The impression that the British faced the blitz with courage and unity is a myth
In September 1939 Britain went to war against Germany, the war lasted until 1945 in Europe. The Blitz occurred between the years of 1940-1942. It involved the bombardment of many of Britain’s cities by the aircraft of the German Luftwaffe. The declaration of war struck fear throughout many people in Britain and changed the lives of millions of people throughout the country The blitz was a time of great upheaval for the home front. During the blitz, evacuation of school children and teachers, the pregnant and elderly alike, were all removed from bombing hotspots to areas of safety.
Rationing was introduced, as well as great changes within the running of the country – women were employed, and of course there were the frequent air raids to look forward to. These are just some of the immense effects the blitz had on the British people. One idea is the bombing, instead of causing chaos, merely strengthened people’s resolve. At the time newspapers such as ‘The daily mail’, ‘daily Express’, ‘Daily telegraph’ and ‘London Gazette’ published morale boosting pictures, once they had first gone through the process of censorship.
Censorship stopped potentially damaging pictures etc which could disturb and upset the public kept behind closed doors. Morale boosting pictures such as that in source C however, were readily accepted to be published. It is an ideal example of togetherness. All the people their have survived the torment of an air raid and are constantly helping each other even though their houses have been bombed and what little is left that they have worked for all their lives has been salvaged and piled in the background. The people show gratitude to be alive, are holding each other by the smiles while positively beaming.
It shows community spirit and teamwork and portrays the message to others – the blitz is liveable. An idea the government are keen to promote. As it was captioned ‘their houses are wrecked but the tenants of the buildings still showed the British “grit”. Newspapers were only one form of many used throughout the war as propaganda by the government, used to keep peoples morale high, which seems to have worked from the source above. The domestic front was the receiver of the most famous slogans of WW2. The women of Britain were constantly being urged to ‘Make do and Mend’, or to ‘dig for victory’.
The government needed the women of Britain to do what was asked; otherwise Britain would have been in crisis, with shortages in essential foods, clothes and other vital materials. Nearly all campaigns like these were successful. It’s another reason the government needed to keep peoples faith in them. The fact these schemes were so affective shows people kept their fighting spirit up. If they had not succeeded it would imply morale was low and people on the home front were not interested in the war effort. If this had happened the country would have severe worries as these women were needed.
Posters though, were considered the most effective form of propaganda for conveying information to the public. They were always very patriotic portraying people as heroes or villains, tapping into the basic human emotions, their feelings of loyalty towards the royal family and the country. One interesting and different way the government attempted ‘to raise sagging spirits’ through ‘odd sights’. These included ideas such as vegetables growing in the tower of London, pigs in the drained swimming bath at the ladies Charlton club in London and the ‘Wood Stack’ snack bar selling an ‘air raid’ breakfast from 6am! pectacles such as this were important to keep people’s minds busy, and them entertained. Other attempts were made to keep morale high by the introduction of events. The sort of music that was popular in the 1940s was dance music including swing by people like Glenn Millar. There were lots of sentimental, patriotic songs by singers like Vera Lynn and Gracie Shields. The main leisure activity, apart from dancing was going to the cinema. Again, lots of patriotic films and war films – always with a strong patriotic message both from Britain and from Hollywood.
People also listened to the radio a lot, played cards and read. Churchill’s speeches often served as morale boosters too. He was showed as a determined and tough leader who called upon the British public to keep their spirits up – As Churchill said ‘let’s go forward together’. And this is what it seems the people did. There is another side to this story however. Is it possible for example that the people on the home front were only able to plough onwards because they weren’t actually entirely aware of what was happening?
We have seen with all the propaganda how this war was drummed up but their were plenty of things the government were in no rush to publish at the time including source B which was taken on the 21st of January 1943; the governments censors banned it. It shows innocent children lying dead in body bags after London’s Catford girl’ school has been hit. The picture is very upsetting and highly likely morale across the country would have dramatically decreased and support for the war would have wavered. The government could not fight a war unless the country was behind them.
Although some will argue otherwise, it is possible that the people got easily wrapped up in the news and propaganda and the whole fighting spirit that developed during the war and thus, were under the thumb of the government. In this case how do we judge peoples morale? People’s ability to continue with courage and unity? The war which we see is not nessecarily what the people of the time would have experienced. With hindsight we are now able to view a whole host of information giving a broader view of the war, at the time it was very much one sided with bias information as the next paragraph proves.
