Birmingham Blitz

The Birmingham Blitz was the heavy bombing by the Nazi German Luftwaffe of the city of Birmingham and surrounding towns in central England, beginning on 9 August 1940 and ending on 23 April 1943. It is considered a fraction of the greater Blitz, which was part of the Battle of Britain. Situated in the Midlands, Birmingham, England's most populous British city outside London, is an important industrial and manufacturing location. Around 1,852 tons of bombs were dropped on Birmingham, making it the third most heavily bombed city in the United Kingdom in the Second World War, behind only London and Liverpool.[1]

There was also significant bombing of towns in the neighbouring Black Country, particularly in Dudley, Tipton and West Bromwich, where there were hundreds of casualties.

As with most provincial cities bombed during the Blitz, reports of the bombing were kept low key. Wartime censorship meant that Birmingham was not mentioned by name in contemporary news reports about the bombing, being referred to instead as a "Midland Town". This was done in order to keep the Germans from knowing the outcome of their raids.[2]

Bull Ring Blitz
High Street, looking towards the Bull Ring area after heavy bombing, on 10 April 1941.


Overall, there were 365 air raid alerts, and 77 actual air raids on Birmingham, eight of which were classified as major (in which at least 100 tons of bombs were dropped).[1][3] Official figures state that 5,129 high explosive bombs and 48 parachute mines landed on the city, along with many thousands of incendiary bombs. Of the high explosive bombs, around one fifth failed to detonate and one third of the parachute mines were left suspended after the parachute cords became caught in various obstacles such as trees.[4] In total, 2,241 people were killed, and 3,010 seriously injured. A further 3,682 sustained lesser injuries. 12,391 houses, 302 factories and 239 other buildings were destroyed, with many more damaged.[5]

Timeline of events

The first air raid on the city took place on 9 August 1940, carried out by a single aircraft which dropped its bombs on Erdington. One person was killed, and six injured.[4] On 13 August the aircraft factory in Castle Bromwich which produced Spitfires was attacked. Eleven bombs hit the main target causing significant damage. 7 people were killed, and 41 injured.[6][7] The first raid on the city centre occurred on 25/26 August, 25 people were killed in the raid, and the roof and interior of the old Market Hall in the Bull Ring was destroyed after being set ablaze by incendiary bombs.[7][8]

Birmingham Blitz D 4126
A severely bomb damaged street in Aston Newtown.

Regular small raids followed over August, September, October and early November. The city centre was badly hit between 25–30 October. Among the buildings hit were Birmingham University, the Art Gallery and the Town Hall. The roof of the Council House was damaged by fire, and on the 29th, St Philip's Cathedral suffered serious fire damage after being hit by an incendiary.[9][8]

In November 1940, a series of heavy air raids on Birmingham took place. Between the 19th and 28th of that month around 800 people were killed and 2,345 injured, with 20,000 civilians made homeless.[10]

On the first evening of the bombing, just five days after the devastating attack on nearby Coventry, the first major air raid was launched against Birmingham, when around 440 bombers attacked the city, killing 450 people and badly injuring 540. Around 400 tonnes of high explosives were dropped during the raid, including 18 parachute mines.[9][7] The raid turned out to be the most severe attack on Birmingham in the course of the war. A number of factories were badly damaged in the raid, including the Lucas Industries and GEC works. The Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) factory was badly damaged, causing loss of production and trapping hundreds of workers. 53 employees were killed, 89 were injured, 30 of them seriously, and rifle production was halted for three months. A member of the Home Guard and one of the company's electricians were later awarded the George Medal for their bravery in helping the trapped workers.[11]

Bomb Damage in Birmingham, England, C 1940 D4146
A ruined factory building.

The following night 200 bombers returned for another heavy raid, dropping 118 tonnes of explosives and 9,500 incendiaries, causing widespread damage. The main bus depot in Hockley was among the buildings hit, destroying or damaging 100 vehicles.[9][8]

A third consecutive major raid followed on 21/22 November. During this eleven-hour raid, large numbers of incendiaries were dropped, starting over 600 fires. The water supply system was badly damaged by bombs, causing three fifths of the city to lose mains water supply, firefighters therefore had to draw water from the city's canals. Supporting fire brigades from across the country were drafted in to help, and the fires were eventually brought under control.[10] Nevertheless, Birmingham's water supply remained in a critical state, only one fifth of the normal quantity would have been available if there had been another raid, leading the Regional Commissioner to comment "Birmingham will burn down if the Luftwaffe comes again tonight." However, there wasn't another raid that night, and this gave engineers time to repair the water mains.[12]

Around 60 bombers attacked Birmingham on 4 December. The Witton tram depot was badly damaged in this raid. One week later, on the night of 11 December another major raid involving 278 bombers was launched against the city. This was the longest raid of the Blitz lasting for 13 hours. Apart from explosives, around 25,000 incendiaries were dropped during the raid, causing widespread fires in both residential and industrial areas.[9] 263 people were killed and 243 badly injured.[2] All but the fine tower and classical west portico of St Thomas' Church on Bath Row was destroyed in the raid. Its ruins now form part of St. Thomas' Peace Garden, a public park designated as a monument to peace and a memorial to all those killed in armed conflict.

New St 1941
New Street after bombing

Further heavy raids followed in 1941, on 11 March 135 bombers attacked the city. On 9 and 10 April, Birmingham was subjected to two heavy raids. In the first of these, 235 bombers dropped 280 tonnes of explosives and 40,000 incendiaries, concentrated on the city-centre. The Bull Ring, New Street, High Street, and Dale End all suffered heavy damage, St Martin in the Bull Ring was damaged and the Prince of Wales Theatre and Midland Arcade were destroyed.[8] Other areas including Small Heath, Aston and Nechells, also suffered heavy damage. On the second night, 245 bombers dropped 245 tonnes of explosives and 43,000 incendiaries, causing major damage in Solihull, Hall Green and Erdington.[13] The two April raids caused 1,121 casualties.[8]

On the night of 16 May, another large raid caused damage to the Wolseley Motors factory, and the ICI factory. Although a navigation error meant that most of the bombers dropped their bombs on nearby Nuneaton by mistake.[13]

The last significant raid on Birmingham came on 27 July 1942, when around 60 to 70 bombers attacked the city. The very last raid on the city came on 23 April 1943 when just two bombs fell on Bordesley Green, causing slight injury, and the last air raid siren sounded on 15 May 1944.[8]

Black Country

The Black Country area also suffered from air raids from the Luftwaffe aiming for targets there and in Birmingham, although there was less damage and fewer casualties in the Black Country than in Birmingham. These included:

  • a string of air raids on Wolverhampton in 1941 and 1942.[14]
  • an air raid on Darlaston on 5 June 1941, when a bomb aimed at the town's Rubery Owen factory struck a nearby housing estate and killed 11 people. Another air raid on the town on 31 July 1942 reduced All Saints Church to rubble.[15]
  • West Bromwich suffered its heaviest raid on 19 November 1940, when Birmingham also suffered a heavy raid, with more than 50 fatalities, mainly around the town centre. Several houses were wrecked by bombs in the Tantany and Stone Cross areas of the town, but there were no deaths.[16]
  • Dudley was bombed on the same night as West Bromwich, with the 10 fatalities all occurring in the Oakham area of the town, when a landmine ripped into a section of council houses. Another bomb in the town centre demolished a public house and caused damage to buildings including a church and a department store, but nobody was injured. Another bombing nine months later resulted in five deaths.
  • There were also a number of fatalities in nearby Tipton in the blitz that night, with several more deaths occurring in the Great Bridge area of the town in May 1941 when a bomb demolished a public house and several houses.

Important industrial targets

Name Location Production
Aerodrome Factory Castle Bromwich 1,200+ Spitfires & Lancasters
Austin "Shadow Factory" Longbridge 2,866 Fairey Battles, Hurricanes, Stirlings & Lancasters
Austin Works Longbridge 500 Military Vehicles/week
Rover Solihull Bristol Hercules Engines
Fisher and Ludlow Birmingham Lancaster Wings, Shell Casings, Bombs
Reynold Birmingham Spitfire Wing Spars, Light Alloy Tubing
GEC Birmingham Plastic Components
SU Carburettors Birmingham Aero-carburettors
Birmingham Small Arms Factory Birmingham Rifles, sten guns (100% of all made)

Other targets included: Dunlop, Chance Brothers, Lucas, Metro-Cammell, Morris Commercial, British Timken, Hudson's Whistles and the Monitor Radio Company.

Tree of Life memorial, Birmingham
The Tree of Life memorial dedicated to the victims of the Blitz in Birmingham. Sculpted by Lorenzo Quinn, it was unveiled in the Bull Ring by Councillor John Hood on 8 October 2005.


Several service people were decorated for their heroism during the blitz. They include:


On 8 October 2005 a memorial sculpture, named 'The Tree of Life' sculpted by Lorenzo Quinn, dedicated to the victims of the Blitz was unveiled adjacent to St Martin's Church.[20]


The massive bomb damage on civilian housing in Birmingham contributed to the development of many large council estates across the city for some 20 years after the Second World War. These neighbourhoods included Castle Vale and Chelmsley Wood. Another major factor in the construction of these new properties was to replace the 19th century slums in the inner city areas.

Some of the bomb-damaged inner city areas such as Ladywood and Highgate were redeveloped with modern housing after the war, although these were mostly less densely populated than before.

See also


  1. ^ a b Ray 1996, p. 264.
  2. ^ a b Gardiner 2010, p. 166.
  3. ^ "Slide #5". Birmingham Air Raids Remembrance Association. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b Birmingham City Council Department of Planning and Architecture (February 1995). "Architecture & Austerity - Birmingham 1940-1950". Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  5. ^ Cherry, Gordon E. (1994), Birmingham: a study in geography, history, and planning, Belhaven world cities series, Chichester: Wiley, ISBN 0-471-94900-0
  6. ^ Ray 1996, p. 93.
  7. ^ a b c "1940 - Diary of a Birmingham Schoolboy". Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Douglas 1982, p. 12.
  9. ^ a b c d Ray 1996, p. 165.
  10. ^ a b Ray 1996, p. 166.
  11. ^ Gardiner 2010, p. 208.
  12. ^ Gardiner 2010, p. 209.
  13. ^ a b Ray 1996, p. 225.
  14. ^
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^
  17. ^ "No. 35074". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 February 1941. p. 870.
  18. ^ "No. 35173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 May 1941. p. 3019.
  19. ^ "No. 35117". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 March 1941. p. 1777.
  20. ^ "The Tree of Life unveiled". BBC news. Retrieved 19 May 2013.


  • Ray, John (1996). The Night Blitz. Cassel & Co. ISBN 0-304-35676-X.
  • Gardiner, Juliet (2010). The Blitz. Harper Press. ISBN 978-0-00-738661-1.
  • Douglas, Alton (1982). Birmingham At War, A Pictorial Account. Birmingham Post & Mail.
  • The Story of Erdington - From Sleepy Hamlet to Thriving Suburb, Douglas V. Jones, 1989, Westwood Press (ISBN 0-948025-05-0)
11th Anti-Aircraft Division (United Kingdom)

The 11th Anti-Aircraft Division (11th AA Division) was an air defence formation of the British Army during the early years of World War II. It defended the West MIdlands during The Blitz, including the notorious raid on Coventry, and the subsequent Baedeker Blitz, but only had a short career.

34th (South Midland) Anti-Aircraft Brigade

The 34th (South Midland) Anti-Aircraft Brigade (34 AA Bde) was an air defence formation of Anti-Aircraft Command in the British Territorial Army formed shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It defended the West Midlands of England during The Blitz.

54th Anti-Aircraft Brigade (United Kingdom)

The 54th Anti-Aircraft Brigade was an air defence formation of Britain's Territorial Army (TA) formed immediately before the outbreak of World War II. It was engaged in defending the West Midlands of England during the war. It comprised a varying number of searchlight (S/L) battalions and later included light anti-aircraft units. It was disbanded at the end of 1943. When the TA was reconstituted in 1947, the former 54th AA Bde was reformed as 80 Anti-Aircraft Brigade but was disbanded on 9 September 1948.

Argent Centre

The Argent Centre is a Grade II* listed building on the corner of Frederick Street and Legge Road in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, England.

Designed by J. G. Bland for W. E. Wiley, a manufacturer of gold pens; it was built in 1863, and acquired the name Albert Works, possibly because it was opposite the Victoria Works of Joseph Gillott.

Despite the appearance of being a huge, solid building, it consists of long, narrow, multi-storey workshops only 16 feet (5 m) wide, surrounding an open courtyard. This was a common arrangement at the time allowing natural light to reach workbenches from two sides. With floors constructed of hollow bricks tied with wrought iron, it was fireproof, removing the need for insurance. The multicoloured brickwork decorates a design reminiscent of renaissance Florence. Recycled steam from the works engines went to a Turkish bath in the northern end of the building; visitors to the Turkish Baths, also indulged in other leisure activities there, such as chess, fencing and billiards. Now flat-roofed, it originally had pyramids on each corner tower. A bomb dropped into the courtyard at some time during the Birmingham Blitz of World War II, and the bent window frames were visible at least till the mid-1980s.

