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Mapping the Blitz

December 10th, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe · No Comments

The above screen shot is of a Google Maps OpenStreetMap application, created by the website Bomb Sight, that locates every German bomb dropped during the London Blitz (October 7, 1940–June 6, 1941). The creators used World War II bomb census maps previously available only in the Reading Room of the National Archives in London.

Now click a few times to get a bigger-picture view and the damage wrought by the Luftwaffe is even more overwhelming.

Zoom in far enough and those red dots become bomb icons. Click the bomb and you get details such as, “High Explosive Bomb at Surrey Quays Road.” Click again and you can read primary-source accounts of the bombing in that area. This is from a boy living near Surrey Quays:

I was sitting on the edge of the bunk, holding a small torch, still thinking of my homework, and of one of the sums I couldn’t do, when, without warning, everything went black. I don’t know how long it lasted, probably only a few seconds, then suddenly the air was full of choking dust, people were shouting and screaming outside the shelter. The candles on a ledge in the shelter had been blown out, but in the light of my torch , through the fog of dust, I could see my Mum looking very white and shaken. My Dad said calmly, “I expect that’s the house gone, a direct hit probably”. There was shouting outside, and the curtain over the entrance to the shelter was pulled aside, a torch shone in, and an air-raid warden shouted “Anyone hurt, you alright in here?” “Yes, alright, but what happened, are we hit” my Dad replied. “A mine over Buller Road, everywhere’s flattened, a lot killed” the warden said, and disappeared. “Go and have a look, George”, my Mum whispered, “but do be careful”.

My Dad pulled himself up through the entrance to the shelter and surveyed the scene. “My God”, I heard him say, “what a mess”. He came back in, and spoke to my Mum. “The house is standing, but the roof’s gone, there’s timber everywhere, there’s lot of buildings down over the back, where Compton Road was”

UPDATE: The folks at Bomb Sight tell us they use OpenStreetMap data for the background map, provided by CloudMade, and geocoding services by MapQuest, all open source technology.

IMAGES: Screen shots of the Google Maps OpenStreetMap application “Explore the London Blitz” from the website Bomb Sight (bombsight.org)

Tags: Maps · Technology

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