Why were the major cities of Britain bombed by Germans in 1940-41? (15)
At 11:45 am on the morning of 3rd of September 1938, the programme on the BBC radio was interrupted for a special broadcast by the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. He spoke publicly from 10 Downing Street and announced that Germany and Britain had been at war since 11:00 am that morning. To most of the people in Britain the fact that war had broken out was no surprise, as it had been expected. By 1940 Germany had conquered most of Western Europe; their next target was Britain, after attempting to invade from the skies (the battle of Britain) Germany needed to use a new tactic. This was to heavily bomb the major cities and cause as much death, disruption and disorder as they could. These heavy bombings would last several consecutive nights at a time, flattening entire areas and killing thousands.
One of the major reasons why Germany bombed Britain was revenge. On 24th April 1940, Britain had bombed Munich, and as a result, Germany’s response was to attack the London docklands. On the night of August 24th 1940, a German bomber “accidentally” dropped a bomb on London. The British were furious at this and as a consequence ordered raids on Berlin. Britain attacked Germany’s capital city, Berlin, for four days. This outraged Hitler, and not only did Berlin have to put up with four days of consecutive attacks of Berlin, he also frequently boasted to many of his people that Germanys capital city would never get bombed. He was proved wrong. Hitler made a speech saying: “The people of England are curious. They ask, “Why in the world don’t you come?” We’re coming, don’t worry, we’re coming...” Furthermore cities Hitler bombed in Britain were not heavy populated, whereas the city Britain targeted and bombed in Germany was one of the most densely populated in the world. In revenge, Hitler ordered the bombing and destruction of Britain (the battle of Britain). Germany aimed to gain air superiority and then launch operation Sealion. RAF airfields were attacked and then the destruction of aircraft production centres took place. However, this tactic was proving ineffective as the important radar network along the east and south coasts of Britain had been completed. This radar gave the RAF a mighty advantage of warning them about German air raid and on the 7th September 1940, Hitler stopped the day time attacks, instead sending the Luftwaffe on night time attacks on London and other major cities to compensate for the failure of achieving its aims and failing in the Battle of Britain. For 57 days, the British cities were bombed heavily, with the German dropping an average of 250 tonnes of bombs in each attack. This was known as the Blitz, which came about for revenge against the British bombings of Munich and Berlin as well as for the failure of the battle of Britain.
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As well as this, another reason was that the Germans knew the major cities were the most densely populated, therefore bombing them would be the most effective way of killing numerous people as well as causing the most disorder. At this time the homes in the major cities were very densely packed together with several people living in a very small area. The Germans used this to their advantage to try and kill as many people as they could most efficiently. After dusk, German bombers would fly over cities and heavily bomb the industrial and suburban areas. The fear of being bombed was common and loomed over people of Britain when going to sleep therefore causing lots of disruption to people due to lack of sleep and meant people lost faith, particularly in the government and the way it reacted. Germany’s goal of conquering Europe was made easier by this, as people began to turn against their own government and country. In major cities houses, bridges and other large important buildings were built close together, making them easy targets for the German bombers. Bombing these would cause hundreds of pounds of damage and divert lots of people from their regular routine. The money needed to repair these things would come from the government’s budget and therefore it would be diverting money from the war on the front. This helped the Germans massively as it caused chaos in the front. Many transport links could be found in major cities in the 1940’s such as bridges, roads and train stations. With these gone it would make it very difficult for anyone trying to travel anywhere in Britain thus causing major disruption. The bombed roads and bridges would stop mail vans from being able to travel. This was a major problem because the postal service was the most prominent way of communicating with services running twice a day, and with this gone it would cause disorder in the whole of Britain and communications between civilians and soldiers were made impossible.
Another reason was to disrupt the war effort and weaken Britain. The Germans also heavily bombed major British cities because they knew this were the main source of industry in Britain, for example Sheffield and Manchester were large steel and iron producing cities. Many factories and shops that fuelled the economy of Britain were all tightly compacted into one area and therefore the bombing of these in major cities proved costly to the war effort and economy. One type of factory that was particularly targeted by the Germans were munitions factories. With these destroyed, the battle on the front would be weaker due to a lack of equipment. Also bombing these factories would make people jobless and poor, therefore ruining the economy of Britain. Another important target for the Germans were food preparation areas (e.g. farms and food factories) with rationing already in place there was already fairly little food coming into Britain so bombing places that were likely to hold a lot of food would cause plenty of disorder and even death in Britain due to hunger. Shops and Department stores were heavily bombed by the Germans during the blitz, by bombing the shops people would not be able to get their basic human necessities and pleasures like food, toiletries, furniture and other things needed for a household. This was especially bad in a time when people would need a lot of their own property repaired or replaced. With shops and industry getting destroyed, the public got annoyed because they couldn’t get the things they needed, and had no one to blame apart from the government for this. This was the wide disorder caused by Hitler and again, people began to turn against their own country.
The final reason why major cities were bombed was to destroy morale. At this time of war and Blitz, people became very depressed, so more was put in place to make people happy and let them ignore the war. People became generally friendlier and helped each other out. This was called the ‘Blitz spirit’, a time of high spirits in Britain and what some people say won the war. Although it was discouraged at first, more and more people decided to visit the theatres and cinemas. This was because it would distract people from the thought of death for the duration. The big problem for this was in these theatres there would be a very large group in a very small area making it very easy to kill two hundred people at a time. Also with the large numbers of people in a small area it would make it very hard for people to get out and into an air raid shelter in case of an air raid. The government decided thus that the theatres were too much of a risk and they shut down all the theatres and cinemas. This was a positive result for the Germans because it would probably result in breaking the spirit of the British. Although morale decreased and the “Blitz spirit” was lowered in the short run, in the long run the objective of destroying morale buy bombing theatres etc actually back-fired. The closures of the theatres just brought families together in their own homes making them harder to bomb because they’d be less tightly compacted and people stayed closer to their own Anderson shelter as a result. (This was compulsory in war time).
To conclude, the reason why the Germans heavily bombed major British cities in 1940-41 was because they wanted to knock Britain out by disrupting the war effort and win the war themselves, as well as making themselves look stronger and more powerful. They caused major disruption, killing 43,000 people and destroying millions of homes, however the “Blitz spirit” meant that morale stayed high during the bombings and Germany’s objectives turned out more difficult than they first presumed.