Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Historical Insights The Blitz

St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England, emerged through flames and smoke during fire raids by the Germans. It escaped major bomb damage even though the buildings around it were decimated. Today it remains an inspirational symbol to the people of London. December 29, 1940, London, England. Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Blitz

During World War II the German Air Force dropped bombs day and night on London, England, taking the lives of thousands and forcing its citizens to live underground.

Blitzkrieg, a German word for “lightning war,” was what they called it. At the beginning of World War II, bombs fell on London night after night for eight months, taking the lives of more than 40,000 civilians. In September 1940 alone, the German Air Force dropped 5,300 tons of high explosives on the capital city. Taking refuge in bomb shelters many had built in their backyards or in the subway, Londoners hunkered down for hours, waiting it out. Pauline Edmondson, who was twelve at the time, remembered “bombs whistling down and guns firing almost non-stop” through the night. With determination volunteers put out fires, rescued victims from the debris, and directed relief efforts for the homeless. Shops remained open and children continued to go to school, their gas masks slung over their shoulders in case of attack. Prime Minister Churchill praised his fellow Britons’ determination to carry on, calling it “their finest hour.”