Baedeker raid, 70 years on

Man standing in ruins of bombed house

The 70th anniversary of the ‘Baedeker’ raid is being marked in an imaginative way – on Twitter – @BaedekerLive. You can follow events ‘as they happened’, if you’re able to stay up all night. The Twitter feed is viewable now, or later, on this link. It’s an excellent idea. The 140-character message seems the perfect form to convey the urgency and chaos, the widespread reports of damage, of that night 70 years ago.

This image, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum’s collection, shows the effect of the raid on one property. The caption explains:

“This house was almost totally destroyed in a direct hit by a bomb during the ‘Baedeker’ raid … Its owner, Mr McGregor, is shown standing amidst the remains of his home. Mr McGregor and his wife (plus their lodger) were protected from the bomb blast and collapsing masonry by a Morrison air raid shelter. This shelter is visible under rubble to the right of the photograph.”

Though I was born decades after the war, the Baedeker raid has felt ‘close to home’ since I read about it many years ago, and realised how many people died in streets close to where I live.

There are already many pages on this website with further information on the raid and its effects. On 29 April 1942, Stephen was living to the north of the city, Audrey was on Blossom Street, close to the Bar Convent, where five nuns died.

Many people lost their lives that night. William Milner died at York station. Arthur Broadhead died on Bootham. Six year old Betty Pope died in the Queen Anne’s School shelter. Dorothy Thompson died in Nunthorpe Grove. Her body was found on 7 May, at the bottom of a bomb crater.

List of civilian casualties

Perhaps the best place to visit to reflect on the destruction of that night, the devastation brought about by war, and the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation, is the church of St Martin le Grand, on Coney Street. Its book of remembrance is shown on the front page of this website. The book is currently on loan to York Libraries, and is part of an interesting exhibition in York Explore (Central Library).

It’s 8.30 on 28 April. I’ve checked the Twitter feed. Last update: 7pm. ‘All wardens’ posts fully staffed’.

Footnote:

We must also remember the devastating effects of our bombing of ‘enemy targets’. One month earlier, for example, in Lubeck.

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Footnote 2:
00.20, 29 April 2012 – ‘misinformation’ concern: dates confusion

As I’m still awake, and there’s no update on @BaedekerLive, it seems as good a time as any to mention/query the fact that some sources give the date of the Baedeker raid on York as 28-29 April, some as 28 April. Most say 29 April, as it was in the early hours that the bombing began.

A piece on the BBC website says “The county town of York heard the approach of enemy aeroplanes at midnight on 28 April”. Doesn’t seem enough to place the raid as happening on 28 April, does it. But the Wikipedia article does, as did a recent article on a York-based website.

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Footnote 3:
00.35, 29 April 2012 – ‘misinformation’ concern (2): numbers of casualties

Some sources give the number of civilian casualties as 70-something, others as 90-something. Quite a discrepancy there.

The York Press coverage fluctuates on the numbers, even within the same paper, within the last week or two.

A variation of 20 seems a little too vague. A solution seemed to be to trace each name on the list of known casualties to the official Commonwealth War Graves Commission records (list above – Civilian casualties list).

The discrepancy was obvious – it’s due to the weird boundaries at the time, which had half of the Clifton district under Flaxton District Council. This included houses in the Kingsway area. Clearly very much part of York as we know it, and well within the outer ring road, and not far from where I live.

A lot of people died there, and it seems odd that in the 21st century remembering some sources continue to discount them from the numbers.

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Tag(s): WW2, Baedeker

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  By Lisa @YorkStories 28 April 2012 To link to this page's proper location please use the > permalink

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on www.yorkstories.co.uk. She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories

3 comments

  1. Wonderful words Lisa,all you have to do is add the reek of burning things(like Bonfire Night),the sweating induced by sheer terror,the noise of pulsating engines,the brrrring of machine guns, banging and crumping of bombs,the fear of death ,and you have taken yourself back 70 years.
    Lots of ‘midnight oil’was burnt on that night as it was last night,in remembering the awful things that war did to ordinary people.Lets hope we can make sure it never happens again to our country,and count our blessings a bit more than we do.

  2. YorkStories

    I certainly counted my blessings when I was (eventually) able to go to sleep, in a peaceful city, an hour or so before the @BaedekerLive tweets would begin to tell of bombs dropping. I also counted my blessings this morning, as I didn’t have to face what Violet Rodgers described the morning after the 1942 raid: “Bootham was a sight to make the historian weep. Glass, glass everywhere …”

  3. audrey richardson

    I lived at 20 Blossom Street, I was under the table in our upstairs appartment over Forsellus garage when we heard the bomb whistling down and then a total silence, a crump and then the sounds of falling glass. We waited a few minutes and felt more shudders and then silence. We knew it was the German planes as they had a different sound to our bombers.
    Dad made us stay under the table and rushed out, he was upset when he returned and told us the Bar Convent across the road had been hit and people killed. It was a sad night. We went out next morning to go across and see the damage. I was a child of course. it was a sad sight, the Nunnery Lane side of the Convent gone, workmen looking for bodies. In the gardens at the back of Blossom street there was a tree near no. 27 and on it hanging and waving in the wind was part of a black nuns habit, it was a sad sight. To this day you can see the new piece of wall that was put in on the nunnery lane side, it has never faded into the rest of the brickwork.
    A school friend and her family were wiped out near Scarcroft School too.
    the damage in Bootham was bad also.

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