Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Blitz

The Blitz began 70 years ago September 7.

A couple of years ago, I stood on the steps of Saint Paul's in London, and noticed that most of the buildings around the great Baroque cathedral were less than 50 years old. Part of this was the notorious indifference of the financial industry that rules the City to the place's history. But most of it was the work of Adolph Hitler. Saint Paul's survives only because of the heroism of anti-aircraft gunners nearby who kept the German planes at a distance. Looking at the recent construction around the cathedral put September 11th in some perspective for me.

The Germans opened 8 months of nightly bombing on London, and later other British cities, with a massive air raid that lasted 10 hours and killed 436 people. When the Luftwaffe gave up and Hitler redeployed them on the Soviet Union in 1941, 43,000 civilians lay dead and thousands more were wounded. Sporadic air raids, and later rocket attacks, would continue throughout the war.

September 11th was bad enough, but it was a relatively small thing compared to that.


Unknown said...

What a picture. Seeing it with all the familiar landmarks makes it so real. This is the result of war - and natural disaster as well.

You're right, we will have to take what happened in London into consideration when we watch as New York continues to rebuild.

Eigon said...

The mother of a friend of mine worked on the searchlights around St Paul's during the war. This was very dangerous, because when a fighter plane was caught in the searchlights, it would sometimes dive towards the source of the light and fire its machine guns, to put out the light.
She was on duty at the very end of the war, when there is a famous photograph of St Pauls at night with the two searchlight beams making a V for Victory sign behind the dome.

JCF said...

My mother lived in the UK just a few short years later (when they were still rebuilding). She was told St Paul's survived, because the canons (i.e., cathedral clergy) were on the roof, w/ brooms, brushing off the bombs before they exploded.

It may just be a story (and it may be they were on the roof prepared to do so, but the gunners/RAF kept the Luftwaffe away), but it's how Londoners understood how their Cathedral survived: through the love of its servants.

June Butler said...

Compared to the suffering that the English endured and the lives lost, it may seem trivial to agree with your statement about the structures that replaced the destroyed 18th century buildings around St. Paul's. They are god-awful ugly and a blight on the landscape.

Alan Richardson said...

BBC Radio4 is broadcasting several programmes about the Blitz this week.

I have difficulty understanding how there wasn't more destruction and lives lost in all that chaos. English grit?