Southampton suffered badly from large-scale air raids during World War II. As a large port city on the south coast, it was an important strategic target for the Luftwaffe. There were fifty seven attacks in all, but nerves were frayed by over 1,500 alarms. According to A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions Department) reports over 2,300 bombs were dropped amounting to over 470 tonnes of high explosives. Over 30,000 incendiary devices were dropped on the city. Nearly 45,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, with most of the city's High Street being hit. There were reports that the glow of the firestorm of Southampton burning could be seen from as far away as Cherbourg on the coast of France. Nazi publicity declared in propaganda that the city had been left a smoking ruin.
Of the 57 air raids, by far the worst were on 23 and 30 November and 1 December 1940 and these attacks are generally referred to as "Southampton's Blitz". During this three-day period, much of the town centre was destroyed, including All Saints', Holyrood and St. Mary's churches, although St. Michael's escaped with only minor damage, allegedly because the spire was used by the German bombers as a landmark and their pilots were ordered not to hit it. Altogether, Southampton lost seven churches during the blitz, as well as the Audit House, the Ordnance Survey offices and many shops, factories and homes.
The last casualties of air raids in the city were in a small raid on the suburbs of the city in May 1941 and on 8 July 1941 in the area of Victory Crescent, Millbrook with the loss of at least three lives. The last major raid of over 50 bombers was in June 1942, after that the worst was over. There were occasional single bombs and in 1944 the only two V1 flying bombs to land on the city were the last to fall in the area.
Among the victims of the bombing was Edgar L. Perry, who had worked as a trimmer on board the RMS Titanic. Perry, who had survived the sinking, perished along with his wife on 23 November 1940 as they sought shelter from the bombing.
- "Nazis Claim Port Heavily Damaged". St Petersburg Times. 25 November 1940. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
- Kemp, Anthony (1989). Southampton at War: 1939–45. Southampton: Ensign Publications. pp. 55–56. ISBN 1-85455-033-0.
- Coles, R.J. (1981). Southampton's Historic Buildings. City of Southampton Society. p. 6.
- "St. Michael's Church". Southampton Guide. www.schmap.com. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
- Rance, Adrian (1986). Southampton. An Illustrated History. Portsmouth: Milestone. p. 166. ISBN 0-903852-95-0.
- "Mapping the Southampton Blitz 70 years on". Ordnance Survey. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
- Encyclopedia Titanica. "Mr Edgar Lionel Perry". Southampton Guide. www.schmap.com. Retrieved April 13, 2012.