The streets of London where bombed for 57 consecutive nights from September 1940 to May 1941. 30,000 innocent people where killed and a further 50, 000 seriously injured. The citizens of not only London, but the whole of England watched as they saw well know landmarks and irreplaceable historic buildings crumble at there feet. This devastation was thought to be too much for the British nation to handle so the government hide the effect of the Blitz. Why did they hide the effect of the blitz? How did they cover it up? Read on and find out the answers to theses questions and much more.
The main aim of the Nazis was clear they wanted to bomb Britain until they gave up and surrendered. With this in mind the British government needed to boost morale and keep up the war effort to get though this difficult time. The Defence of the Realm Act in 1914 was made primarily for World War One it stated the government could “issue regulations for securing the public safety and defence of the realm” this gave the government the power to requisition property, control labour, apply censorship and remove traditional civil liberties.
The Defence of Realm Act was also used in World War Two to keep the morale and war effort of the British people high reducing fear and anxiety. The government censored all the media to ensure the press did not publish and the BBC did not broadcast any information which would be of any use to the enemy. Censorship was the suppression of information the government thought could be harmful or damaging. The Ministry of information censored anything that might upset the public such as pictures post and devastating photographs of destroyed homes and schools.
Journalists had to submit their articles to be censored before they where printed or transmitted and where not allowed to show funerals on newsreels. The Ministry of information even banned the newspaper Daily Worker in 1941 as it stated the actual number of casualties. Censorship was also used in letters sent from the soldiers as they described a less then pleasant depiction of the war. However the BBC was trusted to maintain a high morale and was not censored. They exaggerated British victories and reported bad new in a positive way. A prime example of this was the event of Dunkirk.
The French had strong defences along the German border so Hitler simply went around them invading Holland, Belgium and then France in less then two months. Hitler’s next move was to invade the Channel. The British Expeditionary Force and French army where caught by surprise as Germany advanced very quickly pushing them back to Dunkirk. The troops were trapped between the German army and the Channel, there only escape route begin the sea. The government had to evacuate over 300,000 soldiers and save there army who could easily be wiped out before the war got underway.
With Censorship in place the media turned this dramatic military disaster into what the Daily Mirror called a ‘Bloody Marvellous’ event boosting the nations morale and pride in there country. Propaganda played a big part in boosting the morale on the home front. Encouraging posters around towns had messages to boost morale telling people to conserve food beware of spies and loath the Germans. Britain was portrayed in an ideal way showing the Queen visiting shelters in London on November 4th, this alone showed the nation there was no class barriers between the rich and the poor as everyone was working together through this difficult time.
Newsreels showed what the government was doing to help the people such as assisting those who had lost here homes. Films were made with patriotic messages to increase the sense of pride in one’s country and promote nationalism. Even Winston Churchill was portrayed as a great and heroic leader in political cartoons and speeches. The government watered down alcohol and closed pubs early to maximum labour effort. They even change the clock in summer (Greenwich Mean Time) to create longer working hours to increase the war effort.
This was all possible through constant advertising propaganda. Diaries show how much impact propaganda had on the citizens of Britain ‘Never before, the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few’ this quote referrers to the victory of the Battle of Britain and clearly shows how much impact censorship and propaganda has effected this British citizen. What the government feared the most was ‘defeatism’ among the population. Defeatism was the idea that the war could not be won and Britain should agree peace terms with the Germans.
To monitor the public the government used mass observation. Volunteers listed in to conversations in bars, shops, post offices and other places then reported on what they had heard. Very few examples of defeatism views were found but there was evidence of racial prejudice and a need to have someone to blame. There were complaints for example about Jews ‘not helping with the war effort’. Patriotic songs and comedies were introduced to keep sprits high such as the comedian Tommy Trinder who made fun of the Nazis and Hitler.
When the royal family was affected by the bombs, when Buckingham place was hit the government used this event to there advantage promoting the fact the whole country was in it together and united. Queen Elizabeth quoted as she visited the Underground ‘it makes me feel that I can look the East end in the face’ The effect of the Second World War was shocking, in total a staggering 50 million people died world wide. If the government did not hide the effect of the war from the British public they could have lost faith and given up creating opposition from with in the home front. Britain would have lost the war if that took place.
Consequently a programme was creating by the government to promote nationalism to boost the nation’s morale. With morale high they encouraged the war effort which helped the war move forward. However censorship stopped many civil liberties like freedom of speech and enabled the government to have complete control. This was happing in communist countries such as Russia not a democratic Britain. Wasn’t the Second World War fort for freedom? The really question is would you really want to know the horrible truth of the London Blitz or have it shielded from your eyes by the government?