The Blitz
Gavin Mortimer and The Mirror Group
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Buy *The Blitz: An Illustrated History* by Gavin Mortimer and The Mirror Group online

The Blitz: An Illustrated History
Gavin Mortimer and The Mirror Group
Osprey Publishing
200 pages
October 2010
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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The Blitz - the German attempt to gain a voluntary surrender from Great Britain by bombing her cities during WWII – has long been a symbol of British stubbornness and resilience. Gavin Mortimer’s new (and oversized) book on the subject is riveting in that it brings the time and place to life with descriptive narrative, firsthand accounts and, above all, photographs: one on nearly every page and some of them never before published.

Wartime censors were apparently responsible for keeping some of these photos a secret for the purposes of morale (though why they were kept secret for decades after the war is puzzling). Mortimer points out that the wartime editorial board of the Daily Mirror – the archive from which these photos emanated – was initially responsible for creating the image of the stiff, undefeatable Briton who would never surrender to the Nazi destruction.

However, it is patently obvious from this book that the British stiff upper lip was not merely the creation of an editorial board. Mortimer illuminates this clearly while describing the effects on the populace of the bombing of London:

“Remarkably, far from demoralizing Londoners such horrific incidents unified them, bringing them closer together. By the end of October [1940]... the only social division that existed after a month of continual bombing was between those who had remained in the capital, defiant in the face of the bombing, and those who had fled to the safety of the countryside... All those who carried on as normal, all those who could ‘Take It,’ experienced a camaraderie the like of which London had never before known. The Blitz, literally and metaphorically, was a great leveler. A person’s wealth or accent no longer mattered..”
But how the wartime Brits maintained that legendary spine is quite amazing, especially as the bombing continued with wearying regularity and even more so when the sprees became terrifyingly irregular. Throughout, Mortimer describes in detail the different types of bombs (i.e. firebombs, then later in the timeline, V-1 buzz bombs and V-2 rockets) and their effects on the structures and people of Britain.

Covering in detail all the major bombing sprees geographically and chronologically, The Blitz: An Illustrated History combines compelling prose, reams of personal testimony, and most importantly photographs, to bring the reader nearly into the experience and will leave them with a deep respect for WWII-era city-dwelling Britons.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Kathryn Atwood, 2010

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