Twenty years ago - Nov 14 - the Cathedral city of Coventry was a thriving community of some two and a half million people.
Twenty years ago - Nov 14 - the Cathedral city of Coventry was a thriving community of some two and a half million people. Situated in the heart of the industrial midlands, it was a vital production centre of Britain's war-time aircraft industry.
Blissfully unaware of what had been planned for them across the Channel in German-occupied France, the industrious citizens were taking their well-earned sleep.
Civil Defense personnel anxiously scanned the sky. The City was bathed in brilliant moonlight.
Their anxiety was justified. Four hundred and fifty German bombers were directed at Coventry that night. Fires kindled by incendiary bombs in the early stages of the raid acted as guides for bomb-aimers to pinpoint their targets.
Within one hour of the attack, Coventry was a sea of fire, visible for miles. Telephone communications failed, gas and water mains were extensively damaged, and most of the roads were blocked by rubble, flames, or unexploded bombs.
Five hundred tons of high explosives and nine hundred canisters of incendiary bombs were dropped on the City over a period of ten hours. 554 people were killed, and 865 seriously wounded.
By closing the City to all but essentially traffic, and with the help of mobile canteens and field kitchens, the city authorities were able to keep things moving, while troops and rescue parties began to clear the rubble-blocked thoroughfares.
Coventry was a scenes of devastation. More than five and a half thousand dwellings, shops, offices and other buildings were destroyed, and almost fifty-one thousand houses were damaged.
The great raid completely destroyed the city centre. But sketch plans for its re-development had been in existence since before the war's outbreak. This meant that Coventry was in a position to take immediate advantage of the opportunity afforded by blitz damage.
Now it has been completely rebuilt as a delightful traffic-free Precinct. The central shopping area is most attractively laid out with a wealth of flowers, trees and shrubs in a setting of a lawn. Modern shops and stores have been designed to provide covered pavements where shoppers are sheltered from the discomforts of inclement weather.
Since the war some 21,000 dwellings have been built in Coventry,and this figure is being substantially increased month by month.
Only the tower and spire are left of the five hundred year-old original, but Professor Basil Spence has incorporated those ruins in the beautiful new Cathedral. It will be consecrated in 1962.
Coventry's claim to be one of Britain's most go-ahead cities is certainly no idle boast.