The Blitz† -† Did it really start by accident ?
Churchill knew of Hitler's instruction, '......that London was not to be bombed...unless on my sole instruction'. The attack on the August 24th 1940, was this another blunder by the Luftwaffe bombers? Most reports state that the bombing of London was an accident, and that it was not a planned raid. The explanation was that the Luftwaffe bomber crews that were involved, were to bomb the storage oil tanks at both Rochester and at Thameshaven, but they had overshot the target area and continued on towards the City of London. While most of the bombs landed in the dockland area of East and West Ham and others fell in Edmonton North London and as far west as Esher and Staines, one of the Heinkels left his release of bombs far too late , and it was these that landed in Central London hitting St Giles Church in Cripplegate that was to have immediate consequences in the days following.
But can we really accept the fact that it really was an accident? Let us look at some of the facts that have risen from the night of August 24th-25th 1940.
1. The Luftwaffe always kept detailed accounts and maps showing the units involved in operations, times, and flight paths. Unfortunately many of these have gone missing over the years, and included in these maps would have been one of the bombing raids over south-east England on August 24th-25th 1940. If this was available the truth of what happened that night would possibly be regarded as fact and not the controversial mystery that it is.
2. It has always been claimed that one, or two He111 bombers had intended to bomb targets at Rochester and Thameshaven. Both on opposite sides of the Thames some fifty miles to the east of London. Unable to find their target they dropped their bombload before making the turn to return to base. This then would indicate that the destruction caused by these bombs would be in an almost straight line from a point 'A' to a point 'B'. If we look at the map above, we shall see that all areas marked with a solid circle indicate where the bombs fell on that night. Hardly possible for even two aircraft flying together to scatter their bombloads that far wide.
3. Now, if we look at council records, wardens reports to find out damage done or casualties sustained, we also find another interesting aspect. Those circles in blue, show where bombs landed on East Ham, West Ham, Stepney, Bethnal Green, Hackney, Leyton, Walthamstow, Edmonton, Islington and Bloomsbury. All these areas received bomb damage between 2300hrs on August 24th 1940 and 0130hrs on August 25th 1940. Now if we look at the half red circles at a flight path flying over Stepney, Bethnal Green, Hackney and Finsbury. These areas recorded bomb damage between 0300hrs and 0340hrs on August 25th 1940. Clearly this was a separate raid. Then if we look at the green circles at Esher, Kingston, Twickenham, Feltham and Staines, areas that recorded bomb damage between 2350hrs on August 24th and 0030hrs on August 25th 1940. Hardly the same raid as the initial one on London's East End as this would indicate the German aircraft approaching from the west, nowhere near the proposed targets of Rochester and Thameshaven.
It is pleasing to note that Winston S.Ramsey of After the Battle series has picked this up and published his findings in "The Blitz - Then and Now Volume 1"
Within twenty four hours of the air raid on 24th August 1940 Bomber Command was to launch its first attack on the city of Berlin.†
This was a reprisal raid for the sudden attack on London. We wonder now as to whether this was a good move or not, for the bombing of Berlin only provoked the Luftwaffe into a series of regular night raids on the British capital.† However the start of the Blitz on London was a reprieve for fighter command and itís airfields in the southeast, which were almost at the point of being bombed to destruction.
Had the Luftwaffe continued to concentrate their attack on the fighter airfields first before starting the Blitz on London, then Fighter command may well have ceased to exist as a viable force to help to repel the German bombers.†
The Blitz lasted from September 7th 1940 to 11th May 1941.† However the terrible initial onslaught of 57 consecutive nights of Air Raids on London lasting through till November could not be maintained by the Luftwaffe as Fighter command were able to inflict enough losses on the German bombers to stop that initial onslaught in November 1940.† This then gave Londoners short periods where they could recover sufficiently to clear up the damage and try and repair the infrastructure of London as best they could.