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.
August 3, 1940 The word for today is forlorn. When Dr. Keighley came in to see me on Monday, she ordered me to bed
and I have been there until today. Definitely I have got
phlebitis. What is worse, I have got melancholia.To be
in this house alone, ill, is more than I can stand. Ted
has been looking after me: nobody else. He has done his
best, of course.His competency about everything
practical, and his damned silly talk, has got me down.
He asks me directions about things, and then when I
begin to tell him, he starts cross-questioning me on my
answers. It’s most exasperating.
Yesterday I fell into the weeps, and began weeping
again first thing this morning. After he had gone
through the routine rigmarole about my breakfast tray, I
asked him, please to bring me up my bottle of haliveroil
capsules. Where were they? They were on the kitchen
cabinet. Which room? I exploded. The kitchen cabinet
is in the kitchen of course! I felt furious: sick to death
of his silly questions. So I made up my mind not to ask
him for anything else, but to get up and attend to myself.
I felt crosser and crosser. He should have got a nurse
or a woman in to attend to me anyhow! Not Ted, that
costs money. So this morning I finally felt desperate, and
as soon as he had left the house I got up and dressed.
I ought not to have done so. I am really ill. My leg is
very bad, and Dr. Keighley told him so. That makes no
impression on Ted.
Well, when I got downstairs I had a fit of wild weeping.
He had re-arranged the kitchen and the dining room.
He had turfed out my tea wagon and shoved it under the
sink, and my little kitchen table he had placed upside
down on the kitchen table, and filed it with crockery. He
had been having a clearance. I was enraged, and I burst
out crying. However, I pulled myself together and set to
work to put everything back in its proper place. I washed
up all the dirty crockery about, threw out stale and bad food which had accumulated, cooked some fresh vegetables and made soup. When he came in at one o’clock he
was surprised to find me down stairs, and started to
order me back to bed. However, I’d had enough of bed
and that was that. Then when he went out at two o’clock,
I went upstairs, and cleaned and turned out my room.
Whilst lying in bed I had thought out a better way of
arranging our room than he way we had it.
So this afternoon I simply set to work and re-arranged
it. I wanted to clean the room anyhow, as it was filthy
dirty, and I moved the furniture myself. It took me three
solid hours, but I did it. I was determined I wouldn’t
ask him anything about it, or to do anything for me. As
a practical man Ted is simply useless.
This house is on my nerves. We have been here two
months now, and it is still not to rights. Every job Ted
does is badly done. When he lays linoleum, he laps it! I’ve
said nothing about it. I’m just waiting for Artie to come
home, and do the job properly. Every job Ted does is like
that. Incompetency is his middle name. He thinks he’s
so smart too! About five weeks ago he threw the garden
hose into the little alleyway that leads to the outside
toilet, and it lays there, one messy tangle. Several times I
have asked him to roll it up on its wheel, and put it away,
but no, its still there, in the way, and has to be walked
on by everybody who uses the toilet. All the workmen
have been going over it, the carpenter, the plasterer, the
bricklayers who have built us a large coal shed and I
twist my ankle on it every time I go round that corner. It
might take five minutes to roll it up, but no, it isn’t rolled.
Then he points out to me a scrubbing brush left in the
drain! It isn’t my scrubbing brush, anyhow, but belongs
to one of the workmen. My God, I’m out of patience.
Well, he’s with his beloved brother tonight. I might
have remained in bed and he’ll still be at Herbert’s tonight. Oh, is this a lonesome life! Oh, if I’d only got
a daughter, a woman child around! I haven’t, so I must
look after myself. It is nine o’clock now, and getting dark,
so I will go and re-bandage my leg for the night before it’s
time for the blackout. The Germans continue raiding us
nightly. They dropped incendiary bombs in Harold Wood
two nights ago. Oh this damned war that gets us down
August 4, 1940 Twenty-Six years ago today Great Britain entered the
last war. Six-thirty p.m. and it is a warm sunny evening.
Ted is out at church. I have been downstairs all day today
and feel much better for it. I am apparently no worse
for my furniture shifting yesterday, though I have two
big purple bruises on my arm. I must have hurt myself
with out realizing it. My ankle is drying up considerably,
but the phlebitis patch is swollen and inflamed as ever.
However, in my spirits I feel fine. Bed was getting me
down. I am now going to fix up my bed and listen to the
London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Henry
Wood, playing the “Pathetique” at seven fifty.
