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UXO City Guide
Home Office Bombing Statistics for Birmingham

Record of German Ordnance dropped on the County Borough of Birmingham

High Explosive Bombs (All types)


Parachute Mines


Oil Bombs


Phosphorus Bombs


Fire Pots


Pilotless Aircraft (V-1)


Long-range Rocket Bombs (V-2)


Weapons Total


Area Acreage


Number of items per 1,000 acres


Why was Birmingham targeted and bombed in WWII?

Birmingham was an important industrial centre during WWII, producing munitions, aircraft and vehicles to aid the British war efforts. Many smaller workshops were involved in making items such as ammunition cases and grenades, as well as things like stirrup pumps for defence on the Home Front. Birmingham’s jewellers and silversmiths were well suited to use their specialist skills to produce component parts for rifles, aircraft and radar equipment. The city’s industries were crucial to the British war effort – a fact that was not lost on the German military.

Aerial photographs of factory sites were taken from civilian aircraft for the German intelligence services prior to the outbreak of war, and maps were gathered and annotated with named factories, hospitals, all major roads, railway lines, good yards, waterways and the electrical and telegraph grid. Birmingham had more key points than any other city outside London.

Luftwaffe target photography of Birmingham.

Home Office Bombing Statistics for Birmingham

Details obtained from the official Home Office bombing statistics, highlights the volume and type of bombs that fell on County Borough of Birmingham throughout WWII.

A total of 4,500 recorded bombs fell on Birmingham, equating to 88 items of ordnance per 1,000 acres.

Aerial view showing bomb damage around St Martin's Church in the Bull Ring, Birmingham during WWII in April 1941.
A Civil Defence worker walks along Whitehall Road in Birmingham following a bombing raid.

Major bombing raids in Birmingham

There were three noticeable concentrations of key locations1:

  • In the south-east, the Acocks Green/Sparkbrook/Tyseley district
  • In the north-west, the Nechells/Castle Bromwich district
  • In the north-west, the Smethwick/West Bromwich district

During the expansion of the Royal Air Forde (RAF) in the 1930s, the ‘shadow factory’ scheme was set up. Motor car manufacturers were seen as ideal to run such operations. UK car manufacturers Austin Motors took on a new factory at Cofton Hackett, Morris Motors produced Spitfires at a new plant in Castle Bromwich, and the Rover Company set up in Tyseley and Solihull to produce engines. Other car manufacturing factories were set up at Marston Green and Alcocks Green.

View of St. Martin’s church in Birmingham during WWII following the air raid of the 9th April 1941.
Interior view of the Prince of Wales theatre in central Birmingham showing the damage caused by the air raid on the night of 9th April 1941.

Although bombing occurred in Birmingham from August 1940, 19th-22nd November 1940 was to be ‘the most severe attack on Birmingham during the course of the Second World War2. Birmingham suffered three nights of consecutive bombing; 800 people lost their lives, 2,345 people were injured and 20,000 civilians were made homeless3.

The longest air raid of the ‘Birmingham Blitz’, lasting 13 hours, came on 11th December 19404, 263 people were killed and 243 badly injured after explosives and 25,000 incendiaries were dropped on the city causing widespread damage and destruction.

Birmingham became the third most heavily bombed city in England after London and Liverpool, with a total of 365 air raid warnings sounded in Birmingham and 77 recorded air raids throughout WWII. A total of 2,241 people were killed and 3,010 people were injured, whilst 12,391 houses and 302 factories were destroyed5.

Workers clearing away the debris and rubble of a destroyed building following the air raid in 1941.
Aerial photography of damage around New Street in Birmingham following a bombing raid in WWII.

Below is a copy of Birmingham Composite Air Raid Map obtained from the Library of Birmingham, which gives a visual indication of the high level of bombing sustained in the city.

This image is taken from the larger Composite Air Raid Map, and shows just the bombing within the city centre.

Can UXO still pose a risk to construction projects in Birmingham?

The primary potential risk from UXO in Birmingham is from items of German air-delivered ordnance which failed to function as designed. Approximately 10% of munitions deployed during across the UK during WWII failed to detonate, and whilst efforts were made during, and after the war to locate and make UXBs safe, not all items were discovered. This is evidenced by the regular, on-going discoveries of UXO during construction-related intrusive ground works across the UK – not just in Birmingham.

This is true across the country, but especially in Birmingham where the level of bombing was so significant. Furthermore, a report from the November 1940 air raids, obtained from The National Archives, indicates that ‘bombing was so severe in the central districts that it was impossible to plot all the incidents on the map’ as later waves of bombers ‘dropped more bombs on the same targets’. This lack of comprehensive understanding of the full extent of bombing in Birmingham makes the area especially challenging when considering the potential for UXO to remain undiscovered.

I am about to start a project in Birmingham, what should I do?

Developers and ground workers should consider this potential before intrusive works are planned, through either a Preliminary UXO Risk Assessment or Detailed UXO Risk Assessment. This is the first stage in our UXO risk mitigation strategy and should be undertaken as early in a project lifecycle as possible in accordance with CIRIA C681 guidelines.

It is important that where a viable risk is identified, it is effectively and appropriately mitigated to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). However, it is equally important that UXO risk mitigation measures are not implemented when they are not needed.

While there is certainly potential to encounter UXO during construction projects in Birmingham, it does not mean that UXO will pose a risk to all projects. Just because a site is located in Birmingham does not mean there is automatically a ‘high’ risk of encountering UXO. It really does depend on the specific location of the site being developed.

A well-researched UXO Risk Assessment will take into account location specific factors – was the actual site footprint affected by bombing, what damage was sustained, what was the site used for, how much would it have been accessed, what were the ground conditions present etc.

It should also consider what has happened post-war – how much development has occurred, to what depths have excavations taken place and so on. This will allow an assessment of the likelihood that UXO could have fallen on site, gone unnoticed and potentially still remain in situ.

Recent UXO discoveries in Birmingham

Since the war, many items of UXO have been discovered across multiple cities within the UK, with Birmingham no exception.

‘Unexploded bomb’ destroyed by Army at Warley Woods, March 2021: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/black-country/watch-unexploded-bomb-destroyed-army-19943234

Bomb squad in Acocks Green street as unexploded WWII device pulled from canal, February 2021: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/bomb-squad-acocks-green-street-19883376

Bomb disposal squad called to Smethwick after unexploded device found in canal, December 2020: https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/sandwell/smethwick/2020/12/03/bomb-disposal-squad-called-to-smethwick-after-unexploded-device-found-in-canal/

A wartime bomb was detonated following the device being discovered near the railway line in Shirley, Solihull in Birmingham, April 2019: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-47880878

An unexploded WWII bomb was found in Birmingham causing a construction site to be evacuated, May 2018: https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/birmingham/2018/05/30/unexploded-ww2-bomb-found-in-birmingham/

250kg WWII bomb detonated near M6 Aston Expressway in Birmingham, May 2017: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-39939925


1The Luftwaffe over Brum, Steve Richards




5Heroes of the Birmingham Air Raids: A Tribute to Birmingham’s Heroes 1940-1943 with Details of Medals Awarded, by Michael Minton

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