The Blitz

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1. The word ‘Blitz’ itself is a shortened form of the German word ‘Blitzkrieg’ meaning lightening war, it means a heavy bombing attack from the air. It is often used to describe the German air raids on London in 1940, but many other cities were also blitzed. It was widely believed that Britain would be heavily bombed immediately after the war was declared and huge amounts of deaths and injuries were expected with mass burials planned and 1,250,000 cardboard coffins were produced. However these figures were completely inaccurate as they were based on when the Luftwaffe had bombed during the Spanish Civil War, and during this time had virtually no opposition. During The Blitz London was most badly affected with 13,000 killed in 1940 and 10,000 killed throughout the rest of Britain, so there were heavy losses.

The Blitz came about after Hitler decided to change tactics after the battle of Britain when losses during the daylight attacks were too high for Germany. The Blitz began when the Germans began to bomb London and other cities by night and continued through the end of 1940 starting again in the springtime of 1941. The Blitz went much wider than just bombing London; it ranged across many other cities too, such as Coventry. Coventry was heavily bombed in November 1940, destroying the city centre and killing around 500 people. Belfast was also heavily bombed in the ‘Belfast Blitz’ in April 1941 killing nearly 1000 people. The damage caused by the bombing was extremely severe to all the buildings and land, but mainly to morale, which was Hitler’s main aim. This also affected people’s feelings towards the war.

Hitler’s plan was to break morale by people being forced to watch their homes being destroyed and their loved ones killed. He believed that this would dampen spirits and break morale to such an extent that the people would force the government to come to terms with him. However the excuse Hitler used to justify the Blitz was that he was bombing military targets. The Blitz also attempted to destroy industry, with London docks being bombed often and the Luftwaffe also tried to hit railway lines, junctions, power stations and gas-holders, but the bombing was felt worst of all by the working class near city centres.

The Blitz also affected the life of children with many of them being uprooted and evacuated to the countryside, some with their mothers, some without. Around 1,500,000 people were evacuated at the start of the Blitz, which had a massive effect on people’s lives and many lifestyles being completely turned around. Children from the city were often very skinny and undernourished and when they were evacuated often had much more food, and much healthier food to keep them strong. Some would go home looking completely different to how they looked when they went.

Those that stayed in the cities were bothered by ARP wardens checking for air raid precautions, the wardens were often accused of interfering. Along with household precautions there were also air raid shelters, but many people didn’t have them and went into tube stations during raids. The raids affected everybody’s lives, as at anytime during the night they could have to get up and find somewhere to hide, this was difficult and unpleasant. However, some people still remained unprotected and in the second big wave of attacks in January 1941, 25,000 people were killed.

All the deaths of the Blitz were hugely devastating, as was the rest of the damage caused. This was partly because the Blitz came as a surprise after the phoney war had led people to believe there would be no actual fighting. When the Blitz did start it caused real panic as it came with no warning. This all caused a devastating effect, however the government was not prepared to admit to the huge effects it had and used censorship to try and maintain morale and keep people in support of the war.

At the end of 1940 the government used propaganda to try and get people to help the war effort, make people aware of the dangers and to increase morale. All kinds of entertainment were used to keep hopes up as many more people were resisting evacuation, though evacuation was often helpful to the children as it got them out of the dirty cities. Rationing also caused a problem for some people but for others were very helpful and actually meant they were eating more food than before the rations.

In conclusion the Blitz had a major affect on everybody’s life in Britain, for those in both major cities and in the countryside. Those living in cities were under heavy bombing causing poor living conditions and some disease with many children being uprooted from their homes and being evacuated. This was traumatic for many and turned lives around, sometimes for the better. People were forced to watch as loved ones were killed and family homes destroyed, leaving people often homeless and distraught.

Rationing also affected peoples lives, not just food rationing but ration of clothes and petrol, making their daily lives harder, though in some cases better. Mostly it was morale that was affected and this was Hitler’s main aim, however the government used different ways to keep spirits up and keep the country united as one in order to defeat Hitler. People’s lives may have never been the same again with the traumatic bombing killing thousands and causing many to be orphaned. Fires meant that Britain lost some of its finest buildings, as they couldn’t be put out due to burst water pipes. All these things affected the everyday lives of people in Britain.

