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The London Blitz

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

In the early part of the Second World War as England faced the very real prospect of a full scale German invasion.

However, this invasion was effectively canceled by Hitler in September 1940.

Although the invasion had been called off, the bombing of London continued and if you take one of the many London walks routes that follows the trail of destruction caused by the bombing you get some idea of the sheer task that faced Londoners as they attempted to fend off these attacks.

From 18 September 1940 the Luftwaffe tried to reduce losses by only mounting night raids, and these continued without break until November, by which time London had been bombed continuously for fifty-two days.

Poor weather in late November and early December brought a brief respite, and as Christmas came and went it seemed that the Luftwaffe was on holiday. It was an illusion.

It is time to turn to the scene on the ground in England. Preparations for the defence of Britain against air attack were put in hand after the Munich conference of 1938.

Trenches were dug in public parks in London, gas masks issued to the entire population, air raid drills organized. The actual planning of Civil Defence was delegated to the different County authorities, some of which did much, others virtually nothing.

A reason for the lack of activity on the part of many County Councils was the anticipated results of civilian bombardment. The Government, heavily influenced by the works of such theorists as the French Air General Douhet, believed that the effects of civilian bombing would be cataclysmic and that preparations to protect civilians would be useless: the only thing to do was to prepare for mass burials, injuries, etc., and contemplate how best order could be maintained in the breakdown of local civilian government that would surely follow city bombing.

A clear idea of the popular image of civilian bombing can be drawn from the 1938 Alexander Korda production of H G Wells’s The Shape of Things To Come. The Home Office, believing that there would be 20,000 civilian dead within the first week of the bombing of London, was largely concerned with the ordering of cardboard coffins, and very few purpose-built bomb shelters were constructed before the Blitz actually began.

However, the County government of London was a different matter. London County Council (LCC) was under the control of the Labour Party led by Herbert Morrison (later Lord Morrison of Lambeth). The LCC was politically at odds with the government, strongly anti-fascist and not at all convinced by Prime Minister Chamberlain’s assurances of ‘peace in our time’.

The LCC consulted with veterans of the British Battalion of the International Brigade, which had fought in the Spanish Civil War. These veterans, led by Tom Wintringham, had experienced the bombing of Madrid by the Italian and German bombers of Mussolini and Hitler, and so had some idea of the likely outcome of such attacks and what could be done to minimize casualties.

They advised Morrison that the decisive matter was the reorganization of the Fire Brigade and its expansion to deal with the task ahead.

Morrison heeded this advice. Twenty-eight thousand men and women were recruited to the Auxiliary Fire Brigade and given a brief training course, after which they returned to their regular occupations to await the emergency.

The LCC ordered several thousand trailer fire pumps and began the construction of 300 sub-fire stations (the peacetime strength of the LCC Fire Brigade was approximately 4,000 firefighters based on 30 fire stations).

The LCC also ordered the manufacture of shelters which could be constructed within the home; steel frames into which three or four people could huddle and so, hopefully, survive the collapse of the building above them. These shelters were known as ‘Morrison Shelters’ and were later to be superseded by the government issue ‘Anderson Shelter’ which could be constructed in a back garden.

Plans were also commenced to recruit Air Raid Wardens and Heavy Rescue Squads (to dig people out of the ruins); church, school and other halls were marked down for use as local information centres, temporary accommodation for those made homeless by the bombing, etc. Companies were instructed to designate certain employees as fire- watchers and first line fire fighters for their premises.

The net result of these and other plans was that London was, if not fully equipped to deal with the onslaught, better prepared than most of the rest of the country.

The Fire Brigade was reorganized throughout the entire London region (which was more extensive than the London County area), with Sir Aylmer Firebrace appointed as Regional Fire Officer commanding sixty-six Fire Brigades from his underground control room at London Fire Brigade headquarters in Lambeth.

Our story of the London Blitz will cotinue in tomorrows blog. But for now why not peruse our previous blogs or just read through the rest of the site for a choice of the exciting and fascinating London walks that we offer.

Sherlock Holmes Walks In London

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

THE MAN WHO MURDERED SHERLOCK HOLMES
An Exclusive Preview From our new film that you will soon be able to buy on our London Walking Tours.

Well the winter has well and truly gone, and the sun is shining. Mark Ubsdell and Richard Jones took a break from conducting our various London walks and  have been working on the new Sherlock Holmes documentary throughout the winter and we’re pleased to announce that the trailer for it is now live. Much time was spent walking the streets of London and Edinburgh throughout what just happened to be the coldest winter for thirty years. But, thanks largely to Marks hard work and dedication, our next drama documentary “The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes” is almost ready and you will soon be able see it on our various Sherlock Holmes London walks.

