British attitudes to the aerial bombardment of German cities during the Second World War

Weir, Paul (2015) British attitudes to the aerial bombardment of German cities during the Second World War. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the attitudes of British people to the aerial bombardment of German cities during the Second World War, with particular attention given to those who challenged the nature of the campaign. I use contemporary sources with a strong emphasis on qualitative data to develop a picture of attitudes at the time and situate the roots of the significant post-war controversy within these contemporary attitudes. The thesis offers a more sustained and textured account of anti-bombing sentiment than other historiographical works. An introductory chapter charts the development of aerial bombing in the early years of the twentieth century. The extent to which Britain engaged with aerial bombardment, and how it was understood by people in Britain, are addressed here.

Three case studies – each focusing on a different raid on a German city – are then used to address how attitudes to the bomber offensive were shaped at different stages of the war. The first is the December 1940 attack on Mannheim. This took place during the Blitz on British cities, a factor which has implications for the nature of responses at this time. The question of reprisals is important here. I show how the desire for reprisals was far from universal, yet it was overstated in the press and by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The second case study addresses the series of heavy attacks on Hamburg in July and August 1943. This followed the decision, taken the previous year, to officially adopt a policy of area bombing. This chapter shows how the Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for the campaign stifled voices of protest at this time. The final case study considers the raids on Dresden in February 1945. Churchill’s response is addressed in this chapter and contrasted with the immediate concerns raised in the press and in private diaries.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2015 07:53
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2018 09:35
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/58501

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