Hutchinson's Pictorial History of the War, Series 13 No 1

HUTCHINSON’S PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE WAR HERO INES OF LONDON BOMBINGS Nurses of hospital and first aid services marching past Mr. Churchill when the Prime Minister reviewed 0,000 members of London’s civil arm yin Hyde Park. He paid high tribute to their heroism. children here— all these presented tasks which, viewed in cold blood beforehand, might well have seemed overwhelming. Indeed, before the war, when the imagination painted pictures of what might happen in the great air raids on our cities, plans were made to move the Government, to move all the great controlling services which arc centred in London, and disperse them about the country­side, and also it w’as always considered avery great danger that had to be met that a sudden wave of panic might send millions of people crowding out into the countryside along all the roads. Well, when you are doing your duty and you are sure of that, you need not worry too much about the dangers or the consequences. We have not moved in this war except by the promptings of duty and conscience and, therefore, we do not need to be deterred from our actions by pictures which our imagination and which careful forethought painted of what the consequences would be. I must, however, admit that when the storm broke in September I was for several weeks very anxious about what the result would be. We were then not prepared as we are now. Our defences had not the advantages they have since attained, and again I must admit that I feared greatly injury to our public utility services, I feared the ravages of fire, I feared the dislocation of life and the stoppage of work. I feared epidemics of serious diseases or even pestilence among the crowds who took refuge in our by no means completely constructed or well-equipped shelters. I remember one winter evening travelling to a railway station—which still worked—on my way north to visit troops. It was cold and raining. Darkness had almost fallen on the blacked-out streets. I saw everywhere long queues of people, among them hundreds of young girls in their silk stockings and high-heeled shoes, who “21 had worked hard all day and were waiting for bus after bus, which came by already overcrowded, in the hopes of reaching their homes for the night. When at that moment the doleful wail of the siren betokened the approach of the German bombers, I confess to you that my heart bled for London and the Londoners. All this sort of thing went on for more than four months with hardly any intermission. I used to hold meetings of my ministerial colleagues who are present and members of the authorities concerned every week in Downing Street in order to checkup to see how we stood. Sometimes the gas had failed overlarge areas— the only means of cooking for great numbers of people sometimes the electricity. There were grievous com­plaints about the shelters and about conditions in them. Water was cut ofT, railways were cut or broken, large districts were destroyed by fire, 20,000 people were killed and many more thousands were wounded. But there was one thing about which there was never any doubt. The courage, the unconquerable grit and stamina of the Londoners showed itself from the very outset. Without that all would have failed. Upon that rock they all stood unconquerable. All the public services were carried on, and all the intricate arrange­ments, far-reaching details involving the daily lives of so many millions, were carried out. improvised, elab­orated. and perfected in the very teeth ol the cruel and devastating storm. I am very glad to come here to-day to pay my tribute and to record in the name of the Government our grati­tude to all the civil authorities of London who, first under Sir .John Anderson, and through the darkest moments under the courageous and resourceful leader­ship of Mr. Herbert Morrison, so long master of the London County Council, and now acting in an even higher sphere, to all who carried out their duties faith­
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