The relentless barrage that was the unforgivable. 70 years ago, one small stature megalomaniac in Germany set off the most horrendous 76 days and nights of sustained bombardment in the history of the world. Determined to bring the British nation to its knees in abject surrender, he sent his aircraft, the Luftwaffe, to achieve what no despot before him had managed to do, by showering deadly bombs on the hapless civilian population.
It would hardly be possible to tell the complete story of the Blitz in a single article, the astonishing fortitude and courage of the beleaguered civilians, or unsung heroism of all those who stood firm, trying hard to help those injured, made homeless or simply lost in the madness of the moment. Great Britain is so named for a very good reason, and these incredible people simply would not lie down and take the pasting without a fight, however overwhelming the odds. They refused to surrender their dignity, and defied the enemy to do their worst.
In July, 1940, Adolf Hitler put his plan for destruction of the English spirit and military into operation. His aircraft began making daily bombing raids on British ships, ports, radar stations, airfields and aircraft factories, in an onslaught that was to become known as the Battle of Britain. The RAF bravely fought against overwhelming numbers of enemy planes, yet despite incurring heavy losses themselves, still managed to inflict major losses on the enemy formations. At the beginning of September Hitler decided to try a new tactic.
The Blitz, as it became known, was an intense bombardment of towns and cities across the UK, beginning with the capital, London, which was attacked for 76 consecutive nights. By the end of May 1941, as the steam was going out of the German assaults because of severe losses, over 43,000 civilians, half of them in London, had been killed by bombing and far more than a million houses destroyed or damaged., right across the country.
The pointless ambition of bombing the British into surrender was never reached, nor did the campaign demoralize the British public. By May 1941, threat of an invasion of Britain had passed by, and never again was bombing on such a large scale carried out. Instead the enemy carried out smaller attacks throughout the war, taking the civilian death toll to 51,509 from bombing, before peace was declared in 1945.
This whole experience must have been absolutely terrifying for those on the ground, hearing high explosive bombs whistling through the night sky down towards them, yet the British people showed a spirit none would have thought possible, had they known beforehand what was to come. All involved in this horrific time of senseless destruction demonstrated levels of heroism that defy description, perhaps most of all the firefighters, many of whom died trying to save others. London, and indeed many unfortunate other cities, would have been ablaze and devastated,
We all have a secure future today because of the sacrifices made by our forebears during these terrible years of war and destruction. What they gave on our behalf can never be repaid, for here was an entire generation of truly selfless people who were determined to secure a peaceful future for their grandchildren. The Blitz itself was an awful scar on history, but the courage of those who lived through it is a guiding light for the future. We have so much to be thankful for.