In 1940, during the Blitz, an unexploded bomb on Martindale Road in London led to residents being evacuated to a local school, where they were told to wait for buses that would take them to safety. But the buses never came. Instead, the people sheltering in the school became a sitting target for returning bombers and, despite local journalist Ritchie Calder desperately warning the authorities about this, the residents remained, the bombers returned, and hundreds of men, women and children were killed.
Nearly half a million bombs dropped on Britain during the Blitz, and although we are told of the stoicism, determination and resilience shown by communities – known as the ‘Blitz Spirit’ – a new four part series from the BBC, Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain, explores how four single bombs shattered peoples’ lives, and exposes the failings of the authorities that were meant to protect them.
A 'them and us' attitude went against the Blitz Spirit
Professor of Modern European History, Annika Mombauer, was the OU academic consultant to the series and says:
You can see some striking parallels between the treatment of civilians during the Blitz and the recent Grenfell Tower fire, in how local authorities failed to act swiftly and appropriately and ultimately made decisions which cost people their lives. In the Blitz, and certainly in the first story we hear from London, the authorities didn’t give enough thought to protecting civilians and ensuring their safety – the poor, in particular, were forgotten. There was a ‘them and us’ attitude which ran counter to what many today think of as ‘the Blitz spirit’.
Blitz legacy continues today
The series, starting on BBC Two on 23rd November, is produced in partnership with The Open University and details how each of these four bombs sent ripples through the lives of local people and still affect communities decades later. Each episode begins with one bomb falling on one street in one city - London, Hull, Clydebank and Bristol. As eye witness accounts, survivors and relatives attest, these bombs touched the lives of everyone and created a legacy we all still live with today.
Find out more
OpenLearn will feature articles and related content, including clips from an interview with one of the producers about the ‘making of the series’.
Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain is produced by Wall to Wall and was commissioned for the BBC by Tom McDonald. The Executive Producer is Cate Hall and Series Producer is Tim Kirby. It was produced in partnership with The Open University. Dr Caroline Ogilvie is Head of Broadcast and Partnerships and the Academic Consultant for the OU is Professor Annika Mombauer, Professor of Modern European History.