No other conflict has left such a scar on world history in the way that the Second World War has. From the titanic struggle raging on the vast steppes of Eastern Europe to the cataclysmic sea battles of the Pacific Ocean. It truly was a global war that impacted the lives of almost everybody alive in the world at that time. Beginning with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on 1st September 1939 and concluding with the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, WWII proved to be the most devastating war in human history.

While the British Isles saw no land fighting, between 1940 and 1941 the United Kingdom became subject to intense strategic bombing raids by the German air force (Luftwaffe). Its purpose was to disrupt the British war industry and hamper the morale of the British people to continue fighting the war. In what the press termed the “Blitz” (the German word for Lightning) many industrial cities were hit, most notably Liverpool, Coventry, Swansea, and London. The total civilian casualties from the bombing amounted to 40,000 by the end of 1941.

The German high command considered Newcastle, Wearside, and Teesside to be important strategic targets. The northeast of England was teeming with heavy industry, invaluable to the British war effort. Vickers Armstrong naval shipyard, Elswick steelworks and major trading ports along the east coast that supplied vital resources such as coal to the rest of the country were prime targets. The Luftwaffe also targeted Newcastle; a vital railway artery in the mainline connecting the south of England to Scotland. Upon the declaration of war in 1939, it was recognised that Newcastle would be an immediate target for German bombing. Thirty thousand children were subsequently evacuated from Newcastle to the safety of rural Northumberland and Cumbria.

The first major raid on Newcastle came on the 2nd July 1940. German bombers flying out of occupied Scandinavia raided the city with the aim of destroying the High-Level Bridge spanning the River Tyne. Although they failed to hit their target, the raid resulted in the deaths of thirteen people with a further one hundred and twenty-three suffering injuries. The deadliest attack on the city came on 1st September 1941, when a German bomb caused an inferno at the New Bridge Street Goods Station which continued to blaze for a week. Fifty people lost their lives, one hundred and forty were injured. A thousand people were left homeless.

The last substantial raid came in December 1941 when nine people were killed in the Byker area of the city. Sporadic raids by smaller groups of bombers continued until 1944. At the conclusion of the Blitz, over four hundred people were killed in Newcastle. Many more lost their homes and were left to deal with the rubble and devastation.

Morale in the city was kept high by visits from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In June 1941 they visited Elswick works and the Scotswood works of Vickers Armstrong, touring the factories and meeting the workers. They later visited the shipyards in Newcastle and North Tyneside which were in continuous production throughout the war. Other notable people to visit the city in this period were Prime Minister Winston Churchill who paid a surprise visit to Tyneside to inspect bombed areas and address industrial concerns and later exiled French General Charles de Gaulle. On 26th August 1945, one hundred thousand people attended the victory parade through the city following the proclamation of the end of the war.