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.
Recently I started re-reading the World War ll journals and felt that they were such an important part of a history that will soon be forgotten if not published and shared with the world. These diary excerpts are not the entirety of what is published in print and kindle.
Ruby grew up during a time when education was just beginning to be encouraged for both upper and middle class women. During the late 1890's Ruby explored many radical political ideas of London, England. She met many famous people including the writers George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats.
5.0 out of 5 stars A choice pick, not to be overlooked, November 6, 2011 By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
It is ten 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 ‘til three thirty this morning. Consequently, no sleep, so very tired. On Sunday the first raid did not come ‘til 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 ‘til half past three yesterday afternoon. I had only just got into the house, returning from the doctor’s. This raid lasted ‘til 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 disputatiousness 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 fellow’s 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. ‘til 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 nearby 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 overcome 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’ssay 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 women’s either, and 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!
September 1, 1940
Ted had just gone out to mass, and I am waiting for the kettle to boil so that I can get a cup of tea. Yesterday I lived through what has been the most terrifying day of my life. Today may be even worse. We were raided six times yesterday, starting at half past eight in the morning, with the last raid at eleven thirty until midnight. Then at twelve fifty-five this morning they came again, and the all clear was not sounded ‘til three fifty-five this morning. So already we have had the first raid of today. The whole week has been full of raids, with an average of four a day, but yesterday surpassed all, in number and in intensity. Ted got no meals yesterday. The first warning went as he was ready for breakfast. He did not return to the house, as we had a second alarm at ten forty. He came in looking for lunch at twelve fifty and at twelve fifty-fivethe siren went again, and off he had to dash to his shelter. When we were starting to eat just after five thirty p.m. the sirens went again! Then we were raided at seven fifty p.m. and again after eleven fifty p.m.
The raids at one p.m. and five thirty are the worst Romford has yet experienced. At midday fifteen bombs were dropped in the very center of town. The first one fell in Victoria Road, only missing the railway bridge by a half block. Then in a straight line across all those little roads towards Hornchurch and the Romeo, fourteen others were dropped, demolishing shops and houses and killing many people. Rumor gave the estimate dead as fifty, but we do not know the actual number yet. Perhaps it was more. I sat alone here in the most awful terror I have ever known. The noise was devilish; the house shook so much I expected it to fall upon me, and the suction in this air is indescribable. Machines were dwelling right over the house, and each bomb as it fell sounded as though it might be in the back garden.
It lasted for an hour and I thought every moment was my last. I prayed as I never prayed in my life before. Not calmly, thinking about what I was saying, but wildly, incessantly, petitioning like any frantic child, God be with me! Jesus save me! Mary save me! Joseph save me! God be with me! God be with me!
Well, he was. I am still alive. In that hour, terror I had no mind, no intellect. I simply called on God and all the saints I knew, the angels and the whole hierarchy of Heaven to save me. I wasn’t a mind or a person, considering, deliberating. I was a frightened human atom, calling on my Gods. The greater the terror and helplessness the stronger flared my faith. In that awful hour I believed The Faith as I have never believed it before, even when I thought I did. Today I still believe. I must. Reason has got nothing to do with it. Belief is instinct. Perhaps it was yesterday that was the day of my real conversion.
Now I am going to dress ready for the day. I expect it will be a bad day. It is this Sunday a year ago that the war started. Anyhow the Germans would rather war on a Sunday than any other day of the week. Last Sunday, Artie wrote us, there was no church parade for the army. Our men stand ready every instant for the defense. With God, they will save England. How many young men must die today? Oh, God help us! September 4, 1940
First raid today, nine twenty a.m. to nine forty-five a.m. Gladys arrived unexpectedly about eleven o’clock. She has gone very thin. She has lost over three stone since June. We had a warning whilst over lunch. It lasted from one twenty p.m. to one forty-five p.m. Gladys left about five, as she wanted to get back to Hammersmith before the evening raids began. She has put Aunty Daisy into a nursing home for two weeks whilst she has a holiday. She plans to return to Plymouth next Monday.
Our other raids today: nine p.m. until ten fifty p.m. 11:15 p.m. until midnight.
