For Londoners the six long years of the Second World War were a time of almost constant anxiety, disruption, deprivation and sacrifice. The Blitz began in earnest in September 1940 and from then on, for prolonged periods, London was under sustained aerial bombardment by night and by day. Throughout the war, the capital was the nation’s front line; by its end, 30,000 Londoners had lost their lives.
Yet if the bombing defined the era for those who lived through it, the months of terror were outnumbered by those spent knitting together the fabric of daily life at work, in the home, on the allotment, in the cinema or theatre and, not least, standing in those interminable queues for daily necessities that were such a feature of London’s war.
Much has been written about ‘the Myth of the Blitz’ but in this riveting social history, Jerry White has unearthed what actually happened during those tempestuous years, getting close up to the daily lives of ordinary people, telling the story through their own voices. At the end of it all, the Battle of London was won not on the playing fields of Eton but in the playgrounds of a thousand council elementary schools across the capital.