The bombing of Buckingham Palace

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Elizabeth

P.S. Dear old B.P is still standing, and that is the main thing.

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the Battle of Britain

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The Battle of Britain was a military campaign of the Second World War, when the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).

The British officially recognise its duration as from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps with the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz,while German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard it as a campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941.

But rather then going into too much detail, thus article will mainly consist of photographs. I couldn’t possibly add anything more then what is already written about this.

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Not all of the pilots were British .Czech pilots of No. 310 Squadron at RAF Duxford in September 1940..

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The RAF was organised into different ‘Commands’ based on function or role, including Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Commands. While victory in the Battle of Britain was decisively gained by Fighter Command, defence was carried out by the whole of the Royal Air Force.

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During the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe was dealt an almost lethal blow from which it never fully recovered. Although Fighter Command suffered heavy losses and was often outnumbered during actual engagements, the British outproduced the Germans and maintained a level of aircraft production that helped them withstand their losses.

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One of many German maps of the planned invasion of Britain.

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Although not a major contributor to the 1940 air campaign against Britain, Italy did volunteer as many as 170 planes to the effort. In fact, more than five per cent of the 2,500 Axis aircraft committed to the battle were Italian

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The Raid on the Medway-ending the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

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The Medway raid of 9-14/19-24 June 1667 saw a Dutch fleet sail into the Thames and attack the British fleet in its anchorage in the Medway, causing a panic in London and winning a victory that helped bring the Second Anglo-Dutch War to an end.

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At the end of the summer of 1666 the British controlled the Channel, after the victory on St James’s Day and the devastating raid on Dutch shipping on 10 August (‘Holmes’s Bonfire’), but this was a short-lived success. The Great Plague of 1665 had already lowered Charles II’s income, and this was followed by the Great Fire of London (2-5 September 1666). Over the winter of 1666-67 the British fleet was laid up in the Medway, and at the start of the campaigning season of 1667 only two small squadrons put out to sea. Peace negotiations had already begun, and to a certain extend Charles’s decision was linked to this, while many in Britain believed that the Dutch would be unable to fund a powerful fleet of their own.

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This was not the case. The Grand Pensionary, Johan de Witt, was opposed to peace on the terms then available, and decided to launch a daring raid into the Thames to attack the British at anchor. The Dutch slowly built up the strength of their fleet at sea. A relatively small fleet sailed north to raid Scotland before returning south, and by 4 June a fleet of 54 ships of the line was off the Thames. This increased to sixty four on 6 June, and finally, on 7 June, Michiel de Ruyter arrived with the rest of the fleet.

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The Medway was very poorly defended in the summer of 1667. A strong iron chain supported by pontoons had been stretched across the river at Gillingham, and thirty pinnaces were available to fend off fireships. Only on 12 June, by which time the Dutch were already in the Medway, was George Monck ordered to build a gun battery at Gillingham.

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De Ruyter decided to send a small squadron up the Thames as far as Northfleet Hope, at Tilbury. This squadron would then turn back and sail into the Medway, where it would attack British shipping and if possible seize the defences of Sheerness. Lieutenant-Admiral Van Ghent was given command of the squadron, which contained seventeen men-of-war of between 60 and 36 guns, most of the ten fireships in the fleet and all of the smaller galliots.

Dutch Attack on the Medway, June 1667

The Dutch attack began in 9 June, when Van Ghent made slow progress up the Thames against a south-westerly wind. The wind prevented the Dutch from attacking some British ships in the Hope and at Gravesend, and on the night of 9-10 June Van Ghent moored just below Gravesend.

On 10 June the Dutch entered the Medway and captured the fort at Sheerness. Charles II responded by sending George Monck, duke of Albemarle, to Kent to organise a defence. Only now was the iron chain put in place at Gillingham, and a small gun battery built at each end while the Unity was posted just below the chain.

The crucial moment of the raid came on 12 June when the Dutch reached the chain. The Vrede, under Captain Jan van Brakel, and with two fireships in support, led the attack.

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While the Vrede attacked and captured the Unity, the fireships attacked and broke the chain. One then destroyed the British guardship Matthias. Van Brakel then went on to capture the Charles V, and used her guns against the British coastal batteries.

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The rest of the British fleet in the Medway was now virtually defenceless. The Royal Charles was quickly captured, and began Van Ghent’s flagship for the day, before being towed across the Channel (as was the Unity). The Monmouth was also burnt during the day.

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On 13 June the Dutch pushed further up the Medway. Although Upnor Castle and a battery on the opposite bank offered more resistance, the Dutch were still able to burn the Royal Oak, the  Loyal London and the Old James, while a larger number of ships were forced to run aground to save themselves.

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On 14 June, with most of his fireships gone, De Ruyter withdrew from the Medway and moored close to Queenborough, before moved into the mouth of the Thames. For a short period London was blockaded, and everything that normally arrived by sea was quickly in short supply (the price of coal rose from 15s to 140s per ton). De Ruyter considered mounting an attack up the Thames towards London, but a combination of improving British defences and the non-appearance of a French fleet forced him to abandon that plan. Finally, at the start of July, de Ruyter left the Thames and entered the Channel. An attack on Landguard Fort (2 July 1667) failed, ending a plan to attack Harwich.

The Dutch victory in the Medway forced Charles II to take the peace negotiations more seriously, and within a few weeks the war came to an end (Treaty of Breda, 31 July 1667).

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The Navigation Acts were modified to allow Dutch and German goods to enter Britain in Dutch ships, and most colonies taken during the war were returned, although the Dutch kept Surinam and Britain kept New York and New Jersey.

The peace was short-lived. After a brief period in which Holland, Britain and Sweden allied together to oppose Louis XIV, the French king managed to bribe Charles II to change sides, only five years after the Peace of Breda, in 1672, the Third Anglo-Dutch War broke out.

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Alderney camps-Nazi Concentration camps in Great Britain.

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The Alderney camps were prison camps built and operated by Nazi Germany during its World War II occupation of the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands was the only part of the British Isles to be occupied.

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The Nazis built four camps on Alderney. The Nazi Organisation Todt (OT) operated each subcamp and used forced labour to build fortifications in Alderney including bunkers, gun emplacements, air-raid shelters, tunnels and concrete fortifications.

The camps commenced operating in January 1942. They were named after the Frisian Islands.

Four labour camps were built, which were named after the German islands of Sylt, Borkum, Norderney and Helgoland.

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Lager Sylt, whose gates still stand today, housed the Jewish prisoners, who were treatment shocked the locals who remained on the Islands under the Nazis.

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Guernsey priest, The Reverend Douglas Ord, saw the prisoners from Sylt arrive in Guernsey in 1944.

He wrote in his diary: ‘Coming down from the harbour was a column of men in rows of five. All were in striped pyjama suits of sorts and their footgear varied from wooden sabots … to pieces of cloth bound round the feet. Others were barefoot.

‘There were more than the 1,000 of them – political prisoners brought away from Alderney. They were shaven-head and in varying degrees of weariness or lameness.

‘Scattered thorough the column among men of sub-human criminal type were others obviously intellectuals, men of superior calibre who had offended the brutal Nazi regime. It tore the heart to see the effects of this systematic and deliberate degradation of human beings.”2F73EA1200000578-3363742-image-a-9_1450342130877

Reverend Ord added: ‘At the head of the column marched five evil-visaged SS men armed with automatic guns. At the rear of the column and along its flanks on both sides and at a distance of about a dozen feet from each other were more of these brutes, similarly armed, and all on alert for any attempt at a break-away. I have never seen such brutality written on human countenances.

‘Occasionally a man would make the ‘V’ sign to us as he went by. All the emotions of pity, sympathy, sorrow, anger and horror surged through us as we watched.

‘All day long the stench of their poor, wretched, unwashed bodies and clothes hung about the route they had followed.’

While there were no gas chambers at Camp Sylt, the way the prisoners were treated led to the deaths of around half of the labourers brought to the island.

Documents compiled by British intelligence services trying to work out what was going on on the Channel Islands at the time laid bare the brutal conditions of life.

One report stated: ‘Too undernourished and exhausted to work efficiently, these men were mercilessly beaten by the German guard and frequently when they were too weak after a beating to stand up, they were clubbed to death or finished off with a knife.’

A report by British intelligence body MI19 said: ‘One such was crucified on the camp gates, naked and in midwinter. The German SS guards threw buckets of cold water over him all night until he was finally dead.

Another was caught by bloodhounds when attempting to stow away to the mainland. He was hanged and then crucified to the same gate. His body was left hanging on the gate for five days as a warning.

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More than 700 camp inmates lost their lives before the camps were closed and the remaining inmates transferred to France in 1944.

After World War II, a court-martial case was prepared against former SS Hauptsturmführer Max List, citing atrocities on Alderney. However, he did not stand trial,and is believed to have lived near Hamburg until his death in the 1980s