Baedeker Blitz

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Baedeker Blitz

The Baedeker Blitz or Baedeker raids were a series of Vergeltungsangriffe ("retaliatory attacks") by the German air force on English cities in response to the bombing of the city of Lübeck during the night from 28 to 29 March 1942 during World War II.

Background[edit]

Lübeck was bombed on the night of 28/29 March 1942. The Lübeck raid along with the raid on Rostock caused "outrage in the German leadership… and inspired the retaliatory 'Baedeker' raids".[1] In retaliation for the Lübeck raid the Germans bombed Exeter on 23 April 1942, the first of the 'Baedeker' raids.

The raids[edit]

Baedeker's Great Britain guide for 1937

The Baedeker raids were conducted by the German Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 3 in two periods between April and June 1942. They targeted militarily unimportant but picturesque cities in England. The cities were reputedly selected from the German Baedeker Tourist Guide to Britain, meeting the criterion of having been awarded three stars (for their historical significance), hence the English name for the raids. Baron Gustav Braun von Stumm, a German propagandist is reported to have said on 24 April 1942 following the first attack, "We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide."[2]

The cities attacked were:[2]

938 civilians were killed in these raids.[5]

Across all the raids on these five cities a total of 1,637 civilians were killed and 1,760 injured, and over 50,000 houses were destroyed.[6] Some noted buildings were destroyed or damaged, including York's Guildhall and the Bath Assembly Rooms, but on the whole most escaped — the cathedrals of Norwich, Exeter and Canterbury and the minster at York included. The German bombers suffered heavy losses for minimal damage inflicted, and the Axis' need for reinforcements in North Africa and Russian Front meant further operations were restricted to hit-and-run raids on coastal towns by a few Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter-bombers. Deal, Kent was one of these towns and was hit hard, with over 30 civilian dead most of whom are buried in the Hamilton Road Cemetery, Deal, Kent.

On 27 April Winston Churchill told the War Cabinet that the government should do all it could to "ensure that disproportionate publicity was not given to these raids" and "avoid giving the impression that the Germans were making full reprisal" for British raids.[5]

Several other raids are sometimes included under the Baedeker title, although only a few aircraft were involved in each, and damage was not extensive.[7] These raids were all on East Anglian locations. Among the firefighters assigned to the scene in Bath was Harry Patch, who in the 2000s became the last surviving British veteran from the First World War.

Postscript[edit]

Willi Schludecker at the 25 April 2008 memorial service in Bath with his remembrance wreath

Willi Schludecker, 87, who flew more than 120 sorties for the Luftwaffe, including the Bath raids, travelled to Bath as part of the city's annual remembrance service on Friday 25 April 2008.[8]

On 17 June 2010, at the age of 90, Schludecker died in a hospital in Cologne.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Grayling, AC (2006), Among the dead cities, Bloomsbury, pp. 50–2, ISBN 0-7475-7671-8 .
  2. ^ a b c Grayling p. 51
  3. ^ Taylor, Kessler, Eric, Leo (1986). The York blitz, 1942: the Baedeker raid on York, April 29th, 1942. William Sessions. 
  4. ^ "York Air Raids". Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Gilbert, M (1989) Second World War, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, P319
  6. ^ Grayling p.52
  7. ^ Grayling Among the dead cities, See References, Page 52, footnote 43 (pages 331, 332)
  8. ^ "Luftwaffe pilot sorry for bombing". BBC News. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2010