Here is what I purchased at Bumpus: Beard: Rise of
American Civilization, Wright: Hawkers and Walkers in
Early America, Emerson: Works: Complete in 4 volumes,
Melina Rorke: Memoirs of the 90’s in South Africa,
Landor: Classical Conversations, Undset: Stages on the
Road. I am delighted with this lot.
August 5, 1940 It should be a bank holiday, but it isn’t. I wrote to
Cuthie and keep choking with laughter at something I
consider very funny. When I shuffled my room around
on Saturday, of course I had to shift and re-hang the
pictures. Because I couldn’t quite make up my mind
to where to hang it, I did not re-hang the crucifix, but
left it on Ted’s bureau. Well, he has hung it plumb over
the middle of the head of the bed. This, I know, is the
traditional position for it in Catholic families. I have
always kept ours away from that spot. I have put it in
obscure places: behind the door, or in a recess, or beside
Ted’s mirror. When one considers what goes on in the
connubial bed, the wall behind and above it seems to
me the most inappropriate place possible ever to hang a
crucifix. Such a position for such and article just strikes
me as funny. Hope I don’t giggle some night soon when
Ted wants to be a loving husband.
August 6, 1940 Dr. Keighley says I may now put a new “viscopaste”
on my bad leg, and she will see it again in a week’s
time. I am still to rest as much as possible. I am not to
put on my shoes, nor walk about the house more than
is absolutely necessary. So I’m still to play Madame
Recamier on the sofa. I had a cheery leaflet put in the
letterbox this morning. Our orders what to do in case of
invasion. The authorities seem certain the Germans will
attempt invasion during the next week or fortnight. My
God! When is this crazy war going to end!
There is a rumor today, via Reuters, that Julius
Streicher is dead. Supposedly executed by Goring’s
order. Streicher was the notorious Nazi Jew baiter. I am
sure the world hopes he is dead: hopes all the Nazi’s
meet violent death, at the hands of their “friends.” Pray
God they do taste in themselves their own brutalities
August 7, 1940 The sound of bombs and guns all morning, and an air
raid warning at eleven o’clock. No damage in Romford.
Started with a new charlady today; a much younger
woman than Mrs. Bull. Mrs. Rose Whitan, who is Mrs.
Fardell’s daughter. The house certainly looks better for
Provoked at lunch by Ted’s criticisms. In the pantry
there was the remains of Sunday’s leg of lamb of which
we were tired, and a gammon rasher of ham, some
leftover stewed plums, of which Ted hasn’t eaten any.
So, I served lunch as follows: The gammon rasher baked
with some Heinz beans, a dish of pilaf, with plenty of
onions and tomatoes; some canned pears and coffee. Ted
said the rasher was tough, and I could have it and the
pears he remarked, Why tinned fruit? Don’t you know
you should serve fresh fruit these days? You certainly are
a bum housekeeper!
It would have been no good offering him the cold
lamb. He refused that the last time it came to table.
He also refuses stewed plums; moreover, I didn’t want
red plums after red tomatoes, and as for the cold rice
pudding, naturally I wouldn’t serve that after pilaf,
which is basically rice. So I served nice white tinned
pears. Actually tinned fruit is cheaper than fresh
provided you could get any fresh! Cherries, strawberries,
currants, and raspberries are finished. Melons, black-
berries, and apples are not in yet. Bananas haven’t been
seen for weeks. Oranges are three pence apiece. Lemons
are offered at ten pence - ten pence! A piece! And eating
apples, if you can find them, are a shilling a pound. So
Even in today’s paper correspondents are writing in
to complain of the high price of fruit, and asking can’t
something be done about it; and one woman actually
stated it was cheaper to buy tinned fruit than fresh. At
least the tinned fruit is sweet. The sugar ration is eight
ounces per week per person. Therefore in this house one pound of sugar per week is all I can get and that is four
and a half pennies per pound. Plums are five pennies
per pound and should be one penny. There is no fruit.
There is no sugar to stew it with, even if we could get
fruit. Tomatoes stay at one one shilling per pound and
should be offering at four pence. At this time, there
are no imports, which accounts for the lack of bananas
and citrus fruits, but the dealers are profiteering on all
In spite of government control the cost of living has
increased by at least fifty percent since the beginning of
the war. Ted says I’m a bum housekeeper! Well maybe
I am but I do get damn tired of his comments. I didn’t
answer him. What was the good?
