September 14, 2015

1940. Edward R. Murrow from a Rooftop During the London Blitz

The Sights and Sounds of the London Blitz


Edward R. Murrow

CBS London

September 22, 1940

EDWARD R. MURROW: I'm standing on a rooftop looking out over London. At the moment, everything is quiet. For reasons of national as well as personal security, I am unable to tell you the exact location from which I am speaking.

Off to my left, far away in the distance, I can see just that faint red, angry snap of antiaircraft bursts against the steel-blue sky. But the guns are so far away that it's impossible to hear them from this location. About five minutes ago the guns in the immediate vicinity were working.

I can look across just at the building not far away and see something that looks like a splash of white paint down the side. And I know from daylight observation that about a quarter of that building has disappeared, hit by a bomb the other night.

Streets fan out in all directions from here, and down on one street I can see a single red light, and just faintly the outline of a sign standing in the middle of the street. And again I know what that sign says, because I saw it this afternoon. It says: "Danger: Unexploded Bomb." Off to my left still, I can see just that red snap of the antiaircraft fire.

I was up here earlier this afternoon, and looking out over these housetops, looking all the way to the dome of St. Paul's, I saw many flags flying from staffs. No one ordered these people to put out the flags. They simply feel like flying the Union Jack above their roofs. No one told them to do it, and no flag up there was white. I can see one or two of them just stirring very faintly in the breeze now.

You may be able to hear the sound of guns off in the distance very faintly, like someone kicking a tub. Now they're silent. Four searchlights reach up, disappear in the light of a three-quarter moon.

I should say at the moment there are probably three aircraft in the general vicinity of London, because one can tell by the movement of the lights and the flash of the antiaircraft guns. But at the moment, in the central area everything is quiet.

More searchlights spring up over on my right. I think probably in a minute we shall have the sound of guns in the immediate vicinity. The lights are swinging over in this general direction now. You'll hear two explosions in just—there they are. Again moving in, still a considerable distance away, moving still just a little closer—there you heard two. The searchlights are stretching out now in this general direction. I can hear just the faint whisper of an aircraft high overhead. Again those guns are considerable distance away. You'll hear them just vaguely in the background.

Straight in front of me now you'll hear two sounds in just a moment. There they are. That was the explosion overhead, not the guns themselves. I should think in a few minutes there may be a bit of shrapnel around here. Coming in, moving a little closer all the while, the plane is still very high and it's quite clear that he's not coming in for his bombing run.

Earlier this evening we could hear occasionally—again, those were explosions overhead. Earlier this evening, we heard a number of bombs go sliding and slithering across to fall several blocks away. Just overhead now, the burst of the antiaircraft fire. Still the nearby guns are not working. And the searchlights now are feeling almost directly overhead.

Now you'll hear two bursts a little nearer in a moment. There they are. That hard, stony sound.