Big bang the­ory

One Bomb – The Hid­den His­to­ries Of The Blitz

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - TV & RADIO -

In Septem­ber 1940, af­ter fail­ing to es­tab­lish air su­pe­ri­or­ity over Bri­tain dur­ing the Bat­tle of Bri­tain, Adolf Hitler and Her­mann Göring adopted a new strat­egy. The Luft­waffe switched to mass at­tacks against in­dus­trial tar­gets, towns and cities, largely con­ducted at night. In part, the hope was to break the morale of the Bri­tish peo­ple by sub­ject­ing civil­ians to re­peated at­tacks. In­stead, the le­gend of the stub­born Blitz spirit was born.

That’s not to un­der­es­ti­mate the scale of the suf­fer­ing. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, close to 100,000 high-ex­plo­sive bombs fell on Bri­tain, while Nazi raids killed at least 40,000 civil­ians dur­ing the eight months of the Blitz.

One way to view these hor­rific sta­tis­tics and to use them to un­der­stand the hu­man cost is to fo­cus not on the big pic­ture, but to take the ef­fects of in­di­vid­ual bombs as a start­ing point. That’s pre­cisely the ap­proach adopted here, in a four-part se­ries made by WDYTYA? pro­duc­ers Wall to Wall in con­junc­tion with the Open Univer­sity.

Trac­ing the ‘ but­ter­fly ef­fect’ of these bombs, each episode looks at the im­me­di­ate ef­fects of an at­tack – what was it like when your street, even your own home, was bombed? – but also the wider ef­fects of this one mo­ment that still play out in to­day’s Bri­tain. The aim is for per­sonal sto­ries to be a start­ing point for na­tional sto­ries about the mul­ti­tude of ways that the Blitz ir­re­vo­ca­bly changed Bri­tain’s ur­ban and so­cial land­scapes.

The se­ries will make ex­ten­sive use of ar­chive ma­te­rial. This ranges from the of­fi­cial, no­tably the metic­u­lous, hand­coloured bomb-dam­age maps that were drawn up in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of at­tacks, to the per­sonal, in­clud­ing let­ters, mem­oirs and fam­ily sto­ries handed down by those who lived on streets where bombs fell. Jonathan Wright

One of the many fam­i­lies who lost a home dur­ing the Blitz

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