Herbert Mason’s famous view of St Paul’s Cathedral seen through the smoke and flames of the Blitz in 1941 © Associated Newspapers Limited (IWM HU 36220)

Blitz Stories: How People Risked Their Lives to Protect Places They Loved

While most people took refuge in air raid shelters and underground stations when the bombs of the Blitz rained down, others risked life and limb to protect their towns and cities from destruction.

Night after night, women, men and youths battled on the Home Front against great odds to save the places in which they lived, worked, played and worshipped.

Find out how the Blitz affected places from Hull in the north to Exeter in the south, and read the stories of remarkable people endeavouring to prevent the loss of ordinary and extraordinary buildings.

England Under Attack

From June 1940 until the end of the war in spring 1945, targets from Wallsend in the north to the Isle of Wight in the south were targeted.

Two fire fighters stand on a pile of rubble next to steel girders looking up at a bomb damaged building partially shrouded by smoke.

Defending the Home Front

Saving the country’s buildings, industry, transport networks and utilities was a mammoth task. As the bombing continued, groups formed in defence.

The Blitz, September 1940–June 1941

Between 7 October 1940 and 6 June 1941 almost 28,000 high explosive bombs and over 400 parachute mines were recorded landing on Greater London.

London: The Baby Blitz and V-Weapons, 1941–1945

In the attacks on London that came to be known as the ‘Baby Blitz’, over 1,500 people were killed and around 3,000 seriously injured.

The dome of St Paul's emerging out of a cloud of smoke that engulfs burning buildings in the foreground.

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral was a vulnerable target. Its remarkable survival was due, in no small part, to the dedication and bravery of some heroic people.

A stained glass window made from the fragments of windows that were shattered during bombing of Coventry Cathedral.

Coventry Cathedral

Several of England's historic cathedrals were damaged in bombing raids. None suffered so terribly as the Cathedral Church of St Michael in Coventry.

Interior of the nave looking towards the church tower with no roof or windows or interior furnishings.

Preserved in Ruin

A number of ruins have been kept as moving reminders of the devastation of the Blitz and the resilience of civilians on the Home Front.

Liverpool: Feeding the Nation

In 1939 around a third of all imports into the UK passed through Liverpool. Without the work of Liverpool’s docks, Britain would have quickly starved.

Hull: A Northern Coastal Town

As a key port within easy flying distance from occupied Europe, Hull was an obvious target for air raids and suffered severely.

In front of the damaged houses are 'road closed' signs and a woman walking along in the road.

Birmingham: Industrial City

One of the most heavily bombed cities, subject to successive raids, Birmingham buildings that were saved one month could be destroyed the next.

Shop signs at the entrance to the arcade read: 
On the left hand side: "Old Gold Silver and Antiques Purchased. Established 1850."
On the right hand side: "RUBBER STAMPS INKS AND PADS. J. SMITH"

The Bristol Blitz

A young girl on her way to a party, some Boy Scouts and three young clerks made the news for their brave acts during intensive air raids.

Exeter: First Baedeker Victim

A new wave of attacks was launched on Hitler’s orders in retaliation for a Royal Air Force raid on the medieval German city of Lübeck in March 1942.

Large stone building with all window glass blown out and roof damaged.

Norwich: Another Baedeker Victim

Along with Exeter, Bath, York and Canterbury, Norwich was a victim of a new wave of bombing raids on England’s historic cities.

Archive photograph showing three men calmly browsing books on surviving library shelves amid the rubble of a roofless shell

Reading List  

A reading list of the sources used during the research for these Blitz stories.

Two men standing high up on scaffolding at the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, look up at the photographer above them in the tower. Black and white photo taken in the 1940s.


The contributors and sources that helped to create these Blitz stories.