16 Vintage Color Photographs Showing Everyday Life in Britain During the Blitz

The Blitz was a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom in 1940 and 1941, during the Second World War. The term was first used by the British press and originated from the term Blitzkrieg, the German word for ‘lightning war’.

The Germans conducted mass air attacks against industrial targets, towns, and cities, beginning with raids on London towards the end of the Battle of Britain in 1940 (a battle for daylight air superiority between the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force over the United Kingdom). By September 1940, the Luftwaffe had lost the Battle of Britain and the German air fleets (Luftflotten) were ordered to attack London, to draw RAF Fighter Command into a battle of annihilation. Adolf Hitler and Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, ordered the new policy on 6 September 1940. From 7 September 1940, London was systematically bombed by the Luftwaffe for 56 of the following 57 days and nights. Most notable was a large daylight attack against London on 15 September.

The Luftwaffe gradually decreased daylight operations in favour of night attacks to evade attacks by the RAF, and the Blitz became a night bombing campaign after October 1940. The Luftwaffe attacked the main Atlantic seaport of Liverpool in the Liverpool Blitz. The North Sea port of Hull, a convenient and easily found target or secondary target for bombers unable to locate their primary targets, suffered the Hull Blitz. The port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Southampton, Swansea, Belfast, and Glasgow were also bombed, as were the industrial centres of Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester and Sheffield. More than 40,000 civilians were killed by Luftwaffe bombing during the war, almost half of them in the capital, where more than a million houses were destroyed or damaged.

In early July 1940, the German High Command began planning Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Bombing failed to demoralise the British into surrender or do much damage to the war economy; eight months of bombing never seriously hampered British war production, which continued to increase. The greatest effect was to force the British to disperse the production of aircraft and spare parts. British wartime studies concluded that cities generally took 10 to 15 days to recover when hit severely, but exceptions like Birmingham took three months.

The German air offensive failed because the Luftwaffe High Command (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, OKL) did not develop a methodical strategy for destroying British war industry. Poor intelligence about British industry and economic efficiency led to OKL concentrating on tactics rather than strategy. The bombing effort was diluted by attacks against several sets of industries instead of constant pressure on the most vital. (Wikipedia)

The bombed site of John Lewis, Oxford Street, London.
Nelson’s column with ‘salute the war effort’ signs.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London with barrage balloons in the background, seen from Westminster Bridge.
A messenger boy walking past the entrance to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square London.
The bomb damaged areas around St Paul’s Cathedral.
Mr George Beckett, a volunteer with the British Home Front, uses a power hammer to forge the handle of a file.
The Minister for Aircraft Production, the Rt Hon Colonel JJ Llewellyn, MP at his desk.
The Auxiliary Territorial Service at an Anti-aircraft gun site in December 1942
Lunchtime entertainment in a war workers’ canteen – a view from the audience.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill with his chiefs of staff in the garden of 10 Downing Street in May 7, 1945.
Two Auxiliary Territorial Service girls operate a mobile power plant on an anti-aircraft gun site at night.
A girl guide and a sea ranger selling saving stamps as part of the War Effort.
ATS spotter with binoculars at the anti-aircraft command post, with a 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun in the background.
A Civil Defence Warden inspects bomb damaged buildings in Holborn, London.
A London messenger boy walking past a bomb site in London.
Two women weighing and packing bicarbonate of soda at a chemical factory run by the Ministry of Supply.

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