Britain in the age of total war Essay

1. Study Source A

What can you learn from source A about the response of the British people to the effects of the Blitz? (6)

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Source A is an extract from a book celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Blitz. It celebrates Britain’s victory in the Blitz and the courage and determination that many British civilians showed amid the crisis, which is seen in, “heroes…courage and unshakable determination…” However, since this book was produced long after the war, the memory of the Blitz may not have been so accurate. The tone of the author is upbeat and positive, which conveys a feeling of pride and patriotism to the reader. Also, the purpose of this Book was written to celebrate the British’s success in overcoming the Blitz and in uniting the country as one, so it would be unlikely to provide negative aspects of the Blitz. So consequently this source is not completely reliable as it only provides limited understanding of how people reacted to the effects of the Blitz.

2.Study Source B, C

How useful are source B and C in helping you to understand the effects of the Blitz on people in Britain? (10)

Source B shows British morale on the verge of collapse due to relentless enemy bombing. This source is useful since it is taken at the time of the Blitz and provides a much more realistic view of the Blitz compare with the one shown in source C. The government censored this photo because they knew that pictures of dead civilian would further demoralize the people and encourage them to abandon and leave the city. As a result, there would be an economic standstill and the withdrawal of troops since people who left the city no longer supported the war-effort. If the people weren’t on the government’s side, the enemy would have easily defeated the country and the government couldn’t afford to have this happen. To prevent this, the government bombarded the public with propaganda to encourage the people to support the war effort.

Source C shows the British facing the Blitz with a positive attitude and spirit. The photo shows people posing for a photo after a bomb raid, which left much of their houses destroyed. Despite these circumstances, they are smiling with confidence and are supposedly showing true British “grit”. It suggests that the people’s morale was very high and remained relatively unaffected by the psychological and physical damage caused by the Blitz. However, this source is obviously a form of government propaganda as this photo is staged to boost civilian morale, and in these situations people would not be in this state of mood.

So in conclusion, both sources are not completely useful in showing the effects of the Blitz on people in Britain because each has its limitation. Source B only shows a small area that could have been a major hit, but it might not have been hit like that throughout the entire country. Source C was a staged photograph and it doesn’t reflect the on the general situation of the people at the time of the Blitz. But it can be used to show what the government really wanted the people’s attitude to be like in the Blitz.

3. Study Source B, C and D

Does Source D support the evidence of Source B and C about the damage done during the air raids? (8)

Source D supports the evidence of source B by showing pictures of people who are negatively affected by the Blitz. In source D it shows people arguing over their property after a bomb raid, which had scattered their belongings all over the street. One of them appears to be taking advantage of the destruction caused by the bomb raid to steal from someone else, which eventually led to this conflict. Source B shows huge amounts of deaths and casualties in a school after a bomb raid has happened. Both sources suggest the Blitz had caused lots of physical and psychological damage, which led to severely damaged morale.

Source D contradicts source C by showing two completely different aspects on how people reacted to the bombings. . In source D it shows people in conflict with one another after an air raid. In source C it shows people being friendly and supportive with one another. Source D suggests that the war has caused disunity and conflict among the people. Source C suggests that the war united people rather than divide them.

However in terms of physical damage, all sources are in agreement as they both show that the sheer damage and destruction left in the wake of the bombing. Source B shows bomb raids claiming the lives of many civilians, source C shows bomb raids leaving many people homeless and Source D shows bomb raid reducing cities and communities to ruins. In conclusion, source D does supports the evidence of source C and B about the damage done during air raids.

4.Study Sources E, F and G, and use your own knowledge.

Use Sources E, F and G, and your own knowledge, to explain why the government was concerned about the morale (spirit and attitude) of the British people in the autumn of 1940. (12)

Immediately after the defeat of Norway, France and Switzerland, Hitler initiated a large scale bombing campaign on England in the autumn of 1940, known as the Blitz. Its aim was to demoralize the British government and civilians into surrendering and to facilitate a potential German invasion. The government knew if the people’s morale collapsed, it would sabotage the war-effort, and defeat would be Britain’s most likely fate. In order to maintain morale, the government took steps to ensure that it would not collapse, such as the use of propaganda and censorship. However, many of these attempts were not very successful as source E and F shows.

