21 May 2018


There is a new book published by the Imperial War Museum called London at War 1939-45: A Nation’s Capital Survives. The text accompanying this picture of a newspaper seller on September 3rd 1939 is as follows: ‘Mollie Panter-Downes, a middle-class housewife living in London and Surrey, wrote a column about the city for the New Yorker magazine. She left an evocative description of London’s changing landscape and Londoners’ changing habits on the first day of war: “On the stretch of green turf by Knightsbridge Barracks, which used to be the scampering ground for the smartest terriers in London, has appeared a row of steam shovels that bite out mouthfuls of earth, hoist ┬áit aloft and dump it into lorries; it is then carted away to fill sandbags. The eye has now become accustomed to sandbags everywhere, and to the balloon barrage, the trap for enemy planes, which one morning spread over the sky like some form of silvery dermatitis”‘ (taken from London War Notes, Persephone Book No. 111).