The heartbreaking photo that won the hearts and minds of Americans

The photo of Eileen Dunne, aged three, sitting in a hospital bed with her doll after being injured during a German air raid on London, September 1940.
(Photo: Imperial War Museum)

In the fall of 1940, half of Europe was under the rule of the Third Reich. Britain stood alone against the Nazi war machine; the Battle of Britain was raging over the summer of that year. In September 1940, the German air force, the Luftwaffe launched the Blitz, a bombing campaign aimed not only against factories and airstrips of the Royal Air Force but British cities and their citizens also. The Blitz lasted until May 1941, by which time two-thirds of the Luftwaffe had been redeployed to other fronts. 40,000 British civilians lost their lives, and a million buildings were destroyed during the bombing campaign. An average of 150,000 people took shelter in London's Tube stations every night. (Read our earlier article).
After one such raid in September 1940, the cover of Life magazine showcased the horrors of the war and the pain the locals had to endure amidst the German bombings. American readers were confronted with a photo of a three-year-old little girl, Eileen Dunne, who got injured during a raid. She was hospitalized and the photo was taken when she was sitting in bed with a bandaged head, holding her doll. The photo was described by LIFE magazine as follows: “The wide-eyed young lady on the cover is Eileen Dunne, aged 3 3/4. A German bomber whose crew had never met her dropped a bomb on a North England village. A splinter from it hit Eileen. She is sitting in the hospital. A plucky chorus of wounded children had just finished singing in the North English dialect, “Roon, Rabbit, Roon.”

German V1 and V2 weapons with a British Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum London
(Photo: Author’s own)

The photo was taken by Cecil Beaton, the famous eccentric British photographer and Oscar–winning stage and costume designer who was well-known for his photos about the Royal Family. He was less known for his wartime photos taken when he worked for the Ministry of Information. At that time, Britain was in a desperate situation. The British army had lost most of its equipment during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France via Dunkerque and other locations in 1940. (Read our earlier article) A German invasion of the British Isles seemed imminent. Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent entry into war of the U.S. was still far away and the British had to somehow win the sympathy and support of the Americans in their struggle against the Nazis. This was one of the main reasons Beaton was tasked to document the effects of the Blitz for the wider international public. This is how this iconic photo of an innocent victim of the bombings came about. Eventually, the U.S. became the “Arsenal of Democracy” (Read our earlier article) and provided invaluable support to its allies in the fight against Nazi Germany.

Watch our video about the Britain at War Tour
(Video: Author’s own)

On our 10-day all-inclusive Britain at War Tour you can see the actual iconic sites of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. It offers an outstanding opportunity to explore and learn more about the operations and sites of this particular part of World War II. It combines the air war-related sites with the iconic armored vehicles, including the only operational German Tiger I tank in the world, on display at the Bovington Tank Museum and finishing off with a cultural intake of the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge. We will delve into the "fight for the skies" and discover the stories of the besieged civilians during the months before the Royal Air Force fought off the German aerial assault. In addition, you will have the chance to pay your respects to the American soldiers laid to rest in the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. We will also explore the origins of Operation Overlord, from the codebreaking at Bletchley Park to Southwick House which served as the headquarters of the Allied command. Following our journey along the southern coast of England, our last stop will be at Littlecote House that was the regimental headquarters for the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. The famous Easy Company took off from here during the night of June 5-6, 1944, as part of the D-Day operations. If you have any questions about this or our other tours, please contact our travel consultants at or by calling our toll-free number: +1 855-473-1999.

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Tiger 131 at the Tank Museum in Bovington
(Photo: Author’s own)

Victory in Europe Day promotion

10% discount on all tours

A priest shows students a newspaper announcing Germany's surrender at a Catholic school in Chicago (Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images)

On May 8, we will celebrate the 79th anniversary of V-E Day, standing for Victory in Europe Day, marking the date of the formal unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in World War II. On this occasion, we are offering all our tours with a 10% discount if you book and pay in full until May 8, 2024. Note that this offer applies only in case of new bookings, and it can be combined with selected special offers. If you have any questions related to this promotion or our tours, please contact our travel consultants at or by calling our toll-free number: +1 855-473-1999.

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