Of all the local authorities around the country, those in London had the greatest task in preparing their conurbation for the threat of bombing during the war. London was the capital of the Empire, the largest city and with enormous civil, commercial and industrial infrastructure that made it an inevitable target for enemy action. Added to this, the city was closer to the continent than any of the other big industrial cities such as Birmingham or Manchester. It is no surprise then that the capital had a large and well organised infrastructure for civil defence and today we are looking at a small reminder of this in the form of a single sheet of headed notepaper:
The header for the note paper has the usual address details and the Royal Crest indicating that Civil Defence was an official branch of His Majesty’s government. Note also the small badge indicating that the organisation was part of the National Scheme for Disabled Men:
The London Civil Defence Region covered an area roughly equivalent to that served by the Metropolitan Police and had its headquarters at the Geological Museum in South Kensington. London was of course hardest hit by the Blitz, when this infrastructure came into its own. Ken Long was a boy in London during the war:
After one particularly heavy attack one fifth of all homes were without gas or water supplies. Life became very tedious with dirt, dust and smoke everywhere, unable to wash, cook, bath or use the toilet for days at a time. The Blitz affected all the senses, the taste of dirt, the smell of burnt timber, the artificial smell of homes with sealed and closed windows, the blackness of blackout, the glare of flares and the blazing orange and red skies after a raid. I can remember the all-pervading smell of dust and powdered brickwork, the crunch of broken glass underfoot, the bomb blasted bare gardens and leafless trees as if winter had arrived too early, another new odour was of tree sap where all the bark had been blasted and stripped from the trees in streets and parks over large areas. You’d see a house sliced in half as though cut with a knife, upstairs the floor would jut out in mid-air still with the bed and mattress and a wardrobe etc, and the curtains flapping away, it was like looking at a doll’s house. You would sometimes see furniture thrown out of damaged homes and it would be coated with millions of fine slivers of glass to remind you of just how lethal blast alone was.