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  • Luftwaffe Kills A Rabbit, Perhaps December 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    Little Miss B in seventh heaven last night and this morning as the family has been gifted a small black rabbit. This black rabbit is not destined to have the happiest of lives as LMB insists on watching Disney cartoons with it. Beachcombing, in any case, fell asleep with rabbits and woke up thinking of them, but could only come up with one really good rabbit story from history – readers are welcome to contribute others: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    The story he refers to are, of course, the famous two rabbits killed on Shetlands November 13, 1939, the first British Luftwaffe casualties of the Second World War. The first human casualty would have to wait till April 1940, though there after they would come with depressing frequency till by the end of hostilities 60,000 plus had been killed by bombs, crashing planes, rockets and strafing machine gun fire.

    Anyway, back to the rabbits. A Heinkle bomber had gone in to hit some flying boats near Sullom Voe. The bomber missed but left one impressive looking bomb crater and in this bomb crater the locals found two rabbits. (See the photograph above).

    Uncharitable souls have suggested that these rabbits were planted to underline the moronic incompetence of the Luftwaffe. If so it was a good public relations trick and the rabbits do look suspiciously well preserved, particularly if they were, as the photographs suggest, pulled out of the crater itself.

    Of course, the Luftwaffe would answer any charges of incompetence through all too competent action (upon action) in the months ahead.

    At this point the rabbit casualties meshed with a song that had been first aired in public in mid October of 1939: Run Rabbit, Run  Rabbit Run, Run. Well worth listening to in the original. Its lyrics, indeed, became the unofficial anthem of Britain in the phoney war: bonhomie and absurdly misplaced self-confidence.

    Run rabbit –  run rabbit –  Run! Run! Run!
    Run rabbit –  run rabbit –  Run! Run! Run!
    So run rabbit – run rabbit –  Run! Run! Run!

    Run rabbit –  run rabbit –  Run! Run! Run!
    Don’t give the farmer his fun! Fun! Fun!
    He’ll get by without his rabbit pie
    So run rabbit –  run rabbit – Run! Run! Run!

    Take this short description of the life of an evacuee: After our meal, we go to listen to the news from London. I’m allowed to listen to children’s hour, and shortly after that, I’m put to bed. There are plays, music recitals, and comedy shows. There’s Tommy Handley in the ITMA show with all the funny catch phrases. There’s Mona Lott, the cleaning lady, ‘Can I do you now sir? and ‘It’s bein’ so cheerful that keeps me goin’. Colonel Chinstrap – ‘I don’t mind if I do.’… Some popular songs are played many times in one day. The popular wartime song [Run Rabbit Run] is always on the wireless. It’s inspired by the fact that in the period of the so-called phoney war, the only casualty caused by Hitler’s bombs is a rabbit. Of course, it isn’t long before the wits substitute the name Adolf for rabbit and it isn’t long before Charlie introduces me to the art a rabbit shooting.

    Interestingly there is a bit of cobblers attached to this story. Some claim that the song came about because Hitler said that he would eat rabbit pie when he successfully invaded Britain! This seems a rather unlikely comment for AH to make, not least because he was (largely) vegetarian and also because the phrase, unless there is a German idiom hiding behind it, means nothing. Hitler was not, in any case, particularly interested in an invasion of Britain at this time, that did not slip into his shopping list till the collapse in the west in spring 1940. This interpretation presumably came from the lyrics of the song itself that make the farmer, rather than Hitler, into the rabbit.

    Don’t give the farmer his fun! Fun! Fun!

    He’ll get by without his rabbit pie

    So run rabbit –  run rabbit – Run! Run! Run!


    11 Dec 2011: Tim from Detritus of Empire sends in ‘Lyrics from the seminal stoner album “Dark Side of the Moon”,  by Pink Floyd Breathe (Waters, Gilmour, Wright) 2:44  Breathe, breathe in the air./ Don’t be afraid to care./ Leave but don’t leave me. / Look around and choose your own ground. / Long you live and high you fly/ And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry / And all you touch and all you see / Is all your life will ever be. / Run, rabbit run. / Dig that hole, forget the sun, / And when at last the work is done / Don’t sit down it’s time to dig another one. / For long you live and high you fly / But only if you ride the tide / And balanced on the biggest wave / You race towards an early grave.’ Run rabbit run onwards is from the original song. Thanks Tim!

    12 Dec 2011: Mike G writes in to point out that this was Shetland not Orkney (Beachcombing brain made a silly mistake here). According to local lore one rabbit not two were killed: Beachcombing seems to remember a photograph of two rabbits but contemporary reports refer to one? Then what about this link: it seems that the rabbits were dropped over Germany by a RAF bomber addressed to Goering! Then Marvin writes in about the Jimmy Carter killer rabbit incident. Thanks Marvin and Mike!

    2 Dec 2014: Southern Man has gone after, and found, the original sources here. Interesting how quickly the association with the song was made. It was one rabbit not two… Beach changed the title because he didn’t want to be responsible for this myth.

    one rabbit killedrabbit shetland againshetland rabbit 3

    Lanark writes, 31 Jul 2017: Rabbits have featured heavily in 20th Century History, Politics and Popular Culture. How can  you have forgotten the “Killer Rabbit” which attacked President Jimmy Carter in April 1979. Carter had to fight the rabbit off with a wooden boat oar when it attacked his boat. Jimmy Carter was fishing peacefully when the attack took place. The event was photographed.


    Rabbits and UFOs also have strange and strong links in our popular culture. Jimmy Carter also claimed to have see a UFO and filed a UFO witness report during the 1970s. In 1982, just a couple of years after the rabbit attack on the President of the USA, Stephen Speilberg made ET and what creature witnessed ET’s arrival? …  that’s right a rabbit right in the opening scene. Though of course a more popular rabbit had witnessed the arrival of an alien in 1952 when Bugs Bunny starred in “The Hasty Hare” which feature Marvin the Martian and his flying saucer. On a deeper and more mythical note Monty Python’s Arthurian Grail Quest Movie features an evil rabbit – the Killer Bunny of Caerbannog, the guardian of the Legendary Black Beast of Aarrgh.


    Of course you shouldn’t ignore the mythical importance of the Rabbit as a symbol of fertility, they actually do breed like rabbits and that may be the link between the Easter Bunny, boundless fertilty, renewal and the resurrection of Christ from a tomb which is traditionally shown as a kind of burrow in a hillside. It was also (let us not forget) a white rabbit which lured Alice into  a deep burrow and began a series of strange events, triggering a series of encounters with characters which are now embedded in our popular culture (Queen of Hearts, Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter etc). Scattered throughout fiction lie rabbit characters by authors from Beatrix Potter to JK Rowling. Let us not forget Jimmy Stewart’s friend.

    Of course popular artist, author, writer, musician and one half of the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and The KLF Bill Drummond, while manager of Echo and the Bunnymen created a “A Crystal Day” a music and psychogeographical event in Liverpool in 1981. Bunnymen fans were encouraged to wander round a route in the city which Drummond had devised by tracing out the shape of  a rabbit over a streetmap of Liverpool. Of course as one half of The Timelords Drummond had a massive hit with “Doctorin’ The Tardis” later in 1988 which sampled the Doctor Who theme tune. In a famous Doctor Who episode “The Day of the Doctor”  in 2013 David Tennant is confronted by… a BIG rabbit.

    There have been a number of ominous Chinese “Year of the Rabbit”  including 1939 (WW2) and 1963 (Kennedy).

    That’s All Folks!