‘Give us the tools to finish the job’

With every month that passes the many proud and once happy countries he is now holding down by brute force and vile intrigue are learning to hate the Prussian yoke and the Nazi name, as nothing has ever been hated so fiercely and so widely among men before. And all the time, masters of the sea and air, the British Empire – nay, in a certain sense, the whole English-speaking world will be on his track bearing with them the swords of Justice.

Winston Churchill raises his hat in salute during an inspection of the 1st American Squadron of the Home Guard at Horse Guards Parade in London, 9 January 1941. Behind, Mrs Churchill chats to a Guards officer. Lieutenant General Sir Bertram N Sergison-Brooke (GOC London Area) is standing on the right.
Winston Churchill raises his hat in salute during an inspection of the 1st American Squadron of the Home Guard at Horse Guards Parade in London, 9 January 1941. Behind, Mrs Churchill chats to a Guards officer. Lieutenant General Sir Bertram N Sergison-Brooke (GOC London Area) is standing on the right.

Winston Churchill’s radio broadcast of the 9th February 1941 was a particularly rousing affair. It was partly designed for his domestic audience, including British forces stationed around the world. Privately he considered the threat of invasion to Britain to be much diminished but he could not allow this perspective any publicity.

The speech was also an international appeal. He made clear the Nazi threat to the Balkans and to Russia itself, even while plans for these actual operations were closely guarded German secrets. By June Churchill would be passing definite intelligence on the German intention to invade Russia to Stalin.

It is not an easy military operation to invade an island like Great Britain without the command of the sea and without the command of the air, and then to face what will be waiting for the invader here.

But I must drop one word of caution, for next to cowardice and to treachery, overconfidence leading to neglect or slothfulness is the worst of martial crimes. Therefore, I drop one word of caution: A Nazi invasion of Great Britain last Autumn would have been a more or less improvised affair. Hitler took it for granted that when France gave in we should give in. But we did not give in. And he had to think again. An invasion now will be supported by a much more carefully prepared tackle and equipment for landing craft and other apparatus, all of which will have been planned and manufactured during the Winter months. We must all be prepared to meet gas attacks, parachute attacks and glider attacks, with constancy, forethought and practiced skill.

I must again emphasize what General Dill has said and what I pointed out myself last year: In order to win the war, Hitler must destroy Great Britain. He may carry havoc into the Balkan States; he may tear great provinces out of Russia; he may march to the Caspian; he may march to the gates of India. All this will avail him nothing. He may spread his curse more widely throughout Europe and Asia, but it will not avert his doom.

With every month that passes the many proud and once happy countries he is now holding down by brute force and vile intrigue are learning to hate the Prussian yoke and the Nazi name, as nothing has ever been hated so fiercely and so widely among men before. And all the time, masters of the sea and air, the British Empire – nay, in a certain sense, the whole English-speaking world will be on his track bearing with them the swords of Justice.

The United States administration was in the process of approving the Lend Lease Act, which would provide military assistance to Britain and China. Churchill was not going to miss an opportunity to aid that process of approval. He concluded by making a direct appeal to the United States.

Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and under Providence all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job.

Read the whole speech at iBiblio.

The Battlship HMS Barham which operated in the Mediterranean in 1941.

There are numerous accounts of how well the speech was received by those who heard it. Surgeon-Commander E.R.Sorley, RN, heard it on HMS Barham and recounted his reaction in a letter written to his wife the next day:

I thought of you very frequently when I was listening to Winston Churchill’s broadcast last night. It came through to us exceedingly well and as it co-incided with our weekly cinema show special arrangements were made to have the address relayed through the cinema amplifier between parts of the film.

Believe me, a very novel and interesting entr’acte; all of us, including Admiral and Captain, listened with craning ears, and laughed with the Prime Minister as he scourged the Dictators with his tongue. Thank God for Winston Churchill at this time. I think that was the predominant feeling amongst us at the end of his most moving speech.

