Bristol Blitz

Bristol Blitz

Bristol was the fifth most heavily bombed British city of World War II. The presence of the Bristol Harbour and the Bristol Aeroplane Company made it a target for bombing by the Nazi German Luftwaffe who were able to trace a course up River Avon from Avonmouth using reflected moonlight on the waters into the heart of the city. [cite web | title=Overview | work=Bristol Blitzed | url= | accessdate=2007-03-07]

Between 24 November 1940 and 11 April 1941, there were six major bombing raids, which resulted in over 1,400 people killed and destruction of many of the buildings in the city centre.

First Raid

Hitler's propaganda claimed that Bristol had been completely destroyed in a night raid on November 2, 1940 in which 5,000 incendiary and 10,000 high explosive bombs were dropped on the old city. On November 24, the entire area that is now Castle Park was destroyed in another raid including the destruction of a 17th century timber framed Dutch House and St Peter’s Hospital. Four of the Churches in Bristol, St Peter’s, interior of St Nicholas, St Mary-le-Port and Temple were also damaged beyond repair.

The Lord Mayor of Bristol, Alderman Thomas Underwood, described the effect of the raids as being “The City of Churches had in one night become the city of ruins.” [cite web | title=Bomb Census Bristol: The blitz in Brislington | work=24 hour museum | url= | accessdate=2007-03-07]

Following Raids

On January 3rd – 4th 1941 Bristol had its longest raid lasting 12 hours; during this raid the German Luftwaffe dropped their biggest bomb on the city. It was nicknamed "Satan", and weighed in at 4,000-lb, measuring 8 ft long (without the tail), and ft 2 inches in diameter, fortunately it didn’t explode. The bomb was recovered in April 1943. The bomb disposal crew had to dig down 29 ft to get to it. “Satan” was paraded through the streets of London during the VE Day Victory Parade at the end of the war [] .

The infamous Good Friday air raids caused further damage to the centre of the city, Knowle, Hotwells, Cotham and Filton. The last air raid of the Blitz on Bristol was on April 25, 1941, when Brislington, Bedminster and Knowle were bombed. It is speculated that these suburbs were not the targets themselves but that bombs aimed for Filton's manufacturing areas were mistakenly dropped on other areas. [cite web | title=Bomb Census Bristol: The blitz in Brislington | work=24 hour museum | url= | accessdate=2007-03-07]

One of the common bombs dropped on the city was a canister containing a large number of incendiaries (locally known as ‘Goering’s Bread Basket’); these caused numerous fires and were designed to cause panic amonst the citizens, and stretch the fire services to their limits.

The last raid on Bristol was on May 15 1944. [cite web | title=May 15 1944 | work=Memories of Bristol | url= | accessdate=2007-03-07]

Bristol was in danger to be hit by V-1 flying bombs and by the rockets A4/V2 when the launching platforms already had been built on the Cotentin peninsula in 1944 but D-Day on 6 June 1944 made an end to this danger. The launching platforms on Cotentin were occupied by the allies quickly so Bristol was safe from V1 and V2.


In the early years of WWII there was a sophisticated system of decoys all over the country with the aim of diverting air attacks away from the major cities. The decoy for Bristol was at Blackdown on the western end of the Mendip Hills [] , about 25km Southwest of Bristol. These were known as QL sites and were designed to simulate Bristol under blackout conditions, even to the extent of mimicking the flickering lights of railway marshalling yards.

In the event of an imminent air raid beacons would be lit at the decoy site, these were sometimes successful in tricking the Luftwaffe bombers into thinking that it was Bristol, and they dropped their bombs harmlessly onto the hills.


* Winston Churchill visited the ruins on April 12, 1941 and was abused by crowds due to rumours that the city’s air defences were improper.


= External links =
* [ Bristol Blitzed]
* [ Bristol Blitz timeline] (with photos)
* [ Bristol Blitz timeline] (very detailed timeline, with Avonmouth, Portishead, Weston super Mare, Filton, Yate incl., with technical details a.o.)
* [ Extracts from the Western Daily press 1940-1944]
* [ Biblography and Resources: Bristol at War]
* [ Extracts from English Heritage's Record of Scheduled Monuments]

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