Date of Award

5-24-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Douglas Biggs

Committee Members

Vernon L Volpe, Roy Koepp, Torsten Homberger

Keywords

Great Britain;London;The Blitz;World War II

Abstract

During World War I, technological advances in air power expanded the field of battle beyond the front lines and British civilians previously insulated from the realities of war experienced a new threat from the air. This experience highlighted the impact of modern warfare on citizens and the need for greater home defense measures. Bombing attacks in Europe, Asia, and Africa during the 1930s further demonstrated this type of conflict, making British civil defense more critical. After nine months between September 7, 1940 and May 10, 1941, over 40,000 civilians perished from the bombs dropped by the German air force on Britain’s largest industrial cities. Much of the scholarship written post World War II attaches government failures to these deaths. Using government documents, newspapers, photos, opinion polls, books, and articles, this thesis will examine civilian aerial warfare philosophies established after World War I and the resulting casualty projections prior to the Blitz. It will also describe several programs implemented by the British government as well as its communication tactics to increase public awareness and preparation in the event of an attack. Furthermore, it will evaluate how civil defense strategies adapted in response to the bombings. By comparing the number of actual deaths to pre-Blitz projections and statistics from other bombing attacks, this thesis will demonstrate that the government’s civil defense efforts successfully saved countless lives.

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