Bomb Sight

by Harry on December 8, 2012

My friend Amy Keys alerted me to this amazing website documenting every single bomb that was dropped during the Blitz. I recommend zooming out on the main page, and then narrowing in to particular places you know well. My first trip was to Regents Park.

Apparently there’s going to be an app.

{ 51 comments }

1

tomslee 12.08.12 at 5:16 pm

Thank you for posting this.

My Mum (Hi Mum!) was a child in Stanmore during the war. One of the stories we heard growing up was that the bombers would fly over the docks, then circle round North London on the way back, and that if they had any bombs left over they would just let them fall over the residential areas of North London. Granddad used to plot where the bombs fell on a map and after one bomb run, he said that if there had been one more bomb in the plane it would have fallen on their house. They lived on Morley Crescent West, between Streatfield Road and Morley Crescent East, and it turns out that the map might show the story. It would be great to have the precise dates, to see which bombs were part of a single run.

2

tomslee 12.08.12 at 6:00 pm

Also, I believe they had their back windows blown out. Must have been this one.

3

Harry 12.08.12 at 9:17 pm

I used your mother’s bomb to start a trip around the area, and they do, indeed, have precise dates for some of the others. I’ve yet to find a bombsite picture, though there are plenty other contemporary pictures.

4

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 12.08.12 at 9:28 pm

An excellent link. Turns out one bomb landed on where my sister lives now. But given the amount of ordinance dropped, when did they repair the damage? Were there craters left over in the 50s or 60s?

5

bert 12.08.12 at 10:24 pm

Funnily enough I was just looking at this before I checked CT – there’s a link on the Guardian homepage. Your recommendation to zoom out to get a sense of the overall scale is a good one. Each of the addresses I’ve lived at in London has at least two bombs within a street’s distance.
It’s a joint project with the University of Portsmouth, also bombed flat.

6

jeer9 12.08.12 at 10:27 pm

Interesting sight for those who love London or are familiar with it. One landed right around the Haringey corner where my wife and I resided in the late 80s.

7

bert 12.08.12 at 10:29 pm

Were there craters left over in the 50s or 60s?
Not only craters. Unexploded bombs.

8

Katherine 12.08.12 at 11:05 pm

I lived in Enfield not long ago – of Enfield rifle fame – and you could see, walking along any residential streets, where the bombs had hit because the Victorian/Edwardian terraces had gaps, filled by any number of architectural monstrosities.

9

Katherine 12.08.12 at 11:08 pm

And yes, I’ve been to look and found a long line that were dropped just round the corner from where I lived.

10

Jim 12.08.12 at 11:15 pm

Yes there were craters in the 50s and 60s. As a child I played on bombsites. Craters were very good for war games. As were stubs of demolished walls.

11

dr ngo 12.08.12 at 11:24 pm

Just the thing for readers of Connie Willis’s one-novel-in-two, and ! Time travel back (from late 21st century) to WWII England, in which dodging the Blitz – even with a certain amount of retrospective knowledge – is a key issue.

12

dr ngo 12.08.12 at 11:26 pm

The titles – which I inadvertently deleted – are Blackout and All Clear. If only I could go back in time and do it right the first time!

13

Alan 12.08.12 at 11:49 pm

This interesting post reminded me of why I loved Gravity’s Rainbow for its intricate jazz-like improvisations on such horrible events. And the Blitz of course gave rise to even more destructive horror as depicted in the 70s BBC series Danger: UXB (for unexploded bomb). I can’t imagine having to deal with such inconceivable fear as Londoners faced–or the citizens of Dresden, or Tokyo.

14

Jim 12.09.12 at 1:04 am

Not just Londoners. My mother worked in Southampton and lived in a village just outside it. Going home at night, the unlighted bus crawled along dark country roads. If aircraft were heard everyone got off the bus and laid in the ditch beside the road until the planes had gone. Night after night.

There was a recent Stanford study of the effect of constant drone attacks on Pakistani villagers. It reminded me of my mother’s experience.