August 15, 1940 The Feast of the Assumption
I don’t care a damn about what feast it is. I am full
of the most awful anger. All night I was awake with the
airplanes passing and passing overhead. No alarm was
sounded, but I expected one every minute. Ted lay peace-
fully sleeping. I lay cursing. I cursed Hitler, I cursed the
war, I cursed all the old politicians, and all the blah-
blahing jingoists. I cursed all men for what they have
brought the world to and I cursed my man for what he
has brought me to, and brought the twins to. God damn
men, I say, and he is doing so; but in their damnation
we women are damned too, and double damned. We are
all not only cursed by nature, but we are cursed by the
world the men impose upon us, and then bring about
our ears. What do I care for the fairy tales of Theology?
I care nothing, not a farthing. I hate men and all their
August 16, 1940 I am steadier today, but with a ruthless mind. I
was full of visitors yesterday. Mrs. Jude came in on her
way from the late mass (which Ted had been playing.
“playing” in more senses than one, I think), and stayed to
lunch. Then before she left, early in the afternoon, Irene
White arrived with the baby Bernadette and before she
left Mrs. Ryle called, and also stayed to tea. We talked
about eternal life ideas of my own.
Then at half past seven in the evening, the air raid
warning was given. It’s very terrifying. Ted was painting
the bathroom, but came down and said he supposed
he ought to go down to his shelter. I exclaimed, Oh
don’t go, don’t leave me! And then I got a harangue. He
didn’t go, saying that since it was only open until eight
o’clock, and since it was Thursday and so there wouldn’t
be many people about on South Street, and it would be
eight o’clock before he could get there — still, he began
to scold me. He scolded until the all clear. He said I was
a very selfish woman, and that there were other people
to be saved beside me. He said I was a fool if I couldn’t
be left alone, and he said to be frightened was silly. One
ought to control one’s fear.
I gave up. I give up. I feel I hate him, more and more.
He does not see his own selfishness; but if ever any
person pursued undeviating his or her own desire, that
person is Edward Thompson.
These past weeks I have really been very ill. He
hasn’t realized it at all. I have suffered intense pain, and
great loneliness. To be left alone ill in bed, day after day,
was unbearable. He didn’t even get a nurse to look after
me. I couldn’t bear it, up there all alone. I longed for my
children. I do long for my children. I should be in the
midst of them, where they could come to look after me in
my need, and where I could take occasional pleasure in their presence, ill or well. No, Ted has arranged things
differently. When I look at the baby Bernadette running
around the house, I feel that my little grand-daughters
should also be able to come in and run around; and when
I think of Cuthie and Artie caught up in this devilish
war, I think that too is Ted’s fault and I hate him for all
the deprivation and sorrow he has brought upon me, so
he thinks it is his duty to go and stand guard over the
passing strangers who may enter a shelter and my duty
to sit alone while he does so. My terror, which I cannot
help, is of no account. So I think, where are my children?
Where are my children! I am alone, sickly alone.
All this week the air raids have been intensifying.
Yesterday’s raids were the heaviest yet. Over a thousand
German planes attacked us, in nine different attacks.
Report says we brought down one hundred and forty four
of them. Oh hell! Hell for all of us and for all the boys in
the air too, British or German. All this is the work of men’s
minds and men’s hands. I say curse such works of men,
and all men’s crazy ideas. War! What sense is there in war?
Would women make war? No. Women are realists.
Women know the cost of life. They preserve it, save it, and
heal it. It is women who know what love is, and it women
who love. not men. They can only hate and destroy. Yet
they see themselves as heroes. My God!
At twelve-thirty p.m. the siren sounded. I closed and
darkened the windows, lowered the gas in the oven, and
sat in Auntie Daisy’s rocker in the corner of the dining
room to wait for the all clear. This did not sound till
one-twenty p.m. soon after half past Ted came in smiling
and very pleased with himself. He told me about the
wonderful good conduct of all the people in his air-raid
shelter. He said there were about one hundred and
seventy five men, women, and children, all very good. He
added, You see, you’re alright. Nothing has happened to you. Yes, I’m alright but something has happened to me.
