This Week In History

August 28, 1940

Colin Perry was an eighteen-year old office worker in London during the summer of 1940. After the fall of France that June, Great Britain stood alone in military resistance to the onslaught of Nazi Germany. In order to prepare for an invasion of the British Isles, Germany began a massive bombing campaign. This became known as the Battle of Britain. Colin Perry was a witness to these events. He hoped to become a writer and began to keep a diary of his observations. He frequently ignored air-raid warnings to ride his bicycle to areas that had been hit so that he could record the news in his journal. At first, Colin seemed to relish the adventure of facing danger, but eventually his attitude began to change. As he witnessed the suffering that descended on the people of his country, he realized the true horror of war.

On August 28, 1940, Colin wrote about one of the effects of a bombing campaign that is not commonly recognized – sleep deprivation. He began his entry that day by observing, “I cannot say how tired I am. I have never known how much sleep means. Since the early hour of Friday morning the Nazi bombers have been over continuously, in consequence we have had warning after warning. …during the last few nights single German raiders have been systematically crossing the metropolitan area. These lone raiders have occasionally dropped bombs, deliberately on the suburban districts, with the result that now every time a raider is reported the sirens have to be sounded. It is obvious that these raiders are only sent to affect our nerves, and try to shake our morale. … It is these that are responsible for keeping all Londoners awake and in their shelters for hours every night.”

Colin recognized that the war included more than just military action. He could see that psychological warfare was also part of the German strategy. The Nazis hoped to use fear and exhaustion to break the will of their enemies to resist, but their strategy failed. The bombing campaign did not meet its objectives and the invasion of Britain was postponed indefinitely. In fact, it never came.

You may learn more about the Battle of Britain here.

Colin Perry’s diary was eventually published as a book entitled, A Boy in the Blitz. You may read reviews of the book here.

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