World War ll

World War ll

During World War II, the German Air Force conducted a series of strategic bombing raids across Britain. From September 1940 to May 1941, industrial and military centres were targeted by the Luftwaffe. The Blitz was intended to demoralise the country into surrender, which did not happen. A second raid, known as the Baedeker Blitz, was carried out in April and June 1942. The targets were strategically unimportant, but were picturesque cities in England. These sites were chosen in retaliation for the bombing of the Hanseatic League city of Lübeck.

National Picture Theatre, Hull

Air raids on Hull began on 19 June 1940 and continued until 1945. Overall, the city spent more than 1,000 hours on alert. After London, Hull was the most severely bombed British city, with over 80,000 buildings damaged. The city was a target for the Luftwaffe because of its importance as a shipping port and an industrial centre. It also received bombardment meant for more inland cities or from retreating German aircraft dumping bombs before reaching the open sea. Over 1,200 were killed and 3,000 injured during the raids in Hull.

The National Picture Theatre is the last standing blitzed civilian building. On the night of 17 March 1941, an audience of 150 were viewing Charlie Chaplin's ‘The Great Dictator' when the air-raid siren sounded; the audience took refuge in the cinema foyer. The cinema suffered a direct hit and the bomb exploded near the screen, destroying the auditorium.

St. Margaret's Church, Hilston

The original St. Margaret's Church at Hilston has been rebuilt twice. The 12th century church consisted of a chancel and a nave with a wooden bell turret. Through the centuries the church was allowed to decay and in the 1830s, the church was demolished. It was rebuilt in 1861-2 to designs by J. L. Pearson.

During the Hull Blitz of 1941, the church was very badly damaged. The new church built in 1956-7 was designed by Francis Johnson of Bridlington. A Norman doorway was re-used for the entrance in the 19th- and 10th-century rebuilding of the church. The current church also incorporates some of the 19th-century stained glass.

Further along Tower Road is Admiral Storr's Tower. Built in 1750, this octagonal building may have been used as a watch tower and was used as a hospital for troops in the 1790s.


During Operation Crucible, Sheffield was the site of German Luftwaffe bombing during the nights of 12 and 15 December 1940. The target of the raids was the multiple steel and iron works, collieries, and coke ovens along the Don Valley.

On 12 December, the first wave of bombers encountered low cloud above the target, and it is thought a navigator mistook the Moor for Attercliffe Road. By the time the next wave of planes came, the fires which marked their targets were centred on the city. About 9.30pm, a series of bombs fell in Campo Lane and Vicar Lane. At 10.50pm, a bomb demolished the C&A department store which stood on Fitzalan Square. People in the street and surrounding buildings took refuge in the cellars of the old Marples Hotel. The building took a direct hit at 11.44pm, smashing through the building and detonating on the floor above the cellars.

Once the all-clear had sounded, the authorities realised that the chance of survivors was minimal, so rescue efforts were concentrated elsewhere. On 13 December, seven survivors were recovered from the cellars of the Marples, but 70 people died instantly, crushed under the building. On 15 December, the Luftwaffe returned to bomb the intended targets, hitting the steelworks. The damage was not serious enough to affect production.

Guildhall and St. Martin's, York

During World War II, there were ten minor air raids on York and a major one in April 1942, known as the ‘York Blitz' or the ‘Baedeker Raid'. York was raided in a series of retaliatory bombings, which targeted strategically unimportant but picturesque cities in England. The sites were supposedly chosen from the German Baedeker Guide to Britain.

About 2.30am on 29 April 1942, more than 70 German plans began bombing York. The Luftwaffe bombarded strategic targets on the raid, including the railway line, the station, the carriage works and the airfield. The attack finished about 4am, but the all clear was not sounded until 4.45am. The raid left 92 people dead and hundreds injured.

Among the devastated buildings were the York Guildhall and St. Martin-le-Grand Church. St. Martin-le-Grand was burnt out, except for the south aisle and the tower. In the 1960s, the church was partially rebuilt by George G Pace. York's Guildhall was rebuilt to look like the original 15th-century construction; the stone walls escaped destruction. Parts of the Guildhall remained intact, including the Inner Room, which contains wood panelling, and secret stairways.