History

The Blitz by the Numbers

Britain sustained 67,200 civilian deaths as a result of military activities during World War Two. That’s 0.22% of the 30,000,000 civilians who were killed in such a fashion during the conflict globally. 43,000 or 63.99% of these civilian deaths took place during the Blitz between 7 September 1940 & 21 May 1941.

The scene after the air raids of 29 December 1940
The scene after the air raids of 29 December 1940.

Based on experience with strategic bombing during World War I the British government estimated after the war that 16 deaths would result for every tonne of bombs dropped. The Luftwaffe dropped 45,000 short tons of bombs during the Blitz meaning that a death toll of 720,000 could have been expected. The actual death toll was thus 94% lower than what the prediction would have indicated.

London Blitz
Map showing where German bombs landed on London during eight months of the Second World War Blitz.

Perhaps the most infamous and certainly the most concentrated bombing of the Blitz came at Coventry in November of 1940. Of the 500 German aircraft dispatched their only 449 reached the city. Figures for the number killed on the night of 14 November vary between 380 and 554 people killed. 4,330 homes were destroyed and three-quarters of the city’s many War related factories were severely damaged. The bombing began at 19:20 and did not cease until the morning. The all-clear was sounded at 06:15. The city’s transportation infrastructure was destroyed. Nearly all gas and water pipes were smashed and people were advised to boil emergency supplies of water. The Luftwaffe dropped 500 tons of high explosive (or just over 1% of all tonnage dropped during the campaign), 30,000 incendiaries and 50 land mines. The smell of the burning city was said to have reached into the cockpits of the German bombers, some 6,000 feet above. Over 43,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the raid. The official death toll from the night stands at 554 or 1.1 per ton dropped (far closer to the pre-war estimated rate of death by tonnage).

Between 20 June 1940, when the first (military target focused) German air operations began over Britain, and 31 March 1941, the Nazis lost 2,265 aircraft over the Britain. 3,363 Luftwaffe airmen died, 2,641 were missing and 2,117 were wounded. A significant number of aircraft were wrecked during landings or downed by bad weather. The Blitz disrupted production, transport, food supplies and shook British morale (temporarily).

City & Number of major air raids

London 71
Liverpool/Merseyside 8
Birmingham 8
Plymouth 8
Bristol 6
Glasgow/Clydeside 5
Southampton 4
Portsmouth 3
Hull 3
Manchester 3
Coventry 2
Belfast 2
Sheffield 1
Newcastle 1
Nottingham 1
Cardiff 1

The Empire did, though, strike back. Berlin alone was subjected to 363 air raids during the Second World War. It was bombed by the RAF Bomber Command between 1940 and 1945, and by the USAAF Eighth Air Force between 1943 and 1945. It was also attacked by aircraft of the Red Air Force toward the end of the War. British bombers alone dropped 45,517 tons of bombs on the city – meaning more bombs were dropped on the capital of Nazi Germany by the British than was dropped on the entire British Isles by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz.

Allied Strategic bombing of Germany during World War II

By RAF estimate of percentage of city destroyed. 

  1. Bochum 83%
  2. Mainz 80%
  3. Hamburg* 75%
  4. Kassel 69%
  5. Hagen 67%
  6. Düsseldorf* 64%
  7. Mannheim 64%
  8. Cologne* 61%
  9. Dessau 61%
  10. Bremen 60%
  11. Hanover 60%
  12. Dresden* 59%
  13. Dortmund* 54%
  14. Stettin 53%
  15. Frankfurt* 52%
  16. Nuremberg 51%
  17. Essen* 50%
  18. Kiel 50%
  19. Duisburg 48%
  20. Stuttgart 46%
  21. Munich* 42%
  22. Chemnitz 41%
  23. Magdeburg 41%
  24. Berlin* 33%
  25. Leipzig* 20%

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