Helen Frost

Department: History
Discipline: History

Project Summary

The British Bombing Offensive: Media Representation and Public Perception, 1939-1945

Of all the wartime services RAF Bomber Command is best known for being a publicity conscious organisation and one which dominated wartime propaganda. But what has yet to be explored is how the British people perceived the publicity they were being fed. There is no comprehensive study into wartime public perceptions of Bomber Command and the operations that they undertook. My research project will fill that void.

The British strategic bombing campaign against Germany between May 1940 and April 1945 has featured prominently in the British consciousness since the end of the war in Europe. But what has yet to be explored is how the British people felt about the bombing of Germany during the war itself. In recent decades a great deal of moral anguish has been expended on the bombing campaigns but what has not been considered is how much anguish was experienced by British civilians at the time. There must also be consideration of how far the views of the British public were shaped by what was communicated to them by the press and other media channels during the war.

Much of the early phase of my research will focus on the release of information from the British Ministry of Information and the RAF Directorate of Public Relations concerning RAF Bomber Command. This will be followed by an investigation into how various media outlets in Britain portrayed the campaigns, most notably the national press and the BBC. This will be concluded with why they represented the operations in such a way and how public perceptions of RAF Bomber Command were shaped by what they saw, heard and read.

My project will primarily draw on sources at the National Archives, London, The Newspaper Archive run by the British Library and items held by The Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex.


Supervisory Team

Supervisor: Professor Richard Overy.

Second Supervisor: Dr David Thackeray.

Wider Research Interests

My wider research interests include:

  • Twentieth century social history, most notably the implications of conflict and warfare on societies.
  • Propaganda and media coverage of conflict during the twentieth century.