Skip to content

Lessons From The Blitz

July 7, 2020

British guy wearing bowler macintosh using scythe as umbrella during bombing air raid World War II Blitz EnglandOne of my favorite features in the Review section of the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition is Five Best. It contains short reviews of five books on a given subject.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

One of those subjects was Diaries From The Blitz.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

The Blitz was a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom during World War II. It ran from September 1940 through May 1941.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Starting on September 7, 1940, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) bombed London for 57 consecutive nights. Seaports and industrial centers were also targeted.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

During the nightly bombing raids, Londoners slept in warehouse basements and The Underground (subway stations) on makeshift beds with no privacy or sanitation.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It hardened British resolve: they used chalk to scrawl “Business As Usual” on boarded up shop windows.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Over 40,000 people were killed during The Blitz. A third of London was destroyed.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I can’t imagine living through it. Just reading about it makes any complaints I have seem utterly trivial.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It’s extraordinary to think that anyone kept a diary in the midst of it all– but they did.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

John Colville was one of Winston Churchill’s private secretaries. Volume 1 of his Downing Street Diaries records some funny, ludicrous moments.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Sometimes, late at night, Churchill would march around to military music played on a gramophone. During air raids, Churchill would often go up to the roof to watch the bombs fall, dragging Mr. Colville with him.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I find myself in sympathy with Churchill, and I see two lessons.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

One, you do what you need to do to keep your spirits up. A lot of people use music to “get pumped.” blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

And secondly, there are times when we have no real control over events. We can turn away, or we can watch the bombs fall, steel ourselves and resolve to pick up the pieces and start again.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

By the spring of 1941, much of London lay in ruins and Britain’s survival was uncertain. Colville wrote:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

As I walk through the streets, I look at London’s landmarks more carefully now, with the feeling that it may be the last
time I shall see them.”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

We take so much for granted. We don’t appreciate people and places and things until they’re gone. Do any of us ever really learn that lesson?blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Harold Nicolson worked in Churchill’s Ministry of Information.
In his diary (The War Years, 1939-45), he writes that Britain will prevail, but admits his belief is groundless.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

From March, 1941:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

If only we could show people some glimmer of light at the
end of the tunnel, we could count upon their enduring any ordeal… (but) there is no light beyond the light of faith.

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highIn our personal lives, our work, sometimes that’s all there is– faith.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

For me, religious faith underpins what I do. To succeed, you also need to have faith in yourself: self-confidence.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

For some of us, it accrues slowly over time: solve enough problems, and there comes a time when you know you can solve the next one. You don’t know what it will be, but you will solve it. A faith born of skills and experience.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Olivia Cockett was a police clerk who kept a diary during the war (Love and War in London). At one point she puts out an incendiary bomb that falls near her home. She becomes fearless.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

One night she’s out walking with her lover when two bombs fall nearby. He shouts for her to get down. She writes: “I thought: ‘Not in my new coat.'”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

The lesson of perspective: The more crises you weather, the less traumatic they become. Hide in your room, and you’re always afraid. Everything’s a big deal.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

But sail forth into the fray, take your knocks in love and business and everything else, and you understand that this, too, shall pass.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You learn to shrug things off and continue on.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Raymond Lee was an American military attaché to the U.S. embassy in London. On September 15, 1940, after a week of heavy nightly bombing, he wrote:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

If there was ever a time when one should wear life like a loose garment, this is it.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Perhaps that’s the wisest lesson of all.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We don’t have bombs raining down on us every night. Even during a pandemic, most of us are living safe and easy lives.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

So we obsess over slights and minor details. We take ourselves too seriously. Ditto our careers, businesses, blogs, social media, and on and on.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Life is precious, and it could end tomorrow for any of us.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

So wear it like a loose garment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I’m going to go with a loud plaid… 😊

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *  blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, editorial, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Ashley Callahan content strategy PR manager Chick-fil-A restaurants corporate

blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

blank vertical space, 40 pixels high

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2020 9:04 PM

    I’ve read a number of bloggers who ‘reluctantly’ feel they have to comment on Covid. Frequently, that includes taking a swipe at the American President who apparently is at fault for the whole darn thing (though he handed off the decision making to the Governors of each state in mid April. The thing that impressed me most about Trump through this whole thing is his optimism. He doesn’t instill fear, he doesn’t even talk of hope. He talks of the certainty that things will get better. Very Churchill like.


    • July 9, 2020 8:33 AM

      Quite an insight, Margy. I missed it completely, and would have to agree. Sustained optimism does have a special power. A kind of mind over matter that can be contagious. Of course the British people were united behind Churchill. Alas, the Left hates Trump so much they’d rather see COVID win than have him reelected. Discouraging times. Stay optimistic, my friend– we need it!! 😊


      • July 9, 2020 9:50 PM

        A few years back I saw this quote about Trump from Tim Allen: “Let’s stop banging on the pilot’s door and trying to pull the guy out of his seat while he’s still flying. You might not like how he’s flying the plane but let’s let him land it,”


  2. July 8, 2020 4:21 PM

    What an excellent post, my friend and keeping a diary during those times…
    Thank you so much for this!
    wait, no ‘thank you’ is complete without ambrosia shower!


    • July 9, 2020 8:42 AM

      What a lucky guy I am!– instead of bombs raining down on me, it’s raining ambrosia!! Thank goodness I forgot my umbrella!! 🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨😋🚑💨

      I remember getting a diary for Christmas when I was a kid. I think I kept it for about three weeks. The entries kept getting shorter and shorter. How people managed to keep one during something like The Blitz I can’t imagine. Of course they didn’t have blogs or social media back then, so maybe they could concentrate!! Many thanks, always lovely to see you!! 😊


      • July 9, 2020 11:57 AM

        Luck had nothing to do with it! 😇
        Same here with keeping a diary, also the handwriting starts off really nice and by the end of January it’s illegible scribbles! 🤣
        Lovely to be here, always!


A penny for your thoughts. I'm on a tight budget here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: