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The Terror Raids of 1942 (Hardback)

The Baedeker Blitz

WWII Luftwaffe The Blitz Military England

By Jan Gore
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 50 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526745132
Published: 30th October 2020

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‘We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide’ the German Foreign Office announced in April 1942 as the Luftwaffe attacked Exeter, Bath, Norwich, York and Canterbury. Over a thousand people died. These raids were direct retaliation for RAF raids on equally historic German cities. Hitler had ordered that ‘Preference is to be given…where attacks are likely to have the greatest possible effect on civilian life’ and in this narrow aim – as Jan Gore shows in the first full history of the raids to be published for over twenty years – they certainly succeeded.

She explains the Luftwaffe’s tactics, the types of bombs that were used – high explosive, parachute mines and incendiaries – and records the devastating damage they caused. Her main focus is on the effect of the bombing on the ground. In graphic detail she describes the air raid precautions, the role of the various civil defence organisations and the direct experience of the civilians. Their recollections – many of which have not been published before – as well as newspaper articles and official reports give us a vivid impression of the raids themselves and their immediate aftermath.

Jan Gore’s original and painstaking research provides the fullest insight yet into the impact of this bombing campaign on Britain’s home front during the Second World War.

This book gives homage to survivors and victims of the bomb raids that took place in Great Britian.

I appreciated the personal stories of real people who witnessed the night terror and the devastation on their community. People lost their homes, family, and their own lives during dark times. It was saddening to read through the testimonies!

NetGalley, Angela Han

Whilst most Britons have heard of ‘The Blitz’, the many smaller scale, but nonetheless highly destructive and lethal, raids on other cities across the UK is increasingly only a subject that is appreciated by those who have made a study of this aspect of World War 2. This is particularly the case as those with personal recollections of the raids in Bath, York, Exeter and other cities of cultural significance are by definition now in their 80s and 90s.

This book examines the series of raids that came to be know as the Baedeker Raids, taking their name from a famous German tourist guide book, the UK edition of which provided information on areas of cultural significance. Hitler had claimed that the attacks on the Baltic ports of Lubeck and Rostock had little military value and were intended instead to destroy the prized mediaeval cities. In consequence he launched a series of terror reprisal raids, which would have the twofold purpose of destroying culturally significant cities in Britain and terrorising the local populations. The raids, on Exeter, Norwich, Bath, Canterbury and York, were highly destructive and caused significant loss of life. Unusually, because most were, at least initially, lightly defended, the German aircraft are described as using shallow dive bomb and machine gun fire tactics to aid accuracy and cause even more terror to the civilian population.

The book benefits from many personal accounts that serve to bring a degree of realism and authenticity to the descriptions of the attacks. It is one thing to read ‘casualties were limited to just over a hundred dead’; it is something else entirely when someone who was a child at the time describes the bomb explosion that killed three of his family members and destroyed his house. It is also striking to read of the many examples of heroism or simple voluntary tasks, such as firewatching, that carried significant personal risk.

This is a valuable book that provides an insight into just one strand of the non-London Blitz. It is, of course, difficult to read these accounts without also sparing a thought for the German civilians who would experience even more persistent and extreme bombing as the RAF made good on Air Marshall Harris’s promise that, having sown the wind in the early days of the war, Germany would ‘reap the whirlwind’.

NetGalley, K Manley

This is an intense read.

Its got the witnesses and survivors recounting what they say on that night/day.

Reading what these people saw and went through is hard. Its explains things really well so you can imagine what it was like.

NetGalley, Natalie Power

About Jan Gore

Jan Gore is a researcher, writer and lecturer who has compiled biographies of those who died (both civilians and military) during the Second World War in Bournemouth and Exmouth as well as in the V1 attack on the Guards’ Chapel in London. In the past she has worked for GCHQ and Chatham House and has been a civil servant and librarian. She now lectures in French at Kingston University. Her most recent publication is Send More Shrouds: The V1 Attack on the Guards’ Chapel 1944.

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