Under the cloak of darkness, on a calm, clear evening as the people of Aberdeen went about their business, a fiery storm from the east was brewing.

By the time the Luftwaffe had unleashed its deadly cargo of bombs in a devastating 45 minutes killing spree, the Granite city would be splintered, with 92 dead and dozens injured.

The Aberdeen Blitz, 80 years ago today (21 APRIL), reduced a staggering number of buildings to rubble – at least 10,000 were damaged or destroyed in a vicious Nazi raid that saw 127 bombs shake the city to its core.

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Often overshadowed by Clydebank in March 1941, when 1,200 people were killed in a fearsome Luftwaffe attack, the anniversary of the Aberdeen Blitz is set to pass with little other than a commemorative walking tour taking in its key sites.

Yet the horrors inflicted by 25 Luftwaffe Dornier bombers – some flying just 100ft above the rooftops - would devastate homes, buildings and lives in a way they’d never seen before.

The Herald: Causewayend Church on Powis Place which was damagedCausewayend Church on Powis Place which was damaged (Image: Aberdeen City Council)

For while previous attacks had targeted the harbour, shipyard, railway and factories, this time the Luftwaffe wanted to create havoc among its citizens – and maximum casualities.

“The whole east coast up to Scapa Flow in Orkney was important because of the naval commitment in that area and the number of airfields, such as at Dyce now Aberdeen Airport, Peterhead, Tain, Wick and Orkney,” says Phil Astley, Aberdeen City Council’s Senior Archivist.

“And Aberdeen was strategically important for the harbour and the North Sea convoys, its harbour and manufacturing industry.”

The 1943 incident was one of many occasions Aberdeen was targeted: before the war had ended, 169 locals would lose their lives as the result of a German attack.

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But it would be the worst single event, leaving the city groaning under its scale with 93 hospitalised and a massive task of rebuilding shattered homes.

“A staggering number of properties that were damaged in that raid – 64 were completely destroyed, and 107 damaged so badly they had to be completely demolished.”

The Herald: Women inspecting an air raid shelter in Seaford Road Women inspecting an air raid shelter in Seaford Road (Image: Aberdeen City Council)

More than 9,000 more sustained various levels of damage, from smashed windows to fire and water damage and from falling masonry caused as neighbouring homes exploded.

No strangers to attack, locals could often be taken by surprise by German raids: sometimes the Luftwaffe would sweep in from the west in an effort to avoid coastal air defences, often under cover of darkness and giving little time to raise alarms and set off sirens.

Although a warning was given prior to the April 1943 raid, it either failed to provide enough time to act, or may have been shrugged off by jaded locals used to its familiar wail.

“The people of Aberdeen appear not to have taken seriously the air raid alarm,” reported the German news agency in the aftermath of the attack.

“Traffic in the streets was still going on, tramways and a few cars were still running when the storm broke loose over the military installations of the whole city area.

“We see walls collapsing, we see ours’ and our comrades’ bombs explode. All our bombers returned safely.”

They left behind a scene from hell.

Homes, churches and schools were obliterated. One, Middleton School, took two direct hits from high explosive bombs and one from a phosphorus bomb which wrecked the building and left one of its fire wardens – a woman called Miss Spicer – with horrific leg injuries.

An entry in the Causewayside school log book revealed the carnage that families endured: “More than 120 pupils rendered homeless,” it reported.

And at Sunnybank School, news that five young pupils lost their lives led to a fundraising effort for a memorial plaque.

“A warning was given before the raid, but people would have just minutes to prepare,” Phil adds. “The fatalities tell us about the intensity of the raid but also the elements of surprise.

“While dropping bombs in the evening would mean it was pretty indiscriminate. They would be conscious they were flying over a built up area, it would be blacked out and it would be difficult to pinpoint where they were landing.

“For those on the ground, it must have been terrifying.”

Nineteen bombs rained down on Hilton estate and surrounding area, trapping and killing families in their own homes, while one bomb ripped a giant hole in the front of Causewayend Church on Powis Place (PIC attached).

And as dawn broke, the city’s Bedford Road was a scene of destruction and grief: Williamina Cox, 22, and her three children from three years to five months old, died together.

Across the city buildings burned and windows were shattered, from a night nursery where children and nurses narrowly escaped unhurt, to grocery stores and tenement buildings where families sheltering in basements became trapped by rubble.

A shelter on the Kittybrewster railway where 13 workers were cowering from the onslaught, took a hit, leaving four dead, and 27 soldiers based at the Gordon Barracks  perished when their base was bombed.

Yet though the horrors were obvious to those who lived through them, regulations imposed on newspapers meant the full scale of the devastation went unreported.

While the 80th anniversary is set to pass largely unmarked, local historian Colin Johnston says signs of the 1943 blitz and many other occasions the Luftwaffe targeted the city remain: pillbox defences on the coast, war graves and bullet and bomb damage to buildings.

“You can see signs of it in the town centre, and in the Kittybrewster area, which was severely damaged where there are three houses with red roofs; usually they would be slate tiles.

“But they were damaged in the war, there was a shortage of slate and they were repaired using red tiles instead,” he says.

“Many people don’t realise how Aberdeen was targeted during the war – it was critical with the harbour, railway and just 100 miles from Norway.

“There was a genuine fear of German invasion.”