South Shields bombed

Last night’s do was much worse than Tuesday’s. St Bede’s junior school (South Shields) got a direct hit, Laygate school is also wrecked, Croftons, Woolworths and Black’s Regal are done for and Binns is badly damaged. The patrons of Black’s Regal rushed to the public shelter in the market place and shortly afterwards the shelter got a direct hit. I was told there were 80 killed in there alone….. One of the jerries shot down three barrage balloons. He got the three in line and pumped tracer bullets into them.

The remains of the Woolworths Store, South Shields bombed on 2nd October 1941

Cecilia Brennan was a schoolteacher living in Jarrow in North East England. She regularly wrote to her sister Frances (Franc) and her letters provide a pretty comprehensive history of wartime life in the area:

Oct 3rd, 1941

My dear Franc,

….. I haven’t had a chance to write and tell you of the two hammerings we have had from Jeremiah this week….. The chief sufferers have been North and South Shields. Tuesday night’s raid made hay of Shields Market Place and High Shields station – about 28 or 30 people killed I believe.

When we were crouching in our shelter listening to the thundering barrage, two awful whistles sounded and then two fearful crashes; I thought Wansbeck Road was levelled but by God’s mercy the two landed in fields – one near the coke ovens and another on Lawson’s farm near the golf course. The new pub at Simonside has a huge bomb crater in the back garden and the back of the house wrecked.

Last night’s do was much worse than Tuesday’s. St Bede’s junior school (South Shields) got a direct hit, Laygate school is also wrecked, Croftons, Woolworths and Black’s Regal are done for and Binns is badly damaged. The patrons of Black’s Regal rushed to the public shelter in the market place and shortly afterwards the shelter got a direct hit. I was told there were 80 killed in there alone….. One of the jerries shot down three barrage balloons. He got the three in line and pumped tracer bullets into them.

We haven’t got a door on our shelter yet and it was pretty chilly these two nights especially as we had last night’s session before supper. To add to our troubles we discovered yesterday that Fred Giles next door is cherishing a rat among all the rubbish in his back yard. We have seen it nipping up and down the laburnum tree hand over hand like a monkey. We were terrified to go in to our door-less shelter in the dark in case that rat was there before us, but rat or no rat we had to run into it in the end.

In fact there were only 12 people killed in the public shelter but Cecilia was writing before everyone had been dug out.

See Wartime letters from Jarrow. For extensive details on these raids see Brian Pears’ comprehensive North East Diary 1939-1945.

Bombing was still on a small scale, although there was considerably more activity on the 2nd/3rd October.

On that night the Tyneside and Tees-side areas were attacked. South Shields suffered most. Fifty people were killed and about 250 buildings were destroyed.

On the same night Dover was attacked three times. House property suffered extensively and there were ten fatal casualties. Bombs were also dropped without serious effect at many points in north-east and eastern counties, Kent and Cornwall.

South Shields.

The Ship-building and ship repairing industries suffered severely. The electrical gear of the new sub-station of Brigham and Cowan, Ltd., Shipbuilders, was wrecked and workshops and stores of the Tyne Dock Engineering Company were damaged. Seventeen gas mains were broken but supply as a whole was maintained

From the Home Security Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/19/9

Siege of Leningrad consolidated

Petersburg — the poisonous nest from which, for so long, Asiatic venom has spewed forth into the Baltic — must vanish from the earth’s surface. The city is already cut off. It only remains for us to bomb and bombard it, destroy its sources of water and power and then deny the population everything it needs to survive.

Russian men leave their village as they are called up into the Soviet Army, summer 1941.

The Russian News Agency RIAN has released a collection of World War II images, available to view on Wikipedia Commons.

Recruits leave for the front during Soviet mobilisation, in Russia near Moscow 1941.
' Our cause is just. The enemy will be defeated. Victory will be ours.'
Nurses helping people hit during the first bombardment of Leningrad.

On the 18th September the defenders of Leningrad saw the tanks of the German 4th Panzer Army being loaded on to trains, to be transported to the Moscow front. It was the first clear sign that there was not going to be a direct assault on the city. The bombing that was taking place was not something preparatory to an attack – it was the strategy. Leningrad, almost completely encircled on the [permalink id=13528 text=”8th September”], would be besieged and bombed not in an attempt to make the city surrender but in order to kill the people within it.

