3-inch gun crew of 303rd Battery, 99th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, in action at Hayes Common in Kent, May 1940.
In the days following the start of the Blitz large numbers of additional Anti-Aircraft guns were brought into the London area.
From the Weekly Resume of the Naval Military and Air Situation for the week ending 19th September 1940, as reported to the War Cabinet:
Air Situation : Great Britain.
29. Enemy operations were chiefly confined to London and South-East England, although single attacks were reported in other districts and larger formations bombed Portland and Southampton on the 15th September. Several aerodromes were attacked, but none suffered damage of any importance. The main objectives appear to have been railways, public services and industrial targets : details of damage are set out in the Home Security Section. Attacks were, however, largely indiscriminate, particularly at night. Reports have been received of the occasional use by the enemy of single British aircraft with British markings, and an aircraft that attacked Dover on the 13th September was identified as a Blenheim. A number of parachute mines were dropped in the London area.
53. The enemy’s main attack is still centred on London. The main objectives would appear to have been :— 1. Communications, particularly railways. 2. Electrical undertakings. Another important objective would appear to be the weakening of public morale.
54. The hits on railways in the London Area have not been followed up by attacks on the resulting congestions of traffic in the marshalling yards.
55. The moral effect of the intensification of the A.A. barrage on the public has been very striking.
61. Killed, 988; injured 4,051 (including slight casualties). The figures for London during the period are: killed, 711; injured 1,042. These must be regarded as approximate.
62. This problem remains acute and much of the dislocation of communications is due to unexploded or delayed action bombs. They have also necessitated the temporary evacuation of considerable numbers of people. Every effort is being made to strengthen the bomb disposal parties to deal with the various aspects of the situation.
63. A formidable parachute mine made its first appearance among the enemy’s weapons on the 17th and was again used on the nights of the 17th/18th and the 18th/19th. The mine is in the form of a cylinder about 8 ft. in length by 2 ft. diameter, and its blast force is very extensive. Preliminary inspection supports the view that the mines are the ordinary magnetic ones and already a number have been rendered harmless by Naval personnel.
Second World War period German land and sea mine, exhibited in a museum after the war.
There were two types of magnetic sea mines used by the the Germans, who termed them the Luftmine A (LMA ) of 500kg, and the Luftmine B (LMB) of 1000kg. They were known by the British Admiralty as the Admiralty Type D and Admiralty Type C respectively. This is an example of the larger mine. The Luftwaffe began dropping magnetic mines into the waters around Britain during November 1939, first from He115 and He111 aircraft. The mines were cylindrical in shape with a hemispherical nose, and deployed under a 27ft diameter green artificial silk parachute, falling at about 40mph. They were fitted with magnetic firing and later with acoustic or magnetic/acoustic firing. When the mine hit the water and sank to more that 8ft, hydrostatic pressure and the disolution of a soluble plug actuated the magnetic device and the mine became operational against shipping. The mine was also armed with a clockwork bomb fuze which caused the bomb to explode when used against land targets, and this was started by the impact of hitting the ground. The mine was timed to detonate 25 seconds after the fuze had started. When deployed at sea, the time fuze did not operate as a diaphragm stopped the clockwork when under the pressure of 7 feet of water or more.
The first intentional use of magnetic mines against land targets was on the night of 16 September 1940, when the mines with their charge/weight ratio of 60 – 70 % explosive caused considerable blast damage in built up areas. Inevitably, they became known to the British populace as ‘Land Mines’.
An Air Raid Shelter in Chelsea
After returning to London from France in July 1940, Gross began recording the Blitz in London including air raid shelters in Chelsea, bombed buildings and wrecked water mains.
In a letter to Sir Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery, on 17 September 1940, Gross described his time in the midst of the Blitz in London: ‘Some days I am perched up among ruins and the next down in the bowls of the earth with my sketch book. Anyway I find that as soon as I get properly going and well into a drawing I forget all about my surroundings, so an excellent way to forgetting the raids.’
(Imperial War Museum War Artist’s Archive: GP/55/34)