After a German air raid on London, 1940

After a German air raid on London, 1940

Firefighters damp down rubble in a London street following a German air raid, 1940.

Life in the United Kingdom and London during the Blitz

Many New Zealand servicemen were based in the United Kingdom from the time of the Blitz, when British cities were pounded nightly by German bombs.

The Blitz (from blitzkrieg, lightening war) began in September 1940. It was part of Hitler’s plan to cross the English Channel and conquer the United Kingdom. From autumn until mid-May the following year, the Germans bombed London and other cities, including Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol, Birmingham, Coventry and Liverpool. In the German arsenal were incendiary bombs. Instead of blowing up their targets, these penetrated the roofs of buildings and started fires that spread rapidly.

When the air-raid sirens wailed, thousands of Londoners sheltered in the deep tunnels of the underground rail system. During the Blitz 43,000 British civilians were killed and more than 130,000 were injured.

Germany failed to force the United Kingdom into submission, and Hitler’s invasion of Britain never took place.

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