London suffered a total of 71 raids during this period which was known as ‘The Blitz.’ In London alone, more than a million houses were damaged or destroyed; approximately 28,000 civilians were killed, with about 25 000 more injured. By the end of the war, over 100 tons of explosives had been dropped on 16 different cities and a total of 40 000 civilians killed. The Blitz caused enormous damage to Britain’s infrastructure, housing and lives.Share
As the raids continued, ordinary citizens offered their services as unpaid Defence Volunteers. Some people became volunteer firefighters, many joined teams which helped to search for survivors in bombed houses, and there were many who joined first aid groups. People began to help one another to reach the bomb shelters (mostly the underground stations) where they slept, night after night. Volunteers became storytellers, readers or entertainers and helped to keep these displaced people amused. With the hardships they faced each night, a ‘Blitz Spirit’ developed amongst the Londoners – everyone would lend a hand when and where they could. Some people even made tea for the volunteer helpers or for anyone else in need – they were “All in this together!”
While “the majority of civilians pulled together for the war effort… some used the situation for their own criminal ends” (D. Leatherdale.) Statistics show that crime figures rose from 303 771 cases in 1939 to 478,000 in 1945 – a dramatic upswing. A look at some of the crimes reported during this period gives an idea of the varied nature of the criminal acts committed.
As the bombing continued, the number of badly damaged buildings and bomb-sites grew, attracting plenty of looters. In spite of preventative measures and the patrolling of sites, looting went on unabated, sometimes even during the air-raids. One report tells of a man who returned to his home after such a raid to find that looters had stripped his house – even ripping up the carpets. (Read more.)