The cruel cost of the Blitz

The German bombing of Britain from 1940–45 exacted a terrible price, in lives lost, infrastructure wrecked and nerves shattered. Daniel Todman reveals how Britons rebuilt their lives, and their cities, in the aftermath of the raids


“Each one of us,” declared a newsreel commentator on 12 September 1940, over footage of crowds cheering King George VI as he visited their wrecked houses, “has now either endured bombardment or has close friends and relatives who have. So we know that we can stand up to havoc as well as Abyssinians and Chinese and Spaniards. In fact, we can do it better. These days are vital to the cause in which we fight; the hope of victory depends now immediately on us… in this time of tragedy, these people are still the same – ready to wave and laugh and cheer. Oh yes – this is the spirit that wins a war.”

Five days on from the Luftwaffe’s greatest daylight raid on London, all the components of the ‘Blitz Spirit’ were already there: patriotic pride, mass endurance and irrepressible good humour, unity across the social divide. But for most of those caught up in the explosive maelstrom of the German air attack on the UK during the Second World War, the struggle was only just beginning. How would they pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the bombing raids?

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