Why were the major cities of Britain bombed by the Germans in 1940-1941? Essay Example
Why were the major cities of Britain bombed by the Germans in 1940-1941? Essay Example

Why were the major cities of Britain bombed by the Germans in 1940-1941? Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1768 words)
  • Published: September 2, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Hitler's strategy was to form an alliance with Britain as a means of opposing communist Russia.

In spite of initially receiving support in Britain, Hitler's actions during the 1930s resulted in him losing favor and abandoning his prior beliefs. This was a consequence of his choice to violate his agreement with Chamberlain by invading Poland, leading to Britain and France declaring war on September 3rd, 1939. The subsequent six-month period was referred to as the 'Phoney War', as both parties mobilized and readied themselves for what would become a catastrophic confrontation.

Before the May 1940 invasion of France, there were no real battles. The rapid conquest of France by Hitler led to Nazi dominance over all of Europe with the exception of Britain, which waited for Hitler's next move. Operation 'Sealion' sought to strike the


British Navy and cause harm to a significant number of vessels.

In July 1940, the German Airforce, or Luftwaffe, and Navy launched a devastating attack on Britain. The Royal Air Force suffered a significant loss as the Germans targeted radar stations, aircraft factories, and fighter airfields in Hitler's biggest attack. Despite the Treaty of Versailles prohibiting Germany from having military aircraft, Hitler defied these terms upon taking power. Tragically, over 500 pilots were killed and 792 planes were lost by the Royal Air Force within three months after the initial German assault.

This text discusses the Battle of Britain, specifically the shift in strategy by the German airforce, Luftwaffe, to concentrate on bombing London on September 7, 1940. This decision came after the British RAF proved capable of fighting back and making the previous strategy ineffective.

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Adolf Hitler believed that targeting cities would lower the morale of the British people. The first day of the Blitz resulted in 430 deaths and 1,600 severe injuries. The German bombers returned the next day, resulting in an additional 412 deaths (source: www).

According to spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk, Hitler unintentionally benefited Britain by altering the Luftwaffe's strategy. His failure to target radar stations and RAF bases, had he persisted, would have caused the annihilation of the British Air Force, leaving no resources to manufacture additional airplanes, thereby enabling Hitler to conquer Britain.

Hitler intended to bomb British cities in order to compel their surrender, inspired by the French government's reaction to a Blitzkrieg invasion. France quickly surrendered to avoid damage to their city, but Britain's resistance only grew stronger. The British populace became more resolute in fighting against Hitler and avoiding the ease of France's defeat. Additionally, the blitzkrieg technique was employed in other European countries such as Denmark, Poland, Norway, and the Sudetenland.

The Germans viewed the Blitz as a viable tactic for invading Britain and achieving their objectives. The consequences of the Blitz on daily life in Britain were substantial, particularly with regards to the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe on September 7th, 1940. This attack caused 430 fatalities and severe injuries to 1,600 people on its initial day. Further bombings occurred over subsequent days, leading to an additional 412 deaths. Between September 1940 and May 1941, the Luftwaffe carried out 127 major nighttime raids.

London was targeted in 71 bombings, and other major cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Plymouth, Bristol, Glasgow, Southampton, Coventry, Hull, Portsmouth, Manchester Belfast Sheffield Newcastle Nottingham and Cardiff were also attacked by

German bombers on a daily basis. The aim was to cause destruction and loss of life while breaking the spirits of the British people. To protect themselves from the attacks citizens were provided with thousands of Anderson shelters by the government which they could place in their gardens or use air raid shelters built in the streets.

In November of 1938, Sir John Anderson was appointed by Chamberlain to lead Air Raid Precautions (ARP) and tasked him with commissioning engineer William Patterson to design a low-cost and compact shelter that could be set up in residential gardens. This resulted in the creation of over 1.5 million Anderson shelters, which were quickly distributed to inhabitants of areas likely to suffer bombings from the Luftwaffe. These shelters were constructed using six curved sheets bolted together at the top and steel plates at each end.

Measuring 1.95m x 1.35m and with the capacity to hold six individuals, these shelters were partially submerged in the ground and covered with mounds of soil.

The entrance was safeguarded by both a steel shield and an earthen blast wall. Impoverished individuals were gifted Anderson shelters, while those earning over �5 per week could purchase them for �7. As the Blitz approached, roughly 2.25 million households possessed shelters in their own gardens. In anticipation of the use of poison gas against civilians during World War II, the British government issued a gas mask to every resident of Britain.

