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MEMORY OF WWII IN BRITAIN
Introduction Memory: Collective way at looking at the past When a group creates its own consensus on the past and its meaning Sometimes the state might wish to influence or control the way citizens look at some events
There are many myths about WWII, pointed by: Clive POINTING in his book from 1990: « Myths and reality» -Britain fell into WWII unprepared -Britain gained a great leader Churchill -The Battle of Britain was an outstanding British victory, Britain standing alone -In 1945 Britain deserved the applause of the world because it was the only nation to have been in WWII from first to last
Let’s see if these myths are true by using a three-part layout -The early events: the bore war and evacuation -Three key events: Dunkirk, the batlle of Britain and the Blitz -The home front
Timeline 1939 Hitler invades Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declare war on Germany two days later. 1940 Rationing starts in the UK. German 'Blitzkrieg' overwhelms Belgium, Holland France. Churchill becomes Prime Minister of Britain. British Expeditionary Force evacuated from Dunkirk. British victory in Battle of Britain forces Hitler to cancel his invasion plans.
1941 Hitler begins Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of Russia. The Blitz continues against Britain's major cities. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and the US enters the war. 1942 Germany suffers setbacks at Stalingrad and El Alamein. American naval victory at Battle of Midway: turning point Mass murder of Jewish people at Auschwitz begins. 1943 Surrender at Stalingrad marks Germany's first major defeat. Allied victory in North Africa enables invasion of Italy to be launched. Italy surrenders, but Germany takes over the battle.
1944 Allies land at Anzio in Italy Soviet offensive gathers pace in Eastern Europe. D Day: The Allied invasion of France. Paris is liberated in August. 1945 Auschwitz liberated by Soviet troops. Russians reach Berlin: Hitler commits suicide and Germany surrenders on 7 May. Truman becomes President of the US on Roosevelt's death, and Attlee replaces Churchill. After atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrenders on 14 August.
I/ Ealy stage of WWII A/ The bore war ( Phoney war): September 39 -May 40 Memory -lack of preparation and a common desire to pretext the war was not happening -the « Munich spirit » : Chamberlain the Prime minister from 37 to 40: Britain started on the wrong foot -September 3 rd 39: the declaration of war was a surprise Ex: Series by Grenada television « Family at war »
Fearing a German invasion, the British government printed a posters to reassure the population. One of them was never displayed although 2. 5 millions were printed It has been found in an attic in 2001 and has now become a trade-mark ( in 2005) A petition was launched in 2011 to protest against this !
B/ Evacuation It was about displacing 3, 7 million people to places safe from bombing This was explained in popular newspaper such as the « daily express » and the « daily mirror » Myth: Children only were displaced: all left sining the popular tune « Wish me luck when you say goodbye » Truth : only 800 000 n kids were displaced like explained by Ben Wicks in his book « No time to say goodbye » in 1988 Myth: All classes came together during evacuation Truth: Class antagonism rose: lots of kids were poor and uneducated and Jewish evacuees were treated with suspicion TEXT source 2
The children went round the house urinating on the walls. Although we had two toilets they never used them. Although we told the children and their mother off about this filthy habit they took no notice and our house stank to high heaven. Source 1: from an interview in 1988 with the mother of a host family Unfortunately many evacuees could not settle in the countryside. The country people were shocked at the obvious poverty and deprivation of the town children, not to mention their bad manners. There were reports of children 'fouling' gardens, hair crawling with lice, and bed wetting. Source 2: D Taylor, Mastering Economic & Social History (1988) The order issued this week, by Mr Malcolm Mac. Donald, Minister of Health is that the state of health and physical condition of the children are to be looked after as it is essential that children from bombed areas should run as little risk as possible during the winter season, as far as their bodily health is concerned. Source 3: Article titled ‘Evacuees’ in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald dated 25 th October 1940
Evacuees enjoy a bath in this official government photograph
II/ Three main key events engraved in British memory Some historians speak of a triptych A/ First part of the triptych: Dunkirk and the fall of France Definition: Dunkirk is the evacuation of British troops from Dunjkirk’s shores when France was invaded by Germany Memory: Not a debâcle but a strategical withdrawal to keep fighting helped by the Almighty See 1968 TV series « Dad’s army » ( TV comedy )
B/ The Battle of Britain June- September 1940 Hitler’s idea was that German bombers would attack British airfields and destroy all the RAF’s aircraft. “Operation sea lion” Throughout August 1940 the German attacks increased – on airfields, radar stations, factories, towns and ports. The RAF lost large numbers of planes.
