How Did London Take It?

London

By now I imagine every Londoner who’s remotely interested in the subject has seen the extraordinary website ‘Bomb Sight’, which maps all the bombs that fell on London during the Blitz.

It seems everyone who lived through it has a story about a bomb falling near them; a neighbour or relative who heard something overhead and either turned or continued across the road, making a life or death decision.

The new project mapsĀ the bombs that fell in London between July 10, 1940 and June 6, 1941. Exploring the app,you can see just how often they hit: very few areas were spared, and some locations can barely be seen for red dots. Walking around the streets, it’s still easy to see where the bombs fell. There are very few streets that don’t have an ugly sixties building stuck on the site of a lost house. Many more bombs fell for years after the period we term ‘the Blitz’ of course, but this was the densest concentration.

After the war, virtually every house and church tower with a crack in it was pulled down, and London rebuilt itself as it had so often before. If you go to Gdansk in Poland, you’ll see streets reconstructed to appear exactly how they looked before the war – we did the opposite, for better or worse, and part of me wishes that the old layouts had remained. London would have had an ‘Old Town’ like so many cities in Europe, and the philistine developers would not have got away with so many crooked deals struck with councils. But you can’t live in a theme park, and perhaps the city’s survival is partly down to its ability to renew itself constantly.

You can visit the site here.

7 comments on “How Did London Take It?”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    I saw this some days ago and wondered if you’d seen it. An amazing depiction of all the bombs that fell during that period and you can go area by area and street by street.
    My Father was in London and attached to SHAEF as a civilian/Major for 15/16 months soon after this period. He was an OWI officer on General Eisenhower’s staff and lived through a lot of the later bombing.
    He always said how frightening it was to hear the motors on the flying bombs go silent, how everyone then counted, and then braced for the explosion.
    One fell in the backyard of the roominghouse he stayed in and it had been such a heavy bombing night, nobody knew a bomb was in the back garden until the landlady opened her back door and hurriedly cleared the house. Then they went to work while the block warden got in the bomb disposal squad.
    He always said he found Londoners to be amazingly staunch: hear the sirens go off, hear the flight of V2s aloft, hear the motors begin shutting off, start counting, hear the explosions, toast each other with what was left in their glasses, and then pass the bottle.
    For some while after he returned to the States, he ate his meals fast. Mother would always ask him to slow down as it was not good for his health. He always laughed and said he’d learned to gobble down his food while in London. Better to be full and blown to kingdom come than go out hungry, he’d say.
    With this graphic represenation, I can see what he meant and hats off to Londoners.

  2. Alan G says:

    Dan – amazing. All I can offer is a visit to my Dad in Ealing. It was a lovely summer morning and I took the long and pretty way around, and I came across a plaque marking where the first V2 rocket landed in London. Kind of took the warmth from the day. But thank you – it sparked memories of some dear departed who went at their food with the same enthusiasm.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    I saw it a couple of days ago, too, but on the site you can, as Dan says, go street by street. My father, though raised a pacifist, tried to enlist but they wouldn’t have him because he was only barely over 5ft. They took his brother, though, because he was a cook. I have English cousins as a result of that. The first and second war must have done a lot towards mixing up the world’s gene pool.

  4. snowy says:

    If anyone is interested in the view from the ground.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/categories/

    (Just don’t blame me if you loose track of time, reading some of the 47,000 entries).

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    Snowy – that is one heck of a resource you’ve referenced there.

  6. snowy says:

    Anybody seen a spare ‘o’ knocking about? I’m sure I had one yesterday!

    Must have slipped down the back of somewhere, while I was changing the antimacassars.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Just looked at that BBC file, Snowy, and since time today is not loose, I’m filing it for later. That is one gigantic collection and everyone will be so glad the BBC put it together.

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