The Bath Blitz
April 25th marks the anniversary of the start of a bombing campaign on Bath during the Second World War. On this date in 1942 approximately 80 German bombers flew from airfields in the north of France to Bath. They reached Bath around 11:20pm and for 50 minutes they wreaked havoc on the city before returning to France to re-load. The bombers returned two times to inflict damage on the city. In total over 4,500 bombs were dropped on Bath with a large number targeting the area around the city's railway. More than 16,000 buildings were damaged including over 1900 historical buildings. The Royal Crescent, the Circus and Queen Square were all damaged but the most significant damage to a historical building was the Assembly Rooms which received a direct hit. Tragically over 400 people lost their lives during these raids.
Bath was originally considered to be a safe place during the Second World War. London's evacuees were sent to Bath and the Admiralty moved a lot of their staff to Bath where they took over a number of buildings. There was little in the way of defence for the city when the bombers arrived. After the raids anti-aircraft guns were set-up around the city but the Germans were never to return.
The raids were a retaliation by the Germans for the Allied bombing of the historical towns of Lubeck and Rostock. A Nazi propogandist was reported as saying "We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide". The Baedeker Guide was a famous travel guide. The Germans bombed Bath, Canterbury, Exeter, Norwich and York in retaliation and collectively these raids are known as the Baedeker Raids after the guide book the Germans are alleged to have used to identify their targets.
Today, apart from some memorials to the Bath Blitz, the casual observer is unlikely to notice the impact the raids had - but look closely and you may just notice a building that is different than the other buildings on the same street or a tiny square where there would have once been a house. History often leaves its mark.
The Bath Blitz gets a brief mention during my Bath City Tour. If this part of Bath's history is of particular interest to you do let know in advance so that I can tailor the tour for you and go into more depth.