World War ll London Blitz: 1-1-41 to 1-30-41 It was another quiet night due to bad weather. This afternoon the weather is clearing, so I expect we shall have the raiders again tonight.

Purchase Diary's

January 1, 1941

It was another quiet night due to bad weather. This afternoon the weather is clearing, so I expect we shall have the raiders again tonight.

Ted is cranky. Year-end bills, I suppose. This is laundry day. Our wash goes to the laundry every two weeks, and is collected on alternate Wednesdays. After dinner today when Ted descended from the bathroom, where, of course, he had found clean towels, he asked, How long were those towels in the bathroom? (Meaning those I had taken away.)

Two weeks, I replied. But that one behind the door; that one wasn’t dirty. It’s been there two weeks anyhow. But it wasn’t dirty. I haven’t had so many baths. Why send it? Is it just your lust to spend money?

Not at all. The towel was soiled. I’ve used it, you’ve used it, it hung there a fortnight, and it was time it went to the wash.

Time has got nothing to do with it. The question is was it dirty?
Yes, it was, I said, and added no more. I thought,the cost of laundering a towel is two pence.  What a man! What a petty fellow! Why interface in such household trifles? He’s an extraordinary man, but Oh, how tiresome!

I was interrupted here by the arrival of Miss Coppen, so I have had a good chin with her and am feeling tons better. One of the greatest treats in the world is intelligent conversation.

January 2, 1941

It is very cold, and a powdering of snow and a very noisy night last night again. At dinnertime Ted brought me in a letter, addressed simply to Mrs. Edward Thompson, Romford, England, which had been taken into him in the office, to be enquired about. It was for me, from Mrs. Slocum, in Roselle. It’s made me so happy I’m walking on air. She had heard of the news about Cuthie, through her Jimmie, via one of the Leech boys. Jimmie also wrote in a few lines, and sent me a snapshot of his boy, now in the U.S. Navy, on a destroyer. This made me brim over with tears. Here is one of the children I knew before he was born, now a sailor. Incredible. I was so excited, and so happy about everything. I sat down after clearing up lunch, and wrote back to Mrs. Slocum right away. Now I’m full to the brim with memories of Bayonne. Those were good years, the Bayonne years. The best years of my life were there in Bayonne.

January 3, 1941

Today is colder. The pail of water that is kept by the front door, and ready to douse an incendiary bomb, is a solid block of ice: also the rain water tank at the back of the house. Luckily the indoor pipes are not frozen. Ted is very cranky. I expect it’s the cold.

January 4, 1941

It is even colder, and Ted even more sarcastic than usual. I’m laughing inside; he’s so silly. My ordered books did not arrive until this afternoon, and now I have only got two out of the three of them. The Anatomy of Inspiration is reported as out of print. I’m sorry. I particularly wanted that book. So what I have got, are, Ideal Weight, and Mrs. Hughes latest volume, A London Family between the Wars.

From the library I have a good American novel to read, Chad Hanna, by W.D. Edmonds. It’s true Americana, about circus life, in the days before the Civil War. It is five hundred and twenty-four pages. So I’ve plenty of good reading now for two or three days.

I’m full of dreams of America, both waking and sleeping. Mrs. Slocum’s letter plunged me right back home. Some day I’ll go back and live in Bayonne again, if Hitler doesn’t get me. Au-Revoir.

January 6, 1941

Bardia has fallen. The news was received in London late last night. Prisoners captured exceed twenty five thousand including six generals. To the Australians go the first honors, for they led the attack. The Italians are crumbling fast, making Hitler’s first broken prop. The axis is now wobbly. Hitler gave London another bombardment last night. The alert was given about six o’clock, and the all clear came just before midnight. We have not been told yet what damage they did last night.