15

PJW 12.09.12 at 2:02 am

“Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb?” (The Wall)

16

Robert Hanks 12.09.12 at 10:17 am

Annoyingly, that map isn’t terrible accurate when you zoom in: a number of bombs I know about in my bit of London seem to have been misplaced. By it does give a strong impression of the density of the blitz.

17

Bryn Davies 12.09.12 at 11:27 am

It’s important to note that this only covers bombs that fell the Blitz – i.e. between 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941. Some bombing continued after that, plus the V1s and the V2s almost until the end of the war in 1045

18

Bryn Davies 12.09.12 at 12:30 pm

1945 not 1045. That was a different war.

19

Harry 12.09.12 at 1:41 pm

I remember passing bomb sites on visits to London in the late sixties/early seventies. Not many, but some, in south london. Wasn’t the South Bank complex developed out of a massive bomb site? Britain went bankrupt after the war ended, so rebuilding was a slow process.

20

belle le triste 12.09.12 at 11:18 pm

The one in Clapton Square, E8 — which is slightly misplaced on the map — was still unreclaimed un-redeveloped land, used only as a fairly rough and ready car-park, flattened but not metalled, if I remember right, until about ten years ago.

21

ajay 12.10.12 at 9:50 am

17: There’s another site that has all the V2 sites marked. Some of the craters are still visible. Here: http://londonist.com/2009/01/london_v2_rocket_sitesmapped.php

20: not the only one, either. NCP did rather well after the war by buying up bombsites and converting them into car parks.

You can also see bomb damage on some buildings – there’s a lot of fragmentation scarring on the Exhibition Road facade of the V&A Museum, left there deliberately. And Jim at 14 makes a good point: Southampton, along with other port towns like Liverpool and Glasgow, and industrial towns like Coventry, was also hit hard.

Britain went bankrupt was heavily indebted after the war ended, so rebuilding was a slow process.
(Part of the reason that rebuilding was fairly slow was, of course, that Britain didn’t go bankrupt. Had it taken the German route of default, pillage, extortion and massive foreign aid, things might have gone rather more quickly.)

22

Alex 12.10.12 at 10:18 am

There’s a complementary map of V-2 ballistic missile strikes here. There’s a photo of a V-1 map here. The same flickr user posted the whole set of V2 maps but has now got rid of them.

My local V2 is clearly visible as two council estates and a small park, next to a trot of Victorian terraces ending in a raw-looking gable.

23

bert 12.10.12 at 10:37 am

(Part of the reason that rebuilding was fairly slow was, of course, that Britain didn’t go bankrupt. Had it taken the German route of default, pillage, extortion and massive foreign aid, things might have gone rather more quickly.)

Really, ajay. That was a long time ago and it’s a different Germany now. They have rethought their approach to debt. Goering’s Luftwaffe HQ is now the federal finance ministry. Nothing ironic about that at all.

24

bert 12.10.12 at 10:41 am

25

ajay 12.10.12 at 1:03 pm

It is perhaps relevant to 8 to quote the Prince of Wales: “You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe: when it knocked down our buildings it did not replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that.”

23: “Once all the Germans were warlike and mean -
But that couldn’t happen again!
We taught them a lesson in 1918,
And they’ve hardly bothered us since then…”

26

ajay 12.10.12 at 2:32 pm

It’s also worth noting that the map underestimates the damage that the Germans did to London – it shows the bomb locations but not the spread of the fires, which were huge. Despite the formation of auxiliary Civil Defence rescue and firefighting units in 1939, the fire brigade were often overwhelmed and some fires burned for days, especially in the dock area. And, of course, bomb damage would often include destruction of water mains, which would hamper firefighting further (unless you were near a river and could draw from that).

I can recommend looking at the nightly figures – it helps you notice where sticks of bombs were dropped, as Katherine mentions. The sheer number on the overall map tends to mask that kind of pattern.

27

Chris Williams 12.10.12 at 3:22 pm

My local bomb-stick in Leicester killed quite a few people – including three police officers who were out helping to fight an earlier fire. On the plus side, the near-miss of the local synagogue cleared the land for the Jewish community centre.

28

Hektor Bim 12.10.12 at 3:32 pm

(Part of the reason that rebuilding was fairly slow was, of course, that Britain didn’t go bankrupt. Had it taken the German route of default, pillage, extortion and massive foreign aid, things might have gone rather more quickly.)

