York was targeted by the Germans during the Baedeker Raids on 29 April 1942. It is believed that Hitler used a Baedeker Guide (a travel guide published in Germany) and ordered the bombing of any city that was given three stars. The 1942 bombing of York was in response to the bombing of Rostock and Lübeck by the RAF. York had been given three stars in the guide, which made it the perfect target.
The raid was carried out by more than 70 Luftwaffe planes and their mission was successful, with only four bombers being shot down. The bombing began at 2.30am and ended at 4.46am. It destroyed and damaged more than 9,000 buildings and left 94 people dead
Across the city there were scenes of devastation. Houses were destroyed, schools wrecked, the Guildhall and St Martin-le-Grand Church on Coney Street burnt out. The Bar Convent had collapsed, killing five nuns. Pavements were littered with rubble and shattered glass. Huge craters scarred the streets and Clifton airfield.
Below is an eye-witness account from Brian Rusling, who was ten at the time of the York bombings.
“I covered my ears and screamed in the darkness. Everybody covered their ears and screamed in the darkness! The house shook with the booms and bangs; the smell of burning, the shattering of glass and flashes of light from the blast of bombs exploding were terrifying. The ceiling came down around us, the windows shattered, the doors blew open and everything was covered in soot and brick dust – including us. When the all clear sounded at 4.46am to the relief of all we emerged unscathed.
“When we went out the following morning the devastation was unbelievable with people still buried under the rubble for many hours after. We were evacuated the following day as the house was unsafe.”
See also: The Baedeker Raids of 1942
"The 1942 Bombing of York". HistoryLearning.com. 2023. Web.