4 things we learned from a map of London's World War Two bombings

September 1940: There's one now. Image: public domain.

Yesterday, a fascinating interactive map did the rounds of the internet.

Cleverly named "Bombsight", it shows the locations of all the bombs dropped on London during the Blitz, which lasted from September 1940 to June 1941. 

Turns out the map isn't actually new - it was created back in 2012, using old bomb census records (yes, this is a thing). But, like any map enthusiasts worth their salt, we were sucked in. Here's what we learned. 

1. London was bombed a lot.

The map below shows the aggregate bombings from October 1940 to June 1941 (for some reason, it doesn't include the first month of the bombardment). In retrospect, it's amazing that anything survived at all:

This is even more striking when you realise that many of those red dots are used to represent five, 10, or even 19 bombs:

Sorry, Tower Hamlets.

2. East London had a bad first night of the Blitz. 

A separate map shows the bombings on the first night of the Blitz, 7 September 1940. As you can see, the attack was focussed on the eastern part of the city: 

The Luftwaffe focussed on taking out the docks and industry in east London, both major sources of income and, well, stuff for the city. 

The web site also tells you when exactly bombs were dropped. On this first night, the majority (about 300) fell around 6pm. 

3. The Germans dropped a lot of bombs on Hyde Park.

Also, Hampstead Heath:

This was less of a waste of time than you might think: parks were used as army camps and bases during the war.  

4. Our building was bombed. Twice.

Was yours? Go on, you know you wanna know


Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.