How has the Second World War been remembered and commemorated in Britain?
The Second World War continues to repeat in Britain’s imaginativeness more than fifty old ages after the last shootings were fired ; it seems that nil can excel the memory of the ‘just war’ . The British have commemorated and aggrandized the Second World War as ‘a period of undeniable accomplishment and unambiguous moral purpose’ [ 1 ] . It appears that these memorializations of the war have permeated many facets of British society, it has infested linguistic communication, memory and myth altering the national self-image by adding courage, energy, and the thought of ‘heroes’ to what it means to be British. But to what extent is the memorial model environing such a important event genuinely representative? When carry oning a survey such as this, excessively frequently do we see a ‘facile manner of making cultural history’ [ 2 ] , of picking a large historical event and analyzing it in footings of ‘collective memory’ . While these histories provide themselves to be highly utile and interesting, I hope to marry my findings of Britain’s cultural memory with an thought of self-image and designation and how this image was perceived by the universe. This will enable an foreigner position every bit good as a self-perspective on the events of the Second World War, as remembered by Britain’s cultural memory.
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Particularly interesting in this survey of Britain’s Second World War recollection and memorialization is the usage and popularity of film at the clip. I want to concentrate peculiarly on the significance and influence of film during this period. How it helped to raise the Second World War to iconic position, transfusing feelings of pride and assisting to alter and put cultural memory.
In order to understand the cultural memory around the Second World War we must seek to specify memory, and what is meant by the term cultural memory. Memory, with respects to past events, has come to be understood as historical representations that have specific apprehensions and significances. Memory is cardinal in analyzing the relationship between experience and representation, and can be studied though ‘vehicles of memory such as ; books, movies, museums, memorializations and others’ [ 3 ] . Cultural memory incorporates this thought with generational and cultural factors. For this survey, in order to measure up as ‘cultural memory’ the apprehension of an event in a peculiar manner should be shared and passed to consecutive coevalss. The Second World War provides a good illustration of cultural memory for its recollection and memorialization ‘requires no immediate experience of those years’ [ 4 ] . This period besides represents a greater sense of British corporate individuality so has been evoked by any clip since. However, this individuality and apprehension of the events environing the Second World War are subjective to ‘who wants whom to retrieve what, and why’ [ 5 ] and it is the extent to which this memory has been influenced and has deviated from physical events that we are interested in. It is frequently debated that history is every bit much myth as it is fact, and that these myths develop to narrate a plot line that serves of involvement to a peculiar state.
This thought of event versus narrative, or world versus myth, is of import to any survey of memory. The true physicality’s of what happened are frequently morphed into a more appealing version of events in order to populate up to the good side of a states self-image. However it is of import to observe that world and myth are non reciprocally sole. History becomes myth normally as a consequence of promoting and rising the importance of certain inside informations so that they become the ‘essence of, instead than portion of, the historical narrative’ [ 6 ] . Some events or memories from the clip hence seem so awkward and out of character for a state that they are removed or left out of cultural memory. As a consequence of these factors and procedures, the Second World War has ‘entered British cultural memory as a narration of popular democratic accomplishment’ [ 7 ] and heroic demeanor.
However, other factors besides play into what is chosen to last in cultural memory. For illustration, Sigmund Freud referred to the disenchantment that is created as a consequence of ‘a battalion of coincident deaths’ [ 8 ] . This can assist us to understand the manipulated congruency of decease rates and mourning in memory. The war cost Britain around 355,000 dead of which around 60,595 were civilians. By comparing Germany lost around seven million of which around half were civilians. Relative to population size Britain had a low decease rate compared to other states [ 9 ] . Why so, is Britain’s cultural memory set on the ferociousness and decease ridden plot line of the Second World War when we fared less harshly than many others. Freud would reason that it is the ‘part coarsening and jubilation with respect to enemy deceases ; portion bereavement and apprehensiveness of losingss that come near to home’ [ 10 ] that leads to this unproportioned and overdone memory. Therefore psychological, alongside political and popular factors can impact and pull strings what survives in cultural memory.
Cinema is affected by all three of these factors ; psychologically cinema can appeal to and impact senses and emotion amongst the population, the movies shown during the period frequently had political messages and those war movies that were most popular frequently relate to and impact cultural memory more than others. It Is hence imperative to seek and analyze to what extent film offered a true representation, how these representations impacted on cultural memory and merely how influential this medium was to Britain’s self-image.
