French military thinking during the interwar years was characterised by defensive planning and few offensive strategies were developed. This chapter examines the how the French prepared for war, moving from macro to micro. It analyses preparations for war generally and then children's expectations of war during the interwar period. Visions of future war do not seem to have sparked memorable activity, or inspired fear or anxiety. Oral transmission within the family was important in developing children's understanding of past war. War had a constant presence in children's early lives. 'Lurid atrocity tales' of mutilation and murder were widespread and transmitted across the generations, creating real Germanophobia. Reverberations from the Great War created an understanding of what war was. Future war had little presence in the children's lives, then, and past war painted an outmoded picture. Conflicts unfolding in the present brought children an understanding of modern war fare.
Oral narratives do not show a great deal of interaction with children's propaganda, or perhaps more accurately, interaction with children's propaganda was not related during interviews. This chapter illustrates how storytelling was used for political purposes to explain how propaganda designed specifically for children. Children were influenced by public discourse about bombing, but explanations were given subtlety and shape within private contexts. The chapter uses the themes of betrayal, friends and enemies, participation and victimhood, within the propaganda. In wartime, children could act as Trojan horses, carrying ideologies home to parents. Children were not just receptacles into which propaganda could be poured. They had cognitive agency, reacting and drawing conclusions from what they heard. Children were politically important as vehicles for ideological messages and as social actors. Anger and discomfort when discussing the Allied bombing were more evident in those less able to explain why they were bombed.
Poor propaganda bounces off its intended recipients, leaving audience unchanged or unchanged in the desired way. This chapter analyses the portrayal of bombing to the French by those wishing to influence opinion, first looking at propaganda that criticised the Allies, and then at that which defended or accepted their air raids. While professional historians may disagree, and archive evidence certainly indicates that many French people held anti-Allied sentiments. German and collaborationist propaganda played on fear of the Allies, not the bombs, for political gain. While public opinion reflected pro-Allied propaganda with respect to context, friends and enemies, it diverged on victimhood. The German presence in France was perhaps the greatest barrier to transferring hatred away from the occupier. Allied military and political leaders feared a dangerous backlash against them in 1944, which did not come; hostility to the bombers was generally short-lived, except among those bereaved by bombing.
This book provides a unique perspective on the Allied bombing of France during the Second World War which killed around 57,000 French civilians. Using oral history as well as archival research, it provides an insight into children's wartime lives in which bombing often featured prominently, even though it has slipped out of French collective memory. The book compares three French towns with different experiences of bombing: Boulogne-Billancourt , Brest, and Lille. Divided into three parts dealing with expectations, experiences and explanations of bombing, the book considers the child's view of wartime violence, analysing resilience, understanding and trauma. The first part of the book deals with the time before bombing. It examines how the French prepared for war and preparations made specifically for bombing, showing how state-level and municipal-level preparations. The second part considers the time during bombing and its aftermath. It discusses the experience of being bombed, examining children's practical, sensory and emotional responses. The fascinating and frightening scenes in the immediate aftermath of bombing that made lasting impressions on children, including destruction, chaos and encounters with violent, public death. Changes in status as a result of bombing becoming a sinistre, refugee or evacuee had far-reaching consequences in some children's lives, affecting their education and economic situation. The last section looks at the way in which air raids were explained to the French population. It considers the propaganda that criticised and defended the Allies, and an understanding of the history of Vichy.
This chapter looks at the interviewees' explanations of the Allied bombing and the way in which they situate it within a wider war, comprised with their own experiences as well as others. American bombing was explained in two ways. The first was impersonal and the second explanation hinged on an emotive attitude that chimed in places with anti-Allied propaganda. But acceptance of bombing suggests a more purposeful idea of victimhood: death was not a waste. Explaining casualties like this contextualised bombing within the wider war was awful, but they had to beat the enemy. For some children, concepts of enemy and friend, and the geopolitical context were blurred and partial. Usually, the Germans were depicted as the enemy. An impervious group of people seemed less affected by propaganda, while in another group held evidence of children's agency: they sought information and engaged with it, organising it into maps and scrapbooks.
The chaos that followed an air raid was an integral part of the event. The severity of a bombing campaign is often measured by the number of casualties, by contemporaries and historians. This chapter examines the fascinating and frightening scenes in the immediate aftermath of bombing that made lasting impressions on children, including destruction, chaos and encounters with violent, public death. The raid of 6 December 1942 in Lille completely destroyed one school and damaged five others; on 10 April 1944, seventeen schools were damaged. In the aftermath of a raid in Brest, dazed survivors set off through the rubble to seek home and family, surrounded by chaotic sights that cranked up anxiety on the way. Bombing damaged the human body just as it damaged buildings. Parental censorship aimed partly at shielding children from such sights. In the aftermath of bombing, children were 'directly in contact with death, with violence'.
The Allied bombing of France is little discussed in France, and it is no better known in Britain or America. During the Second World War in France, children comprised just over a quarter of the population. The twentieth century's total wars thrust their way into the domestic space, affecting children as never before. Bombing is just one potentially traumatising trigger in war. This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book compares three French towns with different experiences of bombing: Boulogne-Billancourt, Brest, and Lille. These towns had different histories, different characters, different administrative systems and different bombing experiences. The comparative analysis is across events with different chronologies. For some, the first Allied air raid was in July 1940, for others, April 1944. Four years of war separated those experiences.
French civil defence measures were far from complete when war broke out. This chapter covers pre-war shelter preparations and the situation when war broke out; later evolutions in shelter provision. War was folded into daily life and began to play an active role for children as they blacked out their homes, learnt about bomb shelters and were issued gas masks. Three main types of shelter were planned. Domestic cellars could be reinforced with wood or steel, which was fiddly and expensive; deep, concrete shelters could be built, but were hugely expensive; or trenches could be dug, requiring plenty of open space. If sticky paper on window panes suggested that home was no longer safe, shelters confirmed it. Pre-war shelter planning in the suburbs of Paris depended on cellars. Bombing blurred the boundary between public and private, involving children in war on an unprecedented scale.
This chapter discusses some aspects of memory, children and trauma. Trauma was evident in many stories told by the author's interviewees. The chapter introduces the use of oral history as a key methodology. Memory is the past in mind, history is the past outside of it, but the borders are not only blurred but porous. Much work within memory studies deals with the collective act of remembering and not with the individual. Oral history has also revealed routines and the adaptability of these children living with the threat of or in the aftermath of bombing. Like the state and like local administrators, families and children developed coping strategies, some of which helped mitigate fear and reduce traumatic responses. The idea of collective memory remains powerful, but is perhaps overused.
British relief in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–71
Relief workers' accounts from the Franco-Prussian War reveal genuine concern, often at personal cost, to ameliorate the affliction of injured soldiers and of civilians wracked by siege and agricultural disruption. The British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (NAS) was inundated with donations, and offers of help on a scale surpassing even that of the Patriotic Fund in the Crimean War. NAS volunteers either offered their services to existing French or German hospitals or formed complete ambulance units under the control of the Society. NAS surgeons recruited from Netley and the London teaching hospitals were concerned especially to keep up to date with treatments for wounds inflicted by the new artillery. The Quakers, of course, balked at the possibility of making war easier, and restricted their assistance to non-combatants. The NAS portrayed was civilian and independent, free of the stultifying effects of War Office bureaucracy.