Monday, 25 January 2010
Last night I'd been reading about the Blitz, which probably fired my imagination. Thinking about the destruction bombs on a city as dense as London must've caused, I looked it up. The numbers are astonishing: on the 7 September 1940, 364 bombers attacked, escorted by 515 fighters. Between 100 and 200 bombers attacked London every night but one between mid-September and mid-November. Arsenal football ground was bombed. Euston station was bombed. (Which explains why it's such a bleak little box now.)
This picture of St Paul's Cathedral was taken after a night of frantic bombing of the City, which caused a firestorm so bad it came to be known as The Second Great Fire of London. (Whenever I see St Paul's I think about it surviving the Blitz and give a little cheer.)
And as for my commuting woes, apparently during the years of the Blitz there was a little reported phenomenon called 'trekking', where central Londoners moved away from the city and commuted several hours to work and back every day. Or slept in local parks. Can you imagine having to do that? I suppose the general terror of wondering whether bombs would fall on your building at night was a big motivator. Never mind having to fight to get on the tube, imagine having to sleep on it. I felt a bit more grateful as I walked along the platform to come home, this evening. An eyewitness account:
'By 4.00 p.m. all the platforms and passage space of the underground station are staked out, chiefly with blankets folded in long strips laid against the wall – for the trains are still running and the platforms in use. A woman or child guards places for about six people. When the evening comes the rest of the family crowd in.'