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The War of the Worlds
by H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells

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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

music hall.

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

that paper.

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

the glass.

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

into Euston.

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

corners talking.

"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.



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