There is no other man on earth, I believe, who can inspire us with the spirit of dogged resolution and fierce desire to strike our enemies; who can so combine the art of moving oratory with the bite of ferocious justified invective. There is something of the boy in Winston Churchill; he loves to tease and anger his opponents; one can almost see him chuckling and licking his lips as he rolls out his blistering phrases about the Nazis and the “black-hearted” Mussolini. Yet none of his opponents can compete with him in reply; even if they could, he would be quite unmoved.

How Hitler and Mussolini must hate him. Last night’s oration was a masterpiece and to my mind should take a place in history alongside his inspired words after France had fallen. You remember “Let us brace ourselves to our duty …. if the British Commonwealth shall last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

The continuance of the cinema film after the broadcast came as a bit of an anti-climax. To be translated from the atmosphere of an inspired Churchill to that of Mickey Rooney portraying the adventures of the boy Edison detracted from the entertainment value of the latter.

This and other letters from Surgeon-Commander Sorley can be read at BBC People’s War.

On board the battleship HMS Barham - sponging out the 15" guns after being in action.
On board the battleship HMS Barham – sponging out the 15″ guns after being in action.
On board HMS Barham 1941 - Taking on board 15" shells.
On board HMS Barham 1941 – Taking on board 15″ shells.

Goebbels on Churchill

England will one day pay a heavy price for this man. When the great catastrophe breaks over the island kingdom, the British people will have him to thank. He has long been the spokesman for the plutocratic caste that wanted war to destroy Germany. He distinguishes himself from the men behind the scenes only through his obvious cynicism and his unscrupulous contempt for humankind.

German Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels in late January 1941, during a course on propaganda for military leaders.

Josef Goebbels the Nazi Propaganda Minister continued to portray Britain as the main enemy, partly as a smokescreen for the build up of arms for the invasion of Russia. In early February 1941 he published an article about Winston Churchill himself:

England will one day pay a heavy price for this man. When the great catastrophe breaks over the island kingdom, the British people will have him to thank. He has long been the spokesman for the plutocratic caste that wanted war to destroy Germany. He distinguishes himself from the men behind the scenes only through his obvious cynicism and his unscrupulous contempt for humankind.

He wants war for war’s sake. War is an end in itself to him. He wished it, pushed for it, and prepared for it out of a stupid, destructive drive. He is one of those characters of the political underworld who rise through chaos, who announce chaos, who cause chaos. For countless people the war brings vast suffering, for countless children hunger and disease, for countless mothers and women streams of tears. For him, it is no more than a big horse race that he wants to take part in.

He now has what he wanted. England is in the middle of the gravest struggle in its history, from which it will be lucky to emerge with its mere existence.

Read the whole article from Die Zeit ohne Beispiel at the German Propaganda Archive.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, seated on the open bridge of HMS NAPIER, a destroyer. A senior Royal Navy officer, possibly the commander Captain Stephen H T Arliss, stands beside him. January 1941.

Churchill ‘We need to import more’

It is reckoned that the minimum food import required to maintain efficiency is about 16 million tons, 70 per cent, of the 23 million tons imported before the war. This involves cutting animal feeding-stuffs by about 4 million tons, which will reduce our stock of meat on the hoof, the safest kind of stock in case of air attacks. It will, of course, also reduce our supplies of bacon, eggs and dairy produce, already greatly depleted by the collapse of the Continent, but every effort is being made to maintain the children’s milk supply which depends upon imported oil cake.

The cold bleak Battle of the Atlantic was also a battle of tonnages and other statistics, which were closely monitored by the Royal Navy and at the highest levels of Government. Britain\’s ability to keep fighting was at stake.

Churchill circulated a memorandum to the War Cabinet detailing the impact of enemy sinkings of merchant shipping. It was part of the analysis that he was giving to Harry Hopkins to take back to the United States to discuss with President Roosevelt. The U-boats were having particular success during this period as the Royal Navy struggled to develop the technology and the capacity to counter them.

Since the outbreak of war we have lost about 2 million gross tons more shipping than we have built or captured. This has been approximately made good by bringing home British ships normally trading abroad and by buying and chartering Allied and neutral ships, which now work for us full-time instead of part-time as formerly. Thus the total shipping effectively at our disposal is about the same as in peace time.

