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Author Topic: Canterbury Blitz, 1942  (Read 91419 times)

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Offline Leofwine

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Re: Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2010, 18:39:56 »
At the beginning of the tit-for-tat city bombings between Bomber Command and the Luftwaffe Lord Haw Haw warned that if Cologne should ever be bombed, then Canterbury would be the responding target. On Saturday May 30th 1940 Bomber Harris set Cologne as the target of a 1,000 bomber raid. In the early morning of June 1st the retaliation came.

On 30th May more than 1,000 allied aircraft, crewed by about 6,500 young men, dropped 1,455 tons of bombs on Cologne and achieved the most devastating and horrific results. In just 90 minutes Cologne was transformed from a healthy, thriving and beautiful historic city to a pathetic, shattered skeleton. More
than 3,000 buildings were destroyed and almost 10,000 damaged (including the beautiful gothic Cathedral). 480 people were killed and countless others injured and it was estimated that 85% of the city was reduced to rubble.

I suspect that, after Lord Haw Haw's warning, the people of Canterbury were rather nervous when the wireless broadcast the news about the raid. Retaliation was swift and brutal. Around 12.45 on the morning of June 1st 1942 the sirens sounded in Canterbury as the first wave of 16 German bombers dropped parachute flares to illuminate the city for subsequent waves of German bombers. For about an hour a mixture of high explosive and incendiary bombs rained down. One bomber dis a low level attack on the Cathedral and dropped a number of incendiaries on it, but firewatchers were ready and quickly pushed the incendiaries over the roof to burn out on the grass below. Others that had flared up were quelled before any serious damage could be caused. Unfortunately they were unable to save the Victorian Library by the Chapter House. Hastily scrambled RAF nightfighters and anti-aircraft guns could do little to stem the tide of German bombers.

The all clear sounded at 2.10am, the raid had lasted 75 minutes and left the city devastated and ablaze. The smokescreen that hung over the city was so thick that no-one knew whether the Cathedral had survived. It had survived, but not unscathed - a 4-ton bomb, the heaviest ever dropped on Kent, had exploded near the entrance to the Warrior's Chapel and the stained glass windows were blown out. There was other damage too.

More than 200 firemen from all over Kent were called in to tackle the fires and, along with other rescue workers, they worked for 24 hours without a break. They only way to contain some of the fires was by sacrificing some streets as firebreaks (such as Butchery Lane.)  By dawn most of the larger fires were under control or extinguished and members of the Civil Defence, aided by troops, helped dig people out of collapsed buildings.

About 100 high explosive and 6,000 incediary bombs had been dropped affecting around 6 acres of the city. 50 people were killed (including 2 of the fire watchers on duty that night) or died later of their injuries and 400 buildings were destroyed with a further 1,500 damaged, mainly by fire.

A former Mayor of Canterbury, Mrs Catherine Williamson, later wrote about that night:

"By God's mercy the Cathedral stood four-square, though vast craters gaped in its green precincts and the walls and windows bore grievous scars - a desecration as vile as when Becket fell beneath his murderers' swordblades. But the eastern half of the High Street was in a condition only comparable to that of Ypres during the previous war. It presented an almost unbroken vista of desolation and among the buildings battered into shapeless rubble-heaps or irreparably damaged were many hallowed by antiquity.

"Through that first day and the days that followed, Canterbury presented a picture which seemed fantastically unreal to anyone familiar with its normal aspect. Along its streets lay miles and miles of snakelike hosepipe. The gutters were full of sweeping glass and other debris. Over great mountains of wreckage climbed swarms of human figures, dimly to be seen through a curtain of fine dust and ash....Everywhere was the smell of burning."


Some pictures taken from Kent at War by Bob Ogley (I just can't recommend that book highly enough for interesting photos and info):

The smoking ruins of the once elegant Royal Fountain Hotel in St Margaret Street, once used by Queen Victoria on her visits to Canterbury. This whole complex was destroyed. Today it houses the Marlowe Arcade shopping centre.


St Augustine's  Gate, which once gave access to a large monastery, was badly scarred. In front, Lady Wootton's Green received direct hits from four high explosive bombs and a row of cottages to the left of this photograph were totally destroyed. Today, the magnificent St Augustine's Gate has been carefully restored.


Taken from the roof of Marks & Spencer's a few days after the raid, this photograph shows the devastated St. George's Street. Incendiary bombs started fires which destroyed most buildings including St George's Church. The tower survived and can be seen here covered in scaffolding. St George's Street was eventually rebuilt with a collection of typically bland fifties buildings (although those around the tower came later). The clock tower was restored and is one of the great reminders of a night that changed Canterbury forever.