But of course, Britain did pillage, extort, and rely on massive foreign aid.

The Americans gave the British truly epic amounts of material under the Lend-Lease Act. and the British did nothing to prevent things like the Bengal famine of 1943. After the war, the Americans did a fantastic amount to rebuild Europe, Britain included.

29

ajay 12.10.12 at 3:51 pm

28: I appreciate that your first language isn’t English, Hektor, so I apologise for using words like “pillage” and “extort” which you appear to have misread slightly. “Pillage” means “theft” and it has a connotation of theft during wartime. “Extortion” means “obtaining financial advantage through threats”. Neither failing to prevent a famine, nor receiving aid from an ally, would normally be described as either “pillage” or “extortion”.

30

Hektor Bim 12.10.12 at 4:04 pm

ajay,

Receiving aid from an ally very much is “massive foreign aid”. Particularly, because the US was officially neutral at the time of the Lend-Lease Act. Britain survived on American charity and production for much of the war.

Running an empire during the war required extortion of material from the imperial inhabitants, often at gunpoint.

Direct looting during the war was minimal on the British side, though some of that came from the relative paucity of British land victories until the end of the war.

31

ajay 12.10.12 at 5:49 pm

Oh, you’re a troll. Sorry, stupid of me.

32

Stephen 12.10.12 at 8:37 pm

Hektor: please look up conditions of US supply to Britain before Lease-Lend. Then look up conditions for ending Lease-Lend and making repayment to US.

Then provide examples of “extortion of material from the imperial inhabitants at gunpoint.”

Let-out clause: if you’re Irish-American, all is forgiven on grounds of invincible ignorance.

33

Hektor Bim 12.10.12 at 9:57 pm

Let’s take this one at a time. The US supplied vast amounts of material to Britain during the war, at no charge. Repayment was requested after the war for some items, at a 90% markdown. The repayment was for about 1 billion British pounds, amortized over 50 years at 2 percent annual interest. Compare this to the $31 billion sent to Britain during the war.

Maybe you are talking about the postwar Anglo-American loan, which is distinct from Lend-Lease. That was for $4 billion to the UK, which still doesn’t come close to matching the amount Britain received under Lend-Lease. It should also be noted that this loan was primarily to cover the maintenance of the British Empire and its overseas “commitments”, not rebuild Britain from things like the Blitz at home.

So yes, it does look like Britain received massive foreign aid during the war, and after.

34

Hektor Bim 12.10.12 at 10:00 pm

One more thing, the Brits also received $3.3 billion under the Marshall plan, substantially more than West Germany received ($1.5 billion).

35

bert 12.11.12 at 12:22 am

I’m not imagining this, am I?
Someone really has chosen a thread about the Blitz to shake a fist at British imperialism?

36

Hektor Bim 12.11.12 at 3:17 am

Actually, someone chose to use this thread to whine about how the Brits had it so tough during WWII when almost every other nation had it much much worse.

37

harry b 12.11.12 at 3:36 am

I thought the point of the thread was to express respect for what Londoners went through. Not compared with people in other countries during the war. But compared with people like you and me. That’s what I think about, whenever I think about the home front, anyway. A kind of horror at what people (some of whom many of us knew, much later in their lives) were dealing with. And gratitude that I haven’t had to.

38

hix 12.11.12 at 3:43 am

Blameing alegdly higher WWII costs for British relative decline is just sad.

39

LFC 12.11.12 at 6:57 am

The U.S. helped Britain under Lend-Lease, but it was British pilots (along with a smallish number of Poles and others, iirc) who fought the Battle of Britain. Everyone on the Allied side (officially or in spirit) owed a big debt to the RAF, a debt that I, for one, wouldn’t have wanted to put a dollar number on (had I been alive at the time).

40

engels 12.11.12 at 9:32 am

whine about how the Brits had it so tough during WWII

Whinging pommies, eh, Hektor?

