The Portsmouth Bomb Map

What is it?

This map shows where high-explosive bombs fell on Portsmouth during the Second World War, between 1940 and 1944 (known as the Blitz). It is a digitised copy of a map created by Air Raid Precautions staff towards the end of the war.

The bombs killed or injured over 3,000 people in the city, destroyed or damaged buildings and broke water mains, gas pipes, sewers, electricity cables and telephone lines, which made rescue work and fighting the fires more difficult. You can see new buildings today on many of the sites where these bombs fell, often standing among pre-1939 buildings.

View the map here.
The 1938 historic map layer may not work on certain browsers such as Chrome. We are working to fix this imminently, but if you are not able to view it you may wish to try a different browser such as Edge or Explorer. Please also note that you need to zoom in on the map before you can view the historic map layers. The 1952 historic map layer is not currently available but should be within days.

You can read more below to find out how to use the map and what it shows.

Dunbar Road Milton Aug 1942
Photo: Portsmouth Libraries and Archive Service

The photograph above shows the damage that a single high explosive bomb could cause: in this case, at Dunbar Road, Eastney, on 19 August 1942.

Portsmouth Bomb Map detail for Dunbar Road
On this detail from the Bomb Map you can see the high explosive bomb marked, which caused the damage shown in the photograph above.

Using the Bomb Map

  • Click on an explosion symbol to see the date of the raid on which this bomb was dropped.
  • You can zoom in and out using the plus and minus signs in ‘magnifying glasses’, bottom left, or with the scrolling wheel on a mouse.
  • Click and drag to move about the city.
  • You can use the Quick Search, top left, to move to a particular place. Click on the ‘magnifying glass’ symbol, then enter the postcode or street name and click on ‘OK’.
  • The base map is of Portsmouth today, so you can see what is on the site now.
  • To see the site before or after the war, zoom in close and click on Historic 1938 or Historic 1952 to load maps of those dates.

What else should you know?

The map shows only high-explosive bombs. It does not show how much damage each bomb did. One bomb may have affected only a single building or may have destroyed and damaged many over a wide area, depending on its size and type.

Much of the destruction was done by the thousands of small incendiary bombs which fell across the city. These were dropped in ‘baskets’ containing dozens of bombs, each one of which could cause a serious fire if it was not extinguished. These bombs were not included on this map, and many were not recorded at the time. 

The map’s creators also missed mapping one raid from later in the war: perhaps the records of that raid had gone missing. Not all the bombs that fell in the dockyard or barracks are marked; nor are those which the ARP did not know about, like the unexploded bomb found in Guildhall Walk in 1984. You may notice several bombs fallen in a line during the same raid.  These were probably dropped from the same aircraft.

Palmerston Road, Southsea, after the raid of 10 Jan 1941
Photo: The News, Portsmouth

The photograph above shows the Palmerston Road area of Southsea after the air raid of 10 January 1941. Most of the destruction shown here was caused by fires started by incendiary bombs, which are not plotted on the Bomb Map. Palmerston Road is to the right of the photograph, with Osborne Road passing left to right in the background. The destroyed building with the curved frontage in the right foreground was Handleys department store (rebuilt on the same site after the war, and later Debenhams).

The original map is in the Portsmouth History Centre, in the Central Library. The centre houses the city’s historic records, which include lists of those killed or wounded, maps showing all properties destroyed during the war, the records of the ARP, wartime photographs and recordings of the memories of people who were in Portsmouth during the bombing.

This digital map was created by Malcolm Norman, GIS Application Officer & Address Custodian, IT Services, Portsmouth City Council.

Part of PortsmouthBlitz80, a project by Portsmouth Libraries and Archives Service, & Portsmouth Museums. View the Portsmouth Bomb Map here.
The 1938 historic map layer may not work on certain browsers such as Chrome. We are working to fix this imminently, but if you are not able to view it you may wish to try a different browser such as Edge or Explorer. Please also note that you need to zoom in on the map before you can view the historic map layers. The 1952 historic map layer is not currently available but should be within days.

Portsmouth Bomb Map