Saturday, 15 September 2012

On This Day In London History...

David writes...


Is it beginning to fade?

Well, not here, not at London Walks.

"It" being today – September 15 – Battle of Britain Day.

Remember remember the fifteenth of September.

Its "events" taking place four miles up in the sky. Over southeast England. And indeed over London. All 700 or so square miles of it.

London.

The largest target in the world threatened at point-blank range by the powerful German bomber force.

London.

That huge unmissable target. Could the Messerschmits but clear the Spitfires from the skies.

As somebody who took part in those events wrote later, "London was recommended to its assailants not merely by its size but by its irreplaceability as a centre of communications, of administration and of seaborne supply. Bisected by a river spanned by too few bridges, dotted with railway termini and criss-crossed by thousands of acres of permanent way, its subsoil laced with tunnels, drains and cables, its heart sheltering the seat of government, its port indispensable to the island's survival and its residential areas to the continued presence at their posts of the men and women who made the metropolis work, London offered not so much one huge unmissable target as a congeries of interrelated bull's eyes."

London. Its spirit. Its courage. Its defiance. Think of that cartoon, published that very week. It showed an elderly lady confiding to her friend: "these raids give me the feeling that Hitler appears to be a great deal more worried than he seems."

London.

September 15.

The turning point. Hitler folding in his Operation Sea Lion* hand.

"The unbroken island" steeled by its own character and its leader's sure grasp of what was at stake: "Hitler knows he will have to break us in this island or lose the war."

Last word to the man who was there: "As winter closed in on Europe Hitler turned his back on the unbroken island. Before him stretched a summer of thunderclap victories; but on him lay – irremovable, not to be exorcised – the curse of ultimate defeat."

*Code name for Hitler's version of Operation Overlord in reverse – his plan to invade and crush Britain.

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