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The English Channel port city of Southampton is situated on a peninsula near the head of Southampton Water in between the brackish estuaries of the Rivers Itchen and Test.

Southampton was the port from which the RMS Titanic departed as well as home to 500 of those who perished onboard that ship. It was also the port from which the Mayflower before that ship was forced to return to Plymouth.

In 43 AD, the Roman settlement of Clausentum was established on the east bank of the River Itchen. The first town charter was granted by King Henry II in the middle years of the 12th century. Henry VI created the county of Southampton in 1447, and in 1640, King Charles I granted a charter which was to remain in force until 1835.

In the Middle Ages, Southampton was a major English port from which hides and wool were shipped out from that country as well as wine from the Bordeaux region of France.

During the 1600s and 1700s, that business declined, and it was not until the 19th century when the railways became common that the direction of the economy turned to the good. The line between London and Southampton in 1840 was a great help. The local port has a longer high-water period than other ports, due to a double tide resulting from the existence of the Isle of Wight off the coast. New development of docks sent business soaring.

The Southampton Blitz is the heavy bombing of Southampton by the German Luftwaffe from 1940 to 1941. Its Supermarine factory was where Spitfire fighter aircraft were bult, making Southampton and its suburbs a natural target for such bombing, and the geographic location on the southern coast of England was strategically easy pickings.

Fifty-seven attacks were made on the city during the war. More than 1,500 air raid warnings were sounded, about 2,300 bombs were dropped, and more than 30,000 bombs were dropped n Southampton. Almost 45,000 buildings were damaged or demolished.

Between 6:15 pm and midnight on 23 November 1940, 77 people were killed and more than 300 were injured by the constant bombings which destroyed the Civic Centre along with much of the area downtown. The numerous resulting fires were left to burn themselves out because the city’s water supply had been ruined during the bombing. The newspapers and radio proclaimed that the glow of the fires could be seen as far away as the coast of France.

On 30 November, a week later, the Luftwaffe returned for another 8-hour bombing session. This time, 800 bombs were dropped, leaving 137 dead, including 96 people in air raid shelters. St. Mary’s churches, the General Motors factory, and the Daily Echo Newspaper building were all badly damaged.

In 1951, a considerable oil tanker terminal and refinery were instituted on the western shore, and by the time 1980 rolled around, it had become Britain’s second largest seaport. Aircraft, electrical products, petrochemicals, and cars have joined the cargo being shipped from the port, and shipbuilding and repair, passenger ships, tobacco processing, and grain milling upped the fortunes of the local workers.



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