National Press

National newspapers – mostly published in London – had grown in importance during the twentieth century and sold between 12 and 15 million copies a day during the Second World War (O’Malley, 2017, p. 513). They mostly adopted a patriotic stance during the war, with ‘many official and semi-official words and images being devoted to sustaining civilian morale’ (Mackay, 2002, p.141).

Article about air raids taken from a national paper

An advert for an Air Raid Distress fund in The Times

News report on the Battle of the Moonlight

The ‘Battle of the Moonlight’ article (Source: Daily Mail)

Battle in the moonlight

This can be seen in reports about Leeds. The raid was only briefly mentioned in The Times, which repeated the government’ official notice but focused on news that two bombers had been shot down that night – with 13 shot down the night before (The Times, ‘Air Defences Keep It Up’, 15 March 1941, p. 4).

At a town in NE England several fires were started, but these were soon brought under control

How the raid was reported in The Times.

Interestingly, the same paper carried an advert for a National Air Raid Distress Fund that said ‘it’s a wretched feeling to hear or read that some place where you have relations … has been bombed – and (for good reasons) no details are available’ (The Times, ‘Air Raids’, 15 March 1941, p. 6).

Other national newspapers took a similar approach. The Daily Mail also focused on good news, reporting that three bombers had been shot down (Daily Mail, ‘Battle of Moonlight’, 15 March 1941, p. 1). Its front page even included a tally of the German aircraft shot down since the start of the year. This contrasted with a twelve word notice that there had been a ‘Heavy Raid on NE Towns’ (Daily Mail, ‘Heavy Raid on NE Towns’, 15 March 1941, p. 1).

Boosting morale and confounding the enemy

According to the government’s Home Intelligence Division, civilian morale was influence by material and mental factors. The first entailed the basics of food, warmth and security, but the latter included factors like a ‘belief that victory was possible … belief in the integrity and efficiency of the leadership and belief that the war was necessary and just’ (Mackay, 2002, p. 141)

These newspaper reports show how newspapers attempted to boost morale by focusing on the latter. Anyone reading the Daily Mail would read its positive account of the night’s raid alongside articles highlighting Nazi atrocities – in this case, articles explaining that they had introduced the most ‘severe measures’ onto the Polish people. All of this helped to create a narrative for the necessity of the war.

Our main takeaway from the national press is that very little was written about the Leeds raid. The papers were instead concerned with maintaining the morale of the people.