Passport to the World over 64 years. Pages from my Travel Diary
London in the Blitz 1940-1941. I visited London on a few days leave in December 1940, and again in May of 1941.
Over that period some 29, 890 Londoners were to die and another 50, 507 were admitted to
Winston Churchill in his famous "WE will fight on the beaches!" speech said in part:-
I was able to stay at the Overseas League Club, available to members of the Dominions at 5 shillings a night, which was a cheap price for a bed and breakfast in expensive London, which was just as well, as a Midshipman, my daily pay was a mere 6 shillings.
A fine lunch in the Member's Dining room followed, and I felt quite privileged, but conspicious in my Midshipman's uniform amongst a number of very senior officers from all three services.
At a dance held at the Overeas Club, I heard that famous number "In the Mood" played for the first time by the resident band, of course it went on to sweep both Britain and the rest of the world.
This time was just before Christmas, and one evening off blasted the Air Raid sirens, I had been subjected to air raids in Liverpool where my ship HMAS Australia was in dry dock, and had not liked the experience. I hated being cooped up in an air raid shelter and preferred to take my chances on the open streets, but this time I was not given any option, but was bustled down into one of the London underground Tube stations with a host of other locals. As many as 170,000 people sought relief from the air raids by nightly sleeping down in a Tube Station, for many it became a ritual and a way of life.
I hated it, and could hear the AA guns engaging the incoming German Bombers, and then the occasional crash of a bomb exploding, it was all over in about an hour, and I was released from my dungeon, and could suck in the fresh night air once again.
The blackout made it quite difficult to make one's way around the streets at night, especially as it was my first time in this city.
By chance, London faced a devastating Blitz on the night of the 29th. of December 1940, I had been lucky at both ends of my journey.