Hull Blitz

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Troops of 9th Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment, helping to clear bomb damage in Hull.

The Hull Blitz was the Nazi German bombing campaign targeting on the English port city of Kingston upon Hull, during the Second World War.

Large scale attacks took place on the several nights of March 1941 resulting in around 200 deaths; the most concentrated attacks were between the 3 and 9 May 1941 resulting in 400 deaths; another large scale attack took place in July 1941 with around 140 fatalities.

The city spent more than 1,000 hours under alert during raids from 19 June 1940 to 1945; with a total of over 1,200 people in the city were killed as a result of the bombing.


Hull was the most severely damaged British city or town apart from London during the Second World War, with 95 percent of houses damaged.[1] Hull had more than 1,000 hours spent under air raid alerts.[2] Hull was the target of the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid on Britain.[1]

Of a population of approximately 320,000 at the beginning of the war, approximately 152,000 were made homeless as a result of bomb destruction or damage.[3] Overall almost 1,200 people were killed and 3,000 injured by the air raids.[4]

Over 5,000 houses were destroyed, and half of the city centre destroyed. Bomb damage cost was estimated at £20 million (1952, £502,109,515 as a consumer price equivalent), with 3,000,000 square feet (280,000 m2) of factory space, several oil and flour mills, the Riverside Quay, and 27 churches, 14 schools or hospitals, 42 pubs, and 8 cinemas were ruined; only 6,000 out of the 91,000 houses were undamaged at the end of the war.[5][6] The extent of the damage was similar to that of the Plymouth Blitz.[5]

Despite the damage the port continued to function throughout the war.[7]

We lived in the middle of an industrial area which was a regular target for German bombers .. One night as we were all filing into the air raid shelter, Mam dashed back into the house. "Where are you going, Mary" said Dad. "Back for my false teeth" she replied. "Come back here, the Germans are dropping bombs not meat pies" shouted Dad.

—Barbara Belcher, Hull, [8]



During the First World War Hull was bombed several times by Zeppelin airships. An intended raid on London by Zeppelin L9 was diverted to Hull due to bad weather and on 16 June 1915 dropped 13 explosive 50 incendiary bombs, destroying 40 houses and killing 24, and led to mobs attacking shops of people believed to be of German origin. An attempted raid on Hull on 9 August 1915 bombed Goole by mistake due to a navigation error. On 5 March 1916 two Zeppelins L11 and L14 were diverted to Hull from an attack on the fleet at Rosyth. Bombs were dropped on Earles shipyard (Docks) and on Paragon station (city centre) resulting in deaths. The raids showed that Hull was completely unprotected from aerial attack, and public anger led to service personnel being mobbed. Further attacks came on 25 September 1917 and on 10 March 1918.[9]

An air raid shelter building programme was instigated in 1938, over £1.5 million was spent building 40,000 shelters.[10][11]

At the beginning of the Second World War, in 1939, ten primary targets had been identified in Hull: three near Stoneferry, the water works, gas works, and Sculcoates power station; the oil refinery (Saltend); and the six docks.[3][12] Additional targets included large grain mills on the river Hull.[12]



Hull's first air-raid warning was at 02:45 on Monday 4 September 1939, as an 'air-raid yellow' all operational crews were called to their posts. The public siren sounded at 03:20 and the all-clear sounded at 04:08. No raid occurred.[citation needed]

The attacks on Hull during 1940 were at a relatively low level and scale, carried out by single or small numbers of planes.[13] The first recorded bombing raid on Hull was during the night of 19/20 June 1940, with minor damage done to Chamberlain street.[14] By the end of the year around 20 raids had taken place, and 12 people had been killed by the bombing.[13]

An air raid on the oil depot east of Hull Saltend, East Riding of Yorkshire caused serious fire due to ruptured fuel storage tanks – five men were honoured with the George Medal for their bravery in containing the fire: two firemen, Jack Owen and Clifford Turner, and three Salt End workers, George Archibald Howe, George Samuel Sewell and William Sigsworth.[15]


Bombing intensity increased in the early part of 1941. In February several attacks resulted in multiple casualties, with around 20 people killed.[16][17] In March major raids took place on the nights of the 13/14th, 14/15, and 18/19th. The first large attack targeted the river Hull corridor with damage to paint businesses in Stoneferry; the second on St. Andrew's Dock, a public shelter in Bean Street nearby was hit by a parachute mine (also known as "land mines") causing multiple deaths; the third major raid lasted six hours, and resulted in nearly 100 deaths, bombs dropped over a wide area of Hull, concentrated on the river Hull corridor, with many bombs also causing damage west of the river.[17][16] On 31 March/1 April the city centre was targeted, with predominant use of land mines.[18] From the beginning of March to April 200 people the bombing resulted in 200 deaths.[17]

Attacks continued in April, with a major attack taking place on the 15/16th focused on Alexandra dock, additionally land mine hit a public shelter resulting in over 4 deaths, further land mine attacks took place on the two nights between 25 and 27 April – six people were killed by a land mine hitting the Gipsyville estate.[19]

Remains of the burnt out Riverside Quay (2011)

