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The offensive on London began at 9pm on Sunday. The Martians had earlier in the day been forced to retreat to their then-primary encampment at Horsell after losing one of their number while attacking the towns of Weybridge and Shepperton. At 9pm, near St. George's Hill - where one of three Martian fighting-machines had been damaged earlier that evening by artillery fire - four other fighting-machines joined up with the first three. The seven fighting-machines then proceeded to establish an attacking line twelve miles wide (between St. George's Hill, Weybridge, and Send). At this time, over 115 artillery pieces had been deployed covering London. Heavy artillery pieces had been established in a defensive line near Kingston, Richmond, and Wimbledon, while smaller artillery pieces were placed in various areas of cover south of this defensive line around the villages of Staines, Ockham, Ditton, Esher, and Hounslow. Up to the opening of this offensive, the British military authorities were confident in their defenses, given that a Martian had been destroyed earlier in the day at Weybridge. However, the Martians employed a new weapon which eliminated the artillery as a threat to their attack: black smoke.
Black Smoke attackEdit
Black Smoke was a toxic gas dispatched from the fighting-machines by gunfire. When the projectiles were fired, they hit the ground and broke open, releasing enormous clouds of the gas. Any person or animal breathing or even touching this gas died almost instantly. From their offensive line, the Martians completely saturated the valley of the Thames with Black Smoke, and used their heat-rays on any artillery positions that were exposed in full view, or on hills above the smoke. By midnight, the defensive line south of Richmond and Kingston had been forced, which led the military authorities to advise the government to evacuate London. While this was happening, the fourth Martian invasion ship landed at Bushy Park, close to Hampton Court Palace. Before dawn the next day, the evacuation order was given out to the public.
The public dispatch read: The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of a black and poisonous vapour by means of rockets. They have smothered our batteries, destroyed Richmond, Kingston, and Wimbledon, and are advancing slowly towards London, destroying everything on the way. It is impossible to stop them. There is no safety from the Black Smoke but in instant flight. This sparked the beginning of the Great Panic. Londoners embarked on an en-masse stampede northwards and eastwards out of the city. Before the Government and military leadership moved to Birmingham to establish a new headquarters, they had ordered the railway companies to prepare special trains to assist in the evacuation, which had commenced that same hour with the London & North Western Railway running trains from the goods yard at Chalk Farm Station, avoiding the crowds which were already growing out of control at its Euston terminus. The Midland, Great Northern, Great Central, Great Eastern and South East & Chatham companies were also notified, setting up evacuation routes out of London by rail to the north, east and south-east.
Order in the city quickly broke down as desparate mobs of fleeing Londoners blocked the streets and converged upon the railway termini, making escape from the centre of London by rail practically impossible. There was all-out fighting for space in the carriages at Chalk Farm and dozens of people were killed when a departing train ploughed straight through the thronging crowds in the goods yard. Further violent scenes took place at St Pancras, Liverpool Street and Kings Cross stations as people were crushed and trampled to death and overworked police resorted to extreme measures in an attempt to control the crowds. Discipline within the railway companies also collapsed at train crews refused to return to London for fear of their lives, opting instead to take on evacuees at stations further out.
As the trains failed to return, the crowds abandoned the railway stations and either attempted to escape via the River Thames or fled from London by road. A significant number headed east into Essex in order to escape by sea whilst the vast majority headed north, mostly on the Great North Road.
Because the Martians could have annihilated the entire population of London during Day Four, but did not do so, it is surmised that the goal of the offensive at this stage was simply the destruction of military opposition and the demoralization of the civil populace. These goals were achieved as the only offensive operations embarked on by British forces after Day Four were the preparation of mines and pitfalls across the midland counties. The Martians did not advance beyond the central part of London until Day Five, which by that time was relatively clear of refugees. London was totally under Martian occupation by Day Six (sightings at Highgate and Neasden confirmed this). Their final base was established within London on Primrose Hill, the site of the seventh Martian landing.
Aftermath of the FallEdit
By Day Six, there were reports of a Martian fighting-machine reaching Barnes and a failed attempt to destroy another fighting-machine at Waltham Abbey Powder Mills. The railway companies managed to recover their coherency and special trains were being run by the Midland Railway from St. Albans to relieve the pressure of the fleeing London populace on the home counties. By this time the central London termini would have been rendered untenable by the fleeing masses and advancing Martians.
By Day Seven of the invasion, the Martians were making forays into Essex, in the process destroying any remaining pockets of military resistance. One of these forays (consisting of three fighting-machines) engaged and destroyed several artillery batteries near Shoeburyness on the way to the Essex coast, in which they attempted to cut off refugees fleeing by ship. This attempt was thwarted by the Royal Navy, which was the only major military setback of the invasion the Martians suffered (apart from the destruction of the one Martian fighting-machine on Day Three).