The spire of Coventry Cathedral today stood as a sentinel over the grim scene of destruction below following a dusk-to-dawn raid on the town which the Nazis claimed was the biggest attack in the history of air war. Casualties are officially estimated as being in the region of 1,000.
Some fires were still alight when, with the coming of dawn, the German bombers flew off to terminate a night of merciless, indiscriminate bombing. The Luftwaffe, carrying through the raid (which Berlin, claiming that 500 'planes took part, described as reprisal for the R.A.F. attack on Munich), used terror-bombing tactics. From dusk to dawn there was seldom a period of more than two minutes when a bomb could not be heard falling. The centre of the city bears witness to the savagery of their attack.
In the first six hours of the attack wave upon wave of 25 or more bombers in quick succession scattered hundreds of bombs of all types over a wide area. Brilliant moonlight was not sufficient for the German airmen, who dropped flares and incendiary bombs to light up the scene soon to be bathed in a great red glow. The barrage from the ground defences never slackened and for most of the night the raiders were kept at a great height from which accurate bombing was impossible.
The famous Cathedral is little more than a skeleton, masses of rubble forming huge mounds within its bare walls, while other targets including two hospitals, two churches, hotels, clubs, cinemas, public-shelters, public baths, police station, and post office.
The Provost (the Very Rev. R. T. Howard) and a party of cathedral watchers attempted to deal with twelve incendiary bombs. They tackled them with sand and attempted to smother them, until a shower of other incendiaries, accompanied this time by high explosives, rendered impossible their efforts to save the cathedral, only the tower and steeple of which remain. "The cathedral," said the Provost, "will rise again, will be rebuilt, and it will be as great a pride to future generations as it has been to generations in the past."
Tonight the Cathedral was a reeking shell. Blackened arches and window faces of fretted stone, still stately for all their disfigurement, framed a picture of hideous destruction. Blocks of masonry, heavy pieces of church furniture, and plaques commemorating famous men were merged into a common dust. In addition to the two churches, a Methodist chapel was wrecked, as well as a library (with thousands of volumes and treasured manuscripts), a hall, a ward and operating theatre of one hospital, the outbuildings of an isolation hospital, two hotels, and a newspaper office. Some retail shops, large stores, and office buildings were destroyed by fire or damaged by high-explosive bombs.