Day 5: WW2 is Everywhere and VE Day Celebrations continue!

VE Day Continues today! 

Another big day with lots of great events and tons of history. This morning we went on a walking tour of London's East End. This area has undergone an amazing and diverse history. It started out as the outskirts of London housing the slums and immigrants. Eventually the Huguenots from France came over to London to avoid persecution for their protestant religion and began a thriving silk weaving trade in this area of town. The buildings they lived in still survive. This area underwent many ethnic changes as groups moved in and out based on the economy. Eventually the Jews replaced the French and then the Bangladesh replaced the Jews. More about this tour in my other blog post. This area was heavily bombed during World War 2 since it was a hub of industry. Evidence of this bombing was noticeable on buildings such as the building below.

Our tour guide's family is Jewish and they lived in this area. Her father was born in 1938 and was evacuated to the countryside during the Blitz Bombing of London several times, as were many children from London. The evacuation was called operation Pied Piper and began on September 1, 1939 and 3.5 million people (mostly children) were evacuated during the war time conditions. Not just children were evacuated to the countryside for safety- art and national treasures were also moved.  Those who were not evacuated retreated to bomb shelters built in backyards throughout London and evacuation locations. Some children were evacuated as far as Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. A famous representation of the WW2 evacuations is in C.S. Lewis' famous book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were the 4 Pevensie children were evacuated to a country manor house where they found the magical wardrobe that led to Narnia. 
Children being evacuated to the countryside in 1939
The Pevensie children at the train station after evacuation to the countryside. Notice the tickets on their jackets with their information and destination.

After the East End tour, we headed for the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum was awe inspiring and more will be told about that in my next blog post. However, there was a nice exhibition about the style of WW2. Cloth was rationed along with everything else and the result was a very plain and functional wardrobe called "Utility" wear. It was rationed to the point that no pleating or folds were allowed in skirt because it was an unnecessary use of fabric and skirts could only be knee length. Jackets could only have 3 buttons. This wardrobe is undeniably English and I recognized it immediately from photos and history books. 

Utility Outfits

Utility Womens shoes

Also in honor of VE Day's 70th Anniversary, there was a 1940's themed concert at Horse Guards Parade Grounds tonight. I was not able to go but I did watch on the telly and the celebration was so cool. It felt like the celebration was truly taking place 70 years ago. Tomorrow morning there is a special VE Day service in Westminster Abbey and I will be in the area and hopefully will see some of the happenings. Overall, being in London for this 70th Anniversary of VE Day has been so incredible. To be a part of the ceremony at the Cenotaph yesterday, witness the memorials city wide and feel the pulse of national pride and see veterans who gave so much honored so wonderfully is an unforgettable experience. Upcoming on the blog will be how the Tube was used in WW2 and what the original 1945 VE Day celebration was like. Stay tuned!!

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