1,000 casualties occur in Coventry in heavy night raid by Nazis

By United Press
The city center of Coventry, England, after the November 14, 1940, blitz of World War II. File Photo courtesy of Britain's War Office
The city center of Coventry, England, after the November 14, 1940, blitz of World War II. File Photo courtesy of Britain's War Office

COVENTRY -- Squadron after squadron of German airplanes dive-bombed this ancient industrial city for ten and a half hours in an attack which ended early today, leaving at least 1,000 casualties and wrecking the city as thoroughly as an earthquake.

The survivors of the Nazi air fury today wandered through broken streets and row after row of houses and buildings shattered to matchwood and rubble by the explosion of thousands of bombs.


The history of this present day industrial center of 167,000 population dates back to a medieval past brightened by the famous ride of Lady Godiva clad only in her golden hair.

Today it had joined the company of such targets of the German Luftwaffe as Warsaw and Rotterdam.

All night long the attack continued relentlessly. Nazi bombers roared over in formations that swooped in dive-bombing attacks every three minutes, released their cargo of explosives and zoomed again to head back to a home base.


Literally thousands of high explosive bombs and incendiary missiles rained down upon hospitals, churches, hotels, theaters, banks, stores, offices and block-after-block of homes of Coventry's thousands of factory workers and middle class families.

Today it seemed that every street in the city was pocked by bomb craters. In some places the bombs had fallen so thickly that it was almost impossible to tell where the street once had been and where rows of little houses had stood.

Observers could stand on long streets and as far as the eye could see every house on both sides had been damaged or blasted to bits by bombs.

Rescue workers rushing into the stricken town from the adjoining industrial cities of the western Midlands -- a region comparable to that of Pittsburgh or northern Ohio in the United States -- said the town looked as though it had been shaken to pieces by an earthquake.

Enemy aircraft were reported again this afternoon over the Midlands district but after the hell of the night and early morning there were few who paid heed to mere "reports" of enemy planes.

Casualties included policemen and civil defenders who kept at their posts, accepting certain death in the rain of bombs.


One bomb fell directly on a hospital and rescuers were driven back by fire. It was feared that casualties were heavy among bedridden patients.

Six persons were killed in a garage where they had fled after their home was bombed.

High explosive bombs hit four public shelters and caused many casualties.

Churches, public baths, clubs, schools, police stations and first aid posts were bombed -- nothing escaped.

Theaters were converted into first aid stations.

Many policemen died trying to handle incendiary bombs or assisting persons to shelters.

Scores of German planes came over the city in relays, one after another. They had the advantage of bright moonlight.

First aid work was hampered by mountainous piles of debris, which grew higher and higher.

The raid started early last night and continued until dawn. At one time forty bombers were overhead, despite fierce anti-aircraft fire. Virtually every street and district was bombed.

Several fire fighters were killed at their jobs. There were many heroic acts amid the turmoil, most of which, probably never will be recorded because no one lived to tell them. Many survivors told of seeing civil defenders brave the hail of bombs to shepherd dazed men, women and children to rest stations and feeding centers.


In one hospital, the windows were blown out of an operating room where a patient was on the table, but the operation continued.

The Home Security Ministry at London said that "extensive damage was done and many buildings were destroyed including the Cathedral."

The Coventry cathedral is St. Michael's, a masterpiece of the lighter Gothic style, with a steeple rising to 303 feet.

The city chosen by the Nazis for their revenge is famed in both history and legend. In olden times it was walled, with twelve gates. It had few medieval traces left, but many buildings of the Reformation period still stood.

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