The Blitz

Discussion in 'History' started by Stirling, Sep 7, 2010.

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  1. What has that got to do with 'The Blitz'? Everyone who watches the BBC knows that 'The Blitz' happened in London.
     
  2. I remember it well. :lol:
    Started off in an Anderson in our back garden in 1940, and graduated to a Morrison in our basement front room (of another house) by the time the doodlebugs were in fashion. 8O
    Listening today on Radio 4 to various people of my vintage describing their experiences, no-one mentioned being scared, and from my own memories, we weren't. I think that as kids, we found it far too exciting, (in our youthful ignorance of the possible consequences), to waste time being frightened. The main thing I remember is the smell after a raid in which buildings had been demolished or badly damaged. A sort of mixture of spent explosive, damp plaster dust, charred wood, and something indefinable, which I have only ever encountered once since those times. Eden Camp, near Malton, Yorks, have one hut dedicated to the "Blitz experience", and they have made a fair fist of duplicating that smell that sort of hangs in the nostrils for minutes after leaving it.
    It always amazed me that the party wall of a collapsed house invariably had fireplaces, complete with the ornaments on the mantlepiece undisturbed, hanging from the blank wall whilst the rest of the house was in a big heap several storeys below. It was a bit awe inspiring to walk to school past a pile of rubble that, only yesterday, had been a couple of houses, just like ours, but I think we must have been far too young to connect their disappearance with the probable tragedy that went with it.
    Even the occasional reading out in assembly of the name of a classmate who would no longer be attending school didn't hit home until many years later. Perhaps we were just lucky to be so young. Our parents, who had experienced the dreadful losses of the first war, must have been made of stern stuff. I can never remember anyone showing fear, at least "not in front of the children".
    We didn't get many toys at Christmas, and luxuries like bananas and ice cream were unknown, but collecting shrapnel after a heavy night and taking it to school to "swap" with your mates was a popular pastime. :roll:

    2BM
     
  3. If you had listened to BBC radio four, you would have heard them cover Plymouth, Coventry, and Glasgow, in addition to London. It's just that we Londoners underwent 76 consecutive nights of heavy bombing in the blitz, which tends to concentrate the mind somewhat! :wink:

    2BM
     
  4. The Blitz as noted was during the 1940 stage of the bombing raids however the raids continued almost throughout the war - the Badeaker ? raids were carried out usually at night guided to target on homing beams .
    So just about every city got bombed at some time .
    Then from 1944 it was the V1 doodlebug rockets and the V2 -usually
    on the south and east coast targets including London. I lived in Kent !!

    Yes we did collect shrapnel --and spent shells from aircraft dogfights .the unexploded "heads " we used to give to the police or home guards for disposal.

    Hardly ever used the Anderson shelter we usually stayed in the house under the stairs or under the big heavy table in the kitchen .

    We did get enough food but everything was rationed so we had a veg garden and rabbits and chickens for eggs and meat .

    G.
     
  5. silverfox

    silverfox War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    I find it interesting that so much, and quite rightly so, is made of the will to resist that was generated by the German air campaign and yet the ability of a population to find strength in adversity and a collective will to endure was completely ignored in our own campaign against the German cities later in the war.
     
  6. I agree Silver Fox, what you say is true and German towns received far more punishment than ours did. I lived through some real heavy 'blitzes' and I do admit to being scared (but did not want to show it of course) but after the war, and when seeing what Germany looked like, it was clear what terrible punishment they had taken.
     
  7. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Silver Fox, after the RAF and USAAF's very successful efforts over Hamburg, Goebbels is alleged to have said something to Hitler along the lines of 'three more of those and we've had it.'

    Meanwhile, back at home .. a brave Nazi pilot tried to strafe my grandmother in the Isle of Wight as she waddled down the main street of Freshwater. He must have known what he was shooting at as she looked very like the granny in the Giles cartoons. In case the Germans came a-calling she kept a cup of weedkiller on the mantelpiece so that she could make them a nice cup of tea. My mother had more worldly ideas of what the Hun might be after and slept with her dressmaking shears under her pillow. In her old age I had her write down her war story. Here's an extract:

    "On Friday September 12th 1940 the raids were enormous in London. The mews [in Kensington] was like a tiny village and we all knew each other. We had a shelter at the end in a converted stable under the archway. I made my way there, hoping to sleep. I made haste and on the way picked up a little boy. I got in before his parents who were carrying bedding and another baby in a pram. We spent the night there. I had to work next day. The gas main was blown up, quite a bang! After that there was no water, hot or cold, so it was all very miserable.

    "That was the night that of the great fire of the London docks. There was no water and the whole sky was scarlet. The whole of London was lit up by the flames from the docks. The first bombs had fallen about eight o’clock. There was always a silence at first and then the ringing of fire engine and ambulance bells and cries for help, some from babies and children, which was heartbreaking to hear.

    "The next night I thought I had better die in my own bed. Thirteen people were killed in the shelter including the little boy. The parents were searching the rubble for bits of him. I saw a little hand but said nothing I was so aghast."

    She remarked once that it was embarrassing having me staring at her friend who was picking bits of glass out of her face. My mother had other narrow escapes including one where Plymouth was knocked down round our ears.

