CEBE research seminar: The Builder’s Flying Squads: An Analysis of the Ministry of Works Special Repair Service Activities During WWII

With Dr Richard Burt, Auburn University, USA

Monday 9 March, 9am, MP203, Millennium Point, City Centre Campus

The Second World War brought levels of destruction to cities previously thought inconceivable. The bombing missions aimed at cities in the United Kingdom sought not only to destroy industrial targets essential for the war effort but also the homes of workers. Cities such as London and Coventry suffered huge amounts of damage to dwellings. In the London region alone over 84,000 homes were completely destroyed, another 155,000 seriously damaged and 1,194,000 slightly damaged all between the start of the London Blitz in September 1940 and the start of the V1 & V2 vengeance weapon campaign in June 1944. In the first 15 weeks of the flying bomb campaign another 25,000 homes were completely destroyed and another 873,000 added to the slightly damaged list (Kohan 1952, 225).

If these numbers were spread evenly over time and area the impact would have been somewhat manageable, but it was not. The London Blitz in the early fall of 1940 brought a huge amount of destruction to the East End of London and at the end of November 1940, Coventry was heavily bombed. Using archival material from several sources. The presentation will seek to identify the nature of the problem resulting from bomb damage following the start of the blitz, and how the UK government responded to the problem by establishing the Special Repair Service and the Builders Flying Squads. The establishment and organization of the Special Repair Service is outlined and an attempt is made to paint a picture of how the Builders Flying Squads operated during wartime.

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