September 5, 1940
The raids are increasing, lasting longer, and much more violent. Today’s list is twelve thirty a.m. ‘tip three am, calling us from bed. 10:50 a.m. until eleven a.m.; three ten pm to four forty p.m.; nine ten pm until five a.m.
September 6, 1940
Raids worse and worse. After spending the night downstairs, we finally went up to bed at five a.m. when the all clear sounded. At five twenty in the morning the alarm came again, so we went downstairs at once. The raid lasted until six a.m. Then more raids followed throughout the day. When the all clear came at eleven twenty p.m. we went up to bed, but before we could settle to sleep the warning came again at eleven forty-five. It cleared at one instead of five, so we were able to get a little sleep. We did not wake until seven twenty, still downstairs, but Ted dressed in five minutes, and rushed off to seven thirty mass anyhow. Such enthusiasm! I believe. I have faith. I certainly haven’t got that urgent need to go to church. I can pray at home.
This morning finds us smiling anyhow. I think Ted is one of the funniest men in the world. Last night when we went up to bed at eleven thirty he wanted to love. I couldn’t. The siren went and I went cold. Ted was surprised! “You don’t mean to say you lose feeling! Oh, don’t let that happen. Don’t let Hitler kill your pleasure for you. You don’t mean to say he can? You’re frightened? You don’t want to be loved? You want to get downstairs? Oh, Lady, what a shame! Oh, curse Hitler! Damn him!”
Funny, isn’t it? This morning he rushed to mass. Yes, the Thompson men do what they want to do all right. I was reading an article in the Times Literary Supplement today, on Wilfred Blunt. The writer commented: “he [Blunt] could never accept that it was an abiding law that nothing is constant but change, nothing sure but love and death.” I thought to myself: What love? Love to man means coition, and nothing else; and he will have it, even though the bombs are raining from the heavens. Oh, men are funny. It is a good job women can laugh at them.
September 7, 1940
First raid, very violent indeed:five fifty p.m. ‘til six forty pm. There was death again dropping on the crowds of Saturday shoppers. Second raid, started at eight thirty-five p.m., continued without ceasing until five in the morning of Sunday.
September 8, 1940
Last night’s raid on London was the worst yet. Ted and I cowered here in this little dining room. Ted pulled the couch into the corner, so I could keep my legs up. They get so bad when I sit, holding them down for hours. He rolled himself into a blanket, and lay on a cushion spread on the floor. Several times I thought we were surely destroyed. I prayed and prayed, and here we are still alive, and a roof still over us. The radio announcer told us that the raiders had concentrated on London, especially the East End and the riverbanks. Our R.A.F. brought down ninety-nine German machines, but our civilian casualties are grave, over four hundred killed, and between one hundred and fourteen hundred severely injured. One bomb fell into a shelter holding one thousand people! Several bad fires have started. This has been the worst raid of the war so far, and London has suffered tremendously. Oh God help us!
Our first raid today did not come ‘til twelve thirty in the afternoon and was comparatively short, ceasing at one twenty-five p.m.; our next, and last, still proceeding, began of Monday the ninthat eight five p.m., nearly an hour earlier than their usual evening start. Raid ended at five thirty-five a.m.
It was another night of terror. Ted rolls up on the floor and can even fall asleep. I lie on the sofa and tremble from top to toe. The situation is completely frightful, and we are only on the fringe of it. What the actual hell further into London must be, God knows.
It is eleven fifteen a.m. now, Monday the ninth, no figures yet available. No raids so far today. The sky is clouding at last! If only the rain would fall, that would be a blessing. Most awful fires are raging in the city; I don’t know how man can cope with them. Oh God, send us rain! I don’t know what has happened in Hammersmith. According to the radio, most of the damage has been further into the center of the city, and at the docks.
September 9, 1940
First raid five ten p.m. ‘til six twenty-five p.m., second raid eight forty p.m., lasting ‘til five fifty a.m. of Tuesday the tenth. This is the worst raid yet. City badly hit.
September 10, 1940
We had five more raids lasting from midafternoon until five in the morning. These night raids are worse and worse. They are concentrated on London, and doing great damage, and killing many civilians. Everything is Hell.