Formerly nearly half our imports came from European countries and the north coast of Africa. These sources no longer being available, and the Mediterranean being practically closed to merchant shipping, we are forced to import from more distant sources and the average haul is increased by about half. In addition, the time of turnaround in port has been increased by blackout and other war time difficulties and by the concentration of unloading in the Western ports. These two causes together with convoy delays make the average round voyage last about one and a half times as long as formerly. Hence if nothing else intervened we should be able to import some two thirds of the normal amount.

In addition, however, it has been necessary to divert about one sixth of our importing capacity to the fighting services, a factor which has been increased by the campaign in the Middle East. Thus it seems likely that we shall not be able to import even two thirds of the normal amount. Indeed, if sinkings continue at their present level our merchant fleet, which has been maintained largely by windfalls in the shape of French, Norwegian, Danish ships, etc will diminish and our importing capacity will be even further reduced. This would gravely imperil our war effort.

He then went on to consider particular requirements, including ‘Food’:

It is reckoned that the minimum food import required to maintain efficiency is about 16 million tons, 70 per cent, of the 23 million tons imported before the war. This involves cutting animal feeding-stuffs by about 4 million tons, which will reduce our stock of meat on the hoof, the safest kind of stock in case of air attacks.

It will, of course, also reduce our supplies of bacon, eggs and dairy produce, already greatly depleted by the collapse of the Continent, but every effort is being made to maintain the children’s milk supply which depends upon imported oil cake. It also implies increased imports of fertilisers essential to augment our home food production.

We plan to reduce fruit and vegetable imports from two and a half million to half a million tons, and to cut one million tons of other foods, such as sugar, meat, butter, eggs, etc

The consumption per head in December compared with pre war rates is shown below for a few food-stuffs :—

Butter 29% of pre-war.
All fats 81%
Tea 83%
Sugar 76%
Bacon and ham 82%
Other meat 86%

It is evident that we cannot cut much further without reducing the stamina and morale of the people.

See TNA CAB 66/14/39

Many Americans ready for war

The important element in the situation was the boldness of the President, who would lead opinion and not follow it, who was convinced that if England lost, America, too, would be encircled and beaten. He would use his powers if necessary; he would not scruple to interpret existing laws for the furtherance of his aim; he would make people gape with surprise, as the British Foreign Office must have gaped when it saw the terms of the Lease and Lend Bill.

Harry Hopkins on his way to visit Britain, January 1941, where he became even more convinced of the need for support for Britain. He was highly influential in developing the Lend Lease policy which enabled Britain to keep fighting.

Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt’s closest personal aide, was in Britain to discover the war situation and report back. A late night conversation with Winston Churchill ranged far and wide around the international situation but also covered the domestic outlook of the United States. The whole candid discussion was recorded in the private diaries of John Colville, Private Secretary to Churchill:

As far as the present was concerned, there were four divisions of public opinion in America: a small group of Nazis and Communists, sheltering behind Lindbergh, who declared for a negotiated peace and wanted a German victory; a group, represented by Joe Kennedy, which said “Help Britain, but make damn sure you don’t get into any danger of war”; a majority group which supported the President’s determination to send the maximum assistance at whatever risk; and about ten per cent or fifteen per cent of the country, including [Frank] Knox [Secretary of the Navy] and [Henry L.] Stimson [Secretary of the Army] and most of the armed forces, who were in favour of immediate war.

The important element in the situation was the boldness of the President, who would lead opinion and not follow it, who was convinced that if England lost, America, too, would be encircled and beaten. He would use his powers if necessary; he would not scruple to interpret existing laws for the furtherance of his aim; he would make people gape with surprise, as the British Foreign Office must have gaped when it saw the terms of the Lease and Lend Bill.

The boldness of the President was a striking factor in the situation. He did not want war, indeed he looked upon America as an arsenal which should provide the weapons for the conflict and not count the cost; but he would not shrink from war.