We spent a very terrifying evening here in Romford. Edna Renacre was here to tea, and did not leave until ten-fifteen, afraid to start out. However, we think she must have got home in a fair lull, because the next big explosion did not come until eleven p.m. This house was shaken several times last night, so if it was caused by the bombs dropping in London, they must have been even worse than usual. Most of the week anyhow dynamiting has been going on in the city. The damaged buildings left standing after the fire raid of last Sunday were judged dangerous, and the Royal Engineers have been dynamiting the shells. What can be left in the city to destroy I don’t know. Hitler has vowed that he will raze London to the ground, and certainly he seems to be getting on with the job considerably. He doesn’t cow the Londoner. What he doesn’t understand is that the more he bombs and bullies and burns us the more we will resist him. Supposing he could bomb every city in Britain to rubble heaps, he still wouldn’t have beaten the British. The French surrendered Paris rather than have Paris destroyed. Maybe that’s French economy and carefulness. The English won’t surrender London. What if London is destroyed? Hitler can only destroy the bricks and stones. Like Rome and Athens, London is immortal: an immortal idea, which can never be destroyed. Once Hitler is destroyed, the form of our city can be built up again, and even fairer.

It is four-thirty p.m. and I am back from the doctor. I have lost another two pounds. This brings me down now to fourteen point nine stone. Dr Keighley told me of the damage in Romford last night, two houses down in Coms Street, a bomb behind the Westminster Bank, one in the Havana Car Park, one behind the Plaza, one in London Street; and this morning they got Brentwood Station. When I got back to the house I found Ted sitting here. He had not returned for lunch when I left, about two-fifteen. He told me there was an unexploded bomb in the office. I thought he was joking, but it’s true. I burst out laughing. So did Ted. Neither of us are the least bit sorry for old Herbert. I think we both feel that whatever misfortunes befall him he deserves them. Ted remarked, and he hasn’t even finished with the havoc from the other bomb yet!

Yes, we had a real good laugh at old Bert’s expense. Nobody, of course can get into the office. The bomb behind the Westminster bank has been safely taken away. Another alert has just sounded. They have been sounding all day today. Goodmazes has received two land mines.

I wonder what sort of a night we shall have tonight! There’s a moon, and it’s perishing cold. I suppose Hitler is furious because of the fall of Bardia, so he’s relieving his temper by giving us an extra peppering. My God! When will this hellish war end?

January 19, 1941

I’ve got the blues, most confoundedly. For two pins I could lie down and weep. I’m so homesick for America I could lie down and die. A week ago Artie was here. He came home on the tenth, his birthday, and returned to camp last Sunday night. He had forty-eight hours leave. He expects to get another seven days in February, as his battalion is going east in March. Whether he goes or not, he does not know. His commission still hangs fire, though he has been definitely told he has been passed for a commission.

Last Sunday night London received another bad bombing. One high explosive went down the escalator shaft at the Bank Station. All the people on it killed, of course, and all the people in the station. To make horrors worse, a train was just coming into the station, and the force of the blast blew all the people on the platform on to the lines, so they were killed by electricity, and then run over. They were unrecognizable. As for the debris, it isn’t all cleared away yet, and there are still many bodies not dug out yet. It is impossible to count the dead. The night shelter people were there, as well as travelers, the number must be many hundreds, perhaps a thousand. This is modern war, damnable hellish war.

Throughout this week the bombing has slowed down considerably, but this is because of the weather. We are having a real winter spell of weather. Yesterday we had a snowfall of eighteen inches, but it is thawing today, fast. This means, I suppose, that the Germans will be over again tonight. What will they do tonight?

Ted has had a cold all week, a very severe one. Oh my! Has he been cranky! Gosh! I’m so weary of him, and his awful tongue. His talking drives me crazy. I keep quiet and smile, but someday I’m afraid I’ll break, and start screaming. He talks such damned rot. He’s so sneering. I loathe his talk, and I long to get away from him. How? Where to? He is out now for the afternoon. He has an audit, for the Knights of Columbus. This morning when he was gassing on about the shortcomings of Protestantism, all at once I thought to myself, I must start sewing again. I must get a large piece of work in hand, so that I can have something to distract myself with when I have to listen to him. So I will. Tomorrow I will provide myself with some embroidery work, and I will fill in time with that when he is around. When Ted is around I never really live, I only exist. When he is in the house I can’t read or write, play or sing, I can’t even think, for all the time he is nattering and nattering, and I have to concentrate on keeping my temper and my patience. Now I’m going to listen to a radio play, so Au-Revoir.