I do not expect Ted to come home to me during
daytime raids. I know he has pledged himself to take
charge of a shelter between the hours of eight am and eight p.m. I do expect him to be here with me at night.
Last night the warning startled me, and involuntarily
I asked him not to leave me. This, in his eyes, was a
crime. He did not stay with me because I asked him
to, but because by the time he could have changed his
clothes and got to the shelter the time would have been
after eight p.m. To be alone in danger at night is partic-
ularly frightening, and the fact that the mere bodily
presence of another human being can give comfort and
I say he is cold-blooded, and not human. He is proud
of his insensibility; he thinks that shows his superior
intelligence. Use your mind, Lady! Use your mind!
Does he suppose I want to be frightened? I do use
my mind otherwise I should lose it. What I suffer is pure
animal fright. It is the old primitive woman in me who
knows she has reason to be scared, and she acts without
waiting for directions from my head. She acts scared,
in the very pit of my stomach, and I can’t control her,
either. She knows danger better than I do, and she pays
no attention what so ever to my educated reason. She
didn’t panic quite so much today because it was mid-day
perhaps, with bright sun shining. How queer it was
afterwards to pull back the curtains and see the serene
and shining day!
Nor did I pray so much today, not in the same way
as in the dark nights. I called more simply on God. God
be with me! God be with me! I tried to pray to Mary,
Queen of Heaven and on the instant knew that such an
invocation had become empty for me. On the instant I
saw that my Catholicism had dropped from me, like the
dead skin, which curls and drops from my leg each day.
I’m back where I was forty years ago, in a pure Theism.
That is what happened to me. My God is an impersonal
principle: the Light, Life, Love, and Goodness that Jesus
used to talk about. God is a spirit and my spirit was
calling to spirit and that is all it can call to. To me all the
historical fact, true or fancied of religion, is only a great
hindrance. Persons confuse me and weary me. I do not
even think of God as father. The fathers I have known
have not been very effective men. I certainly do not think
of Mary, Mother of God. For I am a mother myself, and
know the limitations of mothers. Such ideas of religion
are not adult enough for me. To what person that I know,
or know of, could I appeal? Not one. For there is not
one person in this world that I could ever feel to be, let
alone acknowledge being, my superior. I can only look to
myself, the God within, my principle.
As for Catholicism, I do not feel impelled to disown
or disavow it. The practice of the Catholic religion is a
performance, which I can perform, and will perform, as
far as I am able, for as long as Ted and I have to continue
to live together. I can go through the motions. Inside
nothing can make me believe, noting can give me that
faith. I am a natural born heretic, and nothing, nothing
not even love, policy, or war, can convince me against
my own convictions. I can conform, can bow down in the
house of Rimmion, but my inner secret self is free, and
will be free, no matter how persuasively I try to put her
Sitting there in the dark, waiting for the chance of
death, which might descend on me at any moment, I saw
all this. Sitting there waiting, wondering if I should ever
see my children again, it was a wait at the bar of death,
and I saw myself, with out any pretences, as the woman I am. It is the woman I have always been, a woman with
a practical mind, a free spirit, and a rational soul: essentially individual, and asserting my own terms, my own
woman’s terms against my world and my life, as I have to
live it. Men’s terms, men’s reason, men’s rulings, men’s
arguments, are not for me. I see what men’s works are,
and know that I could do better. No man, ancient or
modern, dead or living, is going to dictate to me; not
to my free mind, my free soul. A husband, the man’s
made world I can not shake loose from may constrain my
person and my movements but myself, inviolably myself,
and men’s religious hold no validity for me.
I have just been attending to the dustman. He tells
me they are all collecting “dust.” He was enthusiastic
about our air force, and spoke of the raid over Croydon
last night. He thought this mid days raid must have been
at Croydon as the guns sounded that far away. He also
told me, One of our chaps lost his wife last night because
of the siren. When that sounded she just dropped down
dead. Just dropped down dead. That’s what fright can
do to a woman. Ted jeers, and asks, What is there to be
afraid of? Pain and fire, anxiety for those who belong to
us and are exposed directly to danger, mutilation, suffocation, and sudden death; that’s what is to be afraid of.