Hitler would soon issue a War Directive spelling out the the policy but he had already told Otto Abetz, the German ambassador to Vichy France:

Petersburg — the poisonous nest from which, for so long, Asiatic venom has spewed forth into the Baltic — must vanish from the earth’s surface. The city is already cut off. It only remains for us to bomb and bombard it, destroy its sources of water and power and then deny the population everything it needs to survive.

One of the first Luftwaffe bombing objectives had been the food warehouses for the city – centralised under the Soviet system. The rations for civilians had now been reduced. Much worse was to come.

Scenes of the early air raids during the blockade of Leningrad:

Optimism over RAF Bomber Offensive

For the last three months our bombing offensive has been mainly directed against transportation and morale in Western Germany. Some of the most important objectives in the system of communications serving the Ruhr and Rhineland are precision targets which can only be attacked under favourable weather conditions on moonlight nights, and, since the offensive started, the number of suitable nights has been very small indeed.

The RAF had stepped up attacks on the continent.
But accurate daylight bombing came at a cost - the low level attack on the port of Rotterdam on the 28th saw seven out of eighteen Bleinheims shot down.

For the last three months our bombing offensive has been mainly directed against transportation and morale in Western Germany. Some of the most important objectives in the system of communications serving the Ruhr and Rhineland are precision targets which can only be attacked under favourable weather conditions on moonlight nights, and, since the offensive started, the number of suitable nights has been very small indeed.

On dark nights, and in comparatively unfavourable weather, our aircraft have attacked other transportation objectives in key towns on the system of communications.

No spectacular success has been recorded, and few can be expected, since the disruption of communications can only be achieved by the cumulative effect of attacks delivered over a considerable period. Moreover, it is often difficult to observe the results of attacks and to assess their effect, and damage to communications is easy to conceal.

However, in spite of the comparatively short time covered by the present offensive, and the unusually unfavourable weather encountered, reliable reports are now coming in, in increasing numbers, to show that the effect of our attacks is being felt.

Concurrently, the attack of targets likely to influence the Battle of the Atlantic is undertaken when necessary and attacks on other objectives in Germany are carried out as tactical and other considerations dictate.

A complement to our offensive against land communications is provided by attacks on ports and by those of our light bombers on shipping; the considerable measure of success achieved has undoubtedly increased the pressure on German’s inland communication system, and so enhanced the value of our main offensive.

A valuable factor in the dislocation of communications in Germany is the interference with supplies for the Eastern Front, and our offensive is, therefore, an important contribution to Russian resistance.

From the Air Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/18/37

Intense RAF daylight bombing raids on Germany

Blenheims, flying close to the ground, located and attacked, under favourable weather conditions, the two power stations at Cologne. From reports received, both power stations appear to have been severely damaged in most determined attacks ; 24 tons of bombs were dropped on the turbine and boiler houses and the targets were left with fires blazing.

A view of the raid in progress on one of Cologne's two power stations.
The continued need to put pressure on the Luftwaffe and divert resources from Russia saw the RAF stepping up their attacks:

The heaviest daylight bombing raid against Germany since the outbreak of war was carried out with considerable success on the 12th August. In this major operation 78 bombers and 485 fighters were employed; the targets were two of the main power stations in the Rhineland—the Goldenburg at Cologne-Knapsack and the Quadrath Fortuna at Cologne.

The day’s operations began with a sweep by 84 fighters escorting 6 Hampdens in an attack on St. Omer aerodrome, the object being to draw off the enemy force based in the district ; it is estimated that 150 Me. 109s were engaged in the combats which ensued.

While this operation was in progress 54 Blenheims, escorted by Whirlwinds of Fighter Command, left the coast and, flying low over the sea, penetrated through the mouth of the Scheldt to Antwerp, where the covering Whirlwinds returned to base. Simultaneously, a Fortress bombed De Kooy aerodrome from 32,000 feet, to keep enemy fighters in that area employed.

Meanwhile the Blenheims, flying close to the ground, located and attacked, under favourable weather conditions, the two power stations at Cologne. From reports received, both power stations appear to have been severely damaged in most determined attacks ; 24 tons of bombs were dropped on the turbine and boiler houses and the targets were left with fires blazing.

Heavy A.A. fire was encountered, but only three Me. 109s were seen; further diversions by Fortresses over Cologne and the naval base at Emden assisted in drawing off enemy fighters, which might otherwise have attacked. These Fortresses released their bombs from 35,000 and 37,000 feet respectively.

