From the author Steve Richards…

Steve RichardsDo not be misled by the title of this book. It is far more than a local history. There is much material which will interest the military and aviation enthusiast, as well as those engaged in the study of wartime Birmingham and its surrounding areas.

 

Like many of my generation who grew up in the 1950-1960s, I was regaled with stories told by my parents relating their experiences while living through the Blitz. My mother especially, who lived in Warley, Smethwick, waxed lyrical. She was of senior school age throughout the Blitz period. Her most dramatic account was of a German bomber which crashed in nearby Hales Lane, and how one of the German crew landed by parachute on the roof of a house opposite her home.

 

In the late 1990s, when helping one of my own teenage daughters with a school project about the Second World War, we decided to attempt to compile a list of air attacks on Birmingham. The three volumes of The Blitz Then and Now were diligently studied. It was there that we found a reference to the bomber of which my mother had spoken so often. It was a Heinkel He 111 of German bomber unit KG27 which, so it was said, had been brought down by a Defiant night fighter flown by Flt Lt Deanesly. This was most exciting. However, in the months that followed, I continued my own investigations which caused me to doubt that this particular RAF pilot was, the Luftwaffe over Brumindeed, responsible for the demise of the Heinkel.

 

In March 2012, my wife came across a reference on the internet suggesting that a pilot named Bodien had brought down a Heinkel over Birmingham on the night in question. With this lead we were able to source combat reports, squadron ORBs (operations record books) and even personal letters written by Bodien, which left no doubt that he, and not Deanesly, had shot down the Heinkel. This was contrary to much published local history, both in print and on the internet.

 

I determined to write a short account of this incident which occurred on the night of 9/10th April 1941. As I did the research I felt constrained to expand the project to cover all air attacks on Birmingham during the spring of 1941. As the reader will see, I subsequently threw off all restraint and went for all air attacks against Birmingham, from the Zeppelin raids in the First World War through to the last raid on 23rd April 1943. For my purposes ‘Birmingham’ includes the neighbouring local authorities of Bromsgrove, Oldbury, Smethwick, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall and West Bromwich.

 

From the outset the focus has been the military aspect as it related to Birmingham’s experience of the Blitz. The Luftwaffe over Brum - Birmingham’s Blitz from a Military Perspective is very much a story of the German Air Force ranging virtually unopposed over the city and the gradual ascendancy of the Royal Air Force, as it strove to get to grips with the night intruders.

 

the Luftwaffe over BrumPart One of the book is what may be termed a microcosm, detailing the story of one German raider and its impact on civilians in a Birmingham suburb. Whilst the larger Part Two of the book is a chronological account of military operations, I have not ignored the civilian experience. The section ‘The Horrors of Bombing’ gives graphic accounts of what the civilians of Birmingham suffered.

 

Although the illustrations in this book are meant to be secondary to the text, they are many, varied and interesting. I have not been reticent to use wartime snapshots (as well as more familiar professional ones) before they become lost to posterity.

Return to top

Details

Author: Steve Richards
ISBN: 978-0-9563708-3-9
Format: 280 x 215mm
Softback
Number of pages: 144
Illustrations: 161 black and white, 26 colour and 6 coloured maps
Price: £19.95
Postage: UK £2.00, EU £7.00, Rest of the World: £10.50 air mail, £5.25 surface mail.

Reviews

Click here to write a review

 

 

The Luftwaffe over Brum - Birmingham's Blitz From a Military Perspective Steve Richards
WHEN STEVE Richards set out to write a history of Birmingham during the Blitz he did so with a zeal and enthusiasm which shines through on every page of this nicely produced book and every credit must go to him for producing a fine record of Birmingham’s experiences during the Blitz. it is books such as these - and this is a particularly fine example of the genre - which add so much detail and. indeed, the minutiae to the stories of individual towns and cities during this period of the Second World War. Not only is this an appraisal of individual raids, and with accounts from the participants as well the defenders, but it also examines the wider picture on the ground from the perspective of the civilian front, the industrial front and the military front. Of course, as a commercial and industrial centre, and Britain’s second city. Birmingham fared badly during air attacks on the city but the author has looked not only at the narrow’ period of the Blitz- proper but has also widened his coverage by setting the scene with accounts of the few First World War Zeppelin attacks and taking his accounts through to the very last raids on the city.


