[A World War II cinema advertisement showing the popularity of
cinema during the war.]
[A newspaper photograph published on 15th September 1940. The caption read: 'During raids on London last night some houses were bombed. Their houses are wrecked but the tenants of the building still showed true British "grit".']
The people of the East End of London are a race apart. Taken as a whole, they were warm, affectionate, happy, rather reckless, and almost incredibly brave. One day I came across a small boy crying. I asked him what the matter was, and he said: "They burnt my mother yesterday." Thinking it was in an air-raid, I said: "Was she badly burned?" He looked up at me and said, through his tears: "Oh yes. They don't muck about in crematoriums." I loved them, and I am glad to have been close to them in their hour of supreme trial.
[Lord Robert Boothby, writing in his book, Recollections of a Rebel (1978) Boothby was a Conservative politician, broadcaster and author, who lived in central London during the war. His book is called full of humorous stories giving the 'lighter' side of the war.]
When it came to the role of the wireless in 'keeping spirits up' in wartime, there was no doubt over its effectiveness especially in making people laugh. The success of It's That Man Again (ITMA) lay in its quick humour and parody of officialdom. Tommy Handley was the Minister of Aggravation and Mysteries housed in the Office of Twerps, who had the power to confiscate and commandeer. New characters were regularly introduced: the German spy, Funf, played by Jack Train speaking into a glass tumbler; the office cleaner, Mrs Tickle (later Mrs Mopp); Mona Lott; Sir Short Supply; Ali Oops, the savvy postcard vendor; and the drunkard Colonel Chinstrap. By 1944, 16 million regularly tuned in to ITMA.
[Juliet Gardiner, an historian, writing in her book, Wartime Britain 1939-1945 (2004)]
[A government propaganda poster encouraging people to grow more food for the war effort (1942)]
One reason British people didn't give up was because of how well Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied their spirits and efforts. He inspired the people on to heroic efforts and "their finest hour" by his speeches. Churchill was the embodiment of the British people's determination to stay alive and not to give up.
The real wartime spirit was when the people came together and helped each other. Volunteers would help find people in bombed out houses, people would take a homeless family in to live with them, and strangers would help clean up around the city. People didn't give up because everybody helped each other which gave them a determination to survive.
[From Triumph and Tragedy during the Blitz, a website created by an American high school student in 2007.]
SOURCES WHICH CHALLENGE THE INTERPRETATION
Our heritage industry has encouraged the myth that we all pulled together during the war, which differs from the reality of wartime experience. This myth suggests that young and old, as well as upper and lower classes all worked together with high morale under the Nazi onslaught. But the 'Myth of Wartime Spirit' is just what it says – a myth. Whereas members of the establishment were able to take refuge in country houses, in comfort and away from the war, or in expensive basement clubs in the city, the lower-middle and working classes were forced to stay in the cities and face up to the deadly raids without sufficient shelter provided. It was a time of terror, confusion and anger. Government incompetence – almost criminal in its extent – displayed real contempt for ordinary people in this time of class war.
[From a introduction to a website set up by the BBC to discuss life in World War II (2004)]
The worst sight that I saw was when we had to stop and take refuge in a tunnel that was on the Stratford - North Woolwich train line. I do not know how many people were down there, it was cold, the ground was wet with water and it was dark. I used my torch to find my way through, and I could see people huddled together, they seemed like tramps to me. They were unclean, and stank. I almost felt sick, and my stomach turned over. When did these people last wash? Men were urinating against the walls of the tunnel, and there were signs of human excrement everywhere. Where was the pride of these people, how could they live like this? I felt ashamed that these people were Londoners the same as I was.
[George Martin, an ARP warden in London during the Blitz, speaking on a television documentary about the Home Front in 1975.]
[A chart to show how many British people died as a result of German bombing raids between 1940 and 1944. It was published in a newspaper in 1944.]
When the air raid siren goes, people run madly for shelters. The Citizen's Advice Bureau is swamped with mothers and young children crying hysterically and asking to be removed from the district. The exodus from the East End is growing rapidly. Taxi drivers report taking group after group to Euston and Paddington stations with their belongings. Thousands are fleeing the towns, in a phenomenon known as 'trekking'. In the west they trek to Dartmoor, curling up on wet moorland to sleep. From London, they trek to Epping Forest, camping out as best they can.
[From a secret Ministry of Information report written on 10th September 1940 and only released in the 1990s.]
Everyone is worried about the feelings in many areas across the country, where there is much bitterness. It is said that even the King and Queen were booed the other day when they visited one of the bombed areas in the East End of London.
[Harold Nicolson, writing in his diary on 17th September 1940. Nicolson was Parliamentary Secretary and official Censor in control of government propaganda at the Ministry of Information.]
[An unofficial photograph taken on 21st January 1943 showing bodies in bags the day after Catford Girls' School was hit during an air raid. The photograph was banned by censors and not allowed for publication until after the war.]
After raids on Sheffield in December 1940, two full days of the Assize Court sitting had to be devoted to hearing charges of looting. The remarks of the presiding judge were quite clear: 'the task of guarding shattered houses from prowling thieves, especially during the blackout, is obviously beyond the capacity (ability) of any police force.' Later it was announced in the House of Commons that the final number of looting cases for 1940 was 4,584 in London alone.
Wartime crimes also included making false claims of having been bombed out to the national assistance office. By 1941 over 72,000 under seventeen year-olds were convicted in magistrates' courts, a rise of over 36 per cent on 1939. Furthermore, in Manchester alone in April 1941, it was estimated that 68,000 children were left to 'run wild' every day.
Finally by 1942 the number of days lost through industrial action was back to its peacetime high, despite the fact that strikes were illegal.
[Juliet Gardiner, writing in her book Wartime Britain 1939-1945 (2004). This part of the book looks at some of the social problems in Britain during the war.]
[A government propaganda poster against the Black Market (1943)]
GCSE History Additional Exemplars for Controlled Assessment/Topic Area 2/MLJ
24 May 2013