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The terrifying picture above features Morlocks from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. In the story, Morlocks are a sub-species of humans who live and breed underground. The theory is that they were originally working-class humans who dwelled underground to work there, which meant that their higher-class masters got to enjoy a more exclusive above-ground environment. It is suspected that once they went underground, the Morlocks simply never came back up and formed a nocturnal, barbaric, and cannibalistic society under the surface of the ground. This brings us to a very real fear the British government entertained during the London Blitz. Not so much the cannibalism thing, I guess. But still.
The London Blitz was a seven-month period from September 7, 1940 to May 10, 1941 in which German planes mercilessly peppered London with bombs, and is one of the iconic events of World War II. With the exception of November 2, bombs fell on London 76 nights in a row during its peak! The point was to weaken British industry and morale in hopes of inspiring their surrender to the Third Reich.
London was understandably unprepared for all of this, and had to scramble to provide its people with shelter. The government provided home shelters and some small public shelters, but these were largely ignored by Londoners, some of whom instead found comfort taking refuge in the famous London Underground subway system. The government was NOT okay with this. Why? Well, they said it was because they wanted to keep the train stations open for public transportation. It turns out that the government was afraid that the move would create a deep-shelter mentality. They were afraid that if people went underground, they would grow dependant on the sense of security they felt there and be unwilling to ever leave. Now, I’m not sure that being crammed in a tunnel with hundreds of loud people with no prospects of showering would appeal to me, but I suppose if the alternative is being blown to bits, my interest may sway.
The British government tried to enforce a ban on using the tunnels as public shelters, but so many people just moved in anyway that they eventually just kind of gave up and let people do what they wanted. In the government’s defense, there were a few cases of tunnel-collapse and flooding due to direct hits, which did result in hysteria in and among the tunnels. Would people have stayed there forever, formed a society of cannibals? Doubtful, since they did go underground, and British society continued as we know it. I have a feeling that they likely would have emerged again as soon as the smoke cleared, even just to get away from the smell.
Either way, fiction often reflects real concerns for the human race, whether or not they have any basis in reality.
I got all of this information from my lovely history major girlfriend, Jessica Dill. If you want to know more, you should read her 30-page research paper on improvized shelters during the Blitz!
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