As we journey further in time from the events of World War II, there are fewer people in the world can recall that troubled time period. Although anyone who was living in York on 29th April, 1942 will no doubt remember the dramatic events of the day.
It was the day that the Nazi’s bombed York. It took place in the early hours of the morning, and was the worst air raid that York would suffer during the war. The attack followed the bombing of other Cathedral cities such as Norwich and Bath.
In an article on Historyofyork.org.uk the writer describes the folklore surrounding the day “These were the so-called Baedecker raids. The story had it that Hitler, enraged by the RAF’s attacks on Lubeck and Rostock, picked up a Baedecker guidebook and ordered that every historic place in England marked with three stars be bombed in retaliation.”
It is said that German planes were largely unopposed throughout the raid, with gunmen and bombers targeting ordinary streets with bombs and machine gun fire. An attack which aimed to strike at the confidence and moral of the British people, targets included places like the train station, railway line and carriage works.
York Minster was not targeted. With over 70 German planes being involved in the raid, allied forces were able to shoot down four enemy aircraft. The raid took place at roughly 2.30am and lasted 90 minutes, resulting in the tragic deaths of 92 York residents and leaving hundreds of people injured. Although the raid was finished by 3am, the all-clear wasn’t given until 4.46am.
York History states “Across the city there were scenes of devastation. Houses were destroyed, schools wrecked, the Guildhall and St Martin-le-Grand Church on Coney Street burnt out. The Bar Convent had collapsed, killing five nuns. Pavements were littered with rubble and shattered glass. Huge craters scarred the streets and Clifton airfield.
That morning the city went back to work. As the Daily Mail put it: ‘The gates of York still stand high, like the spirit of its people who, after nearly two hours of intense bombing and machine-gunning, were clearing up today.’