THE PORTSMOUTH BLITZ
German air raids against Britain during The Blitz followed Germany's failure to establish air superiority in the Battle of Britain.
It has been estimated that about 40,000 civilians were killed, 46,000 injured, and more than a million homes destroyed and damaged in Britain.
For more information read John Welch's diary of 1941.
The City of Portsmouth was badly damaged during the second world war by German aerial bombing, due to its strategic importance as the home of the Royal Navy.
The bombing took place during the period July 11, 1940 and May 1944, this period being known as the blitz. The word Blitz is a shortening of the German word blitzkrieg, meaning "lightning war," the literal translation of the German word "Blitz" is "lightning".
Three of these attacks were regarded as major, 24-August-1940, 10-January-1941,
10-March-1941, with the rest being on a slightly smaller scale.
On the 24th of August 1940 The Princes Theatre in Lake Road, was bombed during an air raid whilst a matinee performance was taking place. Due to communication problems no air raid warning was given, 8 children were killed in the bombing and many more were injured.
It is estimated that approximately 1,320 of high explosive bombs, 38,000 incendiary devices and 38 land mines were dropped onto Portsmouth during this period. 930 civilians were killed, 1,216 people were hospitalised and 1,621 more people were injured less seriously. There were additional casualties in Portsmouth Dockyard and other naval or military establishments. It is widely believed that the death toll would have been significantly higher, were it not for the preparation taken to provide public and private shelters and the work undertaken by the Civil Defence services.
Many of Portsmouth's great buildings were either damaged or destroyed during this period and some would argue, along with other British cities damaged during the Blitz, that the architecture of Portsmouth never fully recovered. The Guildhall was severely damaged by fire after it was hit by incendiary devices and many items such as paintings were lost. Other damage was as follows, 30 churches destroyed, 8 schools destroyed, 1 hospital destroyed another badly damaged, 150 pubs and licenced premises destroyed and the principal shopping areas were virtually obliterated.
The damage recorded to residential properties was massive, over 80,000 properties sustained air raid damage, some being hit 3 or 4 times. In total 6,625 residential properties were destroyed completely, 6,459 were seriously damaged and 69,886 were damaged slightly !
The urgent need for post-war redevelopment and the unsympathetic manner in which this was conducted, led to the mismatch of ancient and modern buildings that can be seen juxtaposed around the city today.