What Did We Do To Germany During The Second World War? A British Perspective On The Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign 1940-45

  • Joseph F. Ryan Private Clinical Practice
  • Christopher J. Hewer Kingston University
Keywords: history, social memory, Germany, strategic bombing


The Allied strategic bombing of Germany during World War II was a significant event in the history of Europe. Social representations of this event were investigated at the level of individual knowledge. To establish an index of British collective memory for this event, 169 adults (aged 18–87 years), divided into three generational groups, completed a questionnaire. The findings showed a disparity between subjective knowledge and historical actuality across all three age groups. A decline in understanding across time also suggests that a large degree of social, cultural and institutional forgetting has taken place since 1945 leading to misapprehension and widespread inability to comprehend the scale, intensity and destructiveness of the campaign. Social representations of the Allied bombing of Germany continue to endorse a British narrative that is unable to articulate with any accuracy the effects of the campaign on German civilians or British airmen. Representations of this historical event appear to be shifting in ways that may eventually lead to an unintended state of denial in the future, i.e. that the human consequences of the campaign were rather limited.

Author Biographies

Joseph F. Ryan, Private Clinical Practice

JOSEPH F. RYAN is a military historian and former British soldier. He is currently working as a counsellor in private clinical practice in London.

Christopher J. Hewer, Kingston University

CHRISTOPHER J. HEWER is Senior Lecturer in Social and Political Psychology at Kingston University. His research interests focus on the relationship between social memory and identity.