41

ajay 12.11.12 at 9:51 am

Returning to the topic, it would be interesting to see a much bigger map. It was quite common in those days for entire bomber formations to miss their targets by several miles and not realise it. The Thames Estuary would make London relatively easy to find, but I wonder how many fields in the Midlands got bombed by mistake? I think that even Dublin got bombed once, by a formation trying to hit Belfast…

42

bert 12.11.12 at 10:27 am

Harry has it right at #37.
As someone pointed out, this phase of the war was relatively brief. France had fallen, there was a Hitler-Stalin pact, and Pearl Harbor wouldn’t bring the Americans into the war for another six months. Britain held out. There was plenty of pressure, internally as well as externally, not to.
Hektor, you appear to be wanting to defend your crassness by trying out a range of straw men. Who’s bringing up the Empire? Who’s talking about comparative suffering? Who’s quoting crooked-looking figures about the financial position? You, my friend.
I hope you understand what I meant when I said shake a fist. And when you’ve thought that through, pipe the fuck down.

43

ptl 12.11.12 at 10:38 am

# 37. I thought the point of the thread was to express respect for what Londoners went through.

Then it took a very wrong turn at #21, and (even more) at #25.

44

ajay 12.11.12 at 11:37 am

As someone pointed out, this phase of the war was relatively brief. France had fallen, there was a Hitler-Stalin pact, and Pearl Harbor wouldn’t bring the Americans into the war for another six months. Britain held out.

And, it’s worth making this point, Britain not only held out but was so confident of its ability to do so that it sent large numbers of troops to fight in the Middle East, where, while the Blitz was still going on, they would inflict on the Axis its greatest defeat in the war so far.

45

John 12.11.12 at 11:43 am

@17 The Blitz started on September 7th 1940, not October 7th. On the night of September 10th, my maternal grandmother was killed when a bomb fell in the back garden of her semi-detached house in Sutton, south London, leaving her husband alone to care for three girls between the ages of 3 and 9. I have always been told that the pilot took fright and decided to drop his stick early, but it seems at least equally likely that the bombing came at the end of the sortie.

My grandfather lost a foot in the blast and spent 9 months in hospital. Staggeringly, he was told that his wife was recovering in another ward and he continued to write letters to her for several months.

(Sidenote: My grandfather – who coincidentally was himself an RFC bomber pilot in the Great War – was waiting to be fitted for a prosthetic at St Mary’s Roehampton when who should go straight to the head of the queue but Douglas Bader? His name is mud in my mother’s house.)

46

John 12.11.12 at 11:44 am

In hindsight, I could have chosen a better adverb than “staggeringly”.

47

harry b 12.11.12 at 12:58 pm

His name is mud in a lot of houses, John. Leonard Cheshire’s isn’t.

48

ajay 12.11.12 at 2:35 pm

My grandfather – who coincidentally was himself an RFC bomber pilot in the Great War – was waiting to be fitted for a prosthetic at St Mary’s Roehampton when who should go straight to the head of the queue but Douglas Bader?

The armed forces were at the head of a lot of queues during the war. Military rations were considerably more generous in quality and quantity than civilian rations, for example. Civilian factories were turned over to military production for everything from motor vehicles and ships to paint and pianos.
It’s not surprising that, during and after the Battle of Britain, Spitfire squadron leaders would be able to get in the queue ahead of civilians to get the prosthetics that would allow them to keep fighting.

49

LanceThruster 12.11.12 at 7:04 pm

The name “The Blitz” certainly makes sense in viewing these strike zones. Imagine a map of your own community peppered with markers indicating high explosive ordnance detonations. The randomness of what got hit and what was spared (if it wasn’t damamged by merely being in the vicinity) is astounding.

50

Tom M 12.12.12 at 1:48 am

@49 See Len Deighton’s “Bomber” for a depiction of the randomness f bomb patterns and target “creep” when pilots want very much to drop their bombs and turn for home. The story is of a RAF raid on a German city but his research is quite good.

51

ajay 12.12.12 at 10:22 am

The randomness of what got hit and what was spared (if it wasn’t damamged by merely being in the vicinity) is astounding.

See 26 – what’s missing from that image is the damage caused by the fires that the bombs started. An area I’m familiar with is marked as receiving just two bombs, but I know from contemporary pictures that the entire street was burned down to ruins.

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