Source E, a secret report to the government 10 September 1940, shows the situation in the East End at the time of the Blitz. It reveals that the people’s morale was extremely low. It can be seen in the description, “people run madly for shelters”, which presents a scene of utter chaos and panic. Also, it mentions the mass evacuation of civilians from the East End, which is shown in, “…asking to be removed from the district…Exodus (flight) growing rapidly from the district…”

Source F, a personal account from Harold Nicolson’s diary 17 September 1940, describes the worsening situation in the East End at the time of the Blitz. This is seen through the words, “there is much bitterness”. Also, even the King and Queen were booed. From my own knowledge, I know that the King and Queen were still highly respected and adored figures at the time of the war, as they symbolize British independence and strength and were figureheads of the country. The fact that they were booed very much suggests that people’s morale was extremely low as they were not in support for the nation. As a result, this disillusionment raised further concern by the government as to whether morale would last long enough to sustain the war effort.

However despite the widespread fear and poor morale, as shown in sources E and F, source G seems to suggest that people still had the courage to turn up for work. And this is further proven in these statements, “Attendance at work remained surprisingly good…many of those who trekked were the same people who continued to turn up for work This shows that the people’s patriotism did not allow the Blitz to affect their contribution to the war effort.

5. Study all the Sources and use your own knowledge.

“The impression that the British faced the Blitz with courage and unity is a myth”.

Use the sources, and your own knowledge, to explain whether you agree with this statement. (14)

According to the sources and my own knowledge, I believe the myth is true. This was mainly because the war-effort was well sustained and there was active cooperation between civilians despite their class differences. The Blitz was an attempt to destroy civilian morale, however it backfired, and encouraged the British to be more courageous and united. This is shown in source A through the descriptions, “hero…courage and unshakable determination…” It tells us that even though the people were experiencing devastation and tragedy, they all remained determined and tried to live in ignorance of the Blitz by keeping “their sense of humor”. This is supported by the fact that in the later stages of the Blitz, many Londoners stayed at home during the air raid as if nothing was happening and a quarter of a million children that were evacuated at the start of the Blitz returned to their cities. This shows the British were courageous and united as they all tried to live a normal life despite the devastating effects of the Blitz.

In the events of tragedies, people would often rally together in an effort to help one another. This is illustrated in source B, where Air-wardens are drawn together to work in the face of the tragic disaster as a result of the bombing. The fact that the Air-wardens remained to their duties and are working together shows “unity”. This is supported by the fact that a sense of unity was created through the shared realization that the bombs would not discriminate- such as the bombing of the Buckingham Palace and the same ration that the rich and the poor received. This shows the Blitz had created an unprecedented amount of social unity among the classes.

Although the Blitz had disastrous impacts on the lives of many British civilians, it also blurred class divisions dramatically. This is shown in source C, where people from many different backgrounds are standing together, smiling with their thumbs-up despite the only thing they have in common is that their houses were bombed. It shows the circumstances of the Blitz, people were able to forget their differences and unite together. This is supported by the fact that people from all different classes were unusually friendly and co-operative towards each other in ARP rest centers. Before the war, there was still the traditional British reserve, but under conditions of the war it impossible to maintain and was gradually loss. This shows that the blurring of class divisions had encouraged people to unite together as one.

The British did not allow the Blitz to affect their contributions to the war effort. This is shown in source G through the descriptions, “Attendance at work remained surprisingly good.” This is supported by the fact that when the home guard was set up, over a million men joined up, which shows that people were still eager to defend their country against oppressors, and that they had the courage and unity to stand together and defend it. This shows that the British were undeniably courageous and united because of the level of commitment and patriotism that they displayed to their country.

On the other hand, source D, E and F shows that the British were not courageous and united. They all show the negative aspect of how people were affected by the Blitz. Source D shows people in conflict with one another, source E shows people in mass hysteria and source F shows people not in support for the nation. However, these were only a small minority to those who were courageous and united. This is supported by a statistical report taken during the Blitz, which shows that the attendance at work was not affected by the Blitz, in fact it was unexpectedly high and remained at that peak throughout the war. Also, those who trekked away from the cities would turn up for work each day.

In conclusion, I believe the British did face the Blitz with courage and unity. These qualities were one of the major factors to why Britain was successful in the Blitz. Without these qualities, the war-effort would have come to a standstill and people’s morale would have collapsed, resulting in Britain’s ultimate defeat. Furthermore, shortly after the war these qualities contributed to the creation of the National Health Services and to Britain becoming a Welfare state, so it would be impossible to say that the myth wasn’t true.


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