Wednesday 21 December 2016

Christmas Under Fire

'I acquired a hunger for fairy tales in the dark days of the blackout and blitz in the Second World War." (A. S. Byatt)

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A link to the film courtesy

Christmas Under Fire was commissioned by the Ministry of Information as propaganda to drum up support in America for the war effort.  As a sequel to "London Can Take It", the film centres around the British capital during Christmas 1940.  "A central message of the film is that life goes on, with Christmas traditions continuing despite disruption caused by bombing." (  

People celebrate Christmas in the London Underground courtesy

One window cleaner hangs up a sign which reads:  "Business as Usual:  If You've Got No Windows, We'll Clean Your Chimneys".  Other examples of business as usual under the London Blitz include:

  • Christmas trees dug up for air raid shelters
  • housewives buy food for Christmas dinner
  • theatres stage pantomime productions
  • schoolchildren produce handmade Christmas cards
  • people celebrate Christmas in the London Underground

After a brief respite for Christmas 1940, London was bombed heavily by the Luftwaffe once again four days later.  A Daily Mail photographer, Herbert Mason, captured that iconic image of St. Paul's Cathedral, surrounded by fire.  News reporter Ed Murrow declared its demise. However, office worker Dorothy Berton, on her way to work the next morning, saw the tower of the magnificent church standing tall:  "I felt a lump in my throat because, like so many people, I felt that while St. Paul's survived, so would we." (

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