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Debunking the Blitz spirit myth

By Nicci Rae

This month, while addressing the nation, Queen Elizabth, like so many others compared the behaviour of us Brits during the pandemic to that of UK residents during World War II.  

This is based on the idea that the British people, in the face of adversity, pull together and ‘keep calm and carry on’.  

While this idea may seem romantic to many patriots, is it actually based in fact?  For a start, the infamous ‘keep calm and carry on’ slogan was never actually used by the British government.  Despite 2.46 million posts bearing the slogan being printed, it was ultimately decided that the message was patronising and divisive and the project was shelved.  

In a similar vein, in 2020, the government scrapped an advertising campaign which suggested that artists and creatives retrain to become computer programmers.

Debunking the Blitz spirit myth Harrow Online

Getting on with it

These days, we’re led to believe that, during the second world war, the population dealt with bomb raids, rationing and the never ending sirens with good humour and love for their fellow man but, dig a little deeper and things start to look a little different.  

We’ll start with that infamous cheeriness – when it came to measuring the morale of the country, Churchill and his government did very little to actually find out how people were feeling.  

Sure, people carried on working and supporting each other but, in all likelihood, this was because they had very little choice in the matter if they didn’t want to starve. 

As for the whole ‘goodwill to all men’ thing, this also seems to be a myth which has been proliferated over the years; in fact, at the height of the blitz, crime was as rife in dear old blighty as it is in 2021.  In 1941, the most common recorded crimes were:

Looting the living – and the dead

Debunking the Blitz spirit myth Harrow Online
Children of an eastern suburb of London, who have been made homeless by the random bombs of the Nazi night raiders, waiting outside the wreckage of what was their home. Credit: via Pingnews

Between September 1941 and December 1941, The Old Bailey heard 4584 London looting cases.  Whenever a building, be it a commercial property or a residential home, was bombed, members of the public and, at times, even wardens and members of the armed forces would descend upon the building to salvage and steal whatever they could.  

One of the most famous – and most horrifying – incidents occurred when the exclusive Cafe de Paris restaurant and nightclub was bombed and looters picked their way through the wreckage to steal jewellery and watches from the club’s injured and dying customers.

In 2020, cybercrime rather than looting was the weapon of choice when it came to theft – figures show that incidences of cybercrime rose from 22% in 2019 to 26% in 2020 as more people relied on the internet for shopping.

Debunking the Blitz spirit myth Harrow Online