I learned about the Baedeker Blitz today. Isn’t that amazing? I didn’t know that Hitler undertook a series of revenge air attacks on English cities in response to the increased effectiveness of the Royal Air Force’s bombing offensive of Germany starting in March 1942.

The name Baedeker Blitz was derived from a comment by a German propagandist, Baron Gustav Braun von Stumm, a spokesman for the German Foreign Office. He is reported to have said on 24 April 1942, “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide”. This was a reference to the popular travel guides of that name.

The description Baedeker Blitz mainly refers to the night air raids on five English cities during April and May 1942. The cities were Exeter, Bath, York, Norwich and Canterbury.

How I came to look up this information was due to a question to my Mother late yesterday. I asked her if Bungay was bombed during the war. She replied that there was no extensive bombing, although she did know of two bombed properties in the town. She went on to remark that Norwich, the closest city to Bungay, was bombed extensively.

This interesting piece of information resulted in four hours of research by me and an additional write up into our WIP, While the Buzz Bombs Fell. Here is the extract:

The memory of this lovely day saw the children through the next terrible week. On Tuesday morning the children woke up to the news that the nearby city of Norwich had been heavily bombed during the night. The city was on fire.

The girls were very subdued over the next week as they sensed the anxiety and shock of the adults.

On Wednesday night the Jerry bomber planes returned, wreaking even more damage on the city. People said the rubble was still smoking when the next attack began. The last bombing raid happened on Friday, 1 May of that week.

When Granny Clarke came to visit Mother during the week, she brought news about the bombing of Norwich from old Molly Brown who lived down the street from her. Molly Brown was a rather eccentric character and always had a little straw hat perched on her head. She wore a long black dress that came down to just above her ankles.

She made a living washing and laying out the dead and, due to her job, she often had a detached look on her face.

Granny Clarke told Mother Molly Brown’s news:

“Norwich has been badly damaged. Lots of houses, public buildings, shops, factories and Churches have been damaged or destroyed. Even the mortuary was bombed.

There is no gas, electricity or running water and the toilets are not working. I heard that the women have been coming out of city at night with their children and whatever they can carry to spend the night in the countryside where it is safer.”  

The news of similar attacks on the English cities of Exeter, Bath, York and Canterbury were also reported during this period of the war that came to be known as the Baedeker Blitz.

The loss of life in the Norwich because of these attacks was high. This was partly due to the concentrated nature of the attacks on bombing residential streets. There had also been a lull in enemy air activity over Norwich in the months leading up to the attack, so people were slow to react to the air raid sirens and some ignored them completely. The bombing of Norwich had a huge impact on the city and the surrounding towns and villages and it took a very long time for life to return to normal.

Robbie