The West End Front: Matthew Sweet
Posted by Frank Burns
You might think that all that could be said about WW2 has already been said. The plethora of books dealing with that short, but traumatic, episode of history have analysed the war from every possible perspective, but Matthew Sweet belies that conclusion. In The West End Front the great hotels of London have their own story to tell, and Sweet has been in the ‘nick of time’ to catch the few remaining survivors amongst guests and hotel staff who can help to spin the fascinating web that reveals the astonishing things that went on behind the guilded closed doors of the Savoy, Ritz, Claridge’s and Dorchester hotels.
The onset of War in 1939 threatened all of these places with total financial ruin, quite apart from the material ruin promised by the blitz itself. But from bleak beginnings grew new opportunities. The sturdiness of their buildings and the security of their basements eventually turned them into safe havens for the well-heeled, where society life could continue and the privations of war could be assuaged with caviare and champagne. These hotels furthered their international reputations by offering shelter to an eclectic mix of foreign royalty, statesmen and generals, and hidden amongst them were spies, con-artists, prostitutes and suited swindlers. You will even meet the barman who looked after Churchill’s private bottle of whisky!
A fascinating ‘war story’ supported by detailed research.