The Duke of Kent visited Canterbury on June 4th, toured the bombed city and chatted with many people including the girls from Marks & Spencer's. Their shop stood out like an island amid the sea of devastation.


There were many heroes in Canterbury during the night of June 1st 1942, and the days that followed. Among them were these 8 ATS girls who took out their staff cars and conveyed casualties to hospital whilst masonry was crashing down around them. They were commended for their bravery.




Larger versions here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22124479@N03/5026023751/in/set-72157624857451095/
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DoverDan

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Re: Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2010, 16:38:25 »
The Dean, the Very Rev. Dr Hewlett Johnson and his Secretary, Mr A. T. D'Eye, examine the wrecked Cathedral Library after a bombing raid on the night of 31st May-1st June 1942.

Direct colour photo by Fox Photos, from 'The Second Great War' volume six 1946

Offline afsrochester

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2010, 19:35:26 »
My friends Mother was stationed in Canterbury with the NFS, around this time. Pumps from all over the county were dispatched to assist.

Offline unfairytale

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2010, 21:45:57 »
Running to a shelter. Canterbury early in the war with the Westgate Towers in the background.


From The National Geographic Magazine vol.LXXXV no.1  Printed January1944
When you've got your back to wall, there's only one thing to do and that's to turn around and fight. (John Major)
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Offline kyn

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2010, 19:25:32 »
 :)

Offline sheppey_bottles

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2010, 14:57:51 »
Here are pictures of two plaques that are on the Church tower which is shown in reply #2. We took pictures of this tower when in canterbury last year. Baedeker was a guide book which was used by the Germans to select targets after the bombing of cologne I believe, as a reprisal..you can find them on Ebay sometimes.




Offline kyn

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2010, 13:51:02 »
Photos

Offline Lyn L

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2010, 17:24:40 »
Looking at the pics again, it seems that it's both  dates given, soldiers in shirt sleeves in some and passersby in overcoats in others , and the sun looks too summery in The Poor Priests ones ?
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Offline peterchall

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2010, 15:31:25 »
The only date mentioned in all these posts is 31st October 1942, but there were two major raids on Canterbury.

The first was in the early morning of 1st June 1942, in what was believed to be a reprisal for the RAF's first 1000 bomber raid, on Cologne. About 50 bombers destroyed a third of the city centre, dropping about 100 HE bombs and 1000 incendiaries. The cathedral was saved by its own ARP Wardens, who tackled incendiary bombs on the roof. The book 'Front Line County' lists the damaged streets and buildings in detail, and states that a four-ton bomb (the heaviest to fall on the country) fell 20 yards from the Warriors' Chapel, blowing out the stained glass windows in the nave. I find this puzzling (a) because no German bomber of the time was capable of carrying such a large bomb & (b) a four-ton bomb only 20 yards away would have done a bit more damage than blow out some windows. 43 people were killed and 81 injured.

There were two smaller raids on the nights of 3rd and 7th June, killing a further 6 people and injuring another 25.

The second big attack was on the afternoon of 31st October 1942, when 30 FW190 fighter-bombers came in at roof top height, machine-gunning the streets, filled with Saturday afternoon shoppers, and each dropping one bomb. The bombs were fitted with delay fuses to allow the attackers to get clear. 33 people were killed and 110 injured, many of them by the machine-gun fire.

Considering the nature of the two attacks, I wonder if the damage in the above pictures was that of the first attack rather than 31st October.
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Offline kyn

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2010, 23:03:42 »
Stour Street

The Poor Priests' Hospital


Offline LenP

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2009, 00:39:08 »
Quote
i'm surprised the Cathedral wasn't badly damaged.

Not for want of trying...

The largest single bomb - a four tonner - dropped on the United Kingdom during the war was aimed at the cathedral but fortunately just missed.

merc

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2009, 12:01:45 »
Canterbury suffered badly in the war...i'm surprised the Cathedral wasn't badly damaged.

Not sure if this has been mentioned before or not:
But apparantly the Crypt of the Cathedral was used as an air-raid shelter for 1000 people,and the floor of the Cathedral was covered with earth to help protect the shelter.

Offline kyn

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2009, 21:59:14 »
Former Star Inn building in St Dunstan's street

Corner of Station Road West and St Dunstan's Street

Motor engineers Barretts Ltd, corner of St Peter's Street and Pound Lane

Union Street

Union Street

Northgate Street, before demolition of the buildings

Northgate Street

Northgate Street again

Offline kyn

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Canterbury Blitz, 1942
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2009, 11:09:00 »
St Georges Street

St Dunstan's Street

 

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