BBC Home
Explore the BBC
15 November  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1940: Germans bomb Coventry to destruction
The German Luftwaffe has bombed Coventry in a massive raid which lasted more than 10 hours and left much of the city devastated.

Relays of enemy aircraft dropped bombs indiscriminately. One of the many buildings hit included the 14th century cathedral, which was all but destroyed.

Initial reports suggest the number of casualties is about 1,000. Intensive anti-aircraft fire kept the raiders at a great height from which accurate bombing was impossible.

Reports say 4,330 homes were destroyed and three-quarters of the city's factories damaged.

The whole city was ringed with leaping flames, bathed in brilliant moonlight and a few searchlights were sweeping the smoke-filled sky.
Other targets included two hospitals, two churches, hotels, clubs, cinemas, public-shelters, public swimming baths, a police station and a post office.

According to one report, some 500 enemy aircraft took part in the raid. Wave upon wave of bombers scattered their lethal payloads over the city. The night sky, already lit by a brilliant moon, was further illuminated by flares and incendiary bombs.

The German High Command has issued a communiqué describing the attack on Coventry as a reprisal for the British attack on Munich - the birthplace of the Nazi party.

The message continued: "Particularly heavy was the attack on Coventry, where numerous engine works and aero accessory factories as well as other targets of military importance were attacked with bombs of heaviest calibre, causing extensive damage."

The German Official News Agency described the raid on Coventry as "the most severe in the whole history of the war".

The bombing began at 1920 and did not cease until dawn. The all-clear was finally sounded at 0615 GMT.

The city's tram system was destroyed. Nearly all gas and water pipes were smashed and people have been advised to boil emergency supplies of water.

The cathedral Provost, the Very Reverend Dick Howard and a party of helpers attempted to deal with 12 incendiary bombs by smothering them with sand. But another shower of incendiaries accompanied by high explosives forced them to give up their efforts.

Mr Howard said: "The cathedral will rise again, will be rebuilt, and it will be as great a pride to future generations as it has been to generations of the past."

Troops have been drafted in to help clear up the streets. Rescuers have also been working to free those who lay buried in the rubble, often in the remains of their own homes.

Home Secretary Herbert Morrison was on the scene within hours of the all-clear. He met the mayor and other local officials and afterwards paid tribute to the work of the National Service units of the city, who had "stood up to their duty magnificently".

 E-mail this story to a friend


Cathedral ruins
Only the skeleton of the city's cathedral was left standing after the bombing



In Context
Two days later King George VI visited Coventry to see for himself the devastation caused by the German bombers.

There was a mass burial on 20 November and as further bodies were uncovered from the rubble another mass burial took place the following week.

Of the 500 enemy aircraft despatched to Coventry only 449 reached the city. This was by far the heaviest bombing raid on Coventry. Figures for the number killed on the night of 14 November vary between 380 and 554 people killed and several hundred injured.

The destruction of the city hastened rebuilding plans which included Europe's first pedestrian precinct. A further £50m refurbishment project was completed in December 2003.

A new cathedral was built after architect Basil Spence won a competition for its design. It was consecrated on 25 May 1962 and now stands alongside the skeleton of the war-damaged ruin.

Stories From 15 Nov


 
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy