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.
October 4, 1939 It is St. Francis of Assisi. Also, it is old Bert’s birthday.
He is seventy-one today. Tomorrow he returns to Arden
Cottage, having had enough of Ongar. Ted, is telling tales
of him with love and admiration. In my opinion Herbert
is a selfish, uncouth, uncultured, cowardly old fool. He
is nearly as brainless as Selma, and quite as obstinate.
He made his money through shrewdness, cunning,
and luck. Ted mistakes him as one of the examples of the
fortunate ones who were never cramped in their money-
making careers by too much education.
Ted said to me, I think you have suffered through your
ability to read and write. If you hadn’t learned how to
able to read, think how much trouble and unhappiness
you would have saved yourself, how much better off you
would have been! Look at some the old-timers around here;
there are some of the richest who can’t even sign their own
names, but that didn’t prevent them making money did it?
Why education would have been a downright disadvantage to them!
I said, I think it is a horrible thing to say. Would you
like to have been brought up without any education?
Education isn’t everything, he fenced. Of course it isn’t, but to say that people are lucky because they didn’t
get any is a perfectly abominable statement to make. I
said no more, but I was disgusted. Like one day recently
when Ted put up a boost for hypocrisy. We had been
talking about Hitler and his absurd speeches, and about
cynicism. Well, said Ted, after all there is a good deal to be
said in favor of the Victorian hypocrisy. The hypocrite at
least believed in a standard virtue, and in truth and purity
and honor; he knew he was against the right and tried to
hide his wrongness; but these fellows today what do they
care about goodness? They don’t even pretend to hide their
vices they don’t admit the codes even! The hypocrite at
least tried not to shock the world. Yes, there’s something
to be said for hypocrisy, and I’d rather encounter a good
hypocrite any day than one of these modern don’t care you
go to hell fellows!
Well, I wouldn’t. I made no reply to this. What was
there to say, It simply struck me so “Catholic” an apology
for secretiveness and dishonesty; here is the Catholic
who doesn’t demand real goodness but only the appearance of goodness. My God! It makes me sick.
October 7, 1939 Stone’s man came this morning bringing the dark
window blinds I ordered on September 4, for the black
out. Ted opened the door to him, and then called out to
me, Hi Lady! Did you order these shades for the last war,
or this one?
Already we are feeling the pinch in many commodities. Stone’s say they cannot fill their orders for blinds,
because they cannot get the materials.
I have been to town, to the warehouse, to buy sheets
and pillow-cases, and they haven’t gotten any. There has
been a scarcity of sugar for weeks. Last week I couldn’t
buy tea. This week I couldn’t buy lard. Soon now we shall have ration cards, but it doesn’t follow we shall be able
to get rations.
October 8, 1939 There is news from Zurich today of the beating up of
Frau Anna Zeigler, the Nazi’s Woman’s Leader. She was
speaking somewhere in the Ruhr district, and told the
women Hitler was very angry with them, because they
were not keeping up the morale of their men, and that he
would treat them like soldiers. This made her audience
so angry, so wild, that they stormed the platform and
beat her up and scratched her so severely that she had
to be taken to the hospital. The Gestapo police arrested
nineteen women. The woman shouted that they had no
husbands, and they had no food. I should think they
would be wild. If a man gave them such a line of talk
they would just consider him some fool of a man, let him
talk himself out, and pay no attention. For a woman to
talk to them in this fashion is treason to the sex and I
should think they would beat her up.
I am surprised at what we do hear about the submission of the German women. We were told one day that
when the women would be waiting in the food-queues, to
get their family rations, and sometimes having to wait for
hours; army Louie’s would drive up, and impress a load
of women, take them to the barracks, and make them
cook and scrub for the soldiers. The excuse given was,
that since they had plenty of time to wait in the lines,
they had plenty of time for other purposes, so they must
work for their country, and do whatever the Government
told them. This sort of thing is outrageous but why do
the women submit to it? The soldiers, by brute force,
could compel the women to go to the barracks, but they
couldn’t compel them to peel vegetables, or to scrub; and
surely even the Germans wouldn’t be such fiends as to kill them for refusing. I can’t imagine Englishwomen
submitting to such masculine tyranny. If our Tommie’s
gathered up a load of women from Romford market I
think they’d find they’d got a load of wildcats to deal
October 9, 1939 Can a leopard change its spots? I don’t think so. Ted
was born and brought up in a mushy mawkish Evangelical atmosphere. His parents were Methodist Salvationist fundamentalists, and very ignorant people. His
father was a drunk, alternating soaks with repentance.
