Wednesday, 29 April 1942

This post is part of a series post-blogging the Blitz of 1940-41 and the Baedeker Blitz of 1942. See here and here for introductions to the series, and here, here and here for conclusions.

Daily Mirror, 29 April 1942, 1

The situation in Burma is getting worse, as the Daily Mirror (above, 1) and most other papers note in their lead stories.

The whole length of the vital Lashio-Mandalay railway is in grave danger as five Japanese divisions, totalling 100,000 men, supported by panzers and bombers, are storming the southern edge of the Upper Burma plateau.

With Japanese ground forces only 110 miles away, Lashio itself is being evacuated of civilians and supplies; it is burning following a raid by twenty-seven Japanese bombers (eleven of their escorts were shot down by the Allied defenders). Writing in the Daily Express, 'Military Reporter' Morley Richards writes (4) that 'The Battle for the Burma Road seems at the point of being lost':

If the Japanese reach Lashio and subsequently force the British north of Mandalay they will have achieved one of their major strategical objects: the temporary isolation of China.

The omens are not good: dispatches from the American Volunteer Group, for example, are coming from Kunming, indicating that its headquarters (and presumably the bulk of its aircraft) has moved back north into China.

Bomber Command has finally given Rostock a break, on Monday night instead attacking Cologne, the 'fourth largest city in the Reich [...] an important industrial target' (The Times, 4). Docks at Trondheim in Norway (where the Tirpitz is based) and at Dunkirk were also bombed, as well as aerodromes in France. But Rostock's agony continues. According the Daily Express (1),

Tens of thousands of the 116,000 inhabitants of the Baltic port are fleeing to surrounding villages and towns. The roads leading south are choked with refugees.

Practically all the women, children and old people are being evacuated, as well as many men who are not now needed in the city because the factory plants are flattened.

The refugees 'say our pilots dropped tins of phosphorus, which are a thousand times worse than incendiaries'.

The R.A.F. raiders flew low over the houses and made machine-gun attacks to stop the work of extinguishing the fires, says the German Air Ministry.

Berlin is 'unable to deny that looting broke out immediately the population's flight began', but reports that police are 'rounding up dozens of looters hiding among the smouldering heaps of rubble'. One presumes they will be executed. Under the headline 'NATURAL SELECTION BY AIR ATTACK', The Times quotes an article appearing recently in Alfred Rosenberg's Archiv für Rassen und Gesellschaft-Biologie which suggests that 'the Nazi mind' considers that the British air raids will actually help improve the Aryan race (3):

'During air attacks', says the [unnamed] writer, 'the thickly populated areas of towns and cities are bound to suffer most. These areas are inhabited by people who are usually poor, and who are no great asset to the community. Their loss is therefore not to be unduly regretted. On the other hand, continuous explosions of heavy bombs are bound to unhinge mentally those whose nervous system is not as strong as it should be.

'Aerial bombings should therefore enable us to discover a number of incipient neurasthenics who, in the interests of race selection and social hygiene, should not be permitted to reproduce their kind. After they have been sent to institutions their offspring should be sterilized.'

Be that as it may, German propaganda continues to decry the British raids, or 'express indignation' as the Manchester Guardian rather mildly puts it (5):

One published report complains that it is an 'unfair' (using the English word) blow aimed at Germany's cultural monuments, and adds that Germany has historians who know just where Britain's most-treasured monuments stand, as marked in Baedeker with three stars -- for instance, Canterbury Cathedral and other cathedrals, Tudor houses, Windsor Castle, and so forth, and that German bombers will take reprisals for British terrorist bombings.

One of the Guardian's leading articles quotes the 1925 Baedeker, 'written and printed in Germany', to show that Lübeck is a city of 'great commercial and industrial importance' as well as 'picturesque' (4).

We must regret the destruction of the older parts of these two towns [Lübeck and Rostock], a piece of the European inheritance which is lost to our children as well as to Germany's. Yet when we consider the sufferings of Russia and our own duty to lessen what more is threatened her no one can deny the necessity of our attacks. Our targets were military; it was by chance that their surroundings were historical.

This is not the case with Norwich, the latest victim of Germany's 'retaliation raids', though the Yorkshire Post reports that it is 'Unbowed' with 'the proud spirit of a city that in 1,300 years has survived many ordeals' (1). Fortunately, 'many ancient buildings were unscathed, although among the chief objectives of the Luftwaffe's vicious attack'. But the city still suffered 'heavy casualties and widespread damage', mostly in working-class areas; a hospital, churches, schools and pubs were hit.

A centenarian in a bombed area, who refused brandy, said that the raid had not upset her. Another elderly woman, removing what could be saved from her demolished home, expressed her views of Hitler and added: 'I suppose this is what he calls a surprisal.'

Other women are striking back directly at the raiders: the Mirror reports that a mixed-sex anti-aircraft battery near Bristol has been credited with shooting down one of the German bombers which raided Bath. Lance Sergeant Merion Teit, a '21-year-old warehouse assistant' from Glasgow, said that (8):

'When I knew we had got that raider, I was so excited I forgot all about the special leave which we had been granted as a reward

Oldest (probably, the age of one isn't given) of the eight ATS women serving in the battery is Lance Corporal Amy King, aged 25, formerly 'an assistant house mother in a children's hospital'; it was her first night in charge of a team.

Most newspapers today feature heavily the news that the government will adopt the proposals contained in the Beveridge Report released yesterday, but only the Guardian leads with it. Sir William Beveridge believes that his proposals are the fairest way ('the most important consideration in any rationing scheme', 5) to ration fuel, such as coal and coke for home, commercial and industrial use (rather than petrol, which has long been rationed). This is because:

It takes account:

1. Of present needs rather than previous consumption;
2. Of all important kinds of fuel;
3. Of all substantial kinds of stocks, which must be brought against the ration; and
4. Of exceptional circumstances making extra fuel necessary.

The north will get a higher ration than the south, presumably being colder and requiring more heating.

The special problem of the aged and the sick is regarded as solved with perfect simplicity by allowing them to surrender clothing coupons which they do not need (as the young and the hale do) for additional fuel coupons.

MPs in the House Commons were not impressed by the revelation that the Beveridge scheme would initially require '10,000 to 15,000 temporary clerks' to administer it; one asked whether 'it would not be better to instead release another 15,000 miners' from the armed forces. The Express claims that 'Beveridge admits scheme is full of snags' (3).

Some good news to end on: Dr Benes, 'the Czecho-Slovak President' (in exile, obviously) yesterday predicted 'Nazi Defeat in Six Months' (Guardian, 8):

He was sure the German people would not stand up to a second winter of war with Russia. The next six months, in his view, would decide the war, and Germany would be beaten.

While he looked forward to a postwar Europe where 'the smaller nations would combine in confederated blocks' which in turn might be members of 'a new European or world organisation', possibly based on the United Nations, Benes insisted that 'There could never be a United States of Europe which would resemble the United States of America'. At any rate, 'It would be a mistake to create large inorganic and purely mechanical units which would be dismembered at the first unexpected international conflict'.

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5 thoughts on “Wednesday, 29 April 1942

  1. Chris Williams

    Oooh, I've got a bad feeling about the chances for this particular Beveridge Report, having been reading about it in _People's War_ this morning.

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