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Coventry and reconciliation

There are links within the site to the Herbert Art gallery and museum and to the International Cross of Nails schools. More generally there are extensive resources about reconciliation on the International Cities of Peace site at . International Cities of Peace is an association which helps to connect and encourage citizens to bring peace to their communities. Contained within it is a supportive but by no means uncritical paper on Coventry as a city of peace by Carol Rank (2005).

The experience of war is a key theme in reconciliation. Two widely read books on the experience of war (1939 - 1945) for ordinary people in Britain are Calder (1969) and Mackay (2003). Neither deals at length with Coventry but it is easy to see Coventry's experiences as part of a wider picture. Both books draw on accounts within the Mass Observation archive - these were diaries produced by the general public on their everyday life in Britain. The first phase of papers covers 1937 to early 1950s.

The Reverend Richard Howard, Provost of Coventry Cathedral, was a key figure in twinning. In particular he promoted friendship links with Germany after the war. He was present at the destruction of Coventry Cathedral and saved what church artefacts he could. He wrote often about forgiveness and the importance of rebuilding of the cathedral in Coventry (Howard, 1962). As he put it the morning after the blitz:

'there flashed into my mind the deep certainty that as the Cathedral had been crucified with Christ, so it would rise again with Him. How or when, we could not tell; nor did it matter. The Cathedral would rise again.' (Howard, 1962:16).

After the war Harry Weston (1896-1989), a local Industrialist and Coventry city councillor became Lord Mayor in 1951. Although the Labour party has mostly been the largest party on Coventry council the role of Lord mayor tends to rotate between parties. As Lord Mayor Harry tells of meeting the Yugoslavian ambassador in London at a reception after which Marshall Tito as president of (as then was) Yugoslavia donated £12,000 worth of timber (about £400,000 today). This was used in the building of the Belgrade Theatre, Corporation Street. He described how he felt it would be fitting to respond by donating a locally made motor car, a Humber Pullman. He and a small party duly arrived in Belgrade with the car and the reception was very warm from all they met. However, he was later to find:

The motor car was received with great delight in Yugoslavia but the day of reckoning was soon to come. Although various organisations had offered to pay for the car outright they just did not want to know when I wrote to them again for a contribution so that it could be a gift from all section of the community. (Osborne, 1994: 78)

He ended up meeting paying for half the cost of the car himself.


Calder, A. (1969) The People's War, London: Jonathan Cape.

Howard, R. (2019, first published 1962) Ruined and Rebuilt: The Story of Coventry Cathedral 1939-1960, Coventry Cathedral: Coventry Lord Mayor's Committee for Peace and Reconciliation.

Mackay, R. ( 2003) Half the Battle: Civilian morale in Britain during the Second World War, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Osborne, P. (1994) Harry Weston Man of Coventry, Coventry: Osborne Press

Rank, C. (2005) 'Remembrance and Reconciliation: Public Spaces, Collective Memory, and the Development of a Municipal Peace Identity in Coventry, U.K.' [online]