Fortress London – Wartime around Whitehall

RICHARD MADDOX

TODAY WITH THE WORLD THE WAY IT IS we are all used to various ‘security measures’ in our everyday lives and the capitals – even large cities – of the countries where we live or travel to.

But of course London has seen it all before as this selection of photographs from IWM’s Collection shows.

A BRITISH ARMY SENTRY GUARDS GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS NEAR ADMIRALTY ARCH (NOT FAR FROM TRAFALGAR SQUARE) in May 1940. Image © IWM. Image catalogue reference H1585. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197144the entrance to a government building near the Admiralty near Whitehall in central London.

A BRITISH ARMY SENTRY GUARDS GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS NEAR ADMIRALTY ARCH (NOT FAR FROM TRAFALGAR SQUARE) in May 1940. Image © IWM. Image catalogue reference H1585. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197144

A MAN WALKS NEAR A BRICK PILLBOX in Northumberland Avenue, central London, with Nelson's Column visible in the background. The street housed a number of military offices in two large requisitioned hotels during the Second World War.

A MAN WALKS NEAR A BRICK PILLBOX in Northumberland Avenue, central London, with Nelson’s Column visible in the background. The street housed a number of military offices in two large requisitioned hotels during the Second World War. Image taken 19 June 1945. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H 41986. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205196899

GRENADIER GUARDSMEN ERECTING A SANDBAGGED POSITION near the Houses of Parliament, London. Image probably taken in May 1940. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H 1587. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195552

GRENADIER GUARDSMEN ERECTING A SANDBAGGED POSITION outside the Treasury Building near the Houses of Parliament, London. In the distance can be seen St. Thomas’ Hospital on the other side of Westminster Bridge. Image probably taken in May 1940. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H 1587. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195552

ANOTHER SANDBAGGED MACHINE GUN POSITION, this time at the bottom of Admiralty Arch on the Mall, the long road from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square in central London, May 1940. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H1583. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197142

ANOTHER SANDBAGGED MACHINE GUN POSITION, this time at the bottom of Admiralty Arch on the Mall, the long road from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square in central London, May 1940. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H 1583. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197142

GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HARRY POLLITT addresses a gathering in central London in 1941. Note how the sandbagged construction shown earlier in this post have been replaced by a more substantial structure. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 4420. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195865

GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HARRY POLLITT addresses a gathering in central London in 1941. Note how the sandbagged construction shown earlier in this post have been replaced by a more substantial structure. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 4420. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195865

CROWDS GATHER ON 15 AUGUST 1945 at the end of Downing Street in central London to hear news of the end of the war in Japan. Note the pillbox that many of the expectant crowd have climbed on to use as a vantage post. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D25639. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205202199

CROWDS GATHER ON 15 AUGUST 1945 at the end of Downing Street in central London to hear news of the end of the war in Japan (VJ Day). Note the pillbox that many of the expectant crowd have climbed on to use as a vantage post. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D25639. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205202199

THE STATUE OF KING CHARLES I at the end of Whitehall protected by a timber frame and corrugated steel sheeting. King Charles I statue in Whitehall, showing the precautions taken to protect it from damage by air raids. Clearly visible is Nelson's Column and the National Portrait gallery with a direction sign to the above ground public air raid shelter in Trafalgar Square. At the base of the structure are barriers for traffic roadblocks. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 3606. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195892

THE STATUE OF KING CHARLES I at the end of Whitehall protected by a timber frame and corrugated steel sheeting. King Charles I statue in Whitehall, showing the precautions taken to protect it from damage by air raids. Clearly visible is Nelson’s Column and the National Portrait gallery with a direction sign to the above ground public air raid shelter in Trafalgar Square. At the base of the structure are barriers for traffic roadblocks. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 3606. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195892

Local Defence Volunteers (LDV - later to be renamed the Home Guard) at theor sandbagged position at the base of Admiralty Arch. This post was the first manned by the LDVin central London. The menare being inspected by General Nation and Major Hughman. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H1896. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195179

LOCAL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS (LDV – later to be renamed the ‘Home Guard’) at their sandbagged position at the base of Admiralty Arch. This post was the first to be manned by the LDV in central London. The men are being inspected by General Nation and Major Hughman. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H1896. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195179

Grenadier Guards GRENADIER GUARDS CONSTRUCT A SANDBAGGED FORTIFICATION near the government building housing the Cabinet War Rooms (now IWM Churchill War Rooms) corner of Horse Guards Road, Great George Street and Birdcage Walk, London in May 1940. Note the large iron gates and the sign to the nearest First Aid Post Image © IWM. IWM reference catalogue H 1588. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197146

ANOTHER IMAGE OF GRENADIER GUARDS CONSTRUCTING THE SANDBAGGED FORTIFICATION near the building housing the Cabinet War Rooms (now IWM Churchill War Rooms) at the corner of Horse Guards Road, Great George Street and Birdcage Walk, London in May 1940. Note the large iron gates to block traffic (white edged to be seen in the blackout) and the sign to the nearest First Aid Post. Image © IWM. IWM reference catalogue H 1588. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197146

A CROWD GATHERS ON THE STEPS OF ST. MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS CHURCH near Trafalgar Square in London. Note the sign for the Armed Forces canteen in the church's crypt which also was used as a public air raid shelter. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 2945. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205198399

A CROWD GATHERS ON THE STEPS OF ST. MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS CHURCH near Trafalgar Square in London. Note the sign for the Armed Forces canteen in the church’s crypt which also was used as a public air raid shelter. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 2945. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205198399

A SENTRY STANDS GUARD IN A BARBED WIRE COMPOUND IN MAY 1940

A SENTRY STANDS GUARD IN A BARBED WIRE COMPOUND IN MAY 1940 while Grenadier Guards construct the sandbagged position near the Cabinet War Rooms seen earlier in this post. IMAGE © IWM. IWM catalogue reference H1579 Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197140

CROWDS FILL WHITEHALL ON VE DAY (VICTORY IN EUROPE DAY) 8 MAY 1945. Note how the lower windows of the government buildings have been modified to become firing rifle points, with a heavy protective wall into which is set a rifle loop to fire through. Image © IWM. Image catalogue reference TR 2877. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205189171

CROWDS FILL WHITEHALL ON VE DAY (VICTORY IN EUROPE DAY) 8 MAY 1945. Note how the lower windows of the government buildings have been modified to become firing rifle points, with a heavy protective wall into which is set a rifle loop to fire through. Image © IWM. Image catalogue reference TR 2877. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205189171

NOTE

For those not familiar with the geography of central London, Whitehall is a road running from Trafalgar Square towards Parliament Square (part of the road at this end is called Parliament Street).

The British Houses of Parliament are located near Parliament Square. On each side of Whitehall are buildings occupied by a variety of government departments.

Off Whitehall is Downing Street containing the public residence of the British prime minister. King Charles I is commemorated by a statue at the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall and by King Charles Street (off Parliament Street) at the Parliament end.

It was Charles’ Royalist forces that fought Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army (himself commemorated near the Houses of Parliament) in the English Civil War.

One of the outcomes of the war was the limitation of the powers of the monarch – one of the reasons that while it is the monarch’s government, representing the people the monarch is traditionally invited to attend.