Cinema was a great discovery particularly around the topic of the Second World War. It offered another dimension to wartime amusement and popular apprehension. Now, non merely could Brits hear about the war, they could see it from the position of soldiers on the front line and happen themselves in amongst advisers during Churchill’s unequivocal minutes. Movies offered great insight onto the battleground and many would flock to screenings to acquire a glance at what was truly traveling on outside Britain. But these movies were chiefly fictional and many added images to the cultural memory that were capable to poetic licence and merely mistily based on fact. As a consequence many movies followed the same templet ; ‘Churchill was the hero ; Hitler the scoundrel [ … ] and every RAF pilot should hold looked like David Niven’ [ 11 ] . These movies sold as a consequence of their amusement value and as such cardinal subjects were exaggerated ; gallantry, glorification, defense mechanism and triumph. Cinema offered a representation of the Second World War that was filled with popular stereotypes and which left out many of the dark events that may hold shown Britain in bad visible radiation. Tony Aldgate wrote that ‘it is a truism that movie is non some unadultered contemplation of historical truth captured dependably by camera’ [ 12 ] .
It appears that Britain had a endowment for propaganda during the Second World War, one that was noticed and commented on even by its enemies. The British Government was influential in film and this is frequently non to the full appreciated by modern-day historiographers. In fact, the control over film and other media mercantile establishments during the Second World War was about entire. This control helped to determine the values and attitudes that make up our cultural history. Joseph Goebbels and Adolph Hitler were both complimentary and admirational to the success with which the British Government had manipulated the media. Hitler’s autobiographical pronunciamento ‘Mein Kampf’consisted of two chapters which were devoted to praising the consequence and influence of the British Government in media. [ 13 ] This may so explicate certain cultural memory subjects such as the soldiers who died ‘in the war’ . Cinema showed the valorous deceases of our soldiers – our war heroes – but small attending was of all time paid to the deceases of the enemy or the unfair deceases of ‘our own’ . Soldiers take parting in the Second World War, regardless of which state they were contending for, died by ‘gassing ; they starved or stop dead to decease ; they contracted typhus ; or diarrhoea, life seeping off with bodily fluid ; they were burned or suffocated in “routine” and in countries of incendiary bombings’ [ 14 ] . However, these events did non suit with the thought of ‘just war’ , nor did the mass bombardment of German civilians by Britain compliment the heroic position that we had given ourselves. As a consequence, these events were easy left out of movie and media in order to maintain following our ain favorably representative British wartime attempts and easy we saw these events disappear from our cultural memory.
The cinematic historiography that surrounds the Second World War frequently became thought of as stating ‘more about the post-war period than it did about the war itself’ [ 15 ] . More than 100 movies were released in the 20 five old ages following 1945, all of which busying narrations of the Second World War, of these huge sum of movies around half of them came to be top box office successes harmonizing to national studies [ 16 ] . These movies had existent universe deductions, all over the state kids could be seen re-enacting the conflicts of the Second World War in resort areas as they had seen on screen, while ‘growing Numberss of German tourers sat horrified in British hotel suites mesmerised by our continued war consciousness’ [ 17 ] . Many Brits had gained their position on the War clip from these movies ; it was these mediums which allowed persons to develop their sense of responsibility and triumph and allowed them to warrant their agony. After all, this was the ‘People’s War, the first in which enfranchised work forces and adult females could assist to find the concluding outcome’ [ 18 ] .
Merely how much of an influence Cinema had to the devising of the Second World War’s cultural memory we can non be certain, but we can be certain that it was a important factor in Britain. Cinema holds an extraordinary power to ‘fix cultural memory, sometimes deceivingly, and to widen it beyond the original witness’ [ 19 ] . Cinema is besides fluid in that it permeates generational boundaries, turn outing to be a critical medium through which those born out of the war coevals can derive ‘substance to the unwritten history on which they were weaned’ [ 20 ] . Cinema provided entree to the history of the Second World War which they themselves could ne’er trust to see. Jeremy Havardi describes the memorable and celebrated histrions and movies as “Englishness personified, a microism of the national character on celluloid” [ 21 ] . This medium of national character was shared by 1000000s of the population, it is estimated that during the post-war old ages around 80 % of Britain’s population attended cinema screenings, these screenings being overrun with movies about the war. However non all media and movie can be accredited to fiction, during the Second World War some lensmans and film makers accompanied the British forces, capturing powerful images that showed the truisms of war, though this type of film were unluckily seen far less often.
