chapter
16 Pages

Introduction

ByWilliam Cederwell

The vision was of St Paul's Cathedral, miraculously still standing, after the air raid of 29 December 1940 – a night so bad it became known as the Second Fire of London. Herbert Mason's photograph appeared on the newspaper's front page on 31 December, providing the type of striking iconography of the home-front that London did so well. By home-front myths, what is clear is that London became a lasting symbol of Britain's finest hour. The intellectual was usually depicted as suspect, a pacifist poet-type trying to upset the decencies of home-front life. Filmmakers and artists, meanwhile, were more susceptible to interference from officialdom. Painters had to get permission before they set up their easels in city streets. The literary critic Paul Fussell, best known for his research on the Great War, argued that 1940s literature lacked irony and scepticism, with Priestley a typical example of this tendency towards wartime sanctimoniousness and cant.