The Blenheims were met at Antwerp on their homeward journey by formations of Spitfires and, during this withdrawal, a further diversion was carried out by 144 fighters escorting 6 Hampdens to attack Gosnay Power Station, near Bethune; bursts were seen on or around the target. Later, 4 Blenheims with fighter escort bombed the shipyards at Le Trait, near Rouen, hits being obtained on slipways and on a ship alongside.

In this series of co-ordinated operations we lost 12 Blenheims and 10 fighters. Four enemy aircraft were destroyed, 5 probably destroyed and 10 damaged.

From the Air Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/18/17

Also see original RAF Secret Photographic Interpretation Intelligence Document for the raid of 12th August, many thanks to Jason for providing the link:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LOwC5s7jOrB9SsbJHKZSPFvHJWedRxFv1FTiU7Va5NQ/edit?usp=drivesdk

The view from a Blenheim bomber as it finishes its bomb run over the other Cologne power station with bombs exploding on target.

RAF bombers intensify attacks on Libya

During the week under review, our bombers made two successful daylight raids. On the 1st August, nine Blenheims, escorted by Hurricanes, attacked a concentration of enemy M.T. vehicles at Sidi Omar and inflicted severe damage and, on the 3rd, twenty-one Marylands bombed enemy gun positions in the Tobruk area, while our fighters carried out a covering sweep over enemy forward aerodromes.

An RAF raid on a German ammunition dump in the desert. Each of the dots in the sand is a pile of around 50 bombs.

As the RAF built up their strength in the Mediterranean, including the new American built Maryland bombers, they intensified their attacks on the German positions in Libya:

Egypt and Cyrenaica [Eastern Libya].

During the week under review, our bombers made two successful daylight raids. On the 1st August, nine Blenheims, escorted by Hurricanes, attacked a concentration of enemy M.T. vehicles at Sidi Omar and inflicted severe damage and, on the 3rd, twenty-one Marylands bombed enemy gun positions in the Tobruk area, while our fighters carried out a covering sweep over enemy forward aerodromes.

In neither of these operations did we suffer any casualties. Our fighters maintained patrols over our coastal shipping and, on the 2nd, broke up a heavy enemy dive bombing attack on a convoy off the Libyan coast, destroying at least three Ju. 87s and one or more Me. 109s, with the loss of three Hurricanes.

Heavy night attacks have been maintained by Wellingtons against the harbours of Benghazi and Derna and many fires and heavy explosions were observed.

Other targets successfully attacked at night by Wellingtons, Blenheims and Marylands include repair shops at Derna and Bardia, and enemy landing grounds at Gazala. Martuba and El Tmimi. Shipping off Apollonia was also attacked and two merchant ships probably hit. Mines were also laid off Benghazi.

From a total of 100 night sorties our losses were one Wellington and one Maryland.

From the Air Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/18/12

The American Glen Martin Maryland bomber now in service with the RAF in Egypt.

The Kremlin bombed

She had arrived in Moscow at the outbreak of war with Germany. On the 26th she took these striking images of the German air attack on the Kremlin, pictures that were soon received world wide attention.

One of the iconic images of the war, captured by Margaret Bourke-White on 26th July 1941.

Margaret Bourke-White was a pioneering journalist and photographer, responsible for many iconic images during her career. She was one of the first female war photographers and the first American female journalist to operate in a combat area. She had arrived in Moscow at the outbreak of war with Germany. On the 26th July she took these striking images of the German air attack on the Kremlin, pictures that soon received world wide attention and continue to feature prominently amongst images of World War II to this day. Full resolution images are available from LIFE Magazine.

Another image from the same sequence showing the Kremlin under German air attack.

First German Air Raid on Moscow

The main objectives were apparently the railway station, industrial areas and aerodromes. Several large fires were caused by enemy aircraft which flew over at a medium height. The Soviet A.A. defences, of which a large proportion were light anti – aircraft guns, put up what was described as ” an impressive show.”

A Russian Anti Aircraft position in Moscow, July 1941.

From a collection of Russian International News Agency photographs of the war that are now available.

Less than a month after the launch of Barbarossa German planes came within range of Moscow

German Air Operations.

There is little doubt that in spite of the absence of movement the German Air Force has maintained a steady pressure against the Russians on the whole front; at the same time it has had time to consolidate its more advanced positions and it is likely that the immediate problems of supply and maintenance on the field may by now have been somewhat eased, thus facilitating the development of the next phase of operations.