See John Colville: The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955

Churchill broadcasts to the Italian people

Your aviators have tried to cast their bombs upon London. Our armies are tearing – and will tear – your African empire to shreds and tatters. We are now only at the beginning of this sombre tale. Who can say where it will end? Presently, we shall be forced to come to much closer grips. How has all this come about, and what is it all for?

The Italian Offensive 1940 – 1941: British troops, sitting on captured Italian motorcycles, read copies of the congratulatory telegram sent to all units after their victory by the Secretary of State for War, Mr Anthony Eden.

On the 23rd December 1940 Churchill broadcast a speech directed at the Italian people. Various sources, not least interrogation of prisoners of war, made it clear that many Italians were ambivalent about the war and the direction that the dictatorship was taking them. This was all part of a longer campaign to turn the loyalties of the country:

We have never been your foes till now. In the last war against the barbarous Huns we were your comrades. For fifteen years after that war, we were your friends. Although the institutions which you adopted after that war were not akin to ours and diverged, as we think, from the sovereign impulses which had commanded the unity of Italy, we could still walk together in peace and good-will. Many thousands of your people dwelt with ours in England; many of our people dwelt with you in Italy.

We liked each other. We got on well together. There were reciprocal services, there was amity, there was esteem. And now we are at war – now we are condemned to work each other’s ruin.

Your aviators have tried to cast their bombs upon London. Our armies are tearing – and will tear – your African empire to shreds and tatters. We are now only at the beginning of this sombre tale. Who can say where it will end? Presently, we shall be forced to come to much closer grips. How has all this come about, and what is it all for?

Italians, I will tell you the truth.

It is all because of one man – one man and one man alone has ranged the Italian people in deadly struggle against the British Empire and has deprived Italy of the sympathy and intimacy of the United States of America.

That he is a great man I do not deny. But that after eighteen years of unbridled power he has led your country to the horrid verge of ruin – that can be denied by none.

It is all one man – one man, who, against the crown and royal family of Italy, against the Pope and all the authority of the Vatican and of the Roman Catholic Church, against the wishes of the Italian people who had no lust for this war; one man has arrayed the trustees and inheritors of ancient Rome upon the side of the ferocious pagan barbarians.

On the very same day in Italy Mussolini is despondent about the quality of Italian troops, who have been forced out of both Greece and Egypt within the last month. He tells his Foreign Minister, Count Ciano:

I must nevertheless recognise that the Italians of 1914 were better than these. It is not very flattering for the regime, but that’s the way it is.

Churchill seeks support from Roosevelt

We can endure the shattering of our dwellings, and the slaughter of our civil population by indiscriminate air attacks, and we hope to parry these increasingly as our science develops, and to repay them upon military objectives in Germany as our Air Force more nearly approaches the strength of the enemy.
The decision for 1941 lies upon the seas.

The lookout maintains a constant vigil from a Destroyer escorting a convoy.

On 8th December 1940, in a wide ranging letter to President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill reviewed the state of the war. Now isolated from continental Europe, Britain’s main source of supply, for food as well as all manner of war munitions, lay across the Atlantic. The Germans had recently had a series of successes, as their Surface raiders and U-Boat wolfpack tactics paid off. British countermeasures were constantly being developed but convoy escorts were not yet well co-ordinated, and there was still no answer to the long range Condor planes being used to spot shipping for the U-Boats.

This letter was copied to the War Cabinet and might well have been intended for a wider audience given the characteristic language employed:

The danger of Great Britain being destroyed by a swift, overwhelming blow, has for the time being very greatly receded. In its place, there is a long, gradually-maturing danger, less sudden and less spectacular, but equally deadly. This mortal danger is the steady and increasing diminution of sea tonnage.

We can endure the shattering of our dwellings, and the slaughter of our civil population by indiscriminate air attacks, and we hope to parry these increasingly as our science develops, and to repay them upon military objectives in Germany as our Air Force more nearly approaches the strength of the enemy.

October 1940, on board HMS Westminster, an escort vessel of a convoy from Sheerness to Rosyth. The lookout on the bridge.

The decision for 1941 lies upon the seas. Unless we can establish our ability to feed this Island, to import the munitions of all kinds which we need, unless we can move our armies to the various theatres where Hitler and his confederate, Mussolini, must be met, and maintain them there, and do all this with the asurance of being able to carry it on till the spirit of the Continental Dictators is broken, we may fall by the way, and the time needed by the United States to complete her defensive preparations may not be forthcoming.

It is therefore in shipping and in the power to transport across the oceans, particularly the Atlantic Ocean, that in 1941 the crunch of the whole war will be found. If, on the other hand, we are able to move the necessary tonnage to and fro across salt water indefinitely, it may well be that the application of superior air power to the German homeland and the rising anger of the German and other Nazi-gripped populations, will bring the agony of civilization to a merciful and glorious end.

But do not let us underrate the task.

 

The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, inspects a ‘Tommy gun’ while visiting coastal defence positions near Hartlepool. 31 July 1940.

However, there was one crucial factor that he had to spell out.

The moment approaches [he said] when we shall no longer be able to pay cash for shipping and other supplies. While we will do our utmost, and shrink from no proper sacrifice to make payments across the Exchange, I believe you will agree that it would be wrong in principle and mutually disadvantageous in effect, if at the height of this struggle, Great Britain were to be divested of all salable assets, so that after the victory was won with our blood, civilisation saved, and the time gained for the United States to be fully armed against all eventualities, we should stand stripped to the bone. Such a course would not be in the moral or the economic interests of either of our countries.

See TNA CAB/66/13/46

The number of ships sunk and the rate of supplies entering Britain was given close attention at the highest level. The weekly Naval Situation report to the War Cabinet would give a broad overview, as well as listing all the individual ships sunk. The general summary for this week gives an indication of the scale of the resources involved:

25. 19 ships totalling 78,234 tons have been reported lost by enemy action, and of these 16 ships (52,668 tons) were British. Nine British ships (44,042 tons) were sunk by U-Boats and one large Norwegian ship (18,673 tons), 3 British ships (2,392 tons) and a Belgian Trawler were sunk by mine. One British ship and a Trawler were sunk by aircraft. Thirteen ships are reported damaged by enemy action.

Protection of Seaborne Trade.

26. During the week ending noon Wednesday, the 11th December, 795 ships, including 130 allied and 12 neutral, were convoyed, and of these three are reported lost by enemy action. One battleship, one cruiser, eleven armed merchant cruisers, 43 destroyers and 30 sloops and corvettes were employed on escort duty. Since the commencement of hostilities 46,610 ships have been convoyed, of which 200 have been lost.

See TNA CAB/66/14/8

 

The interception and scuttling of the German SS Idarwald, 8 And 9 December 1940. On board a British warship off Cuba. The German Hamburg-Amerika Freighter Idarwald was intercepted by a patrolling British warship off Cuba. The German crew at once scuttled their ship, set fire to her, and took to their boats. The British ship fought the fire and took the Idarwald in tow, but she had to be cast off shortly thereafter and sank.
The IDARWALD is well on fire amidships as the boats pull away from the abandoned ship.
A bulkhead of the IDARWALD has given way and she sinks more rapidly by the bows. The British warship has abandoned her salvage attempts and the German freighter is cast off.

Neville Chamberlain dies

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938
A SS Honour Guard for a British Prime Minister. Neville Chamberlain at Munich in September 1938 with the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop.

Neville Chamberlain died from cancer on 9th November 1940, only six months after he had resigned as Prime Minister. Although far more interested in domestic policy and social reform, his period as Prime Minister was dominated by the rising threat of Nazi Germany, and eventually the outbreak of war. He believed that when he signed the “Munich agreement” in September 1938 he had come to an agreement with Hitler that would ensure peace. At the time only a minority in the House of Commons and in Britain at large took the opposite view:

Winston Churchill told the Commons,

England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame, and will get war.

But when Chamberlain died Churchill was magnanimous – he paid tribute to him in the House of Commons on 12th November 1940:

It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused?

