Back to work in the bombed out City

Londoner walk through smoking rubble after the bombing

The Morning After - Londoners go back to work during the blitz. There was a general determination to try to carry on as normal, even though many people were suffering from lack of sleep and transport was massively disrupted.

Londoners woke up on the 30th December to begin to assess the damage in the bombed out City of London. Many fires were still burning and everywhere fine historic buildings lay in ruins. The scale of devastation, extending three miles from St Paul’s Cathedral, was hard to comprehend. Much of the heritage of the world’s prime mercantile centre, stretching back centuries, had been destroyed,

The image of the surviving cathedral complemented the government’s message that ‘Britain can take it’ – there was little incentive to dwell on what had been lost. The public mood does genuinely seem to have that it was necessary to try to carry on as normal. This was not easy – and there was no sign of when the misery might end.

John Wadsworth describes life in one of the branches of the Midland Bank that had been saved from the fire:

On the morning of December 30 the manager and staff arrived to find the banking hall running with water from fire hoses, basement strongrooms flooded to a depth of six inches, fire still smouldering in the upper floors and many records in indescribable confusion.

No electricity or gas was available, and, as daylight was excluded by the boarded-up windows and light dome, the interior gloom could be relieved only by candles. . . . No fires could be lighted, and the central heating was not operating, for although water swilled around floors and safes, none came through the taps.

Accounting machines were out of operation in the absence of electricity; and even had power been available, three out of a battery of five were water-damaged, and several typewriters were no longer serviceable. Just then the bank was particularly busy making up accounts for the half-yearly balance, and the loss of mechanical aids was a severe blow.

In a night the branch had moved back to working conditions worse than those of a century earlier. All entries were made by hand in candlelight, the branch counter with flickering wicks reflected in the pools of water scattered over the banking hall presenting a sorry spectacle. Letters were handwritten, and as far as possible, hand delivered; no telephones were working, essential messages being sent in the form of brief notes, while the office itself was damp and cold and wretchedly unhealthy.

See Counter defensive : being the story of a bank in battle / by John Wadsworth

bombed out City

The western bell towers of St Paul’s Cathedral in London seen through an archway after the heavy incendiary raid of 29 December 1940.

bombed out City

Scene of desolation viewed from St Paul’s Cathedral: photograph taken after the raid of 29 December 1940 from the Golden Gallery surmounting the Dome of the Cathedral, and showing the devastated area of burnt and broken buildings. It is mainly the famous booksellers’ quarter bounded by Ave Maria Lane and Paternoster Row. The domed building is that of the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), the four-spired church is St Bartholomew’s

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

cm December 30, 2015 at 1:04 pm

One small correction – the four-spired church is actually St Sepulchre Without Newgate.

nahidah alom November 15, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Thank you for the information I appreciate what you have done

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