Coventry Air Raids following Operation Moonlight Sonata

16th November 1940

King George VI visited Coventry to view for himself the devastation caused by the Blitz. He walked through the devastated centre and looked at the Cathedral ruins. His Majesty spoke to many ordinary Coventry folk and his visit gave heart to the local populace.

20th November 1940

Mass Burial - Over 1000 people attended the first mass burial of 172 Blitz victims. Workers laboured through the night to dig graves and bring coffins to their final resting place. The service was lead by the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Mervyn Haigh. The dead were buried in two deep trenches; the coffins were made of plain oak and laid in rows stacked three deep. Union Jacks were draped across at intervals. Mourners filed past laying their wreaths, some trying in vain to read labels attached to coffins. As recovery work was still continuing, a second mass burial followed later.

8th April 1941 and 11th April 1941

Easter Week - Coventry was again attacked. 8th April. The raid lasted seven hours. Thousands of incendiaries again rained down upon the city, followed by high explosives as before. Buildings were again damaged including Coventry Police Station in which several officers died, St Mary’s Hall and King Henry VIII School. Two nights later during a less intensive raid Christchurch was destroyed although the much more ancient Spire remains to this day. Other buildings damaged include the Magistrates Court, Council House, St Mark’s Church and The Central Post Office.

Perhaps most tragic was the bombing of Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital where many injured civilians were brought during the raid. The Hospital had a large Red Cross marked out on the roof but still during the night 25 Bombs landed in the surrounding area and the Hospital itself received 10 direct hits killing 33 patients, 2 doctors and 7 nurses. The remaining doctors and nurses bravely carried on caring for patients throughout. Some even continued with operations. One patient was being treated for burns when he was blown off the operating table but thankfully didn’t suffer further injury. It is recorded that a delayed action bomb exploded the following morning, causing even more deaths.

4 Nurses on duty that night were awarded the George Medal for their bravery, Margaret Brown, Joyce Burton, Emma Horne and Julia Stoneystreet.

The 2008 Coventry bomb scare - Wednesday 12/03/2008

Memories of the Coventry Blitz were brought to mind when workmen discovered an unexploded bomb on a Coventry building site. The bomb was uncovered at the site of the New Belgrade Plaza whilst digging a trench for water pipes. Although the bomb was small, measuring approximately 18 inches long by 6 inches wide, it weighed 50kg and contained 22kg of explosives which would have caused considerable damage and loss of life had it exploded.

When the bomb was first discovered a 500m exclusion zone was set up, this was later reduced when the size of the bomb became apparent. However many homes and shops had to be evacuated and some residents were forced to spend the night in church centres around the city.

Thanks to the bravery of the Royal Engineers (Explosive Ordinance Disposal Division) the bomb was destroyed in a controlled explosion at the building site in the early hours of Thursday morning. It was decided to detonate the bomb in a specially excavated hole at the site near where is was found. Moving the bomb to a different location was not considered advisable, because upon examination the case was found to be damaged and leaking.

The discovery of this relic of the past was no surprise to local residents. Building work is now taking place in the city, much of it on previously undeveloped sites. This makes further discoveries likely.

(Information about the prelude to Operation Moonlight Sonata, Coventry's most famous blitz air raid, can be found here.)

Return to the Coventry Blitz home page.

The People's War: Britain, 1939-45 by Angus Calder

The 1939-45 conflict was, for Britain, a "total war"; no section of society remained untouched by military conscription, air raids, the shipping crisis and the war economy. This book not only states the great events and the leading figures, but also the oddities and the banalities of daily life, and in particular the parts played by ordinary people: air raid wardens and Home Guards, factory workers and farmers, housewives and pacifists.

Above all, the book reveals how, in those six years, the British people came closer to discarding their social conventions than at any time since Cromwell's republic.

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