One of my favourite posts here was one I wrote almost two years ago, about a claim that a certain well-known photo of the London Blitz was faked. Not only for the post itself, but for the ensuing discussion, which led me to change my mind on the issue more than once. My tentative conclusion is still that the photo is indeed a fake, and I'm not going to rehash that here. What I want to do here is show just how pervasive the image is.
When I was in London last year, I went to three museums where one would expect to find some sort of display about the Blitz: the RAF Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and the Cabinet War Rooms. Let's see what images they each used to represent the Blitz …
Imperial War Museum:
Cabinet War Rooms:
That's three for three!
And now, here's the result of a trawl through my bookshelves (I've apparently killed my camera to take this shot, so enjoy it):
I found six books which used it. The earliest is Constantine FitzGibbons' London's Burning (1970), where it appears on the title page. The others are Stephen Bungay's The Most Dangerous Enemy, Richard Hough and Denis Richard's The Battle of Britain, John Keegan's The Second World War, The Blitz: Then and Now (Vol. 2) and Peter Stansky's The First Day of the Blitz.
Maybe this is a boringly literal way to look at it (as it were), but it seems to me that if the photo is a fake, then it shouldn't be used to represent the Blitz in this way. I suppose what needs to happen is research: from the British side, somebody needs to compare the image with known aerial photos of the same area from ca. September 1940, and/or from the German side, somebody needs dig into the origins of the photo. And then the word needs to be gotten out somehow …
This post relates to my trip to Europe in July-September 2007.
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at airminded.org.