Tonight, I also had a look at Christ Church Greyfriars, the remains of which lies behind St. Paul’s. It wasn’t as lucky as its larger neighbour had been in the Blitz.
Like St. Luke’s in Liverpool it stands as a memorial to those who died and suffered in the Second World War.
Tonight though, in the evening sunlight, I saw it as I’d never seen it before in all its pristine beauty after a thorough cleaning.
Thinking back, I don’t think I actually saw the cathedral until the 1960s, as my visits to Central London were usually fairly limited, despite living in the suburbs. As an example, I didn’t visit the Tower of London until I was probably twenty. And that was because I was showing a friend from University around.
But behind it all is a bit of forgotten history. This picture shows a steel girder, which could be a piece of railway line in the concrete.
And this shows that the detail on the river side, that is a feature of the Thames river wall is missing.
So what is it all about?
I went to a lunchtime lecture at University College London about archaeology on the River Thames. The lecturer explained that during the Second World War, we identified that a serious break in the wall of the River Thames could have flooded much of the central part of the city. This would have probably flooded the London Underground as well.
So a top secret repair unit was set up to fix any breakages in the wall immediately. As the lecturer said, even today little is known about the unit. During the war they kept it quiet, as they didn’t want the Germans to know how vulnerable London was. After all, the Germans only needed to be lucky once.
But as you can see, even if the repair would not be acceptable today, it has fulfilled its purpose for seventy years.
I took the North London Line today and changed onto the Jubilee line to get to Westminster today and was able to take this photo of one of the new Metropolitan line trains as it passed through West Hampstead station.
I didn’t see the eclipse here in London, but my son saw it in Cairo, where incidentally the BBC showed it on the television this morning. It looked fairly spectacular and extremely beautiful.
I have felt for a long time that the bombing of German cities by the RAF and the USAAF was rather a pointless exercise driven more by vengeance and revenge than any strategic purpose to defeat the Nazis.
Remember, I was brought up in London and many of my relatives experienced the bombing first hand. My grandfather’s premises close to the Barbican, where he worked as an engraver, were completely destroyed in the Blitz. Many of these people weren’t too bothered about the bombing as it just made them angry and anyway they survived. Others might have felt different, but most just felt that you had to deal with what happened and get on with life. Supposedly, one of the reasons for bombing civilians was to break their moral and hopefully get them to turn against the government. I think that London and other British cities that were bombed showed that it didn’t work. If anything it just stiffened their resolve to carry on.
Was it any different in Germany, when we bombed their cities? I’ve only met a couple of Germans, who endured the bombing from the RAF and the USAAF and they didn’t seem to react any differently to the way we did. And they probably suffered a lot more.
But also remember that a 250,000 from both the RAF and the USAAF either died or went missing in the bombing of Germany. So in some ways we lost the trained personnel that we really needed to support the invasion.
I also remember reading the history of the de Havilland Mosquito. Initially this superb design wasn’t really wanted by the RAF, as they felt who in his right mind would want to fly across to bomb Germany in an unarmed aircraft built out of ply and balsa wood. To them and the USAAF, a heavily armed four engined bomber would obviously be better. But statistics proved them wrong, as the Mosquito, which carried virtually the same bomb load as a B-17, but with a crew of two instead of ten, had a much higher return rate and much lower losses of crew. It was also much faster and could bomb Germany twice in one night.
In my view it should have been used strategically to take out German infrastructure, such as important factories and rail junctions. Wikipedia says this.
Yesterday, the obituary of Flight Lieutenant Don Nelson was published in the papers.
He was an RAF navigator, who helped to plan the destruction of German infrastructure in the run up to D-Day.
This is an extract from The Times.
In the spring of 1944 Bomber Command under its redoubtable but stubborn leader, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, was ordered to divert a proportion of its energies from the strategic bombing of Germany, of which Harris was the architect, to attacking targets in northern France and Belgium — railways, bridges, tunnels, marshalling yards — whose destruction would materially expedite the forthcoming Allied invasion of German-occupied Europe.
Although Harris dug his heels in against what he was convinced was a misuse of his strategic bomber force, a trial raid against a railway centre at Trappes, south west of Paris, in early March resulted in such spectacular destruction and dislocation of rail traffic that it became evident that a sustained assault by Bomber Command would be capable of virtually paralysing the German capacity to move troops against whatever beach heads the Allies might establish before, and not after, the projected invasion. This was a vital discovery. In spite of Harris’s protests his best bomber squadrons were from then until June 6, 1944, and afterwards, employed on this momentous interdiction work.
The Telegraph tells a very similar story.
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I think we probably could have done better in our bombing campaign against Germany, by bombing infrastructure important to the war effort, rather than the general population.
We also never learn from the past, as if we look at Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, we continue to make the same mistakes we always do. Inevitably vengeance seems to get mixed up with the simple objective of defeating a vile and hideous regime and its leader.