The Underworld, Taking cover in a Tube Station during a London Air raid.

Walter Bayes was a founder member of the Camden Town Group (1869-1956) In the new deployment of imagery at the Imperial war Museum, the painting is given a prominent space in the atriumSheltering from Zeppelins in the London Underground is a less known phenomenon of the First World War, and much more associated with the Second, mainly through Henry Moore's and Bill Brandt's images of the London Blitz.

The Wikipedia entry on Bayes sensibly sees Bayes experiences as a painter for the theatre at the heart of this giant Tableau. Compare it with Mark Geertler's Merry Go Round in the Tate dating from1916 which I claim as a representation of civilian sheletering in the London Undergound.

• "The shelters belonged, it was affirmed, mainly to the poorer type of alien in East London; it seemed to be implied that no true born native would be so un-British as to take cover from falling bombs - not at all events in a Tube station. Raids being shorter in those days, the shelterers did not have to sit it out for the whole night. They whiled away the time riding back and forth in the train..... returning of course to their starting point and no fares paid. The Inner Circle as it was then called, was a particular favourite." J.A.B.Hamilton, Britain's Railways in World War I, 1967.

"Last night when we were coming home the guns broke out, and there was a noise of bombs. Then we saw the Zeppelin above us, just ahead, amid a gleaming of clouds; high up, like a bright golden finger, quite small among a fragile incandescence of clouds. And underneath it were splashes of fire as the shells fired from earth burst. Then there were flashes near the ground - and the shaking noise. It was like Milton - then there was a war in heaven. But it was not angels. It was that small golden Zeppelin, like a long oval world up high. Then the small, long ovate luminary, the new world in the heavens disappeared again." DHL letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell, Sept.9 1915. Byron Villas, Hampstead.

•"He had never been in the Tube and, one day, with a shilling borrowed from Harry, it seemed appropriate to him to plunge into the bowels of the earth.The oppression of the air, the flash of the stations as he moved through them, suited his mood, fantastic and futile." G.Cannan, Mendel.

• " It seems to me the stark truth one has inside one is all that matters whether it is paint, or books or life. ... I saw the Daily Mirror today today - the Zeppelin wrecks etc. How exhausted one is by all this fury of strident lies and foul death......." Lawrence to Gertler Sept 1916.

• from "The Question of Things Happening", Letters of Virginia Woolf , 1912-1922.


Friday [25 August 1916]

...I can't help being selfishly rather glad that you may spend part of the winter in London, especially with these raids going on. We actually had a zeppelin over the house here--in broad daylight. We were away, but the servants say the sound is unmistakable, and were in a panic; Nelly hiding in the wood, and Lottie running to the Woolers, where Mrs Wooler did nothing but dash into her house and out again. But it was so high up that no one saw it. Eleven aeroplanes chased it. I can't help thinking it was really English."


• from "The Question of Things Happening", Letters of Virginia Woolf , 1912-1922.


Monday [22 January 1917]

"...The fog is permanent here; by night we have the Aurora Borealis, which a man in the street took to be zeppelins, so shouted out loud under the servants window. At midnight we heard them carrying their bedding to the kitchen, there to lie on the floor till day--With great difficulty we got them up again, and lectured them on the nature of northern lights. I think I must write the stories of our youth for Julian. Aunt Ena is dead."