If you know what to look for, a run or walk through London is a compressed history lesson and never fails to inspire.
For a recent birthday Mrs. G gave me The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945. This covers all of the Central London and shows every street and house, recording the extent of any damage, ranging from “Total Destruction” to “Minor Blast Damage”. It also shows where every V1 cruise missile and V2 rocket hit – including the ones that fell in parks, lakes and the Thames.
So now I know why the widows at the back of our flat are post-war metal – a bomb destroyed the houses behind it, blowing out our windows and taking the roof off. Our flats were categorized as “Seriously Damaged, Repairable At Cost”.
The book makes it easy to decide whether an architectural monstrosity slotted into a pretty street is courtesy the Luftwaffe or a modernist architect – in our area, it’s 90% the former.
The book outlines the grand plans for rebuilding London after the war, which:
…could not be fully carried through for a range of reasons, not the least being the lack of investment funds and materials as the nation faced new threats.
So the money went on our nuclear weapons, new planes for the RAF, and on the British Army Of The Rhine, and the gaps in London’s housing were filled as cheaply as possible.
But now booming London has largely rebuilt itself with style and elegance, and the scars are disappearing.
Some signs remain – on my run through Regent’s Park this morning, I was able to pick out the sites of the unusually high number of 13 V1s that hit the Park – depressions and younger trees.
All of which is a reminder of the 30,000 Londoners killed and 55,000 seriously injured by the German fascists, and the mutilation and sudden death happening right now in Israeli towns.