World War ll London Blitz: 7-6-40 to 7-29-1940 At five fifty p.m. we received a telegram from Ruislip, saying: “Inform you your son Sgt. Thompson; R.A.F. is a prisoner of war. Letter follows.”

Purchase Here:

July 6, 1940

Eight p.m. Ted at Arden Cottage and I am sitting here in the window of my new bedroom. I am well, but have a bad leg. I have an open wound on my left ankle nearly as large as the palm of my hand, and very painful. I suppose this has been brought about by the work of the moving and the heat. Anyhow, I haven’t had an open leg for years. It won’t get better, of course, until I go to bed and stay there until it heals. At present this is out of the question, for there are still all sorts of workmen to wait about for electricians, gas fitters, the carpenter, and the painter.

The finishing of this house goes very slowly. Men come and do a bit and then stay away for days. The carpenter never came at all this week, though I was looking for him daily. So with the others, but if I do go out somebody is sure to come. I missed the electrician by going out, and also the carpet fitter. However, someday the last workman will say goodbye and then I can take to my bed until cured. I have been having vacuum cleaner salesman around too. After trying out three different machines I decided on a “Hot-Point” and then had to persuade Ted to buy it for me. I am happy to say he did buy it, and I am really very glad of that. In this house we are living more on carpets than linoleum. And a vacuum cleaner is a really essential for comfortable clean housekeeping.

Also I have been writing letters. The Germans are raiding us daily and nightly now, and most of the casualties are civilians. We have not had a warning in Romford, though the area is flown over every night by solitary bombers since the one of June twenty-fourth, but I made up my mind on that night to write a good letter to everyone of the boys whilst I knew I was still in the land of the living. I finished my last letter to Johnnie on the fourth.

That day we received the news of the destruction of the French Fleet at Oram and the taking over of the French warships at Alexandria, and all in the British ports. This is another tragedy of the war, but it was absolutely essential that the French vessels should not fall into German or Italian hands to be used against us. The Petain government has already become the abject tool of the Nazi’s and speaks only as Hitler allows it to speak.

The collapse of France is complete. This week has been alluded to as Invasion week, because Hitler promised to invade us this week, and overthrow us. However, he hasn’t arrived yet! Possibly his plans have been disarranged by troubles in the Balkans. Romania is breaking up now. Russia put in an ultimatum to Romania last week, demanding the cession to her of Bessarabia and Boulhovina and before the answer could be given just walked in. Romania appealed to Germany, and fore swore her Anglo-French treaty but Hitler did nothing for her anyhow. Italy is getting a pasting. She doesn’t have to fight in France, because of the armistice but she’s got to fight Britain, and now she is getting the worst of it in Africa. Marshal Balbao is dead, killed in a plane crash. Well, Italy is not fighting black Abyssinian's now.

July 7, 1940

It is a very muggy day, with very heavy rain and hail. After the storm the sky cleared to cloudless blue, and then the guns began. They were not in this immediate vicinity. Probably they were at Dagenham, or over the river. Anyhow, from about half past two till after five o’clock we heard the A-A-guns continuously. This made us restless. To settle us Ted went down to the garden and picked a lot of raspberries and currants and I set to and made a batch of pastries. So we ate hot raspberry pie for tea. The evening was quiet.

July 8, 1940

I am feeling considerably exasperated. Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food has just been broadcasting. He has suddenly clamped on us further rationing. This concerns margarine and cooking fats, restaurant meals, and tea. Until now tea has not been rationed, but now, without any warning, we are informed that starting from tomorrow the allowance of tea will be set at two ounces per week per person. Considering what very heavy tea drinkers the English are this is a very drastic ruling. However, it isn’t that, that makes me feel so cross; it is the whole speech of the man, and the very tone of his voice. There was something so cajoling and so condescending in his phrasing, and something so unctuous and oily in his tone, I suddenly felt I hated him, and everything he stands for. Here again is a rich man instructing the poor how to be happy in their poverty, content under restrictions. Does anyone suppose his pantry isn’t full of chests of tea? Does anyone think he is going to restrict his consumption of tea to two ounces per week? Of course not, no one is.
Yes, I feel cross. Cross with the war, and the stupidity of men who wage war. 

War, is the greatest folly of mankind. There is a constant stream of propaganda, which pours over us from the radio. Speeches, speeches, speech’s: heroics and heroics, and for what? They want us to make war, to fight war, to endure it and to pay for it. It makes me sick listening to the orators. I feel I’m not going to deny myself, voluntarily for the war. I’ll endure what I have to because I can’t help myself; but I’m not going to penalize myself, where the authorities can’t compel me to. I’ve lost a son already in the damned war. The smarmy talk of oratorio’s about self-sacrifice leaves me cold.

Let the politicians do some self-sacrificing. Then I might listen to them with agreement more readily. The damn fool politicians, men, old men, make a war to suit them selves; they make the young men fight it and they invite the women to pay for it. Well, they will solicit me in vain. I say, damn the war. Let the war makers get on with it; I’ll not help them.

July 10, 1940

Eleven a.m. and I am still alive. I thought the end was upon us last night. Just after the nine o’clock news began, whilst the announcer was telling us of the putting out of action of the French battleship Richelieu, air-battle began, practically immediately over-head. The noise was incessant but the machines were so high we couldn’t see them. We have heard them tearing about all right! We closed the windows and pulled the curtains, and sat still, expecting any minute to be bombed or set on fire. However, nothing hit us, and after about an hour everything quieted down again.

