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Morale steady as London Blitz continues

A Dockyard Fire, John Nash,1940.
A Dockyard Fire, John Nash,1940. AFS attending a fire at a dock during a raid. Four dockworkers attempt to move a moored ship away from the blaze. Searchlights scan the heavy clouds to upper right background.
Blitz Dawn, Joseph Gray, 1940.
Blitz Dawn, Joseph Gray, 1940. A view from the north bank of the River Thames in London over towards the Shot Tower on the south bank. A few civilians are walking on the pavement in the foreground. Clouds of smoke, showing evidence of fires caused by German air raids, are visible on the horizon.

As Blitz the continued across the country the government were carefully monitoring the morale of the population. In London, where there had not yet been one night’s respite, people were becoming tired from lack of sleep but there genuinely seems to have been a calm determination to carry on with daily life as best as possible.

From the Naval, Military and Air Situation for the week up 31st October 1940, as reported to the War cabinet:

Great Britain.

47. Enemy air activity by day has been on a considerably increased scale, and was principally directed against the South-Eastern counties and London. A very high proportion of the aircraft operating were again fighters, some of which carried bombs. The heaviest attacks during daylight were made on the 25th, 27th and 29th. On each of these days about four hundred and fifty to five hundred enemy aircraft were employed.

48. Our fighters had a most successful day on the 29th October, destroying twenty-eight enemy aircraft for the loss of seven aircraft and two pilots. Of these, two aircraft were destroyed and one pilot killed by bombs when taking off from North Weald aerodrome. On the same day twelve of the aircraft operating against this country were reported by the A.A. to be Italian; they dropped bombs in the vicinity of Dover Harbour, but did not penetrate further over this country.

49. A notable feature of the German Air Force’s operations has been the number of Royal Air Force stations that have been attacked. Over forty different aerodromes were attacked, mainly at dusk, and many of them, also, both bombed and machine gunned.

86. A number of shelters, mostly public, have been hit. Two serious incidents of this kind occurred in London, one at the Druid Street railway arch shelter, Bermondsey, where 50 people wrere killed and 100 injured, and the other at St. Peter’s Crypt, Southwark, resulting in 18 fatal casualties and 36 seriously wounded. At the latter some people are still missing (30th October, 1940). Other shelter incidents occurred in Kennington (brick), Poplar (underground), Battersea (trench) and Croydon (electrical showrooms used as a shelter). In Birmingham two public shelters were hit on the 24th-25th; on the 26th-27th. 24 people were killed and a number buried in a public basement shelter.

Civilian Casualties.

87. The approximate figures for the week ending 0600 hours, 30th October, are 829 killed and 1,379 wounded. These figures include the estimated casualties of 519 killed and 970 wounded in London, and 149 killed and 197 wounded in Birmingham.

Small German Anti-Personnel Bomb.

88. On the 28th October, the enemy used for the first time against this country a new small anti-personnel bomb, weighing about 4lb. It was dropped in several places in East Anglia, and in Ipswich, where it was dropped apparently indiscriminately from a low altitude, several fatal casualties were caused. Reports speak of an outer case releasing a bomb which is cylindrical in shape, about 3-in. by 3-in., and filled with High Explosive. The wall thickness is 1-in., and the bomb may cause damage up to 50 ft. away. It is stated that the fuse is delicate and Police and Wardens have been warned against handling any found unexploded.


89. London has had 27 alerts by day (of which seven were on the 26th), totalling in all some 20 hours. Night alerts in London have totalled about 80 hours, the longest lasting for 12 hours 32 minutes. Liverpool and Bristol have each had 6 alerts by day for a total period of 5 and 2 hours respectively. Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and Rugby have each had warnings at night for more than 24 hours in all.


90. Morale remains consistently high both in London and the Provinces. The incidence of raiding is taken calmly and with reasoned consideration. Shelter, sleeping arrangements, evacuation, the approach and effects of winter, working hours, transport, and emergency heating and feeding arrangements are subjects uppermost in the public mind. In general, they are now being more thoroughly considered by the public than previously and, although calculations are often not without a personal or opportunist bias, patriotism and duty play a larger part than earlier in the year.

The extraordinary number of bombs that fell on London are recorded at Bombsight, where the interactive map attempts to place where every bomb fell. At first glance it is hard to comprehend what you are looking at – there is such a mass of incidents recorded. The site has links to many personal stories and is well worth exploring.

A Bombed Hospital Ward, Kathleen Guthrie, 1940.
A Bombed Hospital Ward, Kathleen Guthrie, 1940.
Two nurses strip a bed with blood-stained sheets in a ward with a large hole blown through the wall. An ARP warden stands near the hole surveying the rubble-strewn floor and the pile of mangled bedsteads on the right. In the background a third nurse and a doctor look down towards something obscured on the floor.
A Gas Main on Fire in Chelsea, Anthony Gross, 1940.
A Gas Main on Fire in Chelsea, Anthony Gross, 1940. A street scene with colonnaded shops in Paulton Square. The buildings are bomb damaged. Low flames are burning in the street. Warders and on-lookers watch the blaze. Some men are digging a hole in the road.

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