It is now seven forty-five p.m. Ted has just left for
church. He says he will be late returning because he
has a meeting in the presbytery afterwards. The King
has made an announcement that he desires Sunday
September Eighth, to be observed by all as a day of prayer
President Roosevelt likewise, for the same Sunday. Why
Nations go to war because they will war. God does
not inflict war upon the world. So why ask him to stop
it? As war is waged by the collective will, it is the longest
enduring will that will win it. Having once started a war, men must fight till they beat or are beaten. To petition
Jehovah to bless the battle is to return to the mentality
of the Bronze Age. When men no longer desire war they
will cease to wage it. Why ask God to save us? We must
cease being stupid and save ourselves.
At five-fifteen p.m. we had another warning, and
the all clear did not sound until an hour afterwards.
There was more noise and more planes overhead than
at mid-day. This time I did not pray at all. Instead I felt
myself suffused with anger, that men can be such fools.
What good does a war do? Men destroying each other,
and reporting it like a sport too! It makes me wild. It is
the greatest senseless folly men ever commit. God, how I
hate all fool men! War is the worst terror and destruction
in the world. I hate it, beyond everything.
Yet there are some fools who declare it is the punishment of God for the sins of the nations. To me this is
sheer blasphemy. God does not ordain war man ordains
it. Men will have it so; and when they will not have it so,
then and only then, will it cease to occur.
Yesterday when I was clearing out an old basket of
rubbish for the garbage man I found an old New York
publication, which was most illuminating for today. The
Literary Digest put it out in nineteen twenty-two. It is an
Atlas of the New Europe and the Far East, showing the
new countries and new boundaries resulting from the
Great War and from the Treaties of Peace, with Explanatory Historical, Political and Economic articles prepared
from the most recent and authoritative sources in Europe
Studying these maps it is easy to see why Germany
finally began on her campaign of aggression and why
Russia, Hungary, Italy, follow suit. The settlement of
Europe after the Great War was hugely vindictive, and
naturally unreasonable. That settlement should have
been unsettled long ago. But no! Nothing sensible! The
have’s kept tight hold on the loot. Everything Hitler had
been asking for could have adjusted by good will, brains,
and justice. I believe that when he said he wanted peace,
he meant it. He was fobbed off and fobbed off. So he took
what he wanted in the end, and he has taken it by force,
cunning and violence. The old statesmen of Europe are
to blame for this war primarily, damn them. My God,
will men ever really live by reason and justice!
August 17, 1040 A quiet day. No warnings. I read an article in the
Times today about the indifference of the French. This
does not surprise me. I’m sure the French never really
wanted to go into this war. They hadn’t been attacked.
They were tired of war, not fully recovered from the
Great War of fourteen yet. Why should they fight for the
Poles? So too I think it was with our men in France.
Why fight for the French, or the Belgians? Now that they
have come home, they will fight for home. Any man can
see why he should defend his own land, but it is not so
easy to see why he should fight to defend the land of the
August 18, 1940 A warning at one o’clock today, which lasted an hour
and another at six o’clock, which lasted forty minutes.
Report is that the Germans have destroyed Croyden.
August 19, 1940 Yesterday’s was the worst raid of the war yet. Croyden
is practically wiped out. No major raids today. Very tired.
The strain of the raids is exhausting.
August 20, 1940 Artie came home last night. We were just going up to bed, about ten-thirty p.m. when he knocked at the door.
He has three days leave.
August 22, 1940 It is ten forty-five p.m. and I am alone in the house,
and rather nervous. Artie left at six-thirty p.m. to return
to camp. Ted left at two-thirty p.m. to take a walking
holiday with George Butcher.
We have had no raids or warnings in this district
today, but yesterday the Germans bombed Brentwood,
which is very close. Last Monday they bombed North
Weald, which perhaps is even closer. Last week they hit
in Herald Wood. Anyhow here I am alone in the house,
and have got to get through the nights somehow. The
nine o’clock news was very alarming. We were told that
today the Germans bombed our convoy in the channel,
from the coast of France. They have long-range guns along
the coast from Boulogne to Calais, and they bombed our
ships all along the way to Dover. Doer was shaken! They
also bombed the convoy from the air. What next? They
have now reached London several times. Last week they
got Wimbledon, as well as Croydon.
Anyhow, I’ve got to go to bed. I got Artie to change my
furniture around again, before he went out this morning.
