I have been taking a “Historic London” course where we take walking tours of London every week. This week’s theme was World War II. I was taken aback after learning about London’s struggle through the war, and thus I wanted to share.
Even after taking a “German and the Holocaust” class at Chapman last semester, I saw the UK as being very strong force during WWII. They took in many Jewish children, fought on the western front of Nazi Germany and kept Hitler from invading. However, London had to fight very hard for this. As we walked along the river, we learned about the Blitz bombing on London! London had to work very hard to protect their citizens, historic monuments and city.
Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister at the time, was known for his inspirational and motivating speeches on the radio. The phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” came from this this time because Londoner’s were told to carry on with their everyday life as best they could. Many women and children were taken by train to the countryside to keep safe, but many men stayed in London to continue working.
Before the Blitz and the war, England was used to getting 55 tons of food (I don’t recall if that was per week or month), but during the conflict, England received 12 tons of food. This created extreme rationing of food. There was a story of a lady that was carrying her rationed food home and accidently dropped her eggs on the street and they broke. She was so desperate for the food that she wiped up all the egg goop and yolks and served her family scrambled eggs that night instead of boiled eggs! Could you imagine?
In order to save civilians as well as iconic London monuments such as the Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace, when dusk came, every light in the city must be out; no window lights, no care headlights, no cigarette lights. Any light would indicate to the German air force a map of London. The city of London even took down all their street signs so in the case the Germans invaded; they would have no way of navigating the city! Sounds a bit extreme, but it worked. Despite a few close calls, St. Paul’s Cathedral was saved, Westminster Abbey saw little damage, and Buckingham Palace got contact with a bomb, but only in the kitchen, with no injuries or deaths. When Buckingham Palace was bombs, the Queen and her family continued to live there to keep moral up in the city. Instead of seeking shelter, Churchill would stand on top of a building with binoculars to see the progress of the air raids. This also showed Londoners bravery by their leaders!
After taking this Historic London tour, I have a new respect for London and the UK. London-ers had to fight in order to resist invasion. Everyone was affected by these air raids. This took place only 70 years ago- there are probably some elderly citizens that I pass on the streets that played a role in the Allied victory. Whether they actually fought on the front, rationed wisely, or read the newspaper in the dark, all were important.