In an especially haunting photograph, an English boy sits amid ruins in London following German bombing. His expression says more than words can convey.
Once Adolf Hitler realized that Germany had lost the Battle of Britain by failing to wipe the Royal Air Force from the sky, he ordered a change in strategy: German bombers would now aim at Britain’s cities. Starting with a massive raid on September 7, 1940, Germany set out to bomb London into submission during what became known as the Blitz. By the time it was over in May 1941, German bombs (and the fires they caused) destroyed about one-third of London, killed around 29,000 people, and wounded another 26,000.
Probably the most famous image of London during the Blitz is the photo of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral wreathed by smoke, which has become an indelible image of London’s unshakeable wartime spirit. Prime Minister Winston Churchill said it was a time “when the English and particularly Londoners, who had the place of honor, were seen at their best. Grim and gay, dogged and serviceable, with the confidence of an unconquered people in their bones they adapted themselves to this strange new life, with all its terrors, with all its jolts and jars.” Yes, but for children like this unidentified boy the wartime terrors must have seemed inexplicable.