The Exeter Blitz aka The Baedeker Blitz
Exeter suffered several bombing raids during the early years of WWII but it was the so called Baedeker Blitz of 1942 that caused the most devastation.
The German Baedeker travel guide of the time listed Exeter as ‘the jewel of the south west’ and the city was one of several cultural and historic targets identified by Hitler following the Allies’ devastating raids on similar heritage-rich German cities, such as Lubeck.
In the early hours of 4 May, Sidwell Street, a large area to the south and the city centre sustained huge damage during a raid which lasted about 90 minutes. The city suffered the greatest amount of destruction in a single event since the Danish invasion of 1003AD. 156 civilians were killed and nearly 600 more injured. Around 800 homes and many public houses, shops and businesses were lost.
The west end of St Sidwell’s church took a direct hit from a 500lb bomb and the building was burnt out completely. A large chunk of the bell tower was reportedly thrown by the blast on to the roof of a building half a mile away. About half of Sidwell Street was destroyed by bombing and, regretfully, many of the parish’s historic buildings, including St Sidwell’s church, were later demolished as part of post-war rebuilding.