On Sunday 11th November 2012 people will once more come together to remember those who died fighting for our country and our freedom in both World War One and Two. However, it is not only our brave soldiers who should be remembered, but also those who suffered on the home front.
During World War Two Southampton suffered heavily from bombing with a total of 57 attacks and 1,500 alarms; the Air Raid Precautions Department claimed that over 2,300 bombs were dropped on Southampton.
Southampton was a key target for the Nazi German Luftwaffe, as it was a large port city, as well as being home of the Supermarine factory, which was the birthplace of the Spitfire aircraft. Southampton’s suffering reached its climax on the 23rd and 30th November and the 1st December 1940, in what has come to be known as the Southampton Blitz.
You would see the flashes of the bombs, hear the sirens, the searchlights, I remember that very vividly.”Don Robertson
The attacks began with buildings being set ablaze with flares, which then allowed the bombers to use these burning buildings as beacons to guide their planes. During the Southampton Blitz much was destroyed, including All Saints, Holyrood and St. Mary’s churches, as well as the Audit House, the Ordnance Survey Offices, alongside houses, shops and factories. A bomb also exploded at the Dell, Southampton Football Club’s former football ground: this left an 18-foot crater in the penalty area on Milton Road.
To gain an idea of the size of the devastation, consider that on 30th November alone, around 634 individual properties were in flames, whilst reports claim that all the way over in Cherbourg, on the coast of France, the blaze of Southampton burning could be seen. To help understand the sheer destruction which was unleashed on Southampton, the Ordnance Survey Offices have compiled an interactive map displaying where all the bombs hit. Follow this link to take a look:
Another tragic attack had occurred earlier, at 2.45pm on 6th November 1940, when 14 children were killed in the civic centre, where they were participating in an art class. The bomb exploded inside the basement, trapping the children. Only one child, Andrew Bissell, was able to escape the shelter and has since written a book entitled ‘Children of Southampton’s Blitz’. There is a memorial commemorating those who survived that fateful day outside of the Art Gallery steps in Southampton Civic Centre.
The effects of these terrible attacks can still be seen around our city today, constantly reminding us what the citizens of Southampton once endured. On the 11th November every year, known as Armistice Day, and on the second Sunday of November every year, known as Remembrance Sunday, the country comes together to remember everyone, soldiers and citizens alike, who sacrificed their lives in the two world wars.
This year, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday fall on the same day. So on Sunday 11th November 2012, please take two minutes out of your time to spare a thought for everyone who suffered during these terrible events: especially sparing a thought, 72 years on, for those who suffered through the Southampton Blitz, or who lost their lives in it.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon