A walk that follows the events of the night of the 29th December 1940, one of the worst nights of the London Blitz, when the Lufftwaffe, acting on direct orders from Hitler, attempted to destroy the historic heart of the City.
Throughout July and August 1940 the German Luftwaffe had been bombing RAF airfields and radar stations in preparation for Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain.
But, in the wake of the Battle of Britain of September 1940, Hitler decided on a shift of tactics and he launched a sustained bombing campaign on British cities which, he hoped, would so demoralise the British people that their government would have little choice but to negotiate terms.
On the afternoon of the 7th September 1940, German bombers appeared in the skies over London and the Blitz was under way.
For the next 52 days, Londoners endured continuous night time bombardment until, in late November and early December, poor weather brought a respite and, with the coming of Christmas, it seemed to many that their ordeal was over.
Hitler, however, was furious and bemused that the constant bombing had not had the desired effect of weakening the resolve and spirit of the British people. Over Christmas 1940 he visited his generals in Boulogne and ordered them to make immediate preparations for a massive raid on London that would obliterate the City’s historic and commercial centre around St Paul’s Cathedral.
The ideal conditions for such an attack were:-
1) A low tide in the Thames, since the high explosives would rupture the City of London’s water mains. The fire fighters would have to use the Thames as a back up water supply.
2) Low cloud cover at about 5,000 feet as a shield against anti-aircraft guns.
The perfect day for such a raid would be a Sunday, as all the office workers would be at home in the suburbs and, therefore, there would be no key holders immediately at hand to unlock buildings. This would force the fire fighters to break into the buildings, by which time the incendiary bombs would have generated huge fires across the City.
All these conditions came together on Sunday 29th December 1940 and, on that morning, Hugo Sperrle (General Commander of Luftflotte 111) received a call from Hitler ordering him to launch a massive raid on the City of London that night.
At 5.30 pm, as dusk fell across London, church services throughout the City drew to a close and worshippers filed out into the streets unaware of the massive German air fleet heading their way from across the Channel.
A little after 6pm the first bombs began raining down, and the worst night of the London Blitz had begun.
Join us to explore the streets and buildings that were razed during what became known as the Second Great Fire of London and follow the trail of destruction left by the Luftwaffe during its great fire raid on the City of London.
This truly fascinating, not to say breathtaking walk, takes you through the events of that night. We follow the line of destruction left by the raid as the City of London burned and the City fire-fighters laboured to bring the inferno under control and save as many of the buildings as they could.
You will hear tales of heroism; see some of the items that were saved; stand outside buildings on which the scars from that dreadful night are still visible; hear how the bravery of ordinary men and women saved St Paul’s cathedral from destruction; and learn how London quickly got back on its feet, as Londoners dusted themselves down determined to to carry on regardless.