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One of the most frequently evoked national experiences is the Blitz of the Second World War. For five years – through the Phoney War, the Blitz proper, the Lull, and the Little Blitz – the civilians of London were in the front line. Hitler’s bombs made no distinction between rich and poor: Westminster, Pimlico, Soho, Mayfair, Belgravia, and the royal residences, Marlborough House, the Palace of St James, and Buckingham Palace – nowhere escaped. Londoners were, as they said, ‘in it together’.
This eyewitness account written shortly after the war, not only chronicles the events of the period but also brings out the attitudes of the time, the courage in adversity, the impotence of not being able to fight back, and the jaunty, live-for-today attitude that existed at times of the worst bombing.
William Sansom, a leading writer of his day, served during the war in the Auxiliary Fire Service, and his own experiences and his novelist’s eye, gave him a unique insight into the spirit of the time. Originally published in 1947, the late Stephen Spender – who was also a fireman during the war – contributed a new foreword to this 1989 reissue, and Sansom’s most famous story ‘The Wall’, set in the Blitz, is also included.
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