The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin…let us therefore be prepared to do our duty so that…men will say, ‘This was our finest hour’. 8 th June, 1940 We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight them in the field and in the street, we shall fight them in the hills. We shall never surrender. (3 rd June 1940)
However the Germans had problems. They could only carry enough fuel to fly for 30 minutes at a time. The RAF had an edge over the Germans with their new fighter planes: The SPITFIRE
Memory The army and particularly the RAF pilots were seen as heroes They witnessed also British stoicism, phlegm and professionalism All the victories were the ones of the people’s army that overcame setbacks and defeats to beat off its enemies Never was so much owed by so many to so few was a wartime speech made by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 20 August 1940
Facts Commonwealth troops’ contributions stillbhave to be added to collective memory For the most part history textbooks ignore the contributions and experiences of peoples from the Empire and Commonwealth during the Second World War. Ex Christopher Somerville: « British Commonwealth in the second World war » A new exhibition about Commonwealth troops has been added in the Imperial war museum
The Empire fell into two distinct parts: - There were the self-governing 'white' Dominions - Australia, Canada, New Zealand South Africa. The Dominions made their own decision to enter the war on the British side. -The Irish Free State opted for neutrality. -And there were those regions that were wholly or partly governed from London, including India and British colonies in Africa and the Far East. During the war the British Empire and Dominions raised a total of 8, 586, 000 men for military service.
This toy aeroplane came in a kit and children would put it together following the instructions
C/ The Blitz: Definition: German bombing campaign against Britain whichn started with the bombing of London on September 40 It was a 76 -night-raid It then extended to other British cities The Blitz did not end until May 1941. By that time 1, 400, 000 people were made homeless in London alone. Across the UK 43, 000 people were killed.
Britain was blacked out. The Blackout imposed on all civilians in all cities was absolute : light ( even the red glow of a cigarette) was banned.
Memory: -It’s the symbol of British resistance, Britain fighting alone -By surviving the experience, Britain brought freedom to the world, but there are two versions: Left/labour: The Blitz represent hte triumph of the people gather in the face of adversity. It allowed the birth of a Welfare state after the war Right/ Conservative: The Blitz witnessed deep patriotism and Churchill’s efficient leadership -The Blitz pulled all the British together
In the imperial war museum of london « the Blitz experience » prposes to visitors to seat in a replica of an East-end bomb shelter
Some, like Peter Stansky, in his book "The first days of the Blitz" question the heroism of the population "Looking back, in the course of revisionist history, the distressing aspects of the Blitz might be overemphasized. ”
The British nation is stirred and moved as it never has been at any time in its long and famous history, and they mean to conquer or to die. What a triumph the life of these battered cities is over the worst that fire and bomb can do! ……. . This, indeed, is a grand, heroic period of our history, and the light of glory shines upon all. Winston Churchill, broadcast 27 April 1941 He also thinks that the Blitz heroic dimension was purposly created during the war, and maintained afterward with an inch of manipulation. This is a form of revisionist vision
Houses and buildings damaged and destroyed People killed or injured Thousands of people made homeless
‘WAR’S GREATEST PICTURE: St. Paul’s Stands UNHARMED in the Midst of the Burning City. ’
photograph from 1941 of bus which had fallen into the crater of a bomb which blasted through the roof of an underground railway station.
Young children were given these red and blue gas masks. They were called "Mickey Mouse" masks
III/ The home front For the British people WWII was a total war. It demanded the mobilization of every resource, every citizen, every source of energy A/ Rationing Myth: everything was on ration Truth: No. Cafés and restaurants continued to operate A lot of cheating and black market but not very often mentioned in popular memory
The BBC was a crucial instrument of national information entertainment and unity Ex: Radio program « The kitchen front » every weekday morning at 8. 15 taught how to use rationed food best
Weekly ration for one person
B/ A social unity? Memory: In the mid-WWII a common sense of unity and cooperation asserted It enabled the rise of the working-class and the conception of the Welfare-State which was enforced post-war Fact: 1942 the BEVERIDGE REPORT by the economist William Beveridge discussed the enforcement of a Welfare State. This idea was defended by a new party born during the war: The COMMON-WEALTH PARTY
Truth: Social dissent was a fact But it is not easy to incorporate it when memory praises uniformity and unity
C/ WOMEN From spring 1941, every woman in Britain aged 18 -60 had to be registered, and their family occupations were recorded. Each was interviewed, and required to choose from a range of jobs it was emphasised that women would not be required to bear arms. Many women, however, were eventually to work - and die - under fire.
The Land Army The Women's Land Army/Scottish Land Army was reformed in 1938 so that women could be trained in agricultural work, leaving male workers free to go to war.