Ted opened a bottle of his precious port, and each had a drink at bedtime. I was afraid to go to bed; afraid the raiding would begin again. It didn’t. So here we are in the morning, still intact. I feel sick. I feel as though my insides have been torn out. What will happen to us as the moon comes to the full, God knows?

July 15, 1940

At five-fifty p.m. we received a telegram from Ruislip, saying: Inform you your son Sgt. Thompson; R.A.F. is a prisoner of war. Letter follows.

Thank God!

July 17, 1940

Letter confirming news about Cuthie received today. No details. Simply says that they have been informed through the Red Cross at Geneva, that he is a prisoner, at Dulag Luft.

Also several sheets of type received from the Red Cross, telling how to get in touch with prisoners, etc. This is Ted’s birthday, so the good news is the best gift in the world for him. To celebrate we went to the movies tonight. It is our first jaunt in months.

July 19, 1940

I called the doctor this evening, to look at my leg, which has begun watering. It has been getting worse and worse lately, but today got to where it is unendurable. I called Dr. Keighly, as she is only a few doors away, and I was frightened, and wanted a doctor quickly. She said I ought to be in bed. Of course, I know that; but bed is impossible at this time, with workmen coming and going, and all this long drawn out mess of the move still around me. It seems to me this place will never get straightened out but I suppose it will, someday.

July 22, 1940

Dr.Keighley was in this evening. She has drawn up a diet sheet for me. She declares she can reduce my weight, and without drugs, if only I will follow her instructions. Well, I’ll follow them all right. If I could lose weight it would certainly be a darned good thing. My leg is still weeping, though not so profusely. 

July 24, 1940

Mother came to see me today. She looks remarkably well, very stylish and handsome. She had on a dark blue wool-crepe suit, and blue hat in the latest style. She looked very elegant.

We have had a continuous stream of callers since the news of Cuthie came out. I did not know he had so many friends; so many people who are deeply glad to hear of his safety. Yes, Thank-God, Thank God, Cuthie is safe! Thank God.

July 29, 1940

I have been reading a book over the weekend, which pleased me, much: Let The Band Play Dixie by Ursula Branston. It is an account of an English girl’s trip, by auto bus, through the southern states of America. She had a job with the B.B.C. but she resigned it, because of her longing, after reading a life of Stonewall Jackson, to see all the southern states. She landed in Baltimore, in June nineteen thirty-eight, and she stayed in America until the September crisis at Munich, when her own patriotism hurried her back to London in October. This girl appreciates America, and although her book doesn’t make me home sick because I know return to America is at present as impossible as a trip to the moon, still, it makes me realize how essentially and fundamentally I am American.

The tangible result was to make me sit down today and send in an order to Bumpus for half a dozen American books in their latest catalogue. Chief among these is a first edition second volume History of the Rise of American civilization, by the Beards. I hope I get it. This was a new book when I was in New York in nineteen thirty-three. I didn’t see it then, not since. It was published in England so didn’t reach the libraries and before I got around to a spare fifty shillings I forgot it. Bumpus’s now offer it for fifteen shillings. I sure hope I can become the lucky possessor. I ordered a few others, about America, or by Americans. I haven’t bought any books for a long time, and when we had to make a grand clearance for our move, and give away literally hundreds, I said I wouldn’t even buy any more books. There you are. I’m an addict! Anyhow, what I figure is this, and not only about books, but about all other desirable things: better get them whilst we can, and whilst we know we are still alive to enjoy them. We might be dead tomorrow. We might be dead today. Every day the German bombs are taking toll of British lives; life for everybody in these islands is dreadfully precarious. Last Friday night this neighborhood was bombed again. Bombs fell and we heard them falling in Worley, Dagenham, and Laughton. In Laughton they destroyed two houses and killed people; in Dagenham they destroyed thirty houses, and killed one woman and three children; in Worley they fell in an open space, but killed a fireman who was entering a shelter. So they are just as likely to fall in Western Road, or South Street or Park End Road or anywhere.
There is now seldom a warning. Messerschmidt’s fly six miles high, and drop their bombs at random. So: as we’re only young once, only live once, I think we feel, I know I do, let us make sure of today, whilst we know we have it. All the exhortations on the radio to save leave me cold. Save for what? Annihilation? The politicians decreed the war. Let them pay for it. They tax us excessively, anyhow, and ration us without warrant. Why should they consume our savings and our pleasure money too? I don’t see it. So, since death has camped on the doorstep, I intend to suck every drop out of my orange, before he crosses the threshold and grabs my rind. I’ll buy books, clothes, anything I really want and have the price for. Tomorrow can take care of itself. The chances are that tomorrow I may not be alive to do anything about it. Nevertheless, I hold onto my inner determination to live to be one hundred if I can.

I pray and pray. I pray at night until I fall asleep. I pray every time I wake in the night, and I pray every morning, after a night in bed, and to find one is still alive in this world. I say, thank God for another day. I will live if I can. The Germans may kill me but I won’t allow them to depress my soul. The British government may ration us drastically but I don’t intend to ration myself on any of the things I care for, so long as they are in the market, and I have the price to pay for them. I loathe people who talk about self-sacrifice. We are all sacrificed, willy-nilly. All our young men turned into soldiers, for what? There is death and destruction everywhere, and everywhere the will to death.

It’s crazy. I have a will to life, and with help of God, I will live, I won’t be miserable. I’ll live happily. I’ve made our lives as pleasant as possible, with all the means at my disposal. I will have books and music and flowers and good clothes and good food. I believe in God, and I praise him. I place my dear ones, in God’s hands now and myself, so do I place our futures in his hands too, in this world and the next. God will take care of tomorrow. I’m not going to worry about it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment