In the Night of the Day – the starting point

“For here is the truth; each day contains much more than its own hours, or minutes, or seconds. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that every day contains all of history.” 

― Kei Miller, Augustown

Drivers in cars, enslaved as they are today to satnavs that choose routes for them to drive along, sometimes break free from the sound of their master’s voice to notice that two houses are slightly different from the others on St. Mark's Road. Maybe some notice that the windows are different or perhaps it's that the front doors are? Or maybe that the colour of the brickwork seems slightly fresher than the other houses, which lead off ahead, along the road to come.

Some though just have a strange feeling, which they can’t quite put their finger on, that something isn’t quite right about those two houses, on the meandering road they’re travelling on.  Yet, their eyes fix and follow them, heads turning slowly while they drive by, only stopping when the voice of the satnav calls them to action once more, and they turn back to focus on the road ahead.

But sometimes, just sometimes, someone is intrigued enough to glance up at their rearview mirror and to take another look back at those two houses again, sitting there on a road which used to be called Hales Lane. Looking at those two old brick houses, number twenty-three and number twenty-five, as they continue to wonder to themselves, why are those damned houses so different from the others?

At around 04:47, on September 1st 1939, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire, with her main battery, on Polish positions on the Westerplatte - heralding what the world would later come to call the Second World War. It would end at 09:04 on September 2nd, 1945 with the stroke of a pen, when U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan's unconditional surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

As the Japanese envoys, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu signed their names on the Instrument of Surrender Smethwick, five thousand, nine hundred and thirty-two miles away, was still in darkness, still at sleep.

Just as it had been on the night of April 9th 1941.

Whilst the Second World War would rage on for two thousand, one hundred and ninety-four days, In the Night of the Day, explores just one of those days. Told through archival documents, first-person accounts and reimaginings, it focuses on how the world came to touch the lives of so many in Smethwick on that day in ways which still linger and live on.

Andrew Jackson
Doreen, Summer 1939
Bombed out family cross the road with their belongings. Photograph from the Ministry of Information. 1941

Get the latest updates