I really enjoyed the research for the story that Gail read on Christmas Eve. I wanted to provide a few links for those who might want more detail.
Basic information (from Wikipedia article on Manchester Blitz)
Air raids began in August 1940 and in September 1940 the Palace Theatre on Oxford Street was bombed. The heaviest bombing raids occurred on the nights of 22/23 and 23/24 December 1940, killing an estimated 684 people and injuring 2,364. Manchester Cathedral, the Royal Exchange and the Free Trade Hall were among the large buildings damaged. On the night of 22/23 December, 270 aircraft dropped 272 tons of high explosive and 1,032 incendiary bombs; on the second night, 171 aircraft dropped another 195 tons of high explosive and 893 incendiaries. After the bombings, Nazi propaganda declared that the entire city had been burned to the ground.
The footnotes in the Wikipedia article refer to the short Imperial War Museum article.
First person articles that I used in the story included:
(1) An article in the Manchester Cathedral News in honor of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the Cathedral (December, 2010).
(2) An article from a blog, Tottenham Lad (caution: language) which, while not set in Manchester, gave me most of the ‘indoor’ details I used in the story, and the idea of having the principle character be a young girl whose father was in Africa.
(3) An article from a BBC archive called WW2 Peoples War which gave much of the ‘outdoor’ detail.
As far as pictures go, I got them from a number of sources. One of the most complete sets was found in another BBC article.
A few of the other pictures were found by God’s provision after long searching. The postman delivering the mail in a bombed out street can be seen at the Getty Archive. I can’t find the site that gave it to me without the watermark. The letter from Margie’s dad I found on a stamps site. Notice the September 1940 date and the Egyptian stamps. Obviously I photoshopped out the Australian address and replaced it with an address in Manchester England. I looked at half a dozen modern and ancient maps of Manchester before deciding where Margie’s Auntie lived (on Miller Street).
I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of Heinkel 111 bombers, the kind that were most likely used by the Germans for these raids. I also bought a 3d computer model of a Heinkel, made a simple 3d barrage balloon and combined all that with a night atmosphere and a picture of a manchester skyline to get this:
I also did all the ‘indoor’ pictures with Vue, beginning with a base model that I’ve used very successfully in the past. I added an authentic period coal stove and a few other details, then converted the resulting render to black and white:
I used the same model to get the ‘out the window’ scenes, photoshopping out the glass and photoshopping in the backgrounds:
Finally, if you have time, the following authentic newsreel shows moving footage of the Manchester blitz: