The London Blitz - the mistake that cost Germany the war?

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The London Blitz - the mistake that cost Germany the war?

A fascinating article on the bad decisions the Germans made in focusing on the attack of London during WW2.

The attack on London in fact marked a shift in Hitler's strategy, away from using the Luftwaffe to destroy Britain's air defenses directly, and that shift relieved Fighter Command of the unrelenting pressure and unsustainable losses it had borne.

In retrospect, then, although Black Saturday signaled destruction and chaos for London, it quite possibly brought Britain’s deliverance, as Hugh Dowding, the chief of Fighter Command, later recognized:
... Quote:
I could hardly believe the Germans would have made such a mistake … it was a supernatural intervention … [September 7] was really the crucial day.
On September 7, though, no one in Britain could have greeted the bombing of London as a miraculous release. The best minds in science, the military, the civil service, and the government (including the doughty prime minister) were certain that such an attack would be all but apocalyptic.

Government planners had coolly reckoned that a German air assault would kill 58,000 Londoners in the first 24 hours, and kill 600,000 and wound 1.2 million in two months. At the onset of the war, the Ministry of Health secretly issued 1 million burial forms to local authorities; the Home Office projected that 20 million square feet of timber would be needed each month for coffins. Because that was unobtainable, London officials anticipated mass dumping of the dead in lime pits and in the Channel.

No wonder that when war was declared the government urgently carried out what remains the largest internal migration in British history: the evacuation from London and other cities of schoolchildren and of toddlers and their mothers.

But soon after the all-clear sounded on the morning of September 8, it was obvious that the problems the Blitz would create, though thorny and dangerous, were entirely different from those that had been predicted.

On the 7th, 430 people had been killed and 1,600 seriously injured. On the 8th, the bombers would kill 400 more, and the next night another 370. By the end of the war, German bombs would kill 29,000 Londoners, nearly 20,000 of them during the Blitz. In all of Britain, 60,000 civilians would be killed (one-tenth the number of German civilians killed by the British and American air forces).

If authorities had wildly miscalculated the number of fatalities, they had correctly estimated the number of houses that bombs would render uninhabitable. For every person killed, 35 were “bombed out.” One in six Londoners would be made homeless at some point during the Blitz; although few houses were destroyed, repairmen couldn’t nearly keep up with the rate of damage.

The greatest problem that confronted Londoners and the authorities charged with their welfare wasn’t shelter from the bombs—the image of Tube stations crammed with plucky cockneys singing “Roll Out the Barrel” may dominate the public imagination, but in fact even at the height of the Blitz only one in seven Londoners used the public shelters— but homelessness.

That the Luftwaffe concentrated its attacks for the first several days of the Blitz almost exclusively on the militarily legitimate target of the East End docklands enormously exacerbated the potentially disastrous consequences of homelessness.

The poor and working-class neighborhoods there—dense, flimsily built, and badly governed—engendered tens of thousands of confused, angry, near- hysterical bombing victims. Every subsequent analysis confirms the government’s internal intelligence assessment at the time: during the first week of the Blitz, parts of the East End came perilously close to a breakdown of public authority and to mass panic.

Once again, Germany’s mercurial bombing strategy delivered the British. After six days, the Luftwaffe extended its range of targets to include the heavily residential and prosperous West End. Although the Germans made the change in part to intensify the coercion of the city’s population, its effect was exactly the opposite.

The shift somewhat relieved the East End from intense bombing, which bought the authorities time to establish systems to aid the bombed-out. More important, the Germans mended the socially corrosive rift their initial strategy had (unintentionally, if usefully) created between London’s poor and bombed and its rich and safe.

As Clement Attlee, the deputy prime minister and Labour Party leader, told Nicolson,
... Quote:
If only the Germans had had the sense not to bomb west of London Bridge there might have been a revolution in this country.
After Buckingham Palace was bombed on September 13, the queen declared: “I’m glad we’ve been bombed. Now I feel we can look the East End in the face.”

More ont his interesting topic
By netchicken: posted on 28-3-2008

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