Tag Archives: London Blitz

2012 Pumpkin Lantern: London Under the Blitz

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This year’s pumpkin lantern is a full panorama, some 54 inches long, depicting one night of the German Blitz of London, December 29th, 1940. …see more details and photos below
The subject was inspired by the iconic photograph “St. Paul’s Survives”, taken by Herbert Mason, December 29th, from the roof of the Daily Mail.  St. Paul’s stood unharmed amid smoke and fire on all sides, the city around it on fire. The photograph became a symbol of British resolve, and was declared the “War’s Greatest Picture”.

“St. Paul’s Survives”, by Herbert Mason of the London Daily Mail. Taken from the roof of the Daily Mail, during the bombing, on December 29th, 1940

“The Blitz” was an extended nine-month strategic bombing of the U.K. by the German Luftwaffe. In addition to targets of industry and production, the capital of London itself was bombed every single night for nearly two months straight, 57 nights in a row, and 71 nights in total over the nine-month period.

The panorama starts with the barrage balloons over Tower Bridge, German bombers in the distance and the Thames aglow from distant fire.

Tower Bridge and the Thames, a working waterfront. Barrage Balloons hang in the air in an effort to discourage low-level strafing runs by enemy fighters

Panning along the waterfront and a small gunboat, continuing up across the central image of St. Paul’s behind the still burning debris of destroyed buildings.

View of the Pumpkin with Room Lights on. St. Paul’s at rear, behind a pile of still burning debris, firefighters at far left

St. Paul’s, surrounded by burning debris and smoke, with rising sparks at low left

Following a trail of rising sparks, we encounter the bombers (Dornier Do17s), and pan down along a building being futilely attacked by firemen on both sides.

A building ablaze, with the German Dornier Do17 Bombers high above.

Continuing left, we see the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666.

The tall columnar monument in the middle of the street is the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666, with another statue of a horse and rider in front.  My original idea was to carve the Great Fire of London, all the way around.  But it occurred to me that since most of the buildings were destroyed, there’d be little or no iconic structures to include which would make clear that we were talking about London.  And so I modified the subject to the Bombing of London.  As destructive as the Great Fire was,  I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the continuous bombing Londoners endured for two months straight.

The silhouette of a man with walking stick under a blacked-out street lamp, at far left, alongside a smoldering building, is a nod to the Londoners’ ability to maintain morale in the face of the onslaught.  “Keep calm, and carry on”.

Some details…

Detail of a volunteer firefighting crew. During the height of the war, the number of men serving as firemen would swell to 273,000 nationwide. A special crew manned St. Paul’s itself, and on December 29th alone, extinguished some thirty fires started by German incendiary bombs.

The Bombers, with the Room Lights on to show the nature of the carving

Detail of Tower Bridge and the Thames waterfront, with room lights on

The Rear of the Pumpkin, “London Under the Blitz”, room lights on

Though I chose to depict London, the number of cities which could have been chosen for the subject is far too long.  Coventry, Dresden, Stalingrad, Hiroshima…. More civilians died in World War II than did soldiers, and heavy bombing played a great part in the tally.

The pumpkin was a 100 pound “Atlantic Giant”, almost 54 inches in circumference, purchased at Wilson’s Farm, of Lexington, Massachusetts.  After carving and hollowing, it now weighs 37 pounds.

It’s nearly impossible to capture the lighting and wrap-around nature of something like this in 2D.  The intent is to make it an experience, to invite people to walk around and investigate it. The best I can offer is a video, which at least conveys something of the scale and quality of the lighting effects.  See here… Video:”London Under the Blitz”


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