September 29, 2014

1940. Edward R. Murrow on the London Blitz

The London Blitz

Edward R. Murrow

CBS London

August 24, 1940

This is Trafalgar Square. The noise that you hear at the moment is the sound of the air raid sirens. I'm standing here just on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields. A searchlight just burst into action off in the distance—one single beam sweeping the sky above me now. People are walking along quite quietly. We're just at the entrance of an air raid shelter here and I must move this cable over just a bit so people can walk in.

I can see just straight away in front of me Lord Nelson on top of that big column. There's another searchlight just square behind Nelson's statue. I'll just let you listen to the traffic and the sound of the siren for a moment. Just a few people here walking rather hurriedly toward the air raid shelters—some of them casually—a man stops in front of me to light a cigarette.

Here comes one of those big red buses around the corner—double deckers they are, just a few lights on the top deck. In this blackness it looks very much like a ship that's passing in the night, and you just see the portholes. There goes another bus. More searchlights coming to action. You see them reach straight up into the sky, and occasionally they catch a cloud and seem to splash on the bottom of it. The little traffic lights here, just a small cross on the normal globe, are now red. The cars pull up and stop.

I'll just ooze down in the darkness here along these steps and see if I can pick up the sound of peoples' feet as they walk along. One of the strangest sounds one can hear in London these days—or rather these dark nights—just the sound of footsteps walking along the streets, like ghosts shod with steel shoes. A taxi draws up just in front and stops, just waiting for that red light to change to green while the siren howls. There it goes, and the cars move off. More searchlights are in action.

We've not yet seen any burst of anti-aircraft fire overhead. An air raid warden walks out of this shelter—the shelter here, you know, is the crypt underneath this famous old church just on the edge of Trafalgar Square. The crypt where in days of peace homeless men and women were able to find a night's lodging.