Click on any of the images below to find out more about the photographs and objects featured. You can read or listen to other people's memories by using the link at the bottom of this page.
The Blitz changed London and London life in many ways. By June 1941 over a million houses in London had been damaged or destroyed and one Londoner in six had been homeless at some point. Over 20,000 people had been killed. Meanwhile daily routines and ways of life had changed, although perhaps replaced by a different kind of routine.
Parts of London, particularly in the East End, were devastated and almost nowhere escaped totally unscathed. People listened to the bombs falling, never knowing what their street or their locality would look like when they came out again. And they could never be sure that their route to work had not changed, or even that their place of work was still there in the morning. After the building of his own newspaper had been hit, journalist JL Hodson wrote: 'What strikes me so forcibly is the tawdry look, the cheap and nasty look this sort of thing wears after the explosion... So often it exposes, or seems to, that everything is jerry built - makes it seem so even if it wasn't. One is humiliated by it'.
Reproduced by permission of the
Commissioner of the City of London Police
seeing into other people's lives
Partly destroyed houses could give a revealing insight into the lives of other people. In This is London (1941) journalist Ed Murrow wrote: 'One has a strange feeling, or at least I have, in looking about at the contents of a bombed house or shop, that the things scattered about don't belong to anyone'. Looting did happen, although it is difficult now to ascertain the scale of it. 'Looters' ranged from organised gangs to individuals who picked up something that didn't seem to belong to anyone. Meanwhile the very fact of public or communal sheltering brought people into close proximity and made privacy difficult. However suburban sheltering generally remained much more private and family orientated.
losing your home
The government had not anticipated the level of homelessness that would be caused by the Blitz, and at first provisions were indequate. The majority of people depended on relatives or friends for shelter when their homes were bombed. Even so, the rest centres could not at first cope and conditions could be terrible, although the situation did gradually improve. Initially people sometimes had to go to offices all over their borough to access post-raid services, but these services were later largely concentrated in one centre in each borough. There were few people available to do repairs, so workers were drafted in from the services and other regions. By August 1941 over 1,100,000 houses had been made weather proof and so just about habitable again.
losing loved ones
What is sometimes overlooked when casualty figures are quoted is that virtually every one was the relative or friend of someone. The nature of sheltering meant that many members of families or neighbourhoods could be killed at the same time. Furthermore, the remains of the dead might not be found until a building was demolished many months later. Anticipating much higher casualty levels, the London County Council had assumed that there would not be enough timber for coffins and the mass burial of the dead in lime pits was envisaged. However people tried to maintain the standards of the pre-war years when disposing of their dead.
This site is maintained by Adaptive
Last modified: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005