After losing the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe pounded England’s industrial cities almost nightly on an eight-month-long bombing campaign. In Brandwood End we have many civilian graves as a result of bombing raids that attest to the devastating loss of life that Birmingham suffered.
Eighty years ago (Tuesday 19th November 1940) the first major aerial raid was launched on Birmingham as part of a campaign by the German Luftwaffe designed to break the Brummie spirit. Coming five days after the destruction of Coventry Birmingham fell prey to the most severe attack during the course of the Second World War. Lasting nearly all night the nine hours’ of intense bombing by 440 bombers killed 450 people and badly injured 540 others. Around 400 tonnes of high explosives were dropped during the raid – Hitler’s retaliation for British raids on Hamburg, Bremen and Kiel.
Factories damaged in the raid included Lucas Industries and GEC works and the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) factory was also badly damaged – 53 employees were killed as they took shelter behind blast walls, 89 were injured, 30 of them seriously, and rifle production was said to have been halted for three months as a result.
Including lighter attacks on other nights, the casualties for the period from 19th to 28th November 1940 was 796 dead and 2345 injured. About 20,000 people were made homeless. A fearsome new weapon, the landmine, was being used. It was virtually a sea mine on a parachute and it was extremely powerful. But this was to be just the start. The Birmingham Blitz spanned 3 years.
The longest raid lasting 13 hours came on 11 December 1940 when 278 bombers targeted the city once more killing 263 people and badly wounding 243 after explosives and 25,000 incendiaries were dropped.
In total 1,852 tons of bombs were dropped on Birmingham making it the third most heavily bombed city in the United Kingdom behind only London and Liverpool. 2,241 Brummies were killed, 3,010 were seriously injured and 3,682 harmed.
Prolonged and powerful attacks destroyed 12,391 houses, 303 factories, 34 churches, halls and cinemas, 205 other buildings and thousands of other properties were damaged. A graphic illustration of sacrifices made at home, as well as abroad.
The last air raid siren sounded in Birmingham on 15th May 1944.