It produces the point of reliability regarding the sources. The British and German newspapers had two completely different views on what happened at Dunkirk in the 1940’s. A German picture magazine called Signal published this: ‘the great battle of annihilation. Altogether more than 1. 2 million prisoners have fallen into German hands, besides limitless amounts of war material … France and Britain’s finest troops are annihilated. ‘
An English version was published in the Daily Mirror giving an account of the same event: ‘for days thousands of our brave men of the B. E. F. have been pouring through a port somewhere in England, battle-worn, but thank god, safe and cheerful in spite of weariness. ‘ Both publications are very optimistic in their wording but only one set of events can have taken place in reality, and with discrepancies between sources, it is impossible without further investigation to say who is nearer the truth but we can conclude how bias each is. It just goes to prove what a false impression the public were given. With constantly encouraging words like this it is not as surprising that people kept their spirits up.
The home front were told lies after lies and it is a wonder how people did not realise after so long at war and get fed up. Up risings fro the public would have destroyed the country. It is so hard to believe people did not realise that you do not wonder whether people did know but kept quiet, knowing there was nothing they nor anyone else could do, so they may as well make the best of a bad situation. People were convinced through patriotic propaganda to sacrifice and to continue to play there very important part in the war effort.
Everyone must believe Britain is as hold as old boots. The following extract is taken from an official report into the events following the bombing of Coventry on the 14th November 1940, the source speaks for itself. ‘There were more open signs of hysteria and terror than observed in the previous 2 months. On Friday evening (15th November), there were several signs of suppressed panic as darkness approached’. Clearly this source disagrees with previous and gives the impression even just as the war was beginning morale and high spirits were cracking and true fears coming through.
One surprising aspect which for some people may have been a relief was the evacuation of their children and the opportunity to work. The evacuation had a good effect on the war effort as it increased the morale of knowing that their loved ones were not at risk in the town and cities. This gave them peace of mind. With all men between the ages of 19 and 40 conscripted to the armed forces in 1939, the old people and women found themselves alone and needing to be independent for the first time. For many people this was a hard and daunting experience.
Living on your own during the blitz, with bombs falling all around you in a blacked-out city is an extremely hard thing to do. This turned many people’s lives upside down. Having to go out to the shelters every time the siren went off meant that people did not get much sleep. People missed their families because they were either at war fighting, or they had been evacuated. Despite the discrimination, women were happy. Women were proving themselves. They enjoyed having their own money; enjoyed the social life of war. One woman said, “the war made me stand on my own two feet”.
Women were now far more dependent and began to take a far more active role in the work place. “Many women gained a great deal of personal satisfaction from their war work. They made new and lasting friendships, enjoyed newfound independence, and discovered new abilities and skills. The social side of life also got better for people towards the end of the war. Before and in the early stages of the war, there was a great division of social class. The rich kept themselves to the rich and looked down upon the poor and the poorer people kept their ideas to themselves.
However all of this was changed due to the war efforts, evacuation, rationing and the actual fighting during the war. The barrier was broken down between the social classes and people realised that they were just the same. This caused the nation to see equality between the social classes, which was what rationing introduced to many people. In conclusion I can say that the war was not all bad, although the loss of human life I am sure most would agree far outweighs the benefits it may have brought. 43,ooo civilians were killed by 1941 with over 200 tonnes of bombs dropped every hour, but the blitz affected people in different ways.
I disagree in part with the statement “The impression that the British faced the blitz with courage and unity is a myth,” But only to a degree. I believe at the time people did display a courage and unity throughout the war which is supported certain sources. A and C show how people developed a humour to help them cope, B,D and G show people carried on with work daily regardless of the state of the country and the disruption which surrounded them, and again source C also shows courage in the people and a strength of mind.
On the other hand I don’t see that this is how people felt. Outwardly they displayed a sheer determination to continue but inwardly I feel it was a very different matter. Overall, I don’t believe it is possibly to clearly distinguish whether the statement is true of false. It depends from person to person and individuals story and without leafing through other sources such as diary entries or personal writings etc I don’t believe it possible to agree nor disagree with all aspects the statement covers.