Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Traveling Tuesday: London During the Blitz

Traveling Tuesday: 
London During the Blitz

Pixabay/Adam Derewicki
With a population of more than three million in 1860, London faced terrible overcrowding in buildings and on the streets resulting in the construction of the Underground (AKA the Tube), the first urban rail network. By1940, London population had reached more than 8.5 million people, and until September of that year, her citizens had been safe from the war. That month Germany changed is aerial strategy.

Hitler decided it was time to force England into surrender by creating fear in her inhabitants. Formerly focusing his strikes against airfields and radar stations to prepare for invasion, he turned his sights on civilians He did not count on the stalwart response from the British people who carried on despite death and destruction.

The Blitz, from the German term Blitzkrieg (lightning war), began on September 7, 1940, and thereafter the date became known as Black Saturday. Four hundred-thirty people died, and sixteen hundred were injured that night. (To protect planes from reprisal, Germany used night bombing). The city would be bombed for fifty-seven consecutive nights with periodic daytime attacks during that time. May 10 and 11, 1941 saw the city’s largest raid. More than 711 tons of high explosive bombs and 2,393 incendiary devices were dropped, killing 1,426 civilians.

In addition to 11,000 homes, the House of Commons, Westminster Abbey, and the British Museum
Public Domain
were severely damaged. Temple Church (AKA The Temple) was almost completely demolished. Buckingham Palace was also hit, prompting the Queen mother to say, “I can now look the East End in the face.” The Houses of Parliament, the Imperial War Museum, and the Tower of London also suffered bomb damage.

An estimated 40,000 civilians were killed during the seven-month-period of the Blitz, most of them in London. Other cities within England were also bombed: Coventry, Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Manchester, but London was the hardest and most often hit. Rather than flee London, most of her inhabitants “hunkered down” and carried on with their daily lives. They learned to head for shelters at the first sound of a siren. Some used a tiny indoor Morrison shelter while others hid inside a communal Anderson shelter that could hold up to six people. To the British government’s dismay, thousands of people flocked to Tube stations.

Courtesy London Transport Museum
As one source put it, “The government was not keen on the Underground being put to such use.” A September 20, 1940 Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail article reported “little heed was paid last night to the appeal of the Ministries of Home Security and Transport asking the public to refrain from using the London Tube stations as shelters except in the case of urgent necessity.” Londoners continued to use the stations, and the government finally relented and converted the Aldwych Station into a permanent shelter. Other stations added bunks, better lighting, and washing and toilet facilities.

By May 1941, Germany had lost dozens of bombers, and Hitler realized his goal of terrifying the British into surrender was not to be. He turned his sights on an invasion of the Soviet Union called Operation Barbarossa, and the Blitz came to an end.


The Mechanic & The MD

All’s fair in love and war. Or so they say.

High school and college were a nightmare for Doris Strealer and being an adult isn’t much better. Men won’t date a woman of her height, and they don’t understand her desire to repair car engines rather than work as a nurse or a teacher. When her father’s garage closes, and no one will hire a female mechanic, she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps, finally feeling at home. Until she comes face to face with her past in the form of Ronald McCann, the most popular boy in school.

On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Ron's plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again.

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