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Friday, 14 June 2013

Dramatic events

Thursday, June 14th., Yacht Club, London.

I came to London Tuesday, unwell. Lunch at Webbs. I spent the afternoon in writing "Observations". Dined at The Reform with Clutton-Brock, who said that Wells was very rude to him about his very polite review of "God the Invisible King" in the Times Literary Supplement.

Then I went slowly to Drury Lane to "Tristan" and arrived before the end of the 1st Act. I went to meet Turner, the New Statesman critic.

Walter James Redfern Turner (1884-1946), poet and critic, a native of Melbourne, recalled his  boyhood in his fictional autobiography, Blow for Balloons (1935). In 1907 he went to London to become a writer. Spending ten months in Germany and Austria in 1913-14, he wrote satirical sketches for the New Age and concert reviews for the Musical Standard. He returned to England before the outbreak of World War I and, although he served in the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1916-18, his literary career flourished. In 1916 he published the first of sixteen volumes of poetry. His work gained prominence when it appeared in Georgian Poetry in 1917 and 1919. As music critic, Turner distinguished himself by the independence, originality and outspokenness of his views.

Too much light on the stage at the crises, and horrible competition between the band and the singers; ugly costumes and scenery. A terrible sight. The second Act was better, darker and quieter. When King Mark began his monologue I departed. I thought the music was surviving pretty well.

On getting to the Yacht Club from Richmond at 1.30 I had a telephone message from Marguerite to say that she and Anna were in the air raid at Liverpool Street and unhurt. Today I found out that though the end of their train (11.38) was bombed, Marguerite knew nothing of it, and Anna was only sure that she saw smoke 'by the side of the train' behind her. Neither heard cries of wounded, or broken glass or anything. Marguerite heard 4 bombs, or 5. Anna said she heard a noise and thought it was guns; then she saw a girl porter running and heard her cry "Oh", and thought it was an accident. When she realised it was bombs she remembered nothing more till she 'found herself' near underground lavatory, where people were taking refuge, with Marguerite. They were in different carriages and had lost each other. She saw people 'crouching down' (near base of girders apparently).

This morning I saw remains of a German aeroplane being motored up Piccadilly.

The WWI German High Command had great confidence in the effectiveness of air raids on civilian targets: not only would they damage morale, but they would disrupt production. Initially Zeppelins were used in a somewhat sporadic fashion, but they were soon easily dealt with by the British, so at the end of 1916 a new campaign was planned: Operation Turkenkreuz (Turkish Cross). Gotha heavy bombers were deployed in numbers, flying from occupied Belgium. Their first sortie to London on May 23 1917 hit bad weather, diverting them to attack Folkestone instead: 95 died there. On June 13th 18 Gothas hit the capital in daylight: 162 were killed and more than 400 injured. Tragically 46 of the dead were children in an infants’ school in Poplar. The raids were deadly because few precautions were taken by civilians – many ran to the streets to observe events – plus the Gotha G.IV could fly too high for the few British fighters kept for home defence to engage them in time.

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