Books

Shock and awe in Coventry, 14 November 1940

Coventry was Hitler’s test case for a new kind of war — one of total destruction — and Frederick Taylor’s book makes for painful reading

21 November 2015

9:00 AM

21 November 2015

9:00 AM

On 14 November 1940, at seven in the evening, the Luftwaffe began to bomb Coventry. The skyline turned red like an eclipse of the sun as clouds of cinders, lit red by the blaze, floated down over the great West Midlands city. Coventry seemed to have been hit by a meteorite. The mile-high roar of magnesium incendiary flames created a firestorm in which over 554 people died and twice as many were wounded. Life as Coventrians had known it, lived it and loved it, came to an end that Thursday night. Hitler’s first Blitz on an English city had taken the inhabitants by complete surprise.

In the space of 11 hours, buildings and people were torn apart, crushed and suffocated. Three quarters of Coventry’s plane and automobile plants were obliterated; the medieval cathedral was left a hacked-out ruin billowing smoke. Few could endure more blackout, bombs and sirens. (The stench of burned buildings, compact of blackened masonry, dust and pitch, was bad enough.) So everyone who coul left — on lorries, on foot — to stay with friends and family further afield.

In the destruction’s aftermath, writes Taylor in his riveting chronicle, Philip Larkin looked frantically for his parents and saw the burning cathedral where they had christened him 18 years earlier. As the young poet picked his way through his birthplace amid a stench of burning, he tried to find some meaning in the deaths and the ‘full horror of what technology could visit’, as Taylor puts it. An eerie solemnity pervaded the streets. Corpses lay disfigured amid the ruins and bluish phosphorous flames flickered where the bodies lay. His parents had survived after all, but Larkin would never return to his native Coventry for any length of time.


In today’s parlance, Hitler’s attack had been designed to ‘shock and awe’. German newspapers gloatingly reported that Coventry had been coventrieren (‘Coventrated’), meaning ‘destroyed utterly’. The coinage would find an equivalent in the somewhat awkward British ‘Berlinated’, used to describe Britain’s retaliatory bombing of Dresden, Hamburg and Lübeck. Coventry was deemed a legitimate target for its munitions factories, but much of the ordnance had hit civilian homes, with comparatively few military installations damaged. In the blasted houses with staircases exposed, Coventrians had been born and loved and now they had died in their several hundreds.

According to Taylor, Coventry was a test case for a new type of total war, Totaler Krieg, where death would come from the sky without warning and abundantly. Hitler’s was an attack not just on Coventry, but on all democratic Britain. In vivid pages, Taylor describes how the cathedral roof had burned like a candle as the smoke got ‘thicker and blacker’, and then crashed amid flames. The flames sent a hot wind gusting against the fire-fighters, making their work impossible as the heat set light to anything flammable.

Water supplies were quickly exhausted but quantities of sand helped the brigades damp down smaller fires. Brown smoke blew up from the Daimler and Triumph factories against all that was still visible of the Coventry moon. At Warwickshire Hospital nearby, meanwhile, nurses put up blood transfusions and saline drips. The wards, crowded with bodies and harried-looking doctors, were in short supply of everything, not least morphine. The clove sweetness of anaesthetic and pungency of dried blood overwhelmed as the death toll mounted through the night. Mass burials in the ‘martyred city’ of Coventry took place a week later, on 20 November, amid flowers, prayers and lit candles.

Throughout the attack, fatally, the moon had hung bright over all the Midlands, treacherously lighting up targets. Only one of the 515 German aircraft was brought down, crashing in Loughborough 40 miles from Coventry. The city’s near-destruction was inexpressible: the bombs had ploughed up the medieval streets like a field. Still the inhabitants held their nerve. ‘Hitler had my windows, and he’s had my three-piece suite,’ one woman grumbled, ‘but he’s not going to have my Christmas puddings.’ Christmas was Christmas, never mind Adolf.

Taylor’s account of flame and ruin in the Midlands in November 1940, superbly researched, shows how terror could come to anyone, anywhere, any time. It still can.

Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £17 Tel: 08430 600033

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Show comments
    • Todd Unctious

      You quote incorrect statistics for Coventry. The 176 dead were killed in 1940 prior to the big raid on 14 November which killed another 568. The people of Coventry should be proud that their City endured and they showed Hitler in no uncertain terms that he could not win. The Nazis turned their attention elsewhere.
      It is a lesson we would do well to remember. Bombing alone does not win wars.

      • “You quote incorrect statistics for Coventry. The 176 dead were killed in 1940 prior to the big raid on 14 November which killed another 568.”

        Thanks for the correction. I’ve made the adjustment for killed.

        • Todd Unctious

          Do you propose a couple of atom bombs dropped on the largely innocent Syrians? Japan was a united nation . Syria consists of 20 plus warring factions ,tribes and religions. Boots on the ground required asap.

          • “Do you propose a couple of atom bombs dropped on the largely innocent Syrians?”

            I don’t propose bombing anyone anywhere right now, and especially no more bombings in Syria!

            “Boots on the ground required asap.”

            Approximately 20% of the Marxist front group Islamic [sic] State are Ukraine Ground Forces (UGF) posing as Islamic [sic] State, the UGF mission in Iraq being to cut Iraq’s oil exports–once American ground forces return to Iraq–for the purpose of assisting Russia’s oil based economy, thereby allowing Russia to complete her military modernization program. The Marxist governments of the West and Marxist media* are spinning the reality of what’s taking place in the Ukraine and Iraq, where in the Ukraine the anti-Communist Ukrainian people are waging a war against the Marxist Kiev government and mis-named ‘Ukrainian separatists’ who are really Russian Spetsnaz/Guards Airborne troops assisting the Marxist Kiev government suppress the anti-Communist revolution raging throughout the Ukraine. The revolution could only have occurred thanks to the weakened security apparatus within the Ukraine, where a critical number of UGF are currently in Iraq preparing to assist Russia’s oil based economy by sabotaging Iraq’s oil exports.