A superb selection of photographs accompany Steve Richards text, all of them informatively well captioned and mostly of exceptional quality. The range of subjects covered through the images is diverse, including air raid damage, aircraft losses, aircrew, factory scenes, the National Fire Service and Birmingham-Blitz related memorabilia with a good selection of the photograph reproduced in colour. The author has also compiled a series of meticulous appendices, including a full Roll of Honour of all of Birmingham’s Blitz civilian casualties and a full seven and a half pages of tightly-spaced names, five columns to a page, is a stark and sombre reminder of the awful death toll that air raids on Britain’s cities produced. Additionally, he has tabulated and detailed all known air crashes within the city as well as mapping the city’s anti-aircraft defences and Observer Corps sites. The book is certainly a very good read and is far from just being a reference book containing simply the facts and statistics of the raids - although these are all here as an important historical record. Certainly, this lovely volume will be of great interest to those with a local-history interest m Birmingham and its environs but will also appeal to those who have an interest in and study aspects of the Blitz and German air operations over Britain. It will also be of interest, surely, to those who live in Birmingham and merely just have an interest in their city. Here, they will find infoaion and imagery that will doubtless fascinate as they pore over the remarkable story of their home from a period of history that is now slipping from living memory. Britain at War have no hesitation in recommending this excellent publication to its readers.
REVIEWED BY ANDY SAUNDERS, Britain at War, March 2016 issue

 

This book represents a piece of detailed, beautifully illustrated and well-written research. The subject, as the title states, looks at the Luftwaffe's extensive attacks on Britain's second biggest city - Birmingham. It is astonishing to see just how much the bombing changed the landscape.

 

Intelligent use of sidebars has been made, pulling technical explanations out so that the main text is an easier read, but information on subjects including German beam navigation systems and unit designations is there for those who want it. The narrative is comprehensive, describing the military units engaged in the defence of Birmingham as well as those flying against it with equal clarity.

 

The book is extensively illustrated with archive photographs, maps and other images, all exceptionally well reproduced. The author draws stark comparisons between bombed buildings and their appearance after post-war rebuilding, with a particularly emotive pair of photographs showing the same houses in 1941 and 1982.

 

Comprehensive appendices and a detailed index complete a book of exceptional quality.

December issue of Aviation News

 

The Luftwaffe over Brum
Following on from the Battle of Britain commemorations, it is all too easy to neglect the 75th anniversary of the Blitz. When there is coverage of the German bombing offensive against British cities, it almost inevitably turns out to be London­centric. This new book, sub-titled 'Birmingham's Blitz from a military perspective', helps redress that balance.

 

Steve Richards sought here to compile something more than just a local history tome, and has succeeded admirably. He takes the story back to the first ever air raids against Birmingham, carried out by Zeppelins during World War One, and from there traces how the Midlands city prepared for potential future onslaughts. Naturally, the main focus is on the various phases of the Luftwaffe's attacks over 11 months in 1940-41 and the RAF's response, but the experiences of the civilian populace are far from neglected. Nor does Richards stop there, for he takes in the raids of 1942-43, offers intelligent analysis, and provides a range of appendices - one of which lists all known civilian casualties.

 

Attractively designed, deeply researched, well-written and boasting excellent photographic reproduction, self-published titles come little better. A tour de force, of higher quality than many a book to emerge from far bigger stables.
By Ben Dunnell, Aeroplane, December 2015 issue

 

The Luftwaffe Over Brum – Birmingham’s Blitz from a Military Perspective,

The product of immense research, this self-published work is a detailed account of all German air attacks on Birmingham and the surrounding area from 1916 to 1943. Most of it focuses on the World War Two years – the author’s accessible style relaying an immense amount of information, backed up by rarely seen images. It examines both the tactics of the attackers and the defences put in place to repel them. It offers a view of the human cost of the Blitz, listing all known fatalities from the region, as well as air crashes.
Flypast November 2015


One of the best "Home Front" books I've ever had the pleasure to read!! Excellent book by Steve Richards well written with many illustrations and relevant information. Probably one of the best wartime books I have read and I have read literally 100s. I didn't want it to end.
Paul Wain, Liverpool

 

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of Birmingham during the Second World War, the very well researched detailed subject matter presents the story from various perspectives and therefore should have appeal for the casual and more specialist reader. I received a copy as a Christmas gift last year and have read from cover to cover and will no doubt go back and refer to again and again. Definitely one of the 'must have' WW2 reference sources relating to the City of Birmingham and immediate surrounding areas.
Neil Wright, Solihull

 

Five stars, First class
W A Jones

 

Five Stars; A constant reference and remembrance.
Mrs Jean Stilliard

 

An excellent and well researched book which is of great use to those like myself who knows the places where some of the events that the author relates are.
Robin Bird

 

Mr. Richards has done a superb job covering the air war over the Birmingham region. I have spent several years studying one of these events for a personal research project, and was extremely impressed with Mr. Richards' extensive research and captivating narrative.
Robert Johns, USA

 

Brilliant read. Old and young alike will love it.
David Best

 

Very interesting and well written.
Amazon Customer

 

This is an outstanding book. Steve Richards has done Birmingham proud by such a detailed and fascinating account of how the Second City and surrounding areas were blitzed by the Luftwaffe until their final air raid on 23rd April 1943. This will surely become the standard work on the subject.
Ray De Havilland, Birmingham

