September 1940 – The Blitz Begins – Past Daily Reference Room
September 7, 1940 – the beginning of the Blitz; what would be an 8-month nightmare of daily raids over England by German bombers in an attempt to alternately demoralize the country, but also prepare it for what was sure to be an imminent invasion. The raids were nicknamed Blitz, short for Blitzkrieg, the method of waging war the Germans had employed since the beginning in September of 1939. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) conducted mass raids over England, concentrating on primarily industrial targets which could hamper the war effort. But in September, the Germans focused their attention on London, which would be bombed 56 out of 57 days, including one particularly costly daylight raid on September 15. After that, the Luftwaffe continued with nighttime raids.
All in all, the raids killed some 40,000 civilians and destroyed over one million houses. But the intended effect of crippling Britain’s industrial capacity had failed, mostly from faulty intelligence, but also from extensive and intense anti-aircraft barrages which made pinpoint bombing impossible. Many of the dropped bombs missed targets, destroying civilian houses and businesses instead.
During the Battle of Britain, which went from July to September of 1940, the intent of Germany was to create air superiority over the RAF, which ultimately proved to be better able to withstand the attacks and to counter the raids. The Blitz was intended to be an annihilation of the RAF by the Luftwaffe, but it was a costly gamble that didn’t pay off. German losses were estimated at some 2300 planes, one third of them bombers.
This broadcast, one of several made by various correspondents for all the networks during the Blitz, describes the conditions and the morale of the people at the time. This would be some of the first examples of on-the-spot war reporting where news was being delivered as it was happening. It succeeded in making the war immediate and not a distant conflict listeners could casually dismiss.
Here is a report from Mutual Broadcasting‘s John Steele, direct from London via shortwave.