Tuesday 7 September 2010

September 7th: The First Night of the Blitz - Remember

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the Blitz "when a fleet of Nazi German air bombers ambushed London for 76 consecutive nights, awakening a new chapter to World War II."

Sky records it thus: "On that early September day, Britain was basking in the middle of an Indian summer with temperatures reaching a sweltering 90 degrees in London. Although the war had started the year before, Londoners hadn’t yet encountered disaster. But at 4.14pm on that fateful day, 348 bombers and 617 Messerschmitt fighters crossed the English Channel into English airspace forming a block 20 miles wide and filling 800 square miles of sky. It was the day the war finally hit home and a day that truly tested the British spirit and the nation’s war effort."

The Blitz, which lasted until May 10, saw the Capital's skyline explode in utter turmoil as hundreds of Nazi planes descended the Thames in their attempts to demoralize the nation.

One eye witness Colin Perry recollects: "Directly above me were literally hundreds of planes … the sky was full of them. Bombers hemmed in with fighters, like bees around their queen, like destroyers round the battleship, so came Jerry."

The unrelenting raid devastated numerous towns and cities throughout the Kingdom, including London, Liverpool, Coventry, Belfast and Birmingham.

London's Blitz is recorded in sobering detail by London Fire Brigade records. The September 7th advance on the Capital began slowly but between 5:30pm and 6.00pm some 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters pounded the city. Two hours later, guided by their path of destruction, a second wave of invaders opened fire once again targeting the islands infrastructure and its' industrial and military faculties."

To quote the Guardian: "The London Blitz started quietly. Less than 100 incidents reported by the London Fire Brigade up to 5pm on September 7, 1940. Only a few weeks after the British victory in the Battle of Britain, what came then must have been a terrible shock for Londoners.

"At 5.30pm, some 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters pounded London until 6.00pm. Guided by the flames, a second group attacked with more incendiary bombs two hours later, lasting into the next day."

Related events will be taking place today:

An exhibition to mark the 70th anniversary of the Blitz is to open at the London Transport Museum. The exhibition, called Under attack - London, Coventry and Dresden, explores public transport in the three cities during World War II.

London Mayor Boris Johnson will launch the exhibition on Monday evening. It will be open from 7 September (today). The exhibition features a wartime bus, a London Transport air raid shelter and 20 wartime transport posters.

Let us remember the words of Winston Churchill: "For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished; no one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days."

I was fortunate enough to attend August's commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Winston Churchill's speech outside the Cabinet War Rooms, with Lady Soames, Dame Vera Lynne both present and Robert Hardy repeating Churchill's famous words at the exact moment WSC had done so 70 years earlier: "Never in the Field of Human Conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" at the Cabinet War Rooms.

Several of The Few were present and so too was their sweetheart, Dame Vera Lynn. A deeply moving occasion. I was delighted to be able to take a photograph which included both Dame Vera and Lady Soames -- I only regret HM The Queen was not present as it would have been wonderful to see all three women together! Upon the conclusion of Churchill's speech a lone Spitfire and Hurricane flew ahead. I doubt we shall see this again.

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