By Tom Dare
HARROWING FOOTAGE showing King George VI and The Queen Mother walking through the obliterated streets of London following a devastating Luftwaffe attack during the Blitz has resurfaced this week, ahead of the anniversary of day the first British person was killed in a German air raid (Friday, March 16).
The video, taken on an unknown date in the middle of the relentless aerial bombardment of Britain by the Nazis which came to be known as the Blitz, shows some of the destruction caused by the attacks, with firefighters desperately fighting some of the huge blazes which engulfed the capital between September 1940 and May 1941.
Further clips from the film show London the day after a raid, with whole areas of the city levelled to the ground by the attack. The video also shows King George VI, Britain’s war time King, visiting some of the worst-hit sites with his wife and mother of Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon.
The video has emerged on the anniversary of the day the first British person was killed by German bombing. While the widespread bombing of London, Coventry and other targets didn’t really begin until September 1940, other parts of Britain were targeted before this. One of these was the Orkney Islands, where Scapa Flow local James Isbister was killed during a bombing raid on March 16 1940. Scapa Flow had been chosen as Britain’s main naval base at the start of the war due to its distance from German airfields, and on March 16 it was heavily bombed for this reason. Writing about the tragedy, the Scotland Herald says:
“The folk of Orkney will be quietly remembering James Isbister, a 27-year-old road labourer who died almost exactly a year earlier [than the attacks in 1941].
“He was killed when a string of high explosive and incendiary devices tore through the cluster of cottages in the parish of Stenness during a raid by Heinkel bombers on warships anchored in Scapa Flow. This little-remembered tragedy occurred on March 16, 1940.
“When the bombs started to fall James Isbister was at home with his wife Lily and baby son Neil, who now lives in Kirkwall. Across the road a bomb blew apart the house occupied by Mrs Isabella McLeod. James ran to her aid but collapsed a few feet from his own front door, struck down by a shower of shrapnel.
“The attack was over in minutes and although others were injured, including Mrs McLeod who crawled from the shattered remains of her home, James Isbister was the only fatality.”
The Blitz was a German bombing offensive against Britain during the Second World War which ran from September 7, 1940 to May 11, 1941. The term was first used by the British press as an abbreviation of Blitzkrieg (lightening war).
After failing to gain air superiority during the Battle of Britain, Hitler turned his attention to breaking the will of the British people, targeting industrial areas such as London and Coventry.
32,000 civilians lost their lives during the Blitz, with 87,000 seriously injured. The bombings also saw two million homes destroyed, with famous landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Chamber of the House of Commons all sustaining damage.