October 9: Whitewash


9More than 30,000 bombs fell on Britain during the Blitz which lasted from Sept 7th, 1940 to May 21st, 1941.

In 71 attacks over a period of 267 days, London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than a million houses were destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 civilians were killed.

milkmanOctober 9th marked the 32nd day of straight bombing raids against the United Kingdom, that night’s raid struck the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral but luckily the bomb did not detonate. [An interactive map of every bomb dropped on London by the Germans can be found at Bombsite.org]

Government censors who were anxious not to cause widespread panic kept a lid on press photographers who wanted to show the devastation wrought by German bombers. A seasoned photojournalist who had first joined Fox Photos company in January 1926, Fred Morley’s strategy to get such a picture published was to play on the British ‘stiff upper lip’ cliché that would appeal to the censors; show that life was going to carry on as normal.

Reportedly the subject here is not a real milkman (and neither is the postman collecting mail from a pillar box amidst the ruins in his companion shot). He dressed his assistant in a borrowed uniform. The subject is set against a gap-toothed skyline on the diagonal of the now non-existent street which is visually continued by a broken doorframe to the left. The  figure is sharply delineated despite a shutter speed slow enough to render one leg in motion blur. The smoke-filled atmosphere sets him boldly forward in relative contrast while the plucky little figure is set in close alignment to the valiant firefighters in the background, his arm continuing the line of the hose which generates a mist of steam and smoke that would be the envy of any fashion photographer.

The God of Normality Returned marches out of the fog of war; what a superb example of positive propaganda!

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