Coventry's Hell
Summer: 1939
Declaration and Evacuation
The Battle of Britain 1940
The Blitz
Handsworth's War
The People's War
One Village's War
Coventry's Hell
Home Front Archive

An industrial city in the British Midlands attacked on the night of 14/15 November 1940 by German bombers employing, for the first time, their Pathfinder Force, KG100, and the X Gerat beam system for finding their target.

ULTRA intelligence and prisoner of war information forewarned the British of a major Luftwaffe operation (MOONLIGHT SONATA) against a number of their cities. These included Birmingham, Coventry, and Wolverhampton, but the information was not correlated and there were also indications that the targets might be in London and the south of England. In any case, it was impossible to tell which would be attacked first and the ENIGMA signals giving their direction to the stations emitting them were not broken in time. By 1500 on the day of the raid the beams were found to intersect over Coventry, but electronic counter measures failed to work as the jammers were incorrectly set. The fact that Coventry was to be the target that night was passed on to RAF Fighter Command but 'British counter measures proved ineffective:' of the 509 bombers the German Air Force dispatched to Coventry, 449 reached the target and only one was certainly destroyed'. This failure probably hastened the scheduled departure of Crowling from Fighter Command and from it grew the myth that Coventry was left to the mercy of the Luftwaffe in order to protect the secret of ULTRA.

Twelve armaments factories and much of the city centre, including the 14th-century cathedral, were destroyed, and 380 people were killed and 865 injured.


*(F. H. Hinsley, British Intelligence in the Second World War, Vol. 1, London, 1979, p. 318) Courtesy:

The Oxford Companion to World War II

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