They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart-the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Churchill sets out his priorities

THE very highest priority in personnel and material should be assigned to what may be called the Radio sphere. This demands Scientists, Wireless Experts, and many classes of highly-skilled labour and high-grade material.

On the progress made, much of the winning of the war and our future strategy, especially Naval, depends. We must impart a far greater accuracy to the A.A. guns, and a far better protection to our warships and harbours. Not only research and experiments, but production must be pushed hopefully forward from many directions, and after repeated disappointments we shall achieve success.

Sound locator crew working with search lights during the Blitz
A sound locator crew working with a Search Light unit during the Blitz. Such methods, as well as the Observation Corps, were given considerable publicity and shown as part of the co-ordination of Air Raid detection. By contrast the Radar system, which was already playing a crucial role, remained highly secret.

On the 15th October 1940 Winston Churchill set out his priorities in a War Cabinet ‘Note by the Prime Minister’.

He was perhaps mindful of the recent success of HMS Ajax in utilising radar against the Italian Navy, which he would just have been briefed about:

THE very highest priority in personnel and material should be assigned to what may be called the Radio sphere. This demands Scientists, Wireless Experts, and many classes of highly-skilled labour and high-grade material.

On the progress made, much of the winning of the war and our future strategy, especially Naval, depends. We must impart a far greater accuracy to the A.A. guns, and a far better protection to our warships and harbours. Not only research and experiments, but production must be pushed hopefully forward from many directions, and after repeated disappointments we shall achieve success.

The 1A priority must remain with Aircraft Production, for the purpose of executing approved Target programmes. It must be an obligation upon them to contrive by every conceivable means not to let this priority be abused and needlessly hamper other vital Departments. For this purpose they should specify their requirements in labour and material.

Other priorities were that he set out were:

The establishment of 10 Armoured Divisions by the end of 1941.

We cannot hope to compete with the enemy in numbers of men and must therefore rely upon an exceptional proportion of armoured fighting vehicles

Rifles and small arms ammunition – the Home Guard was still for the most part without weapons, and there was a shortage of ammunition for all units.

Small craft and anti U-Boat craft in preference to large ships for the Navy.

See TNA CAB/66/12/46

Blenheim Mk IFs of No. 25 Squadron at Martlesham Heath, 25 July 1940. The foreground aircraft is equipped with AI Mk III radar. The squadron was used for night fighter operations.
Blenheim Mk IFs of No. 25 Squadron at Martlesham Heath, 25 July 1940. The foreground aircraft is equipped with AI Mk III radar. The squadron was used for night fighter operations.
A member of the Observer Corps listens for the approach of aircraft while his colleague sleeps, 29 February 1940.
A member of the Observer Corps listens for the approach of aircraft while his colleague sleeps, 29 February 1940.

Morale remains high under fire

The almost incredible bravery of the people, their fortitude and endurance, and in especial the stoic calm of those who have lost their homes and possessions, beggars description. London and the provinces share equal honours in this last respect, and all writers are touchingly grateful for the kindness shown to them.

“Now the windows are all boarded up and tarpaulin put on the roof it does not seem so bad ….. The people around here have all been so kind. So many offered us a home… We did not know we had such wonderful friends.”

Anti aircraft guns in London during the Blitz
‘Londoners agree universally that the noise of the big guns is music in their ears, and that they sleep better when the barrage is in progress’

The Government was secretly opening the mail going out of the country. It was partly a counter espionage measure but it also enabled them to monitor the state of morale in the country. On the 7th October the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, asked that the latest report ‘Home Opinion – As Shewn in the Mails to USA and Eire’ be circulated to the rest of the War Cabinet:

REACTION TO AIR-RAIDS …

Morale is highest in London, but the provinces run a good second, and only a few letters from Liverpool, mostly from Irish writers, show any sign of panic.

Courage.

The almost incredible bravery of the people, their fortitude and endurance, and in especial the stoic calm of those who have lost their homes and possessions, beggars description. London and the provinces share equal honours in this last respect, and all writers are touchingly grateful for the kindness shown to them.

