Making Do: Brits Welcome Their Yank Allies

The British are known for their unflappability–they are well known for their understated  demeanor under great pressure. “Remain Calm and Carry On” was coined by Brits during World War II. In this foreword to a guidebook created for US and Allied Service Members visiting London, one can see how the Brits chose to handle the war on their shores–with understated humor and determination.


This is the cover of a guidebook to London for US Service Members and other British Allies. Book courtesy of the New Mexico Museum of Military History

1917 YMCA 1919

AMERICAN YOUNG MAN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION

THIS TABLET MARKS THE SITE OF

EAGLE HUT

WHERE SERVICES TO MEN OF THE AMERICAN AND ALLIED FORCES TESTIFIED TO THE FRIENDSHIP OF THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES

 

Well may you U.S. Soldiers in London, gazing upon the stone tablet in the wall of Bush House which marks he site of the Eagle Hut of the Great War remark: “This is where we came in!”

 

Barely twenty-five years have passed since your forebears came over under Pershing, to help in the fight against the same redoubtable enemy. It was Zepplins and Gothas then; it is Heinkels and Messerschmitts now.

 

You find blitzed London in battledress. Her historic buildings sandbagged, her art treasures removed to safety, her shop windows boarded-in as a protection from blast rather than to hide that there is little on display or sale.  Her streets are dustier…could do with a new coat of paint.

 

It is no accident that nothing is so well sign-posted as in previous time. There’s a reason. At night, too, you will have difficulty finding your way owing to the black-out. Where, formerly London’s West-end, which embraces theatreland, was a blaze of multicolored lights, everything is now hidden, for dusk means “lights out” save for a few indispensable hooded traffic lights and air-raid shelter indicators.

 

Food, clothing and sweets (candy to you!) are, with the rare exceptions referred later in this book, rationed: and rationing severely limits our hospitality to you. London is acutely sensitive of her seeming lack of liberality; but rationing does not apply less strictly in London than elsewhere in the kingdom.

 

The recruitment of man-power by the military, munitions and civil defence authorities has been so thorough that not only are all London’s public and transport services severely curtailed, but “service” as the term is understood in the U.S. is almost everywhere suspended.  The men and women and the means are simply not there to irradiate that atmosphere of civility and helpfulness which was the happy lot of the peace-time tourist. There are no coaches to take you on your sightseeing tours. There are no guides to show you round places of historical interest. There are no vans to deliver the goods you buy; no paper in which to wrap your purchases.

 

Notwithstanding, London, shaking the debris from her hair, turns to greet you and bids you welcome…

 

Page showing the bombed out buildings around the British Royal Palace. Courtesy of the New Mexico Museum of MIlitary History

 

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