Friday, 13 September 1940

This post is part of a series post-blogging the Blitz of 1940-41 and the Baedeker Blitz of 1942. See here and here for introductions to the series, and here, here and here for conclusions.

Daily Mail, 13 September 1940, 1

For the last two nights Bomber Command has been hitting hard at both the invasion ports -- 'their heaviest blows yet' -- as well as Hamburg and Berlin, says the front page of the Daily Mail:

The Anhalter railway terminus was severely damaged following the previous day's attack on the Potsdam stations. These stations are the King's Cross, St. Pancras, and Euston of Berlin.

A.A. guns in the Tiergarten, the city's Hyde Park, were bombed, and the Templehof [sic] aerodrome, its Croydon, was damaged.

But the big news today -- what everyone is talking about around the tea-lady's cart -- is clearly the tremendous anti-aircraft barrage now being put up nightly by London's defenders. In fact, this was front page news yesterday, but it's still newsworthy enough to warrant five articles today. One describes the effect on morale of people huddled in shelters:

THE heartening roar of London's terrific new A.A. barrage burst out immediately the first night raider was heard approaching from the north at 9.13 last night, an hour later than usual.

People in the shelters recognised the now familiar roar at once and their faces lit up as they said: "Ah, our barrage again!" In some shelters a cheer rang out.

On page 2, the editorial declares that 'Londoners like it':

The spirits of the populace rose as hour after hour the greatest concentration of anti-aircraft fire ever heard hurled defiance at the invaders.

People felt that at least we were hitting back at the bombers. They had wondered why on previous nights the raiders were allowed to fly almost unmolested.

Charles Graves (who writes a regular column, 'I see life'), says of the barrage,

THE crash of those continuous salvos (mispronounced sahlvoes by the B.B.C.) was the most satisfactory sound I have heard in years -- though the most satisfactory of all, if I can use an Irishism, was the sudden cessation of the drone of a bomber overhead after a couple of howitzers had had a crack at it.

Lt-Col T. A. Lowe, DSO, MC, the Dail Mail's services correspondent, introduces readers to the commander of the anti-aircraft corps, Lt-Gen Sir Frederick Pile (1). He's the one who 'organised and perfected' the barrage, though Lowe doesn't neglect the men who do the actual shooting:

On excellent authority it can be [claimed] that London's anti-aircraft gunners are the finest in the world.

And as good as the barrage is, 'there is a better one coming'. Noel Monks, air correspondent confirms this (2). He puts the barrage in a wider context:

It was a real baptism of fire for Londoners. It was their Verdun. For the Nazi raiders, it was their biggest surprise-packet since a squadron of R.A.F. Defiants swooped on them over Dunkirk and shot down 47 before they were able to get a shot in.

Monks explains that 'Home Defence authorities' had been 'thoughtfully warned by the German radio that a big raid was imminent' and so decided that it was 'time to uncover our guns'. He also provides a description of how the barrage works:

THE type of barrage put up by our guns was of the "box" variety, sent up in squares from many sections. Our heavy calibre A.A. guns -- 3in., 3.7in., and 4.5in. -- operated this barrage, while at other sections, where one or two raiders attempted to dive-bomb targets, our light guns sent up a terrific barrage. Of these guns, the Bofors was the most deadly.

All the shooting was done by sound, through uncanny electric predictors. For once our searchlight crews had a rest.

Finally, let's return to the bombing of Germany. On page 3 the Mail has its letters to the editor column. By way of preface it is noted that

More than half the letters received yesterday were from readers demanding "reprisals" on Berlin and other German cities for the bombing of London. Many of the writers have evidently not read the reports of what the R.A.F. have already done and are doing in Germany.

But let the voice of the people be heard:

'Wipe Town Out'

SIR, -- The present policy of systematic bombing of important military objectives in Germany is the right one. But could not a portion of our bomber force be released one night from these duties, and be sent out to bomb one German town completely off the map?

Tell the Germans that we intended to do it first, and after it is done let them know by leaflet and wireless that such and such a town is no more. -- "West Country," Bristol.

'Raze Berlin'

SIR, -- We should call on Berlin to evacuate its women and children in, say, 24 hours, then, with our growing air ascendancy, we should level that accursed city to the ground.

Then, and then only will Hitler and his godless hordes understand. -- Gerald B. Green, Twyford, Hampshire.

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