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the BLITZ in pictures.

Byline: Rachael Bletchly

LIKE any little girl, she loves playing at grown-ups. But remarkably, as she washes clothes in a bowl, the innocent youngster seems oblivious to the devastation around her. This picture, taken in London at the height of the Blitz, symbolises the resilience of a nation at war. The People's 8-page Blitz photo special celebrates civilian Britain's finest hour 70 years ago.

NIGHT after night the German bombers came. The dull drone of their engines in the skies above England struck terror into the hearts of the people below.

And the wailing sirens that greeted the planes' arrival heralded yet another onslaught of destruction, agony and death.

For nine hellish months from September 1940 to May 1941 the country was bombarded by the Luftwaffe. The Blitz - from the German word blitzkrieg, meaning lightning war - was to claim 43,000 lives - a ninth of all British casualties in the whole of the Second World War.

One million homes were destroyed or damaged in London alone and in some boroughs up to 45 per cent of the population was killed.

Adolf Hitler planned to conquer the last bastion of free Europe by bombing its people into submission.

But the Fhrer reckoned without the astonishing courage, steely resolve and defiance of the British people - the "Blitz Spirit" that defeated his plans.

Seventy years on, those terrible days and nights are often cited as the ordinary citizens' finest hour .

Yet new generations are growing up oblivious to the extent of the sacrifices their parents, grandparents and greatgrandparents made for their freedom.

So The People presents this extraordinary selection of images from our own photographic archives as a fascinating and poignant reminder of what it was really like to live through the Blitz. One survivor, Dorothy Hughes, now 87 and a Chelsea Pensioner, served as a gunner in the Royal Artillery helping to man the anti-aircraft guns sited in London's parks to fire at the waves of enemy bombers.

"We still talk about the Blitz Spirit," Dorothy recalled. "But it has always been difficult to explain in detail just how horrible it was.

"The memories are still so clear - there are images you just don't forget.

"I often thought the civilians suffered more than we did. At least we were taking action, shooting back at the enemy. But in their houses and shelters all the civilians could do was wait and hope that when the night was over they would still be alive."

In the summer of 1940 Britain was on the back foot. Allied troops had to be rescued from Dunkirk after failing to stop the Germans' advance through Europe. Hitler had massed his stormtroopers ready to launch an invasion across the Channel.

But before that he had to conquer the skies. During July and August the Luftwaffe targeted RAF airfields and radar stations in an attempt to shatter our resistance.

When the heroes of the Battle of Britain thwarted those plans Hitler sent his bombers to attack the British people instead.

He would flatten their homes, smash their morale and force a demoralised people and government into surrender.

At 4pm on Saturday September 7 1940 a swarm of 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters flew over the East End and dropped countless bombs on the Port of London. Many fell off target and in the first two hours of the Blitz - Black Saturday - 448 Londoners died. At 7.30pm, guided by the raging fires set by the first assault, the bombers returned and blasted London until 4am on Sunday.

One bomb exploded on a crowded air raid shelter in East London. In a million-to-one chance, the bomb fell directly on the 3ft by 1ft ventilation shaft - the only vulnerable place in a strongly-protected underground shelter which could accommodate more than 1,000 people.

Fourteen people were killed and 40 injured, including many children. A London policeman on patrol at the time later recalled: "When a bomb explodes close to you the extraordinary thing is that you never hear it.

"Suddenly, everything stopped and there was this utter, unbelievable silence. A grey mist filled the air. After a few seconds everything came to life again - except the people who were dead.

"I was standing up but I couldn't move because I was up to my knees in rubble. A tremendous panic came over me. I was suddenly scared out of my life. I had to get away. I had to run. And I did."

But a few yards later the officer stopped and told himself: "Go back, you have a job to do."

He said: "What surprised me most about that night was that we accepted what was happening. The whole country knew we had to go through this and it was going to be awful. But we knew we would bloody well win."

And this was just the start - the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombing through which the Germans tried - and failed - to break the nation's heart. Other towns and cities were hit hard too - vital military and industrial centres such as Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Clydebank, Greenock, Coventry, Exeter, Sheffield, Swansea, Liverpool, Hull, Manchester, Norwich, Plymouth, Nottingham, Brighton, Eastbourne, Sunderland and Southampton.

Smaller bombings raids were made on Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Exeter and Bath.

But the university city of Oxford was spared because Hitler had earmarked it as his capital when he conquered Britain.

In Manchester the heaviest bombing raids came on the nights of December 22 to 24 1940, when an estimated 684 people were killed and 2,364 injured.

On the night of the 22nd, 270 aircraft dropped 272 tons of high explosive and 1,032 incendiary bombs. On the second night, 171 bombers dropped another 195 tons of explosive and 893 incendiaries. After the bombings, Nazi propaganda declared that the entire city had been burned to the ground.