2. The media played a huge part in the war effort in the home front, as it was the only way of boosting morale during the Blitz. Morale was low due the bombing having its effect on everyday life bur government propaganda was used to try and boost it, also trying to make people aware of the dangers they were facing and to help the war effort. Many different forms of propaganda were used to do this such as film, wireless broadcasts, posters and billboards. These were often used to tell people to save their resources as much as possible to help the war effort. Due to the bomb raids, often resulting in blackouts and petrol shortages, many people stayed at home leading to many more people listening to the radio for information such as the 9’o clock news and Churchill broadcasts top whip up morale.

The radio was the main form of entertainment and had many different shows trying to help people make the best of things in the war, such as a show called Kitchen Front with recipe ideas, availability and food prices. There were comedy shows such as ‘It’s that man again’ to boost morale and kids shows to reassure and support the young. There was also music stations designed for the troops to listen to but were also tuned into by many others. Food facts and clothing tips were also printed in magazines and newspapers. However there was some radio shows designed to demoralise the enemy. A man named Screaming Lord Haw Haw was used to demoralise the British, he was a British fascist, people tuned into this show to find out what the allies were hiding and also for fun.

Also used to try and help the war effort was cinema. They were hugely popular as they provided a way to leave the house; during the wartime ticket sales were 25 to 30 million tickets a week. Films promoting the war and different factors of the war were made such as ‘The Gentle Sex’ about the women’s roles in the war. This boosted morale and helped people keep faith in the war effort and the government.

The media in the wartime was controlled by the government, especially censorship. The government chose what could and couldn’t be seen or heard by the public. They were given control of newspapers and other mass media that could affect people’s opinions towards the war. People were only allowed to hear of great British victories or heroic resistance and bad news was often simply not reported. Some newspapers tried to print more balanced stories, which resulted in some being closed down, with others just closely monitored. Books were also published in favour of the war by leading authors such as Rudyard Kipling.

Spies were also used by the government to listen into people’s conversations in bars, post offices and such. They would then write up reports on people’s attitudes towards the war and the government would try to improve the situation in any way they could.

The media used in the war helped to keep the support for the war firm despite the casualties, and the government did not have to resort to extreme propaganda measures. In general the media helped to boost morale and keep up the war effort on the home front.

3. (i) Agriculture was extremely important during the war, as it was very difficult to import food due to German U-Boats blocking supplies. This meant that people would starve and have to surrender under the Nazi terms if it wasn’t for the agriculture.

Before the war usually men farmed the fields and they were usually experts, however during the war other, non experts were roped in to help due to many men being taken away to fight. This was a huge difference as women were conscripted to help the war effort, referred to as the “Land Army”. Also prisoners of war helped to farm the fields, as did Bevin’s boys. Bevin’s boys were boys that are under 14 so too young to fight but still wanted to contribute to the war effort. The new workers also meant there were different conditions of work. They were forced to work long hours and women were moved to hostels so they were closer to the fields so they could get there quicker. They were also given different jobs, such as rat beaters. Even though there was all this help, at its most productive, Britain only produced 80% of the food it needed. However the council gave farmers free scientific advice with the help of machines and fertilisers.

After the war there had been huge improvements in equality in the agricultural community. This brought women’s expectations higher as after the war these standards had to be kept up, as Britain couldn’t afford imports.

(ii) Industry changed a lot during the war as many men who previously in industry had been conscripted to the armed forces. Some made work in coal mining and the medical profession, as these were what the government needed to win the war. Something’s stayed the same such as essential jobs like teaching.

During the war a lot of things changed as women were forced to leave old jobs in clothing and food and were conscripted to factories making machines and helping to make things such as airplanes. Women were considered generally smaller and more flexible so were good at riveting and other jobs like this. Housewives were also forced to work and in 1947 18% of married women were working compared to the 10% in the 1930s. The government helped towards this by providing childcare.

Bevin’s boys and retired workers also helped in the workplace, as they couldn’t fight in the war.

After the war things had changed with many women still working, however there was still no equal pay for women. This was fought for by trade unionists and was supported by Bevin to give them more say and also to try to stop strikes. Women’s expectations had changed.

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