Buckingham Palace was hit by bombs seven times during the Second World War. It was just a matter of sheer luck that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth weren’t killed or very badly injured when the third raid took place on September 13th, 1940.
The king and queen were in one of the rooms near where the bomb went off. But crucially, the window to that room was open at the time. Hence no glass was blown into the room and the royal couple escaped unscathed. One man did die in the attack though, due to the shards and several others were injured.
The bombing attack took place at about eleven in the morning – a time when it was likely to be fully occupied with members of the royal family, staff and workmen. The king and queen were quietly sitting enjoying a cup of tea when the bombs exploded just outside their window.
The royal chapel at the palace was also damaged at the same time by a third bomb. The bomb plummeted through the roof destroying the altar, causing a great deal of structural damage and hurling tons of debris into the basement.
The young princesses, Margaret and Elizabeth, were living at Windsor Castle – twenty miles away from the palace – at the time and indeed for the duration of the war. The government had tried to persuade the royal family to live somewhere safer than London, with its constant attacks from the Luftwaffe.
Queen Elizabeth detailed the events of the daylight raid that occurred on Friday, September 13, 1940 in a letter to her mother-in-law, Queen Mary.
September 13th 1940
My Darling Mama
I hardly know how to begin to tell you of the horrible attack on Buckingham Palace this morning…
…At this moment we heard the unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane – We said “ah a German”, and before anything else could be said, there was the noise of aircraft diving at great speed, and then the scream of a bomb – It all happened so quickly, that we had only time to look foolishly at each other, when the scream hurtled past us, and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle –
I saw a great column of smoke & earth thrown up into the air, and then we all ducked like lightning into the corridor – There was another tremendous explosion, and we & our 2 pages who were outside the door, remained for a moment or two in the corridor away from the staircase, in case of flying glass. It is curious how one’s instinct works at those moments of great danger, as quite without thinking, the urge was to get away from the windows. Everybody remained wonderfully calm, and we went down to the shelter – I went along to see if the housemaids were alright, and found them busy in their various shelters – Then came a cry for “bandages”, and the first aid party, who had been training for over a year, rose magnificently to the occasion, and treated the 3 poor casualties calmly and correctly –
Darling mama, I do hope that you will let me come & stay a day or two later – It is so sad being parted, as this War has parted famillies.
With my love, and prayers for your safety, ever darling Mama your loving daughter in law
P.S. Dear old B.P is still standing, and that is the main thing.