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A modern-day aerial view of Blackpool Tower with the Central pier, Battersea Power Station in London and Oxford city centre

Why did the Luftwaffe avoid bombing parts of Britain?

Three main parts of Britain escaped the worst effects of the Blitz. Find out why the Luftwaffe avoided bombing these key points.

Image: A modern-day aerial view of Blackpool Tower with the Central pier, Battersea Power Station in London and Oxford city centre |

From September 1940 to May 1941, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) executed a sustained campaign of bombing British towns and cities. This became known as the Blitz and over 43,500 civilians were killed.

The city of London was bombed more frequently and heavily than other parts of the country, but few areas escaped the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign. With that said, there were three main parts of Britain that the Luftwaffe seemingly spared.

What parts of Britain did the Luftwaffe avoid?

Battersea Power Station

A modern-day aerial view of Battersea Power Station in London
Image Credit: | Above: A modern-day aerial view of Battersea Power Station in London

An iconic and Grade II listed building, Battersea Power Station is a thriving hub on the south bank of the River Thames in London. Now decommissioned, the station was originally built by the London Power Company to produce around a fifth of the city’s electricity. Battersea Power Station is distinctive for its Art Deco-inspired interior décor, and many of its features and fittings are original, dating from pre-WWII.

Considering that the station is a notable landmark of London, why was the building not targeted during the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign?

From 1940, RAF pilots used the white plumes of vapour emanating from the chimneys of Battersea Power Station to navigate. These columns of steam were particularly helpful during foggy or poor weather.

They also became significant navigational points for the Luftwaffe, too. Though unproved, it’s hypothesised that the Luftwaffe’s use of these chimney plumes as a navigation aid may explain why the Nazi air force avoided excessive bombing of Battersea Power Station.


A modern-day aerial view of Blackpool Tower with the Central pier
Image Credit: | Above: A modern-day aerial view of Blackpool Tower with the Central pier

During WWII, Blackpool was a key military centre in Britain. However, it broadly escaped the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids during the Blitz.

This is because Hitler had a bigger plan for the Lancashire seaside town, as revealed through a discovery of maps and aerial photography from a German military base by a York publisher. These documents indicated that Blackpool was critical to Hitler’s Operation Sealion.

In 1940, the Allies had suffered a significant defeat by Hitler, leading him to believe that the UK would negotiate for a peace settlement. When the country didn’t, Hitler and his officers began planning Operation Sealion in July 1940.

Operation Sealion outlined Hitler’s desire for immediate invasion of Great Britain. However, the operation suffered a number of delays, and was postponed indefinitely after the Luftwaffe’s defeat in the Battle of Britain.

Had Operation Sealion taken place, Nazi soldiers were to be dropped by air onto the town of Blackpool – specifically, Stanley Park. These paratroopers would then have travelled down the golden mile and flown the swastika from Blackpool tower. Blackpool was chosen for Operation Sealion because the distinctive layout of its Italian Gardens was easy to spot from the air.

It was because Blackpool had been chosen for Operation Sealion that the seaside resort experienced minimal bombing during the Blitz.


A modern-day aerial view of Oxford city centre
Image Credit: | Above: A modern-day aerial view of Oxford city centre

During the Blitz, towns and cities like London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Coventry suffered extreme destruction.

However, the city of Oxford suffered very minimal damage from the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign. Founded in the eighth century, Oxford continues to attract international tourists who visit to marvel at the city’s exceptional architecture. This architecture is all the more remarkable for its preservation – buildings dating from The Middle Ages remain in exemplary condition.

Oxford’s extraordinary buildings may not have existed today had the Luftwaffe unleashed its aerial bombing campaign on the city. So why did they avoid it?

The reasons why the Luftwaffe avoided bombing Oxford are unproven, though much speculated. One theory suggests that Hitler planned to use Oxford as his capital city had he succeeded in invading Great Britain. However, there’s not much evidence to support this theory.

Another proposition contends that the UK and Germany struck a deal – Germany wouldn’t bomb Oxford and Cambridge if the UK avoided bombing two historic German university cities. It’s suggested that Heidelberg University was one of the two spared. However, there’s also little evidence in support of this theory.

In spring of 1942, the Luftwaffe launched a series of destructive air raids – known as the Baedeker Raids – against some of the most historic university towns in Britain, including York, Exeter and Canterbury. It’s thought that these attacks were executed as revenge for the RAF’s bombing of historic German towns like Lübeck in late March 1942, and showed that the Nazis weren’t above bombing university towns or cities.

The lack of tangible evidence means that we may never know the real reason why the Luftwaffe avoided bombing Oxford.