From 3 to 9 May the docks and city centre became the target- these attacks came in the context of Luftwaffe attack on other ports and shipping centres including Merseyside, Belfast, Clydeside and on London before the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June. (see Operation Barbarossa.) Two major attacks took place on the nights between 7 and 9 May, each lasting around 5–6 hours, the bombing included high explosives, parachute mines, and extensive use of incendiary bombs.[20] During the attacks many well known buildings were damaged or destroyed including the department stores of Hammonds, Edwin Davis, and Thorton-Varley and other buildings in the commercial centre. On the docks the Riverside Quay was destroyed by fire, and major fires created at timber storage around the Hedon road area. The Rank Flour Mill was directly damaged, as was the Corporation bus depot, and the buildings of the Hull Corporation telephone system. In addition to the areas of concentration bombs fell on area across the whole town. Over 400 people were killed during the attack, with many casualties due to bombs hitting communal bomb shelters.[21][22][23][22]

After the start of the German campaign in Russia attacks on England diminished as much of the Luftwaffe moved east.[24] Attacks continued through sporadically through late May, June and July, with a major attack on east Hull and the Victoria dock on the night of 18/19 July. Reckitt's (Dansom Lane) and the East Hull gas works were also badly damaged. Around 140 people were killed by the bombing, many from the areas around the works.[25][22]

The practice of travelling to the countryside to sleep in the fields when bombing was expected had begun in the first war, and by 1941 an estimated third of the population were leaving the city at night.[26] In August 1941 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Hull to see the damage.[27]

Minor attacks continued on an approximately monthly frequency to the end of the year, with serious bombing in early morning 18 August and the night of 31 August/1 September.[28][22]


Attacks were reduced in 1942 compared to 1941, [17][29] a major bombing raid on 19/20 May targeted Alexandra and Victoria docks and the surrounding area. It is thought the attacks on the docks served the objective of diminishing supplies shipped to Russia.[30] By this stage bomb weight had increased, with 500kg bombs in common use – on 1 August another raid centred on the eastern docks killed 24 people at Grindell street when a 1800kg bomb was dropped on it. There were attacks in October and December, with comparatively limited damage, each killed two people.[31]

Minor attacks took place on 3 and 15 January 1943, with phosphorus bombs being identified as being used as incendiaries in the second attack.[32]

On 24 June a larger scale attack took place, with the city centre targeted again, during this attack the well known Hull Municipal Museum was destroyed by fire. The government allowed Hull to be named specifically as the target of the attack and the Hull Daily Mail ran a front page headline the next day.[32][33] Another attack took place on 13/14 July, which appears have been intended to damage the railway system, and caused over 20 deaths. Two further attacks later in the year failed to penetrate the cities defences.[34][35]

No bomb fell within the city during 1944.[36]

In March 1945 the town came under ground attack with cannon shells being fired. An attack was on 17/18 March with fragmentation grenades dropped.[36][37]

East Yorkshire[edit]

The bombing campaign in Britain resulted in 121 people in the East Riding of Yorkshire being killed – 82 civilians and 39 military deaths. The Luftwaffe targeted coastal towns such as Bridlington, Hornsea and Withernsea killing a total of 44 people, as well as RAF airfields such as RAF Driffield, RAF Catfoss and RAF Leconfield ; an attack on RAF Driffield on 15 August 1940 killed 15 people.[38]

Other attacks on East Yorkshire were on the outskirts of Hull and included the fist daylight raid on British soil at the Saltend oil terminal and the attack on the Blackburn Aircraft factory at Brough. Bombs were also dropped in error due to bad navigation, or due to the Hull Docks decoy. These attacks killed 22 people in Hedon, Bilton and Preston. Other bombing activity was caused by the Luftwaffe dumping bombs after abandoning raids not just on Hull but also on Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and other Northern targets. Death and destruction inflicted by the enemy also included enemy sea mines exploding as they hit the coast, and enemy aircraft shooting down allied aircraft over East Yorkshire.[38]

On 24 December 1944 a massed aerial V-1 flying bomb attack was launched on Manchester, one of the bombs impacted prematurely at Willerby, outside Hull, damaging housing and the Springhead Pumping Station.[39][40]


Around 38,000 children were evacuated from Hull. In addition to rural East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire children were evacuated to Lancashire, Norfolk, Northumberland, and Leicester, and elsewhere. Entire secondary schools were relocated: for example Hymers College had pupils in Pocklington and Market Weighton, whilst Newland High School moved to Bridlington and later Malton; many students remained in the city; most returned from the end of 1942 onwards.[41]


Contemporary radio and newspaper reports did not usually identify Hull by name, but referred to it as a "north-east town" to avoid giving tactical information of damage to the enemy.[4][42]

After the major raids of 18/19 March 1941, 18 July 1941, 18 August 1941 and 24 June 1943 the city was named, but in the reporting of the attacks of 7–9 May 1941 the target was referred to as being in the Humber area by the Air Ministry.[43]

The Hull Daily Mail referred to victims by name; but locations and industrial damage were not; references to damage to schools and churches was freely reported. German press releases were quoted verbatim in the British press including the name of the town.[43]


The British Port of Hull, with its multi-purpose dockyards, its wharves and its strategically important industrial sites – this was our target yet again today. Along with the other aircrews of our unit, we took off last night, having taken aboard the bomb-load which we intended to deposit to good effect in the middle of the great dockyards .. [..]