            With the weakened Marxist security apparatus throughout the Ukraine, due to the UGF presence in Iraq, the Ukrainian population destroyed, to date, over 800 statues to the reviled Vladimir Lenin, and other Marxist ‘heroes’, statues that were supposed to have been destroyed in 1991 if the collapse of the USSR were real and not the strategic ruse it is. Currently approximately 1,300 statues to the butcher of Ukrainian nationalism/Orthodoxy remain standing throughout the Ukraine, rubbing salt into the historical wounds of every non-Marxist Ukrainian (95% of the population) that is forced to view such monuments to the infamous butcher.

            Russian regular forces are also in the eastern Ukraine (attired in UGF uniforms) fighting the Ukrainian freedom fighters, losing to combat operations approximately 25,000 soldiers, which is why on January 2 Vladimir Putin was ordered by his superiors in the Russian Communist Party to sign a four-year old piece of legislation that allows foreigners who speak Russian to join the Russian military…

            http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-foreigners-serving-in-military/26779601.html

            .

          • Todd Unctious

            Now that is mad.

          • “Now that is mad.”

            No doubt about it!

          • “Now that is mad.”

            Then you’ll love the following…

            A discovery I made in April regarding the fake collapse of the USSR, and what that fraudulent collapse proves about the institutions of the West…

            When Soviet citizens were liberated from up to 74 years of horrific Marxist-atheist oppression on December 26, 1991 there were ZERO celebrations throughout the USSR, proving (1) the ‘collapse’ of the USSR is a strategic ruse; and (2) the political parties of the West were already co-opted by Marxists,* otherwise the USSR (and East Bloc nations) couldn’t have gotten away with the ruse.

            ZERO celebrations, as the The Atlantic article inadvertently informs us…

            http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2011/12/20-years-since-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union/100214/

            Notice, however, the Kremlin staged anti-government demonstrations that took place in Russia (and other Soviet republics) in the years immediately preceding the ‘collapse’, yet ZERO celebrations after the ‘collapse’!

            For more on this discovery see my blog…

            https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/

            The above means that the so-called ‘War on Terror’ is an operation being carried out by the Marxist co-opted governments of the West in alliance with the USSR and other Communist nations, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending ‘War on Terror’; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union ‘From the Atlantic to Vladivostok’; which will (5) see the end of NATO.

            Now you know how Bolshevik Russia survived in 1917; how the West ‘lost’ China to the Communists in 1949; why the Eisenhower administration turned a deaf ear to the anti-Communist Hungarian uprising in 1956; why the Eisenhower administration in 1959 was indifferent to the Castro brothers’ Communist fidelity, actually used the CIA to overthrow the Batista government; why the Nixon administration abandoned Taiwan for Communist China, and signed treaties/provided economic aid to the USSR; why the Nixon administration refused to tell the American People that over 50% of North Vietnamese NVA regiments were actually Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers (attired in NVA uniforms, and proving that the Sino/Soviet Split was a ruse, as KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn told the West back in 1962), thereby (1) ensuring the Vietnam War would be lost; (2) destroying the prominence of the United States abroad and at home; (3) breeding distrust between the American people and their government; and (4) securing Communist victories in Southeast Asia. Working in the background within the political parties of the United States and Great Britain were Marxist agents doing their best to (1) ensure the survival of Communist nations when they popped up; and (2) sabotage any policies that would bring down a Communist nation. That’s why after the fake collapses of the East Bloc nations and USSR there was no mandatory Western verification process to ensure the Communists weren’t still in control.

            Now you know why not one political party in the West requested verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the ‘alternative’ media. When determining whether the ‘former’ USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the ‘former’ USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

            The fraudulent ‘collapse’ of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Marxists, which explains why verification of the ‘collapse’ was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

            It gets worse–the ‘freed’ Soviets and West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested/de-mobilized the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of ‘Perestroika’ (1986-1991)!

            There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

            Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

            The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

            Conclusion:

            The West will form new political parties where candidates are vetted for Marxist ideology, the use of the polygraph to be an important tool for such vetting. Then the West can finally liberate the globe of vanguard Communism.

            ————————-

            * The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848(1) taught Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly,(2) so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions. In the case of the United States…(continue reading at DNotice)…

            https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/now-you-see-me-now-you-don-t

          • Todd Unctious

            Wierdo alert.

          • “Wierdo alert.”

            So true. I especially love where there were ZERO celebrations throughout the USSR after Soviet citizens were ‘liberated’ from up to 74-years of Marxist-atheist oppression on December 26, 1991. Talk about the weirdos in the government/media who thought no one would notice that oversight!

            Don’t forget to pass these proofs on to others. There’s nothing like the facts to open people’s eyes to the truth.

          • Chamber Pot

            Absurd. Nothing is to be gained by more interference and when will we know we’ve won ? The Kurds + Assad + Iran + Russia are the good guys in all of this
            and who are supporting – ISIS’s paymasters, the Saudis ?

        • Mark

          Japan surrendered because the Soviet Union declared war and invaded Manchuria.

  • Mark

    Britain blitzed Germany first in 1940.

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