Monday, October 24, 2005

The Scars of London



Damage from Red Army bullets and shells, in central Berlin.


A year or two ago I went to Berlin for the first time. It's a fascinating and quite seductive place, full of agreeable museums, cute girls, and stalls selling takeaway sausages in delicious curry sauce.

But what I found most intriguing about Berlin was not the bangers or the brothels - but all the terrible war damage. I hadn't expected to find quite so much evidence of the Battle of Berlin. After all, I thought, this Battle took place in 1945 - now we're in 2004. Sixty years have gone by: haven't they had time to repair the place? Bizarre. Seeing all the shrapnelled, pock-marked, bullet-strafed Berlin buildings - and there are hundreds of them, especially in the East - was rather like finding sabres from the battle of Waterloo on a modern Brussels pavement.

But then I came home to London. And I started noticing, for the first time in twenty years of living here, just how much World War 2 bomb damage is still visible in my city. OK, it's nothing to compare to the hideous scars of the Gotterdammerung that was the Red Army's march on Berlin, but still - these shrapnel marks, typical sprays of brick-damage from exploding bombs, are still quite obvious once you know what to look for. And they are also extremely poignant. Every one of these bomb sites in London marks the place where people suffered and died. The chips and gouges are the chalk mark around a murder victim's corpse; stone flowers on a metaphorical grave; the fighter's scars on the face of a brave and historic city.

Why am I banging on about this now? Because it occurred to me recently that these scars might still be forming. From the jihadist terrorist attacks. Are there any marks left from the July 7 bombs? The other day I went to have a look at one of the World War 2 bomb sites, so I could compare that 60 year old damage with the damage from the July 7 outrages.

Here's what I found.

1 comment:

GT said...

Once you know what your looking for you can pick out shrapnel damage all over central London. Check out the base of Cleopatra's Needle next time you're on the Embankment - still marked from a WWI Zeppelin raid.