The War Illustrated No 27 Vol 2 March 8th 1940

The War Illustrated March 8/A, 1940 f a it m q A , fy u u n My, 'W.aAtune. Q ia A y ,BY THE EDITOR Some of my readers are no doubt aware that when this new War came upon us, I had just completed what I regard as the most interesting of the many popular works edited by me concerning the War of 1914­1918, and I had to turn from the contemplation o f the past to the recording of th.e present. I refer Ito“ Was There!”in which I have embodied what I have called “The Human Story of the Great War.” This work is now available in a magnificent four-volume edition published by the Waverley Book Company, and as it contains in its 2,060 pages no fewer than 377 personal narratives of thrilling adventure by those who took part in the actual fighting, it is, in a sense, an epitome of all the descriptive literature of the war— always excluding the political issues—that appeared between the Armistice and the autumn of last year. It might have been thought that being completely concerned with the events of 1914-1918,“ I Was There !”had lost some­thing of its appeal today in the shadow of this Second Great War, but far from that being the case, I believe those undying memories of a war that was utterly distinct from the present and called forth deeds of heroism which, no matter how the present conflict develops, will never be surpassed, makes extraordinarily interesting reading today. At least that would seem to bethe opinion of many hundreds of subscribers who have hastened to acquire sets of“ I Was There !”and the publishers tell me that already more than half of the large edition which they have prepared has been taken up. Verb sap I I ’m told by a man in the property market that the blackout and War conditions gener­ally have had a magical effect on the fantastic rents of Bond Street and other fashionable shopping streets of Mayfair. Many trades­men and modistes have had to put up their shutters'and clear out. Empty premises can now be had at nominal rentals for short lets. The War, too, ha^ sent a biting blast down Harley Street and through “the Citadel” generally—though the braver de­fenders are still holding out !The ten guinea a time X-ray men are having a thinner time than they have ever known. But I haven’t noticed any tears being shed over them. Some personal contacts have left me very dry-eyed. I saw the mountainous fajade of sandbags that has shielded a West End club since September being removed the other day. Whether to make way for some other form of protection or because the committee have decided we're not going to have any raids after all, I can’t say. But not the latter, 1 hope, as there can be no greater self-decep- lion. Every airman to whom I have spoken believes we must be prepared to the nth degree for being.raided In Goering’s good time. I renewed acquaintance with one- pf the most famous of world fleers last night and found that he, too, held this opinion. ?Mention o f sandbags reminds me that in streets which I frequently pass along there are semi-pyramidal piles o f them that are standing menaces to life and limb. My own amateur inexperience building work suggests tome that there must have been a dangerous lack of expert control over the erection of many of these sandbag protections. Within THE WAR ILLUSTRATED stands alone in having been originated by its present Publishers in August 1914 as a contemporary record of the First World War, achieving an acceptance at the hands of the reading public unprecedented at that time. It continued publication until Feb­ruary 8,1919, and was acknowledged as one of the most valuable contributions to public information in that historic era.To revive The War I l lust rate dafter a lapse of twenty years under the same Editor was an achievement unique in journalism .But the fact that The War I l lust rated of 1939 instantly attained to a circulation ex­ceeding the highest figure of 1914 by some 300,000 weekly, and at the price of three­pence as against that of twopence (by reason of changed economic conditions) is surely unexampled in the annals of publishing. Now, after contending with many dif­ficulties of production owing to wartime restrictions, The War I l lust rated still enjoys a circulation equal to its best in 1914 and an influence that is more than Empire wide. And why ?Because it stands alone as the weekly war record which, from its first number onward, has unswervingly remained faithful to the Editor’s ideal of presenting a continuous pictured story of the War. Already hundreds of enthusiastic letters have been received by the Publishers from subscribers who have had Volume One bound under the scheme advertised in our numbers 19 to 23 and in an early issue a short selection from these letters will be printed, for the Editor feels it is duty to urge upon all readers who can afford the few shillings