History is never quite as real as when it is told by those who lived it. Ruby Thompson, living during the World War ll London Blitz bombing blasts history out of the realm of dry, dusty names and dates and places the reader in the midst of the terrifying events as they unfold. This is very important documentation and will have tremendous appeal to those who have an avid interest in the effect of the war on ordinary citizens.
A letter has come from Artie. It was addressed to his father, and came from Scotland, written on the ninth. He said, “You will be glad to know I now have two legs again.” He added the information that he was remaining in Glasgow, would attend the limb-fitting center there, and had arranged to have his medical board exam there. He said he was well and happy and Hilda sent her love.
Friday January 14, 1944
This infernal war goes on and on. On Tuesday we were told that the American’s had made a big daylight raid over Germany, but no facts were given, which was ominous, and portended a failure of some sort. This morning “ corrected” figures were given out. We lost sixty bombers out of a company of 700 sent out, and five fighters; for a loss of 152 fighters to the Germans, and some other “probable’s” brought down by the lost sixty, but not reported. Report says we hit our targets successfully and destroyed three large aircraft plants and other objectives. The attacks were on the Focke-Wulf factory at Oschersleben, the Junkers plant at Halberstatdt, and the Messerschmitt factory at Brunswick. General Arnold, Chief of the U.S.A.A.F. has stated that the huge air battle over Germany inflicted one of the hardest blows yet struck against the German Air Force, at a cost of approximately five percent of the American aircraft making the attack. I can’t see how sixty out of seven-hundred is only five percent, but there you are, reporting. Probably all the escorting fighters are counted in, and we are not told how many of these were sent out. War, damnable war. It is intolerable, and yet the fool world of men goes on with it. We had an alert here last night, the first one in eight nights, luckily it came about eight in the evening and the all clear came before nine. Somehow it is more endurable then when it is in the dead of night, though it upsets my stomach just the same. Oh, when, when will it cease!
Monday January 17, 1944
There was a bad railway accident at Ilford last night. The express from Norwich ran into the back of the Yarmouth train, which was stationary. Nine people were killed, and over thirty seriously injured, nearly all of them service people, squadron leaders and men from Bomber Command and many of them Americans too. The accident was due to the fog, of course, which was the very worst one of the winter. We have had too much fog this year, no snow or deep cold, but constant fogs. How exasperating to the fliers it must be to suffer death and mutilation in a railway smash, instead of in the air, doing their jobs. There it is, no man knows where his death awaits him. Poor fellows, may their souls rest in peace!
No, It can’t be done. I can’t conform. I can’t live as a practicing Catholic, which has become absolutely impossible for me. If I was in a strange town I might attend mass, or in the city I could go and pray in Westminster Cathedral, but to go and sit through mass in our Romford Church, no, I simply cannot do it. Be one of Father Bishop’s parishioners, no, I cannot. Go to confession again? I never shall. As a Catholic I’m finished absolutely finished. I’m through, really through.
Tuesday January 4, 1944
No word from Artie. Last week we forwarded him, by telegram and mail, a notification, which came for him from Roehampton, directing him to present himself at the Hospital there, at two p.m. January 4, to receive his artificial leg. So he must have come down from Glasgow in time for that. Also, he has an examination before a medical board set for January fourteenth. I thought perhaps he might have been traveling yesterday, and would have come in late last night. He did not come, nor is there any word from him this morning. Perhaps he traveled last night, and will go straight through to Roehampton this morning, I don’t know, but even so, he could and he should have notified us what he was doing, unless he has cut loose from us altogether. Maybe he’s done that. Maybe Hilda hates us so much not only is she not going to come here anymore, she is not going to let him come either. Quite likely, for she comes from the class of people who behave like that. She is definitely no class. What a fool it makes Artie! Well perhaps he is a fool, really, certainly there is something lacking in Artie’s mentality that he could ever have chosen such a girl for a wife. Certainly the adage is proved in Artie’s case, “a son is a son until he takes him a wife.”
We were up twice in the night for raids. We heard one bomb fall which sounded fairly near; we have heard this afternoon that the railway line was hit between Stratford and Bethnal Green, nobody killed but several linesmen injured, traffic stopped all morning, but has resumed again now.
Monday December 27, 1943 Boxing Day
Mrs. White and Daisy called this afternoon and were our only Christmas callers. This year Christmas is less like Christmas than any of the last years yet. We had news at midday that we sunk the battleship “Scharnhorst” yesterday, somewhere in the Arctic Circle. So that’s disposed of at last. No word from Artie, not even a Christmas card.
Thursday December 30, 1943
I remain very serene, calm, and shall I say “happy”? News the R.A.F. bombed Berlin again last night. I am sorry about that. I know the warring has to be resumed, but I wish our authorities had felt they could let the Christmas respite last a little longer.
