On this day in 1942, the English city of Exeter was bombed by the Luftwaffe as part of the Baedeker Raids, in which Gustav Braun von Sturm claimed that Germany would bomb “every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide.” The attack was a retaliation to England’s bombing of the German city of Lubeck in March. As a result, over the next five nights the cities of Exeter, Bath, York and Norwich found themselves subject to extensive bombing and in Bath alone, 19,000 buildings were destroyed including the Assembly Rooms, while 417 civilians were killed. All four cities had been ill-prepared for an attack of this calibre.
In total for these four cities, 1,637 people were killed while more than 50,000 homes were destroyed. However, while many areas were destroyed, this mission also showed the relative weakness of the German Luftwaffe because many areas in these cities remained completely intact and managed to avoid being bombed altogether.
The Baedeker Guides were worldwide travel guides founded by German publisher Karl Baedeker, featuring guides on countries including the United States and Great Britain. It was these guides that von Sturm used in his decision as to which British cities should be attacked in the Baedeker Raids.