Kathryn's Reviews > The Blitz: An Illustrated History

The Blitz by Gavin Mortimer
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's review
Oct 07, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: world-war

A complete review is on its way but this book, with a plethora of photograhs on every oversized page -- many never before published --including reams of testimony, tells the tale -- in clear, readable prose -- of Britain's unbelievable defensive courage during the Blitz of WWII.

Official review:

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 sporadic. 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.


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Reading Progress

10/07/2010 page 0
0.0% "Just got this in the mail today, unrequested, from Osprey. Fantastic photos, apparently some of them published here for the first time due to wartime censors (?). I think it's safe to bring them to light now, seeing that it's been 70 years!"
10/13/2010 page 96
48.0% "Incredible book! Makes you want to give a huzzah for the indomitable British. Wonderful plethora of newspaper clippings and photos, good writing."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Ed (new)

Ed Kathy, The Blitz: The British Under Attack by
Juliet Gardiner is also supposed to be very good, though its a 'to read' for me. Juliet has also written a good book about wartime Britain in general called Wartime 1939-45 fyi. ED

message 2: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Oh, jeesh I bet that's an interesting read. Can't wait to hear what you think of it.

Kathryn Ed and Leslie, I'll keep you posted and will probably read this one sooner than I should!

message 4: by Wanda (new)

Wanda I am going to ditto Ed and Leslie. Read fast so I can see whether I should buy or rent!

Kathryn Will do! :)

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