1,300 killed in London alone this week

A wide view of the bomb-damaged shell of the John Lewis department store on London's Oxford Street, following an air raid in September 1940.

A wide view of the bomb-damaged shell of the John Lewis department store on London’s Oxford Street, following an air raid in September 1940.

Shop mannequins are among the debris that litters the pavement outside the John Lewis department store on London's Oxford Street, following an air raid on London. Windows have been blown out and awnings damaged.

Shop mannequins are among the debris that litters the pavement outside the John Lewis department store on London’s Oxford Street, following an air raid on London. Windows have been blown out and awnings damaged.

Londoners were now becoming quite accustomed to the nightly ‘Blitz’. In Notting Hill in central London Vere Hodgson was writing her daily diary despite all the interruptions to sleep and the inconveniences of daily life. During this period she finishes almost every entry with the hope that she will survive the forthcoming night, sometimes commending her soul to God. The fear of death was very real. Yet there was a very matter of fact acceptance of the circumstances:

Thursday, 26th

Worst night on record! Yet I slept the best since I returned to London into the blitz. I got so drowsy with the lovely fire that when I spread my mattress at a quarter to twelve, I fell asleep before midnight.

I was aroused at 1.20 a.m. by the whole house shaking to its foundations and terrific explosions rending the air. Slept again, but was roused by still more horrible sluicings through the sky, with bangs, plonks and rumblings.

Miss M. came down from her room to say there was an incendiary in the garden. We ran to the window and could see one burning in the next garden — ours seemed to have gone out. Really awful to listen to the sounds in the sky. We felt no stone could be left standing on another. We made tea — then all lay down again. All Clear at 5.30 a.m. I walked up the road under a glorious moon.

On investigation in the morning, we discovered a house in Lansdowne Rd., nine doors from us, was gone inside. The walls were standing, but it was burnt-out inside. Walked to Clarendon Cross. Every pane of glass had gone, and several houses down. A pretty bad night! It does not bear enquiring into too much! There seems no end to it. Our incendiary had put itself out against the Rockery.

Heard Mr Bourne of Bourne and Hollingsworth [a well known London Department store] speak. Their bomb fell on Wednesday night last. They re-opened to the public on the Monday. I don’t know what John Lewis [another London Department store] are doing.

It is 10.30 p.m. Blitzkrieg on again. What the night will hold we cannot tell. Guns are going. We are all round the office fire. I have written Mother and Auntie Nell tonight. We may see another morning — here’s to hoping.
The scale of the devastation and the numbers killed was never fully revealed in the national press. The stark truth was recorded in the weekly summaries seen by senior commanders and politicians.

See Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45

From the Weekly Resume of the NAVAL, MILITARY AND AIR SITUATION for the week to 12 noon September 26th, 1940, as reported to the British War Cabinet:


Great Britain.

45. During the past week the scale of operations of the German Air Force has shown a slight decrease from that of the preceding seven days. This is accounted for mainly by the decreased use of long-range bombers by day with a consequent reduction in fighter escorts. Enemy daylight operations have been chiefly confined to South-Eastern England and the Thames Estuary.

On several days enemy activity has been restricted to one major attack or to armed reconnaissances. Attacks were directed mainly against docks on the Thames, aerodromes, aircraft factories, ports and communications. There has been no penetration in strength to the London area, raids having been dispersed before arrival and only a few isolated cases of bombing being reported from the outskirts. Some of these raids dispersed very quickly on sighting our fighters. Bombs have been dropped indiscriminately over the South-Eastern counties.



78. Approximate casualties for the period are : Killed. 1,500; seriously injured, 3,000. For London: Killed, 1,300; seriously injured, 2,200.

Unexploded mines and bombs.

79. The enemy has made extensive use of parachute mines during the past week. When these detonate, their blast force exceeds that of a 500-kilogram H.E. bomb, and up to 100 houses have been demolished by a single detonation. Fortunately, a majority have not exploded, and, although their very delicate fuze renders them likely to explode subsequently on a very slight vibration, many of them have been successfully disposed of by the Naval personnel organised for this purpose. [See also 21st September 1940 ]

80. Generally, unexploded bombs and mines have had nuisance value, delaying railways, holding up factory production and necessitating evacuation without notice of large numbers of householders


83. After some early tendency to find scapegoats for the apparent initial success of the attack and delay in remedial measures, more general equanimity now prevails. The public is well aware that the attack has failed, and have steeled themselves to the inconvenience and interruption in their wonted life, even where there has been great personal loss.

Difficulties of transport and the inconvenience of evacuation from stricken areas cause irritation, but generally the national feeling is one of toleration so long as at the end the defeat of the enemy is achieved. There is little appearance of nervous or physical overstrain. Fear and shock, attendant on actual explosion, passes quickly in most cases.

Without over-emphasis people take the obvious precaution to ensure such safety as they can and particularly to ensure sufficient sleep. By day they continue their ordinary business. Having adjusted their lives to such reasonable extent they regard the event philosophically, the Cockney adopting an appropriate bent to his humour, though there are signs of increased hatred of Germany, and demands for reprisals are numerous. [ See also 24th September 1940 ]

See TNA cab/66/12/20

For much more on the impact of the bombing campaign in central London see the excellent West End at War.

King Christian X of Denmark riding through Copenhagen

King Christian X of Denmark is greeted by crowds of well wishers in Copenhagen on his 70th birthday, 26th September 1940. His daily unaccompanied rides through the city, during which he notably failed to acknowledge any of the German military occupiers, became a symbol of passive Danish resistance.

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