Advance Knowledge About the Raid
"In 1940, the German Air Force bombed Coventry, England, demolishing the City and causing atrocious civilian casualties. Yet the British could have saved the city. They had advance warning of the German air strike."
F. W. Winterbotham The Ultra Secret1
In recent years there has been considerable controversy regarding the German Air Force's raid on Coventry in 1940. Three authors in particular, William Stevenson in A Man Called Intrepid, 2 Anthony Cave Brown in A Bodyguard of Lies, 3 and F. W. Winterbotham in The Ultra Secret, 4 have been instrumental in advancing the theory that the British, by breaking the German Enigma code through their Ultra operation, had advance knowledge of the Coventry raid. They contend that Churchill made the decision not to divulge this information to the city so that the Germans would not be alerted to the fact that their code had been broken. This chapter seeks to show that the British actually had limited advance information about the bombing and that the widely accepted theory that they withheld knowledge about the coming raid is largely inaccurate.
During World War II, Group Captain F. W. Winterbotham served as Director of Plans in the Air Staff for the RAF. In his book, The Ultra Secret, Winterbotham makes four basic points that need to be considered when trying to understand the Coventry bombing story. 5
1. At about 3 p.m. on November 14, the British discovered, through their Ultra intercepts, that Conventry was to be bombed.