It was home to Griffin & George, scientific equipment supplier to schools and universities, as well as Gallenkamp, laboratory equipment suppliers, part of the Fisons Scientific Equipment Division until their move to London in 1983/4. The technical staff, sales and marketing personnel, draughtsmen and prototype engineers were housed there. It was converted to offices in 1993.

The Argent Centre formerly Albert Works is owned by Midlands Industrial Association Ltd a Community Benefit Company whose aims and objectives are to encourage employment through the growth of the small firms sector by redeveloping redundant buildings in inner city brownfield sites. Midlands Industrial Associations Ltd is managed and run by Prince, Warnes Ltd. a specialist managed workspace consultancy. The Argent Centre provides workspace on a risk free monthly licence to give people the chance to develop their businesses without the risks normally associated with renting commercial property.[1]

Among many other businesses, The Argent Centre is now home to the independent museum, The Pen Museum

The only museum in the United Kingdom devoted to the history of the pen making industry - find out why Birmingham became the centre of the world pen trade.


Midlands Industrial Association Ltd has 4 other properties developed and run by Prince,Warnes Ltd, The Telsen Centre. 55, Thomas Street, Aston, Birmingham. The Jubilee Centre, 130, Pershore Street, in Birmingham's China Town. FiFty Seven Frederick Street, in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter and The Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton. All of these sites can be viewed on the Prince,Warnes Ltd web site,

Bill Harris Arena

The W. F. "Bill" Harris State Fair Arena (called Bill Harris Arena or Fair Park Arena) is a 5,000-seat multipurpose indoor arena located at the Alabama State Fairgrounds. The arena is used primarily for basketball, but also hosts concerts and other events. The arena has previously served as the home of the Birmingham Magicians and the Birmingham Blitz of the American Basketball Association and the Alabama Outlawz of X-League Indoor Football. It is named in honor of Bill Harris, longtime athletics director for Birmingham City Schools.

Birmingham Blitz (basketball)

The Birmingham Blitz were a semi-professional basketball team that plays in the American Basketball Association (ABA) based in Birmingham, Alabama. Founded in 2011, the team was owned by Birmingham Blitz LLC and in part by professional basketball player Ronald Steele. The Blitz played their home games at Bill Harris Arena. The tema played their inaugural game on November 16, 2012 against the Southwest Fellowship Warriors, a substitute team for the Tampa Bay Rain who folded before the season started.The Blitz are the second ABA franchise to be based in Birmingham. The Birmingham Magicians last played in the league in 2006. An unrelated ABA team based in Birmingham named the Magic City Blitz was formed in 2017.

Birmingham Blitz (disambiguation)

Birmingham Blitz may refer to:

Birmingham Blitz; the bombing of Birmingham, England during the Blitz.

Birmingham Blitz (basketball); basketball team based in Birmingham, Alabama.

Birmingham Blitz Dames; roller derby league based in Birmingham, England.

Birmingham Blitz Dames

Birmingham Blitz Dames (BBD) is a women's flat track roller derby league based in Birmingham in England. Founded in 2006, the league is a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

British Roller Derby Championships

The British Roller Derby Championships is an annual competition for roller derby leagues in the United Kingdom.

Dolly Rockit Rollers

The Leicestershire Dolly Rockit Rollers (“LDRR”) are a women's flat track roller derby league based in Leicestershire, England. Formed in January 2010, they skate flat track roller derby to the rules of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), of which they have been a member since July 2014, and have been a member of the United Kingdom Roller Derby Association (UKDRA) since September 2011. The league is entirely owned and run by its members, and was the first roller derby league to operate in Leicestershire.

Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell

Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell, ( CHAR-wel; 5 April 1886 – 3 July 1957) was a British physicist and an influential scientific adviser to the British government from the early 1940s to the early 1950s, particularly to Winston Churchill. He advocated the "area" bombing or "strategic bombing" of German cities and civilian homes during the Second World War by falsely stating data to Winston Churchill from a study on the psychological impact of Germany's Birmingham Blitz and Hull Blitz on the local populations. He also doubted the sophistication of Nazi Germany's radar technology and the existence of its "V" weapons programme.

