What was the Blitz 1940-41?

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few

Winston Churchill after the Battle of Britain

At 4:56pm on 7th September 1940, air raid sirens started screeching across London.

Then the bombs fell.

This was the beginning of the Blitz, one of the most devastating periods in British history. Tens of thousands lost their lives, and countless more were made homeless.

What was the Blitz, and why did it happen? Was it effective?

Read on to find out more.

What does Blitz mean?

The term ‘Blitz’ is a shortened form of the German word ‘Blitzkrieg‘, meaning lightning war.

What was the Blitz?

The Blitz was a nighttime bombing campaign against cities and key strategic locations across the United Kingdom by the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

When did the Blitz start?

The Blitz officially began at 4:56pm on the 7th of September 1940, when German bombers attacked London in a raid that came to be known as ‘Black Saturday’.

lancaster bombers flying through the sky in formation during the battle of britain

How long did the Blitz last?

The Blitz lasted for 8 months and 5 days between September 1940 & May 1941. The most intense period of the blitz, the London Blitz, lasted for 57 days. During this time, the city was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 56 of the following 57 days and nights and almost daily thereon until May 1941.

Which British cities were bombed?

Around 17 British towns and cities were the targets of major bombing raids during the Blitz. The most affected towns and cities were London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow & Plymouth. Over 1,000 tons of high explosives were dropped on each of these cities, causing incredible damage and loss of life.

What was the most bombed city?

London was the city left most devastated, both in terms of heavy raids and the volume of bombs dropped. The British capital was bombed 71 times and over 18,000 tons of high explosive bombs were dropped on the city.

view from london bridge of the city on fire after a bombing raid

Why did the Blitz happen?

The Blitz began as bombing attacks intended to destroy strategically important airforce bases and aircraft factories. Bombers did not initially target civilian areas as Hitler was hopeful that Britain would relent and eventually ask for a peace agreement.

This changed on 24th August 1940.

A Luftwaffe pilot heading for a military target flew off course and mistakenly dropped their bombs on Central London. The British, believing the bombing was deliberate, responded in kind by bombing the German capital, Berlin.

The raid incensed Adolf Hitler and led to an escalation in German bombing campaigns against civilians. Sites of cultural and historical significance were also specifically targeted in what came to be known as the ‘Baedeker Blitz‘.

firemen attempt to put out a fire in london after a bombing raid during the blitz

How many people died in the Blitz?

Around 43,500 civilians were killed, with a further 139,000 people left seriously injured. In addition, over 2 million houses were destroyed in London or 60% of all available homes.

When did the Blitz end?

The Blitz ended with the last major attack on London on 11th May 1941. It had done little to dent British morale or hamper industrial output and so the Luftwaffe was eventually directed eastwards in preparation for Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of Russia.

Did you know?

The Battle of Britain – the world’s first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces – occurred during the Blitz. The decisive RAF (Royal Air Force) victory is widely regarded as the first major German defeat in World War II and a crucial turning point.

Interested in learning more about the Blitz and the wartime history of the UK? Our Wartime London Tour might just be perfect for you.

Explore London with an expert guide and discover the scars left on the city from the bombing raids that are still visible today. See the locations of air raid shelters and the iconic locations where the Allied victory in Europe was planned.