. The Monument was built to commemorate the fire: for over a century and a half it bore an inscription attributing the conflagration to a "popish frenzy". [26]

The fire destroyed about 60% of the City, including Old St Paul's Cathedral, 87 parish churches, 44 livery company halls and the Royal Exchange. However, the number of lives lost was surprisingly small it is believed to have been 16 at most. Within a few days of the fire, three plans were presented to the king for the rebuilding of the city, by Christopher Wren, John Evelyn and Robert Hooke. [27]

Wren proposed to build main thoroughfares north and south, and east and west, to insulate all the churches in conspicuous positions, to form the most public places into large piazzas, to unite the halls of the 12 chief livery companies into one regular square annexed to the Guildhall, and to make a fine quay on the bank of the river from Blackfriars to the Tower of London. Wren wished to build the new streets straight and in three standard widths of thirty, sixty and ninety feet. Evelyn's plan differed from Wren's chiefly in proposing a street from the church of St Dunstan's in the East to the St Paul's, and in having no quay or terrace along the river. These plans were not implemented, and the rebuilt city generally followed the streetplan of the old one, and most of it has survived into the 21st century.

Nonetheless, the new City was different from the old one. Many aristocratic residents never returned, preferring to take new houses in the West End, where fashionable new districts such as St. James's were built close to the main royal residence, which was Whitehall Palace until it was destroyed by fire in the 1690s, and thereafter St. James's Palace. The rural lane of Piccadilly sprouted courtiers mansions such as Burlington House. Thus the separation between the middle class mercantile City of London, and the aristocratic world of the court in Westminster became complete. [28]

In the City itself there was a move from wooden buildings to stone and brick construction to reduce the risk of fire. Parliament's Rebuilding of London Act 1666 stated "building with brick [is] not only more comely and durable, but also more safe against future perils of fire". From then on only doorcases, window-frames and shop fronts were allowed to be made of wood. [29]

Christopher Wren's plan for a new model London came to nothing, but he was appointed to rebuild the ruined parish churches and to replace St Paul's Cathedral. His domed baroque cathedral was the primary symbol of London for at least a century and a half. As city surveyor, Robert Hooke oversaw the reconstruction of the City's houses. The East End, that is the area immediately to the east of the city walls, also became heavily populated in the decades after the Great Fire. London's docks began to extend downstream, attracting many working people who worked on the docks themselves and in the processing and distributive trades. These people lived in Whitechapel, Wapping, Stepney and Limehouse, generally in slum conditions. [30]

In the winter of 1683–1684, a frost fair was held on the Thames. The frost, which began about seven weeks before Christmas and continued for six weeks after, was the greatest on record. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 led to a large migration on Huguenots to London. They established a silk industry at Spitalfields. [31]

At this time the Bank of England was founded, and the British East India Company was expanding its influence. Lloyd's of London also began to operate in the late 17th century. In 1700, London handled 80% of England's imports, 69% of its exports and 86% of its re-exports. Many of the goods were luxuries from the Americas and Asia such as silk, sugar, tea and tobacco. The last figure emphasises London's role as an entrepot: while it had many craftsmen in the 17th century, and would later acquire some large factories, its economic prominence was never based primarily on industry. Instead it was a great trading and redistribution centre. Goods were brought to London by England's increasingly dominant merchant navy, not only to satisfy domestic demand, but also for re-export throughout Europe and beyond. [32]

William III, a Dutchman, cared little for London, the smoke of which gave him asthma, and after the first fire at Whitehall Palace (1691) he purchased Nottingham House and transformed it into Kensington Palace. Kensington was then an insignificant village, but the arrival of the court soon caused it to grow in importance. The palace was rarely favoured by future monarchs, but its construction was another step in the expansion of the bounds of London. During the same reign Greenwich Hospital, then well outside the boundary of London, but now comfortably inside it, was begun it was the naval complement to the Chelsea Hospital for former soldiers, which had been founded in 1681. During the reign of Queen Anne an act was passed authorising the building of 50 new churches to serve the greatly increased population living outside the boundaries of the City of London. [33]


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'For some more contextual information, where we can, we add a label with the name of the street it fell on. If you click on the marker, you’ll get a bit more information about the bomb and how far away from your location it fell.'