    I used to sleep on a camp bed under a big oak dining table early in the war. Later an older boy told me to lie flat immediately if I heard a doodle bug engine cut out. I still have the id disc that I wore round my neck in case the Boche should blow me to bits. But the most pervading thing was that throughout those six years, never ONCE was I led to believe otherwise than that we would win in the end, however long it took and whatever the difficulty.
     
  8. silverfox.

    "Now look here, Pike, we'll have none of that defeatist talk here".

    Fair point, though. Perhaps it makes a difference knowing whether or not your side started it. Also, our Side hadn't identified itself as the invincible aggressor.

    Perhaps we expected s**t and they didn't.
     
  9. silverfox

    silverfox War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Don't get me wrong - there were some extremely valid reasons behind the Allied campaign. It was the only offensive operation for a long time, there was the element of revenge and the idea of removing an enemies capability to wage war rather than the wholesale defeat of its armed forces is very much the philosophy of the manoueverist warfare we preach today.

    The fact that German war production increased as the campaign went on only casts doubts on the methods used, not the overall concept. If Germany had put its industrial infrastructure onto a war footing from the off, rather than assuming that they would be successful with what they started with - it might not have been so simple......
     
  10. My Grandmother lived in Croydon, winner of that most coveted award "most bombed place in Britain" in that, if you couldn't get through to London, it's what you bombed, and if you had anything left over on the way back, it's what you bombed.

    Highlights of her war include being in Croydon High Street when the Luftwaffe decided to strafe it - and only surviving because my grandad, home on leave from the 8th army, pulled her into the doorway of Timothy West. When they emerged it wasn't a pretty sight.

    Grandad then went back to the desert, leaving my Grandma pregnant. One night she decided to go to the cinema but got tired on the way so went to the fleapit instead of the Gaumont, which was further away but where she would normally have gone. That night, the Gaumont was (predictably) flattened.

    She remembered looking up and seeing the sky literaly black with planes...

    All this time (1940-45), her mother (my great grandma) was in her bed having decided (quite reasonably given the levels of demolition going on around her) that since she was going to be killed anyway she might as well die in her bed - came through the war without a scratch, even though all of Canterbury Road was demolished....
     
  11. One minor point of correction Greenie, the Baedecker raids against English cultural centres (eg Bath and York) during 1942 did not involve German navigation beams.

    The so called 'Battle of the Beams' largely ceased around 12 months earlier after the RAF's 80 Group and British science community succeeded in jamming the signals of the principle German navigation systems (Knickebein, X-Gerät and Y-Gerät/Wotan).

    This was accomplished in stages by the brilliant scientist RV Jones although Churchill also played a key part in connecting Jones’ theories with reports that he’d read of ‘bombing beams’ in Enigma decodes. Indeed, Jones succeeded so brilliantly with Wotan that the Germans never actually realised they were being jammed. Instead they thought there was an inherent weakness in the system and stopped using it!!!

    I have never quite understood the concept that the increase in German war production towards the end of the war undermined the suggestion that strategic bombing was effective. To me, it’s like stating that because a child’s temperature increases after antibiotics, the medicine didn’t work!

    What does matter is what the potential of German War production would have been had the Allies not engaged in strategic bombing.

    In this respect, Albert Speer, Karl Doenitz and Adolf Galland were clear in their views on the impact of bombing, indicating that production was reduced by between 30 and 50% in numerous key areas. Of note, the delivery of raw materials was especially delayed by the bombing of transportation infrastructure. That production which was taking place was increasingly forced into isolated locations requiring elaborate camouflage, or into underground facilities. The latter in particular demanded time consuming construction and excavations. Even when operational, such production methods greatly complicated an already crumbling German transportation and logistics system.

    Significant (in the order of 1-2 year) delays to the development of jet fighters and V-weapons can be directly ascribed to strategic bombing. Equally, Doenitz himself stated that the failure to deploy the exceptionally advanced Type XXI U-boat (other than in tiny numbers in the final weeks) was entirely due to bombing (although ironically the post war USAAF Strategic Bombing Survey disagreed! Personally, I think bombing was not the only factor (build quality was a major issue with the Type XXI) but it was certainly significant (and indeed may have influenced the poor quality due to the need to relocated production to non-naval factories)). Similarly, the targeting of German oil production (which should have been started earlier) was singled out by Speer as his most significant concern in the final months.

    Equally, although it has become an accepted fact by some that bombing actually strengthened German resolve, the Strategic Bombing Survey identified it through immediate post war interviews as a key factor in the collapse of German morale, defeatism, absences from work and loss of faith in the leadership.

    Whatever the impact on production output however, there is one inescapable impact; that of the enormous diversion of manpower and industrial output to defensive measures. By mid 1944, there was over a million men engaged directly in defensive duties and civil defence. Whilst some of these were too old or too young for conventional service, many were not. In particular, strategic bombing tied down the vast majority of German fighters, experienced aircrew and Luftwaffe logistics. Capacity that could otherwise have been turned against the Allies in an offensive role.

    Likewise, aircraft, weapons, optics, electronics and ammunition development and production was increasingly forced to prioritise on defensive needs.

    Regards,
    MM
     

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