Covid-19 has brought out Britain’s ‘Blitz spirit’, scientists say

Coronavirus really has brought out the nation’s famous Blitz spirit, a study has revealed.

Researchers analysed documents from between 1938 to 1945, comparing the public’s wartime response to our behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic.

The study, by King’s College London and published in The Lancet Psychiatry, found several major similarities and concluded the current Government can learn lessons from Winston Churchill’s.

For example, during both the Blitz and coronavirus, people experienced a ‘deep psychological sense of being protected at home’. 

Coronavirus really has brought out the nation's famous Blitz spirit, a study has revealed. Pictured: September 9, 1940. A bus is left leaning against the side of a terrace in Harrington Square, Mornington Crescent, in the aftermath of a German bombing raid on London

Coronavirus really has brought out the nation’s famous Blitz spirit, a study has revealed. Pictured: September 9, 1940. A bus is left leaning against the side of a terrace in Harrington Square, Mornington Crescent, in the aftermath of a German bombing raid on London

The study, by King's College London, found several major similarities and concluded the current Government can learn lessons from Winston Churchill's. Pictured: September 10, 1940. A milkman delivering milk in a street, devastated in a German bombing raid, in the Holborn area of London. Firemen are dampening down the ruins behind him

The study, by King’s College London, found several major similarities and concluded the current Government can learn lessons from Winston Churchill’s. Pictured: September 10, 1940. A milkman delivering milk in a street, devastated in a German bombing raid, in the Holborn area of London. Firemen are dampening down the ruins behind him

Pictured: September 7, 1940. Two Luftwaffe Dornier 217 twin-engined medium bombers flying over the Silvertown area of London's Docklands

Pictured: September 7, 1940. Two Luftwaffe Dornier 217 twin-engined medium bombers flying over the Silvertown area of London’s Docklands

‘During the Blitz the government did not predict that the majority of people would prefer to shelter in their own homes rather than the safer external underground ‘deep shelters’ that had been provided,’ the research said.

This forced the wartime Government to adapt its air raid shelter policy and provide steel cages for people to use at home as an alternative to large communal shelters.

The study said: ‘A similar reluctance to leave home has been observed after the easing of the current lockdown which has been described as a form of ‘deep-shelter mentality.’

‘As such it is likely that provision must be made for people to continue to work from home and base much of their everyday life here in the long term.’

During both the Blitz and coronavirus, people experienced a 'deep psychological sense of being protected at home', researchers said. Pictured: November 1940. People sleeping on the crowded platform of Elephant and Castle tube station while taking shelter from German air raids during the London Blitz

During both the Blitz and coronavirus, people experienced a ‘deep psychological sense of being protected at home’, researchers said. Pictured: November 1940. People sleeping on the crowded platform of Elephant and Castle tube station while taking shelter from German air raids during the London Blitz

Pictured: October 15, 1940. A number 88 bus lies in a large crater in the road in Balham, London, the morning after a German air raid during the Battle of Britain. A bomb exploded on Balham High Street, destroying part of the tube station underneath

Pictured: October 15, 1940. A number 88 bus lies in a large crater in the road in Balham, London, the morning after a German air raid during the Battle of Britain. A bomb exploded on Balham High Street, destroying part of the tube station underneath

COVID-19 HAS KILLED MORE THAN THE BLITZ

The Covid-19 outbreak killed more British people than the Blitz air raids did in the Second World War, data suggests.

Figures published by England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland show the number of patients who have died from coronavirus is 57,000. This toll includes confirmed and suspected deaths.

But the government’s official death toll stands at 41,000. It includes victims who have succumbed to the illness within 28 days of testing positive. 

The Blitz, a seven-month bombing campaign waged against Britain by Nazi Germany in 1940 and 1941 killed around 40,000 people, according to Parliament UK. 

Most of the raids took place in London after beginning with ‘Black Saturday’ on September 7, 1940, when the Luftwaffe attacked the London Docklands.

They would go on to bomb the capital city day and night for months, switching to night-only operations in October.

While the air raids mainly targeted London, where they wreaked havoc and killed thousands, they were carried out across the UK, with devastating attacks aimed at Bristol, Birmingham, Coventry, Bath, Cardiff, Clydebank, Liverpool, Manchester, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea and Swindon before the campaign came to an end in May 1941, seven months after it had began.

Between September 7, 1940, and May 21, 1941, more than 20,000 tonnes of explosives were dropped on British cities.

London was attacked 71 times and bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million houses were destroyed or damaged in the city and, of those who were killed in the bombing campaign, more than half of them were from London.

Adolf Hitler had intended to demoralise Britain before launching an invasion using his naval and ground forces, but the Blitz came to an end towards the end of May 1941, when Hitler set his sights on invading the Soviet Union instead.

Similarly, messages of shared sacrifice emphasising that ‘we’re all in this together’ were successful in persuading people to follow protective measures both during the war and the pandemic.

The study compared the blackout during World War Two – which required everyone to remove any sources of light that could attract enemy bombers – with the ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives’ message.

Lead author Professor Edgar Jones said: ‘It’s crucial to get people to buy into protecting the community and not just themselves.

‘Interestingly in the early days of lockdown politicians likened the spirit behind the ‘protect the NHS and save lives’ campaign to that of the Blitz. This study has shown there are a number of other informative parallels that can be drawn from the two situations.’

The researchers also found that in the pre-war and pre-lockdown periods, despite the emerging threat, anxiety initially decreased as Britons were slow to learn from events unfolding abroad.

For example, in 1939 even after war had been declared, surveys show the majority of people were still not initially taking air-raid precautions.

They compared this to large public events such as the Cheltenham Races going ahead in March.

Professor Jones said: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has significant parallels with previous threats to the public, particularly the Blitz of WW2.

‘Lessons can be learnt from how people responded both to the Blitz itself and to the protective measures and public messaging that were issued by the government at the time.

‘In both the current pandemic and the Blitz people often acted ahead of the government measures or recommendations.’

The study analysed documents from five departments of government for the period of 1938 to 1945. They compared these and documents released by Government’s scientific advisory groups during the current pandemic.

It compared the threat a second wave of infection and the arrival of the V1 and V2 rockets during the summer of 1944.

The study said: ‘In WW2 people had already experienced a major assault but they were then expected to prepare for another. In the case of the V1 rockets the government did not release information on the nature of the rockets, creating a vacuum that was filled with fear and apprehension.

‘When they did publish information and publicised protection measures, adaptation by the people followed quickly as many had already developed a form of coping strategy in the previous air raids.

‘This highlights the importance of transparency and clarity in communication of risk and threat if a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic does occur.’ 

The Blitz, a seven-month bombing campaign waged against Britain by Nazi Germany in 1940 and 1941 killed around 40,000 people, according to Parliament UK. 

Most of the raids took place in London after beginning with ‘Black Saturday’ on September 7, 1940, when the Luftwaffe attacked the London Docklands.

They would go on to bomb the capital city day and night for months, switching to night-only operations in October.

While the air raids mainly targeted London, where they wreaked havoc and killed thousands, they were carried out across the UK, with devastating attacks aimed at Bristol, Birmingham, Coventry, Bath, Cardiff, Clydebank, Liverpool, Manchester, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea and Swindon before the campaign came to an end in May 1941, seven months after it had began.

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