Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Posts Tagged ‘Blitz

The Milkman

with 4 comments

dd5d8955cf790575ee2cd09ad693ee3c--london-street-the-london

Keep Calm and Carry On, proclaimed the poster which is now overused and overparodied. Ironically, the poster was never used — the campaign was abandoned just as the Second World War began. Instead, various photos taken during the war, of ordinary people ‘carrying on’ conveyed the same message.

Most famous of these photos was Fred Morley’s milkman, who was seen doing his rounds, even as the Blitz reduced the apartments of his erstwhile customers into rubble. The day was October 9th 1940 — the 32nd straight day of bombing raids on Britain. The Nazi invasion plans had been thwarted, as the weather conditions deteriorated into winter conditions, making massive aerial campaigns harder to sustain. The Luftwaffe had just switched its main effort into night-time attacks, which became their official policy just two days prior on 7th October. Although not as serious as in a raid two months later,  St Paul’s Cathedral was hit on the early hours of October 9th, but the bomb failed to detonate.

A sea of destruction awaited Morley the next morning. Working for Fox Photos, he knew that if he took the pictures of the destroyed homes, his photos would not be published. A lot of his earlier work had been censored. In front of a back drop of firefighters struggling to contain a fire, he had an idea. He borrowed the coat and milk carrier from a milkman and asked his assistant to walk across the bombed moonscape. London carries on, the stage photo proclaimed, and the censor waved the picture through.

For the capital, tougher days were still ahead. On 14th and 15th October, the heaviest attack saw hundreds of German bombers dotting the skies above London. In ‘Second Great Fire of London’ on the night of 29th December 1940, nineteen churches, thirty-one guild halls and all of Paternoster Row, including five million books went up in flames. But the capital did carry on remarkably: the approval for the government’s conduct of the war nor the percentage of people believing Britain would win it barely dipped even during those dark days. A survey in December, after three months of air-raids, showed that in that surly British way, weather was a bigger worry for Londoners than the Blitz. In The Blitz: The British Under Attack, Julian Gardiner noted that Londoners seeking shelter in a tube station had a weekly discussion group at which the topics included travel, unemployment and “Should women have equal pay for equal work?” Lord Woolton, the popular Minister for Food, quipped, “egg rationing produced more emotion than the blitz.”

*

dumdum-patreon

I have started a Patreon. In their words, “Patreon is an Internet-based platform that allows content creators to build their own subscription content service.” I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos, and the Patreon is a way for this blog to be more sustainable and growth-focused. Readers who subscribe on Patreon might have access to a few blog posts early; chance to request this topic or that topic; or to participate in some polls. Here is the link to Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/iconicphotos. 

 

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

September 4, 2017 at 9:37 am

Posted in Politics, War

Tagged with , ,

London Blitz — 29th December 1940

with 15 comments

Seventy years ago, the Germans started the Blitz more or less out of frustration, without clear planning, as a sequel to the Battle of Britain. During the first half of the summer of 1940, the Luftwaffe focused on dominating British airspace, in preparation for a possible landing, and its bombardments were limited to airfields and other military installations. On 24th August, more or less by accident, a pair of Stukas dropped the first bombs on central London. Churchill seized the opportunity, and in ‘revenge’, 80 RAF bombers pounded Berlin. Hitler was infuriated. Nearly 600 German bombers came back during the next two weeks to bomb English cities, factories and airfields.

Then, at 5 p.m. on 7th September, the first major attack on London began. On that sunny afternoon, 348 Luftwaffe bombers crossed the English Channel, and for the next two hours ignited the city with incendiary bombs, the docks being their primary target. That same evening, the Germans were back, raining 625 tons of high explosives on working class neighborhoods in the East End. The Blitz went on for 57 consecutive nights and then spread to other cities in the U.K. In ‘Second Great Fire of London’ on the night of 29th December 1940, nineteen churches, thirty-one guild halls and all of Paternoster Row, including five million books went up in flames.

By the time the Blitz ended (as Luftwaffe diverted its planes east for the attacks on the Soviets) on May 16th 1941, more than 43,000 people had died in the strategic air raids. Writer Harold Nicolson compared himself to a prisoner in the Conciergerie during the French Revolution: “Every morning one is pleased to see one’s friends appearing again.” Yet, the English, being the English, just got on with it stoically. In stubborn, indignant fashion, the life went on. A survey taken during this period found that weather had a greater impact than air raids on the day-to-day worries of many Londoners. In his magisterial history The Blitz: The British Under Attack, Julian Gardiner observes, “egg rationing produced more emotion than the blitz.”

Thus predictably, most well-known of the countless photos taken during the Blitz did not depict carnage and chaos, but rather an extraordinary tale of survival and defiance. The above photograph featured on the front page of the Daily Mail, captioned as ‘War’s Greatest Picture’, was taken from the roof of the same newspaper’s Tudor Street offices by Herbert Mason two nights before (on 29th December). St. Paul’s Cathedral was surrounded not only by fires and smoke that fateful night, but an incendiary bomb did drop inside the Stone Gallery. During the Blitz, the importance of the Cathedral was so much so that Churchill insisted that if the church were to be bombed, all fire-fighting resources be directed there, and that “At all costs, St Paul’s must be saved.” The Daily Mail echoed this sentiment in the text accompanying the photo that the image is “one that all Britain will cherish – for it symbolises the steadiness of London’s stand against the enemy: the firmness of Right against Wrong”. To that effect, the editors at the Mail decided to crop the photograph quite liberally, to take out the gutted remains of houses in the foreground.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the photo was telling quite a different story on the continent within days. The Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung announced that “Die City von London brennt!”, and gleefully informed its readers that the conflict with England too was approaching its endgame. For Germans, the photo, with the blazing foreground ruins included, depicted nothing more than the centre of “britischen Hochfinanz” burning in London’s biggest blaze since “Jahre 1666”. Photographs never lie indeed.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

November 12, 2010 at 8:49 am

Posted in Politics, Society, War

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: