View eastwards along the Thames. Heavy smoke rises from fires in and around the London Docks complex. Tower Bridge is clearly visible (lower centre right) and the Tower of London can also be seen (lower centre left)
My recent trip to Britain's capital and my former home, a flat near Tower Bridge, triggered all sorts of nostalgia. One of these thought threads, catalyzed by the memory that exactly 73 years ago the Battle of Britain was reaching its peak, was an intense curiosity about what life was like in the London Borough of Southwark in those dark war years.
A Heinkel bomber flies over Surrey Docks on the Isle of Dogs, east London
The flat is in Docklands, an area of the city that suffered terribly in the Nazi bombing raids of WW2. Back then the docks were fully functional and essential for maintaining the supply lifeline to the island nation. So they presented a logical target for German bombers in The Blitz of 1940-1941. On 7th September 1940, having failed to destroy the RAF, Hitler directed the Luftwaffe to attack London.
View from St. Paul's cathedral to Southwark bridge; London bridge can just be seen to the left of Southwark Bridge
Enemy bomb detonations on the first night of the Blitz. A scalable, interactive version can be found here
Bomb detonation map of the Riverside district of Southwark showing bomb strikes during the course of the Blitz. Map from Bomb Sight records
Damage was extensive: one million homes were destroyed or badly damaged
|Mill Street c1985. The shot is taken from Jamaica Road. My flat is in a block built on the site in the foreground on the left hand side (behind the railings). It's pretty evident that there is nothing there and I'm sure the buildings once there were razed in the Blitz. BombSight indicates several bombs fell on this spot. The photo is by David Buckley and used with his permission|
Dread Zeppelin! This plaque in Farringdon Road is a reminder that London also suffered aerial attacks in WWI
|The V2 rocket has the dubious distinction of being the first ballistic missile used in combat and was a truly terrifying instrument of war. It stood nearly 15metres tall and carried a 1000Kg high explosive warhead. The rocket here is on display at the Flying Heritage Collection, Everett, Washington.|
Wartime chic isn't!
* My apologies to the late John G. Mellor for borrowing this line from his excellent lyrics without his permission.