Evidence: A 1938 Air Raid Guide

[Evidence: Objects Dropped From The air (1943); Evidence: The Air Attack on Swansea:The Controller's Statement to the County Borough Council][Evidence: The 1939 Air Raid Pamphlet][The Luftwaffe 1kg incendiary bomb][The Castle Street Bomb, February 1941] [The Hospital Square Bomb, 1943] [Luftwaffe photo of Swansea, 1940][Gas and chemical warfare] [Preparing a Refuge Room][Bombing Accuracy in the 1940s (or why Swansea burned)] [Evidence: The 1938 Air Raid Guide] [ The Air War over South Wales ] Douhet, Trenchard and the 'Moral Effect' of bombing ] Dr Robert Knauss and German air war doctrine ] The Spanish Civil War and the Condor Legion ] The Blitz on Britain ] Luftwaffe Air Operations Over Swansea in 1940 ] [Prior Warning:Enigma, KGr100 and Swansea Blitz] Luftwaffe Operations over Swansea  1941 to 1943 ] Growing up during the Swansea Blitz. Peter Dover-Wade's wartime experience ] [Swansea's Blitz in colour] [ Swansea Blitz (Swansea ablaze) ] Swansea Blitz (Ben Evans Store) ] Swansea Blitz (Ben Evans smoulders) ] Swansea Blitz (Further damage) ] Swansea Blitz (General damage) ] Swansea Blitz (Temple Street) ] Bomb Type ] Eye of the Eagle. The Luftwaffe aerial photographs of Swansea ] Luftwaffe Targets in Swansea ]

This guide was issued to almost every household in the country in the weeks following the Munich Crisis in September 1938.

The booklet was a basic guide to the procedures to be followed in the event of air attack. The autumn of 1938 saw mass hysteria and panic across Britain because people believed that the Germans were about to attack Britain with massive fleets of aircraft which would destroy towns and cities. In an attempt to settle the panic, the government issued the booklet to prove that civil defence and air raid precautions were in place.

The booklet has an interesting place in history. The British government and people quickly made themselves a laughing stock across Europe as slit trenches were dug in public parks and gas masks were handed out to people in London and other large cities. The panic was noted with great interest in Germany and Hitler was advised to make more of the Luftwaffe's 'terror bombing' capabilities in any future negotiations or diplomacy. The senior planners of the Luftwaffe believed that the British population was easily scared into submission and lacked the moral fibre for a conflict. The irony of this view is that the British government believed precisely the same thing of the German population.

There is also a rather cynical background to this booklet. By the time of its release in the autumn of 1938, senior British government figures at the Cabinet Office, Air Ministry and in the RAF were convinced that civil defence measures were unlikely to play much of a part in reducing civilian casualties. Whilst the British were digging slit trenches and issuing booklets, the Germans were building massive concrete bunkers, devising a national fire and emergency service and preparing the cities of the Reich to cope with air attack.

For reasons of space we've only included the first few pages here.

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Recommended Reading:

The Luftwaffe: 1933-45 Strategy for Defeat by Williamson Murray

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If you want to understand the European air war of WW2 then this is the book for you. Written in an emphatically clear style and backed up by superb referencing, this book cuts away all of the misleading propaganda that has marked much British work about the air war. I first came across this book as a reference in an American Air Force journal and there lies the clue to the clarity of this work, it wasn't written as sentimental history it was meant to be a manual of what not to do if you find yourself in a crucial management position. The author examines the creation of the Luftwaffe in fine detail and explains the origins of the various strategies used against the Allies during the course of the war. If you want to understand what happened and why, then this book will tell you.

The book remains my constant companion whilst researching the air war over South Wales. The author's scholarly insights into the workings of the German Luftwaffe have proved priceless in guiding my own research. You will find this book far clearer and easier to read than many books about the Battle of Britain which look so much prettier and cost so much more. (Nigel Robins)

SHW Microhistory: 2. Blitz bomb damage

Swansea Central Police Station  bomb damage.

Swansea's old Central Police Station in Orchard Street is one of the few surviving buildings that still has the scars of the air attacks of the Second world War.

The Orchard Street side of the building is peppered with gouges into the brickwork as a result of a large bomb detonation at roof height above a building opposite the station. The damage was most likely caused by a German fragmentation bomb detonating as it hit the walls or roof of other buildings.

Fragmentation weapons were used by all sides in the war because they would cause dreadful wounds to firemen and rescue workers or anyone within a large radius of the detonation. The police station was not a specific target but it was sufficiently close to the centre of the bombing to be exposed to danger for most air raids. Most of the buildings hit in the Swansea raids were either completely rebuilt after the war or demolished so such signs of the violence of the air

attacks is comparatively rare. Even as late as 1940, a number of British government advisors believed that German aircraft would not have the range necessary to attack west coast ports such as Swansea and Cardiff. It is to the eternal credit of the officials of the County Borough of Swansea in the late 1930s that they spent a great deal of time and effort in preparing for air raids which probably saved a number of lives across the Borough when the attacks came.

The building is shortly to be redeveloped and I have no idea whether the damage will be removed or left untouched. I know many people walk past each day and have no idea what the marks mean, which is a shame because this is part of the city's history and a far more eloquent testimony to the sacrifice of the war years than the anti-aircraft gun that sits at the New Cut bridge.

More SHW Microhistory

Swansea Central  Police Station bomb damage.

 

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