I’ll See Your Coventry and Raise You a Hamburg

Let it never be said that the Brits can’t get good and mad when the occasion warrants it: on November 16, 1940, the RAF bombed the hell out of Hamburg in retaliation for the leveling of Coventry only two days before.

Coventry—one of the largest cities in the East Midlands—suffered severe damage during the November 14 Luftwaffe air raid that would later become known as the Coventry Blitz. The firebombing during the raid severely damaged the city centre and the cathedral, which was gutted. In addition, more than 4,000 houses and three-quarters of the city’s industrial plants were damaged or destroyed, and 800 people were killed. The raid was so successful the Germans coined the term “Coventrate” to describe the tactics of complete urban devastation that were developed for the raid.

As one might imagine, this did not sit well with the British, who struck back almost immediately by hitting Hamburg, devastating parts of the city and harbor. This was not the first, nor would it be the last time the RAF targeted Hamburg. The most devastating raid, in July 1943, resulted in a firestorm that destroyed several working-class boroughs and killed thousands of people.

Most of the world heard the message loud and clear: You don’t mess with Britain.

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