Operation Moonlight Sonata: The German Raid on Coventry

By Allan W. Kurki | Go to book overview
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14
The Results of the Raid

When writing about the Coventry raid in his book The First and the Last, Germany's Commander of Fighter Forces, General Adolf Galland, stated that "The German Luftwaffe never again repeated this success in this form. Coventry was an accidental success."1 Whether or not it is accurate to call the Coventry raid an accidental success is a debatable point, but there is no debate about the fact that for the GAF the raid clearly was a spectacular success. Over 100 acres of the city were destroyed, one-third of the major industrial firms were either destroyed or suffered significant damage, almost 20,000 dwellings were totally destroyed or suffered major damage, 1,431 civilians were either killed or seriously injured, and all of this destruction was achieved with the loss of only a single, twin-engine German bomber and its four-man crew. Considering the relative size of the city, this raid was the most concentrated and the most destructive of all the Luftwaffe raids during the entire German air campaign directed against the British Isles.

The final casualty figures for the raid include 568 killed, 863 seriously injured, and 393 individuals slightly injured. 2 To deal with the large number of individuals killed in the bombing, Coventry officials decided to hold two separate mass burials, one on November 20 when 172 bodies were buried and the second on November 23 when 250 additional victims' bodies were buried. These were the first mass funerals to be held in Great Britain during the war. Photographs of the open graves showing coffin after coffin draped with Union Jack flags and wreaths were dispatched around the globe. These photographs were widely published by the press and had a chilling effect on worldwide public opinion.

The first official British account of the raid came from a Minister of Home Security inspector who toured the city two days after the bombing. His report included the following details: 3

The principal damage occurred in the medieval centre of the city, about three-quarters of a mile by half a mile. Of this at least one-third is

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