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The London Blitz

From Women in European History

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The Blitz was the sustained bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between September 7, 1940 and May 10, 1941. The name is probably a contraction of blitzkrieg, a term coined by Western journalists to describe German military strategy in World War II. The bombardment was intended to weaken morale and destroy infrastructure in preparation for a full-scale invasion of the British Isles. It resulted in over 43,000 civilian casualties. The Blitz began with the bombing of London for 76 consecutive days. Though most major British cities were hit, London remained the offensive’s main target.


The jobs of German bombers were complicated by anti-aircraft guns and blackout measures. The blackouts made airborne navigation more difficult. Civilians were required to put black curtains over all windows and street lamps were extinguished. Anti-aircraft guns were swiftly brought into the city following the beginning of the offensive. Their visually impressive barrage deterred bomber pilots, though few planes were actually hit.[1]

Measures to warn and protect the civilian population from the bombs proved effective, as civilian casualties ended up being less than 10% of initial estimates. Air raid sirens warned of approaching planes, and civilians scrambled to shelters as quickly as possible. There were very few large, public shelters with the notable exception of subway stations. Most shelters were in basements or backyards, often built from government-issued kits.[2]

Germany continued to bomb Britain sporadically throughout World War II, but never again with the concentrated ferocity of the Blitz. Towards the end of the war, the development of V1 and V2 rockets briefly enabled German attacks on London using weapons launched from the continent. The rockets caused nearly 9,000 further casualties.


  1. Wikipedia, "The Blitz" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blitz
  2. Wikipedia, "Air-raid shelters" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air-raid_shelter

See Also

The Times archive on the Blitz

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This page has been accessed 8,220 times. This page was last modified on 26 May 2010, at 23:05.


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