During WWII, an intense German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom lasted eight months and became known as the Blitz. The Luftwaffe attacked London and other cities across Britain, damaging and destroying many buildings and leading to 40,000 civilian deaths. Newspapers across Britain chronicled this historical time, and you can explore our updated collection of UK papers to see history unfold as it happened. This year, we’ve added more than 25 million new pages of UK content to our archives. We’ve combed through these pages to bring you just a few stories from the Blitz.

Liverpool Daily Post – September 19, 1940

The Blitz began on the afternoon of September 7, 1940, when German planes appeared over London, dropping bombs and incendiary devices that started massive fires. The bombing campaign was in retaliation for a nighttime air raid on Berlin. In moments, London was transformed from a thriving city into chaos and destruction. One bomb fell directly down an East End bomb shelter ventilator shaft where a thousand people had gathered to seek refuge after the air raid sirens sounded. The Liverpool Daily Post reported on agonizing screams as children and mothers with babies in their arms perished. Nearby, government officials urged displaced residents to seek shelter in an elementary school. The Essex Newsman reported that on September 10, 1940, a German bomb flattened the school, killing 600 civilians.

London’s underground Tube stations sheltered many during the Blitz. Initially, officials discouraged residents from seeking refuge in Tube stations, worried that it could cripple transportation or that residents might feel too vulnerable to return to the surface. Eventually, the government acquiesced, and Tube stations saved thousands of lives. The Birmingham Gazette published this photo of a baby in an improvised crib sleeping in a Tube station.

Birmingham Gazette – September 26, 1940

London was not the only city targeted by German bombers. Cities including Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, and Coventry also endured attacks. In Coventry, bombs reduced the old city centre to rubble. A beloved medieval cathedral known as St. Michael’s was also destroyed. King George VI arrived in Coventry to survey the damage and is said to have wept as he saw the ruins of the church. Incendiary bombs created a conflagration, and one resident recalled being pursued down the street by a knee-high river of boiling butter from a fire at a nearby dairy. Like many other British citizens, Coventry’s residents remained united, defiant, and resilient. In 1950, on the 10th anniversary of the bombings, the Coventry Standard published first-hand accounts of the Blitz. The stories reflected the courage and tenacity of residents.

King George VI surveys damage in Coventry: Coventry Standard – November 10, 1950

Do you have ancestors that experienced the Blitz? Explore our UK papers to read more stories from the Blitz on Newspapers.com™ today.

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40 thoughts on “Stories from the Blitz

