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Lindsey Dodd

. Allied bombing policy, too, evolved as the war progressed, bringing changes to targets, technology and tactics. As policy developed, so did the way in which the French State and local authorities met the challenge. Further down the scale, families and individuals also adapted their behaviour under the bombs. Evolution of the threat To understand the evolution of the response, we must understand the evolution of the threat. The Allies bombed France during different campaigns that targeted objectives in different regions; as new campaigns began, new towns came into

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
Lindsey Dodd

elderly people was ordered from Brest in February 1943. It was becoming too difficult to protect civilians from increasingly heavy raids. Yvette Chapalain was thirteen. She was sent with her younger siblings in tow to board in central Finistère. Her narrative lingered on the emotional deprivation that this separation from home had entailed, and on her residual anger. Becoming an evacuee was just one consequence of bombing in children’s lives. Air raids created acute local crises and sparked large-scale population movement, pre-emptive and responsive, voluntary and

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
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Lindsey Dodd

Boulogne-Billancourt, I came across a misspelt scrap of a letter from an evacuated child. It read: ‘Dear Mummy and Daddy, come and get me straight away. I’m really unhappy. We haven’t got enough to eat. It’s like being in a prison.’ Evidence, perhaps, of a bad evacuation experience? And yet sifting through the pile of papers, I found a police report investigating this very letter:  it appeared to be fake, sent maliciously to the child’s mother.9 Nonetheless, the local and national administrative context that emerges from the archives provides the shared social framework

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
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Lindsey Dodd

aftermath of an air raid at community level may partially explain why bombing is anchored in local, rather than national, memory. Local destruction: scale and confrontation Following the Renault raid of 3 March 1942 on Boulogne-Billancourt, it was reported to the British government’s Air Ministry that There is no question from the reports and subsequent photographs that the attack was completely successful and that the bombs were focused almost entirely on the area of the works with comparatively small proportionate civilian damage in the surrounding residential areas.1

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
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Lindsey Dodd

remains that French civil defence measures were far from complete when war broke out. In all countries, civil defence required the contribution of private individuals to collective – local and ultimately national – security; in France it was tied to ‘a tradition that included national defence as part of every citizen’s responsibility’ going back to the levée en masse.2 As Grayzel and Noakes have demonstrated, civil defence extended the category of active citizenship beyond the men called upon to go and fight. Women were deeply implicated, but so were children, in what

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
Abstract only
Lindsey Dodd

also recommended that Mayor Victor Le Gorgeu purchase several public information films from the Défense Passive.11 Posters appeared carrying air raid instructions, and local press carried cut-out-and-keep advice.12 Public conferences were organised in Lille and in Brest from 1933, aimed at ‘schoolchildren, shopkeepers, the retired’.13 Exercises and drills tested the functioning of local défense passive measures, some using fake bombs, others simulating poison gas attack, some testing evacuation procedures and many examining blackout and sirens. People saw trench

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
Abstract only
Lindsey Dodd

devastating. Pierre Haigneré was eight years old at the time of his family’s escape, in a raid so heavy that 500 of his neighbours lost their lives, as did another 500 local people. His distress goes some way towards answering one of the questions at the heart of any enquiry into the past: what was it like? This chapter uses the oral narratives to explore the way in which being bombed was experienced in different locations and by different children. As he told his story, Pierre oscillated between describing what happened and analysing it. The analysis is important – part of

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
Abstract only
Lindsey Dodd

memories of childhood survivors, and in family and local memory, he rightly notes that its victims have been ‘largely ignored’ at a national level. This stands in stark contrast to the British experience of the Blitz, which acts as a lieu de mémoire and the backbone of national identity emerging from the Second World War. In France, five times more people were killed by bombing than were shot in German reprisals for acts of resistance, yet les fusilés are commemorated in plaques and statues across France. Resistance and collaboration have dominated versions of ‘the dark

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
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A conclusion
Lindsey Dodd

the BBC before the bombing of the marshalling yard at La Chapelle in Paris: ‘La chapelle au clair de lune’ (‘the chapel by moonlight’). Had local resistance groups known, he wondered? Could they  – and shouldn’t they  – have alerted civilians? Others questioned Allied tactics and war more generally. Cécile Bramé angrily asked ‘Why, why, why are there still wars?’ and Serge Aubrée despaired: humans had learnt nothing. ‘I am outraged that even now’, he said, when the full horrors of the Second World War are so well-known, ‘peace, where can it be found?’ While the

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45
Lindsey Dodd

Allied airmen to escape France is testament to a wider sympathy. The Germans: enemies? While liberating France from German occupation was understood as the underlying aim of bombing, the attitude towards the Germans could v 200 v Friends, enemies and the wider war be mixed. The daily accommodations that grew from living side-by-side with Germans meant that some of the impulse towards liberation from a hated oppressor – the most convincing explanation for being bombed – could be lost. Nuances in relationships with local Germans emerge which are easier for those who

in French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45