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.
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
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
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.
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!
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
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.