The Leeds Blitz

A research project by Leeds Beckett students in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities.

Bomb damage in Leeds after the Blitz
Bomb damage in Leeds after the blitz

New information

One of the highlights of this project was that it led people with personal or family connections to the air raid on Leeds to share their stories.

Other stories

On the night of Friday 14 March 1941, Leeds was heavily bombed. It was the worst raid on the city during the Second World War. Although officially too small to qualify as a ‘Blitz’, the people of Leeds drew links to the fate of other towns and cities. As the dust settled during the following day, people were heard to remark ‘Leeds has caught it at last’.

Bomb dame inside Leeds City Museum

A town in North-eastern England had a sharp attack. Some shops and industrial premises were damaged. A number of fires were started, but these were effectively dealt with and brought under control. The number of casualties is not large.

Official Air Ministry and Home Security notice following the raid

The government’s confirmation of the raid concealed much confusion. The attack had been spread over a large area, stretching the emergency services. To make matters worse, a direct hit on the city’s telephone exchange caused delays in reporting from bomb sites.

The number of dead and injured rose as reports began to filter in. It is now thought that 65 people died and 258 injured as a result of the raid. These figures are over five times the initial estimates made during the bombing.

The human cost might have been even greater. Incendiary bombs caused over a hundred serious fires and explosives damaged around 4,500 buildings, including the Town Hall, Leeds Museum, Kirkgate Market and the city's Civil Defence Headquarters. The raids made 1,943 people homeless and left 15,000 without water.

History students from Leeds Beckett University have worked with the West Yorkshire Archives, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Leeds Libraries to uncover new details from the Leeds Blitz. Their research took place with support from Dr Henry Irving in the module ‘Public History Project’.

We would like to thank the Leodis photographic archive for providing the images that accompany the text.

Video: Dr Henry Irving on ‘Making Sense of the Leeds Blitz’ For the Leeds Museums and Galleries 1152 Club

Title slide reading "Making sense of the Leeds blitz - Dr Henry Irving"

Credits

This project was managed by Dr Henry Irving and was created by:

  • Ewan Bourne
  • Jake Coleman
  • Bradley Danahar
  • Ella Dean
  • Jack Gough
  • Megan Guest
  • Robyn Harris
  • Sophia Lambert
  • Samuel Miller
  • Beth Moir
  • Beth Pearson
  • Farhan Qurayshi
  • Iona Simpson
  • Leanne Speight
  • Dominic Starkey
  • Leah Thomas-Scarlett
  • Jessica Thompson
  • Jack Timby
  • Harry Walker
  • Jack Warren

Thanks also to Catherine Robins from Leeds Museums and Galleries, Vicky Grindrod from the West Yorkshire Archives, Antony Ramm and Joshua Flint from Leeds Libraries and Dougal Scaife from Leeds Beckett University Digital Team for making this project possible.

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