One of the most enduring British myths about the Second World War consists of something called the ‘Coventry Dilemma.’
Put simply, by late 1940, the British had cracked the Nazis codes and realized that a massive raid was about to hit the city of Coventry with potentially devastating results. Churchill had the time to evacuate the city- saving thousands of lives, but at the cost of the Nazis learning that we had broken their codes and developing a new, stronger form of encryption which could have cost hundreds of thousands of lives in years to come.
Bear in mind, Coventry was a town with no military or strategic value – it simply held lots of factories and ordinary people. 507 of whom lost their lives with another 420 being severely injured. However, as a result of keeping our cracking of the Enigma codes secure, the war ended several years earlier and with millions of deaths less than it might have done.
Whilst there is no proof of this, (all evidence points to Churchill believing that the attack was headed for London.) it has proved a fertile idea for scriptwriters to mine over the years. From legendary TV series such as 24 to films such as the upcoming Eye in the Sky the question remains a prescient one. Would you sacrifice 5 innocent lives if it meant potentially saving 50 at some point in the future?