Museum to tell stories of 'forgotten' city devastated by the Blitz

A museum in Leicester is marking the 80th anniversary of the Blitz on the city by telling the stories of the people who lived through it.

The stories of local people that lived through the Blitz in Leicester during the Second World War are being told in a new museum exhibition. 

The exhibit at Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester has yet to open due to COVID-19 and commemorates the city’s ‘Blitz Night’ when 108 people were killed by German bombers.

Despite this devastation, the city’s experience of the bombing raids is often overshadowed by other cities, something the museum is hoping to change.

Austin Ruddy, Second World War historian and author of ‘Tested by Bomb and Flame: Leicester versus Luftwaffe Air Raids 1939-1945’, said: "The word 'forgotten' is often banded around when people are trying to sell books or movies or whatever, or documentaries, but in this case, it really was.

"For 70 years people that have been born and brought up in Leceister said 'all right, I didn’t even know we were raided. I didn’t know we had a single bomb drop on us'. 

"And I think partly it was simply to do with the fact that Coventry got such a clobbering that it seems comparatively, in some eyes, small fry to what our neighbours suffered."

Mr Ruddy added: "There was, I think, quite a feeling that Leicester won’t be bombed, 'it’ll be the bigger cities around us that will be bombed'. 

The exhibition showcases the devastation caused by the bombings across Leicester.

"The ARP [Air Raid Precuation] officers who made their reports after said, for example, after the first raid on the city in August 1940 that the city suddenly got almost like a bloody [nose], a wakeup call that the Second World War was coming to Leicester and it certainly did."

Across the museum, pictures show members of the public stunned at the devastation, homes reduced to piles of rubble and businesses in flames, offering a visual insight into the carnage the city endured.

Exhibition curator Simon Davies explained the personal aspects of the attraction for the public.

"It’s the people’s stories that are most interesting and that’s what I think is so wonderful, despite the distance in time, we have so many first-hand accounts of what happened," he said.

"From small boys who were looking up and saw a plane coming over and ‘oh there's a German cross on that’ and then realised they were being raided... to the records of doctors and people who were much more prepared and much more informed and involved."

The exhibition is planned to run until February depending on when the museum can reopen to the public.