On September 7, 1940, 300 German bombers attacked London, during the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombing. This “blitzkrieg” (lightning war) bombardment continued until May 1941.
After the successful occupation of France, it was only a matter of time before the Germans turned to England across the Channel. Hitler wanted a submissive and neutralized Britain so that he could focus on his plans for the East, namely the ground invasion of the Soviet Union, without interference. Since June, English ships in the English Channel have been attacked and air battles have taken place over Britain as Germany tried to exhaust the Royal Air Force in anticipation of a ground invasion. But as Germany failed to cripple British air power, especially during the Battle of Britain, Hitler changed his strategy. A land invasion was now ruled out as unrealistic; Instead, Hitler chose pure terror as his weapon of choice.
The British intelligence services had had an idea of the bombing to come. Evidence of the large-scale movement of German barges in the English Channel and the interrogation of German spies had led them to the right conclusion – unfortunately, this was just as the London docks were under assault on the first day of the Blitz. By the end of the day, German planes had dropped 337 tons of bombs on London. Even though civilian populations were not the main target that day, the poorest of London’s slums – the East End – literally felt the fallout, direct hits from stray bombs as well as fires that broke out and have spread to the surrounding area. Four hundred and forty-eight civilians were killed that afternoon and that evening.
Shortly after 8 p.m., British military units were alerted with the code name “Cromwell”, signifying that the German invasion had begun. A state of emergency has broken out in England; even home defense units were developed. One of Hitler’s major strategic mistakes in the war was to systematically underestimate the will and courage of the British people. They wouldn’t run or be intimidated by the submission. They would fight.
READ MORE: Meet the witches of the night, the daring pilots who bombed the Nazis at night