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Secret Casualties of World War Two (Paperback)

Uncovering the Civilian Deaths from Friendly Fire

Military P&S History WWII > The Blitz

By Simon Webb
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 20
ISBN: 9781399021234
Published: 14th March 2024




Author guest post on the Pen and Sword Blog

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The London Blitz and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor are iconic myths for Britain and America. Few in either nation realise, however, that these artfully constructed narratives of heroic resistance to aerial bombardment both conceal appalling massacres of their own citizens. In Britain, thousands of civilians were killed when the army shelled London and other cities in an effort to prevent those living there from fleeing the German bombs. At Pearl Harbor, American warships fired their heavy guns at the city of Honolulu, with devastating results.

In this book, Simon Webb reveals one of the last secrets of the Second World War; the casualties which ‘friendly fire’ from heavy artillery inflicted upon British and American civilians. In the case of the British, these deaths were part of a quite deliberate policy which was devised to ensure that those living in big cities remained there, despite the dangers of enemy bombing. There were times during the German bombing of London when more people were being killed by British shells than were dying as a result of enemy bombs.

Although this book traces the history of bombing and anti-aircraft guns from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, through to the First World War, its chief concern is with the events of the Second World War; particularly the Blitz. Nobody reading this book will ever view Pearl Harbor or the Blitz in quite the same way again.

Review by Edward James

... this is an interesting book about an aspect of the war which is seldom discussed.

Historical Novel Society website

Secret Casualties of World War Two by Simon Webb* – Uncovering the Civilian Deaths from Friendly Fire is a fascinating book, so worth reading. Webb gives quotes from primary sources, including some newspapers articles. He examines bomb-shelters and the Anti-Aircraft guns used at the time. The book is primarily about UK, but there are two chapters, one about US and another one about France.

Read the full review here

Coffee and Books

I enjoyed this book and it was a very different way of taking stock and reviewing what was going on during the period of the Second World War.

As you can imagine when you read a lot of the history books the focus is on the Nazi blitzes and the air strikes and less so of the focus on the civilians that were killed in what we term now to be almost “friendly fire” incidents.

The facts and figures are actually quite harrowing and with hindsight now it does make we wonder if it was all worth it yet at the time it would have been seen that we were out defending our country. I thought that it was well written and I liked the way the book was split in to the different sections too to make it easier to follow.

It is 4 stars from me for this one, a different way of looking at the casualties of war and one that gives food for thought.

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

The book is much more than this and I recommend you to read it, because it will open up new reflections on the myth of the Blitz as it has been conveniently told, but the analyzes of the bombings on France, or the response of the anti-aircraft and the massacre of civilians in Pearl Harbor are also interesting.

Sometimes the term "hidden in full view" is used, and nothing else comes to my mind to describe to the reader the book I have told you about today and its often conveniently overlooked historical truths, and the merit of placing the spotlight on such a tragic page of the Second World War is due to Simon Webb.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

Simon Webb's extraordinary book uncovers terrifying tales of slaughter by so called "friendly fire" - I'm not sure how to take this, as fact or as opinion based on something rather dark and dreadful. Could these events actually have happened? Simon Webb seems utterly convinced. You need to read this book for yourselves.

Books Monthly

A pretty decent look at how civilians were affected by the war and how they got hurt as well. Good for those who want to look at that aspect of the war.

NetGalley, Alexandra Roth

'Book reveals secrets of World War II'

Epping Forest Guardian and Your Local Guardian (East London and West Essex), 13th February 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Secret Casualties of World War Two by Simon Webb is a real eye-opener. Like most others I suspect I'd always taken the commonly understood story of the Blitz as gospel. As Simon Webb shows us an incredible number of people were killed not by German bombs but by our own air defences with unsuitable anti-aircraft guns raining death from the skies on a regular basis . Just as incredible is Webb's suggestion that those in power were quite happy with the situation for quite cynical and shocking reasons. While this mind sound like some kind of wacky conspiracy theory the author backs up his assertions with contemporary eye-witness and newspaper reports on the shocking casualty rates inflicted by those supposedly protecting the populace from enemy bombers.
Just as the reader has got their head around that he then tells us of the mind-blowing attack on Honolulu by Americans thinking they were defending Pearl Harbour on the day of the infamous attack.
An excellent book and an important one as it shows the difference between myth and reality on various occasions when the victors certainly got to write the history..

NetGalley,Dave Blendell

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Bookseller 8/11/19

This is a fascinating insight into the effectiveness of Anti-Aircraft defences primarily during WW2 and describes how the moral effect of banging thousands of shells into the air with little hope of hitting anything outweighed the resulting casualties from that same ordnance returning to earth. Indeed, the suggestion is that anti-aircraft fire caused more casualties than enemy bombs and this was expected. A well written and most informative book that opens up several veins of thought.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy
 Simon Webb

About Simon Webb

Simon Webb is the author of a number of non-fiction books, ranging from academic works on education to popular history. He works as a consultant on the subject of capital punishment to television companies and filmmakers and also writes for various magazines and newspapers; including the Times Educational SupplementThe Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

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