The Blitz, on World War II London, was a dark time in British history that left the city devastated, lasting eight months and taking 20,000 lives. More than 70 years later, people have a chance to understand the extent of the bombing campaign.
“Everyone was bombed,” Math Teacher Joey Sinreich said. “Nobody remained unscathed.”
Recently, a website was created to remember the Blitz experience. Bombsight.org attempts to pinpoint every bomb dropped on London.
When first visiting the website, one is confronted by a map of the city, covered in a mass of tightly-woven red dots. History Teacher Sana Shafqat summed up her first impressions, saying, “I’m just struck by how effective the bombing was in covering London.”
Each red dot represents one of the over a million highly explosive, incendiary bombs dropped on the city. By clicking on the red dots, the site reveals more information on the exact location, bomb type and date on which it was dropped. According to a spokesman from BombSight, the project uses mostly maps of the London bomb census, taken between October 1940 and June 1941. In addition, bombing locations were combined with geo-located photographs from the Imperial War Museum, and memories from the BBC’s World War II People’s War Archive.
The area surrounding ASL, although not as hard hit as central London, received some damage during the German air raids. In fact, five bombs were dropped in the vicinity of the ASL school building, including a site directly outside of ASL’s Loudoun entrance on Marlborough Place and two high explosive bombs on Langford Place.
“We live in a world that’s fairly safe, but not so long ago, London was in a horrific situation,” Shafqat said.
Sinreich took interest in a block of relatively new neighboring apartments near his home in Maida Vale. “I had recently read a British history book so I was interested in the bombs sites around my neighborhood,” he said. After visiting the website, he discovered that the new apartments in his area were built after heavy Blitz damage to the building which previously occupied the space. “It was frankly amazing for me as an American,” Sinreich said. “I’m just not used to stuff like this.”
Since its creation, the website has gained in popularity, with more than 750,000 hits to date. An Android app has also been created, showing a mobile version of the map for users on the go. The app overlays bomb information onto a live video feed taken from the phone’s camera, and using GPS, pinpoints the location.
The website was created by a group led by Dr. Catherine Jones from the University of Portsmouth and funded by a charity called the Joint Information Systems Committee, a non-profit organization which aims to help higher institutions of learning with education in digital technology.
Sinreich provided some insight on the purpose of the site. “BombSight was made to bring awareness,” he said. “It seems like BombSight is just a curiosity; it’s not like it will ever lead to drastic changes in foreign policy or anything like that.”
The Blitz, which took place between September 7, 1940, and May 11, 1941, was an attack unmatched in British history. In previous wars, Shafqat explained, the British always felt safe and isolated from attack. World War II marked the first time military campaigns could reach England. “As war technology advanced, people became more vulnerable,” Shafqat said. As well as the approximate 20,000 deaths, an estimated 1.5 million homes were either destroyed or damaged, leaving many more homeless. London became so dangerous that over 3 million people, mainly children, were driven out to the countryside. The bombing was continuous throughout the eight months, with a series of 57 days in which London was bombarded constantly without a break.
The Blitz is now tightly woven in with British history, architecture and culture. “We have old, historical buildings right next to brand new architecture,” Shafqat said. “We walk past and think nothing of it because we’re so used to it being that way. But actually, these are hidden effects of the Blitz.”
Today, this map is an interactive snapshot of World War II history, yet for London’s Blitz survivors, it represents the eight months of living in constant fear for their lives, and each red dot connects to their individual stories.