British cities ‘in the front line’: representations and realities, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945 -- Propaganda World War, 1939-1945 -- Great Britain World War, 1939-1945 -- Great Britain -- Psychological aspects Παγκόσμιος Πόλεμος, 1939-1945 -- Προπαγάνδα Παγκόσμιος Πόλεμος, 1939-1945 -- Μεγάλη Βρετανία Παγκόσμιος Πόλεμος, 1939-1945 -- Μεγάλη Βρετανία -- Ψυχολογικές απόψεις
This paper explores the way in which politicians and the media used the language of 'the front line' to stimulate a commitment to the war and behaviour that would assist the war effort among civilians in urban, dock and industrial areas. The concept of the civilian 'in the front line' was a political construction. The use of this metaphor reinforced the message that the role of civilians was essential to avoiding defeat. It was easily understood, for the centrality of the Forces to the outcome of war was self-evident. It tried to engender certain types of behaviour in urban areas that was widely associated with the Armed Forces, such as duty, sacrifice, bravery, following orders, teamwork, and loyalty to King and country. It was inclusive and challenged the notion of a gulf between the civilians at home and the military, which had been such a widespread assumption in the public memory of the First World War. When politicians and newspaper journalists used the metaphor of civilians as front-line troops it incorporated notions of discipline, hierarchy and unquestioning obedience to authority, and as such it was not a radical message. Yet, when people behaved as politicians encouraged them to behave, and when they withstood the onslaught of bombs, it enhanced people's sense of self-importance, which suggests that behaviour and actions encouraged by the government may have had some unintended consequences. The paper considers the possible ways in which the metaphor was apt for civilians in urban areas.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session:The Urban Experience of Modern War. European Cities and Aerial Warfare in World War II