The Battle of Britain

The London Blitz occurred from September 1940 through May 1941 when massive amounts of German bombers attacked the London area. The Blitz started in earnest on the afternoon of September 7, 1940 when the German Luftwaffe conducted the first major daytime raid on London. Nearly 350 German bombers, with 600 fighter escorts, dropped explosives on East London, targeting the docks in particular. Around 450 people died and 1,300 were seriously injured. Between September and November 1940, almost 30,000 bombs were dropped on London. In the first 30 days, almost 6,000 people were killed and twice as many badly injured. At one point, the Luftwaffe bombed London for 57 consecutive nights The most notorious raid took place on December 29 when around one third of the city was laid to waste. (

Between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941, there were big aerial raids on 16 British cities. Over a period of 267 days, London was attacked 71 times; Birmingham, Liverpool and Plymouth eight times; Bristol six; Glasgow five; Southampton four; Portsmouth and Hull three and a minimum of one large raid on eight other cities. (Id.) “We can take it” became the British rallying cry during the Blitz. (Jon E. Lewis, London: The Autobiography)

The air raids continued sporadically, with major raids on April 16 and 19, 1941. More than 1,000 people were killed on each night in various areas across the capital. Finally, on May 10, 1941, bombs fell on Kingsway, Smithfield, Westminster and across the city of London, killing almost 3,000 and hitting the Law Courts, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, many of London’s museums and the House of Commons. The Blitz ended in May 1941 when the German Luftwaffe were redeployed to take part in the invasion of Russia. (

 The Royal Air Force (RAF), which flew “Spitfire” fighters, fought the German Luftwaffe to a standstill during the Blitz and saved England. “Aces High,by Iron Maiden, written by Stephen Percy Harris (1984), is a tribute to the RAF fighter pilots who battled the Luftwaffe bombers night after night. (

There goes the siren that warns of the air raid
Then comes the sound of the guns sending flak
Out for the scramble we’ve got to get airborne
Got to get up for the coming attack.

Jump in the cockpit and start up the engines
Remove all the wheelblocks there’s no time to waste
Gathering speed as we head down the runway
Gotta get airborne before it’s too late.

Running, scrambling, flying
Rolling, turning, diving, going in again
Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die
Run, live to fly, fly to live. Aces high.

Move in to fire at the mainstream of bombers
Let off a sharp burst and then turn away
Roll over, spin round and come in behind them
Move to their blindsides and firing again.

Bandits at 8 o’clock move in behind us
Ten ME-109’s out of the sun
Ascending and turning our spitfires to face them
Heading straight for them I press down my guns

Rolling, turning, diving
Rolling, turning, diving, going in again
Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die
Run, live to fly, fly to live,
Aces high.

“Blitz!” is a 1962 musical by Lionel Bart. The musical was set in the East End of London during the aerial bombings during World War II. The story drew on Bart’s childhood memories of London’s Jewish East End during the Blitz. Several songs from the show can be found on YouTube, and the stage manager discusses the show at http://youtu.bue/jbrKJYxiCWk.