They went to Chapel and they had family prayers in the
parlor every night, when everyone in turn had to pray
aloud extempore. It must have been awful for violence
and crudity of emotion and belief, and for lack of knowledge and dignity. Ted absorbed it all, and has never
gotten over it. He can’t disbelieve the lurid Christian
story. That’s why Catholicism fits him so easily, and
that’s why he is not revolted by the materialism of the
Catholic religion, for it is only an extension, and another
facet, of the sort of religion he was bred to.
As for me, I never was a Christian. I’ve spent thirty
years trying to believe the Christian religion, trying
to hammer it into me or me into it and I can’t accept
it. I think I must have been born a skeptic. As for my
father, he was a skeptic. Born in a good middle class
family, educated at Charterhouse, he became the gentlemanly conservative agnostic and skeptic of the brilliant
nineties. My father had an exploring mind, and an appreciating one. Brought up in the Church of England he was
intrigued by the High Church movement in his youth,
but by the time I could remember him, he had stopped
going to church, and had, instead, become interested in
The Theistic Church, and Charles Voysey.
He became tired of that, too, and had ceased
going there before I became a regular attendant about
eighteen ninety nine or nineteen hundred. When I
became interested in Theosophy, my father came with
me to Theosophical lectures in Albemarle Street; and
later when “Higher Thought” gained my interest, he
used to come with me to The Higher Thought Center
in Kensington High Street. When I think of Dad now,
I realize that he never condemned any kind of thought,
or any kind of thinker. He was interested in all thought.
That’s why he was interested in all the arts, as well as
all the philosophies and that’s why he couldn’t endure a
So with me, I think Ted such a fool, and he bores me
so desperately I don’t know how to endure him. I listen
to his fool talk, talk about politics, about America, about
religion, about art (of which he knows nothing)! and he
sounds sillier and sillier. Ted has always been talkative,
but now he is becoming downright garrulous. I listen to
him because I can’t help myself, but inside my secret
woman is exclaiming, you silly old fool! You bloody silly
So these past few weeks I have been turning back to
some of the old books, which at different times sustained
me. When I have to live in this world that men have made,
especially this Europe, run by male maniacs, I feel most
vehemently, that I have no use for men, and I will not
agree with them about any of their affairs. Why should I
pay attention to what men say? That’s why I am feeling so absolutely anti-Christian.
Swinging back to what I was in my beginnings, anti
Christian. What can a man tell me about God? What’s
a priest, but a man? I have produced men, brought
them to birth, suckled them, brought them to maturity, through every indignity of the flesh and no man can tell
me anything, unless it is the rare man like Emerson or
Whitman, who are talking about spirit and principles,
not about other men.
That’s why my mind turns to Mary Baker Eddy. I know
she did not live an impeccable life. I know her literary
style was atrocious; but in spite of all her ignorance’s and
defects, she was saying something that set women free
of men. An American woman, with an American religion.
I can understand and appreciate both. In the same way
Adela Curtis was saying and doing the same thing for
English women only she wasn’t clever enough to get into
the limelight. The same things with Mary Austin, trying
to work free in art and plot maps of genius, religion, and
Mary Cady Stanton, trying to free women submitted
to men’s dictum's. They felt they were themselves, in
their own woman pattern and so will I. No men can
speak for me, or think for me, no matter how renowned
he is in goodness and cleverness. I will think for myself
and speak for myself as much as I dare. I have even been
reading old Harriet Martineau. Its one hundred years
since she asserted herself as an independent being. I
want my Mary Beard. I loaned her book, Concerning
Women. to Dorrie Stanforth more than a year ago, and
she hasn’t returned it yet. I suspect she can’t read it.
That’s why I want to go to America, the country
where people are not narrow-minded in traditions (and
religions) of the past, and where women are accorded an
equality with men.
October 12, 1939 It is Columbus Day in America. Very appropriately
my papers arrived from America today. I now have all
the necessary affidavits, from Harold and from Charlie, with which to approach the American Consul and ask for
a visa. I have not mentioned them to Ted, as there did
not seem to offer a propitious moment.
A very dear letter from Charlie was enclosed. He said
that for eight years it has been his ambition to offer me
a home in America.
What I did today was to write to the United States
Lines Office in the Haymarket, and ask for a sailing list.
October 13, 1939 It is Arthur Thompson’s birthday. Had he lived I think
he would have been 53 today. Had he lived, I wonder if
he would have grown as peculiar as his brothers?
Continuing my preliminaries, this morning I
telephoned Dr. Mauro and asked her whether she would
give me duplicate statements to the effect that I was an
honest and respectable person, etc. She agreed immediately, and told me she would leave them for me in her
office at midday, which she did, and for which I am truly
grateful. Last year I asked Father Bishop for these. He
agreed to give them to me, after Mr. Thompson had been
informed. This was quite all right with me then, now,
this year, I am quite certain I don’t want any Catholic to
stand as sponsor for me.
I will re-enter the states as I first went in: as a Protestant Englishwoman, and a member of the Church of
England. (Confirmed in the Protestant Episcopal Church
of America.) If I am really able to separate my life from
Ted’s life, I will certainly separate myself in total from
Then this afternoon I went round to Victoria Road
and had some fresh passport photos taken at Madeline
Myles. Tonight I asked Ted for some money to pay for my coat,
which will be ready tomorrow. I have still not told him of the arrival of my affidavits. I think he thinks I have
abandoned the idea of going to America! I don’t know
when I will tell him. When I collect my passport photos I
shall then have all the items the Consul demands before
he will consider the request for an Immigration visa.
Charlie writes me that he has sent in an official request
to Washington asking for a special preference permit for
me and that Bill Berry and Ruth Eason witnessed for
him on the affidavit he had to send there.
October 14, 1939 There is news today of the sinking of the Royal Oak.
Her compliment of men was approximately 1200; so far,
only 370 are known to be survivors. This is worse than
the loss of the Courageous. On Thursday of this week Mr.
Chamberlain speaking in Parliament, scorned Hitler’s
so-called peace offer of last week. Since Thursday the
war has intensified. So it will go on, of course. Probably
on the Western front it has not yet really begun. We are
told that we have transported to France one hundred
and fifty eight thousand men and twenty five thousand
vehicles without a singe casualty. This week’s news is
most seriously concerned with Finland. Russia has
already swallowed Latvia and Estonia, and sent messages
to Finland that she wished to negotiate concerning
airbases and airports in Finland. Finland’s answer was
to mobilize. Finland insists on being free Finland. Every
day the news gets worse and worse, madder and madder.
Europe is the place to get away from.
October 16, 1939 This morning Artie received notification that he must
report for the Army Militia, at Victoria, on Wednesday
October 17, 1939 Artie cleared up at the office yesterday morning and
has been clearing up around the house ever since. He
has been to see the R. A. F. Officer, because he was
passed and accepted for a pilot, but he is told he must
report to the militia as called. Perhaps a transfer can
be arranged. He has not been called for the air before
this, because they have been taking men who have been
serving in the Civil Air Guard. He was shown his name
as tenth on the list to be called, and was given a letter to
this effect, to be given to the receiving officer tomorrow,
at Victoria. It does seem silly to put him in the Militia,
when they know he is passed for the air.
October 19, 1939 Artie left with Ted this morning. Tonight he phoned
us that he is in the London Scottish, Branch of the
Gordon Highlanders’; and can be addressed, Company
D. 59 Buckingham Gate. I was so miserable and restless
after he went, that I went to town myself, leaving Mrs.
Shaw to carry on in the house, and get Ted’s dinner and
tea for him.
I went straight to Hammersmith. Found Polly sitting
by the fire, looking gloomy as hell, so took mother out
forthwith. I Took her over to the co-op to buy a pair of
black slippers and there in the shop told her of my plans
and prospects for going to America. Naturally she was
surprised, but just as naturally she was more interested
in my immediate purchases than in my immediate news.
I bought three hats (a russet velvet beret, a rose velvet
turban, and a black felt-tricorne). I also bought three
scarves to go with them, and four pairs of gloves, besides
the black slippers. Silly purchases but I had to do
something! Then we went back to the house, and Mother
made some sandwiches for me, and we had tea. I left
soon after four o’clock. I decided on my way over I wasn’t
going to travel through London in the dark. London is
now so ghastly awful already a city of the dead.
October 21, 1939 I was surprised at teatime by Cuth and Artie walking
in together. I was expecting Cuth for a weekend visit, but
not Artie. They had met at Liverpool Street and traveled
out together. Artie was in what is known as “Battle
Dress,” including a huge khaki overcoat and a tin hat.
All the fellows had been sent home, and to stay the
night, mainly, it would seem, so that they might bring
home their entire private clothes and belongings.
All the same, as I go about my preparations I begin to
feel sad. I will not let this sadness conquer my resolution
to go. Ted could come to if he wished.
This morning began to make a short list of some of
my books, which Miss Coppen might be interested to
buy. This gave me a sick feeling. However, the US Lines
people inform me that I must procure an exit permit, and
be ready to hand over my keys at the dock to the customs
officials, as all baggage is now being examined before
leaving the country. Anyhow, I couldn’t carry books with
me. It is better to get a little money for them if I can; but
parting with my books, my specials, is like parting with
my life’s blood. However, better no books and America,
than all my accumulated possessions in England forever.
Indeed, I will be satisfied if I can get to American with
nothing more than my life. To get home alive to America,
Oh will it be possible?
October 22, 1939 In a private talk with Cuthie today he said he thought
it would be better for me to stay in England. I’d think
you’d be better off here, he said. Over there it’s rotten. You’d always be sitting on somebody’s doorstep. That
would be horrid. Here you are your own boss and maybe
Dad will be different now we’ve gone.
Maybe he is right. He talked on some more about
America, as he experienced it last year, and he kept on
saying, You wouldn’t like it there, Ma. For a while it would
be all right but you wouldn’t like living with any of the
fellows, better stay with Dad, I think.
Well, whatever the situation there would be, I don’t
know; but I’m certain that Cuth is positive I wouldn’t
like it, and that he wants me to stay here. Anyhow I have
not yet heard from the Consul. I wrote to the consulate,
asking for an interview, with the object of obtaining an
immigration visa, last Sunday, the fifteenth.
October 24, 1939 I am going to the movies with Ted this evening. As
we were returning we were surprised to meet Artie, with
Edna Renacre at the bottom of Eastern Road.
Artie said he had been trying to burgle the house,
but couldn’t find a crack anywhere, to force an entrance.
We all had a meal together, and then he had to leave for
the nine-seventeen train. He is in Old Chelsea Barracks,
he says, amongst all the old red-coated pensioners, but
he does not know for how long. He said he went to see his
grandmother last night, and he will go again on Thursday.
On Friday he is to be moved down into Kent somewhere.
So Ted and I have arranged to go to Hammersmith also
on Thursday, and say goodbye to him there.
October 26, 1939 Before we were out of bed this morning the telephone
was ringing. It was Artie on the wire, saying he had
longer leave than he expected, and he would be out to
Romford about teatime. So he could have a hot bath, clean socks, etc., etc. So I had to send a wire to Mother,
telling her she would have no Thompson visitors today.
When he came he brought Edna Renacre again, whom I
thought a nuisance. He had to leave for the eight-seventeen train, as he had to be Barracks before ten. They
go down to camp somewhere near Canterbury tomorrow,
for eight weeks intensive training. Perhaps they’ll have
leave for Christmas, but this is not promised them. He
has had no word from the R.A.F.
October 27, 1939 I am writing to both Gladys and Aileen. I wrote to them
about two weeks ago, telling them about my decision to
go to America. Today I wrote to tell them I had reversed
my decision. Yesterday I received a parcel from Joan,
containing a lovely embroidered tea cloth from her as a
parting gift and a silk tea cozy from Gladys. Somehow
or other the reception of these gifts clarified my mind
for me. I found I knew I wasn’t going. I still have heard
nothing from the Consul but now I don’t need to hear.
My mind is clear and steady; war or no war, husband or
no husband, I’m going to stay here.
Ted did say something about me going in the week.
He was asking what my plans were, and I told him I
had not yet heard from the Consul. He was nice. Said
he wanted to do what was the right thing for me, what
was best for my happiness but if he helped me to go, it
would still be against his wishes. He did not want me to
go. Hadn’t I better think it over some more? Wasn’t I too
impulsive? Think about it some more Lady, before you do
anything rash, or anything that can’t be easily undone.
He kissed me with tenderness. He was kind to me to on
The boys left here about five o’clock, to go to tea at
the Pullan’s, where there was a party, as Will was also home on leave. Cuth called a taxi, and as I watched them
driving away, both in uniform, I felt I would die and I
began to cry. Ted came over to me, and sat by me on
the sofa, and put his arm around me, in comforting. Oh,
why can’t he always be kind? Why can’t I remember his
kind moments? Anyhow, I know now that I have decided
to stay with him. I can’t run away. We are married: for
better for worse, till death do us part. God help me.
October 29, 1939 It is “The Feast of Christ the King.” Had it been a
fine day I would have gone to mass. But it was a pouring
wet morning so I didn’t go out. Yesterday the new Pope
published his first Evangelical. It will be known as
Summi pontificatus, it’s offering words. It analyzes the
radical and ultimate cause of the evils in modern society.
This has led, step by step, to the present calamity of war.
The condition of these errors is to be found in the denial
and rejection of a universal form of morality through loss
of belief in the Divinity of Christ and in God.
The two fundamental errors are, the forgetfulness
of the law of human solidarity and Divine Charity and
the divorce of civil authority from every kind of dependence on the Supreme Being. The civilization of the West
cannot be restored, argues the Holy Father, except by
the restoration of the unity of doctrine, faith, customs
and morals inculcated by the church. I agree. When the
intelligence of the church speaks, I can assent to it and
though I have no feeling of faith, I can, with my head,
acknowledge it as good and true. Ted’s obstinacy's, Mrs.
Jude’s superstitions, shouldn’t keep me out of church, of
course, they don’t. They only keep me away from mass!
I am a catholic, willy-nilly: I can’t help myself. So God
October 30, 1939 I am feeling fine. Consequently have gone on a splurge
and ordered half a dozen new books!