In 1939 Britain declared war on Germany. This was because Hitler had invaded countries such as Poland, even though they had signed an agreement not to invade other countries. Hitler did not plan to bomb the major cities of Britain; instead he planned to wipe out the RAF so that his soldiers could land in Britain and invade. However in late August 1940 a German bomber dropped a bomb on London by mistake. Hitler decided to change his tactics and instead bomb the major cities of Britain such as London, Coventry and Portsmouth.
Hitler thought that by bombing the major cities such as London he would undermine Britain’s war effort and destroy their morale. This period became known as the Blitz. Hitler’s original plan was called, “Operation Sealion,”: it was to destroy the RAF and then to invade Britain. His plan was to control the skies by defeating the RAF and destroying military bases and airbases. He put this plan into action in early August 1940 and it became known as the Battle of Britain. Hitler planned to invade Britain on the 15th September 1940.
However, Hitler’s plan to wipe out the RAF failed, and during the next three months the RAF lost 792 planes and over 500 pilots were killed, but when on the 24th August 1940 a German bomber accidentally dropped a bomb on London, Hitler decided to bomb the major cities of Britain instead. . Hitler got his ideas for the Blitz from bombing Guernica, a Spanish city, in the Spanish Civil War. Hitler bombed it using new weapons and tactics in the 1930s. Eventually the tactics worked and the Spanish surrendered. He thought that by destroying Britain’s war effort and destroying their morale that they would then surrender.
Hitler tried to get Britain to surrender by destroying their morale and he attempted to do this by bombing the major cities of Britain. The cities were the most densely populated areas of Britain and the effect of bombing would be greatest there. London was one of the cities most affected. London was bombed for 57 days in a row, and over one million houses were destroyed. The East End of London was hugely devastated by the bombings, and over 10,800 houses were destroyed. This made people homeless and their personal belongings would have been destroyed, leaving them destitute.
More importantly, they would lose family members and friends in the bombings and would constantly live in fear of their lives and those of their loved ones. Places such as train stations were made into accommodations for the homeless and they were sheltering 177,000 people every night. Not only were the conditions cramped and unhygienic, but the underground was not as safe as people thought. In Balham approximately 680 people became victim to a bomb that made a direct hit at a train station and many of them died.
However, many people would have already died when their houses were bombed. This shows us why Hitler decided to bomb the major cities of Britain because it would have made any of the survivors feel very upset and it may have lowered their morale, which could have destroyed Britain’s war effort, as people would have been reluctant to help when they had no shelter and their relatives or friends may have died. Another way in which Hitler tried to destroy Britain’s morale was by targeting landmarks through bombing the major cities, which was where a lot of important landmarks were located.
For example, Coventry Cathedral was set on fire by a bomb being hit at it on November 14th in 1940. Although the voluntary fire fighters managed to put the first fire out, other direct hits followed and soon the fire was out of control. People felt that, when such important landmarks were demolished, the cities’ heritage was being erased. Therefore, it would have felt as if they were losing their identity, which would have made people feel as though they were losing the war.
Another famous landmark that was attacked was Buckingham Palace, where the Queen lived. This would have lowered people’s morale because it would have showed them that as the Queen was being bombed, Hitler would make no exceptions on who got killed, and that he was willing to kill even royalty to get Britain to surrender. This shows us why destroying the landmarks would have lowered people’s morale because it would have made them want to surrender, which was Hitler’s aim in bombing the major cities of Britain.
However, a few days after Buckingham Palace had been bombed, the Queen went to visit the civilians who had been made homeless in the East End. She showed them that they were all in the same situation, and that she understood what it was like for them to be a victim of the attacks. This helped to uplift people’s morale because it showed them that they were in the same position as the Queen and because she gave them hope that it would get better. During the Blitz, a lot of people were admitted to hospital due to their injuries from the bombings.
A total of 90,000 people were admitted to hospitals in England, with 50,000 of them in London. As hospitals were seen as a safe place where people would recover from their injuries, it would have upset people to see the hospitals being bombed. For instance, the London Chest Hospital, which was a specialist hospital for people suffering from chest diseases, was bombed during the spring of 1941. The North Wing of the hospital was ruined. This would have distressed the public because the people in the hospitals would have been vulnerable and weak.
The patients would have been less likely to recover after the hospital had been bombed, as their treatment and recovery would have been disrupted. This demonstrates how, by bombing hospitals, Hitler would have been successful in lowering people’s morale, as it would have made them sad to see vulnerable people being killed or becoming more injured through the bombings. Apart from destroying the well-being of the people, Hitler wanted to attack the major manufacturing centres of the country, which would disrupt ships supplies including food and weapons.
An example of this was Coventry, which was one of the major manufacturing industries and it supplied a range of products for the war effort. Most of the work was carried out on the outskirts of the city, because it reduced the effect of bombing in residential areas. The first recorded bombing on Coventry was on the 25th June 1940 when the Ansty Aerodrome was bombed. This led to a string of bombs of the Hillfields, leaving sixteen people dead.
On November 14th 1940, 500 German bombers decimated the city, which dropped 150,000 fire bombs and 503 tons of high explosives. Many of the cities factories were bombed and seven of which were vital war factories, which halted the war production for months. The city was ablaze with over 200 fires, including St Michael’s Cathedral. Although fire fighters tried to put it out, another batch of bombs forced them to give up. Amongst the rubble lay human remains, some of whom were never identified; 554 men, women and children lay dead and 865 others were injured.
This shows us that bombing cities such as Coventry would have not only halted the war effort, but it could have destroyed Britain’s ability to fight when the factories had been destroyed. A lot of major cities in Britain relied on Naval Bases to transport important supplies to their cities. The naval bases were one of the main targets during the Blitz, because if they got bombed the cities would not be able to send or receive important goods on ships, such as weapons and machinery.
One of the main Naval Bases bombed was Portsmouth because of its strategic importance as the home of the Royal Navy. As it was a major port, a lot of goods were taken on ships to other parts of Britain, and by bombing it a lot of the war effort would have been delayed because many of the ships were destroyed. This would have also helped with Hitler’s plan, ‘Operation Sealion’ because nobody was protecting the coastline and the soldiers from France could have come over across the sea to invade Britain easily.
This shows us why Hitler wanted to bomb Portsmouth and the coastlines, because it would have stopped important products from being transported to other parts of the country and it would have helped him to succeed in his plan to invade Britain. Another important city which delivered important supplies was Liverpool. Liverpool was an important supply base, as it provided a lot of raw materials to other cities. Hitler wanted to bomb the ports in Liverpool because it also had important goods such as food being deported over from America and Canada.
Liverpool was bombed 79 times and over 4,000 people died. Liverpool also had important factories which would make fighting material which was so desperately needed by the soldiers. This shows us why Hitler decided to bomb Liverpool, because it had important supplies which were being delivered to other cities. By bombing Liverpool, Hitler was trying to destroy the war effort and it would also have destroyed people’s morale, particularly because it was Christmas, and it would have made people feel sad to see people dying, especially if it was their friends or loved ones.
In conclusion, the major cities of Britain were bombed by the Germans in 1940-1941 because Hitler wanted to destroy citizens’ morale and he tried to do this by destroying landmarks, homes and hospitals. Hitler also tried to destroy Britain’s war effort by bombing strategically important places such as Naval Bases, factories and other ports. Britain was also bombed because if their morale and war effort was destroyed, it would have made it easier to put his plan, ‘Operation Sealion’ into action. Therefore Britain was bombed so that Britain could be invaded.