Typical scene in an Underground Station, London. Mediadrumimages/TopFoto

By Alex Jones


POIGNANT photos display the typical British resolve of ‘keeping calm and carrying on’- through even the BIGGEST DISASTERS.

Striking videos show 1940s Britain’s renowned Blitz Spirit as people play, laugh, joke, and party through the toughest period of modern British history, knowing their loved ones were overseas fighting in a bloody world war and that the threat of a Luftwaffe bombing was ever present.

Despite having access to very little food and living with the constant threat of death, the men, women, and children in these photos display a calm, dignified stoicism in the most trying of circumstances.

Hospital staff, including nurses, sweep debris to clear the path after the nights raid. Mediadrumimages/TopFoto

By contrast, as the coronavirus sweeps across the globe, newspapers and social media feeds are littered with panic and hysteria as people ransack supermarkets and pharmacies for supplies to sustain them through a period of self-isolation – often with little regard for society’s most vulnerable or elderly citizens.

The defiance of Britain as it endured months of rampant German bombing 80 years ago is etched on the collective memory and immortalised in the phrase ‘Blitz spirit’ – a restraint which appears to be sadly lacking today.

For much of 1940, the UK was under heavy bombardment. For eight consecutive months, every dawn brought a new terrible toll – more bodies, more craters in the street, more buildings reduced to rubble and more fires.

Christmas party in the underground. Mediadrumimages/TopFoto

People emerged from air raid shelters, from under railway arches or merely from under the stairs, to see if their homes were still standing, or if their neighbours were still alive. Then they dusted themselves down and went to work.

This period has become part of British folklore and the Blitz spirit a byword for stoicism, invoked at times of need.

Many of the hysterical panic buyers would do well to heed the message of ‘keep calm and carry on’ but surprisingly few of the people in these shots would have been aware of the stiff-upper-lip slogan.

‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was one of three key messages created by Britain’s wartime propaganda department, the Ministry of Information, made famous as the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s novel 1984, according to the University of London.

The now ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ phrase was chosen for its clear message of ‘sober restraint’ and was coined by the shadow Ministry of Information at some point between June 27 and July 6, 1939.

It was one of a series of three posters that would be issued in the event of war (the others read ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution; Will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril; Defend it with all Your Might’). The ‘Keep Calm’ design was never officially issued and only a very small number of originals have survived to the present day.

Around 2.45 million posters displaying it were printed, only to be pulped and recycled in 1940 to help the British government deal with a serious paper shortage.

It wasn’t until a copy was discovered in a bookshop in Northumberland in 2000, and reproductions of it began to be sold a year later, that its fame was established.