The Blitz was a German bombing offensive against Britain in 1940 and 1941, during the Second World War. The term was first used by the British press and is the German word for ‘lightning’.
The appearance of German bombers in the skies over London during the afternoon of September 7, 1940 heralded a tactical shift in Hitler’s attempt to subdue Great Britain.
During the previous two months, the Luftwaffe had targeted RAF airfields and radar stations for destruction in preparation for the German invasion of the island. With invasion plans put on hold and eventually scrapped, Hitler turned his attention to destroying London in an attempt to demoralize the population and force the British to come to terms.
At around 4:00 PM on that September day, 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters blasted London until 6:00 PM. Two hours later, guided by the fires set by the first assault, a second group of raiders commenced another attack that lasted until 4:30 the following morning.
This was the beginning of the Blitz – a period of intense bombing of London and other major cities and targets that continued until the following May.
For the next consecutive 57 days, London and many other cities were bombed, either during the day or night. Fires consumed many portions of the city. Residents sought shelter wherever they could find it, the lucky ones fleeing to the Underground stations that sheltered as many as 177,000 people during the night.
In the worst single incident in London, 450 were killed when a bomb destroyed a school being used as an air raid shelter. More than 40,000 civilians in total were killed by Luftwaffe bombing during the war, almost half of them in the capital, where more than a million houses were destroyed or damaged.
Londoners and the world were introduced to a new weapon of terror and destruction in the arsenal of twentieth century warfare. The Blitz ended on May 11, 1941 when Hitler called off the raids in order to move his bombers east in preparation for Germany’s invasion of Russia.
Carruthers play their part:
This research was carried out on behalf one of our members: Elizabeth Carruthers who informed us of Acting Sergeant William Carruthers from Galston in Ayrshire, Scotland, and the decoration he had received for his valour during the blitz.
War Office and Ministry of Defence: Military Secretary’s Department:
Recommendations for Honours and Awards for Gallant and Distinguished Service (Army).
NON-COMBATANT GALLANTRY AWARDS COMMENDATION
Held by: The National Archives-War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General and related bodies.
William Carruthers No. 2694195 Cpl. (Acting Sergeant) SCOTS GUARDS
As a result of enemy action buildings were damaged. Sergeant Carruthers located two people on the first floor who had freed themselves from the debris but could not get out of the building. A women also was trapped on the floor above. Sergeant Carruthers scrambled up and a police constable crawled into an opening they had made and moving pieces of wreckage, he extracted the women who was hauled to safety by Sergeant Carruthers.
A ladder was erected in an effort to rescue the man and woman: as it was not long enough Sergeant Carruthers, at great personal risk hung out of a demolished window and spliced another length of ladder. In this way the two people were able to escape to safety.
The rescues were performed in total darkness, while a heavy air attack was still in process. Huge pieces of masonry and timber were poised in perilous positions and the danger was further increased by escaping gas and water.
In 1940, during the height of the Blitz there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage. The existing awards open to civilians were not judged suitable to meet the new situation, therefore it was decided that the George Cross and the George Medal would be instituted to recognise both civilian gallantry in the face of enemy bombing and brave deeds more generally
Associated with the George Cross, the George Medal, which can be awarded to the same persons as the GC would be for actions that would not necessarily merit the higher decoration. For subsequent acts, bars could be awarded.
The George Medal (GM), instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI is a decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, awarded for great bravery – not in the face of the enemy, where the services, albeit of gallantry, were not so outstanding as to merit the George Cross.
The George Cross (GC) is the second highest award of the United Kingdom’s Honour System, second only to the Victoria Cross. The GC is awarded “for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger”, not in the presence of the enemy, to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians
Recipients of the George Medal are entitled to add the letters GM to their names and these are engraved in the medal in capital characters; for civilian’s surname and initials, for military personnel surname and Christian name, rank and unit. Although the GM was more freely awarded than the GC, standards for the former are still high.
The circular badge, designed by George Kruger Gray, is made of silver and measures 1.42″ (36mm) in diameter. The front shows the crowned head of the reigning Monarch, looking left (Queen Elizabeth looks to the right) with the following inscriptions:
GEORGEIVS VI DEI GRA BRITT: OMN REX INDIAE IMP if awarded between 1940 en 1949
GEORGEIVS VI DEI GRA BRITT: OMN REX FID if awarded between 1949 en 1952.
After the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the inscriptions read:
ELIZABETH II D: G: OMN: REGINA F: D: if awarded between 1952 en 1959
ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA F: D: if awarded between 1959 en 1964.
The reverse of the medal shows St. George on a horse fighting the dragon with the inscription THE GEORGE MEDAL above. The ribbon is 1.42″ (36 mm) wide, is coloured red and has five narrow blue strips of equal width evenly spaced across the ribbon.