The B.B.C. tells us that during the past eight days the R.A.F. have bombed Berlin five times, dropping in all six thousand tons of bombs on the city. This is awful. It makes me weep. I weep for Berlin, as well as us, and for all the dead, the dead in Berlin, and our boys who will never return. War, damned ghastly fiendish war! Is this the only way men can settle the affairs of he world? One wry joke comes in. The B.B.C. reports that a spokesman on the German air told the Germans that Berlin was carrying on in the debris, life as usual, including even the theaters, and listed two of the plays still running as, “Queen of the Night,” and “Love’s Glamour Over All.” What irony!
We have now had nine consecutive nights of bombing again. It is most wearing. Oh this damn war, this lunacy.
Saturday November 6, 1943
Today the Russians have retaken Kiev. The Germans captured it in September Nineteen Forty-One. The B.B.C. broke into program at eleven this morning to broadcast the news.
Tuesday November 9, 1943
A bad raid in the night, and also two on Sunday night. On Sunday a dance hall was struck, a milk-bar, and two cinemas, and the crowds of young people on the streets in the vicinity; it was London, though we may not have been told exactly where, probably the Tottenham Court Road. We have raids now practically every night. Only a few bombers come over, but they do a lot of damage. It is only sixteen minutes flying time from the airdromes in France over to London, as Gerry can make quick dashes and get away again almost before we are aware of him. Hitler made a speech in Munich last night, urging loyalty on his Germans and promising vengeance on the British. It is true the R.A.F. now does more damage to Germany than the Luftwaffe did to us, but who started this business? Germany has to be licked, and licked forever, but at what frightful price! Oh God, let the war end soon.
There was a very heavy raid again last night. Rockingham Avenue, about a mile or a mile and a half from here, got a direct hit, ten houses down and six people killed outright, several others injured and taken to the hospital.
Tuesday October 19, 1943
There was a raid again last night. It’s moonlight of course. Nothing fell here, thank God. Yet somewhere else got the bombs. Oh, when will this damn war finish! What frightful times we are living in! What infuriating ones, for none of the world’s troubles need be. Men have made the world the way it is. Men destroy society and civilization. Fool men. Wicked men. Goddamn men! God does damn men. We are all damned.
Wednesday October 20, 1943
I am very restless and very tired. Another raid last night so we are all losing sleep, and that’s making us all cranky. Ted is on my nerves excessively. I do think him a fool. He fusses about nothing and too pious for words. I loathe his piety. Why oh why can’t he be a normal man? I think he is a maniac, and I am so tired of him I do not know how to go on living with him any longer. He’s good and he means well, but the fact is, I can’t bear him. I’ve had too much of him. Marriage last too long. I hate marriage. One night soon, perhaps tonight, he will want his pleasure, and he’ll take it. Will he say his prayers over that? Of course not. In the morning he’ll be up and off to mass, as per usual. Habit.
Thursday October 21, 1943 Trafalgar Day. Salute to Nelson.
We had another very bad raid last night, between one and two this morning. I trembled so incessantly that this morning my limbs ache as though I had climbed a mountain and even my arms ache. I retched so much I am feeling my ribs are bruised, as though somebody kicked them. I am so tired from lack of sleep my eyes are smarting. During a raid like last nights it is easy to understand how human beings can die of shock and fear. Once I held my breath thinking the house was surely hit, but it wasn’t, nor anywhere immediately near, so far as I know. War. This fiendish war, the sport of men.
Friday October 22, 1943
There was a raid again last night, between two and three a.m. and another this evening about half past seven until nearly nine. This evening was a very heavy one. The Gerry’s have got through to London every night now for a week, but it was the last quarter of the moon yesterday, so we may hope for quieter nights next week. We are all very tired. Since Gerry came early this evening we hope for an undisturbed night tonight.
We have had air raids every night since Sunday. Last night’s was the heaviest yet. Two bombs dropped on the Golf Links. I actually went outside to look at the sky and saw a Gerry caught in the searchlights. The moon up, the stars shining, the lights criss-crossing, colored flares dropping, it is a beautiful night, but what a devil’s beauty. During the evening Ted wrote me two checks, one for my hats, the other to cover Jo Tibb’s dressmaking bill. I duly thanked him.
The Germans were over this area again last night, and dropped bombs in three different London areas. Nothing dropped here, but it might have done. What’s the use of money in the bank to a dead woman? So I went and bought two new hats and very becoming ones at that. At least I’ll look all right, even if I don’t feel it. Now I have got to cook this afternoon. Mushrooms to be fixed for tea, and I suppose I had better do something about the pastry. What a life!
Tuesday September 21, 1943
It is the first day of autumn and the re-opening of Parliament. There was a long speech from Mr. Churchill, who returned from America on Sunday. He said that the bloodiest part of the war is yet to come.