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.
May 3, 1940 This is our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. I thought
perhaps we might have celebrated it a little; but no, Ted
remains disagreeable and aloof. I don’t think he has
spoken to me once today. Well, this is the end of another
seven-year period. What will the next seven-year period
of our marriage be like? Shall we grow less critical and
kinder? I wonder.
May 4, 1940 I was awakened during the night by the airplanes,
which were screaming about quite a lot. This is not a bit
unusual nowadays. One day this week a German bomber
crashed at Claxton, causing one hundred and fifty-six
casualties and destroying two streets. This was not deliberate bombing but an accident. It had been mine laying,
so carried much explosive. Well, even here, I heard what
must have been the detonations. Ted doesn’t hear these
night noises, but is able to sleep right through them.
By the way, our forces have evacuated themselves
from Norway during this week, a very disturbing setback
for us. So far, it seems to me Hitler wins everywhere
he strikes; and as for Mr. Chamberlain and Winston
Churchill, public opinion begins to be that they are too
complacent and then too late. This isn’t a war record.
Joan arrived this morning. She has come for the weekend.
George returned to France April 16, and Joan is staying
in Hammersmith with mother for the present.
May 5, 1940 Joan remarked that she had been going up to
Westminster Cathedral, intended to visit the Brompton
Oratory soon and asked, would I take her to church with
me today? Well, I said I would, so we got ready and I took
her to High Mass at St. Mary’s at Hornchurch.
When I was explaining the missal to her I noticed
that I had marked the collect for this day in the missal.
It is: Almighty, Everlasting God, grant that our will may
be ever devoted to thee, and that we may serve thy majesty
with a sincere heart. Through our Lord.
All this is something strangely coincidental. For
I have been thinking of late whether perhaps I might
resume attending mass again. Noting all these various
finales which seem to occur now, with the beginnings of the new periods, and the taking up of residence in a new
house, and all the events occurring about now, the time
especially associated with the Holy Ghost, that member
of the Holy Trinity which is so especially appealing to my
crank mind. I had thought that perhaps I would resume
the practice of my religion right now at this Whitsuntide. Then along comes Joan, who asks me to take her
to church today. So we went. It was good, easy, peaceful,
Although Joan had no idea how to follow the mass,
yet she was pervious to the atmosphere of serenity and
devotion. As for myself, I entered into peace; it was as
though I had never missed mass at all.
May 6, 1940 News from Cuthie, he is back at Driffield. He writes,
Scotland is a pain in the neck.
May 7, 1940 I am very sleepy. I think it is the Spring Day. Anyhow
I’m tired from so much talking with Joan. I only see her
about once a year, so we talk like a house afire.
Ted is still very disagreeable, and I expect he will
remain so, until he has past his last bill. He was very
sarcastic at lunch about me not writing to Dorothy. Last
week he climbed up into the attic, to find out what was
there, and found two large trunks; one of ours, one of
Dorothy’s. He said if I ever wrote to Dorothy I could tell
her to have it fetched away. I replied, I never wrote to
her, and I didn’t know her address anyhow.
At lunch today, he asked me had I written to Dorothy.
I replied, of course not. Why? I asked did he wish me to
write to her? Then he was off! Ten unending minutes of
biting sarcasm about my indifference, etc., ending with,
Well, will you write to Dorothy? I reply as, No. It’s his affair as much as mine. If he wants her to take her trunk
away at once, why can’t he write to her about it? Why am
I a sinner because it hadn’t occurred to me to do so?
Oh, funny man! He does make me tired. Another
thing that makes me tired are these mid day meals.
Three square meals a day, and Ted at every one of them.
We see too much of each other. A woman needs her day
to herself. Mid-day dinner is a nuisance. That is what we
have had ever since we returned to England. It means we
are never free of each other for more than four hours at a
stretch, often only three hours; contact is too unbroken,
no wonder there’s so much friction between us. We need
rest from each other, and space between meetings. I
need rest and spacing from the household chores. Even
if I could have only one long day a week to myself it
would be a blessed relief. But no, domestic life hasn’t
been arranged that way. Life in England is a treadmill.
May 10, 1940 Germany has invaded Holland and Belgium, and
completely over-runs Luxembourg. The news came
through soon after six this morning. They have landed
troops at the ports, and men from the air by parachute.