 

Five Stars
Thoroughly researched and full of excellent images and foot notes to illustrate the text.
By Delwyn Griffith, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

 

Highly recommended to all those interested in the Blitz on Britain.,
Having been in touch with Steve Richards over a number of years during the whole process of his writing of this book he has truly excelled in producing a really good quality publication. The reproduction of the photos is to a very high standard, using large sized, clear and often unique pictures so that one can fully enjoy the detail. I have been very impressed by the depth and quality of research that Steve has gone to in the production of this work, certainly making full use of many documents held by the National Archives, Kew and rather recycling previous research on the subject has gone to great lengths to uncover primary sources of documentation. Rather taking the material at face value Steve has further explored other avenues of research to ensure that the facts recorded in his book are as near to exactly what occurred as will ever be ascertained. Even though I have few links with Birmingham I found this a most invaluable and interesting book and it makes an invaluable addition to my library and it is of exceptional value for money for such a good quality publication. Nigel Parker. Author of Luftwaffe Crash Archive series and Gott Strafe England.
By Mr Nigel Parker, Wantage, Oxon

 

The Battle of Birmingham 1940-1943, A long expected book does not disappoint. Wonderfully put together it allows the casual reader and the keen historian to really get a handle on the Luftwaffe's objectives and the British air defence response. The details of the German units and crew add a dimension often lacking in similar publications. The illustrations are excellent especially those covering air defence and German aircraft for specific raids. To a greater degree the author has achieved telling the story of the airwar from a Birmingham perspective essentially this book is the battle of Birmingham. Outstanding achievement a must read.
By Andrew Lound, Great Barr, Birmingham.

 

Mr Richards has cleverly combined acute scholarship with easy readability, combining a huge amount of technical detail. A splendid book, of interest to both the specialist reader and those fascinated with the history of Birmingham during World War 2. Mr Richards has cleverly combined acute scholarship with easy readability, combining a huge amount of technical detail with many touching personal stories of ordinary Birmingham and Black Country folk caught up in the war. It will come as a surprise to many, as it did to me, how many areas of Birmingham and the Black Country were targeted by the Luftwaffe. Stories and pictures giving details of individual houses and roads bring the book to life. Lavishly illustrated throughout with high quality photographs, many not seen before as they come from the author's personal collection. Well produced on high quality paper, a book that will fascinate the general reader and be of great value to those who want a well-researched reference book.
By David Westley, Solihull, West Midlands.

 

 

 

Click here to write a review

Return to Top

Return to Top

Content

 

Author’s Preface

 

PART 1 - SWEET AND SOUR VICTORY

Setting the Scene

Dinard, Northern France 17:45-01:00 hours (local time) 9/10th April 1941

281 and 283 Hales Lane, Warley, Smethwick, Staffordshire 17:00-18:00 hours BST 9th April 1941

915 (Barrage Balloon) Squadron Headquarters, Cadbury Lido, Rowheath, Bournville, Birmingham 21:00-01:00 hours BST 9/10th April 1941

RAF Wittering, Northants 22:00-01:00 hours BST 9/10th April 1941

Sweet Victory?

‘Who’s going to pay for the damage?’

A Soured Outcome

Aftermath

 

PART 2 - THE CITY UNDER ATTACK

Early Days

Ships in the Night

The City Prepares for War

Civil Defence

Birmingham: A Beckoning Target

Eye on the Sky - the Observer Corps

The Balloon Goes Up

The Guns

The Blitz Phase One: August 1940

An Explanation of Luftwaffe Unit Designations and Markings

The Blitz Phase Two: September 1940-February 1941

The Rationale Behind the Blitz

A War of Attrition

The Pressure Builds: September-October

Target 52 Bild: November-December

German Navigational Radio Beam Systems

The Hampden Patrol

UXB - Men at Work

The Winter Lull: January-February 194

The Horrors of Bombing

The Blitz Phase Three: Spring 1941

The East - Hitler's Primary Goal

KGr100 - The Fire Raisers

Another Heinkel Down

The Blitz Phase Four: Final Raids July 1942-April 1943

The Final Analysis

 

APPENDICES

A - Who shot down the Smethwick Heinkel?
B - Royal Observer Corps Sites
C - Anti-Aircraft Guns – Birmingham Area
D - Anti-Aircraft Exercises
E - The Barrage Balloon
F - Luftwaffe Aircrew
G - German Bombs and British Bullets
H - The Raids in Summary
I - Civilian Air Raid Casualties
J - Aircraft Crashes in the Birmingham Area 1939-1945

 

Acknowledgements and Bibliography

Index

Return to top

Other Titles by the Same Author

Taking the rough with the smooth

M idland red motorway coaches

More room on top

 

Available direct from Steve Richards by emailing motorwaycoaches@tiscali.co.uk

Return to top