The Blitz is the title given to the German bombing campaign on British cities during World War Two. the term ‘Blitz’ is more commonly used for the bombing campaign against London. After the failure of the Battle of Britain, the Germans attempted to bomb London into submission – a tactic used again with the V weapons campaign in 1944-45.
Fear generated by the Guernica bombing during the Spanish civil war, convinced many people that a civilian population could be bombed into submission.
The theory was that the population, in constant fear of a sudden and violent death, would put pressure on their government to surrender. If that government did not surrender, then the population would take to the streets, riot and overthrow the government. The whole point of a sustained bombing campaign was to destroy a nation’s morale.
By mid-September 1940, the Battle of Britain had been lost by the Germans. This was the first setback Hitler had received during World War Two.
The Blitz on British cities – night-time raids as opposed to daytime to enhance the fear factor – was Hitler’s attempt to destroy Britain’s morale.
The attacks started on September 7th 1940 and continued to May 1941.
London was especially badly hit.
At the start of the campaign, the government did not allow the use of underground rail stations as they considered them a potential safety hazard.
The population of London took the matter into their own hands and opened up the chained entrances to the tube stations.
In the Underground they were safe from the high explosive and incendiary bombs that rained down on London night after night. With one or two exceptions, their confidence was rewarded.
The City tube station was hit when a bomb went through the road and fell into it. Over 200 were killed.
To start with the government underestimated the potential use of the underground stations.
The government estimated that 87% or more of people would use the issued shelters or spaces under stairs etc. and that only 4% of the population would use the underground stations.
The government used its control over all forms of the media to present a picture of life going on as normal despite the constant nightly attacks. They did not show photos of people known as ‘trekkers’ – the families who would spend the night away from their homes, preferably in local woodland or a park where they felt safer from attack. Such photos were censored. An American film – "London can take it" - presented the image of a city devastated by bombs but one that carried on as normal. The narrator makes the point that "bombs can only kill people, they cannot destroy the indomitable spirit of a nation."
The poorest in London lived in the East End and it was this area that was especially hit hard by bombing because of the docks