THE BLITZ IN LONDON - A MILLION HOMES HIT AND 40,000 CIVILIANS KILLED

St Paul's Cathedral miraculously escaped WWII air raids.

The Blitz (from the German word, 'lightning') was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen.

Between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941 there were major raids with more than 100 tonnes of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.

London, was attacked 71 times and bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights.

More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London

Birmingham, Liverpool and Plymouth were also hit eight times, Bristol six, Glasgow five, Southampton four, Portsmouth three, and there was also at least one large raid on another eight cities.

Deeply-buried shelters provided the most protection against a direct hit, although the government in 1939 refused to allow tube stations to be used as shelters so as not to interfere with commuter and troop travel.

However, by the second week of heavy bombing the government relented and ordered the stations to be opened.

Each day orderly lines of people queued until 4 pm, when they were allowed to enter the stations, and by mid-September 1939 about 150,000 a night slept in the Underground.

Despite the blanket bombing of the capital, some landmarks remained intact - such as St Pauls Cathedral (right), which was virtually unharmed, despite many buildings around it being reduced to rubble during the 57 nights of raid.

The site give an astonishing view of every bomb records during the Second World War, and allows users to zoom in

Viewers can zoom in to see the areas worst hit, with each red dot representing a bomb

The astonishing sight reveals the blanketing of bombs German forces dropped on Britain's capital during the Second World War

Once an individual bomb has been located, the site shows details of it, and pictures and other information from the surrounding area


Bomb-Damage Maps Reveal London’s World War II Devastation

The German Luftwaffe dropped thousands of bombs on London from 1939 to 1945, killing almost 30,000 people. More than 70,000 buildings were completely demolished, and another 1.7 million were damaged. The extent of the damage to each and every one of these buildings was logged and mapped in near real-time by surveyors, architects, engineers, and construction workers.

The result is an incredible collection of maps, color-coded by hand, that reveal the extent of the destruction in painstaking detail. Today, the maps remain an invaluable resource for academics, family historians, and even builders trying to avoid touching off unexploded bombs.

Now these bomb census maps are available in a beautiful oversized book released earlier this year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Blitz, a nine-month period during which London and other British cities were relentlessly attacked by the German air force. “The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps, 1939-1945” contains large, high-quality reproductions of all 110 maps of the London region along with commentary from Laurence Ward, principal archivist at London Metropolitan Archives, which holds the original maps.

“There are just so many stories which these maps provide the starting point for,” Ward says. “They’re a great source in the sense that they make you want to go on and find out more.”

As soon as the bombs fell, data collection for the maps began. The London County Council, the central administrative authority of what was known as the County of London (roughly the area known today as Inner London), tasked its Architect’s Department with responding to bomb damage as it occurred. Surveyors, who before the war mostly worked on building sites to make sure regulations were followed and buildings were up to code, suddenly found themselves in charge of rescue operations. They worked with local rescue services made up of people from the construction fields, like engineers and bricklayers.

“Their primary aim was to pull people out of rubble and destroyed buildings and try to save lives,” Ward says. “They were set up as the rescue service because they had an understanding of how buildings worked, so if a building was about to collapse, making a judgment on how much time you had to get into the building and try and save people.” In all, the rescue services responded to 16,396 incidents and saved 22,238 people. Fifty-four of them died during these efforts.

Once a rescue operation was finished, the surveyors and rescue workers would work together to classify the damage, building by building, into six categories ranging from “blast damage—minor in nature” to “total destruction.” Their reports were sent to the London County Council, where they were recorded onto 1916 Ordnance Survey maps. Each damage category was given a color (shown in the key, above right), and the status of every affected building was colored by hand on the maps.

A diary entry included in the book, from architect Andrew Butler on April 20, 1941, gives an idea of what the work was like:

For the block I have started on—eight floors high with two flats on each floor—has had its whole face ripped off … I found it possible to stand on part of the roof. So, clutching a broken chimney, I surveyed the damage there. My notebook became very messy. What with the dust and soot, wet filth and the perspiration of fluster on my hands, it was difficult to read what I wrote. The notes served their purpose however when, after drying the book, I had to transcribe them into a report.

Visually, the maps are quite striking. The apparent randomness of the colors stands in contrast to the more orderly pattern of streets and buildings. In some places, whole swaths containing several blocks and dozens of buildings are colored black (total destruction) and purple (damaged beyond repair). In other places, the severity of damage varies widely, with areas colored yellow (minor blast damage) peppered with black, purple and red (seriously damaged).

Circles on the map denote strikes from V-1 and V-2 rockets, late additions to the German arsenal that caused tremendous damage. Beginning in June of 1944, Germany added the V-1 flying bomb to its attacks, which up to that point had mostly consisted of aircraft dropping incendiary bombs. The V-1 was a pilotless aircraft carrying a 1,870-pound warhead that could navigate by autopilot and crash into a target. More than 2,000 landed in the London region, killing 2,329 people. In September, a V-2 rocket, the world’s first ballistic missile, hit London. By the end of the war, 517 had detonated in London, killing 2,511 people.

The damage from World War II transformed London into the architecturally diverse city it is today. The maps help explain how rows of grand old flats can be interspersed with more modern buildings.

“Looking at a very, very small area, you can have buildings dating from maybe five different centuries sitting in quite close proximity to each other,” Ward says. “As you go further out you might be walking along a very fine Victorian street full of these beautiful terraced houses with lots of Victorian detailing on them, and then suddenly right in the middle of this road, there’ll be this kind of 1960’s low-rise housing block, very functional, very square. But it’s often that was the result of bomb damage.”

The book also contains a remarkable collection of photos of damage in the City of London, a square-mile section at the center of greater London, taken by two police officers who would photograph damaged areas in the wake of attacks. The combination of the maps showing how widespread the destruction was, and the photos, such as the one above, showing what the damage looked like up close, really brings home the scale of the devastation.

“I just find it staggering that they managed to just carry on. London just carried on working,” Ward says. “It must have been an extraordinary time.”


London Blitz 1940: the first day's bomb attacks listed in full

The London Blitz started quietly. Less than 100 incidents reported by the London Fire Brigade up to 5pm on September 7, 1940. Only a few weeks after the British victory in the Battle of Britain, what came then must have been a terrible shock for Londoners. You can read the original Guardian archive report of the night here.

At 5.30pm, some 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters pounded London until 6.00pm. Guided by the flames, a second group attacked with more incendiary bombs two hours later, lasting into the next day.

September 7, 1940 - first night of the London Blitz September 7, 1940 shown by Guardian graphic artist Jenny Ridley

The London Metropolitan Archives holds the definitive account of the Blitz in meticulously hand typed records kept by the London Fire Brigade at the time. September 7 was just the start - by November, Coventry had been destroyed and attacks hit cities across the UK, including Plymouth and Liverpool. It lasted 79 days.

At the end of the war, the city's civil engineers undertook a full study of bomb damage from 1939 to 1945, identifying every property in London hit by bombs and rockets - and the severity of the attack. These London bomb maps were published a number of years ago as a book, now out of print. But you can see the maps in person at the archive, where there is talk of making them properly available online.

We wanted to see how that first day and night unfolded and the Archives have allowed us to enter the records for September 7, 1940 in full detail - thanks to Alicia Weekes and Naomi Burley-Baker for their work on this. What you see here in this spreadsheet is the first time those records have been available online.

If you live in London you might even find your street.

September 7, 1940 using Google Fusion tables - click on the map to zoom in. Get fullscreen version

But the capital has changed a lot since 1940 and some of the streets listed here no longer exist. Even so, it's possible to use Google Fusion tables to produce a quick and dirty interactive.


German airship hits central London - HISTORY

The Blitz refers to the strategic bombing campaign conducted by the Germans against London and other cities in England from September of 1940 through May of 1941, targeting populated areas, factories and dock yards.

The first German attack on London actually occurred by accident. On the night of August 24, 1940, Luftwaffe bombers aiming for military targets on the outskirts of London drifted off course and instead dropped their bombs on the center of London destroying several homes and killing civilians. Amid the public outrage that followed, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, believing it was a deliberate attack, ordered Berlin to be bombed the next evening.

About 40 British bombers managed to reach Berlin and inflicted minimal property damage. However, the Germans were utterly stunned by the British air-attack on Hitler's capital. It was the first time bombs had ever fallen on Berlin. Making matters worse, they had been repeatedly assured by Luftwaffe Chief, Hermann G ö ring, that it could never happen. A second British bombing raid on the night of August 28/29 resulted in Germans killed on the ground. Two nights later, a third attack occurred.

