In Connie Willis's All Clear, one of the characters makes reference to the Blitz thus:

... the German pilots who got lost didn't mean to start the London Blitz

The universe this series is set in is meant to match ours, at least as far as the 20th century, and as one of the themes of the novel is whether or not the events in it are happening as they were meant to have happened historically (and this doesn't read as an example of something that is different) I expected this to be based on a real-life occurrence that I wasn't aware of.

However, I can't find any reference to lost German pilots somehow causing the Blitz in real life.

Is there any historical fact behind this?


Yes and no. As always, the situation was never that simple.

While Hitler had used aerial bombardment against civilian populations in the 1930s to help force capitulation from some European governments, he was worried about retaliation from Britain against the German population and so was reluctant to begin a broad bombing campaign on the British population. However, Hitler actually had little direct control over the Luftwaffe by August 1940. Göring had successfully gained independent control - and was very clever at misrepresenting reports to keep his independence.

Still, during the initial phase of the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe mostly targeted shipping, RAF radar and airfields, and plane factories, in an attempt to break the RAF defence and gain the vital air superiority over the Channel which would be necessary to launch an invasion.

The first bombs on London fell on August 24th. This was probably an accident due to lost pilots. Britain did send bombers to Berlin the next day.

Now, works like The Battle of Britain (which is an excellent movie, and gets most of the history right with some artistic licence) would have you believe that is where it started. Hitler gave a rousing speech and promised "moar bombs" in return for what the RAF dropped on Berlin.

But it was actually two weeks later that the Blitz really started. The Luftwaffe continued pressing their attacks on the RAF and factories until September 7th when Göring and his command (under pressure from a frustrated Hitler) acted on intelligence that brought them to believe the RAF was at breaking point, and the Blitz was seen as the final phase of annihilation before the sea invasion.

So - while London was probably bombed by accident on August 24th - it was not the primary cause of the Blitz.

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    In the case of the book - it may be that the author intends the character to have the misconception... hard to say – user13123 Jan 9 '17 at 6:14
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    To the editor - I appreciate the umlauts - but please don't the meaning of my sentences just to get the edit count over the threshold – user13123 Jan 9 '17 at 9:41
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    @reinierpost The threshold is there to make you think whether the edit is long enough to warrant an edit, not to encourage you to edit other things that you should not be editing. The correct response is to not make the edit. – Nelson Jan 9 '17 at 16:04
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    Except that lots of short edits do make sense. These umlauts really must be there. – reinierpost Jan 9 '17 at 16:53
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    @reinierpost And there are lots of other users who have unlocked the privileges required to make such short edits. Leave it to them (or become one of them). – SevenSidedDie Jan 9 '17 at 18:53

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