I'm sure we're all aware it's Remembrance Sunday today. If you've turned on the television today there's every chance you will have caught some of the touching service at the cenotaph today, or seen Prince William in Afghanistan. Perhaps you watched the extremely moving Songs of Praise and shed a few tears this evening like I did. I'm sure we've all remembered "the glorious dead" in some way today and of course all those families affected by the wars that this country has fought and is still fighting today.
Today is also an incredibly poignant day for the people of Coventry and Warwickshire as it marks the anniversary of one of the most devastating raids of the Blitz "Operation Moonlight Sonata", so named because its success relied on bright moonlight. 70 years ago, right now, Coventry was under a most ferocious and vicious attack by German bombers, 515 of them. The raid was intended to destroy Coventry's factories and industries however the impact was widespread with the loss of 4,000 homes and many of the cities important and significant historical buildings.
Picture from the BBC
The destruction of Coventry Cathedral is famous and it was from the ruins and the new Cathedral that tonight's moving Blitz service was held. Unfortunately I was unable to make it into Coventry this evening but listened to the broadcast by BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio. My 4 year old was fascinated by the air raid siren that was sounded around 19.20pm - the time of the first drop, and so ensued a lengthy conversation about bombs, air raid sirens, anderson shelters and the like. Wrongly or rightly, I don't tend to sugar the pill as I think children want to know the truth, and should know the truth. She took it on the chin, asking lots of questions and clearly trying to understand.
It's unclear how many people died that night, the official figure is around 600 but it's thought it could be around the 1,000 mark. Many more were injured and thousands of lives were affected by the raids. Coventry still bears the scars of that night and of course the raids that came before and after the 14th November 1940. Coventry was rebuilt during the 1950's and 1960's and became one of the first places in Europe to have a traffic-free shopping precinct, however the harsh concrete architecture of the 1960's does not do the city many favours now. Fortunately a few historic medieval buildings have survived and it does make me wonder what Coventry was really like prior to the war. Such was the impact on Coventry that a new phrased was coined "to Coventrate" meaning to annihilate or reduce to rubble.
That Night of Death
by John J Rattigan, November 1940
Who can forget that night of death,
Wrought by the sky devil's fiery breath,
Who can forget that night of pain,
Dealt out by a madman's twisted brain.
We shall not forget as our homes we rebuild,
On bomb-scarred ground where innocent were killed,
We shall not forget as we look at the land,
Where once stood a building so stately and grand.
Even God's house is not safe from this Hun,
Who bombs and destroys at the setting of the sun.
So let him send over his cowardly hordes,
Who shatter the homes of paupers and Lords.
That night was severe, there is no doubt,
We had a hard blow, but they can't knock us out.
For our men are of steel, our women won't kneel,
Nor children for mercy plea.
A new hope will arise, when the world is free,
From the rubble and ashes of Coventry.
The bombing of Coventry was relentless and designed to break the morale of the people, which it did for a while. The government at the time were concerned that an aerial raid would destroy civilian morale and in the weeks following the raid, panic set in and half of the population of the city fled. However, nobody expected the resilience of the people of Coventry and so tonight, along with all those men that have died fighting for our country, I'm also thinking of the innocent civilians who also lost their lives, and those brave people of Coventry, that rose up and continued the war effort - rebuilding their factories and continuing to make the aircraft parts that were so crucial.
love & kisses
Mrs M x
Mrs M x