Photo story

What Were The Baedeker Raids?

In spring 1942, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) launched a series of destructive air raids against historic towns and cities in Britain.

These attacks were termed the 'Baedeker' raids after the famous German travel guides.

  • Lübeck

    Aerial reconnaissance photograph showing bomb damage in Lübeck, Germany, 1942
    Aerial reconnaissance photograph showing bomb damage in Lübeck, Germany, 1942
    C 2387

    It is thought that the 'Baedeker' raids were a reprisal for the Royal Air Force's bombing of Lübeck and other historic towns in Germany. This photograph shows the extent of damage to Lübeck after the Royal Air Force (RAF) raid on 28-29 March 1942. This image shows the devastated western part of the Altstadt from the gutted cathedral (top left) to the Drehbrucke (bottom right) and Kanalstrasse (bottom left).

  • Exeter

    <em>Study for a Fire Guard Team, Exeter</em>, 1943, by William Clausen
    Study for a Fire Guard Team, Exeter, 1943, by William Clausen
    Art.IWM ART LD 3197

    Exeter was the first city to be bombed in the 'Baedeker' raids. In this first raid on the night of 25-26 April, 80 people were killed and 55 wounded. In a further attack in early May, 90 aircraft dropped high explosives, parachute mines and incendiaries. Fires devastated the city's shopping centre, and the raids left 163 people dead and 131 badly injured. Exeter and other small historic cities targeted in these raids were often poorly prepared or badly defended. Where possible, defences were improved. This study for an oil painting shows a team of volunteer fire fighters standing in rubble from previous raids.

  • Bath

    <em>Fire Blitz on Bath</em>, 1942, by Wilfred Haines
    Fire Blitz on Bath, 1942, by Wilfred Haines
    Art.IWM ART LD 3052

    In two consecutive nights of attacks on Bath from 25-26 April, 400 people were killed, communications badly affected and the town's railway station put out of action. This oil painting by fireman artist Wilfred Haines shows fires blazing across the city during the raids. The city was ill-prepared for an air raid on this scale and blast from high-explosive bombs did considerable damage to the city’s ancient buildings. Wilfred Haines was killed in 1944 by a V1 flying bomb.

  • Norwich

    An Anderson shelter standing intact after a bombing raid on Norwich
    An Anderson shelter standing intact after a bombing raid on Norwich
    HU 36196

    Norwich was raided on 27 April and again two nights later. Although Norwich had been blitzed before and had Air Raid Precautions (ARP) provisions in place, these raids cost the lives of 222 people. Fortunately the cathedral and the Town Hall survived the raids but the historic St Julian's Church on King Street was almost completely destroyed. A further attempt to bomb Norwich was made during May but further serious damage was prevented either by a balloon barrage or a nearby decoy site.  The final 'Baedeker' raid struck Norwich at the end of June. It left 14 dead and 11 injured.

  • York

    Wreckage of a house after an air raid on York, April 1942
    Wreckage of a house after an air raid on York, April 1942
    Q(HS) 256

    York was hit on 28-29 April 1942. Within the city 79 people were killed and 90 seriously injured. The raid lasted only an hour but heavy explosives and incendiaries caused significant damage, with the city's medieval Guildhall destroyed. Many houses were also destroyed or badly damaged. This photograph shows one York resident standing amidst the remains of his home. Mr McGregor, his wife and their lodger were protected during the raid by their Morrison air raid shelter, just visible under rubble to the right of the photograph.

  • Canterbury

    The aftermath of the 'Baedeker' raid on Canterbury, 1942
    The aftermath of the 'Baedeker' raid on Canterbury, 1942
    Q(HS) 289

    Canterbury was raided on 31 May-1 June. Many houses, shops and notable buildings such as the Corn Exchange and City Market were destroyed in the raid, together with the bus depot, three churches and two schools. This photograph shows the windows of a Marks & Spencer store being boarded up after the raid. Canterbury was hit again two nights later and again on 6-7 June. In the three raids, 45 people were killed and a similar number injured.