London's Story

London in the Second World War

The Second World War started in September 1939 and was to result in such devastation and loss of life of ordinary civilians in London as had never been experienced before. The Nazi bombers struck at London non-stop every night from 7 September 1940 to May 1941. The blitzkrieg (or “Blitz”) meant that night after night Londoners had to seek shelter from the bombs that rained down relentlessly. In all 32,000 Londoners were killed and over 50,000 were seriously injured. Over half a million Londoners lost their homes – including my own parents, whose house was bombed in 1941. Despite all this Londoners continued to get to work, to keep going, to not “give in”, to show defiance at all costs. Up to a third of the East End of London and most of the area immediately around St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Barbican area was devastated by the bombs.

During this terrible time Londoners remained by and large as cheerful and upbeat as possible and stuck notices on their bombed shops and other premises saying things such as “Business as Usual”. 

Blitz Buckingham  Palace.jpg
The King and Queen Elizabeth after Buckingham Palace had been bombed.

The King – George VI, and his Queen Elizabeth did their bit to show their support by not leaving London, and by touring the bombed areas and meeting the people who had suffered. When - later on - Buckingham Palace received a hit from a German bomber the Queen said immediately: “I’m glad we’ve been bombed – now I can look the East End directly in the face.” She was encouraged to go to a safer place for the rest of the War. She simply said – “My children cannot leave without me. I will not leave the King. And the King will NEVER leave!” It was the sort of direct encouragement that Londoners needed to give them the confidence that if they held out they would win in the end. Londoners also had the immense example of Winston Churchill, whose stirring speeches roused ordinary Londoners to new height of bravery and stoicism. Londoners still had to face the terror of the V1 weapons, known colloquially as “doodlebugs”, and the V2 rockets – the German revenge weapons These were dropped unmercifully over the City and the East End between May 1944 and March 1945. Again there were hundreds of casualties, and thousands of Londoners were made homeless. The war finally ended on 6 May 1945 and hundreds of thousands of people came to the centre of London around Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar square and – above all else – to the front of Buckingham Palace, to celebrate victory.

The Mall and Buck. Palace SW June 06.jpg


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