German nerves were frayed. The Nazis were outraged. In a speech delivered on September 4, Hitler threatened, ". When the British Air Force drops two or three or four thousand kilograms of bombs, then we will in one night drop 150-, 230-, 300- or 400,000 kilograms. When they declare that they will increase their attacks on our cities, then we will raze their cities to the ground. We will stop the handiwork of those night air pirates, so help us God!"

Beginning on September 7, 1940, and for a total of 57 consecutive nights, London was bombed. The decision to wage a massive bombing campaign against London and other English cities would prove to be one of the most fateful of the war. Up to that point, the Luftwaffe had targeted Royal Air Force airfields and support installations and had nearly destroyed the entire British air defense system. Switching to an all-out attack on British cities gave RAF Fighter Command a desperately needed break and the opportunity to rebuild damaged airfields, train new pilots and repair aircraft. "It was," Churchill later wrote, "therefore with a sense of relief that Fighter Command felt the German attack turn on to London. "

During the nightly bombing raids on London, people took shelter in warehouse basements and underground (subway) stations where they slept on makeshift beds amid primitive conditions with no privacy and poor sanitation facilities.

Other British cities targeted during the Blitz included Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Birmingham, Coventry, Nottingham, Norwich, Ipswich, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Newcastle and also Glasgow, Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Hitler's intention was to break the morale of the British people so that they would pressure Churchill into negotiating. However, the bombing had the opposite effect, bringing the English people together to face a common enemy. Encouraged by Churchill's frequent public appearances and radio speeches, the people became determined to hold out indefinitely against the Nazi onslaught. "Business as usual," could be seen everywhere written in chalk on boarded-up shop windows.

By the end of 1940, German air raids had killed 15,000 British civilians. One of the worst attacks had occurred on the night of November 14/15 against Coventry, an industrial city east of Birmingham in central England. In that raid, 449 German bombers dropped 1,400 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiaries which destroyed 50,000 buildings, killing 568 persons, leaving over 1,000 badly injured. The incendiary devices created fire storms with super-heated gale force winds drawing in torrents of air to fan enormous walls of flames.

In London, on the night of December 29/30, the Germans dropped incendiaries resulting in a fire storm that devastated the area between St. Paul's Cathedral and the Guildhall, destroying several historic churches. Other famous landmarks damaged during the Blitz included Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Chamber of the House of Commons. The Blitz climaxed in May of 1941, leaving 375,000 Londoners homeless.

However, the RAF, utilizing newly developed radar, inflicted increasingly heavy losses on Luftwaffe bombers. British Fighter Command was able to track and plot the course of German bombers from the moment they took off from bases in Europe. RAF fighter planes were then dispatched to attack the incoming bombers at the best possible position. As a result, the Luftwaffe never gained air supremacy over England, a vital prerequisite to a land invasion. Failure to achieve air supremacy eventually led Hitler to indefinitely postpone Operation Sealion, the Nazi invasion of England, in favor of an attack on the USSR. The Blitz came to an end as Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe transferred to eastern Europe in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR.

In all, 18,000 tons of high explosives had been dropped on England during eight months of the Blitz. A total of 18,629 men, 16,201 women, and 5,028 children were killed along with 695 unidentified charred bodies.

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Stories of the Blitz

Londoners taking shelter in the Tube © Billy and John took shelter in the Blackstock Road shelter in Liverpool ,which was hit by a bomb. Billy lost his mother, and six brothers and sisters. Billy feels that the government didn't provide the necessary deep shelters in time to give him, his family and his neighbours protection against the bombing.

Peter Prichard took shelter in the London underground tube system. He remembers that it was really dirty down there. Toilet facilities consisted of an iron bucket, with a seat on it. People would make love there, as though they were still at home. 'They weren't the wonderful times that people talk about today.'

Stan Watkinson remembers running for the safety of the shelter with his mother. They made it, but the daughter of a family friend was killed. Stan remembers seeing the corpses of children from his school after the raid. His experiences of the bombing had such a traumatic effect on him that he became very ill. It was so serious that his father was allowed to come home on compassionate leave.


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