The attack from the air has been terrific also. Both
Holland and Belgium have appealed to us for help, and
we are going to their assistance instantly. Half an hour
ago our government, through the B.B.C. broadcast to all
our Civil Defense Forces to stand-by and to be ready for
any emergency, and to civilians to resume continuous
carrying of gas masks, the putting of all home defense
precautions in order, and for everybody to immediately
acquaint themselves with their nearest air-raid shelter.
Attack on England is imminent. The Germans may begin
bombing us now, at any moment.
Perhaps the Germans have been encouraged to this move by the Rebate in Parliament this week on the
Norwegian operations, the Division in the House, the
criticisms of Mr. Chamberlain, and the Cabinet crisis.
Who knows? Anyhow, here’s the war, in hellish earnest.
Ten p.m. Mr. Chamberlain has resigned, and the King
has appointed Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. So,
another cabinet shuffles.
May 11, 1940 A special order has been passed to eliminate the
Whitsuntide holiday. Monday will be a business day. All
special Whitsun sport events have been cancelled, all
rail and road excursion traffic, and all factories, banks,
stock exchange, government offices, etc. will carry on as
May 12, 1940 Whit Sunday
A gloriously beautiful day. It’s blueness and sunshine
is like the September weather when the war started.
Reports from the Netherlands are most serious. The
Germans are landing parachutists by the hundreds.
These German’s are disguised. Some even wear Dutch
uniforms. Some are disguised as priests and even nuns.
They are very young men, and many are dressed as
women. When caught they are “wiped out” the report
says. As usual the Germans are bombing everything in
sight, and especially the refugees along the roads. For
pure wanton destructiveness they are even machine
gunning the cattle in the fields. I went again to St.
Mary’s, for High Mass this morning and was able to pray.
May 13, 1940 Princess Juliana and her two babies, and Prince
Bernhard, arrived in London this morning; and late
this afternoon Queen Wilhelmina arrived also. She had been brought here on a British warship. Both the King
and Queen met her at Liverpool St. as well as her own
children and she has accepted the hospitality of the King
at Buckingham Palace. She had to flee for her life. The
Germans meant to abduct her. In Norway, too, they tried
especially hard to capture King Haakon. The fighting in
Holland and Belgium is simply terrific.
May 15, 1940 At seven a.m. we heard that the Dutch have laid down
their arms. After the Germans re-captured Rotterdam
yesterday, the Netherlands Commander-in Chief issued
an order to his troops concerned, to cease fighting. To
continue resistance was hopeless.
Now the struggle for Belgium proceeds. Already the
battlefront extends over one hundred miles, from the
Albert Canal to Llugwy, where the Germans are expected
to try to break through the Maginot Line. There is furious
fighting at Sedan, and a very great battle is expected in
front of Brussels.
May 19, 1940 I made an effort, and it was an effort, both physically,
and of the will, and went to St. Edward’s for High Mass,
at eleven. Now I have resumed, I will continue. Coming
out of church, joined by Mrs. Jude and Mary Bernadette,
and Mrs. James. When we got to the Laurie, I was very
pleased to see Ted waiting for me at the entrance to Ives
Gardens. Here a Mr. Simpson, who appropriated Ted,
and walked ahead with him, joined us!
However, I was deeply pleased Ted had come to meet
me, all the same; and I pray to God there is a new beginning for we two together, to be added to my other beginnings.
May 21, 1940 We received three letters from Cuthie this morning.
Two for me and one for Ted all posted from Driffield. So
he is safe, so far, Thank God. The battle now raging in
France and Belgium is the greatest of all time. It goes on
without ceasing, day and night.
General Petain, now eighty-four years old, has been
recalled from Madrid, where he had been sent as Ambassador at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and made
Deputy Prime Minister of France. General Weygand,
now seventy-three, has been recalled from Syria and
appointed Chief of Staff of National Defense, in place of
General Gamelan. It was these two great soldiers, under
Foch, who finally brought victory to the Allies in the
Great War, twenty years ago.
Every day for a week Dutch and Belgian refugees
have been pouring into our southern ports, and, as in
nineteen-fourteen, we are going to take care of them, for
the duration of the war. They have nothing left them but
their lives. Many of them are wounded and are brought
ashore in stretchers. Some infants have been born whilst
their mothers were in the boats. The Germans deliberately machine-gun the refugees as they walk along the
roads. War! German War!
