Saturday, December 7, 2013

Coventry Cathedral

  • Father Forgive can be seen inscribed on the back wall of the ruin.

    An eerily peaceful, beautiful and serene place.

Coventry Cathedral was the only English cathedral lost to aerial bombardment during the Second World War.

The day after the Blitz demolition crews had to be prevented from pulling down the surviving tower. They didn't realize it had been leaning for at least a hundred years.

Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the Sanctuary wall. Another cross was fashioned from three medieval nails by local priest, the Rev. Arthur Wales, The Cross of Nails.

The raid that began on the evening of 14 November 1940 was the most severe to hit Coventry during the war. The attack was intended to destroy Coventry's factories and industrial infrastructure. At around 8:00 Coventry Cathedral was set on fire by incendiaries for the first time. The volunteer fire-fighters managed to put out the first fire but other direct hits followed and soon new fires broke out in the cathedral and they were quickly out of control.

In one night, more than 4,300 homes in Coventry were destroyed and around two-thirds of the city's buildings were damaged. The raid was heavily concentrated on the city center, most of which was destroyed. Around one third of the city's factories were completely destroyed or severely damaged, another third were badly damaged, and the rest suffered slight damage. However, the effects on war production were only temporary, as much essential war production had already been moved to factories on the city outskirts. Also, many of the damaged factories were quickly repaired and had recovered to full production within a few months.

An estimated 568 people were killed in the raid (the exact figure was never precisely confirmed) with another 863 badly injured and 393 sustaining lesser injuries. Given the intensity of the raid, casualties were limited by the fact that, following  earlier air raids, a large number of residents left the city at night to sleep in nearby towns or villages .

The raid reached such a new level of destruction that Joseph Goebbels later used the term coventriert ("coventried") when describing similar levels of destruction of other towns.

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