• This is a stand-to for an incoming competition, one of our most expensive yet.
    Later this week we're going to be offering the opportunity to Win £270 Rab Neutrino Pro military down jacket
    Visit the thread at that link above and Watch it to be notified as soon as the competition goes live

A view that we faced the Blitz with courage is a myth

#1
Interesting one for history buffs; essay question for one of my kids at school:

"The impression that the British faced the Blitz with courage and unity is a myth"

The question is really asking how much of a cherished collective national memory was real and how much was the invention of propaganda and censorship given, we know the Goverment was concerned about the reaction of people to the Blitz and certainly in the beginning, had no idea as to how things would unfold.
 
#2
Bumper said:
Interesting one for history buffs; essay question for one of my kids at school:

"The impression that the British faced the Blitz with courage and unity is a myth"

The question is really asking how much of a cherished collective national memory was real and how much was the invention of propaganda and censorship given, we know the Goverment was concerned about the reaction of people to the Blitz and certainly in the beginning, had no idea as to how things would unfold.
They monitored letters and got kids in (I think) Hull to write a story about "How I felt during the air raid" to try to find out what the effects would be on the Germans when we started hitting them. Think that's what they are driving at.
 
#3
Having known a fair number of people who lived through the war I would suggest that most did face the war in general with courage, yes they were afraid, they would have been starnge if they hadn;t been. They seemed to have kept their senses of humour, enjoyed themselves when they could but at the same time all pulled together to make things happen.

I would even suggest the same attitude is still there, just think of all the peoiple who went to work in London on 8/7.

Always remeber that there is strength in numbers when people stand shoulder to shoulder the group is aleways stronger than the sum of the individuals.
 
#4
gobbyidiot said:
Bumper said:
Interesting one for history buffs; essay question for one of my kids at school:

"The impression that the British faced the Blitz with courage and unity is a myth"

The question is really asking how much of a cherished collective national memory was real and how much was the invention of propaganda and censorship given, we know the Goverment was concerned about the reaction of people to the Blitz and certainly in the beginning, had no idea as to how things would unfold.
They monitored letters and got kids in (I think) Hull to write a story about "How I felt during the air raid" to try to find out what the effects would be on the Germans when we started hitting them. Think that's what they are driving at.
I do recall reading something of the sort. Hull was absolutely malleted in one particular raid and Mass Observation reports showed that morale in the city was plummeting. These particular reports were then used as evidence that doing the same to German cities would produce similar results. Now if only I could remember where I read that!
 

Grownup_Rafbrat

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
Reference the Mass Observation material from the time. Lots of useful information there.

Some has been made into books - Nella Last's is particularly interesting. Although she was in Barrow-in-Furness, rather than London, they still got bombed because of their shipyards and some planes missing Liverpool.
 
#6
I have to say I find this thread interesting, and I can't imagine it playing out on an American board if there were a comparable event.

"How dare you imply that we weren't brave and bold...how dare you insinuate that some people might have been afraid, or selfish, or mercenary, or any number of things besides heroic?

I love my country (and about half of its inhabitants) - historical re-evaluation? Not one of our strong suits.
 
#7
Mr_Deputy said:
You just find my fair, truthful, open-mindedness and intellect attractive Tankie admit it. Plus I'm not half bad looking.
Not to mention your modesty. :D
 
#8
Some very interesting points so far, thank you. At a more ordinary level, my wife's grandfather took a robust approach to the Luftwaffe. Dismissing Anderson shelters as insufficient he dug up half of the garden and built a large concrete bunker which became the shelter of choice for many families in the road. Unfortunately, civil engineering was not a strongpoint and the shelter was rendered useless whenever it rained due to flooding.
 
#9
remember my granmother having a stand up row with my teacher who was of the view there was no black market or work arounds rationing :roll:
 
#10
Talking to my own relations (bombed in London, Derby, Liverpool, Southampton), the "myth" stands up well. Terror of the actual bombing apart, mutual support and support for the war effort seems to have been universal - the war was the most intense experience of the lives of that generation, and they are full of anecdotes of the "upside".

I think modern revisionists make a major error in equating bombing victims in UK and elsewhere: UK was the victim - for the second time - of German aggression, and the populations seems to have genuinely felt that it would be a re-run of WW1 - a few years of unavoidable suffering, followed by eventual and rightful victory. The German civpop, on the other hand, must have realised by 1942/3 that their country had inevitably brought about its own destruction and occupation.
 