May 22, 1940 Last night at seven p.m. we received a telegram from
the air ministry, to say that our son, Sergeant 581052,
squadron seventy-seven was reported missing. A letter
would follow. The nine o’clock broadcast news reported
that during the night a large force of R.A.F. bombers
attacked troop concentrations in Cambrai Le Cateau St.
Quentin area and that from these operations five of our
aircraft failed to return. So we suppose Cuth was in one
of these five.
The battle is frightful. The Germans have taken
Amas and Amiens, and have reached as far as Abbeville
in their drive to the coast. God help us all!
When Ted went out last night, to church, for benediction, for the May devotions, he showed the telegram
to Father Bishop. About nine o’clock Father Bishop
telephoned us that he would offer this morning’s mass,
for Cuthie and for our intentions. This was kind. I could
not go out to Mass but I pray just the same. Today work
has gone on as usual, Mrs. Bull here cleaning, Miss
Coppen calling. Poor Cuthie, poor Cuthie!
May 23, 1940 The letter from the Air Ministry arrived by the first
post this morning. They tell us that Cuthie was with the
squadron that was sent out bombing in the vicinity of
Amieus, in the morning of May 21, but that his machine
failed to return to its base, so he must be counted
missing. They add that this does not necessarily mean
that he is either killed or wounded, and that if and when
they receive extra knowledge of him, they will report
to us at once. Yes, there is a hope he may still be alive.
Sometimes crews escape from destroyed machines. He
may be a prisoner behind the lines. He may be lying in
a German hospital or he may be with God in heaven.
Wherever he is, we will pray for him without ceasing.
The terror is surely upon England now. On Sunday ten
thousand more children were evacuated from Kent and
Essex; they were sent to Wales.
On Tuesday night we had raids over this neighbor-
hood. The guns began about one-thirty. Neither Ted nor I
were asleep. We had gone to bed grieving for Cuthie, and
were wakeful. At two-ten a.m. there was a most terrific
explosion, which we supposed was a bomb. We did not
get up, because no warning was sounded, so we inferred the action was not immediately over Romford. The firing
went on for some time, thud-thud, and airplanes seemed
to be screaming about everywhere. Then everything died
down. Soon after four o’clock the racket began again,
though there was no great explosion as at two. Last night
was quiet, or else we were so tired that we slept through
The weather is beautiful. This morning’s times say
the British have counter-attacked between Anas and
Donai, but the results are not known and that the French
morning communiqué reports the re-taking of Arras.
May 25, 1940 Agnes Brauncy brought her fiancé here this afternoon, to look at our Jacobean dining room suite, and
they bought it outright. I had intended to go to confession today, but these visitors prevented me. This evening
utterly exhausted, and cannot possibly go out.
May 26, 1940 A day of public prayer, asked for by the King, and
observed by every sect and denomination. I went out to
early mass with Ted, at St. Edwards, but could not go up
for communion. The church was packed and practically
everybody going up to the rail, as at Christmas or Easter.
When we returned home Ted told me that he had asked
Father Bishop to say tomorrows mass for Cuthie. So I
asked Ted to telephone Father Bishop for me, and ask
him would he hear my confession today. He set the time
for four forty-five p.m. It had been my intention to ask
him tomorrow to hear me, so that I might take communion on Tuesday, for Cuth. Father Bishop very kind and
May 27, 1940 I went to Communion with Ted at seven-thirty mass
this morning. This mass offered for Cuthie.
May 28, 1940 I went again to communion this morning with Ted. It
is a week today since Cuth was lost. At eleven o’clock this
morning came news that King Leopold of the Belgians
had ordered the army under his command to cease
fighting. This is most shocking news. M. Reynaud, the
French Premier, gave the news in a broadcast. He told
Paris, and the world, that the Belgium Army, on the
order of King Leopold, who acted against the advice of
his responsible ministers, has surrendered. Since four
o’clock this morning the French and the British armies
have been fighting alone in the north against the enemy.
They still hold Calais, but the B.S.F. have had to evacuate
However, at noon today, Mr. Pierlot, the Belgian
Premier, broadcast from Paris, repudiating King
Leopold, calling him a traitor, and accusing him of
breaking the Belgian Constitution and saying that the
Belgian Government intend to form a new army and to
fight on. The battling is terrific. God help the world!
May 30, 1940 This is my last writing in this house. We move into
number Seventy-Eight Western Road tomorrow. I am now
about to bury this volume in my hatbox, so Au-revoir.
God help us and keep us all. Amen.