Sketching the horrors of the Blitz: Mystery artist’s poignant drawings of houses reduced to rubble and Londoners sleeping in bomb shelters sell for £2,900 after being found in £5 house clear out
- Drawings depict devastated south east London high streets during the German air raids of 1940 and 1941
- Other images show Londoners sleeping in bomb shelters and shops that have been reduced to rubble
- Sketches were only expected to fetch between £20 & £40 at auction but sold to UK buyer for 750 times that
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Sketches drawn by a mystery artist that show London reduced to rubble during the Blitz have been sold for nearly £3,000 at auction.
The dramatic drawings were only expected to fetch between £20 and £40 after they were bought by a collector for a mere £5 at a house clearance sale.
But they were scooped up by a British buyer for 750 times their sale price who now has their own piece of Second World War history.
The sketches, drawn by a mystery wartime by-stander, show high streets in south east London reduced to rubble amid the German bombing campaign of 1940.
It was the most intense Britain has ever experienced, claiming the lives of 40,000 civilians in nine months.
This poignant image shows damage done to a London high street after bombs began to fall on the capital from autumn 1940
This sketch was one of several sold for just £5 each at a clearance sale and only expected to fetch the same amount at auction
Images of devastated shop fronts in Beckenham, Penge and Croydon show them as a pile of bricks with wires sticking out from the ground.
Another depicts a line of soldiers battling to put out a blaze caused by the explosions, while a third shows Londoners sleeping in bomb shelters.
The cover of the sketch book is titled ‘Flying bombs & incendiaries, Beckenham, Penge, Croydon etc’ but nothing is known of the person behind it.
Rik Alexander, head of operations at Hansons Auctions of Etwall, Derbyshire, said: ‘One of our cataloguers, Karen Van Hoey Smith, found a folder of sketches in a bulk lot of £5 house clearance stock – and knew it was special.
Soldiers are pictured desperately trying to put out fires caused by a bombing attack during the Blitz of 1940 and 1941
The artist behind the wartime sketches remains a mystery. This image shows high street buildings, including one called Ted Dairies, reduced to rubble after the Germans destroyed them in the bombings
This sketch shows temporary classrooms built inside an old town assembly hall reduced to rubble after one attack
Do you know who the artist behind the sketches is?
‘They were created by an unknown artist during the Second World War Blitz in south east London – and provided a real-life account of the bombings as they happened.
‘Such was their historical importance we isolated the drawings as a separate lot and placed them in the militaria section of our Summer Fine Arts Auction.
‘It was speculative so we put a humble estimate of £20-£40 on the artwork as it had been part of a quantity collection. However, much to our delight, the sketches sold for £2,900.
‘When the price reached £600, two bidders remained in the race to own the sketches, one from Holland and one from the UK. The British buyer secured the lot – a wonderful piece of wartime history.
‘The success of this item, lost and forgotten amid a box of general ephemera from a house clearance, demonstrates how important it is to gain professional valuations.’
The pencil and ink drawings show people sleeping in bomb shelters, homes and shops that were reduced to rubble after the bombing hit the city in September 1940
The cover of the sketch book is titled ‘Flying bombs & incendiaries, Beckenham, Penge, Croydon etc’ but the exact location of the scenes the drawings depict are unknown
How the Blitz was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen – claiming more than 40,000 lives
A boy retrieves an item from a rubble-strewn street of East London after German bombing raids in the first month of the Blitz, September 1940
The Blitz began on September 7, 1940, and was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen.
Named after the German word ‘Blitzkrieg’, meaning lightning war, the Blitz claimed the lives of more than 40,000 civilians.
Between September 7, 1940, and May 21, 1941, there were major raids across the UK with more than 20,000 tonnes of explosives dropped on 16 British cities.
London was attacked 71 times and bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights.
The City and the East End bore the brunt of the bombing in the capital with the course of the Thames being used to guide German bombers. Londoners came to expect heavy raids during full-moon periods and these became known as ‘bombers’moons’.
More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and of those who were killed in the bombing campaign, more than half of them were from London.
In addition to London’s streets, several other UK cities – targeted as hubs of the island’s industrial and military capabilities – were battered by Luftwaffe bombs including Glasgow, Liverpool, Plymouth, Cardiff, Belfast and Southampton and many more.
Deeply-buried shelters provided the most protection against a direct hit, although in 1939 the government refused to allow tube stations to be used as shelters so as not to interfere with commuter travel.
However, by the second week of heavy bombing in the Blitz the government relented and ordered the stations to be opened. Each day orderly lines of people queued until 4pm, when they were allowed to enter the stations.
Despite the blanket bombing of the capital, some landmarks remained intact – such as St Paul’s Cathedral, which was virtually unharmed, despite many buildings around it being reduced to rubble.
Hitler intended to demoralise Britain before launching an invasion using his naval and ground forces. The Blitz came to an end towards the end of May 1941, when Hitler set his sights on invading the Soviet Union.
Other UK cities which suffered during the Blitz included Coventry, where saw its medieval cathedral destroyed and a third of its houses made uninhabitable, while Liverpool and Merseyside was the most bombed area outside London.
There was also major bombing in Birmingham, where 53 people were killed in an arms works factory, and Bristol, where the Germans dropped 1,540 tons of high explosives and 12,500 incendiaries in one night – killing 207 people.
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