PortCities London

Docklands and the Blitz

The Blitz: Why did it start?
 

20,000 killed

London Blitz from the museum grounds.
View full size imageThe Blitz, as viewed from the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, 15 October 1940. © NMM
During the Second World War more than 20,000 Londoners were killed in the 'Blitz'. The Blitz was the name given to the constant bombing of London between September 1940 and May 1941.

The first German bombs fell on central London on 24 August 1940. This was probably a mistake by German bombers who were aiming for industrial targets around the Thames estuary.

Royal Air Force (RAF) retaliation on Berlin soon followed. The Germans responed to this attack on their capital by bombing industrial targets and civilian centres. This was an attempt to 'soften up' the British population and to destroy its morale before the planned German invasion.

Targeting the docks

German map of Silvertown and docks area.
View full size imageGerman map of the Silvertown and Royal Docks area, February 1941. © NMM
In London, the docks were chosen as the main target. The Luftwaffe, the German airforce, hoped to paralyse the commercial life of the capital by bombing the docks, warehouses, wharves, railway lines, factories and power stations of the East End. This meant that people living in East London were now directly in the firing line.

The port of London was the most heavily bombed civilian target in Britain. During the war over 25,000 bombs fell on Docklands. This photograph was taken from a Luftwaffe bomber over the Silvertown area.