21 October, 2010

Day 104 - Battle of Britain

The photograph is taken today, according to the agency file which tells you nothing more than the obvious - three survivors from a bombing raid in London.  To get past the censor, there is no detail which will help pinpoint the location or anything specific about the circumstances of the incident it purports to depict.  For all we know, the scene has been staged. Many were.

The previous night's flying by the Luftwaffe may well have dispossessed these ladies, but Bomber Command, too, has been particularly active. It detailed 192 aircraft for missions, of which 135 report successful attacks on targets ranging from the Channel ports, German marshalling yards, armament factories in Czechoslovakia and factories in Italy. Nine aircraft are lost.

The exercise gives the Daily Mirror its headline for the morning, which offers the legend: "RAF's 100-a-minute bombing".  But less comfortable is the news that an Italian push is expected in the Western Desert - the one area in the world where there is currently direct confrontation between British and Axis ground forces.

In England during the day, there is low cloud and mist over most areas of  the south-east, which persist for much of the day - indicative of the general deterioration in weather conditions which effectively rule out any idea of an invasion. There is very little flying, with the RAF losing three aircraft to accidents and none to combat.

This, once again, is regarded as a "quiet" period - but come the night, Coventry suffers heavy raids, with considerable damage done to the Armstrong-Siddeley works. There are also raids over London, Birmingham and Liverpool. To the Battle of Britain commentariat, though, the night bombing is still all but invisible. One could speculate on what might have been the response had Fighter Command been equipped with effective night fighters. One presumes the the narrative would then have been extended to cover the night.

Perhaps the most significant news, however, is a report in the Yorkshire Post, on "New Drive for Shelters". Measures announced over the week-end, it says, "suggest a determined attempt by the Government to come to grips with the shelter problem. To speed up the provision of shelters, the whole cost of building and equipment in future is to be paid by the Government so long as local authorities show reasonable economy in their schemes."

This is an important development, and is unlikely to be unrelated to the recent spate of shelter disasters. The Yorkshire Post remarks that "this is a promise that has long been needed." Much of the delay in shelter construction, it says, "has been due to uncertainty in the minds of local authorities whether they would find themselves burdened with intolerable debts if they showed initiative and went vigorously ahead with shelter construction. It is to be hoped that laggard authorities will now set to work with confidence."

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