With Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday having just passed, it would seem fitting to cast an eye toward the futility of conflict, and the impact it has had upon so many innocents.
Today marks the anniversary of an incident in 1940 in which the German Luftwaffe devastated the city of Coventry, with two thirds being completely levelled. Nearly 600 people were killed, with over a thousand injured. In fact, it is said many of the bodies were so badly burned in the resulting inferno, that many could not be adequately identified by the authorities.
Given the frequency and tenacity of air-raids by both sides during the Second World War, Coventry is but one of many cities levelled by carpet bombing. However, it is the reasoning behind it – along with the utter devastation upon such a small area – that makes It such a shocking event. Coventry was well known for manufacturing and industry, and armaments production during World War Two played a major part in the local industry.
In comparison to London or Manchester however, the town was a far smaller target. Coventry’s legitimacy as a target however was increased in the days running up to November 14th, after the allied bombing of Munich. Hitler, insulted and enraged by the fact that the RAF would bomb the birthplace of the National Socialist movement, ordered that the favour be returned.
The evening of the 14th saw the Luftwaffe drop hundreds of high explosive munitions and incendiary devices onto the city’s military, industrial and civilian areas. Many parts of Coventry that held little strategic importance were destroyed, it is hard to believe that after the onslaught, much of the city centre was even left standing at all.
In school, I recall being taught about the allied bombing of Dresden. The fire storm that engulfed the city, the thousands that perished. To this day the barbarism still strikes me, after all, weren’t we the good guys?
One can retort by claiming it was necessary, as it was critical to breaking down the military capability of Germany, and the same can be said about Luftwaffe raids upon Britain. Hitler sought to bring the nation to its knees, buckle our infrastructure and kill our resolve – along with a lot of people on the way.
Clichéd as it may be to say, but throughout the Second World War, and in the numerous conflicts since, civilians always carry the highest burden. Living in Coventry on that night, cowering in Anderson shelters, it would be hard to envisage the lives we live today, the luxuries we have within our grasp and the security we enjoy – Despite the fact many would claim otherwise
What does ring clear throughout many conflicts – and among all sides of said conflicts – is the resilience of the human heart to endure, carry on, and find a small measure of peace and happiness in what is left of their world. The people of Coventry certainly displayed that in the days after the destruction, along with millions of others in the UK, France, Germany and across Europe.