Andrew Knapp with a survivor of the raids on Le Havre.

Richard Overy at The Battle of Britain Experience.

Bombing, States and Peoples in Western Europe 1940–1945

Previous events

  • Claudia Baldoli, Andrew Knapp and Richard Overy gave papers at a conference in Florence, 11–13 November 2011 on 'I bombardamenti aerie e l’Italia nella seconda Guerra mondiale. Politica, Stato e società' [‘Aerial bombardment on Italy during the Second World War: Politics, state and society’]: Claudia Baldoli 'Il regime e la minaccia dall’aria'; Andrew Knapp 'Bombardare la Francia'; Richard Overy 'Il quadro generale'.
  • Claudia Baldoli and Carlotta Coccoli presented a paper at the 5th Storia Urbana Conference, Rome, 8–10 September 2011 on 'La Liguria in Guerra: civili e monumenti sotto le bombe' [‘Liguria in the war: civilians and monuments under the bombs'].
  • Richard Overy gave the keynote address at a conference in Birmingham, 7–8 September 2011 on 'New Directions in Airpower Research'.
  • Richard Overy gave a paper at a conference in Moscow, 16–17 June 2011 on ‘The Second World War: Ten Lectures’ on ‘The Blitz and Barbarossa’.
  • Marc Wiggam successfully defended his doctoral thesis on the blackout in Britain and Germany in May 2011.
  • Andrew Knapp was interviewed on the Allied bombing of France in Le Havre for a French television documentary broadcast in spring 2011.
  • On 25 June 2010 Andrew Knapp gave a public lecture to the Centre havrais de recherche historique at the municipal archives of Le Havre, attracting an audience of 150.

    Le Havre, where Knapp lived for several years when preparing his doctoral thesis on local communism in the early 1980s, is France’s most heavily-bombed major city and was the starting point of Knapp’s research on bombing.

    The lecture, entitled ‘Des bombardements alliés sur la France en général et sur Le Havre en particulier’, placed the Allied raids on France in the wider context of the bombing war in Western Europe from 1940 to 1945, before focusing on the heavy raids that preceded Le Havre’s liberation on 12 September 1944, when RAF Bomber Command dropped over 9,000 tons of bombs on the city. The purpose of these attacks was clear: to overwhelm the German garrison defending the city and to secure for the Allies’ use a valuable port as speedily as possible and with the minimum loss to Allied ground forces.
    However, the specific raid of 5 September, which wrecked the heart of the city, had little military justification and its purpose remains unclear; Air Chief Marshall Harris himself is on record as calling the raid a mistake. With the aid, notably, of documents from the UK National Archives at Kew, he demonstrated that although the Allies’ knowledge of German positions within Le Havre was extensive, several key targets remained unbombed until late in the siege.

    Many of the questions came from survivors of the raids. One member of the audience put forward an interpretation common in Le Havre, that the raids were intended to place Le Havre at a commercial disadvantage against its British rival Southampton; others noted that British bombing techniques were general more precise than American ones.
    For French Press coverage, please see 

  • On 16 June 2010 Richard Overy launched his new book on The Battle of Britain Experience at the RAF Museum, Hendon. The occasion also marked the inauguration of the statue of Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park at the Museum's Battle of Britain Hall.
  • The Nomos Verlag published a book by Research Fellow Stephan Glienke Die Ausstellung 'Ungesühnte Nazijustiz' (1959-1962). Zur Geschichte der Aufarbeitung nationalsozialistischer Justizverbrechen.

    The book explains the sociological and political ways of dealing with the crimes of Nazi-justice in Western Germany during the outgoing Adenauer-period. Against the background of the political conflict between the two German states, the book explains how the Cold War determined speech and the expression of opinion and how it limited the representation of the views of political minorities that were struggling for alternative ways of coming to terms with the Nazi past. It illustrates the clashes between the claims of an open democratic society and a mere authoritarian understanding of democracy. However, it has been the confrontation of authoritarian attitudes and interests that has shaped German democracy. This process can be traced down by single stages like the students' movement of the outgoing 1960s, the so-called "Spiegel-affaire" in 1962, the political campaigns of students of the outgoing 1950s and the dispute concerning dealing with former Nazi functionaries and crimes committed by Nazi justice.