Posts Tagged ‘Dresden’

WW2 Competitions

|   1 October 2010

Ethics of bombing – and the September competition result.

Where is this?

Congratulations to Ray Mitchell of Suffolk, Paul Oliver of Norfolk and Alistair Hollington of Essex who were the first three people drawn at random from subscribers to who correctly identified the city in which this photo was taken as – Coventry. A signed hardback copy of Juliet Gardiner’s brilliant ‘The Blitz’ is on its way to each of you.

Coventry, in the Midlands of Britain, was subjected to a horrendous bombing raid by the Germans in November 1940. The ruins of the cathedral (on the left of the photo) have been kept as a permanent memorial to the destruction and suffering.

But, of course, it was Germany that went on, by the end of the war, to endure far more intense bombing than Britain did. Many in Britain believed (then and today) that, as the bible says, the Germans had ‘sown the wind’ and so it was right that they should subsequently ‘reap the whirlwind’.

Was it? Was it right to bomb the ancient city of Dresden in 1945 and kill 35,000 people in one night? Was it right to create the world’s first firestorm at Hamburg? Or target the medieval city of Wurzburg in part because its old wooden buildings were ‘burnable’?


WW2 Anniversary

|   9 September 2010


Of all British cities, London suffered the most during the Blitz but how could the British endure the Blitz? Why could they ‘take it’?

I saw an amazing film this week about the Blitz – one that was made nearly 40 years ago.

It was an episode of the famous documentary series ‘The World at War’ produced by Jeremy Isaacs. It was called ‘Alone’ and was directed by David Elstein. I watched it in a newly restored format at the Imperial War Museum, and later took part in a panel discussion with Sir Jeremy, David and others to talk about the immense impact the ‘World at War’ has had on our understanding of the conflict.

Many things were remarkable about the documentary. As a filmmaker I admired the swift pacing of the programme – something which made the the work still seem very modern. (Often the older the documentary the slower and more ponderous it appears today – but most certainly not in this case). But it was as a historian that I was most entranced. Because the quality of the interviewees was breathtaking – from Sir Anthony Eden to Sir Max Aitken, a whole host of important figures from the war were represented.

However, it was the interviews with the ‘ordinary’ people of London that made the greatest impression upon me. David Elstein had the clever idea of interviewing a whole group of Eastenders in a pub, and the convivial setting contributed hugely to the relaxed way in which people talked. One thing was clear. These people were not prepared to be beaten by the German bombers. They were the living embodiment of the famous phrase ‘Britain can take it!’  But why, I wondered? Why could Britain take it in 1940?