Though lost in their effective propaganda against Germany in WWII, it was the British who commenced the indiscriminate bombing of civilians on May 11, 1940, as they “dispatched eighteen Whitley bombers against railway installations in western Germany, breaching what had been regarded by many as a fundamental rule of civilized warfare, that hostilities must only be waged against the enemy forces.”Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com The Great American Political Divide
Britain’s Splendid Decision
“During the war, the Nazi Party punished severely – often by death – any written or spoken violation of the “Parole Endsieg,” of that “word” or “slogan” of confidence in “the final victory.” Germany, however, was not the only nation with a “Parole Endsieg,” nor with prohibitions against the expression of anything contrary to it. Although the British did not resort to severe punishment of violations, Great Britain did have its own “Parole Endsieg,” its own words that would contribute to final victory.
Part of that propaganda was the widespread dissemination of the belief that Germany had initiated the bombing of cites and civilians well behind the lines of combat at the front. Indeed, it was this belief that made the metaphor of the of the reversed newsreel – of German bombers that had initiated the bombing war over civilian targets receding as the Allied bombers increased their attacks over German cities – work most completely as effective metaphor and propaganda.
It was not until April 1944, when J.M. Spaight, former principal secretary of the British Air ministry, was permitted to publish his book, “Bombing Vindicated,” that the British and Allied public in general learned that it was Britain and not Germany that had initiated “the strategic bombing offensive” – the large-scale bombing of civilian targets. Spaight writes:
“Because we were doubtful about the psychological effect of propagandist distortion of the truth that it was we [British] who started the strategic bombing offensive, we have shrunk from giving our great decision of May 11, 1940, the publicity it deserved. That, surely, was a mistake. It was a splendid decision. It was as heroic, as self-sacrificing, as Russia’s decision to adopt her policy of “scorched earth” [against Germany]. “
Some would argue that Hitler followed [the rule of not bombing noncombatants] by using the Luftwaffe against cities only in support of ground forces already at the gates of those cities.
Although it might be argued that communications and arms manufacturing centers had always been considered legitimate targets in warfare, Spaight’s statement and the fact that British bombardment was not in support of any invading or retreating ground force seems to indicate that some in Britain thought they were breaking new ground with such attacks from the air.
Thus, what Britain’s “splendid decision” had also achieved was to introduce a new kind of terrorism into an already terrible war: the Allied airmen, who ostensibly were trying to hit factories to slow down munitions production, but who more often hit civilian homes, came to be known to the German civilians who had to suffer that indiscriminate area bombing as Der Terrorflieger, or “terror fliers.”
(Wolfsangel, A German City on Trial, 1945-48, Augusto Nigro, Brassey’s Inc., 2000, pp. 3-5)