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Docklands and the Blitz

The Blitz: Why did it start?
The first night: Black Saturday
The bombing escalates
Hitler's final push: The 'Little Blitz'
Aftermath of destruction
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Hitler's final push: The 'Little Blitz'

The 'Little Blitz' begins

Bombed out houses in Elsenham Road
View full size imageBombed out houses on Elsenham Road in June 1944. © NMM
Although the Blitz was over, occasional raids using increasingly larger bombs continued throughout 1941 and through to 1944.

In June of that year what became known as the 'Little Blitz' began. During the last year of the war Hitler's V1 and V2 rockets presented a new threat to Londoners.

During the 'Little Blitz' 9238 people were killed by rockets and flying bombs. That was almost half the number killed in the 'Great Blitz' of 1940-41.

The Flying Bomb

Bomb damage caused by a V1 strike on Marlow Road
View full size imageThe aftermath of a V1 strike on Marlow Road in East Ham in November 1944. © NMM
The Vergeltungswaffe 1 FZG-76 (V1), known as the Flying Bomb or Doodlebug, was the first modern unguided missile used in wartime.

Vergeltungswaffe means 'reprisal weapon'. The V1 was the German response to the British and American air assaults on their cities.

Over 9000 were fired at England. The eastern and southeastern boroughs of London suffered the most with ten hits per square mile, three times the average for Greater London.

Rocket raids

Damage to Batavia Street after V2 strike in 1944.
View full size image Damage to Batavia Street, Deptford, after a V2 strike in 1944. © NMM

The Vergeltungswaffe 2 (reprisal weapon 2) was an even more sophisticated rocket and was the world's first ballistic missile. Over 1300 V2s were launched on London, killing more than 2500 people and seriously injuring almost 6000.

This picture shows people collecting their belongings after a V2 strike on Batavia Street in Deptford in 1944.

Although most London boroughs were hit by V2s, they killed more people in Deptford than anywhere else. The borough suffered nine V2 strikes, which killed nearly 300 people and injured even more. The rockets also destroyed hundreds of houses in the borough.

V2 Bomb damage on Woolworths
View full size imageThe remains of the Woolworths store on New Cross Road, Deptford. © NMM

V2 horror

One of the worst V2 incidents took place on 25 November 1944 on New Cross Road in Deptford.

That day over 160 people were killed when a V2 destroyed the Woolworth's store.


An eye-witness account 

Thirteen years old June Gaida recalled:

Quotation marks left

I was going shopping that morning for my mother and suddenly there was a blinding flash and a roaring, rushing sound.

Audio File One of the worst V2 incidents.
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I was thrown into the air. There was noise all around me, a deafening terrible noise that beat against my eardrums and, when I fell too the ground, I curled myself up into a ball to protect myself…

When the noise had faded I picked myself up and I was coated with brick dust, with slivers of glass in my hair. Then I walked towards Woolworth's. Things were still falling out of the sky, there were bricks, masonry, and bits of people…

Outside the pub there was a bus and it had been concertinaed, with rows of people sitting inside, all covered in dust and dead.

I looked towards where Woolworth's had been and there was nothing. There was just an

Quotation marks right
enormous gap covered by a cloud of dust… No building, just piles of rubble and bricks, and from underneath it all I could hear people screaming.


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Find out more
StoriesDefending the East End
Dealing with the Blitz
StoriesThe 20th-century port
The changing fortunes of Docklands and the port
GalleriesGrowing up in the Blitz
Children in London during the second world war.
Fact fileWinston Churchill
Wartime Prime Minister
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Related Sound 5 Sound
Related Fact file 3 Fact file
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