#12
stameen_s said:
I do recall reading something of the sort. Hull was absolutely malleted in one particular raid and Mass Observation reports showed that morale in the city was plummeting. These particular reports were then used as evidence that doing the same to German cities would produce similar results. Now if only I could remember where I read that!
Hull was regarded as one of the most bombed cities but very little publicity was given to the fact, unlike London & Coventry. Ironically evidence of it still exists today in the form of vacant plots in streets and terraces where buildings once stood, more than sixty years on!

There is a car park in the city centre where the original museum was bombed, which still has to be excavated to uncover the museum cellars and what ever remains of its archives. Add to that, a communal grave also in the centre, which was a municiple shelter which received a direct hit killing more than 200 people.

Hull bombing map plotting the position of all bombs dropped by
enemy action during the Blitz. http://www.rhaywood.karoo.net/bombmap.htm

Other accounts can be read;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/14/a2073214.shtml
http://www.17balloons.co.uk/pages/page-08.html
 

Grownup_Rafbrat

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
Bumper said:
Some very interesting points so far, thank you. At a more ordinary level, my wife's grandfather took a robust approach to the Luftwaffe. Dismissing Anderson shelters as insufficient he dug up half of the garden and built a large concrete bunker which became the shelter of choice for many families in the road. Unfortunately, civil engineering was not a strongpoint and the shelter was rendered useless whenever it rained due to flooding.
Reminds me of the story about my grandfather, who allegedly used the bricks provided by the authorities for building a shelter to build a bathroom. He must have been bricking it when the Heinkel crashed in the next street.
 
#15
My Grandmas most mentioned memory from the Blitz is that the Luftwaffe bombed the banks of the reservoir she lived next to and the house was flooded and her & her sisters were sitting on the kitchen table whilst my great-grandad swam down the street chasing his trousers that were floating away, he had to get them back as they didn't have enough clothing coupons on the ration book left to get any more!

A lot of anecdotes suggest that the morale effect of mass bombing was relatively short term, for example when bomber command levelled Hamburg there was a short lived panic followed by renewed determination from the Germans, like in Britain despite the strains and stresses of enduring bombing there was no large scale breakdown of public order or refusals to work or fight, though human nature being what it is there were plenty of small scale crimes...
 
#16
Two questions.

Is the butcher shop window sign "The only mad cow in here is my wife" apocraphal ? Because if true, it illustrates along with 8/7, that the spirit of the blitz is alive and well.

Also I think it was Len Deighton who proposed that more people were killed in the blitz in traffic accidents due to the black out, than were killed by German bombs. Is this right?

Cheers

Mick.
 
#17
I recall my Grandfather telling me that apart from the bombs, one of the practical hazards was shrapnel from the AA.

That which goes up......
 
#18
Mr_Deputy said:
Might be worth reading 'Quartered Safe Out Here' as well in terms of how British citizens/soldiers faced the concept of killing the enemy. In the fairly recent version of Fraser's boo which I read he often reminds the reader that remorse was not something alot of fair-minded people faced, not because they were psychopathic or vindictive but that it was something they had no need to feel so they didn't feel it. It wasn't their fight as such, they were fighting to survive.
interesting, although I'm not sure how close you can draw parallels between stoic and battle hardened Cumbrian's in the Border Regiment and families in the East End and other Cities.
 

Grownup_Rafbrat

LE
Book Reviewer
#19
You might make an interesting discussion about he levels of 'criminality'. I.e. Mrs. Bloggs keeps a few chickens and doesn't declare all her eggs, Mrs. Smith has a deal with the butcher to keep her the best cuts of meat, Mr. Jones the butcher describes rump steak as shin of beef for his customers (meat was rationed by price), Mr. Sneaky arranges supplies of tinned foods for local hotels, Farmer Giles doesn't declare all his piglets, etc. What sort of girls wore nylons by 1945? Was using parachute silk to make your underwear stealing? A whole Moral Maze!

'Foyles War' made some good fictional stories about this kind of thing, and 'The World at War' had some good stuff too.
 

copepod

Old-Salt
Book Reviewer
#20
Coventry War Memorial Park is full of trees, each with a plaque recording a resident who died during wartime, whether civilians in bombing raids or service personnel. It's one of the very few places I have seen any memorials of civilians who died during war - very moving, especially as many were children or elderly.
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads

Top