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The Blitz

  • German Bombers
    German Bombers
  • Anti-Aircraft gun
    Anti-Aircraft gun
  • Bombed Pub
    Bombed Pub
  • Metropol Bournemouth
    Metropol Bournemouth
  • Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns
    Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns
  • UXB Dorchester
    UXB Dorchester

The Dorset Blitz

On the south coast of England, Dorset was easily accessible to Luftwaffe bombers based in Northern France. However, many raids passed over the county on their way to bomb major targets such as Bristol but Fighter Command squadrons flying from RAF Warmwell were active in the skies over Dorset, attempting to prevent the bombers getting through. The ports, airfields and supply dumps in the county were also targets in their own right, as well as being alternatives in the event of bombers being unable to reach their primary targets.

From May 1940 onwards, when targets around Bournemouth were bombed, air raids were mounted on a number of key targets in Dorset, chief of which were the ports of Weymouth and Portland, along with the Whieways RN Torpedo Works. In the east of the county, Poole Harbour and the RN cordite factory were bombed. As the Luftwaffe's bombing campaign progressed, attacks of military targets and airfields such as RAF Warmwell and RAF Hurn was widened to include the civilian population, not necessarily just those immediately adjacent to legitimate targets. Having failed to destroy the RAF and pave the way for invasion, Hitler believed that the bombing of our cities and towns would break Britain's will to resist. As far as Dorset was concerned he Blitz prompted a second wave of evacuation from London and the industrial areas of the North but even 'safe in the country' evacuees found themselves subject to bombing.

In addition to Royal Artillery anti-aircraft gunners and the Home Guard, the county's Civilian Services, The Royal Observer Corps, Air Raid Wardens, the Fire Brigade, St John Ambulance and the Red Cross, the Women's Voluntary Service and others all worked together during the heaviest bombing raids.

The German Blitz against Dorset was not on anything like the scale of that on London or, for example, Coventry, but it did bring the war, along with death and destruction to all parts of the county. Weymouth alone suffered forty-eight air raids in which not only were naval and military personnel killed in action but also civilians, including children, were killed and wounded.

Bombing Statistics

The Dorset Constabulary recorded that approximately 4,307 heavy high explosive bombs were dropped on the county during the Blitz of which 396 failed to detonate and were categorised as UXBs. There were 37,007 incendiary bombs recorded as being dropped on Dorset towns and villages, along with 14,550 smaller HE bombs, categorised as anti-personnel.

The police also recorded that fifty-four British aircraft; mostly Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, were lost over Dorset, with eight of them crashing into the sea. Against this total, some ninety German aircraft split almost evenly between bomber and their fighter escorts, were shot-down, thirty-five of them