For nearly a year, between summer 1940 and spring 1941, the British were subjected to a sustained aerial assault. Gradually, however, people got used to the daily ordeal of bombing and, after a night spent huddled in a subterranean air-raid shelter, it was back to work and business as usual. The wail of the air-raid sirens ... the drone of enemy aircraft overhead ... the WHAM WHAM of the anti-aircraft batteries ... the crump of the bombs ... these were the Blitz sombre sound effects. Britons endured their first civilian bomb casualties in March 1940 as the German Luftwaffe attacked the huge Scapa Flow naval base, in the extreme north of Scotland. Larger bombing raids were mounted from July, at the outset of the Battle of Britain. But it was not until summers end that the Blitz proper began - a sustained aerial assault on selected cities, ports and industrial centres that lasted until May 1941. London, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Coventry, Manchester and Liverpool were among the key targets. Raids were made on the same areas for several nights running, to bring infernos of flames, smashed brickwork, splintered glass and black, asphyxiating smoke. In the chaos, entire streets simply vanished, burying mothers, fathers and children in the rubble. Nearly 2000 people were killed or wounded in London first night of the Blitz, Saturday, September 7, 1940. The brunt of the attack was borne by the East End where the docks were the important targets. Watching from central London, air-raid warden Barbara Nixon saw fire engines racing eastward, clanging their bells. A vast pink cloud turned angry red and blackened around the edges. From our vantage point it was remote and, from a spectacular point of view, beautiful. One had to force oneself to picture the misery and the havoc below in the most overcrowded area of London. Coventry after the massive raid of November 1940. The cities 19th century cathedral was destroyed and more than 1000 citizens were either killed or seriously injured. At ground level the East Ends experience was eerily horrific. Len Jones, a teenager at the time, recalled the whole of King Street rising and falling, with shrapnel dancing off the cobbles: H. the suction and compression from the high-explosive blasts just pulled and pushed you. 00 you could actually feel your eyeballs being sucked out ... Bomb blast, people would learn, had weird effects: it could rip victims limb from limb, or leave them unharmed but stripped naked. On that first night in London the German planes kept on coming in waves, lured by a Thames aglow with blazing barges and flames reflected from the wharves. At Surrey Docks on the southern bank the heat was so intense that it blistered the paintwork of the fireboats on the opposite side of the river, and solid embers the size of footballs whirled away to start fresh fires elsewhere. Warehouses spilled blazing rum into the streets, causing paint drums to explode, and also spewed melting rubber that billowed with stinky, noxious fumes, while flaming sugar flowed in cataracts over the dockside to form fiery sheets on the waters surface. For the following 56 nights, London was to be bombed from dusk to dawn. Nor was London alone. The populations of the other great ports and cities knew similar terrors, and Coventry was subjected to a night of such annihilating ferocity that the Germans coined a new word: Coventrieren, to Coventrate. Wherever the bombs fell every-day life was violently disrupted. Mrs M. Price was a young bride working in the Midlands: The first morning I went in there was a bomb in the workshop. Another morning, on arriving in the centre of Birmingham to catch the tram, there were 18 fires blazing around us at the same time. Water from the fire hoses was flooding everywhere and fur coats were being swilled down the street. Cuthbert Douse recalls helping to dig his grandmother out of a house in the Glasgow area: We had to dig with our hands but her arm was jammed by the windowsill. I remember my father telling me to turn away because the only way to get her out was to pull. I’m afraid he pulled three of her fingers off getting her out of the debris. Even country districts suffered. The county of Kent south-east of the capital, was known as bomb alley because it lay on the flight path to London. People became used to the throb of enemy aircraft over quiet woods and villages and on one Kentish farm a single pasturage was scarred by 93 bomb holes - one of them 40ft (12.2m) across. The farmers son said: As a break from bombing we sometimes get machine-gunning. That is definitely not so healthy. We had just left off threshing the other day when one blighter came hurtling down to 150ft and sprayed us. We threw ourselves under a wagon just in time. Sometimes German bombers made mistakes and dropped their, bombs in entirely the wrong areas. At other times, returning from a raid, they would dump the remainder of their explosives at random in order to fly home with greater safety. Many bombs fell on suburbs. No one within any distance of a likely target could sleep entirely easy in their beds. On September 13, 1940, Buckingham Palace itself was bombed - an event that quickened feelings of solidarity among all classes. I’m glad we’ve been bombed, was the Queens famous remark. It makes me feel that I can look the East End in the face. Wreckage, however, blocked the way. I pushed a piece of board and saw a shaft of light. I thought the light was on in the room above, and was about to climb through to put it out when I suddenly realized that what I could see was the moon. The room above had been blown away. I made the gap in the wreckage a little larger and helped out the rest of my family. Had we stayed in bed instead of getting up when the siren sounded we should undoubtedly have been killed. In this same town a young father, Mr. Leonard Palmer, searched through the wreckage which was once his home for signs of his two little children. Little Molly, aged nine, and Len, aged six, were both dead, killed by a Nazi bomb. All that their father has left a re a few golden curls found among the debris and a teddy-bear the little boy took to bed with him. Mr. Palmer's four-month-old niece was also killed, and his wife, mother and father critically injured. As he stood outside his demolished home he said: I was standing at my front door when the first bomb fell. My wife was in the kitchen and suddenly the floor above fell on her. The kiddies were in bed, and were hurtled through the ceiling. They were killed almost immediately, and I dug frantically at the debris to free my wife. An eye-witness of the battle which ended in the destruction of the bomber in Cambridgeshire said: I heard the sound of machine-gun firing and, looking out of the window, saw tracer bullets flying through the sky. I could not see anything of our planes, but they must have been there all right, for Jerry in the glare of searchlights, began to hurtle towards the earth with tracer bullets still pouring from his rear guns. The searchlights followed it in its fall and kept it in view until it crashed to earth with a terrific explosion which could be heard over a radius of many miles. I heard it clearly and was told later that the plane had fallen about 5 miles away.