I had him place my bed behind the door, and with its
head against the inner wall. That position seems a trifle
safer to me than the position it was in before. Though
actually of course no spot is safe if a bomb actually hits
you. Whole houses fall down six at a time, so what does
it signify where the bed is? Of course I know I am in no
more danger without Ted than with him. Nevertheless I
am frightened to be left alone in this house. I’ve got to
endure the loneliness and the fright. I might overcome
the situation with a strong whiskey, but I don’t dare do
that, because if I slept too soundly I shouldn’t hear a warning if it sounded. So all I can do is act valiant and
pray. So goodnight. I keep telling myself I’ve got to go
to bed, so I really had better go there. So goodnight,
goodnight! God keep me!
August 23, 1940 It is eleven p.m. Ted telephoned from Oxford about a
half hour ago. He said he was having a good time. He also
gave me Butcher’s number and asked me to ring Mrs.
Butcher and tell her where they were and that Georgie
was well and having a good time. Of course I had to say I
would but somehow or other this request made me flash
with anger. Why the devil, I thought, couldn’t Georgie
telephone his mother for himself! After all, he’s considerably over thirty years old! Maybe he wanted to save the
price of a phone call. Anyhow, I think its cheek.
I was very near to anger all day anyhow. The sirens
sounded at three-thirty a.m. this morning and I had to
come down in the dark and sit alone in the house till the
raid passed, which was four-ten a.m., much noise of guns
and machines. We heard later today that the bombs fell
in Edmonton, wrecking a cinema and a church, as well
as several houses. Again tonight we had a raid. The siren
sounded at nine-thirty but the all clear came at ten p.m.
When I told Ted of the day’s two attacks, he only asked.
Any damage done?
August 24, 1940 We have had two raids in this locality already today.
The first came at eight-thirty this morning, and lasted
till nine-twenty. The second came at eleven-twenty and
lasted till eleven forty-five. Mr. Shea was here during the
second one, fixing the radio for me. I’ve had it shifted
from the parlor to the dining room. In this house we
have no second loud speaker, so that to hear the radio whilst in the dining room it was necessary to leave both
the parlor and the dining room doors open. This is not
so bad in summertime, but as the weather cools it is not
pleasant especially as the little hall and the front door
intervene, providing plenty of draught.
Young Shea saw the raiders last night. He said they
looked to him to be over Albridge. Wherever they were
the explosions shook this town. When Ted phoned me at
ten-thirty last night my heart was still galloping from the
fright they gave me an hour before. Yesterday, too, Dover
and Folkstone were gunned from the French coast. Over
one hundred shells were delivered from Corp Gres Key.
War. Man’s game.
It is five p.m. The third raid of the day has just
finished. The siren blew at three-thirty and before I
could close the windows and pull down the shades the
bombs began falling. This has been the worst raid we
have had so far. I expected this house to be struck at any
minute. There were two terrific blasts, which sounded
as though they had got the station, or the hospital. What
a day for it to happen! A Saturday afternoon with the
town crowded with all the Saturday shoppers!
It is now six p.m. Edna Renacre has just been in to
see if I was aright. She said there were eight German
machines over Romford. Our spitfires went up to attack
and the duels could be watched from South Street.
She said she saw two machines brought down towards
Rainham and three large open ambulances full of
bodies on stretchers going towards the hospital. The last
bomb fell at Upminster, on the railroad and when she
went into Romford Station a few minutes ago to buy her
season ticket, a board was being put up, stating that all
services to Upminister and Elm Park were suspended.
South Street, Eastern Road, this Western Road, and
Carlton Road are full of scattered shrapnel.
It is ten-thirty p.m. getting sleepy but afraid to go
up to bed. The nine o’clock news said that a continuous
air-battle has been going on all over England all day.
Guns from the French coast have also been shelling
over South coast intermittently, destroying property and
causing casualties. Ramsgate has been severely damaged.
Here the gas works were set afire. The machines over
Romford were apparently part of a group of fifty, which
were making for London.
Elizabeth Coppen phoned me this evening that Clem
and her husband were at South Weald this afternoon and
ran into a terrific battle overhead. They had to get out of
their car and lay in the ditch. They had a six-month-old
baby with them!
The news said we brought down thirty-four machines
and lost ten, but one of our pilots was safe. One! This is
God damned ghastly awful. I am furious. I grow angrier
and angrier. No news from Ted today. Just as I wrote this the
phone rang. It was Ted, phoning from Reading. He says
he will be home some time tomorrow afternoon. No raids
where he was. He sounded half drunk to me but perhaps
it was only the transmission. Take care of yourself, he
said. Yes, by God, I have to!
August 25 1940 I have just been listening to the morning’s news. It
stated that eight hundred German bombers, escorted
by and equal number of fighters attacked us in the
afternoon yesterday. Three hundred, with their escorts
attacked the London area, five hundred with their
fighters, the Portsmouth area. Our group overhead
right here consisted of thirty bombers with about thirty
escorting fighters. Except saying that that forty-nine of
the bombers were brought down no other estimates of losses, either the German’s or ours was given. This is
rather ominous, I think.
Then again late last night we had another raid. It
lasted from eleven-thirty p.m. to one-thirty a.m. this
morning. This was directed to London. An incendiary
started a large fire there, in a commercial building. It
was brought under control. Nonetheless the announcer
added that for a quarter of a mile in every direction the
streets were crowded with our firemen and machines
and fire-fighting apparatus, and the whole neighborhood
closed to the public. What is one to think? This was no
little fire, confined to one commercial building, was it?
When the late siren went last night the Thomson’s
from next door came in here to sit with me. They stayed
until two o’clock in the morning. I think this was very
kind. When I saw Mrs. Thomson yesterday morning she
was very surprised to learn I had been alone the previous
night, and later in the afternoon she came to tell me,
Jack says if there is a raid tonight he is coming in to sit
with you. He was awfully shocked to hear you were alone
last night. So remember, don’t get frightened. If there’s a
warning tonight, we’re coming in to sit with you. That’s
sure. John says you shan’t be alone if he can help it.
So they came, very promptly, too. They laid the child
on the sofa, and we sat together round the fire, chatting.
I was glad, for I was sick with nervousness. John
Thomson persisted in talking, and every time the explosions shook the windows he just sat calmly ignoring the
battle, and talking, talking, telling stories, reminiscing.
He was very helpful. So different from my man, who, if
he had been here, would have been tish-tashing about,
snappy with impatience, and cursing the Germans for
disturbing his sleep. Yes, that’s how it would have been.
Now I want to go upstairs and dress. Edna said she
would come in to lunch with me today so that I shouldn’t be alone. That is kind of the girl. I have to do my leg
too. It is very bad again this morning, with inflammation
and swelling spread up the leg again from where is had
receded, and open and throbbing with pain at the ankle.
Nerves, I suppose.
I shall not write here in again today. Edna will be here
at noon, and Ted will probably arrive around teatime.
Last Sunday the Germans got Croydon. I wonder what
they will get today! Sunday is their favorite day for
destruction. So Au-revoir.
August 27, 1940 It is t,en a.m. and I am feeling very wonky. The
German’s were raiding over London for six hours last
night. Our Romford sirens blew at ten-thirty p.m. and
the all clear did not come till three-thirty this morning.
Consequently, no sleep, so very tired.
On Sunday the first raid did not come till ten-thirty
p.m., and lasted one hour. The next came as we were
settling to sleep at quarter to one, but this one only
lasted half an hour; then we had nothing till half past
three yesterday afternoon. I had only just got into the
house, returning from the doctor’s. This raid lasted till
four-fifty p.m. and was a bad one.
This week’s report from the doctor was not so good.
Inflammation and swelling has spread up my leg again,
and I have put on weight instead of losing any. I have put
on nearly two pounds since last week. Last week I had
lost four. Doctor says this is probably water gain accumulated in my leg. I think so too. On Sunday night during
the raid I was suddenly aware of water trickling down
inside my bandages. This is nerves and shock of course.
On to nerves I can add an exasperated frame of mind.
Ted is not a bit of help in an emergency, far from it. He
just talks his silly talk until I could scream. I don’t scream of course, but I feel so exasperated and annoyed
inside, it can’t possibly do any good. I just look at him
and think him one blasted fool. He is. His contentiousness and disputation's wears away on my patience.
Talk! Talk! He will talk. He is so scathing and thinks
he is so clever! I think he is merely very rude. He was
up and out to church this morning just as usual. What
good does that do, either him or God Almighty? When
he comes back he criticizes me because the fire is out.
I hadn’t touched the fire. I had noticed that the drafts
were opened, so presumed he was attending to it. He
had opened the drafts, but he said I was responsible for
the fire. I said,
I thought you were attending to the fire. Then he was off. He said, Think! Yes, you would think! And all your thoughts are wrong! That’s the trouble with you. You don’t use your
head properly. You haven’t got brains. You’ve only got
scrambled eggs in your brain box. You presume to think
what the other fellows doing, and you’re all wrong. Why
don’t you use your head properly? Use the intelligence God
gave you. He was in the little hall by this time, but he came
back into the room to add, witheringly,That is, if you’ve got any! I am not withered. I merely think he is colossally
rude, but I don’t even tell him so. What I know is, that
I got one of those sickening flashes of knowledge by
which I see how acutely I dislike this person. I think:
well, he’s tired. The raids do try him also, though he’ll
never admit to that and he has to nag, because he has a
nagging disposition, and I‘m simply the unlucky being
who happens to stand before him. So I say nothing, and
look nothing, but Oh God I’m weary!
First raid warning, nine-thirty p.m., till midnight. Then had just got into bed and settled for sleep when
the warning sounded again, twelve-thirty a.m. all-clear
one-fifteen a.m., of tomorrow the twenty-eighth.
August 29, 1940 My physical woman is cracking with fatigue, and my
inner woman is splitting with laughter. Last night the
first warning of the day sounded at nine p.m., just as the
news was beginning, and the all-clear did not come until
four o’clock this morning. This has been the longest raid
of the war so far, and it was general all over England. We
have not been told yet what damage has been done, but
should think it must be considerable. There was plenty
around here by the sound of things. There were two
near-by explosions around two o’clock when I thought
our house was shattered, and I surely thought the front
door was blown in. However, we’re intact. Moreover, Ted
never heard these bombs. He had fallen asleep on the
rug before the fire, and I had to wake him when the all
clear came. I did not sleep at all, but as the hours wore on
I began to suffer with my leg. I was in the corner rocker,
which is my usual station, but sitting up so long with
my leg in the downward position, I could feel it growing
heavier and heavier with blood and it began to swell and
ache with constriction. Finally I ventured into the parlor
and found a hassock and a cushion, and came back to
the rocker and propped my leg up like an old man with
the gout. It is not safe to lie on the sofa during a raid, as
that is right in direct line with the window, and I don’t
think there is any other possible position for it in this
room. It is a fine place for reading in peace times, but
highly dangerous in any blast.
Last night I did not pray at all. My God has got nothing
to do with this war. This war is going on because men
will have it. Why, bother God to stop something we can stop for ourselves as soon as we have the will to peace?
As for seeking for personal safety, I no longer want
to do it. In the first raids in June I was terrified and I
invoked God and the Virgin and all the saints of Heaven
to protect me. Not now. Since then I have over come that
childish primitive fear and I feel as safe with God as has
always been natural for me. I do really trust the power
of God and believe in his protection, so why bother him
with little petitions? That’s so childish. It is like a child
with the “gim-me”. My instinct is to thank, praise, and
adore my God, not to ask for favors.
As for the Virgin and the saints and angels, they’ve
all come unstuck for me. So has all theology. What in
the world is theology except men talking? Guessing
about ultimates? Well, I can talk for myself and guess
for myself; in fact, I do, and with my woman’s mind and
from my woman’s viewpoint and I simply don’t accept the
men’s’ say so. Men!
What is greatly wrong with the world is man’s wrong
thinking, so why think men’s thoughts? Well, I don’t
and I don’t tend to try anymore either. I’ll find truth
for myself thank you. Truth isn’t men’s prerogative, nor
woman’s either. I’m looking for truth, not doctrine.
This is why I am laughing. After several hours of
being in the front line, with bloody destruction apt to
annihilate us at any moment, exhausted with fatigue
when the danger ceased for the night, we finally went
upstairs to bed soon after four this morning. Then,
around five o’clock Ted took me for loving. This struck
me as so incongruous and silly I had to put compulsion
on myself not to bust into laughing. A man’s lust is ridiculous, and his sex hunger is the
greatest thing in his life, stronger than death, war, and
imminent destruction. Behind it all, the woman is so
impersonal to him. He does not love her for herself, or for her sake, but simply and purely for his own need. Oh
men! Well then, at seven he rose as per usual, and went
out to mass. I laugh and laugh. Talk about unbalanced
minds, talk about soppy romantics, talk about the self-
centered and the self-willed, the egotists, surely Ted is
one of these prize fools!