Commemorating the Leeds Blitz
Two final year BA (Hons) History students have written this blog together to commemorate the Leeds Blitz on it's 80th anniversary.
The 14 March marks the 80th anniversary of Leeds worst aid raid. Although officially too small to qualify for a ‘Blitz’, the city was pounded by incendiary and high explosive bombs in two waves of attack during the night and early hours of the following morning. The raid caused over 100 serious fires, damaged over 4,500 buildings and resulted in 65 people losing their lives.
To commemorate the anniversary, we worked with other students on the ‘Public History Project’ module to explore different aspects of the raid. The project was a partnership with Leeds Museums and Galleries, the Leeds Local and Family History Library and the West Yorkshire Archives Service.
Our groups focused on the effect of the damage on civilian morale (Megan) and heroism (Bradley). We chose these themes out of personal interest – and because they struck a good balance between our wish to reach a popular audience while also providing historical context to respect and remember those involved.
We used an array of primary and secondary sources to understand what happened that night. This ranged from secret Home Security reports to books written by academic historians.
Our individual projects led us down different paths. To show the damage that was caused during the raid, Meg’s group made extensive use of images from the Leodis photography archive. To find out more about the lives of those who acted heroically, Bradley’s group used genealogy databases and historical maps to complement the written sources.
The module was dramatically different from others that we have studied. It is a lot more hands on with its learning and assignments, which turned out to be a benefit in a time of lockdowns. The other big difference is that we know that our final assignment was going to be made public. This drove us to complete the website – not only to achieve a high grade, but also to create something that was accessible and engaging to the people of Leeds today. Many of the stories we researched happened in places that are still recognisable today.
We really hope that people will enjoy the final project. For people to learn about the event from a resource that we have created would be a fantastic outcome!
And, during such unprecedented times as Covid-19, we hope that the events of 80 years ago motivate people to help those in need during a time where we must all pull together.
Other history students from the module have written blogs for Leeds Libraries and the West Yorkshire Archives Service. Their research took place with support from Dr Henry Irving in the module ‘Public History Project’.
Image credit: © Leodis - Bomb damage to Leeds Museum following the raid in March 1941