On May 7th, 2017, I landed in London, England to begin my study tour across Europe. I was thrilled. Four countries, three weeks, one subject: U.S., Europe and the Second World War. My initial thought was how can I possibly imagine what the war was like in London, when it has been over seventy years since it first began? Cities change, but remarkably, many locations have been preserved so that students like me can learn from them and imagine what London, was like hundreds of years ago. I went to Westminster Abbey and it was breathtaking. It opened in 1065 and the first coronation was in 1066. The fact that it is still so beautiful and intact after such a long time made me realize how much older London is in comparison to America.
It is even more astounding that London endured the Blitz and looks the way it does now. The Blitz, a shortened version of Blitzkrieg which translates to ‘lightening war’, was the term used to describe the heavy air raids in Britain from 1940 to 1941. During that time, citizens slept in the tube to stay safe. I struggled to imagine people sleeping in the cement underground when I took the tube around the city. We even had a speaker come in to share his experiences from 1940-41. His name was Michael Hanscomb and his story was exciting. He was only an early teen when the air raids began. I have never experienced anything remotely similar to what he spoke about and I’m nearly twenty. Michael endured the same daily routine and small rations for a year. During this time, some of his neighbors died from the bombings. He lived through the war and it is crazy to think that in the next few years, there will be no one left to share their stories from WWII. I had the privilege of hearing him speak, but will my little sister ever meet anyone who remembers the war? Will my children?
Another experience I had in London was visiting Bletchley Park. This was where majority of the code-breaking by the Allies took place. Here they cracked the enigma which was the device that the Germans used to code their information. The information was not released until years after the war ended in 1974. Nearly 12,000 men and women worked there and the location was never discovered. Keeping something as big as that secret from the enemy for the entire war seems near impossible to me. I was very impressed that the Allies accomplished this and really enjoyed the tour through the grounds.