Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

This idea, or half idea, came to me as I read two things.

One was that the British government in preparation for the Second World War proposed clearing as many places as possible in psychiatric wards to make way for people who were traumatised in the event of German air raids on Britain.

Taking suicide
WW2 Suicide
as a marker of a psychiatric problem, the incidence of suicide fell considerably during WW2.

The second book was about Bomber Command. Carpet bombing of German cities was adopted. It was thought that such a comprehensive bombing campaign was likely to have a most devastating effect on the enemy's civil population and that a significant effect on industrial production could be achieved, either by destruction of the production plants or by a negative physical and psychological effect on its labour. Civil devastation would result in civil unrest and public uprising against the Nazi regime. At least that was what the Allies were hoping for.
The Allied assaults had no significant effect on German production until the last year of the war. German industry unexpectedly counterbalanced the destruction of a number of their plants by a further increase in productivity.

Nevertheless it is inconceivable that Allied air raids did not have an effect on the population's attitude to war and the Nazi regime. In practice, aside from the diminution of industrial production, the declared goal of the Allied raids was to weaken the population's morale and to shake the very foundations of the regime. Even though the German leaders were likewise expecting public unrest and rebellion caused by air-war, it never occurred.

There is something remarkable in the way that human beings deal with disaster. Not on an individual level but collectively when something awful happens. It is almost as though we are able to rise above what is happening. Our greatest fears are of what
might happen. When disaster strikes something kicks in and we get on with it. As an individual we might suffer dreadfully and even die but the group seems able to cope, it is almost as though the first human instinct kicks in - survival of the individual.
We are at war book
World War 2 is something that fascinates me, probably because I am able to remember living through that five years as a child. I have just been reading a book consisting of diary entries from ordinary people who signed up for the ‘Mass Observation Project’ which was started in 1936 but really came into its own when the war started. (We Are At War by Simon Garfield).

The diary entries are from ordinary men and women. Nothing very dramatic but a fascinating insight into how they lived through this period in our history. For me, the striking thing was the expectations. In the 1936 film version of the H G Wells novel
The Shape of Things to Come the arrival of war is swift and terrible. Barely has it begun before enemy bombers arrive, raining certain death from the skies in the form of gas bombs. With no defence against this new and indiscriminate form of warfare, bodies are soon piled high in the rubble that was London. It was a startling image, regarded by many cinema-goers as a dreadful prophecy.

At 11am on that Sunday morning in September, Neville Chamberlain announced that we were at war with Germany most people assumed that we would be attacked very quickly. In fact the air raid warning siren sounded very soon after the Prime Ministers announcement.

The Admiralty Offices were fully staffed in expectations of the war. Everyone from Admirals to the lowliest filing clerk had been instructed to hurry down to the cellars as soon as they heard the sirens. Within minutes they were packed into rooms in the cellar, sitting in silence, expecting the worst. Very soon they heard loud booming noises which most assumed were bombs falling on the city above them. In fact it was the sound of security staff hurriedly slamming all the fire proof doors throughout the building. It wasn’t until almost twelve months later, on August 25th 1940 that the first bombs fell on the City of London.

Back to the Mass Observation Diaries. During that ‘Phoney War’ period when the expected arial blitz didn’t materialise. Many of the entries show apprehension of what they expected the war to become. When the air raids actually started the fear was still there but for something tangible rather than imagined.
This reflects a mindset that seems to affect many of us. It may be as simple as the dread we feel when we have to go to the dentist. “It’s going to hurt like hell!”, “I expect he will have to take the damned thing out”, “Even if it’s just a filling, I am scared of the injections beforehand”. When we get there it turns out to be a very shallow cavity which he drills and fills without anaesthetic and without any pain. It takes all of five minute - that after spending ten days worrying about it.

When I read about the way ordinary people dealt with what seemed like impossible situations and appeared to quickly recover when things stabilised. During the blitz on London it must have appeared like a hopeless situation when you awoke after a heavy air raid to scenes of devastation but from what we read, they simply carried on with their lives.

The striking thing for me is the remarkable resilience of humans when a fearful, anticipated situation becomes a reality.

As you're no doubt aware disasters are commonplace in Australia with more than our fair share of. bushfires, floods, cyclones, droughts and plagues.
The collective human spirit never ceases to amaze me, it's as if it's hard-wired into our DNA. At least twice in the past year while bushfires were raging fire-fighters lost their own home whilst protecting other’s. Acts of kindness and selflessness during disasters know no bounds when disaster strikes; people drop everything and put their lives on hold to help out where they can - yes it's truly remarkable.
Unfortunately however their counterparts are lurking in the shadows, The looters! Robbing properties when the owners have to stay elsewhere; the profiteers who during drought when the water tanks run dry sell water at exorbitant rates. When the locusts have devoured crops for hundreds of square miles they will sell hay to feed starving cattle at ridiculously huge profits while others will cart truckloads of hay from the other side of the country free of charge just to lend a helping hand. Yes, the human spirit is alive and well but we've still got to put up with the degenerates in this world, they are also alive and well

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