The Hull Blitz was the Nazi German strategic bombing campaign targeted on the Northern English port city of Kingston upon Hull, during the Second World War. Air raids began in Hull on 19 June 1940 and continued until 1945; the city spent more than 1,000 hours under alert.
During the First World War Hull was bombed several times by Zeppelin airships, on one occasion being bombed as a result of being mistaken for Goole. 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.
Hull was the most severely damaged British city or town apart from London during the Second World War, with 86,715 buildings damaged and 95 percent of houses damaged or destroyed. 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. Much of the city centre was completely destroyed and heavy damage was inflicted on residential areas, industry, the railways and the docks. Despite the damage and heavy casualties, the port continued to function throughout the war.
The city was an obvious target for Luftwaffe bombing because of its importance as a port and industrial centre. Being on the east coast, at the confluence of two rivers and with readily identifiable docks in the city centre, it was also a relatively easy target. As a result it suffered heavy bombing from May 1941 to July 1943, and sporadic attacks thereafter until the end of the war. It endured the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid. Almost 1,200 people were killed and 3,000 injured in air raids.
Contemporary radio and newspaper reports did not identify Hull by name, but referred to it as a "North-East" town or "northern coastal town" to avoid giving tactical information of damage to the enemy. Consequently, it is only in more recent years that Hull has been recognised as one of the most severely bombed places in Britain. Hull often took bombing meant for more inland places, or from German aircraft fleeing down the Humber to the open sea after failing to find Sheffield, Leeds or other northern towns, the victims of pilots who needed to dump their bombs. The difference between Royal Air Force crews returning from bombing raids over Germany, and German crews returning to their bases, is that pilots of the RAF had strictly observed dump zones in the North Sea and English Channel, where pilots could unload unused bombs with minimum risk.
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. Hull had a total of 815 air raid warning alerts with more than 1,000 hours under alerts.
The first bomb to drop on Hull was at 23:13 on 19 June 1940. Hull had a total of 72 air raids, 35 of which had fatalities, with a total of 1,185 people killed, despite the evacuation about a fifth were children.
Saltend, East Riding of Yorkshire (just outside of the Hull city boundary) suffered the very first daylight raid on mainland Britain. It happened between 16:40 and 17:00 on 1 July 1940 when a German aircraft dropped its bombs on the oil terminal at Salt End during a 'nuisance raid' in which the aircraft unsuccessfully attacked several barrage balloons. Shrapnel from the bomb punctured a 2,500 tons holding tank and the leaking petrol caught fire and threatened to cause adjacent tanks to explode. The courageous effort of depot staff and fire brigades prevented a major disaster. Two firemen, Jack Owen and Clifford Turner, and three Salt End workers, George Archibald Howe, George Samuel Sewell and William Sigsworth, were awarded the George Medal for their bravery.
There were four very heavy raids that killed between 97 and 217 people each. The first of these was the 378 bomber raid of 18 March 1941, an aerial bombardment lasting from 21:15 to 04:00 the following morning which killed 97 people. The double raid from 00:35 to 02:41 on 8 May 1941 and from 00:10 to 03:40 on 9 May 1941 shook the populace once again with the two heaviest air-raids of the Hull Blitz. 358 high explosive bombs and 29,115 incendiary bombs killed 420 people. A power station and 80 percent of the telephone system was destroyed. Hull was without gas until six weeks after the raid. The last of these heavy raids was from 01:20 to 03:31 on 18 July 1941 when 146 people were killed, and raids continued to the end of August 1941, during which the rest of the country was practically at peace again. An observer in autumn of 1941 mentioned Hull as 'the only town to have been heavily raided since the German attack on Russia', this was because the Germans saw Hull as a supply port for Russia.
The final German air-raid of the Second World War also fell on Hull. It occurred on Saturday 17 March 1945 and resulted in the death of 13 people while 22 others were seriously injured. The last V2 rocket fell on Kent on Tuesday 27 March with the final V1 flying bomb falling on Datchworth, in Hertfordshire, on 29 March.
By the end of hostilities, only 5,945 of the 92,660 homes in Hull had escaped bomb damage. 1,472 were totally destroyed, 2,882 were so badly damaged that demolition was necessary, 3,789 needed repairs beyond the scope of first aid, 11,589 were seriously damaged but patched up and 66,983 were slightly damaged. Some of the 86,715 were struck more than once, in some instances twice and thrice, so that altogether 146,915 individual damages were sustained with 152,000 people rendered temporarily homeless. There were 4,910 fires in the Hull Blitz with 27 churches and 14 schools destroyed. Of the 41,376 air raid shelters in Hull, 250 domestic shelters and 120 communal shelters were destroyed, from which more than 800 people were rescued alive.
Most of the city centre was rebuilt in the years following the war, but it is only recently that nearly the last of the "temporary" car parks that occupied the spaces of destroyed buildings have been redeveloped. One such car park remains on Albion Street/Bond Street close to the old, now derelict, Edwin Davis store, damaged in an air raid of 1941. This car park and surrounding area is now earmarked for redevelopment as Albion Square. The initial phase of this is the construction of the Wilberforce Health Centre where work started in January 2010.
The only V1 bomb to hit Hull was at 05.45 on Sunday, 24 December 1944. A special unit of Heinkel He 111 H-22 was assembled in June 1944 at an airfield in Northern Germany. It was formed to carry V1s or Buzz Bombs as they were called, thus adding 400 miles to their 150-mile range, then being able to bomb northern industrial targets without having to risk precious manned aircraft over land. The unit was operational from July 1944 to January 1945 & launched 1,176 V1s during this period with a failure rate of 40 percent. On this Christmas Eve, between 05:00 and 06:00, forty-five Heinkels of the special unit called Rumpelkammer launched its attack from some 40 miles off the east coast between Skegness and Mablethorpe. Thirty-one V1s crossed the coast targeted at Manchester, but most went astray, three landing in East Yorkshire. They include one that fell in a field just outside of Hull in Willerby west of the Springhead Waterworks at 05.45, damage was done to property in Hull on Willerby Road, Springhead Avenue & Mayland Avenue. The only damage being to windows and roofs, from blast. The Springhead pumping station was also damaged. The event was an untimely one from the point of view of the householders who had to patch up their property in time for Christmas but help was on hand as the Home Guard helped with clearing up and workmen did first aid repairs and canteen workers provided hot drinks. It took more than six months to repair the damage caused by the Buzz Bomb. Another V1 landed at Barmby Moor near RAF Pocklington at 05:50, damaging a Halifax Bomber, this must have been the one seen passing over Withernsea and a third landed at South Cliffe west of Hull at 06:00.
Albion Street Municipal Museum
The Albion Street Municipal Museum was destroyed by an incendiary bomb in the early hours of 24 June 1943. The Museum collapsed despite efforts of the city's fire wardens. While some of the collection was salvaged thousands of items collected over a century were destroyed, but it is believed some of the collection remains buried in the building's basement. The Phoenix Project was launched in early 1989 tasked with conducting an Archaeological excavation of the site to extract the buried collection.
The Blitz on Britain did not just affect the cities but also the surrounding countryside, East Yorkshire was especially affected. 121 people were killed, 82 civilians and 39 military deaths. The Luftwaffe targeted coastal towns such as Bridlington, Hornsea and Withernsea killing a total of 44 people, they also targeted RAF airfields such as RAF Driffield, RAF Catfoss and RAF Leconfield including an attack on RAF Driffield on 15 August 1940 that killed 15 people. Other attacks on East Yorkshire were on the outskirts of Hull either deliberately such as the first daylight raid on British soil at the Saltend oil terminal and the attack on the Blackburn Aircraft factory at Brough, or 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, enemy aircraft shooting down allied aircraft over East Yorkshire and even a V1 raid.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hull Blitz.|
- Brian Pears (ed.), "Index to the "Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour" for Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire", www.genuki.org.uk
- "Schedule of Air Raids – Summary", www.hullwebs.co.uk
- R & V. Haywood (ed.), "THE HULL BLITZ – a Hull bombing map", www.rhaywood.karoo.net
- "Hull Blitz – Map", www.hullblitz.org, Interactive Hull bombing map, requires Silverlight
- The Daily Mail – Blitz Special Edition, commemorative faux-historical publication
- "The Hull Blitz", www.heroesofhull.co.uk
- Dorothy Maltby (19 August 2005), Alan Brigham, ed., BBC – WW2 People's War – Random recollections of the Hull Blitz, BBC