  1. Uncle Alberts Funeral
    The following is a story related to me by my mother. referred to as Uncle Albert’s funeral, which had a double-page spread in the local Portsmouth newspaper. a few years ago. The event would probably have taken place in about 1941.
    The story begins on a train bound for Portsmouth from London, aboard are three women, Eleanor Violet Smith (My mum commonly called Nellie Smith daughter of Mary Fennell, and her grandmother Mary Ann Smith nee Andrews alias Granny Smith.)
    The air raids were, on and the train carriages were being shunted back and forth to avoid direct hits from the bombs. The three women were getting frustrated with the train not pulling into the station, as they needed to get to the funeral of Albert the son of Mary Ann Smith
    Eventually, it did pull in and the women were able to get out. However, they hadn’t walked more than a hundred yards when they were told to get into the nearest shelter, as another wave of Jerry was coming over. They managed to find shelter in front of the old main post office in Commercial Road. They reasoned to settle in for a while, and low and behold an incendiary device (Small fire bomb) came in through the open hatch above, on the street. It had landed near Mary Ann who was wearing her old Victorian-type clothes, black with many petticoats. Mary must have been nearly in her 90s and didn’t fully realise what had happened. The two women Nellie and her mum tried to put the smouldering petticoats out, with their hands and a few rags lying around. ” What be going on,” said Granny Smith, in an old Banbury accent.
    “Oh nothing,” said, Mary Fennell, “Someone’s left a cigarette on the floor and we’re just putting out the flames your petticoat’s been singed, nothing to worry about just a small scorch mark.” Little did she know that it had burned through several layers of her skirts. This lady was not senile, she was just from another century.
    When the air raid was over old Granny Smith said,” When are we going to get to my son’s house, we’ve got to dress the body, I don’t want to stay in this cellar anymore.”
    As they got out of the shelter they realised they would have to walk quite a distance as there was too much rubble on the roads to use transport. (This was the day Portsmouth Guildhall was bombed I think)
    The three women arrived at the house and were greeted by family at the door, probably Eddie Smith, brother, Crennell Smith, and brother, Richard Smith. Their wives, Charlotte, Rose, Eliza and Martha. They were escorted to the top floor bedroom where the body of Albert was laid out in his coffin. Now the people who greeted them at the door had not long come up from the cellar themselves, The bombing had caused many of the chimneys to shake and as a consequence soot had cascaded all over the open coffin. When old Granny Smith looked in she exclaimed, (Forgive the political incorrectness no offence) “That baint be my son, that be a nigger!” (Sorry about political correctness)
    The women then cleaned the body and did their best to make Albert more presentable. These people were of gipsy origin and there was talk about whether or not to lay gold in the coffin as was the custom. Someone said if Jerry wins the war they won’t get his gold little as it was, it was only a few items, rings etc.
    Yet another air raid happened so everyone went into the basement three flights down. When it was over they went back upstairs to Albert’s bedroom. Lo and behold! Albert was covered in soot again, someone had forgotten to put the coffin lid on. The women cleaned him up again, and again another air raid. The women all exclaimed that they were not going to clean him up anymore and if more soot came down the chimney again he’ll have to go in the ground a Blackman.
    The men decided they would have to carry the coffin down to the cellar as it seemed like those bombs were getting pretty close. Now there was some discussion as to whether or not they should take him out of the coffin and carry the body down separate from the coffin. He apparently was a little heavy. They each in turn looked at the body and thought twice about it. “I ‘m not carrying a dead body.” Said one, “You carry the dead body.” The women laughed at them for being such cowards. It was eventually decided to leave Albert in the box and carry him down that way.
    Three flights later down the narrowest of staircases, hardly room for two people to pass, with lots of huffing and puffing going on, by the time they got to the bottom someone exclaimed ” Would you believe it the air raids over!”
    Someone said, “If you think I’m going to carry him Three flights of stairs back up again you’ve got another thing coming. Leave him in the hallway and let’s have a cup of tea.”

    A short while later they arrived at the cemetery. The body had been lowered, and the vicar was about to start his sermon when the warden come up to ask them to finish it later. They were escorted to the nearest shelter yet again and low and behold, when they came up they found the cemetery had been blown up. Including Albert’s burial plot!
    One of the women with a hanky raised to her eye, and asked,”How will we bury poor Albert now? ” The reply came from Albert’s mother, dear old Granny Smith, in her quaint Banbury accent, and almost dry humour,
    “We baint be burying my son now …….He Be Scattered!” A moment of silence passed.
    Someone’s voice rang out, ” I think Jerry’s definitely determined to get Albert!”
    Sorry if there are any inappropriate phrases used. I was writing as they fell from my mother’s lips and were the phrases of history.

    1. Oh my, what a story. Since I wasn’t born until 1950, I can only read the stories. I will always hold the British in high esteem for how they handled the blitz.

  2. I have more stories which I once recorded when I was seventeen years old . They also took place during the blitz. Unfortunately my nephew was an enthusiast for music and recorded over them. I use to sit on my mothers knee and was forever asking her to repeat the stories as I loved hearing them. There was always so much detail probably because she came from Gypsy stock and their history is oral in nature. Fortunately I have one tape still , although somewhat faded in volume. Have a merry Christmas

  3. My mother and grandparents lived in Putney in London during the war. Grandad was an Air Raid Warden. Mum was only age 9 going on 10 at the time but she had memories and stories of the war. She was evacuated to Wales with other children for a short period of time, which she loved.