The ministry of the information sponsored a film celebrating women in factories « Millions like us » Or some artists like the impressionist painter Dame Laura Knight
Truth: Absenteism in such groups was high since women were either mothers or housewives or both There were lots of illegetimate births ( linked with emancipation of women) Between 1940 -1944: 255 000 births and 102 000 were illegitimate The ministry of health even launched a series of posters warning against sexually transmitted diseases and advising sexual hygiene
The Monument to the Women of World War II is a British national war memorial situated on Whitehall in London unveiled in 2005
D/ Relations with the US and D day 1 - Relations with the US Memory There was a close Anglo-American partnership Gi’s were depicted in a very glamorous way Ex: Films -Hanover street with Harisson Ford -Yanks with Richard Gere -Hope and glory in 1987 Truth: Britain was bankrupt and in debt to the US It was no way an equal partner
D/ Relations with the US and D day 2 - D-Day
The Allies avoided The Germans this as it was the expected most heavilyan invasion to fortified landing zone launched be and decided to land. Calais. upon the Normandy beaches.
Memory It’s the fourth most important campaign in the British popular memory of WWII It was felt like the final act of a drama It is well depicted in numerous films like: 1962 the longest day 1998 saving private Ryan
Over the summer 2013 , a band of British men and women started recording for posterity the part that they played in the battle of Normandy June 6 th 1944 or the 10 weeks of bloody fighting that followed. The Independent publicised an appeal on behalf of the Normandy Veterans’ Association (NVA) to record their memories There is also the D-DAY museum in PORTSMOUTH http: //www. ddaymuseum. co. uk The BBC also gathered testimonies and sources: http: //www. bbc. co. uk/history/ww 2 peopleswar/categories/c 5466 5/index. shtml
CONCLUSION WWII had left lots of memories in the UK It remains a key event in British history Since 1945 nearly every crises involving Britain has been compared with WWII Some historian interpretate this by saying: -It allowed the British to ignore the decline of their nation -This « British victory » with « glorious isolation » has accentuated a distrust for « the continent »
Cenotaph for the British Empire (later Commonwealth) deads of both World Wars, and the British military in later wars ( 1920)
Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War Ito remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. It’s also for memory of WWII Poppies have become symbols after the 1915 poem « In Flanders fields » by a canadian soldier Some can use white poppies as a symbol of pacifism It’s used in the USA too
THE USA AND THE MEMORY OF WWII
The American public remembrance of WWII was seldom concerned with providing an objective account of what had taken place We’ll see that WWII in the USA has been presented Not as a human tragedy but an opportunity to assume a position of dominance in the world Indeed, Americans have always been torn between -being morally superior, heroic and committed to defending human rights: they call the generation of the veterans the “greatest generation” -being stained by racists impulses and praising a sort of state-sponsored violence
When studying the memory of WWII in the USA, three aspects have to be dealt with -The war itself: battles, soldiers’ accounts -The home front -The remembrance through monuments
I/ WARTIME MEMORY A/ what meaning to give to the war? There is a debate 1) Roosevelt’s idealistic view to break isolation -His speech: « Four essential freedoms » in 1941 -Utopian justification for a PEOPLE’S WAR -Based on a moral-building state propaganda of the OFFICE OF WAR AND INFORMATION OWI -Sometimes backed by famous artists as NORMAN ROCKWELL 2) A means to take revenge on Pearl Harbor and defend the US interest and supremacy
I/ WARTIME MEMORY B/ Soldiers write the war Soldiers soon started to fashion memories of the war after it ended 1)Some soldiers' testimonies expressed their disillusion of the war EX: Andre Murphy 1949: « To the Hell and back » Ex: Joseph Heller in 1962: Catch-22: the hero is a paranoid soldier who tries to avoid combat saying he is insane
2) Others took pride in the war effort: EX: Eisenhower’s book: « Crusade in Europe » He is remembered as the man who led the D-Day : a national hero ( « Ike » ) On D-Day he broadcasted a message for US troops saying : « You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you »
3) examples of dividing memories: the battle of BATAAN when Japanese invaded the Philippines It’s a surrender of US and Filipino troops in 1942 ( 77, 000) It was followed by a death march of captured soldiers without adequate food or water Although it was a clear defeat it’s not portrayed as a tale of American bravery and heroism: a BATAAN day is celebrated since 1961 on April 9 th
Pearl harbor It caused the US declaration of war against Japan It’s in Hawaii island it was bombed by Japanese air force December 7 th 1941 The Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory is the idea that American officials and Roosevelt had advance knowledge of Japan’s attack It was used as a pretext for Roosevelt to force the USA into war by the « back-door » One of the evidence was to say that in 1941, Japanese communication codes had been already officially broken. But it’s still rejected by some historians.