In neighbouring Salford 215 people were killed and 910 injured and more than 8,000 homes were damaged. And 73 died in nearby Stretford. The following month Old Trafford was hit during an air raid that lasted three hours and in June 1941 German bombs damaged the Salford Royal Hospital, killing 14 nurses.

Liverpool, Bootle and Wirral were the most heavily bombed areas outside London, due to the importance of their docks in the war effort.

The government was desperate to hide from the Germans just how much damage they had inflicted on the ports and reports of the bombing of the area were deliberately kept low key. More than 4,000 residents lost their lives.

The peak of the Liverpool Blitz came in seven days of May 1941. It involved 681 bombers, 2,315 bombs and 119 other explosives. Half of the docks were put out of action, inflicting 2,895 casualties and leaving many people homeless. Bootle, to the north of the city, suffered heavy damage and loss of life. More than 6,500 homes in Liverpool were completely demolished and a further 190,000 damaged.

One of the most vivid symbols of the Liverpool Blitz was the flame-scarred shell of St Luke's Church in the city centre, destroyed on May 5. The site became a garden of remembrance to commemorate the thousands of local men, women and children who died.

But those dark days brought bright flashes of heroism - like that of 10 railwaymen who risked their lives when an ammunition train in a siding at Clubmoor was set alight.

All along the train wagons were exploding. But the men calmly uncoupled the rear section before the flames could spread to it and they shunted it out of danger.

Goods guard George Roberts, 34, was awarded the George Medal for leading the operation. Signalman Peter Stringer was blown from his signal box but went back to get on with the dangerous shunting. In a bizarre quirk of fate the last German air raid on Liverpool took place on January 10 1942, when several homes were destroyed in Upper Stanhope Street.

House No.102 had once been the home of Alois Hitler Junior, half brother of Adolf.

The Midlands city of Coventry was also repeatedly hit. The worst attack was the first - a surprise onslaught that started on the evening of November 14 1940.

The Luftwaffe's Operation Moonlight Sonata was intended to destroy the scores of factories - many of them part of the pre-war motor industry - that had turned to producing parts for aircraft, military vehicles and other hardware vital to the country.

In that one terrible night more than 10,000 incendiary bombs rained down on the city where scores of medieval buildings were soon ablaze, overwhelming the valiant efforts of fire-fighters. They were helpless to save Coventry's cathedral. The raid claimed more than 600 lives and left thousands injured. About 4,000 homes were destroyed and 77 per cent of the city's factories.

Alan Edgson was just six at the time but remembers vividly how shrapnel rolled down the roof of his home making musical sounds. And he will never forget the constant fear.

He said: "You couldn't tell if a bomb was coming straight at you. Then you would hear an explosion and know that one hadn't hit you - but more would be following.

"Even as a child you felt you couldn't take any more. At school they would call the register and every so often there would be a pause...'Where's so and so?' 'Oh, they're dead, Miss. Their house got hit last night.'

"But it was London which took the brunt of the onslaught - and somehow its people learned to cope with the nightly threat of death, injury, fire and destruction. The horror went on and on for those nine long months with personal tragedies played out over and over again.

A Civil Defence stretcher-bearer told how he was sifting through wreckage when a man approached and asked if he had seen a little girl.

"'I asked him, 'Did she have pink knickers on?'and he said 'Yes', "the man recalled.

"I took him to a house we had used to lay out the dead and uncovered this particular girl on a stretcher. The man walked away very sad.

"Later that day, the same man came up to me and said he'd just found out his little boy had been with his daughter when the bomb fell. I asked, 'Did he have a green jersey on? Then you'll have to come with me again'.

"We went to the house and, before I uncovered the body, I warned him he was in for a shock. 'It's got no head on, 'I said. He bent over the boy and stroked him. 'So that's how you went, Jimmy,' he said. Then he shook my hand and left." One in seven of London's population fled to safer areas but 85 per cent refused to be driven out - or could not afford to do so. The 150,000 corrugated-iron Anderson shelters provided by the government were woefully inadequate.

So were the Morrison shelters - iron cages that doubled as a table but were meant to protect a family if their house collapsed around them.

In one terrible incident, 450 people were killed when a bomb destroyed a school being used as an air raid shelter.

Little wonder that up to 177,000 people a night fled to Underground stations, bedding down on the platforms and even between the tracks. They used buckets for toilets.

In the East End, which suffered the worst losses, working-class families were so angry at being left to fend for themselves, that soldiers were put on standby in case of riots.

But when the bombs began hitting the posh mansions in Mayfair and Belgravia, and even Buckingham Palace, Londoners decided they were "all in it together". The Queen - later the Queen Mum - famously declared that she was relieved when the Palace chapel was bombed and the south wing flattened because "it means I can now look the East End in the eye."

The people of London had an enormous role to play in the protection of their city.

Many became members of the Home Guard, Air Raid Precautions Service, Auxiliary Fire Service and many other organisations.

Boy Scouts guided fire engines to where they were most needed, and became known as the Blitz Scouts.

