On the inside cover of this week's Illustrated London News — the outside cover has advertisements on it — is a photograph taken by Cecil Beaton at the Great Ormond Street Hospital. The subject is Eileen Dunne, an air-raid victim aged 3. The caption reads:
GOERING'S ATTACKS ON LONDON ACHIEVE LITTLE BUT THE MAIMING AND SLAUGHTERING OF CHILDREN.
This pretty much sets the tone for the whole issue — but I'll try to quote around those parts.
The emphasis is much more on the 'Illustrated' and less on the 'News'. There are a total of three pages of commentary on the war, and even those are punctuated with not-always-relevant images such as the above one of the King, the Queen and their Prime Minister after inspecting bomb damage at Buckingham Palace: 'DISPLAYING, UNDER SIMILAR MISFORTUNE, THE FORTITUDE SHOWN BY THEIR PEOPLE'. Arthur Bryant's regular column appears on the same page (358). As you might expect from a popular historian (he's the biographer of Charles II and Samuel Pepys) his writing is full of allusions to other glorious days when England (not Britain) was threatened by foreign invasion. As he himself says (after pretty much retelling a story which 'needs no re-telling', that of Trafalgar):
the threat of invasion brings all the English past to aid the present.
For example, Bryant quotes extensively from Elizabeth's Tilbury speech, as preparations were made to repel the Spanish Armada:
I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm.
'Let tyrants fear', indeed. But other parts of Bryant's article seem curiously ambiguous, given his right-wing politics and perhaps pro-Nazi views:
In a thousand years there have only been two successful [invasions] — the first when Norman blood and leadership had still to be grafted on to the national stock, and the other in 1688 when nine-tenths of the English people, including Mr. Churchill's distinguished ancestor, were secret "fifth columnists," who wished the Protestant invader god speed.
Having said that, Bryant is candid about his previous support for appeasement, while committing himself to the war:
The writer was one of many millions who did not want this war, who wished, like the isolationists in America, to live and let live. The German leaders willed it otherwise and will it so to-day. There is nothing for an Englishman to do now but conquer or die in the last ditch. We have no doubt now but that we shall conquer.
Well, enough of Bryant; let's see what else ILN has to offer.
On page 367:
A ROD IN PICKLE FOR THE INVADERS: A MOTORCYCLE COLUMN.
This is 'TAKING A LEAF FROM THE ENEMY'S BOOK', a unit of the Northumberland Fusiliers reformed after Dunkirk for motorcycle reconnaissance. Apparently, 'the side-car is rapidly taking its place [..] as a great asset in mobile warfare'.
On page 368 begins another regular feature of the ILN at this time, an analysis of the war by military historian Cyril Falls. He has this to say on the nightly air-raids on London:
The bombing is, of course, far less accurate than day bombing, and tends to that indiscriminate destruction and slaughter which the whole world anticipated with so much horror at the outbreak of this war. Nothing more ghastly can be imagined than a long-drawn-out campaign consisting almost entirely of night-bombing attacks on great cities. It might go far towards disrupting civilisation itself, and indeed, even if civilisation survives this war without suffering irreparable damage, it will be doomed sooner or later to extinction unless it can succeed in mastering and controlling the dreadful, semi-blind monster of destruction to which it has given birth.
Frankenstein's monster lives again.
As to an invasion, Falls hopes it will come, because he believes it will be 'heavily defeated', destroying 'Vast numbers of troops' and perhaps 'the remainder of the German Navy' (369). A failed invasion might 'decide the fate of the war'. But he thinks it won't come, because the Germans just aren't ready. Take, for example, the invasion barges, taken from German rivers and canals and shown above.
People breathe the word "barges" as though it comprised some magic. In fact, barges are of small use by themselves, formidable as they may be if used in conjunction with larger craft and operated from suitable ports. Barges, self-propelled or not, are essentially short-range and (from the point of view of landing troops, not from that of seaworthiness) fair-weather craft.
He says that the ports at which the German invaders would have to embark onto these barges were 'demolished once in the Continental campaign and subjected to tremendous bombing since', and 'Imagine the difficulties of loading them without port facilities'. The Germans would need to use larger passenger steamers, perhaps operating from Norwegian ports, harder for the RAF to get to. But 'the Navy, our bombers, and our excellent coast defences' along with the Army 'surely' can be relied upon to handle whatever the Germans do try.
On page 371, an illustration specially drawn for the ILN by Captain Bryan de Grineau, celebrating the ARP work of the Women's Voluntary Service:
EVACUATION UNDER BOMBING: A TYPICAL EXPLOIT OF THE W.V.S.
The incident shown took place in Rotherhithe, where a block of 'modern "model" flats was bombed and set on fire':
The Borough of Bermondsey W.V.S. proceeded to the scene with a fleet of motor vehicles while the attack continued, and evacuated the hundreds of inhabitants from their shelters under the burning building. The whole operation was performed in most orderly and praiseworthy fashion — car after car and lorry after lorry being filled and driven off with its allotted load, the coolness of the W.V.S. averting panic among the rescued as they shepherded them into the vehicles and drove them to accommodation arranged for them in a less dangerous area.
Of course, there are plenty of photographs of bombed-out houses and rescue workers with brick-dust on their clothes. This and the following are from page 378:
CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT SHOPS AND CIVILIAN PROPERTY FORMED THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF NAZI NIGHT BOMBS: DAMAGE IN A LONDON STREET, WHERE FIRES WERE STARTED AND BUILDINGS DEMOLISHED.
THE PRESS PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE POST OF DANGER — A PICTURE TAKEN IN A LONDON STREET IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE EXPLOSION FOLLOWING THE BURSTING OF A BOMB.
And there are the advertisements, which tell you a lot about the readership (greatcoats for officers being a popular item, for example). This one is from Harrods: 'Shelter Sense — Ideas for your Comfort'. For example there is the 'men's shelter suit' which 'zips on in a second over your pyjamas' (45/-); the camp mattress, 'comfortable as can be', and as it rolls up would be 'suitable for A.R.P. or military purposes' (29/6 in green rot-proof); and the large woollen 'warm rugs', 'essential in your shelter' (35/6). The implausibly cheerful couple on the left are both carrying their gas-mask cases, but after changing into his dressing gown he has lost his. He has a pipe, though, so I suppose he'll be alright.
This post is part of an experiment in post-blogging the Battle of Britain, the Blitz and the Baedeker Blitz. See here for an introduction to the series.
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