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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 08:30 GMT
Coventry Blitz theory played out
Winston Churchill in 1942
The theory suggests Churchill left Coventry to its fate
A play being staged in Coventry will feature a conspiracy theory that Winston Churchill knew the city was a target for the Blitz and sacrificed it.

One Night in November, opening at the Belgrade Theatre on Saturday, takes people back to 14 November 1940.

The theory claims Churchill chose to sacrifice the city to keep Britain's decoding of Enigma secret.

The Allies were able to decrypt many messages which were sent on the German model of the Enigma machine.

Playwright Alan Pollock said: "I think there is a lingering sense of bitterness.

'Spirit reasserted itself'

"I think if the intended target had been Oxford or Cambridge or say the centre of London, I think the decision would have been a different one.

"So I think Coventry people felt absolutely abandoned and I think morale collapsed the next day.

Playwright Alan Pollock
Playwright Alan Pollock said local people felt abandoned

"It was only on the Saturday, two days after the raid, that the famous Blitz spirit reasserted itself."

The theory first gained credence in the late 1970s with the publishing of several books about the cracking of the enigma code.

It was mentioned by former World War II intelligence officer F.W. Winterbottom in his book The Ultra Secret.

In it, he recalled how he passed on to Churchill intelligence that Coventry would be the target of the bombing raid a few hours before it took place.

But his account has been questioned since by several historians.

For instance, the diary of Sir John Colville, Churchill's close friend, documents how the prime minister returned suddenly to Downing Street, expecting a raid to be on London.

He advised two young colleagues to go to the deep air raid shelter before going up to the roof of the Air Ministry himself to watch the raiders arrive.

Some historians say those were not the actions of a prime minister expecting a strike on Coventry.



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