— _, Luftwaffe report (19 June 1941)(translation)[44], German Federal Archives


Burnt out National Picture Theatre (right) (2006)

The city was rebuilt in the post war period,[45][6] A grand scheme the "Abercrombie Plan" was commissioned from Edward Lutyens and Patrick Abercrombie but not carried out.[46][45] Several sites remained un-redevloped into the 1980s.[45]

At the site of the Hull Municipal Museum, destroyed by fire during the Blitz, many items of the collection were rediscovered during redevelopment during the 1990s, and recovered as part of an archaeological excavation.[33]

The former 'National Picture Theatre' was hit by an incendiary in 1941; the shell of the building remained un-redeveloped and un-demolished for sixty years, becoming one of the last visible bomb sites in Britain; as a consequence the building was listed in 2007.[1][47]

One oddity of the bombing campaign was the Hull works of the National Radiator Company Ltd.; not a single German bomb fell on the works throughout the entire war – despite occupying a 55 acres (22 ha) site, and having been used for munition production during the First World War, and having been identified as a Gewehr- und Kleinmunitionsfabrik ("rifle and small munitions factory") on German bombing maps.[48] Captured documents later showed it was the intended target of a raid in April 1941.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Listed status for bombed cinema". BBC News Online. 2 February 2007. 
  2. ^ "Memorial for WWII Blitz victims". BBC News. 7 May 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Alan Burn (1999). The Fighting Commodores: The Convoy Commanders in the Second World War. Redwood Books (UK) / Naval Institute Press (USA/Canada). pp. 71–74. ISBN 1-55750-283-8. 
  4. ^ a b Geraghty.
  5. ^ a b Gillett & MacMahon 1980, pp. 400–1.
  6. ^ a b "Reconstruction at Hull", The Times (52437), 8 October 1952: 3 
  7. ^ "There is a war on .." (, p.6
  8. ^ "There is a war on .." (, pp.9–10
  9. ^ Gillett & MacMahon 1980, pp. 375–8.
  10. ^ "Remembered at last: our city's darkest hours",, 6 May 2011 
  11. ^ "There is a war on .." (, pp.5–6
  12. ^ a b Graystone 1991, p. 7.
  13. ^ a b Graystone 1991, p. 11.
  14. ^ Heroes of Hull , 1940 Raids
  15. ^ "CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD. (St. James's Palace, S.W.I, 30th September, 1940)", The London Gazette (34956), 27 September 1940: 5768 
  16. ^ a b Graystone 1991, p. 13.
  17. ^ a b c d Heroes of Hull , 1941 Raids
  18. ^ Graystone 1991, p. 15.
  19. ^ Graystone 1991, pp. 15–7.
  20. ^ Graystone 1991, p. 6.
  21. ^ Graystone 1991, pp. 18–22.
  22. ^ a b c d Heroes of Hull , 1941 Raids
  23. ^ Heroes of Hull, Hull's Worst Nights
  24. ^ Graystone 1991, p. 23.
  25. ^ Graystone 1991, pp. 23–26.
  26. ^ Gillett & MacMahon 1980, p. 403.
  27. ^ Simmons 1941.
  28. ^ Graystone 1991, p. 26.
  29. ^ Heroes of Hull , 1942 Raids
  30. ^ Graystone 1991, p. 27.
  31. ^ Graystone 1991, pp. 26–29.
  32. ^ a b Graystone 1991, p. 30.
  33. ^ a b "The Phoenix Project", Hull Museums Collections (, 2008 
  34. ^ Graystone 1991, pp. 30–31.
  35. ^ Heroes of Hull , 1943 Raids
  36. ^ a b Graystone 1991, pp. 33.
  37. ^ Heroes of Hull, 1945 Raids
  38. ^ a b Bright 2005.
  39. ^ Collier, Ron; Wilkinson, Roni (1992), Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks 2, pp. 145–151 
  40. ^ Bright, Paul (2005), Air War Over East Yorkshire in World War II, p. 146 
  41. ^ Graystone 1991, p. 44.
  42. ^ Graystone 1991, pp. 11–12, 30, 45.
  43. ^ a b Graystone 1991, pp. 45.
  44. ^ Graystone 1991, p. 14.
  45. ^ a b c Gillett & MacMahon 1980, p. 405.
  46. ^ Lutyens, Edwin Landseer; Abercrombie, Patrick (1946), A Plan for the City & County of Kingston Upon Hull 
  47. ^ English Heritage. "Former National Picture Theatre (1391850)". National Heritage List for England. 
  48. ^ Evemy, Michael (1996), Ideal Standard – the first 100 years, pp. 24–5, ISBN 0952978806 
  49. ^ Ideal Boilers & Radiators Ltd., Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (Heritage website of) 


External links[edit]