In 1940, the government distributed 38 million gas masks, which included black adult masks and 'Mickey Mouse' masks with red rubber pieces and bright eyepiece rims for children. Additionally, gas helmets were made for babies that

required mothers to pump air. To safeguard against nightly German bomber plane attacks, many found refuge on local underground station platforms. Although the government initially prohibited this, they later recognized the benefits in terms of capacity and protection they offered.

During the bombing raids, some people chose to move their bedding beneath the stairs in their own homes for protection, while others sought shelter under grand pianos if they owned one. The sound of air-raid sirens every night gave citizens ample time to take cover. Many citizens had joined organisations like the Auxiliary Fire Service and Air Raid Precaution Wardens (ARP Wardens) to help maintain order and safety during the attacks. These groups assisted with crowd control, heavy rescues, demolition, and fire-fighting. People spent the night in whatever shelter was available until the all-clear signal sounded near dawn, allowing them to return home.

Despite spending a night in shelter, the following day saw men off to work, children back to school and women heading to the grocers or butchers with government-issued ration books for their weekly food supply. Rationing was necessary due to merchant ships carrying food being destroyed en route to Britain leading to food shortages and price hikes. Prior to rationing only wealthy families could afford sufficient food. However, upon its implementation, it was welcomed by many and there was little public panic as people were too preoccupied with daily tasks amidst fear of war.

Despite the bombs causing significant deaths and damage to structures, the morale of the British citizens remained high. The German bombers failed to achieve their objective of reducing morale and instead, amplified the determination of the British citizens to

resist Hitler until the end. Additionally, the government responded by making efforts to mitigate the impact of war.

Prior to the commencement of bombing attacks, evacuation measures were implemented, relocating school children, pregnant women and teachers to rural areas that were not targets of German bombing campaigns, or to neutral countries like Canada. In their new environments, these individuals were often placed with families who varied greatly in terms of their social status or household size.

According to spartacus.schoolnet.com, the majority of Luftwaffe air raids occurred during nighttime hours.

To evade fighter planes and the enemy's heavy artillery on the ground, German pilots flew at high altitudes. This approach made it challenging for them to locate and strike targets. In addition, the British government mandated a complete blackout during the war to make it even more challenging for German bombers. Consequently, people had to ensure that their lights did not give any indications to German pilots passing over populated areas.

To ensure no light passed through windows, homeowners had to use thick black curtains or blackout paint. Shopkeepers needed to take extra measures by blacking out their windows and providing a way for customers to enter without emitting any light. At first, all sources of light were banned from the streets, including streetlights and cigarette glows.

The British government allowed the use of small torches on the streets during the Blitz as long as the beam was covered by tissue paper and pointed downward. However, to prevent negative effects on the morale of the population that could weaken the war effort and benefit Hitler, the government censored explicit images of dead bodies, extensive damage to buildings and areas,

and damaged aircraft. The national press was prohibited from publishing any such material.

Reporting on incidents with high casualties and sharing gruesome photos was prohibited, while any war-related photographs had to be authorized prior to publication. Additionally, successful events in the British war effort were exaggerated in order to boost morale. For instance, if the British took down 30 Luftwaffe planes, the press claimed they had shot down 95 planes.

The government controlled news about conflicts by prohibiting reporters from entering the area. This enabled them to present a positive image of the events and limit negative reports. The government also used propaganda posters to encourage conscription of workers and create a sense of patriotism among citizens. By stirring patriotic feelings, people were more likely to focus on positive press and contribute to the war effort. However, German press headlines about their successes were being circulated in Britain, prompting the government to create their own propaganda to counteract these reports and present a false image.

Positive propaganda was used to promote patriotism, exemplified by the King and Queen's walkabout. They toured the London Underground to assess how the rest of the city was coping during the challenging period, demonstrating that the entire nation was united in its struggle. The King and Queen's decision not to send their children away as part of the evacuation effort and to stay in the country themselves was also a testament to their dedication to serving their country, serving as a powerful form of positive propaganda for the people.

The government effectively utilized propaganda to encourage the production of carrots, a vital food source during a time of scarcity. Acknowledging the need for

more food, the government employed a successful campaign propagating that consuming carrots enhances night vision. This led to an increase in carrot production as people sought to be able to see in the dark amid blackouts. To this day, the myth remains pervasive, demonstrating the power of this noteworthy form of propaganda.

During the war, there was a mix of support and fear for the government's efforts to win. While some felt negative towards the war and government, negative news was often concealed, and positive propaganda was used to uphold morale. The government employed various propaganda tactics throughout the war to hide the severe impacts and prevent negative effects on the British people.

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