Later in the war schoolboys took turns to leave class and stand guard looking out for "doodlebugs" - the dreaded V-1 flying bombs.

Another frequent response to bombing was what became known as "trekking". Many thousands of civilians slept far from their homes and travelled several hours into work and several hours out again every day although official sources often denied this was happening. By May 1941 the threat of a German invasion had passed and Hitler turned his attention to the Soviet Union instead. There were smaller attacks on London throughout the war, taking the death toll from bombing to 51,509. But the families of the Blitz knew they had stood up to Hitler - and won.

Bomb sites scarred London for years after the war. Walk down an East End street today and you may see an incongruous post-war building in a row of Victorian homes. The chances are that houses bombed beyond repair once stood there.

Even now construction work is sometimes halted temporarily when diggers unearth an unexploded bomb. It's a reminder of the Blitz - a time when, as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, said: "We were all alone against the most tremendous military power that has ever been seen. Did anyone want to give in? Were we downhearted?

"The lights went out and the bombs came down, but every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle.

"We came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell."

348 ON the first day of the Blitz, September 7 1940, the Germans sent an initial wave of 348 German bombers and 617 fighters to hammer London for two hours.

57 The number of consecutive nights of bombing London suffered over a total 76-night period.

43,000 Total number of civilians killed. A further 140,000 were injured.

1 in 7 Londoners left the city during the onslaught.

600 People died in Coventry on the night of November 14 1940, when the city was hit by 10,000 incendiary bombs.

45% The London boroughs of Poplar, Shoreditch and the City lost about 45 per cent of their population.

2,240 Civilians were killed in Birmingham, 1,700 in Liverpool, and 1,010 in Manchester.

1,000,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the capital.

RESCUE JOY Elsie Smith is found alive under rubble


IF you want to learn more about Britain's ordeal, we are offering every People reader a free DVD of The Blitz Years 1939-1941 for just pounds 1.72 postage.

British Pathe News has interwoven the memories of men and women who were there with newsreel footage of those historic days to create a lasting tribute to the spirit of the Home Front.

You can also order the Battle of Britain 6 DVD boxset for just pounds 12.99.

It takes a look at the epic battles of the Second World War and how the British people coped in times of extreme hardship.

As well as The Blitz Years, the boxset includes The D-Day Story, The Battle of Britain, British Battles of WWII, The Long Years 1942-1944 and The Victory Years 1944-1945.

HOW TO ORDER: Simply fill in your details on the order form and send it to the address stated with a cheque for pounds 1.72. Closing date for applications is July 15 2010. Only one application per reader for the free DVD. Subject to availability - not available for the Republic of Ireland.

HOW TO PLACE AN ADDITIONAL ORDER: If you'd like to order the 6 DVD boxset, fill in the order form, include your payment and send it to the address stated.


How to claim

ONLINE: Visit and pay by credit or debit card.

POST: Complete this coupon and send a cheque or PO for the correct amount (made payable to MGN Ltd) to: The People WWII DVD Offer, PO Box 142, Horsham, RH13 5FJ.

TELEPHONE: For orders over pounds 9.99 call our order line on 0845 130 7778 to pay by credit or debit card.

Terms and Conditions

Details on this page form part of the terms and conditions. Orders for the free DVD only must be submitted by post or online via and received by July 15, 2010. Postal orders must be submitted with a completed coupon and a cheque or POs for pounds 1.72 to cover postage. Only one free DVD per reader and multiple applications will not be accepted. All orders for the additional title will include the free Blitz Years DVD and must be submitted with a completed form and correct payment. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer. Allow 28 days for delivery from closing date. Offer subject to availability. We can only provide refunds for damaged or faulty goods. Open to UK residents only. Promoter -Robell Media Promotions, PO Box 142, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 5FJ.


BURNING BRIGHT: Children stay cheerful amid the devastation left by German air raid SKY EYES: Charlie Boorman, nine, and Brian Walters, 10, at Otham school, Kent WAR GAMES: Kids in scrounged tin hats play at being rescuers on London bomb site COVENTRY Uniformed King George VI in ruins of the cathedral NORWICH Clear-up after raid reduced the city centre to rubble NEWCASTLE Bombed-out couple retrieve belongings from the wreckage HULL Injured resident Kitty Conneally at her bombed home LONDON Families find safety in Tube station after live rail is turned off LIVERPOOL Smouldering ruins after devastating raid on city's docks SWANSEA Bombed building is silhouetted as day dawns after a raid FIND A LEAK Cinema usherettes inspect a hose while on fire-watch WEDDED BLITZ London couple defy Hitler to marry in a ruined church in 1940 WE CAN WIN Cannery workers in Boston, Lincs, with RAF aces as pin-ups SO SCARED Blind kids huddle in a London shelter during 1940 Blitz HOPE LIVES Family in shelter with newborn baby symbolise spirit that kept us going
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 20, 2010
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