Raids Over York ~ The project
Raids Over York is a collaborative heritage project that commemorates the 80th anniversaries of the 11 air raids over York during the Second World War (1939-45) through new research, interactive media, and a series of public, celebratory events.
The air raids on the city were part of what was called the ‘Baedecker Raids’. This was a series of specific attacks by the Nazi Germany‘s Luftwaffe on English cities during the war as part of a bigger air-raid campaign known as ‘The Blitz‘. It was in retaliation to the Royal Air Force‘s (RAF) bombing of Germany during the war, which had included the destruction of the historic German city of Lübeck in May 1942. ‘Baedeker’ targets, such as York, were often chosen for their cultural and historical significance rather than military importance.
The principle aim of Raids Over York is to better understand the specific sites in York that were constructed to protect the people of the city, such as air-raid shelters and anti-aircraft batteries, as well as buildings that were targeted and damaged in the raids.
The project also seeks to better understand how the people of York were affected by the raids. This is done through collecting existing and recording new oral history testimonies of those who experienced the raids at first hand, predominantly as children or young adults.
So Raids Over York is as about recording and sharing information, be this the sites of individual bomb craters, remaining public or private air-raid shelters in the city, or the oral testimonies of those who remember them.
New digital technology helps tell the story of the York raids. This includes an interactive digital map, which will be rolled out in early 2021. It will allow users to chart their way around York and its suburbs to see and hear more about the city’s defences, the raids and people’s experience of them.
We passionately believe that history shouldn’t be limited to what is found in a book or presented as a lecture. Therefore, a series of exciting ‘events’ are being planned to be held in York between August 2020 and December 2022 – on the dates when the 80th anniversary of each raid falls. More information on these events, and how you can help, will be made available shortly.
Use the links below to find out more about what has been discovered in terms of ‘The Raids’ themselves, ‘The Sites’ – the structures that were built or damaged during the raids, and ‘The People’ – testimonies of those who were affected by the raids.
What we’ve discovered so far:
Many a professional and amateur historian have researched York’s WW2 air raids, especially the ‘main’ Baedeker Raid of 29 April 1942. Raids Over York is proud to build upon this research rather than look to re-write it anew.
Raids Over York will instead look to explore each of the eleven, individual raid on the date of its 80th anniversary. In doing so, it will explore each raid by unearthing fascinating new primary sources in the archives, focusing on specific sites in the city, and drawing on oral history testimonies.
Raids Over Project is particularly minded to work with York residents to discover and share knowledge of any remaining physical structures that help to tell the story of people’s experience of the raids.
Public and private air-raid shelters, bomb craters, graffiti, and signs of shrapnel damage all feature as part of what we might call built heritage: historic remains that remind us of life experienced during WW2 in York.
Thanks to contributions from members of the public, we have already discovered lots of fabulous, different types of air-raid shelters in York that are still standing (or subteranean, in some cases!)
In 2021 and 2022, Covid-19 permitting, we’ll be looking to organise a serious of site-specific archaeological and archive research projects with local communities to help better understand York’s rich WW2 heritage.
People are at the heart of Raids Over York. We are proud to have been able to record the memories of life during the raids from those who were only children during the war; memories that include the night a local school was bombed or a newspaper boy who was left with undelivered papers after one raid had destroyed homes on his ‘Round’.
This child-focus approach builds on the oral history research that has been carried out previously by York Oral History Society and others.
Raids Over York also seeks to engage with York’s local communities, to help them better appreciate and explore their local heritage in connection with the WW2 raids on the city.
I was ten years of age when York was blitzed and attended Poppleton Road School. I remember well this night and running down the garden with my sister to our Anderson Shelter and the noise of the firing Ack Ack guns and exploding bombs was very frightening and the searchlights lighting up the sky.
… When the high explosive bomb hit the school, the noise was incredible, our house was probably half a mile away and I remember the ground shaking.― Ray T. , Acomb.
I recently converted my loft and I always wondered why the main beam on the roof wasn’t one continuous piece of wood and had been repaired. A local man informed me that his family had owned the house and that during the air raid an incendiary device damaged the roof and luckily didn’t go off.
The same German plane dropped numerous devices along Bootham Crescent and another house was hit on Baker Street, where the incendiary device again didn’t go off and ended up in a cot.― Lee W., Clifton.
Raids Over York ~ in numbers
The number of individual air raids on York during WW2
The number of people who were injured in the raids
Tragically, the number of people who died during the raids
The number of people who were made homeless by the raids
Total number of bombs dropped on York during the raids
Number of houses destroyed or damaged
Go on, get in touch with us !
- Do you have knowledge of the raids?
- Did you experience the raids at first hand?
- Do you suspect there’s a WW2 air-raid shelter in your yard or garden?
- Do you know of a bomb crater in your neighbourhood?
- Do you think we have got some of our facts wrong? (We’re only human!)
If so, we would be delighted to hear from you.
You can contact us by using the message panel below, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, using our social media channels, or writing to us at:
‘Raids Over York’
Raids Over York is a collaboration of heritage-related organisations and individuals in the city. These include:
• York Civic Trust
• Explore York Libraries & Archives
• The University of York’s Department of Archaeology
• York Oral History Society
• City of York Council
Raids Over York partner organisations: