On 14 November 1940 German bombers pulverized the city of Coventry; the verb ‘Koventrieren’ comes to mean ‘devastate’ or ‘reduce to rubble’. This was one of the worst nights in the ‘Blitz’, the sustained bombing campaign endured by Britain from 7 September 1940 to 10 May 1941.
The Battle of Britain
After the fall of France in July 1940 German attempts to gain air superiority, vital for the planned invasion of Britain, were initially focussed on Channel ports and coastal towns and then on airfields, radar stations and factories. The RAF withstood these attacks, thwarting Germany’s ‘Adler Tag’, an attempt to eliminate fighter command, on 13 August. At this point, German tactics changed and from 7 September the bombing of London began. On 15 September, Battle of Britain Day, the RAF effectively scattered the Luftwaffe and secured British skies. The Battle of Britain was over but the Blitz had only just begun. For the next nine months, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs day and night in London and other British cities, including Plymouth, Liverpool, Coventry, Glasgow, and Belfast. Used as retaliation for British bombing raids on Berlin, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs day and night, claiming many lives and destroying national landmarks. Use of evacuation areas, created in 1939, increased during the Blitz, with thousands of children displaced to the country.
The raid on Coventry, a manufacturing centre in the Midlands, on 14 November 1940 was the most devastating of World War II to date. The medieval city centre was completely pulverized and Coventry’s famous cathedral, St Michael’s, was destroyed. The raid started at 7.20pm and lasted for over 10 hours, leaving over two-thirds of Coventry’s buildings destroyed or damaged. Germany sent over 500 planes on the mission to bomb Coventry, codenamed ‘Mondscheinsonate’ (Moonlight Sonata). Casualty figures were estimated at 568 dead and around 1,000 injured. Just one German bomber was shut down during the raid.