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.
Elizabeth Coppen came this morning and brought me an egg, straight from the hen. She made me promise not to make pancakes with it! It seems this is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, but I hadn’t realized it. I shall boil it for my tea, and eat it with thankfulness. For Ted I will boil some leeks. This diet question is an awful business. Everyone is craving fresh food, and there isn’t any. I crave fresh fruit, fresh meat, and some real bread. The National Bread gets worse and worse, and it is horribly indigestible. However, we survive it. We are increasing terrifically the weight of our bombing over Germany. Two thousand allied aircraft, including a very large force of heavy bombers, made a daylight attack on Sunday; following a night attack of nearly a thousand R.A.F. bombers the previous night, on Leipzig. They were out in force again yesterday; and all this morning I heard droves of planes flying over. Tonight I expect the Germans will come back at us. Will there be any world left at all? What is so appalling is how we have all come to take destruction for granted. Oh God, when will this awful war end?
Wednesday February 23, 1944 Ash Wednesday
We had another bad raid last night. It was just midnight when I came downstairs and one thirty a.m. when the all clear went. It was a terrible raid. I thought one bomb was falling in our side alley, but no, it wasn’t. When I went back to bed I saw from the bathroom window a big fire blazing across the tracks, Victoria Road or Brentwood again, I suppose. At eight a.m. the B.B.C. said we brought down six bombers during the night. Yesterday Churchill spoke in Parliament reviewing the war. He says our attacks on Europe will increase all during spring and summer and we must expect increasing retaliation. Naturally, but the complacency with which men, men who don’t have to fight, talk about war, infuriates me. God, how I hate old men! I think “our elder statesmen” enjoy themselves over the war. Blast them! Shall we ever know a natural life again? I wonder. I am miserable. I don’t know what to do with myself. Existence is almost unbearable. Weather is abominable. The house is gloomy, I am tired from lack of sleep, and I had bad cramps last night in my left thigh, to add to my troubles. Churchill’s speech is most depressing. The war stretches forward indefinitely. Hell, hell, hell!
Thursday February 24, 1944
We had a bad raid again last night. It began at ten p.m. and went on until eleven-thirty p.m. This was the fourth successive night. However, we had not gone to bed, so were at least comfortable with our clothes on. When it started I felt I wanted to cry. Really I feel I can’t stand much more of this war. If it doesn’t stop soon I feel I will go mad. I made myself read the Wordsworth book, Herford’s, but really couldn’t take any pleasure in it. Yet I force myself to read whilst a raid is on, endurance is a little easier. I find I don’t pray anymore, or if I do it is because my resistance is cracking, prayer now seems to intensify the sense of danger rather than alleviate it. Prayer it seems, like other experiences, love, religion, hunger, even fear, comes to an end. Apropos of love, and the insatiable appetite of men. Concupiscence and the insatiable sex hunger of men. Presumably because a bad raid was finished and we had a sense of being able to spend the rest of the night in peace, and because the bed was warm, and because my coughing had ceased, and because he felt like it, Ted “loved” me before settling down to his sleep. This was the climax of his Ash Wednesday. What is this? It isn’t love, it certainly isn’t passion, and it is not my idea of desire, it is simply the simple basic nature of a simple man. It is the nature of a man to be un-romantic, un-refined, and un-important as a simple bellyache. Yet it is inescapable, fundamental, the rock bottom base of a man, of all men.