There was an air raid on Moscow on the 21st July which lasted about six hours and was on a fairly heavy scale. The main objectives were apparently the railway station, industrial areas and aerodromes. Several large fires were caused by enemy aircraft which flew over at a medium height.

The Soviet A.A. defences, of which a large proportion were light anti – aircraft guns, put up what was described as ” an impressive show.” The searchlights frequently held the attacking aircraft quite well. Incendiary bombs fell on the roof of the British Embassy but the fire was tackled immediately by the Embassy staff, both Russian and English, and by the Moscow fire brigade.

From the Military Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/18/7

Thousands die in Chungking raid

One of the most destructive raids was on 5th June 1941 when Japanese planes launched successive sorties against the city for more than three hours. When some of the tunnels became blocked during the bombing they became a death trap, asphyxiating as many as 4,000 people in one incident.

A well known image of the horror of war. Casualties of the terror bombing of civilians in the Chinese capital of Chungking - people who died in a mass panic whilst attempting to flee bombing

The Chinese Nationalist government had moved their capital to Chungking [now Chongqing] in 1937, following the Japanese invasion. It was to become one on the most heavily bombed cities on earth, casualties were high since it was largely undefended. To provide air raid shelters a huge network of tunnels were carved into the sandstone cliffs upon which the city was built.

One of the most destructive raids was on 5th June 1941 when Japanese planes launched successive sorties against the city for more than three hours. When some of the tunnels became blocked during the bombing they became a death trap, asphyxiating as many as 4,000 people in one incident.

One of the worst ever single incidents in any air raid occurred when over 4,000 suffocated when air raid shelter tunnels were blocked during the raid on Chungking.

Contemporary U.S. newsreel of the raid:

Ambulance duty during the Hull Blitz

When the road was cleared we took the dead, each with a printed form attached to them, saying where they were found, to Alber Ave Mortuary. The injured, who had been given morphine, and the letter ‘M’ marked on their foreheads to say so, we took to the Western General Hospital on Anlaby Road, and laid them on the floor on their stretchers.

The search for survivors after one of the numerous raids on Hull.

The north eastern port of Hull was a frequent target for air raids but suffered one of its worst attacks on the night of the 7th May. Over 300 explosive bombs fell whilst incendiary bombs started around 800 fires. R. Peat wrote a diary of his experiences during the blitz, first as a Boy Scout cycle messenger, then as an assistant at a First Aid post:

The sirens sounded and although I went straight to the First Aid Post the sky was red with fires before I arrived. My name was put on the blackboard to go out with the first ambulance. We could see we were in for a terrible night. The first call came for us to go near the side of the Riverside Quay. On leaving the Post I was told there would be no fire engines available.

I set off at great speed and was joined by my Divisional Officer. As we neared the docks we could hear a bomb getting nearer and nearer but neither of us wanted to be the first to lay down but the decision was made for us by the bomb. The dock was blazing from end to end and we found a public shelter had been hit.

Police Constable No. 902 hung his oil lamp on a tree and took our names. We were told to wear our goggles. The full length of the street was blazing. The ambulances became blocked in the street so it was decided to remove casualties to another public shelter nearby.

On one journey the street was covered in fire bombs and I flung myself in the shelter doorway and others doing so lay on top of me. Looking up I saw for the first time some children on bunks round the side of the walls although they must have known the people we laid on the floor of the shelter they hadn’t made a sound … We were so jammed in the entrance to the shelter the policeman blew his whistle for others to help us. I was then given a message to take to control asking for more rescue parties.

When the road was cleared we took the dead, each with a printed form attached to them, saying where they were found, to Alber Ave Mortuary. The injured, who had been given morphine, and the letter ‘M’ marked on their foreheads to say so, we took to the Western General Hospital on Anlaby Road, and laid them on the floor on their stretchers. They would be seen by a doctor if a bed became available, would be washed, but most were eventually transported by buses fitted out with beds to Driffield or Beverley Base Hospitals…

Heroes of Hull has more details of this raid.

Liverpool’s ‘May Blitz’

A lot of children were evacuated to the countryside, but my mother would not let me go and decided to move back to Nelson. She went working in the mill weaving. She would work there from early morning until teatime, then rush home and after tea go back to work on munitions until 10 pm.

The devastation in Liverpool docks after the ammunition ship 'Malakand' blew up after catching fire on the night of 3rd May 1941.

Merseyside and Liverpool were bombed every night of the first week of May with over 1750 people being killed. The worst single night was the 3rd/4th when an estimated 850 people were killed. The ammunition ship Malakand, being loaded with 1,000 tons of munitions caught the flames from nearby burning warehouses. Desperate attempts were made to control the fire but she blew up hours after the ‘All Clear’ was sounded on the 4th, killing four fire fighters. The fire continued for another 72 hours.

Ena Barker was nine years old when she lived through the Liverpool Blitz:

I remember going to school each morning carrying my gas mask on my back at all times, in case the Germans dropped gas onto us. We had to get home early and have our tea, as the sirens would sound most nights around 6 o’clock, then planes would come. We would go down into the cellar or under the stairs; we even went under the table sometimes. Mother didn’t like going into the air raid shelter as she always said she had a bad feeling about them.

One morning I went to school and when I got there it was just a pile of rubble. You never knew just what you would find after a raid, sometimes there were no houses left, just piles of stones and rubbish.

Our school was bombed and I remember we were not allowed to go home; we had to sit in what had been the school yard with our pencils and paper, until we were found another school to go to.

We had to keep moving houses as we kept getting bombed. I remember one night Lewis’s store being hit and watching from the door of our house as firemen climbed up long ladders trying to put out the enormous flames. One night we had a lucky escape when a shelter near us was bombed and everyone inside it was killed.

Each night in Liverpool the searchlights would light up the sky searching for the German bombers. There were silver coloured barrage balloons in front of King George’s Hall, huge on the ground, but when they let the ropes go and they went up into the sky they looked very small.

A lot of children were evacuated to the countryside, but my mother would not let me go and decided to move back to Nelson. She went working in the mill weaving. She would work there from early morning until teatime, then rush home and after tea go back to work on munitions until 10 pm.

BBC People’s war

For many more pictures see Liverpool Blitz 70

Merseyside.

The cumulative effect of seven successive nights’ bombing has not been fully assessed, but it is known that extensive damage has been done to docks, railways, all utility services, and to private property.

Heavy salvage operations are entailed by ships sunk in the docks, and in some cases dock gates are unusable owing to lack of electric power.

The railway system to the docks was badly affected by actual damage and by unexploded bombs, and sections of the Dockyard Overhead Railways were destroyed. Many roads near the docks were blocked by craters or debris and in Bootle two important bridges were smashed.

Considerable damage by fire was done to dockyard buildings and the offices of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board were destroyed.

From the Home Security Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/16/23

American Lease And Lend food being eaten in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, Uk, 1941 Three children eat American cheese sandwiches at an emergency feeding centre in Liverpool. Behind them, a man can be seen cooking at a Soyer boiler or field cooker.
American Lease And Lend food being eaten in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, Uk, 1941
Three children eat American cheese sandwiches at an emergency feeding centre in Liverpool. Behind them, a man can be seen cooking at a Soyer boiler or field cooker.
The Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, making a speech (in warehouse setting) to merchant ships' crews and dockers at Liverpool, in which he thanked his listeners for their part in helping win the Battle of the Atlantic. One of the Prime Minister's public engagements during his visit to Manchester and Merseyside between 25 and 26 April 1941.
The Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, making a speech (in warehouse setting) to merchant ships’ crews and dockers at Liverpool, in which he thanked his listeners for their part in helping win the Battle of the Atlantic. One of the Prime Minister’s public engagements during his visit to Manchester and Merseyside between 25 and 26 April 1941.
Mrs Cripps, daughter-in-law of Mr Leonard Cripps, serves American baked ham to feed dockyard workers in a marquee being used as an emergency feeding centre on the outskirts of Liverpool.
Mrs Cripps, daughter-in-law of Mr Leonard Cripps, serves American baked ham to feed dockyard workers in a marquee being used as an emergency feeding centre on the outskirts of Liverpool.
A demolition worker in Liverpool sucks a raw American egg as he rests on a wheelbarrow next to a smouldering fire.
A demolition worker in Liverpool sucks a raw American egg as he rests on a wheelbarrow next to a smouldering fire.
Vertical aerial view from 1,800 feet of the waterfront from the Pier Head to the Albert Dock, and of the city east to Derby Square, showing the extensive bomb damage to the commercial centre. The shell of the burnt out customs shed is visible left centre.
Vertical aerial view from 1,800 feet of the waterfront from the Pier Head to the Albert Dock, and of the city east to Derby Square, showing the extensive bomb damage to the commercial centre. The shell of the burnt out customs shed is visible left centre.