D-Day It’s still remember as the event which ended WWII in Europe It’s in Hawaii island it was bombed by Japanese air force December 7 th 1941 The Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory is the idea that American officials and Roosevelt had advance knowledge of Japan’s attack It was used as a pretext for Roosevelt to force the USA into war by the « back-door » One of the evidence was to say that in 1941, Japanese communication codes had been already officially broken. But it’s still rejected by some historians.
C/ Hiroshima In 1945 it was Truman’s decision: the US people supported it Enola Gay a B 29 bomber dropped the A bomb on Hiroshima August 6 th( little bomb) 1945 and Bob. Scar ( fat man) August 9 th. it was presented as the only means to avoid a costly invasion of Japan But after the war critical memories of the bombing and the suffering it caused broke in the open EX: 1955: NORMAN COUSINS anti nuclear and peace activist arranged for a group of 25 young radiated Japanese women to come in the USA for medical treatment: Hi. ROSHIMA MAIDENS
Today there is still the question to know if Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to end WWII Still many Americans and war veterans don’t even want to remember this and commemorate. For the first time in 2010 ( 65 years after) , US ambassador in Japan John Roos was present in Hiroshima commemoration in Japan. However, no American president has ever been back in Hiroshima and Nagasaki since 1945.
I D/ Victory In the postwar years, war remembrance varied 1)Some saw victory as a sense of relief and used remembrance as a means to spread a need to protect human rights and a peaceful America away from divisions ( even race divisions) Ex: the AMERICAN VETERAN COMMITTEE 2) Others used remembrance as a means to put the stress on the need to fight evils that would threaten the nation again It justified militarization of post-war US
E/ Hollywood played an important role in interpreting the war and had a huge role in the debate over remembrance During the war, films were patriotic and depiction of violence were rare : OWI After the war the spotlight on violence and cruelty was intensified Post war Hollywood demystified the war: EX: 1946 « The best years of our lives » focused on the bad impact of the war on people’s family life Ex: 1948: « All my sons » focuses on black market on the home front
Ex: 1998: Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Spielberg made the film to help his dad’s generation to be recognized as fighters for « God and country » It returned public attention to European war theater and DDay It’s a kind of morality tale, presenting GI’s as good men and model citizens EX: 2001 film « Pearl Harbor » Clint Eastwoods’ 2006 « Letters from IWO JIMA »
II/ THE HOMEFRONT A/ A harsh reality at home -30 million Americans were forced to move: 16 million went to the army, many sharecroppers drifted from the land to get jobs in town -Rationing -Drafted men were trained in boot camps and training praised the need to be subordinated and taught a sense of individualism
EX: YANK MAGAZINE : war department newspaper given to servicemen so they could express criticisms
-40, 000 conscience objectors -Race clashes were common in the army and also in the home front - Reality of war love affairs: armed forces were forced to be educated on the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases
-Rationing was used to save wealth or the soldiers -People were also encouraged to buy WAR BONDS : The war bonds actually were a loan to the government to help finance the war effort.
B/ Women at war 1) Myth -Some only want to remember the myth of « Rosie the riveter » by the OWI -They want to remember women stayed loyal and kept their traditional domestic role as well as working to help the war effort
Norman Rockell made it the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1943
-2) Other vision -Women were faced to discrimination even if they were 36% of the workforce -After the war many women were under pressure to leave their job -Commemorations -EX 1: 1997 Women in the Service of America Memorial at the entrance of Arlington Cemetery -EX 2: 2000 Rosie the riveter memorial in Richmond California
C/ Racism and discrimination 1)Japanese Americans 120, 000 Japanese American citizens imprisoned in camps or pulled from their homes after FDR’s order to remove people who were threats to national security They reclaimed remembrance of « their » war 1974: Birth of the Japanese American Citizens League to seek payments for the losses 1992: Opening of LA museum: Japanese American Musuem ( facebook page)
In February 1942, president Franklin Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 that required all people of Japanese descent—US citizen or not—to be relocated from their homes and moved into concentration camps.
2) Black people Some black were quick to see that patriotic service offered the prospects of long-time gains in civil rights 1992: an independent commission reviewed archival records to know if African Americans were sometimes denied the medal of honor because of racism: 6 awards posthumously
III/ MONUMENTS There are two types of memorials A/ Traditional memorials : for veneration of national sacrifices Arlington memorial in Washington Opened in 1864 to commemorate all the deaths of conflicts; 290, 000 buried
2) Washington world war two memorial Opened 2004 Honors the 16 million soldiers who served during WWII for the USA
3) Normandy American cemetery In Colléville-sur-Mer Not far from OMAHA BEACH one of the beaches of D-Day Opened in 1956
B/ Living memorials: to improve quality of life of those who survived and their families EX: Civic centres C/ Memorial day Memorial Day is a federal holiday which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the US armed forced since the civil war It now includes WWII veterans