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.

Churchill inspects Bomb damage to House of Commons
Churchill inspects Bomb damage to House of Commons
London was first bombed on the 7th. of September 1940, experienced continuous night raids until early November, and sporadic bombings until the Blitz finished on the night of the 11th. of May in 1941.

Over that period some 29, 890 Londoners were to die and another 50, 507 were admitted to
hospital as a result of these air raids.

Winston Churchill in his famous  "WE will fight on the beaches!" speech said in part:-

"...... even though large parts of Europe

and many old and famous states have fallen

or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo

and all the odious approaches of Nazi rule,

we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end,

we shall fight in France.

We shall fight on the seas and oceans,

we shall fight with growing confidence

and growing strength in the air,

we shall defend our island,

whatever the cost may be,

we shall fight on the beaches,

we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

we shall fight in the hills,  WE SHALL NEVER SURRENDER."

Portrait of Winston Churchill
Portrait of Winston Churchill.
Phoebe, a Wren whom I had met in Liverpool, took me home for a weekend to their house at Birkenhead across the Mersey River. Her father, Colonel Sanderman-Allen, was the Member for Birkenhead in the House of Commons, he had promised to give me a tour of both the Commons and House of Lords when I went down to London, that was naturally too good an offer to miss. I had 12 days leave in December 1940, the family had sent me off to stay with some friends on the Isle of Anglesea in Wales, and I then took myself off to London to avail myself of the Colonel's offer.

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.

Bombs fall on St Pauls Cathedral. London
Bombs fall on St Pauls Cathedral. London
I called at the House of Commons at the appointed hour, was met by Phoebe's father and given a wonderful conducted tour of this place, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords reeking of history.

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.

Underground Stations in London used as air raid shelters
Underground Stations in London used as air raid shelters

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.

Bomb Damage in London December 1940
Bomb Damage in London December 1940
My visit was soon over, and I caught the train north back to Lime Street Station at Liverpool, to find that this city had been subjected to three nights of intense bombing, and was really in a mess.

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.






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