Today’s London walks Blitz Blog will look at the 10th May 1940 when London suffered the worst raid of the entire Blitz. On this date bombs fell for six and a half hours.
Westminster Abbey, the British Museum and the Tower of London were hit (the bomb in the Tower causing a total casualty list of one raven).
Overall, the raid killed 1,436 civilians and injured 1,800 more. Londoners could not know it, but the raid of 10 May was the last of the period we call the Blitz.
The campaign had severely depleted the operational strength of the Luftwaffe bomber fleets. The two Luftflottes had a combined strength of 860 on 1 September 1940; this was down to 820 on 1 October; by 1 December it had declined to 700.
The average number of bombers over target also declined from 197 in September 1940 to 134 in October, and was down to 120 by January 1941.
Now the Luftwaffe had other tasks ahead of it, and on 11 May 1941 Luftflotte II flew to Poznan in Poland to begin preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June.
For Hauptmann Aschenbrenner this would be his last campaign: he would die bombing Russia in 1943. Luftflotte III was detached to bomb North Africa, with a skeletal force left in northern Europe.
By 11 May 1941 more than 20,000 Londoners had died in the bombing and more would yet follow. Between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941 one in six Londoners were made homeless and 1,500,000 houses damaged to one degree or another.
Throughout Britain in this period 200,000 houses were totally destroyed and 3,700,000 damaged.
After the invasion of the Soviet Union the bombers returned
with the ‘Little Blitz’ of late 1941/1942.
Though damaging and harrowing for those affected, it was by no means the fearful onslaught of the Blitz proper.
The over-extended military commitment of Germany to war on several fronts meant that never again was the Luftwaffe able to mount a similar bombing campaign against mainland Britain.
They had not, however, abandoned plans for bombing altogether.
In 1942 development work was begun on a new weapon — the flying bomb.
We will discuss this in more detail at a later date when we return to our London walks Blitz Blog.