Lance Whitehouse gave me an insight of what it must have been like to have lived in the City of London and to have woken every day to find the City one lived in dramatically changed. I had never considered, when learning about the Blitz, the noise of hundreds of aircraft flying over London for the specific purpose of creating fear and devastation to the people of London.
I have always known from films and photos about the damage caused and how the people reacted with stoicism and that “just getting on with it” attitude that we admire so much but with his account and his wonderful black and white photos he summed up so much more. The Father Christmas with a tin hat. The uncomplaining women who took over jobs that had always been done by men. The inevitably of night after night going into the underground for safety and sleeping in corridors and by the side of the tube tracks and then emerging in the morning to go to work to see if where you lived was still standing. The effect that must have had on the children who had not been evacuated and seeing the photographs of their little hammocks strung up across a corridor was very moving. The bravery of the Fire Service and the determination of the people who seemed able to dust themselves off and go back to see if they had a home and then carry on.
The photos summed up so much and are a testament to how much a nation gave. In today’s world all I can liken the photos to are the frightening images we see from Syria.
I was born in 1944 in Yorkshire, so towards the end of the war. I remember hardly anything about it, but there are three things that will always be with me. One is the bonfires in the streets when the end of the war was declared and the fact that they were burning a chair for some reason. The second was a feeling of terror, that continued until I was well over ten, when aeroplanes were overhead - I would rush inside and hide under the stairs. I experienced real fear which I did not understand. Where I lived was rarely bombed but it made me think of the children in London and how much they must have lived in fear with a greater reality of something actually happening. The third memory was that I had a sort of older “sister” called Joy who suddenly was no longer with us. She was an evacuee that my mother had looked after for the duration of the war. I wonder where she is now.
The wonderful talk and the photos brought back these very distant memories. Lance should be congratulated on a putting such a wonderful collection of images together which summed up the reality of war so well.
Past Mistress Woolman (2018 – 2019)