    1. Hi Alyson,
      My wife’s father was an air raid warden in Putney and Wandsworth during that time and her mother was a GPO telephone technician, you never know they might have known each other!

  4. All sorts of stories about the cities in the blitz, all heart breaking.
    However I live in Hull and was born after the war, and I know Hull was badly bombed
    with lots of civilians deaths. it is rarely mentioned where as all the other cities are.
    It was always referred to a north east city but not very often
    It needs some to be reognized along all the other cities that were badly bombed

  5. Out of all the horrors of living through something like this, it’s the stories like this that inspire the human race. Never give up. Such inspiration! I loved Granny Smith! She was one tough cookie. Thanks for sharing your story! I know there are so many others that are being shared or have perished long ago with their tellers. I was born in 1957 so I along with many many others don’t have a clue what these people lived through. The world that we live in today has softened so much of the drive and tenacity that our ancestors possessed. It’s like my 82 year old grandmother killing a copperhead snake with her cane on the walk down to her mailbox. I would have turned and ran for help. We sure can learn a lot from our ancestors. Thanks again!

  6. I live in Australia but I’m just old enough to remember the Newsreels showing the destruction caused during the Blitz. They were always shown first when I went with my mother and siblings to see a Disney film. I also remember that many children were sent away from the cities. We didn’t have any family connections as all my ancestors had emigrated before 1860.
    What we never saw or heard on the news was that the Japanese dropped many bombs on northern Australia after they started the war in the Pacific or that 3 Japanese mini submarines had entered Sydney Harbour and one aimed a torpedo at a visiting American ship but it ‘downed’ a harbour ferry instead. Our government didn’t want the people to panic.
    I can smile a little about Uncle Albert’s Funeral as there are still many 2 and 3 story terrace houses in Sydney and a family member lived in one. The staircase was too narrow for her coffin so it was taken to the balcony and lowered from there.

  7. Without in any way seeking to detract from the Blitz and English cities bombed per the article quoted,it should also be remembered that bombs fell on Scottish towns and cities,none of which are mentioned in that article. The worst was at Clydebank which resulted in many deaths and much destruction.

    1. My mother’s younger sister Winny was killed in a bombing raid on Greenock, Scotland. I believe she was only in her twenties and had a six-month-old baby who died with her. No other members of my family died due to the war, fortunately.

  8. I visited Blenheim a few years ago and spoke to a man in the gift shop who was an expert on aviation. I told him I thought the spitfires were brave planes. He said yes, but not as brave as the pilots who flew them. He then asked me about my interest, as clearly I am an American, in all of this. I replied that one of my favorite cousins, Ian Stewart Nelson, the first person who ever made me laugh, had been born in a shelter in the Blitz. Ian later lost his father (my aunt’s first husband) in the war. I honor them when I learn about the Blitz and I wear my poppy pin, a gift from another English friend.

    Ian died tragically years later as well.

    Ah, I see your connection the man in the shop said.

    We are all connected to those who fought and died for freedom, I believe.

    Rest In Peace.

  9. I can just feel the emotions when reading all of the notes. My heart went out to all of the English people. The feeling of hopelessness. The feelings of not knowing if they have a house or apartment to go back to. If they lost any family member’s or friends. This will remain with all of the survivors of the WWII.

  10. I was 5 when the war started. we n oved from Oxford . to Birmingham in Oct 1939. Dad worked at Nuffields. he did double duty as a tool and die nan and after work was on guard duty.Mom and us three boys spent many nights under the stairs .she not knowing if Dad would come home and he not knowing if he would have a house and family when he eventually got home talk about stress.. no such word then…Christmas 1940 was spent under the stairs,, no gifts and certainly no Christmas dinner. .we eventually got an Anderson shelter and I remember seeing Coventry burn.from the top of the dirt which made up the Roof…Mom ,s then were very special people. .and later in life when someone asked her what it was like.. she said.. They were interesting Times…

  11. If you look in the records for here in Fort William, you will see lots of people from the Portsmouth area for some years after WWII. A hutted camp had been built at Corpach and they were moved there to continue work repairing destroyers.

