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Air raid information by Roger Stanley

Most of this information has been retrieved from London Metropolitan Archives, The Imperial War Museum and The National Archives, Kew.

World War Two raged across Europe from September 1939 when Germany refused negotiations with Great Britain until the surrender of Germany in June 1945.

Although the German Third Reich under Hitler, attacked many countries in Europe, the aim was to attack and control the United Kingdom and then to rule the world.

Germany was unable to land troops on the shores of the United Kingdom but proceeded to wreak havoc and massive destruction to London and other major cities, by aerial attack.

In the London Region alone, 29,890 civilians were killed and a further 50,507 people were seriously injured.

Across the rest of the country, 30,695 civilians died and a further 34,668 people were seriously injured.

The Battle of Britain
Hitler hoped to bomb The United Kingdom into submission by air raids of such intensity that the British Government would surrender to stop so much death and destruction.

The intensive bombing began on 8 August 1940 and continued until 31 October 1940.

The bombing raids were well-planned to cause destruction and casualties to demoralise the people and prepare the way for an invasion. The raids can be divided into four areas and time frames:

Attacks on shipping and ports: 8 to 18 August

Attacks on airfields: 9 August to 5 September

Daylight attacks on London: 6 September to 5 October

Night attacks on London: 6 October to 31 October

It was during these air attacks against Britain, that the RAF with their brave air crew from all over the world, courageously fought the battle in the skies.

During this time of just 84 days and nights, 2,375 enemy aircraft were shot down and the RAF lost 733 planes and 375 pilots.

Although bombing air raids covered most parts of the United Kingdom and continued to do so throughout the next four years, they grew less frequent as Germany prepared their next attacks with new weapons.

The New Weapons
Flying Bombs, known as the V1, or Doodle Bug, were small planes without pilots and were in fact bombs launched from German occupied France and were rocket propelled. They were designed to have sufficient fuel to fly at a low level and get them to London and then to crash with their explosives doing massive damage and causing a great loss of life.

The first of these flying bombs fell at Bethnal Green in London's East End on 12 June 1944 and the last recorded was at Waltham Cross in March 1945. During this 9 month period it is reported that more than 8,000 were launched and 2,300 crashed into London with just a few hundred crashing in locations along the South coast and around the Home Counties.

Ground based Barrage Balloons accounted for 279 destroyed and Ack Ack guns exploded 1,560 in the air. RAF fighter pilots also destroyed 1,900 in ariel combat.

When the last of the VI Flying Bombs crashed, they had damaged more than one million houses in the Metropolitan area of London.

The next weapon from Germany was the V2 Rocket. This sophisticated forerunner of the rockets used to launch space capsules after the war, arrived at their London target without any warning. The damage caused was horrendous with so much high explosive packed inside its body. The total that crashed into the Greater London area is recorded as: 1,050. The last of which was at Orpington on 27 March 1945.

Specific casualties attributed to V2 rockets are, 2,754 killed and 6,523 seriously injured.

As the fighting continued across Europe with the Allies defeating the Germans on all fronts, bombing raids and rocket attacks against the United Kingdom ended from 27 March 1945.

The Damage on the Ground
With the terrible loss of life and the suffering of the injured affecting so many more for generations to come, it is also necessary to note the material loss, particularly the homes damaged and destroyed.

On the 18 September 1945, The War Damage Commission made an announcement in which they had been notified that &endash; 3,281,953 properties of which, 1,400,245 were in London, had been damaged due to war activities. This does not include damage to public utilities, electricity, gas, water or railways and docks. The number of properties considered as total loss was almost 200,000 countrywide.

Statistics had been ongoing during the war and in November 1942, one house in five throughout England and Wales had been damaged, in some London areas, three out of four houses had been damaged. The Flying Bomb attacks between June and September 1944, had caused damage to over one million houses, most of these being in the Central London area.

Of the 49 churches located within the City of London, three were destroyed, 25 severely damaged and 20 slightly damaged. Just ONE church remained undamaged.

Hospitals did not escape attack: 326 received hits with resultant deaths, injuries and damage.

Many hospitals suffered bombing more than once.

April 2009