My younger brother was in London when the Martians
fell at Woking. He was a medical student working for an
imminent examination, and he heard nothing of the arrival
until Saturday morning. The morning papers on Saturday
contained, in addition to lengthy special articles on the planet
Mars, on life in the planets, and so forth, a brief and vaguely
worded telegram, all the more striking for its brevity.
The Martians, alarmed by the approach of a crowd, had
killed a number of people with a quick-firing gun, so the
story ran. The telegram concluded with the words: "Formi-
dable as they seem to be, the Martians have not moved from
the pit into which they have fallen, and, indeed, seem incapa-
ble of doing so. Probably this is due to the relative strength
of the earth's gravitational energy." On that last text their
leader-writer expanded very comfortingly.
Of course all the students in the crammer's biology class,
to which my brother went that day, were intensely interested,
but there were no signs of any unusual excitement in the
streets. The afternoon papers puffed scraps of news under big
headlines. They had nothing to tell beyond the movements
of troops about the common, and the burning of the pine
woods between Woking and Weybridge, until eight. Then
the ST. JAMES'S GAZETTE, in an extra-special edition, announced
the bare fact of the interruption of telegraphic communica-
tion. This was thought to be due to the falling of burning pine
trees across the line. Nothing more of the fighting was known
that night, the night of my drive to Leatherhead and
My brother felt no anxiety about us, as he knew from the
description in the papers that the cylinder was a good two
miles from my house. He made up his mind to run down that
night to me, in order, as he says, to see the Things before
they were killed. He despatched a telegram, which never
reached me, about four o'clock, and spent the evening at a
In London, also, on Saturday night there was a thunder-
storm, and my brother reached Waterloo in a cab. On the
platform from which the midnight train usually starts he
learned, after some waiting, that an accident prevented trains
from reaching Woking that night. The nature of the accident
he could not ascertain; indeed, the railway authorities did not
clearly know at that time. There was very little excitement
in the station, as the officials, failing to realise that
anything further than a breakdown between Byfleet and Woking
junction had occurred, were running the theatre trains which
usually passed through Woking round by Virginia Water or
Guildford. They were busy making the necessary arrange-
ments to alter the route of the Southampton and Portsmouth
Sunday League excursions. A nocturnal newspaper reporter,
mistaking my brother for the traffic manager, to whom he
bears a slight resemblance, waylaid and tried to interview
him. Few people, excepting the railway officials, connected
the breakdown with the Martians.
I have read, in another account of these events, that on
Sunday morning "all London was electrified by the news
from Woking." As a matter of fact, there was nothing to
justify that very extravagant phrase. Plenty of Londoners
did not hear of the Martians until the panic of Monday morn-
ing. Those who did took some time to realise all that the
hastily worded telegrams in the Sunday papers conveyed.
The majority of people in London do not read Sunday
The habit of personal security, moreover, is so deeply fixed
in the Londoner's mind, and startling intelligence so much a
matter of course in the papers, that they could read without
any personal tremors: "About seven o'clock last night the
Martians came out of the cylinder, and, moving about under
an armour of metallic shields, have completely wrecked
Woking station with the adjacent houses, and massacred an
entire battalion of the Cardigan Regiment. No details are
known. Maxims have been absolutely useless against their
armour; the field guns have been disabled by them. Flying
hussars have been galloping into Chertsey. The Martians
appear to be moving slowly towards Chertsey or Windsor.
Great anxiety prevails in West Surrey, and earthworks are
being thrown up to check the advance Londonward." That
was how the Sunday SUN put it, and a clever and remarkably
prompt "handbook" article in the REFEREE compared the affair
to a menagerie suddenly let loose in a village.
No one in London knew positively of the nature of the
armoured Martians, and there was still a fixed idea that these
monsters must be sluggish: "crawling," "creeping painfully"
--such expressions occurred in almost all the earlier reports.
None of the telegrams could have been written by an eye-
witness of their advance. The Sunday papers printed separate
editions as further news came to hand, some even in default
of it. But there was practically nothing more to tell people
until late in the afternoon, when the authorities gave the
press agencies the news in their possession. It was stated that
the people of Walton and Weybridge, and all the district
were pouring along the roads Londonward, and that was all.