Cinema is non, nevertheless, the most important symbol of our cultural memory. Remembrance and memorialization of the Second World War are far more on show through the physical symbols that flourish in Britain. Possibly one of the most important symbols from the cultural wartime memory is the poppy. ‘Remembrance is an art of modern British life, civilization and heritage’ [ 22 ] and a immense portion of this recollection is symbolised by a individual ruddy poppy. The poppy has come to be a symbol for those who fought and died in the two World Wars, stand foring the ‘immeasurable sacrifice’ [ 23 ] of our soldiers and solidifying their topographic point as ‘war heroes’ . The consensus of cultural memory environing the Second World war confirms the stereotype of the hero soldier, as we remember and seek to portray the decease of our soldiers as meaningful, despite the senseless and unfair deceases that occurred during the Second World War. It appears that “nowhere do we see more British passion raised than when the unity of our war heroes is questioned” [ 24 ] .An illustration of this can be accredited to May Day in 2000 where the statue of Winston Churchill at Westminster was defaced ensuing in a immense populace and political call. Popular representations have become so commonplace in our cultural memory that they excessively are commemorated. By 1995, during the 50th day of remembrance of the Second World War, the popular cultural representations every bit good as the events of the war were being celebrated. The line between the facts of the event and its narration was going progressively blurred with clip.
How so, has this cultural history come to determine how we Brits perceive ourselves? Britain seems to hold an obsession-like position with the Second World War, one which is infested with fondness and dignity. This version of events which thrives in our cultural memory is mostly a consensus myth. Our cultural memory was born out of a narrative created during the war old ages and embellished of all time since, promoting and advancing a ‘selection of events because they fit a preset national narrative’ [ 25 ] . Britain’s cultural memory seems to be a instance of what we have chosen to retrieve, or possibly bury, as opposed to a true representation of the events in their modern-day context. What’s more, those events which we are forced to retrieve – such as the mass bombardments of civilian Germans- are deflected from the British self-image as being deemed distinctively un-British. Our national individuality has been constructed from cherry-picking those features deemed favorable and disregarding those that were non during the war period.
However, the outside universe is non so easy won over by our favorable narrative. Michael Naumann, the German Culture curate stated that Britain had made the Second World War narrative ‘its national ego, understanding and pride’ [ 26 ] . While movie critic William Whitebait ( in theNew Statesmen )claimed that ‘a twelve old ages after World War II we find ourselves in the truly quite despairing state of affairs of being non ill of war, but horridly in love with it’ [ 27 ] . In other states, such as the US, the Second World War had ceased to bethewar, as other of import events came into drama, while Britain has clung to its wartime function. Possibly the most revealing about our self-image and its isolation through the comparing of recollection and memorialization between Britain and the British Empire. The British Empire, or what was the British Empire, found it hard to associate to the glorification of the Second World War. This was particularly true of the younger coevalss who found it difficult to ‘conceive of a clip when the Empire went to war as one under British military command’ [ 28 ] . Though they fought with us and beside us in the same physical events, their cultural memory of what happened during the Second World War varies widely from ours. With respect to cinema, it seems that this medium –though influential in both Britain and the wider universe – is perceived otherwise. To Brits, our wartime movies remind us of the triumph and gallantry of Britain’s wartime attempts. To the wider universe, these movies show the Ag liner we have placed around wartime, underscoring what we like to believe is ‘britishness’ . It seems that “as long as movies about the war reflect altering cultural tendencies in this state, they will go on to specify what it means to be British for the wider world” [ 29 ] . Our cultural memory of the Second World War has been restaged, representations have been edited for the states benefit and ‘history was erased in the really act of its recuperation’ [ 30 ] . However, despite the use of our Wartime memory, we can at least be certain that Britain has non forgotten the war. We could –perhaps – travel every bit far to state that Britain has successfully added war-obsession to what it means to be British for the outside universe.
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