    There was a similar camp at Dunstaffnage near Oban where they also continued ship repairs though not sure if they came from Portsmouth or Plymouth. Both had Admiralty Floating Dock.

    The Corpach camp is now a caravan site using the roads and hardstandings of the camp.

  12. We met our friend Margaret in 1988. She was raised in Portsmouth. As we got to know her, we asked her about her experiences during the Blitz. We wondered how children were able to get an education during that time. She said that schools continued to teach the children, but if you went to school, and one of your classmates did not show up that day, you knew he or she had been killed by the bombings the previous night. What a horrible way to have to grow up! She was surprised to learn that although we were not invaded nor bombed in California, we did have fears of submarines off the coast attacking us, and we had drills in our classrooms on how to take shelter if the air raid sirens were to sound. Air Raid drills were conducted instead of fire drills.

    1. Many children were of course evacuated to rural areas, often whole schools. Some boarding schools were also taken over by the military so were moved to an area where there was not as much demand from the military for buildings.

      Children do often seem to adjust easily, Commando and others trained in this area and I have been told it was common to see a line of rifles left outside a café!

  13. Thank you for sharing your amazing story. It was both sad and comical. Your writing describes a vivid picture, and I loved it! Certainly no need to apologize for inappropriate phrases or words, as that was life during those times. Sugar coating what really happened and what was said, is what should be apologized for.
    I was born in 1954, and in Canada but my ancestry is British. I had no way of knowing the great sorrows suffered in the UK however, we were taught about the Blitz in school, and it was very sad to learn but we, of course, had no way of understanding just how horrible it would have been to experience. It’s stories like yours that is so valuable.

  14. Not sure of the dates without checking but the worst were the “Butterfly Bombs” which were dropped mainly I think on the East coast. These were small anti-personnel devices that detonated if disturbed, they could often catch on and hang from trees or telephone wires. They looked liked toys so were particularly dangerous to children,

  15. My Mum lived in Higher Broughton, Salford, near Manchester. Fortunately, her mum (my nana) got married again just before the War and they moved to Sale, just south of Manchester. Good thing! The neighbourhood where they had lived was flattened in the Blitz and most everyone was killed who was at home there in the old neighbourhood. My Mum was 19 when the war started. She told me that young people were required to serve in various home defence efforts. My Mum rode around on her bicycle putting out fires at night during the bombing. There was a blackout and there was no light except from what was on fire. He stepfather sold bomb shelters so they had a pretty good bomb shelter set up in the living room, a better one that the Anderson ones you put in the back garden. They used it as a garden shed after the war and I remember seeing it there back of the house when I visited my grandparents. One evening, my Mum was preparing for bed and looked out the window to see a huge B17 American bomber headed straight for her window! It pulled up at the last minute and skimmed over the roof, taking off the chimney and crashed in the street in front of the house. Everyone rushed out and managed to save the pilots and several of the crew but the tail gunner and several poor fellows in the waist were burned and dead. The rest were pretty badly burned and injured but survived. Mum told my they used to go and visit them in hospital to cheer them up since they had no family there as they were Americans. People used to have servicemen home to have supper then too. It was a way of helping the troops since they were young men away from their homes and families. Eventually my Mum got a job making Hawker Hurricanes – the “other plane” in the Blitz. Everyone talks about the Spitfire, but there was actually a lot more Hawker Hurricanes in the Blitz than the Spitfire. The Spitfire was a newer model plane and was considered a “wonder weapon” I guess. My Mum had the job of calibrating the instruments for the instrument panel for the Hurricanes. I heard many tales of what it was like during The War when I was a kid. There were so many! We can’t imagine how hard it must have been. One my Mum told me was when she needed a new winter coat. Of course, you couldn’t just buy anything like that – it was all rationed if you could even find anything like that! So they took a blanket that was in decent shape to the tailors and had a coat made from that. Often, supper was just bread and jam – all they could get. My Uncle Vic, my mother’s brother was to get married – he worked at Rover in Coventry, so they were to get married there. It was the night they bombed Coventry to the ground and he and my Auntie Doris had to spend their honeymoon night bomb shelter with the bombs falling all around.