The drama-documentary really is a stylish piece that features interviews with some of the world’s leading Sherlockian academics. There are some fantastic dramatic reconstructions, a specially composed soundtrack and in between Richard introduces you to the streets of London and Edinburgh and the various locations that featured in the life of Conan Doyle and the world of Sherlock Holmes.

So take a look at the preview trailer. We hope you enjoy it.

Walks Through London With Shakespeare

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

We’ll soon have the first of our many free London Walking Tours ready to roll.

In the mean time though we thought we’d give you a little taster of what our London walks are going to be like.

We’re going to pack an awful lot into these tours and they’re going to be very interactive. What with step by step directions, glorious photographs, little video snippets and an awful lot more.

Anyway here’s a taster of  the free Shakespeare London walk accompanying video.  Hope you enjoy it.

Dickens Walks In London

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Charles Dickens loved London and walks that follow in his footsteps and in the footsteps of his numerous immortal characters can be great fun.

As part of our commitment to bringing you some great London Walking Tours that are absolutely free we will soon be adding the ultimate Dickensian London walk.

Following on  with the format of our Harry Potter London Tour, the Journey through Dickens London will take you through one od the capital’s most magical quarters, an area that Dickens knew very well indeed and about which he wrote many times.

We’ve now created the PDF for this particular tour and it will be available as a free download very shortly.

The Walk will feature some of the many locations that have changed little since Dickens knew them. Chief amongst them will be a wander amongst the quiet and cloisterly courtyards of the Inns of Court of which Dicken wrote “you can read on the gates who enters here leaves noise behind.” This description is still as true today as it did in his day.

We’ve got some great innovations for our new tours which we’ll roll out as the new tours begin to go live in May.

In the meantime don’t forget that it is possible to sample one of our free London walks by taking our Harry Potter London Tour. To get this free pdf you just have to send an email to harry-potter-pdf@discovery-walks.com and our automated system will ping it back to you within moments.

So keep a keen eye on our blog as we’ll be announcing the order in which the new walking tours will be rolled out in the months ahead.

Take Free Walk In London

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The free Harry Potter London walk went mad last week. Don’t know why it happened but, all of a sudden our average daily requests rocketed from around 30 to over 200. We’ve had some great feedback from people who have done the Harry Potter Tour and are really looking forward to bringing in our new free London walking tours in early May.

Our Riverside pub walk will be the first one to go live and this will be quickly followed by a Walk Around Dickens London. Since Richard wrote the acclaimed book Walking Dickensian London the Dickens walk is gauranteed to be a great walking tour.

Just like the Harry Potter Tour of London, the new free London walking tours will be downloadable PDFS. You just print them off and off you go. The great thing is that you will be able to do them at any time and on any day to suit you, so you’re not confined to a specific time of departure, nor a specific time limit on your tour. You can go at your own pace and in your own time. How enjoyable would that be? Plus our step by step instructions will ensure that you won’t get lost as you make your way around the route. We know the step by step directions work because we’ve been trialing them for the last twelve months on the Free Harry Potter London walk, and they’ve worked Like a dream. You can, incidentally, download the Harry Potter London tour by sending an email to harry-potter-pdf@discovery-walks.com. Since this is an automated system, within moments you will receive the PDF as an attachment. It’s like magic!

Keep an eye out for our the launch of free walks of London. They’ll be live, very soon.

London walking tours that will give you the creeps

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Being scared is a strange feeling, yet one which we bizarrely enjoy as evidenced by the continuing appeal of the supernatural. Ghouls and ghost stories are common things which people use to give themselves a bit of a fright. People can use all sorts of things to make a scary night, such as a really scary movie or a visit to an atmospheric haunted house. As good as these things are for creating an eerie mood, there is one thing that is just that little bit better.

At London Discovery Tours we offer a wide range of London walking tours based around ghost stories. As you creep and sneak around the deep dark alleyways of London, you will listen to spooky tales of the evil people and their ghastly spirits who walked these streets at one time, and perhaps still do. With nowhere to run, these really are London walks designed to give you the creeps.

Listen to tales of fictional characters such as Sweeney Todd, the murderous barber who sliced the throats of his wealthy customers, stole their money and then disposed of the bodies by making them into tasty pies with his partner in crime, Mrs Lovett.