“Now the windows are all boarded up and tarpaulin put on the roof it does not seem so bad ….. The people around here have all been so kind. So many offered us a home… We did not know we had such wonderful friends.” (Bedford Park, London.)

“I don’t know whether you heard of our bit of bad luck or rather good luck, last Tuesday. We were left without a home, but not a scratch to anyone.” (Liverpool.).

“It is no longer necessary to make window displays, the chief reason being that I have no windows. On the boards which have replaced the glass are two notices, which have, caused a deal of comment. – “Business as usual, everybody safe. Not an ache and only a few panes …… .” (Liverpool)

“These people who are left without a thing in the world, except the spirit of winning the war ……” (London, E.8,)

“In the East End they seem more annoyed at Buckingham Palace being hit than their own homes ….. in some cases had spread out the Union Jack on the houses that had been hit (Southampton)

The Barrage.

Londoners agree universally that the noise of the big guns is music in their ears, and that they sleep better when the barrage is in progress.

“The great and lovely guns that burst Hell’s fire into the . Heavens, What a sight” (London)

“The splendid noise of our guns ….. the best tonic Londoners have ever had.” (N.W.1.)

“It’s an awful noise, but it’s wonderful music all the same and we like it and are able to get some sleep while it’s on.” (N.15.)

Souvenirs.

Londoners have found a new pastime in the collecting of pieces of shrapnel and fragments of crashed planes. “One of my friends has a piece of wing of an aeroplane. We all treasure our shrapnel here, for they are good souvenirs.” (E.1.)

See TNA cab/66/12/37

Symbolic photograph of a sentry standing guard on a beach in southern England, 7 October 1940.
Symbolic photograph of a sentry standing guard on a beach in southern England, 7 October 1940.

British ‘take the bombing in good heart’

An increasingly fatalistic attitude towards the effect of bombing is reported, and this appears to be coupled with a high state of morale. In the East End the searchlights rather than the sirens are now taken as a sign for going to the shelters. Cooperation and friendliness in public shelters are reported to be increasing …

At the beginning of the war Air Raid Wardens were often seen as unnecessarily officious and interfering. Attitudes changed as the bombing became more intense and there were eventually nearly 1.4 million voluntary unpaid wardens.

On the 5th September Churchill had addressed the House of Commons on the war situation. The following day the Ministry of Information had collated the response to the speech and attitudes to air raids generally, in its daily public attitude survey:

The public continue to take the bombing in good heart. In London last night’s alarm was talked of jokingly for the most part, and fewer people complain of tiredness today; more are sleeping through the night alarms.

There is general satisfaction at the Prime Minister’s announcement that something is to be done about the sirens, and the details are awaited eagerly.

An increasingly fatalistic attitude towards the effect of bombing is reported, and this appears to be coupled with a high state of morale. In the East End the searchlights rather than the sirens are now taken as a sign for going to the shelters. Cooperation and friendliness in public shelters are reported to be increasing, but there are many complaints about ‘insanitary messes’ in shelters, and improper behaviour of various varieties is causing distress among the more respectable elements of the community.

There was more detail in the London regional report:

LONDON

The Prime Minister’s speech was welcomed. The siren policy is still a controversial subject; most Londoners seem to approve the idea of a preliminary ‘stand-by’ siren with a further warning to indicate immediate danger. However there is a small school of thought who wish for no sirens.

The problem of night sleeping in shelters is the greatest concern of observers, particularly in the poor and crowded districts. Sanitary arrangements in many cases are inadequate: the atmosphere becomes very foul: there are increasing numbers of cases of colds and septic throats especially among children and it is feared that there may be epidemics. In several districts cases of blatant immorality in shelters are reported; this upsets other occupants of shelters and will deter them from using the shelters again.

