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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 ‘Baedeker 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 on 28 March 1942. ‘Baedeker’ targets, such as York, were often chosen for their cultural and historical significance rather than military importance. 

The principal 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. 

York Corporation bomb map for the city, showing locations of various types of bomb strikes. Image: Explore York.

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 has recently been launched. It allows you to chart your way around York 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 in 2022-23. 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:

The Raids

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.

The Sites

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.

The People

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

11

Individual air raids on York during WW2


295

People injured in York from the raids

99

Tragically, the number of people who died in York during the raids


2,828

People made homeless in York by the raids

235

Bombs dropped on York during all 11 raids


9,500

Houses destroyed or damaged (a third of all York’s 28,000 homes then)


130

Minutes the “alarm” siren lasted during the Baedeker Raid on York

780

‘False alarms’ prior to the Baedeker Raid on 29th April 1942

19

Years-old, when warden Joan Maw was commended for “assisting the evacuation of people” during York’s 2nd raid

20

Blazing railway wagons shunted from York Railway Station by the quick thinking of Signalman Simpson during the Baedeker Raid

19

Terrified horses rescued by Stableman Alfred Martin and colleagues from the railway stables on Leeman Rd during the Baedeker Raid

2,347

Civil defence volunteers in York, as identified by the Raids Over York project (…so far!)

234

R.A.F. aircraft used to destroy the historic German city of Lübeck in March 1942, leading to a revenge ‘Baedeker’ attack on York

35

Luftwaffe bombers involved in the Baedeker Raid on York

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 raidsoveryork@outlook.com, using our social media channels, or writing to us at:

‘Raids Over York’
Fairfax House
27 Castlegate
York
YO19RN

About Us

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
• YAYAS
• City of York Council

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