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UXO City Guide
Home Office Bombing Statistics for Hull

Record of German Ordnance dropped on the County Borough of Hull

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 Hull targeted and bombed in WWII?

Kingston upon Hull, often referred to as ‘Hull’, is located in the East Riding of Yorkshire upon the Humber Estuary. Hulls history is that of a Port Town, with key links to both mainland Europe and other counties.

The importance of the Hull Docks to the UK’s maritime and industrial infrastructure and its close proximity to mainland Europe – approximately 360km away – led to Hull being a Key Target of the Luftwaffe bombing campaign in the early years of WWII.

Luftwaffe target imagery clearly identifies targets like the Alexandra and King George Docks, indicating that Hull had been designated a target for bombing before the war had even started.

As the war progressed, the Luftwaffe moved away from only targeting areas of military or industrial importance and commenced the indiscriminate bombing of Civilian areas of cities in order to reduce the morale of the public.

The result was the heavy bombing of not only the dockyards but the entire borough as Luftwaffe aircraft could easily reach the city from airfields in France and Belgium, with the Humber Estuary making navigation – even at night – an easy task.

Luftwaffe target photography of Hull.

Home Office Bombing Statistics for Hull

Home Office bombing statistics indicate that nearly 1,400 items of ordnance where recorded as dropped on Hull over the course of the war. This included an estimated 1,213 High explosives bombs and over 100 incendiary devices – a density of almost 99 items per 1,000 acres.

However, this does not account for any bombs that fell unrecorded during these heavy raids, many of which fell into areas that had already been previously bombed.

These unidentified items, falling unnoticed are what pose a potential risk to construction today.

Bomb damage caused to local housing in Hull after the German raids – May 1941.
Bomb damage in Hull after the German raids – May 1941.

Major bombing raids in Hull

Throughout the war, Hull was subjected to approximately 72 bombing raids with more than half of these occurring in 1941.

Some of the heaviest raids occurred on the following dates:

  • 18/19th March 1941 – which included 134 50kg bombs and 117 250kg bombs dropped over the city centre,
  • 9th May 1941 – which included 113 50kg bombs and 49 250kg bombs dropped over the dockyard area of the city
  • 18th July 1941 – which included 92 50 Kg bombs and 55 250kg bombs dropped over East Hull.

These were not the only bombs dropped on Hull, with many different types of ordnance dropped throughout the war.

Local Bomb Maps for Hull show a significant density of bombing in the city’s centre and around the docks – which are both within close proximity to the Humber Estuary.

Despite this high level of bombing and damage recorded in Hull during the war, much of the public outside of the city where unaware of the devastation caused. This was due to the decision to only refer to a ‘North-East Town’ in newspaper and radio address. This was decided to prevent the German Forces learning how effective there bombing campaign was.

However, these maps also show that the bombing was not restricted to the city’s landmarks and areas of importance, with reports of bombs far out of the city centre – such as the village of Cottingham which was also bombed.

Bomb Map of Hull for two raids – May 1941.
Bomb damage map of Alexandra Dock in Hull – May 1941.

In fact, there are few areas of the city in which bombs are not recorded. This density of bombing led to Hull being labelled as one of the most bombed cities in the country, with some estimates indicating that over 95% of structures in the city centre were destroyed or damaged.

This is the highest percentage for a city outside of London, with much of the city having to be rebuilt in the post-war period.

A bomb disposal unit with an unexploded bomb in Craven Street, Hull – June 1941.
An aerial image showing bomb damage in Central Hull – 6th May, 1941.

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

The primary potential risk from UXO in Hull is from items of German air-delivered ordnance which failed to function as designed. Approximately 10% of munitions deployed 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 Hull.

Occasionally items of British explosive ordnance are also encountered – often associated with WWII defensive measures or Home Guard operations. However, there were few military related facilities in or around the city.

I am about to start a project in Hull, 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 Hull, it does not mean that UXO will pose a risk to all projects. Just because a site is located in Hull 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 Hull

With the reinvigoration of the city and overall development that Hull has seen in recent years, the risk of finding unexploded ordnance has increased – news articles have previously highlighted multiple UXO finds across the Hull area with notable finds in locations such as the gardens of residential properties and in the Humber Estuary itself.

As recently as 4th January 2023, some ‘small ordnance devices’ were discovered Alderman Kneeshaw Park in Hull – read more here: https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/military-swoop-hull-park-after-7995574

A controlled explosion was carried out in Hull after the bomb squad were called to the city’s Lord Line Building on 2nd September 2021 – read more here: https://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2021-09-02/controlled-explosion-carried-out-in-hull-as-bomb-squad-called-out-to-device

In July 2021, a 500kg WWII bomb was found on a construction site in Goole (close to Hull) and was later detonated – read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-57945482 and https://www.1stlinedefence.co.uk/news/wwii-bomb-found-on-goole-construction-site/

A quiet residential street in Hull was evacuated following reports of an unexploded bomb found in someone’s back garden in April 2020 – read more here: https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/evacuation-fears-hull-street-after-4080170

In August 2019, a member of the public picked up an explosive device found on the beach in Hornsy (close to Hull) and left it on a bin – read more here: https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/warning-beach-goer-finds-bomb-3100423

Despite these recent discoveries, the risk of finding an unexploded bomb in Hull is still a prevalent, with concerns raised once again this year over proposed new developments planned for the city – read more here: https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/hulls-explosive-secret-hundreds-unexploded-95691

All of these incidents were promptly investigated by the Police and/or local bomb disposal experts to minimise the risk and avoid any potential damage to surrounding buildings and local infrastructure.

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