Oxford Street yesterday, from Oxford Circus up to the Marble Arch, completely empty of traffic, and only a few pedestrians, with the late afternoon sun shining straight down the empty roadway and glittering on innumerable fragments of broken glass. Outside John Lewis’s, a pile of plaster dress models, very pink and realistic, looking so like a pile of corpses that one could have mistaken them for that at a little distance. Just the same sight in Barcelona, only there it was plaster saints from desecrated churches.

Much discussion as to whether you would hear a bomb (i.e. its whistle) which was coming straight at you. All turns upon whether the bomb travels faster than sound……. One thing I have worked out, I think satisfactorily, is that the further away from you a bomb falls, the longer the whistle you will hear. The short whizz is therefore the sound that should make you dive for cover. I think this is really the principle one goes on in dodging a shell, but there one seems to know by a kind of instinct.

The aeroplanes come back and come back, every few minutes. It is just like in an eastern country, when you keep thinking you have killed the last mosquito in your net, and every time, as soon as you have turned the light out, another starts droning.

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9 Responses to 24.9.40

  1. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  2. “The short whizz is therefore the sound that should make you dive for cover.”


  3. Guy says:

    Why is it comical?

  4. Daily Mail, 25 September 1940

    Dakar: The bombardment of the town continues but HMS Resolution is torpedoed and badly damaged by Vichy submarine ‘Beveziers’ and HMS Barham is hit by Richilieu’s 15in gunfire. At this point the operation is abandoned and the Anglo-French forces withdraw.

    The pro-Vichy police in the meantime are rounding up Allied sympathisers, and Senegal’s black middle class, which demonstrated in support of de Gaulle, is paying the price.

    It was the pro-Allied street demonstrations and an unsuccessful naval mutiny that persuaded the Allies that Senegal was fertile ground for the Free French. An so it was. Then the pro-Allied Governor was replaced by the present Governor Boisson and the colony was purged of Free French sympathisers. Worse, the amphibious force arrived two days after three French cruisers had docked bringing with them reliable Vichy reinforcements – although the Royal Navy did prevent several more French warships from sailing further south to overawe the Free French supporters in French Equatorial Africa. For the Royal Navy failure is bad news since it fears that Dakar may become a German U-boat base.

  5. Now that it is Thursday, the 26th, an American embargo is imposed on the export of all scrap iron and steel to Japan.

    KG55 tries to repeat its success of yesterday. Shortly before 16:00 Raid 20H, a group of about 60 aircraft is discovered proceeding along the west side of Southampton water by radar. It then turns north-easterly heading for Southampton where, at 16:28, 27 Bf110s attack the Itchen and Woolston Vickers-Supermarine works, six dive-bombing, the remainder attacking from 14,000 feet. A quarter of an hour later, after tracking in over the New Forest, came 35 Heinkels escorted by 50 fighters to destroy the factory. Some of the 70 tons of bombs used strayed onto Dawks gas works killing 11 and injuring 16, and another 11 were killed at the docks. Twelve squadrons of fighters ordered to intercept mostly flew too high. It was left to Solent guns to challenge the raiders before four squadrons went into action – after the bombing – shooting down a He-111 and two ZG 26 Bf110s on the Isle of Wight for the loss of six aircraft and two pilots killed. Casualties at Supermarine’s were serious, nearly 100 more dying in and around the works factory, where Spitfire production and Supermarine’s heavy bomber prototype were devastated.

    The underground Cabinet War Room suffers a hit when a bomb explodes on the Clive Steps.

  6. Barry Larking says:

    Guy. This site is full of Americans to whom ‘whizz’ means something different. Not the only confusion but keep reading.

  7. Fred Engelhardt says:


    Never there when you need them, always there when you don’t …

  8. I found it comical because diving for cover once you have determined that what you are hearing is a short whizz and not a long whizz is a macabre form of “Musical Chairs”:

    Upon hearing a whizz, all hearers should remain nonchalant and go about their business-as-usual yet they should be poised to dive for cover if the signal is given that it is not a long whizz. The signal is, of course, a nearby explosion.

  9. Barry Larking says:

    JL3rd. I think you might have been a good person to be with in a raid. I dimly re-call people exchanging similiar ideas or their reflections on the bombing. One old lady we knew used to always remark as planes on their way to Heathrow passed low overhead: “One of ours!”

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