As promised yesterday, we have something a bit special today. Contemporary eye witness accounts to major events in British History are not common, and the letter below is a fascinating account of London in 1940. I was very lucky to pick this up as it was part of three suitcases full of post war ephemera and by pure chance I picked it up. I must confess I just saw the reference to the Home Guard at the start of the letter and bought it, not realising that over the page was a description of the Blitz. The letter is hand written on personalised note paper from a surveyor called H Fleming, living in Pall Mall. The address, the private note paper and the telephone number all show the author to be a person of wealth:
I have enrolled as a Home Guard in the London area and the authorities have asked for the ‘next of kin’ in case I am killed while on duty.
I have given them your name and address and presumably you would be the only person to be notified.
I don’t expect to be killed, but if it did happen I would be much obliged if you, in your turn, would be good enough to notify the five friends of mine whose names I enclose on a separate sheet. They would notify a number of other people.
I am only liable to be on duty once a week, but it an all night job guarding some of the posts near Westminster and possible watching the bridges etc. As we shall have raids every night I suppose there is a chance that one might be hit by a bomb, but one is nearly as likely to have ones house or lodgings brought down about one’s ears so there is not much in it.
You will have seen in the papers about the big raids in London on Saturday afternoon and night. I saw a bit of the big air battle from my balcony. I could see very plainly the huge fires started in the docks and the great clouds of smoke from them, though they must have been 3 or 4 miles away from me. I could also see squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes passing over my head and chasing the German aeroplanes when they broke through. On Saturday night there were mass attacks by German bombers all around my place. They dropped bombs everywhere and anywhere. They hit Victoria Station and one section of it was completely closed next day. Many shops were badly damaged in Victoria St and had to be closed.
I could hear the ‘whistling’ of the bombs as they fell last night. They were at it again for 10 hours. Some bombs fell quite near and my place was kept shaking all night. Many bombs fell in the Chelsea and Kensington areas. Fires were started in many places, but were soon under control, even the huge fire on Saturday which illuminated the whole sky all night was put out by Sunday morning.
I hear that the boys were on holiday up north when a big raid took place on Bradford. They appear to have been thrilled by the experience.
Bedford must have had many alarms but practically no bombs have fallen in your area yet.
I am afraid mark must find it rather trying but I don’t think you have too much to worry about as it hardly seems worth while bombing unless they want your supply station.
I am afraid it wont be wise to bring the boys up to London again for quite a long time. The suburbs get three or four warnings a day.