Or perhaps dare to walk the London streets of the famous East End, where violent gangs and the evil Kray twins once ruled the streets and showed no mercy to anybody who got in their way. Whether they are based on fact or fiction, our scary London walking tours will really test your nerves, but in the most delightful and fascinating manner.

See the affluent side of life with a London walk in Mayfair

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Mayfair is a beautiful part of London and situated right in the heart of the city near to Piccadilly, the famous Hyde Park and the upper class Regent Street. The place Mayfair is originally named after a fair which took place in the area throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

During this time, Mayfair also became an extremely popular area in terms of property and was a major residential hub for the rich and the ‘important.’ We all remember Mayfair from our Monopoly boards and the game truly reflects real life here in terms of the stature and value of the property.

At London Discovery Tours we have some fantastic village London walks to take you around such historic areas, and our Mayfair London walk will give you a true rich man’s walking tour which will impress and wow throughout.

As you embark on this London walk you will see some spectacular buildings which are also some of the most important and indulgent buildings within our capital city. The famous Dorchester hotel lies within Mayfair. It is known for its high calibre of celebrity guests and was considered a safe place to stay during the Second World War.

Other buildings which lie within Mayfair are arts-based such as the Royal Academy of Arts or political like the embassy building for the United States of America.

Mayfair has never lost its opulent appeal and holds a wealth which seems to be built into the walls. So show yourself the more affluent side of life with a London walk around this glorious location.

London walks for those who think they know London

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

If you live in London the chances are you think you know your way around and know the majority of things which you can do in and around the city.

For a great day out to really test your knowledge of our capital city, then why not embark on one of our treasure hunt London walking tours at Discovery Walks. We have a vast selection of treasure hunt London walks in our portfolio; however the ultimate has got to be The Mother of all Treasure Hunts.

This London walk is an all day event and great to do with a few friends or as part of a group activity. Teamwork is essential and you can also compete against your own friends to discover who really does know their city the best.

The format of our treasure hunt walks are based around cryptic clues which will send you all over the city. The difficult part is however, that you will need to work out where to go based on specific clues.

Knowing your London history is just as important as knowing your way around, as even if you know the shortest way to get to a place, if you have got the answer to your clue wrong then you really could be led up the garden path.

At Discovery Walks we ensure your day is filled with activity and you will meet genuine, and not so genuine, London characters along the way. They may help you or hinder you so ultimately it is up to you to complete this London walk successfully.

Fulfil your mystical curiosity with a Harry Potter London walking tour

Monday, January 18th, 2010

With the recent release of the sixth Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the half blood Prince, it looks like no matter how much he grows up, Harry Potter is not going anywhere as his adventures just get bigger and better.

People of all ages are obsessed with Harry Potter and what better way to get involved in this magical world than with a London sightseeing tour around the locations seen in the famous Harry Potter films?

Our Harry Potter walking tour at Discovery walks is perfect for the entire family and a great day out for the children. Our London walk takes you to all the famous sites and you will see the real places where the members of Hogwarts really went.

At Discovery walks we know that children do not miss a trick, which is why our London walk of the Harry Potter sets includes areas which are in the sixth film. You will get to see everything from the Diagon alley to riding the Hogwarts train and not forgetting the famous nine and a half platform at London’s Kings Cross station.

Our Harry Potter walking tours are self guided, meaning that we provide you with a detailed map and you and your family can make your way around the places where Harry went at your own leisure.

Beware of dragons and ghastly encounters as your embark on this London walk – magical powers are essential if you are going to make it to the Hogwarts express in time.

London walks for those who think they know London

Monday, January 18th, 2010

If you live in London the chances are you think you know your way around and know the majority of things which you can do in and around the city.

For a great day out to really test your knowledge of our capital city, then why not embark on one of our treasure hunt London walking tours at Discovery Walks. We have a vast selection of treasure hunt London walks in our portfolio; however the ultimate has got to be The Mother of all Treasure Hunts.

This London walk is an all day event and great to do with a few friends or as part of a group activity. Teamwork is essential and you can also compete against your own friends to discover who really does know their city the best.

The format of our treasure hunt walks are based around cryptic clues which will send you all over the city. The difficult part is however, that you will need to work out where to go based on specific clues.

Knowing your London history is just as important as knowing your way around, as even if you know the shortest way to get to a place, if you have got the answer to your clue wrong then you really could be led up the garden path.

At Discovery Walks we ensure your day is filled with activity and you will meet genuine, and not so genuine, London characters along the way. They may help you or hinder you so ultimately it is up to you to complete this London walk successfully.