Skip to content

This Is Jimmy’s London

March 5, 2019
by the gentle author

Excerpts from ‘This is London‘ produced as a guide for servicemen & women in 1944

In these war-time days, when official guide books are not obtainable, a quiet perusal of ‘This is London’ will be of inestimable service to visitors, making a ‘leave in London’ something memorable and, as Jimmy says, well worth keeping a diary of.

“ the Bank..”

I don’t know anything about London and the sooner I set out to learn the better and the quicker I’ll know it. There’s only one way to learn about any town and that is to walk as much as you can. It’ll knock some of the strangeness out of you. You won’t feel you’re a stranger in the place. You won’t feel as if everyone is looking at you and telling themselves that you are a stranger. Believe me, it’ll help you feel a lot better.

The Green Park

I wanted to walk along the pavements, to watch the people, to visit places whose names were so familiar to everyone in the world. Talk about walking the paths of history, I was tickled pink.

“…Charing Cross Rd as a Free Library…”

Whether you are a reader on no, it is well worth spending a few minutes, few hours for that matter, watching the various types of people who stand, hour after hour, at the bookshops, browsing. I’m firmly convinced that very many Londoners regard Charing Cross Rd as a Free Library, and I’m equally certain that booksellers look benignly on these non-profitable customers.

“…down Wapping Way..”

To find funny little pubs with funny little bars and mix with all kinds of people, I think it’s the wisest thing anyone could do and it’s what I’ve always longed to try. There are no tough spots. Go to the poorest quarter in the East End and you’ll meet with politeness. Go into a pub down by the docks. It may not be luxurious, but you’ll find that everyone is nice there. You’ll hear the occasional ‘damn’ and, if there’s no women in the place, you’ll hear much worse.

Dirty Dick’s I won’t forget in a hurry. A unique place if ever there was one. I think the story of the original landlord who allowed everything to get into such a disgusting state of dirt and cobwebs is more or less fictitious. It’s quite close to Liverpool St Station and, although it, like many other place, received some damage during the blitz, the landlord still carries on, just as do all other Londoners.

In Hyde Park, some of the orators take their job very seriously, others look upon it as a kind of rag, entering into cross-talk with their audiences with such obvious pleasure. I don’t think I would like to be an earnest speaker there for occasionally the heckling is terrific. How these speakers can possibly hope to make themselves heard, speaking as they do one against the other, is more than I can understand.

I went to Covent Garden Market and tried to understand what it was all about, tried to make sense of what the salesmen were saying. They have a jargon all their own while the porters astonished me by throwing enormous weights about with a nonchalance that is truly amazing.

In St James’ Park

Where else but in London could one see the unexpected glimpse of a State trumpeter, his tunic, the scarlet and gold of medieval pageantry, glinting in the sun – and the inscrutable eyes of an aged Chelsea Pensioner who watched him fixedly?

Of course, I’ve read my Pepys and that gives a very fair picture, but while I’m fond of seeing historical buildings, links with the past so to speak, I much prefer the present.

A fellow would have to be dead from the neck up if he couldn’t enjoy the London Zoo. The Zoo is obviously a Londoner’s playground, everyone is eager to see as much as possible and the groups around each cage or enclosure become, for the moment, a band of friends.

The Embankment where artists in chalk ply their trade and pray for fair weather …

… and schoolboys read ‘penny dreadfuls’ in the shadow of mysterious Egypt.

Thankyou London, for all those memories. Thankyou London!

16 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 5, 2019

    And Thankyou GA for another great London blog!

    I found myself mentally reading it in that curious cockney accent you hear in films such as Passport to Pimlico…

  2. March 5, 2019

    That is the London I loved and grew up in, sadly it’s no more.

  3. Jamie S permalink
    March 5, 2019


  4. John Barrett permalink
    March 5, 2019

    London was really nice as shown then, yes it still is. Poet John Bristol

  5. Lucy permalink
    March 5, 2019

    Sheep in Green Park – how wonderful!

  6. Lucy permalink
    March 5, 2019

    Just consulted Google for more info:
    “Published in 1944 this small, copiously illustrated book purports to be the reminiscences of ‘Jimmy’, a soldier on leave in London during WW2, as told to Jack Russell. In reality it is a guide book and a morale-boosting celebration of London and Londoners.”

  7. March 5, 2019

    ‘Of course, I’ve read my Pepys.’ ‘Of course’? Was that tongue-in-cheek, I wonder, or was there really a time when having read Pepys could be taken for granted? If so, when did it end?

  8. March 5, 2019

    Oh, beautiful, fantastic.

  9. March 5, 2019

    Such an accomplished little book with marvellous photos. Love it. Thanks.

  10. March 5, 2019

    I just took a look at Dirty Dicks website it seems to have changed a bit since I last had a pint there. Those days you could call it Dirty . I wonder what has become of the old black cat hanging by its tail from the rafters.
    I loved the photo of the sheep in Green Park . If you saw those sheep now you know you would’ve had just one drink too many !

  11. March 5, 2019

    Oh, just LOOK at those unique outdoor light fixtures (Charing Cross Road photo)! I did a double
    then-triple take.

    Thanks for this wonderful travel log.

  12. March 5, 2019

    Wonderful sights from London Town!

    Love & Peace

  13. Gary Arber permalink
    March 5, 2019

    The sheep in the park were part of the war effort. All over Britain farmers were allowed to graze cattle in the parks, some of the rural ones had fields growing crops. With food rationed every spare piece of land was used. In domestic gardens people dug up their lawns to grow food. Where I lived we all also kept chickens and rabbits. at dawn in Romford the dawn chorus of crowing cocks was deafening

  14. lyn permalink
    March 5, 2019

    i really liked all these old pictures the policeman in white gloves directing the traffic especially! but the polar bear balancing for the public in London Zoo made me sad.

  15. Geoff Stocker permalink
    March 5, 2019

    Like you Lyn the photo of the polar bear reminds me of visits to London Zoo in the fifties we lived quite close by and my father took me a lot l never enjoyed it seeing the animals in small cages made me sad. But I loved the other photos of London happier memories.

  16. marc hopla permalink
    March 6, 2019

    Wonderful!!!! A lost London, gone forever. True, we can look back through rose tinted nostalgia, but there are some things that are priceless and will never come back.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS