London Pride

St Paul's Cathedral

The undamaged St Paul's Cathedral surrounded by smoke and bombed-out buildings in December 1940. Image via Wikipedia

If you have read any of my earlier blogs you will know that I was born and brought up in London during the Second World War.

It is a well known fact that London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights in 1940/41 and more than one million houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 20,000 civilians were killed.  We had an aunt who went to visit her sister and after the air raid warning sounded decided to spend the night.  A very lucky decision because the next day when she and her daughters returned home, they found their house razed to the ground.

So I grew up surrounded by bombed sites where houses used to stand and I thought nothing of it.  I really thought everybody lived this way.  Well I was only a few months old when the war started and 7 when it ended in May 1945.

All through these bomb sites a little flower grew.  Well it grew like a weed and while it did have a Latin name – saxifraga –  it was quickly renamed London Pride.  It came to represent the pride and the unstoppable nature of Londoners at the time.   Noel Coward wrote a song about it.  Coward later said that the song came to him when he was sitting on a railway station in London.   He looked about him and saw the flowers and the people going about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening and  he became “overwhelmed by a wave of sentimental pride”  If you haven’t heard it, click here.  

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be……..

It is very sentimental and very outdated now.  But at the time it was a rallying song for Londoners during the dark days of the Blitz, when people were mourning the loss of husbands, sons, family members and their homes.

And now I must admit that I love Noel Coward.  I have a couple of biographies and know the words to most of the songs he wrote.  Another great favourite is “I’ve been  to a marvellous party” but that has to wait for another day.

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20 responses to “London Pride

  1. I clicked the link and was reminded I’ve heard this wonderful song many times before.
    Thank you. 🙂

  2. Stubborn defiance defeated bombs. Those hornets called Spitfires helped too I imagine.Coincidence? I just posted about bombs too.

  3. One of my dearest friends also grew up in England during the blitz. She was the youngest of two sisters and her parents sent her to the country to stay with friends in Lincolnshire. Her sister (age 14) remained in London to work. Both sisters have poignant stories. Your blog post is wonderful Judith. Even though I knew about the Blitz, it was never as real to me as the picture(s) you painted, first with the song, and then the related slides, and the words of a distressed woman trying to understand War. London Pride is to be hugely admired in all its forms.

    • My mother wouldn’t let us be evacuated although many children were. Her rationale was that if we were to die we would all die together. And many children were very badly treated as evacuees. An idea for another post?
      Thanks for the comment.

  4. I didn’t realize that Noel Coward wrote songs as well. I recently went to see a play of his called, “Hayfever.” Have you seen that one? It don’t think it’s one of his more famous works, but I found it to be engaging and very funny.

  5. What a wonderful image of the London Pride, just beautiful. The Londoners were something else. I now have to go and find your earlier stories — because they were written before I knew ye.

  6. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for a small child growing up during war years and all that bombing – but as you say, you didn’t know anything else.

    Even though I was born some years after WW2, the east end and city were still in quite a state and while some rebuilding was going on, there were still bomb sites and I still remember the look of those bomb-blasted houses with several storeys of fireplace walls one on top of the other – it always spooked me.

    I’m pretty sure we have Saxifraga in our garden, I didn’t know its alternative name.

    Thanks for this post, Judith.

  7. Images and memories that stay forever. Thanks for the comment and I hope you are feeling much better Val. 😀

  8. sad, sad times. My mother returned to Paris as soon as she could once the war was over. What she saw and heard there marked her life forever.

  9. Most of what I learned was from history books, or a little English lady I know who was a child at that time, sent to Wales, I think. But your picture truly shows what my mind couldn’t even imagine. I’m glad your family was safe.

    • There were many sad stories of children who were evacuated out of London and were badly treated. Mother kept her three daughters close by. Luckily we survived. 🙂

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  12. Fascinating story, Judith. I loved the pictures on that YouTube site, as well as Noel Coward’s song.

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