My brother went to church at the Foundling Hospital in
the morning, still in ignorance of what had happened on the
previous night. There he heard allusions made to the invasion,
and a special prayer for peace. Coming out, he bought a
REFEREE. He became alarmed at the news in this, and went
again to Waterloo station to find out if communication were
restored. The omnibuses, carriages, cyclists, and innumerable
people walking in their best clothes seemed scarcely affected
by the strange intelligence that the news venders were dis-
seminating. People were interested, or, if alarmed, alarmed
only on account of the local residents. At the station he heard
for the first time that the Windsor and Chertsey lines were
now interrupted. The porters told him that several remark-
able telegrams had been received in the morning from Byfleet
and Chertsey stations, but that these had abruptly ceased. My
brother could get very little precise detail out of them.
"There's fighting going on about Weybridge" was the
extent of their information.
The train service was now very much disorganised. Quite
a number of people who had been expecting friends from
places on the South-Western network were standing about
the station. One grey-headed old gentleman came and abused
the South-Western Company bitterly to my brother. "It wants
showing up," he said.
One or two trains came in from Richmond, Putney, and
Kingston, containing people who had gone out for a day's
boating and found the locks closed and a feeling of panic in
the air. A man in a blue and white blazer addressed my
brother, full of strange tidings.
"There's hosts of people driving into Kingston in traps and
carts and things, with boxes of valuables and all that," he
said. "They come from Molesey and Weybridge and Walton,
and they say there's been guns heard at Chertsey, heavy
firing, and that mounted soldiers have told them to get off at
once because the Martians are coming. We heard guns firing
at Hampton Court station, but we thought it was thunder.
What the dickens does it all mean? The Martians can't get
out of their pit, can they?"
My brother could not tell him.
Afterwards he found that the vague feeling of alarm had
spread to the clients of the underground railway, and that
the Sunday excursionists began to return from all over the
South-Western "lung"--Barnes, Wimbledon, Richmond Park,
Kew, and so forth--at unnaturally early hours; but not a
soul had anything more than vague hearsay to tell of. Every-
one connected with the terminus seemed ill-tempered.
About five o'clock the gathering crowd in the station was
immensely excited by the opening of the line of communica-
tion, which is almost invariably closed, between the South-
Eastern and the South-Western stations, and the passage of
carriage trucks bearing huge guns and carriages crammed
with soldiers. These were the guns that were brought up
from Woolwich and Chatham to cover Kingston. There was
an exchange of pleasantries: "You'll get eaten!" "We're the
beast-tamers!" and so forth. A little while after that a squad
of police came into the station and began to clear the public off
the platforms, and my brother went out into the street again.
The church bells were ringing for evensong, and a squad of
Salvation Army lassies came singing down Waterloo Road.
On the bridge a number of loafers were watching a curious
brown scum that came drifting down the stream in patches.
The sun was just setting, and the Clock Tower and the Houses
of Parliament rose against one of the most peaceful skies it
is possible to imagine, a sky of gold, barred with long trans-
verse stripes of reddish-purple cloud. There was talk of a
floating body. One of the men there, a reservist he said he
was, told my brother he had seen the heliograph flickering
in the west.
In Wellington Street my brother met a couple of sturdy
roughs who had just been rushed out of Fleet Street with still-
wet newspapers and staring placards. "Dreadful catastrophe!"
they bawled one to the other down Wellington Street. "Fight
ing at Weybridge! Full description! Repulse of the Martians!
London in Danger!" He had to give threepence for a copy of
Then it was, and then only, that he realised something of
the full power and terror of these monsters. He learned that
they were not merely a handful of small sluggish creatures,
but that they were minds swaying vast mechanical bodies;
and that they could move swiftly and smite with such power
that even the mightiest guns could not stand against them.
They were described as "vast spiderlike machines, nearly
a hundred feet high, capable of the speed of an express train,
and able to shoot out a beam of intense heat." Masked batter-
ies, chiefly of field guns, had been planted in the country
about Horsell Common, and especially between the Woking
district and London. Five of the machines had been seen
moving towards the Thames, and one, by a happy chance,
had been destroyed. In the other cases the shells had missed,
and the batteries had been at once annihilated by the Heat-
Rays. Heavy losses of soldiers were mentioned, but the tone
of the despatch was optimistic.
The Martians had been repulsed; they were not invulnera-
ble. They had retreated to their triangle of cylinders again, in
the circle about Woking. Signallers with heliographs were
pushing forward upon them from all sides. Guns were in rapid
transit from Windsor, Portsmouth, Aldershot, Woolwich--
even from the north; among others, long wire-guns of ninety-
five tons from Woolwich. Altogether one hundred and sixteen
were in position or being hastily placed, chiefly covering Lon-
don. Never before in England had there been such a vast or
rapid concentration of military material.