  16. Wonderful stories. We, even though in California, discussed what happened in England and the European theater of The War each night at supper – such stories of bravery are amazing. My father fought in the South Pacific for the US Marines, and survived 3 landings for the 2nd Division. We were raised to never forget lest we repeat the mistakes made in history; and I also find the current times ‘soft’ as to how to be self sufficient, honoring others, helping others and doing what one can for the effort, no matter how insignificant. My Mother’s family came over from the U.K. early, and I can’t wait to see it. Bless you all.

  17. There are quite a number of books about children who were evacuated, some had a bad time and even were abused. But others were lucky to be taken in by very loving families, often ones with no children of their own. They were often from inner cities and had never seen the countryside before and took a lot of persuasion to eat “proper” food. Some lifelong friendships were made though the parent of some were killed in the Blitz – often the father was away in the services.

  18. I remember sitting on my Uncle’s lap in Missouri listening to later raids on the radio. As a youngster I had no idea of what people were enduring. What resilience the English showed during that period.

    I have to say that I see a parallel occurring in the Ucaine now. There is a blitz ocurring with I’m sure, the intent of bring the people to their knees. Putin should read a bit of history and realize that it makes a people more determined to resist.

  19. Though I live in Canada now, my home town is Plymouth, in southwest UK. Home to a major naval dockyard, it too was targetted. Curiously, the dockyard was largely missed, while the city centre, a couple of kilometres away, was virtually flattened. (If you visit Plymouth today and wonder why the modern-looking centre is laid out on a neat grid, and does not look like a typical charming, but higgledy-piggledy English town, that’s why! The reconstruction started from almost nothing.)

    Some took shelter in the basement of St. Andrew’s church, right in the centre. When one of the clergy emerged and saw the ruins, he is said to have taken a charred piece of wood on which to write one Latin word: “Resurgam” (“I shall rise again”). He set it above one of the doors. On my last visit, in September 2022, I saw that a more recent, but still simple, sign bearing the same word is still above that door.

  20. Great story. Correction suggestion on one photo has the year 1950, should the King survey of Coventry bombing be the year 1940 instead. Hope this is helpful.

    1. Thank you, Carin. The newspaper article with the King was published 10 years after The Blitz (hence the 1950 date). The King actually visited Coventry in 1940 but there was not a paper published that day.

  21. My Mother was in the Canadian Red Cross, stationed in London. She married my Father, a Canadian soldier, Dec 24, 1943. He was killed on D-Day. I remember her telling me of hiding in a stairwell one night after being caught out during an air raid. The house was hit but the stairwell saved her.

  22. Great story. Thanks from Canada.
    My father born in England returned with the Perth Regiment from Stratford Ontario and served during the entire war. My brother who lied about his age was there as well.
    Thanks again

  23. This is a page from my father’s cousin’s diary. She was a 14 year old girl living in Earls Court London with her family during the Blitz and she wrote a diary every day as a way to manage how she was coping with the bombings. (Spelling and grammar are hers).

    Thursday 12 – Friday 13 September 1940
    By Nicky Goddard, aged 14.

