Bombing of Buckingham Palace, 1940

Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Luftwaffe, while King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were in residence, on this day in 1940. During WWII, Buckingham Palace and it’s grounds suffered attacks on sixteen occasions, nine of which included direct hits on the Palace. After this particular bombing, the Queen famously declared: “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face”. 

The Palace was hit at around 11am, during the second of three daylight raids on London that day. According to the West End War:

A single German raider specifically targeted the Palace with a stick of five high explosive bombs. Two of these hit the inner quadrangle, a third struck the Royal Chapel in the South Wing and the remaining two (one delayed-action) fell on the forecourt and on the roadway between the Palace gates and the Victoria Memorial. The explosions in the quadrangle ruptured a water main and blew out most of the windows on the southern and western sides. The interior of the Royal Chapel was lacerated. Four workers were injured; one later died. Several portraits were damaged in the Palace corridors and the red carpets were lightly covered by dust.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were in residence at the Palace time of the bombing but escaped unscathed. In a letter to her mother-in-law, Queen Mary, the Queen described how she was “battling” to remove an errant eyelash from the King’s eye, when they heard the “unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane” and then the “scream of a bomb. It all happened so quickly that we had only time to look foolishly at each other when the scream hurtled past us and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle.” She also declared: “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face”.

The Queen said:

“…at this moment we heard the unmistakable whirr-whirr of a german plane…and before anything else could be said, there was the noise of aircraft diving at great speed, and then the scream of a bomb – It all happened so quickly, that we had only time to look foolishly at each other, when the scream hurtled past us, and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle.

“I saw a great column of smoke & earth thrown up into the air, and then we all ducked like lightning into the corridor – There was another tremendous explosion, and we & our 2 pages who were outside the door, remained for a moment or two in the corridor away from the staircase, in case of flying glass. It is curious how one’s instinct works at those moments of great danger, as quite without thinking, the urge was to get away from the windows. Everybody remained wonderfully calm, and we went down to the shelter.”

The King wrote in his diary:

“All of a sudden we heard an aircraft making a zooming noise above us, saw 2 bombs falling past the opposite side of the Palace, & then heard 2 resounding crashes as the bombs fell in the quadrangle about 30 yds away. We looked at each other, & then we were out into the passage as fast as we could get there. The whole thing happened in a matter of seconds….

“…6 bombs had been dropped. The aircraft was seem coming straight down the Mall below the clouds having dived through the clouds & had dropped 2 bombs in the forecourt, 2 in the quadrangle, 1 in the Chapel & the other in the garden.”

The event was recreated for the film Bertie & Elizabeth, and also for Atlantic Crossing:

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Some time afterwards, the King and Queen were accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill as they inspected the damage to the Palace.

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5 thoughts on “Bombing of Buckingham Palace, 1940

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  4. Does anyone know the name of the “member of staff” that died, it doesn’t say in any reports but I believe I know who he was and he was a guardsman. The queen said she was glad it happened as she could look the East end in the eye, well his family and neighbours were devestated when it happened. I still attend his grave and have a mirror with his photograph on that always hung in my grans living room.

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