Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Second Great Fire of London, as the air raid of the night of December 29/30, 1940, came to be known.
Starting at 6 PM, over 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on the city. The area of destruction was the largest of the war, and greater than that of the Great Fire of 1666.
Churchill urged that St. Paul’s Cathedral be saved at all costs, and both firefighters and volunteer fire watchers worked through the night to fight fires nearby and put out incendiaries landing on the roof.
Over 160 civilians died during that night, with many more dying of injuries in the following days. Fourteen firemen died and 250 were injured. In a successful effort to make firefighting more difficult, the raid was timed to coincide with particularly low tides in the Thames.
The film below, from the British Ministry of Information, shows the fire as seen from the roof of the Cathedral:
The raid came the same night as FDR gave his “Arsenal of Democracy” Fireside Chat: