The First World War: trauma and memory
The First World War: trauma and memory

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The First World War: trauma and memory

2.1.2 The war from the air

At 11.30am on 17 June 1917, German aircraft carried out a daylight raid on London, dropping 72 bombs, which killed 162 civilians. One bomb hit Upper North Street School in Poplar in the East End, killing 18 children.

The use of zeppelins and aeroplanes turned civilians on the home front into targets of war, and the bombing of towns and cities claimed countless victims. German aircraft attacked southern English towns and cities, including London, causing casualties and, of course, instilling fear.

It is clear that the killing of innocent civilians had a profound impact on public attitudes in Britain. The bombing of the school in East London provided further evidence for many of Germany’s barbaric aggression, as the following extract from The Times indicates:

A hard life has not hardened the dwellers in dockland. Behind the dingy and often squalid exterior of the East End there lies a rich fount of human emotion. Sometimes it wells up and makes one marvel at the great heart of the toilers in these mean crowded streets. Yesterday all Poplar and the neighbouring borough were charged with an overflowing sympathy for the mothers and fathers whose children have been slaughtered on the altar of German ruthlessness.

(The Times, 21 June 1917)

When reading this quotation, you might want to consider how this newspaper portrayed the character of the inhabitants of the local area, and how it represented the enemy? It’s easy to see how newspaper articles like this might have impacted on public opinion.

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