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Belfast Air Raid Investigation

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Introduction

ASSIGNMENT TWO: OBJECTIVE THREE 1. Source A suggests that the air-raid on Belfast had relatively little effect. There were few casualties and defences coped well. However, there is no specific content. This is probably due to it being a censored government publication, which does not want to ruin morale. It also mentions fires being extinguished very quickly and anti-aircraft fire being maintained by ground defences. 2. (i) Sources C and D differ from A and B in numerous ways. Firstly, source A is describing the first raid on Belfast, whereas sources B, C and D are describing the second raid. Sources A and B are released to the public by the government, whilst C and D are confidential reports. The sources quite clearly differ over the effects of the raid. Sources A and B are more vague; to make raids sound light. This is due to them being censored by the government, to ensure they have little impact on the people and in fact raise their morale. Sources C and D however, are more factual containing precise figures and details. Source B says 'some districts, shops and houses were damaged' and a 'small number' were killed. Conversely, source C has more specific content saying, 'big fires in the Crumlin Road' and they are far from light. Source A describes how fire services dealt well. However, source D describes the fire fighting as, 'completely inadequate.' Therefore, we can say sources A and B are trying to give an appearance of calm, but sources C and D are giving a more realistic picture. 2. (ii) I think the origin of the source explains why the sources are different. ...read more.

Middle

He claimed one hundred lives were taken, and source J showed no sign of the shelter suggesting severe damage was inflicted. However, this source was printed in a newspaper; of course censored by the government. It could be another example of propaganda, obviously intended to boost morale. In this photograph, houses are still standing; suggesting the bombs had little effect upon the people of Belfast. Furthermore, there are no dead bodies, or any emergency services. We have no idea if this is the full picture. Since this was censored it clearly does not show the full impact of the raid and is therefore less useful than sources G and H in indicating how the raids affected people in Northern Ireland. 5. Source L was clearly intended to raise morale. It was printed in a censored newspaper, so contained no sensitive information, or specific facts. It is clearly patriotic, praising the courage, determination and strength of the people of Belfast. It was possibly part of a British propaganda programme, attempting to show that all was well. This source justifies the 'noble cause' and talks of the need for sacrifice. It praises the character of the people throughout, saying, 'our growing courage.' The source is negative only once when it mentions 'wrecked homes' but does not account for damage or number of fatalities. Source A was an official statement released by the government to the press, describing the affects of the first raid. This information was censored to firstly, prevent information getting into enemy hands and also to maintain the morale of the Northern Irish people, and gain their support. The content shows this; there are no specific details of impact of the raid, does not mention areas of damage, and plays down the number of casualties - describing them as 'small'. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is a clear difference between those sources controlled by the government and those which are not, it is difficult to decide which can be used with the greatest degree of reliability. Source F shows that in September 1939 Belfast had only 16 anti-aircraft fighting guns. McGimpsey in 'Bombs on Belfast' stated that 'the defences of the city, without search lights and with few anti-aircraft guns, offered little resistance.' However, in source A, the official statement says that 'a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft fire was maintained by the ground defences.' Therefore, such obvious contradictions induce difficulty in creating an accurate reconstruction. An additional problem of the time was the government's censorship of the media for its own purposes. This can be seen in sources B and L where the impact of the raid is clearly concealed. Source B says a 'small number of people were killed;' but source G puts the figure at 500. Thereunto, Brian Barton says 745 dead and McGimpsey states it to be as high as 900 dead. To conclude, it is extremely difficult to interpret and understand events from the past without having a wide range of sources available. It is possible to construct a fairly accurate picture by cross-referencing sources and by using a mixture of primary and secondary sources, always being aware of the possible strengths and weaknesses within each source. However, it is difficult to produce a full and accurate reconstruction when all the facts are not known. Added to this, there is the problem of reliability, bias, censorship, exaggeration, memory loss, and hindsight. We can see then why historians must be aware of these factors in examining sources and use the appropriate techniques to produce the best reconstruction possible and uncover the mysteries and secrets of our past. THE BELFAST BLITZ COURSEWORK ASSIGNMENTS By Adrian Scott ...read more.

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