September 25, 2009
A belated juxtaposition to the Waugh quote below:
Inequality of Sacrifice
There is growing evidence of a feeling among certain sections of the public that ‘everything is nto fair and equal and that therefore our sacrifices are not worthwhile’. In particular, there is some belief that the rich are less hit by rationing than ‘ordinary people’ for the following reasons:
a) they can eat at expensive restaurants
b) they can afford to buy high priced goods in short demand, such as salmon and game
c) they can spend more on clothes and therefore use their coupons more advantageously
d) they receive preferential treatment in shops, as ‘people giving large orders are favoured and the poorer people wanting ‘little bits’ are refused.
e) They receive preferential treatment as regards petrol rationing. To quote a postal censorship report: ‘ We can see Big Bugs riding in their posh cars and poor beggars can’t get petrol for business’.
The feeling of ‘inequality of sacrifice’ between the services and civilians, frequently mentioned in these reports, continues. Ill-feeling between the two is said to be growing as tales of slacking in factories, high wages and black markets increase the belief among servicemen that civilians are not pulling their weight.
(Ministry of Information, Home Intelligence Division Weekly Report No 77, 25 March 1942, National Archives, Kew, INF 1/282)
There are some problems with the way that these reports were assembled, but as Ira Zweiniger-Bargielowska has shown, these were far from isolated or unjustified sentiments. What interests also interests me here is the mention at the end of the perception at the time of a service/civilian split.
November 6, 2008
In two months, I’ll have finished my sabbatical and be back to teaching and writing at the same time. The prospect is pretty terrifying. I will also be putting on two new courses – since I’m coming back half way through the academic year, I needed to offer one-semester units. One of these will be on the British army on the Western Front, and the other on Bomber Command in the Second World War. I am currently constructing a wordpress blog to support the latter, and I’ve been looking for good online sources to put on it or link to from it.
Some thoughts on the first ones to pop up on Google
The RAF’s Bomber Command 60th Anniversary site is a useful starting point, if predictably focused on units, commanders and famous raids. The ‘Background’ section has some good basic points and orders of battle. I rather like the cutaway picture of the Halifax bomber, which could be a good way to get students to visualise the fighting environment for Bomber Command aircrew (not too sure about the UFO come dinghy flying next to it though!)
Bob Baxter’s Bomber Command site is slightly more cluttered, but more obviously a labour of love. As well as details of planes and airfields, it also has quite a lot of veteran testimony and some interesting aiming point photographs from later on in the war.
The Bomber Command Association’s website is extremely professional looking. It focuses on individual stories – many of which are accessible in pop ups on different pages – and particularly the staggering nature of Bomber Command’s losses. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn’t engage too deeply with some of the more potentially morally troubling aspects of British strategic bombing – which is presented here implicitly as purely a reaction to German aerial attacks and national crisis in 1940.
I’ll also be adding plenty of links to online sources for primary research on Britain in the middle part of the 20th century.
Has anybody got recommendations for sites they think are particularly good, or useful for teaching? I’d be particularly interested in collections of images, or German or American sites.
November 6, 2008
An audio track of the sequence ‘Aftermyth of War’ from Beyond the Fringe.
I had forgotten how dense in allusions this is – everything from Robb Wilton to Diary for Timothy. It’s also interesting to hear where the audience are laughing – what had, by the early 1960s, achieved the sort of mythical status that made it common knowledge. How many of these jokes would still work, I wonder? Much of the humour is quite gently paced and reliant on the shared experience of those who’d experienced the war or its immediate aftermath as children, then had it reinterpreted back to them on screen. Today, if you’re not a fan of Humphrey Jennings, quite a lot of this sketch falls flat.
October 6, 2008
Tomorrow night, I’ll be speaking to the Birmingham War Studies Seminar about British casualty figures for the Second World War. As a connected point of interest, therefore, here’s a site about the attempt to create a memorial to the workers killed when the BSA factory in Small Heath was bombed in November 1940. It’s an interesting example of the work of local commemoration, and I wonder whether the campaigners will enjoy more success as the Second World War slips over the boundary of lived memory.