Who Do You Think You Are?
The Battle Of London 1939–45
Endurance, Heroism And Frailty Under Fire
Bodley Head, 448 pages, £30
When we think about the Second World War, we often first think of the political machinations that took place behind the scenes: Churchill in the War Rooms, or Chamberlain waving the Munich Agreement and promising “peace for our time”. What often gets lost is the great sacrifices that the ordinary people made, particularly those living in the city of London.
In The Battle of London Jerry White draws on the diary entries of ordinary Londoners to give us a sense of what they were thinking and feeling at key moments throughout the war.
We learn how some aspects of life could carry on unabated
– the Dorchester on Park Lane continued to be the “focal point for London after dark” for the rich and famous, no doubt because of its luxurious, deep-seated bomb shelter. Other roles changed dramatically. Civil servants and council highway staff became experts in clearing away rubble from the previous night’s bombing raid so that city life could continue in the morning.
White’s account is a vivid and highly accessible insight into how ordinary life both turned upsidedown and continued in a ‘new normal’ during a once-in-ageneration emergency that we can now all relate to.