Coventry: November 14, 1940

Written by Frederick Taylor

Now a thriving city in the English midlands, Coventry has a tragic—and tragically misunderstood—history. In 1940, a prolonged, systematic, and indiscriminate bombing raid by the German Luftwaffe devastated the virtually undefended city. Even the centuries-old cathedral, clearly identifiable from the air, was left in ruins.

Taylor tells the story of those who endured the harrowing 11 hour-raid and of the anger over the German decision to attack civilian as well as military targets. Public outcry was immediate and widespread, which probably hastened the United States’ decision to enter the war on the Allied side. In retrospect, it seems clear that the Nazi strategy exposed at Coventry set an unholy precedent for all-out war.

Misunderstandings arose, however, when records revealed that the British government knew of the attack in advance, yet neither took action nor warned the city. Was this to avoid revealing their new code-breaking ability? No, Taylor argues convincingly, the information came from ‘traditional sources’, i.e. spies—too late to aid the city in the bullseye.

Coventry is highly recommended for anyone interested in World War II history.