George Inwood

Section Commander George Walter Inwood GC (22 September 1905 - 16 October 1940) of the Home Guard was posthumously awarded the George Cross for the "...highest form of cool courage and self-sacrifice for others" he displayed on the night of the 15/16 October 1940 during the Birmingham Blitz.

Hall of Memory, Birmingham

The Hall of Memory in Centenary Square, Birmingham, England, designed by S. N. Cooke and W. N. Twist, is a war memorial erected 1922–25, by John Barnsley and Son, to commemorate the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who died in World War I.Built directly over a filled-in canal basin of Gibson's Arm, it was the first structure in an area (now occupied by Centenary Square and the International Convention Centre and Symphony Hall) purchased by the council for the creation of a grand civic scheme to include new council offices, the mayor's residence, a public library, and a concert hall. The scheme was abandoned after the commencement of World War II with only half of the planned Baskerville House having been built.

Made from Portland stone, from the Isle of Portland in Dorset, the foundation stone was laid by HRH The Prince of Wales on 12 June 1923 and it was opened by Prince Arthur of Connaught on 4 July 1925 to a crowd of 30,000. Construction had cost £60,000 and was funded through public donations. The four statues around the exterior are by local artist Albert Toft. They represent the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and Women's Services.

The interior features three carved bas-relief plaques (155 cm x 223 cm) by William Bloye representing three tableaux: Call (departure to war), Front Line (fighting), Return (arrival home of the wounded). These bear inscriptions:




There is also a roll of honour illustrated by Sidney Meteyard.The hall was upgraded on 27 October 2014 to a Grade I listed building from its previous Grade II.

During the Birmingham Blitz, on the night of 11 December 1940, all but the fine tower and classical west portico of St. Thomas' Church, Bath Row, was destroyed by German bombs. The church was never rebuilt. The First World War Memorial colonnade, which had been built alongside the Hall of Memory in 1925, was relocated there when Centenary Square was laid out 1989. The gardens were re-designed as the St. Thomas' Peace Garden in 1995 in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, as a monument to peace, and as a memorial to all those killed in armed conflict.

London Rockin' Rollers

London Rockin' Rollers (LRR) is a women's flat-track roller derby league based in London, England. Founded in 2007, the league is a member of both the United Kingdom Roller Derby Association (UKRDA) and the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), and plays by WFTDA rules.

Ringway Centre

Ringway Centre or SBQ is a Grade B locally listedbuilding located on Smallbrook Queensway in the city centre of Birmingham, England. The six storey, 230 metres (750 ft) long building was designed by architect, James Roberts as part of the Inner Ring Road scheme in the 1950s and is notable for its gentle sweeping curved elevation along Smallbrook Queensway.

Completed in 1962 the building originally named the Ringway Centre was the first part of the Inner Ring Road scheme to be completed and the only part with street level shops and footways. The building currently provides office space on its upper floors and commercial space at street level.

St Thomas' Peace Garden

St Thomas' Peace Garden (aka the Peace Gardens) is a small public park in Birmingham, England, designated as a monument to peace and a memorial to all those killed in armed conflict.

The Peace Gardens were designed around the tower and west porticos of St Thomas's Church, Bath Row, which was half demolished in the Birmingham Blitz in 1940 and never restored. The grounds were laid out in 1955 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. They were redesigned in 1995 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. When the world leaders came to Birmingham for the G8 summit in 1998, each planted a tree. Each premier chose a tree that most represented their respective countries and they are now a living symbol of peace. Although the Peace Garden is within St Thomas' grounds this is a site that is for everyone including the ever-growing numbers of non-religious people of Birmingham, the West Midlands and the world.

Team Canada (roller derby)

Team Canada represents Canada in women's international roller derby. The current team was first formed to compete at the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup, and finished the tournament in second place to Team USA, losing the final 336 points to 33. Team Canada has finished in the top four at each Roller Derby World Cup thus far.

A previous Team Canada toured England and Scotland in June 2008. Skaters from the Calgary Roller Derby Association, Oil City Derby Girls, Saskatoon Roller Derby, Terminal City Roller Girls and Toronto Roller Derby played bouts against the Birmingham Blitz Dames, Glasgow Rollergirls and London Rollergirls.

William Mosedale

William Radenhurst Mosedale GC (28 March 1894 – 27 March 1971), known as Bill Mosedale, was awarded the George Cross for the heroism he displayed on 12 December 1940, while working as a fireman during the Birmingham Blitz.

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