Friday, 8 April 2016
The Wilful Walks of Vigor and Duffy 3 (The London Chronicles)
On September 11th, 2001 a monumental, unforgivable atrocity hit New York when a hijacked aeroplane was forced to crash into the American’s cities twin towers. Thousands died, more were injured. It was a hideous act that shocked the world. Horror followed outrage when the full impact struck. In one moment of sheer disregard for human life, an act of unprincipled evil was committed followed swiftly by moral indignation. It was a singularly onerous act and one that Eastenders and London, in general, understands all too well.
The Blitz raged from September 1940 until May 1941. It wasn’t confined to just London but struck at many of Britain’s cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Swansea, Clydebank and many, many more. This was a war waged upon civilians under the guise of attacking strategic military and industrial sites. The initial Blitz that hit London in May 1940 lasted for 57 consecutive nights.
My Mother recalls sitting outside the Anderson bomb shelter being too frightened to go in due to her phobia of spiders. She sat outside as the bombs fell onto the homes of friends and neighbours shaking with terror. She never thought she would live to see the same nightmare strike again certainly not in the heartland of our allies.
Because Wapping lies so close to the Thames, which made such a clearly visible guide for the Luftwaffe and because of its dockland industry it became an obvious target for the Nazi air force.
They followed the Thames dropping their bombs as they went. More than a million London homes were destroyed and somewhere in the region of 22,000 Londoner’s were killed. The act of war is a natural by-product of mankind. We have waged wars for time immemorial. The idea of war is an act of madness that should be outlawed but we all know that they never will as it is a part of human psyche. Wars should be fought between two armies in a field far away from hospitals and people's homes. Civilians should never be targets.
The first raids on London were an error that occurred in August 1940 when German planes, commanded by Rudolf Hallensleben, accidentally strayed over London dropping bombs on Hackney, Islington, Bethnal Green, Finchley, and Tottenham. Britain reacted angrily retaliating with a series of bombing raids to Berlin. The madness, once begun, could only play out its awful ritual.
The Port of London suffered badly during the early days of the war as night after night sirens sounded followed by the whine of German aircraft overhead. December 29th was the worst though as the Luftwaffe dropped incendiary devices that caused firestorms that rivalled the Great Fire of London. Flame spread like a contagion, smoke hung over London in a pall of ominous black. People flooded the tube network as it was safe from bombs, sleeping their nights underground. It must have been hell on earth but Londoner’s are a tough breed with Eastenders as: rough as old boots, coarse as sandpaper, crude as porn but with resolute, unbreakable hearts: they do not easily give in.
Finally, in May 1941, the Blitz ended. During its violent reign, 43,000 Brits died civilians mostly. The Houses of Parliament, the British Museum, and St. James’s Palace were all hit as were many other historic buildings of importance. Britain lay wounded with the Eastend of London in ruins but some countries just don’t know when they are beaten and Britain had not been conquered in a thousand years.
September 1940. September 2001.
It makes you wonder just when will humankind learn from its past mistakes that acts of terror perpetrated on civilian populations only ever exacerbate the situation.
This is a collaborative work between Vigor and Duffy, that is David Vigor and Russell CJ Duffy and is part of the Wilful Walks series.