    A Terrific night. First and foremost we had a new anti-aircraft barrage which continued almost unceasingly through the night. Crack after Crack bang after bang – it went through one. And bombs – they fell like hail stones. High explosive, incendiaries and time bombs. There was no scarcity of any of them. Down they whistled, crash and then “Where was that” Always the question. We never knew, but we had a good guess, and more often than not we were streets out in our surmisings. But no-one cared. A 1000lb time bomb was dropped on Trebovir Road; – Coleherne Road and Courtfield Gardens had them too. Incendiaries fell in Penywenn Road doing considerable damage to a number of houses; the Princess Beatrice’s Nursing Home suffered also – so did Finborough Road and no end of other spots in the neighbourhood. But worst of all was Warwick Road – not only because it was very near to us, but it really was a dreadful sight. A large four-storeyed Victorian house lay right across the road – one mass of rubble. The result of one of Jerry’s finest H.E.’s (high explosives). As we sat in our shelter we heard it coming. It whistled down. It sounded a long way off at first, then nearer and nearer it came. Our hearts stopped beating and then with one final shriek it dived straight down crashing on a private hotel two hundred yards away. Then all was confusion. For one second everything seemed to be crashing and breaking around us. Luckily the hotel was empty. So debris only consisted of brick, wood and mortar – one consulation anyway. But all the houses opposite were ruined; not a door or window left intact; railings were smashed and bent; brick-dust and rubble lay everywhere. Even our house was in a mess. A think coating of dust covered everything and anything and glass from the broken windows was scattered all over the place. Dad lost the two big windows in his room; the windows in the Dining Room also went and the fan-light. So we were very lucky. As we stood on the front doorstep at 5.45AM we looked in the direction of High Street Kensington. A nasty red glow greeted us from the sky. Yes Our Lady of Victories it was. Our beautiful parish church was blazing furiously, as a result of one of Jerry’s oil canister bombs to say nothing of several dozen incendiaries which disappeared down at the same time.

    1. A very moving and detailed description of what it was like to be in the blitz. And this was written by a 14-year-old young lady. Very much like the diary of Anne Frank who was of a similar age. It would be interesting to read the rest of her diary too.

      1. Nicky was no stranger to war. Her eldest brother Denis had been killed at the Battle of Jutand on HMS Queen Mary during WW1. Her 2nd brother Brian died whilst serving in the Army during WW2, and her father had spent over 25 years in the Army serving in India, South Africa (Boer War) and from 1914-1919 on the Somme in WW1.
        Nicky wrote her diary from the beginning of the Blitz on London until 1943 when it seemed the bombing was over. She began again when the V1 rockets arrived in the summer of 1944. In April 1945 she became a clerk at the Admiralty.
        Nicky’s diary is now held in the Imperial War Museum (but has not yet been digitised), so can only be viewed in person. It was donated by her sister after Nicky died.

        Here are the references if you want to access it.
        Creator: Goddard, V
        Catalogue date: 1996-09
        Category: Private papers
        Catalogue number: Documents.5639

        regards MG

  24. When I was a child growing up in Canada, I knew some British immigrants, particularly Mr. and Mrs. W. who were friends of my parents. Mrs. W ran the library where I went as often as I could, so I was on especially friendly terms with her. Somehow, I’d learned that she’d been in London during the Blitz, and being a naive child, I thought it was fascinating to know someone who was actually there. She was very kind, and just said “Well, it wasn’t all that thrilling. If it seemed a bit bad, I just told myself that what I was looking at was the fake blood Mrs. Y used in the first aid classes.” It wasn’t until I was older that I realized just what might have been behind such a calm, even phlegmatic, reply.

  25. Thank you All for sharing your stories! And thank you to “Newspapers” for keeping history alive!

  26. A very moving and detailed description of what it was like to be in the blitz. And this was written by a 14-year-old young lady. Very much like the diary of Anne Frank who was of a similar age. It would be interesting to read the rest of her diary too.

  27. Just uploading a picture to the WMR of the memorial to those killed in the last V2 attack. 134 men, women and children killed at 07:21h 27th March 1945.

    It was not worse, 150 were killed when a V2 hit a Woolworth’s store.

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