See TNA INF 1/264

In the summer of 1940 the first Polish squadrons were formed in Fighter Command. No. 303 'City of Warsaw' Squadron was the top-scoring RAF unit in September 1940, with nine of its pilots claiming five or more kills. Pilot Officers Jan Zumbach (left) and Mirosław Ferić, two of its aces, playing with the Squadron's mascot - a puppy dog. RAF Leconfield, 24 October 1940.
In the summer of 1940 the first Polish squadrons were formed in Fighter Command. No. 303 ‘City of Warsaw’ Squadron was the top-scoring RAF unit in September 1940, with nine of its pilots claiming five or more kills. Pilot Officers Jan Zumbach (left) and Mirosław Ferić, two of its aces, playing with the Squadron’s mascot – a puppy dog. RAF Leconfield, 24 October 1940.

Meanwhile the daily battles over the south east of England continued unabated. 303 (Polish) Squadron’s Diary for the day is just one example of the activity of RAF Fighter Command, albeit by a group of men particularly motivated by their hatred of the Germans:

Nine Hurricanes left Northolt at 08.40 hours [on 6 September 1940]. Four Hurricanes landed Northolt 08.35 [sic] — 09.50 hours. After various patrol orders the [303 Polish] Squadron was over western Kent and saw very large formations of enemy aircraft moving up from the coast to the east of them and above.

Their lack of height forced them to attack climbing and at only 140 mph. This contributed largely to our heavy casualties.

S/Ldr Kellett destroyed one Do 215 and force-landed at Biggin Hill slightly wounded.

F/O Urbanowicz reports:

‘I was Yellow 2 with S/Ldr Krasnodebski; the second section. I saw a raid a mile away travelling westward – about 40 Dorniers. Red Section went in to attack. I saw Me 109s and Hurricanes flying across from left to right on each other’s tails. One Me 109 then attacked me from starboard. we had a short dogfight. I fired 3 or 4 seconds at 200 yards. The engine caught fire and E/A fell vertically to earth.

I lost my section and orbited. I saw bombs dropping in one place and Me109s circling round that place and much AA fire. I circled there and attacked a bomber; One Me 109 was in the way and two more attacked me. I had to dogfight with the three Me’s. I had no chance to fire. I escaped over some balloons by the sea, and the Me’s climbed up. I heard “All Apany Pancake” calling the squadron in to land and I came home.’

F/Lt Forbes shot down one Me 109 and damaged another. He was forced down by petrol pouring into the cockpit. He tried to land but overshot the field and was slightly wounded by splinters. The aircraft was damaged by shellfire and the landing and was Cat 3. [i.e. destroyed]

F/O Feric destroyed one Me 109 and probably another

Sgt Frantiszek shot down one Me 109 and his aircraft was hit in the tail by a shell. He landed at Northolt and his aircraft has been repaired here;

S/Ldr Krasnodebski’s aircraft a/c was hit by a shell before he had engaged the enemy and immediately caught fire. He was taken to Farnborough Hospital suffering from burns and shock.

Sgt Karubin claims to have shot down one He 111. He crashed near Pembury, shot down by a Me109, and was admitted to Pembury Hospital, slightly injured.

Summary: Enemy casualties — 1 Do 215, 5 Me 109s and 1 He 111 destroyed. 2 Me 109s probable. Own casualties — 5 Hurricanes Cat 3, 1 Hurricane Cat 2. [i.e. badly“ I damaged], Two pilots wounded and two pilots slightly wounded.

A group of pilots of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron RAF standing by the tail elevator of one of their Hawker Hurricane Mark Is at RAF Leconfield, 24 October 1940. Left to right: Pilot Officer Mirosław Ferić, Flying Officer Bogdan Grzeszczak, Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach, Flying Officer Zdzisław Henneberg and Flight Lieutenant John A. Kent, a Canadian who commanded 'A' Flight of the Squadron at this time.
A group of pilots of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron RAF standing by the tail elevator of one of their Hawker Hurricane Mark Is at RAF Leconfield, 24 October 1940. Left to right: Pilot Officer Mirosław Ferić, Flying Officer Bogdan Grzeszczak, Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach, Flying Officer Zdzisław Henneberg and Flight Lieutenant John A. Kent, a Canadian who commanded ‘A’ Flight of the Squadron at this time.