Civil defence


1,000 Bomber Raid!

This image and the one below are selections from the The National Archives' collaboration with Wikimedia Commons, so far comprising 350 examples of war art from the Second World War. These particular ones are propaganda posters (or draft versions of same) but there are also more informational ones as well as portraits and caricatures of Allied leaders.
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So in case it isn't obvious by now, my most recent bout of post-blogging covered the period of the Baedeker Blitz, a series of Luftwaffe raids against English cities (unlike in the Blitz proper, there were no targets in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) between 23 April and 3 May 1942. The individual blitzes were:

23 April: Exeter
24 April: Exeter
25 April: Bath
26 April: Bath
27 April: Norwich
29 April: Norwich and York
3 May: Exeter

These were reprisals in return for RAF raids on Lübeck and later also Rostock. (There was a second phase from 31 May to 6 June 1942, three raids on Canterbury in response to the thousand bomber raid on Cologne, which I might or might not get around to doing in a few weeks' time.) In addition, there were smaller snap raids by fighter-bombers nipping across the Channel, though these don't seem to have been considered part of the Baedeker raids by the press.
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Yorkshire Post, 5 May 1942, 1

Some good news from Burma, or at least less bad than usual. The Yorkshire Post reports that, although still retreating, Allied forces 'have successfully evaded the enemy attempt to cut them off in the Mandalay area' (1). The British have been divided from the Chinese, however, with the former retreating up the Chindwin and the latter up the Irrawaddy. The paper's military correspondent gives credit to General Alexander's 'skilful manœuvring' in avoiding encirclement, but also praises the 'valour' of Chinese soldiers after the fall of Lashio, who 'got across the path of the [Japanese] armoured brigade and even drove its tanks back with losses' and thereby gave the British time to make good their retreat. But the task is before Alexander now, 'one of the hardest ever set before a commander', to retire northwest without being engaged by the Japanese, to link up again with Chinese forces in the north, and 'to avoid being driven on India'. The Manchester Guardian's first leading article today admits that 'Japan's campaign in Burma is now almost won', at least 'the fine delaying actions fought by our troops have given India a previous four months for making ready' (4).
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Daily Mirror, 4 May 1942, 1

The front page of the Daily Mirror today is almost wholly given over to a story which the other papers are far less interested in. The recently-installed Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr William Temple (that's him on the left, though what is being done to him I have no idea; and that's his forehead on the right), used a speech in Manchester yesterday to give 'a new charter to Britain -- a charter of social reform which will bring happiness to millions of people if applied in post-war reconstruction' (1). Its nine points are:

1. Provision of decent houses for the people of this country;
2. Every child to have adequate and right nutrition;
3. Equality in education. There shall be genuinely available to every section of society the kind of education will develop their faculties to the full;
4. Adequate leisure for personal and family life. Where the family is separated because of employment, there should be two days' holiday each week;
5. Universal recognition of holidays with wages;
6. The application of science to discover labour-saving devices, to save labour instead of labourers;
7. Wide appreciation of the fact that labour is a partner in industry, just as much as management and capital;
8. Recognition by workers and employers alike that service comes first, and the opportunity to make profit comes afterwards;
9. The opportunity for all people to achieve the dignity and decency of human personality.

An accompanying article by A. W. Brockbank says that Temple also warned against yielding 'to the lure of people who try to persuade us that it would be wise to establish such a non-party State'":

'The minority must have the right to become the majority if it can. It must be lawful to be in opposition to the Government.'

Just who he has in mind here is not made clear.
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Daily Express, 2 May 1942, 1

All the newspapers today carry news of the meeting between Hitler and Mussolini in Salzburg; only the Daily Express leads with it. Its angle is that there is 'STRONG evidence' that the two dictators agreed that Italy would sent 'a large part' of its army to Russia, while Germany would send 'thousands' of its soldiers to Italy (1). Two possible explanations are given for this apparently contrary strategy: 'A coming extension of the Mediterranean Front', or 'to prevent any chance of armed insurrection by the Italian Army'. The Italian people are said to be 'thoroughly discontented with their acutely depressed conditions' and so Mussolini has given his prefects 'supreme powers to deal with "possible future difficulties of an urgent nature"' (his own words), and the Gestapo is now in control of the Italian police. Where Morley Richards, the author of this piece, gets his information from is not clear; none of the other papers make the same claims. Indeed, the circumstances surrounding the meeting are rather 'mysterious'; the Yorkshire Press asks why Japan apparently was not represented and was not mentioned in the final communique -- even though the only public reference to the meeting beforehand was a garbled one in a Tokyo newspaper (1).
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Daily Express, 1 May 1942, 1

This news has been coming for the last few days: Lashio has fallen to the Japanese. As the Daily Express reports, the town was 'pounded by artillery and dive-bombers before the final assault' (1):

Then large numbers of tanks and armoured cars rumbled forward into the inferno as a battering ram for the enemy.