Any further cylinders that fell, it was hoped, could be
destroyed at once by high explosives, which were being rap-
idly manufactured and distributed. No doubt, ran the report,
the situation was of the strangest and gravest description, but
the public was exhorted to avoid and discourage panic. No
doubt the Martians were strange and terrible in the extreme,
but at the outside there could not be more than twenty of
them against our millions.
The authorities had reason to suppose, from the size of the
cylinders, that at the outside there could not be more than
five in each cylinder--fifteen altogether. And one at least was
disposed of--perhaps more. The public would be fairly
warned of the approach of danger, and elaborate measures
were being taken for the protection of the people in the
threatened southwestern suburbs. And so, with reiterated
assurances of the safety of London and the ability of the
authorities to cope with the difficulty, this quasi-proclamation
This was printed in enormous type on paper so fresh that it
was still wet, and there had been no time to add a word of
comment. It was curious, my brother said, to see how ruth-
lessly the usual contents of the paper had been hacked and
taken out to give this place.
All down Wellington Street people could be seen fluttering
out the pink sheets and reading, and the Strand was suddenly
noisy with the voices of an army of hawkers following these
pioneers. Men came scrambling off buses to secure copies.
Certainly this news excited people intensely, whatever
their previous apathy. The shutters of a map shop in the
Strand were being taken down, my brother said, and a man
in his Sunday raiment, lemon-yellow gloves even, was visi-
ble inside the window hastily fastening maps of Surrey to
Going on along the Strand to Trafalgar Square, the paper
in his hand, my brother saw some of the fugitives from West
Surrey. There was a man with his wife and two boys and
some articles of furniture in a cart such as greengrocers use.
He was driving from the direction of Westminster Bridge;
and close behind him came a hay waggon with five or six
respectable-looking people in it, and some boxes and bundles.
The faces of these people were haggard, and their entire
appearance contrasted conspicuously with the Sabbath-best
appearance of the people on the omnibuses. People in fash-
ionable clothing peeped at them out of cabs. They stopped at
the Square as if undecided which way to take, and finally
turned eastward along the Strand. Some way behind these
came a man in workday clothes, riding one of those old-
fashioned tricycles with a small front wheel. He was dirty and
white in the face.
My brother turned down towards Victoria, and met a num-
ber of such people. He had a vague idea that he might see
something of me. He noticed an unusual number of police
regulating the traffic. Some of the refugees were exchanging
news with the people on the omnibuses. One was professing
to have seen the Martians. "Boilers on stilts, I tell you,
striding along like men." Most of them were excited and
animated by their strange experience.
Beyond Victoria the public-houses were doing a lively trade
with these arrivals. At all the street corners groups of people
were reading papers, talking excitedly, or staring at these
unusual Sunday visitors. They seemed to increase as night
drew on, until at last the roads, my brother said, were like
Epsom High Street on a Derby Day. My brother addressed
several of these fugitives and got unsatisfactory answers from
None of them could tell him any news of Woking except
one man, who assured him that Woking had been entirely
destroyed on the previous night.
"I come from Byfleet," he said; "man on a bicycle came
through the place in the early morning, and ran from door to
door warning us to come away. Then came soldiers. We went
out to look, and there were clouds of smoke to the south--
nothing but smoke, and not a soul coming that way. Then
we heard the guns at Chertsey, and folks coming from Wey-
bridge. So I've locked up my house and come on."
At the time there was a strong feeling in the streets that the
authorities were to blame for their incapacity to dispose of
the invaders without all this inconvenience.
About eight o'clock a noise of heavy firing was distinctly
audible all over the south of London. My brother could not
hear it for the traffic in the main thoroughfares, but by strik-
ing through the quiet back streets to the river he was able to
distinguish it quite plainly.
He walked from Westminster to his apartments near Re-
gent's Park, about two. He was now very anxious on my
account, and disturbed at the evident magnitude of the
trouble. His mind was inclined to run, even as mine had run
on Saturday, on military details. He thought of all those
silent, expectant guns, of the suddenly nomadic countryside;
he tried to imagine "boilers on stilts" a hundred feet high.
There were one or two cartloads of refugees passing along
Oxford Street, and several in the Marylebone Road, but so
slowly was the news spreading that Regent Street and Port-
land Place were full of their usual Sunday-night promenaders,
albeit they talked in groups, and along the edge of Regent's
Park there were as many silent couples "walking out" together
under the scattered gas lamps as ever there had been. The
night was warm and still, and a little oppressive; the sound
of guns continued intermittently, and after midnight there
seemed to be sheet lightning in the south.
He read and re-read the paper, fearing the worst had hap-
pened to me. He was restless, and after supper prowled out
again aimlessly. He returned and tried in vain to divert his
attention to his examination notes. He went to bed a little
after midnight, and was awakened from lurid dreams in the
small hours of Monday by the sound of door knockers, feet
running in the street, distant drumming, and a clamour
of bells. Red reflections danced on the ceiling. For a moment
he lay astonished, wondering whether day had come or the
world gone mad. Then he jumped out of bed and ran to the
His room was an attic and as he thrust his head out, up
and down the street there were a dozen echoes to the noise
of his window sash, and heads in every kind of night disarray
appeared. Enquiries were being shouted. "They are coming!"
bawled a policeman, hammering at the door; "the Martians
are coming!" and hurried to the next door.
The sound of drumming and trumpeting came from the
Albany Street Barracks, and every church within earshot was
hard at work killing sleep with a vehement disorderly tocsin.
There was a noise of doors opening, and window after win-
dow in the houses opposite flashed from darkness into yellow
Up the street came galloping a closed carriage, bursting
abruptly into noise at the corner, rising to a clattering climax
under the window, and dying away slowly in the distance.
Close on the rear of this came a couple of cabs, the forerun-
ners of a long procession of flying vehicles, going for the most
part to Chalk Farm station, where the North-Western special
trains were loading up, instead of coming down the gradient
For a long time my brother stared out of the window in
blank astonishment, watching the policemen hammering at
door after door, and delivering their incomprehensible mes-
sage. Then the door behind him opened, and the man who
lodged across the landing came in, dressed only in shirt,
trousers, and slippers, his braces loose about his waist, his
hair disordered from his pillow.
"What the devil is it?" he asked. "A fire? What a devil of a
They both craned their heads out of the window, straining
to hear what the policemen were shouting. People were com-
ing out of the side streets, and standing in groups at the
"What the devil is it all about?" said my brother's fellow
My brother answered him vaguely and began to dress,
running with each garment to the window in order to miss
nothing of the growing excitement. And presently men selling
unnaturally early newspapers came bawling into the street:
"London in danger of suffocation! The Kingston and Rich-
mond defences forced! Fearful massacres in the Thames
And all about him--in the rooms below, in the houses on
each side and across the road, and behind in the Park Ter-
races and in the hundred other streets of that part of Maryle-
bone, and the Westbourne Park district and St. Pancras, and
westward and northward in Kilburn and St. John's Wood and
Hampstead, and eastward in Shoreditch and Highbury and
Haggerston and Hoxton, and, indeed, through all the vastness
of London from Ealing to East Ham--people were rubbing
their eyes, and opening windows to stare out and ask aimless
questions, dressing hastily as the first breath of the coming
storm of Fear blew through the streets. It was the dawn of
the great panic. London, which had gone to bed on Sunday
night oblivious and inert, was awakened, in the small hours
of Monday morning, to a vivid sense of danger.
Unable from his window to learn what was happening, my
brother went down and out into the street, just as the sky
between the parapets of the houses grew pink with the early
dawn. The flying people on foot and in vehicles grew more
numerous every moment. "Black Smoke!" he heard people
crying, and again "Black Smoke!" The contagion of such a
unanimous fear was inevitable. As my brother hesitated on
the door-step, he saw another news vender approaching, and
got a paper forthwith. The man was running away with the
rest, and selling his papers for a shilling each as he ran--a
grotesque mingling of profit and panic.
And from this paper my brother read that catastrophic
despatch of the Commander-in-Chief:
"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, de-
stroying everything on the way. It is impossible to stop them.
There is no safety from the Black Smoke but in instant flight."
That was all, but it was enough. The whole population of
the great six-million city was stirring, slipping, running; pres-
ently it would be pouring EN MASSE northward.
"Black Smoke!" the voices cried. "Fire!"
The bells of the neighbouring church made a jangling
tumult, a cart carelessly driven smashed, amid shrieks and
curses, against the water trough up the street. Sickly yellow
lights went to and fro in the houses, and some of the passing
cabs flaunted unextinguished lamps. And overhead the dawn
was growing brighter, clear and steady and calm.
He heard footsteps running to and fro in the rooms, and
up and down stairs behind him. His landlady came to the
door, loosely wrapped in dressing gown and shawl; her hus-
band followed ejaculating.
As my brother began to realise the import of all these things, he turned hastily to his own room, put all his available money--some ten pounds altogether--into his pockets, and went out again into the streets.
We care about eBooks because we care about the environment.
Copyright © 2000- Literature Project. All Rights Reserved.