necessary to transform their twenty weekly numbers into a splendid volume, of which in the years to come they will have ood reason to be proud, not to dfilay in oing so. a few yards of my office there are five or six typical cases. Quite neatly-stacked masses of sandbags show torn and gaping bags at the bottom daily oozing their contents. A heavy rain to wash the sand away from these damaged bags arid down comes the whole pile with death or damage to the unlucky passer-by. In the West End I could mention many instances of sandbag deathtraps, the bags being so stacked over rough timber door frames that an injury to them would bring tons of sand down upon a passer-by !All the same I still think that London is well provided with intelligently packed structures of protectives and.“ T said ,in my haste, all men are liars.” The A old Scotswoman who commented that if the Psalmist had come to her town he might have said it “at his leesure ”was wise in her generation, but one has no biblical author­ity —so far as I know—for “all men are thieves.” And yet the readiness with which the average decent person will take what isn’t his'n if the chance comes is undeniable. Perhaps you read of a fishmonger who said the other day that in the blackout he had lost most of his profit by customers stealing fish as they left his premises. There is nothing that won't be stolen given the opportunity. i tOne of the directors of a great railway asked tome guess how many hand towels were taken from the lavatory carriages in a year. My estimate of a few thousands was far short. The number was nearer forty thousand! A large number of detachable cushions from the first class carriages are stolen every year. The modus operandi in that particular form of theft is to throw the cushion out of the carriage as the train is passing an accessible spot on a country road while nearing a station, the thief hurrying at once from the station in his motorcar to recover the object before anybody else has got it. A friend of mine, the director of a theatre in a fashion­able town, informs me that something alike score of coat-hangers in the ladies’ cloak­room disappeared in one season, and that all the ashtrays in the corridors were stolen within a few months of the opening season, despite the fact that each bore an adver­tisement for somebody’s beer !If games and sports are a form of ‘‘escapism’ ’—to use the fashionable jargon of Bloomsbury—they are the least harmful of all the ways of finding relief from the war atmosphere. And in spite of much unavoid­able dislocation of the professional fixtures in football and cricket, and also in horse racing, games and sports have been flourishing on the amateur Aside. sports journalist' tells me that, counting the Services as well as civilian club tables, there has probably never been so much billiards, snooker, and table- tennis played in this country. Cycling also is recovering from the set-back of club cancella­tions of dates, although many of the young men have left to join up. Even the bad weather this winter has not entirely stopped the week-end runs of the cycling clubs, who are hopefully making plans for the spring. Good luck to them. O n c ewe can feel that the wintry weather is safely left behind, the annual watch for ever-increasing signs of spring in our lovely country will abe more welcome occupation than usual. With the advancement of “summer-time,” perhaps Easter won’t seem so exceptionally early as it actually will be this year. It falls on the first week-end of the real calendar spring. The spring equinox is 20th March. Good Friday is the 22nd. That might abe good date for a deci­sive change of weather. An old countrym an’s proverb says, “In Leap Year the weather always changes on a Friday.” Another old saying, once current in Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire, declared “Leap year was ne'er a good sheep year.” A Sussex farmer told theme other day that this has been a trying winter for sheep, especially as most of the lambing occurs between December and the end of February, except in the northern parts of Britain, where it is always after the arrival of spring. The more I hear these “crooners ”on the radio the more does my mind go back to the days of my youth when such toneless, tuneless, and to shy vocalists-were found only in the streets and us children used to be sent outwith a penny to ask them togo, away. But times change. When the Roman Empire was crumbling to ruin the licentious comic actors were the highest paid of public entertainers they even had their palaces on the Palatine Hill among the residences of the. Caesars and the Patricians. They were, in away, the Big Money Crooners of Rom e’s decadence, and it maybe that the millionaire crooners of Beverley Hills are the comedians of America’s decadence—and our own!
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