General Stillwell's defending [Chinese] army was overwhelmed by the superior numbers and weight of metal in the Jap attack.

A spokesman for Marshal Chiang Kai-shek did little to disguise the seriousness of the situation, saying that 'the Chinese will be be compelled to abandon positional warfare and resort to mobile war' in Burma. He continued:

The enemy columns now at Lashio and Hsipaw could continue to advance northwards, cutting off first the Chinese forces in Burma from China, and, secondly, Chinese land communications with India by way of upper Burma, or they could turn westward with the aim of encircling the Chinese now fighting on the Mandalay and Irrawaddy fronts.

He paid tribute to the 'outnumbered' British forces defending Burma, saying they have 'heroically held out, winning the praise and admiration of their Allies'.
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Yorkshire Post, 28 April 1942, 1

The Yorkshire Post, (above, 1), again leads with Rostock, which has been bombed by the RAF for the fourth consecutive night. The city 'is a heap of smouldering ruins, crushed by nearly 800 tons of British bombs. Its population is fleeing in panic. Its war production has ceased':

PHOTOGRAPHS taken after the third night's raid show swarms of people flocking towards the battered station to join crowds already waiting there for trains to take them away from what Berlin describes as 'terror raids.'

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Yorkshire Post, 27 April 1942, 1

Just at the moment, this war seems mainly to be an air war. The main news today is that Rostock has been bombed for the third night in a row. In addition Stirling bombers carried out a low-level raid on the Skoda works in Czechoslovakia, and six targets in northern France were were attacked by bombers with strong fighter escorts. As the Yorkshire Post reports on its front page:

ROSTOCK has become symbolic of our new air offensive. On Saturday night and yesterday morning the harbour and aircraft works were attacked for the third successive night, by a strong force of bombers, with great results. That was not all. The famous Skoda armament works in Czechoslovakia were the target for the R.A.F. on an all-round flight of 1,400 miles.

Yesterday more attacking flights crossed the Channel for various destinations in this great opening of the Allied offensive.

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Daily Mirror, 25 April 1942, 1

Lots of interesting things in today's papers about the campaign in Burma, the future of India, Anzac Day, and so on -- but there's also a lot on bombing, so I'm going to talk about that. The predominant theme is, as the Daily Mirror's front page headlines above claim, that Bomber Command is now delivering exceptionally heavy blows against enemy-held cities (one, Flushing or rather Vlissingen, is actually in the Netherlands, not Germany, though the Mirror doesn't mention this):

THE RAF have opened a new era in aerial warfare. Within the past twenty-four hours they have launched the two most destructive and furious raids of the war.

While Rostock, the German Baltic supply base for the Russian front, was still burning following one hour of concentrated bombing in the early morning, Fighter Command yesterday carried out their biggest ever single offensive.

In this day attack swarms of Spitfires took a force of Boston bombers to smash the docks at Flushing.

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10 April 1940 has remained in history as "the great panic day". The reason for this designation is the panic that spread through the population of Oslo, after the rumors of the British bombing of the capital had spread. Here you can see how the Oslo people rush out of town on foot, on bicycles, in trucks and buses. The clip is without audio.

From NRK via the excellent RealTimeWWII. (The caption has been run through Google Translate and tweaked by me so it makes more sense, so I can't vouch for its accuracy.)

This one of the many things I didn't know before. I can't find much about it on the web in English; Wikipedia says:

The same day [10 April 1940], panic broke out in German-occupied Oslo, following rumours of incoming British bombers. In what has since been known as "the panic day" the city's population fled to the surrounding countryside, not returning until late the same evening or the next day. Similar rumours led to mass panic in Egersund and other occupied coastal cities. The origins of the rumours have never been uncovered.

It's interesting that the rumours named Britain as the aggressor. Of course Germany bombing a city it already occupied wasn't particularly plausible, so given that the rumour existed it would have to attach itself to Britain. The Altmark incident (and the planned mining of Norwegian waters, though I assume that was not publicly known as it was interrupted by the German invasion which was publicised shortly before the panic) might have suggested that the British were prepared to go further and attack Norway to achieve their own ends. I don't know much about airmindedness in Norway before the war (apart from the ghost flyers) either but in recent months civilians in two small, nearby nations had already suffered aerial bombardment, namely Poland and Finland (and let's not forget China and Spain in 1938) so to that extent the panic was not unreasonable.