January 21, 1941

The rain stopped at noon yesterday, so I went into the doctor’s after all. I took a check for her bill for October, November, and December: eleven visits: charge four pounds, I had to query this, for this works out at a charge of eight/six pence per visit, this absolutely is excessive. I left the check with her, but she promised to go through the items of the account herself, and will let me know if there is any rebate. I don’t suppose for a moment that there will be, but, in any case, I shall discontinue my visits to her. After all, I can get weighed on any machine for a penny and as for dieting that depends on my own will power, not her tablets. Anyhow, I am quite well now. My leg is healed, and has been back in plaster since early November. Her bill came in early last week, and that of course made Ted cross. He simply hates to pay out any monies for me.

Last week was a hard one. Ted felt ill with his cold, and tried by the weather, and his conversation was very cutting and hurtful all the time. His underlying hatred of me was expressed quite often. May be it is a good thing for me he is such a devout Catholic. Perhaps it is only because of his religion that he endures me and supports me. I don’t know. I only know that for both of us our marriage is weariness and we should be happier apart.

It is ten thirty-seven a.m. and the first alert of the day is sounding. The Germans are now promising to commence their final knock out assault on us by February First.

Last night at six o’clock we listened to the broadcast from America of the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt for his third presidential term. The reception was perfect. The voices were wonderfully clear. I wept. There was something indescribably moving in hearing him taking the oath. His address was good, too. The prayers were deeply impressive: the invocation, the benediction, I couldn’t help weeping, but they were happy tears.

(Guns, guns, this is an attack on Romford.)

The conversion of my life was to America and Americanism. As a sincere Christian hopes and longs for heaven, so do I hope and long to return to America. I shall never be content in this life until I live once again in America. I must put this away. It’s a bad raid. I can’t write. Au-Revoir.

January 24, 1941

It is cloudy, on the verge of rain. I have had Ted at home as an invalid for two days. When he returned from his collecting rounds on Tuesday he asked me to call in the doctor. He said he had had a bad fall with his bicycle and thought he had better be examined. No broken bones, but severe bruising and straining of the muscles of the right thigh. Doctor ordered poulticing with kaolin, and said she would come in on Thursday to strap it up. Meanwhile, he was to keep still and rest. This rest really did him good. He has had a shocking cold, so it was good for him to stay in the house, apart from his pain. Dr. Keighley came in yesterday in the late afternoon, and strapped his leg well with adhesive tape, and so this morning he has dressed, and gone to the office as per usual.

When she came in on Tuesday she brought me a corrected bill. She had reduced it by ten pence. Ted altered his check, and I gave it to her yesterday. She says she thinks it would be a mistake for me to stop treatments. I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll continue for another month. Anyhow I will go to the surgery once again, and then see what.

This afternoon I am going to the hairdressers. I made an appointment on Wednesday, when I went over to Carlton Parade to get Ted some tobacco. I think I am going to have my hair cut short again. Anyhow, I am going to have it waved. I suppose I shan’t really make up my mind about cutting until I get into the chair. I know I am damn tired of pins and the bun, but do I really want short hair again? I’m damned if I know. Tobruk has fallen on Wednesday. That was two days ago. Our bombardment was terrible. As I listened to the news, I wept. Men are blowing each other to pieces. Isn’t it awful! War! Man’s occupation! Crazy men.

When will the war end? Hitler has now promised to invade us by February First. Well, we shall see. The sooner he tries the better, I think. We had news this morning, via the Netherlands, reported that the German Parachute troops waiting there to invade us, are in a state of growing panic. They are said to be mainly boys of seventeen, and they are wondering what will happen to them in England; as also the infantry, waiting to embark, are wondering what will happen to them in the Channel. Boys of seventeen! Isn’t it wicked? It is all to be destroyed to satisfy one man’s lust for power. What about their mothers? Can German mothers think parachuting a glorious career for their boys? My God! Will the world ever be sane again?

It is six p.m. and I had my hair cut after all. Lillian Young also gave the hair a thorough thinning, then waved and set it; so instead of a bun I return to a curled roll in the neck. I’m glad. I was tired of hairpins. Moreover, I prefer to look up to date. Why look like an antique, even if one is one?

The job has set me back twenty-five pence but I don’t care. Beauty parlors prove worth their cost, I think, in the sense of innate satisfaction they can confer on women who patronize them. They do improve our appearance, so they are worth their price.

January 25, 1941

Ted has just gone out on his Saturday’s rounds. Last night he gave me an awful shock. At ten o’clock, apropos of nothing at all, he suddenly told me he had joined up with the Home Guard. I was dumbfounded, and then I began to cry. What a God Almighty fool he is! The war has got Cuthie and Artie, and now he has to walk into it. He is sixty-three years old, and an old crock. He knows nothing of soldiering, and actually is a downright timid man. He joins the Home Guard. I say, God damn him and blast him for an infernal fool.
Yes, I know there is a Home Guard, and the age limit is sixty-five. The Home Guard is made up of the old soldiers, the men who fought in the last war, and know something about soldiering. By no means have all the old soldiers joined up. Elderly men mostly know better.
I know what the trouble with Ted is: he is suffering from a fit of the heroics. It is his damned idealism again. His damned crusader’s spirit. He’s going to save Romford now, I suppose. God blast him. Ted is a neurotic romantic emotionalist. He is an utter fool.
He wants to go to war. I know him. I remember what he said when he wanted to get into the last war. He said: I missed the Boer War.

I remembered last night the agony of those war years in Bayonne, when he was crazy to join up and how he tried to and how our men friends came in a body to remonstrate with him about doing so. He was a man then with five young children and he was ready to walk out and leave me with them. I missed the Boer War, he said. Heroics, War hysteria. War propaganda. Romance. Let’s play soldiers.

Again, here is Ted doing exactly what he wants to do, regardless of anybody else’s wish or welfare. I do not enter into his considerations at all. I shall be left alone in this house nights, while the bombs fall or the house burns, whilst he will be guarding the Town Hall. Oh, God Damn him! Did he trouble to consult me about taking the step? Did he talk it over with me, or trouble to find out what I could do? Of course he didn’t. I don’t matter in the slightest.

I’ve cried myself sick, but there isn’t anything I can do about it. I must protect myself, that’s what I know. In every way, physically and mentally. Only last Wednesday I thought: I must protect my mind. When we wakened on Wednesday, we heard of the fall of Tobruk, and most grisly accounts were given of the bombarding and fighting, and right afterwards the, Lift up your hearts, part of the B.B.C. gave a little spiel about Epiphany, and the gifts of the Wise men dilating on the gift of myrrh, which represented suffering, he said. He went on to harangue how we all must suffer, and must accept suffering with joyfulness. My mind rebelled at such doctrine. I am against resignation. I resist. It seems to me that nine-tenths of the suffering in the world is not only useless, it is unnecessary, and could be avoided. Take the war, men killing each other, don’t they bring it on themselves? Burning, killing, destruction, none of it need be. Then why should I accept it? No, I don’t. Men create suffering and I hate men: men’s philosophy, men’s politics, and men’s world. I listen to men’s propaganda pouring out on the radio, and I loathe it. I say to myself, as I did Wednesday, No, you can’t have my mind. I don’t think your thoughts, and I won’t allow you to insinuate them into my mind.

My mind is my own, and before God I’ll keep it my own. I loathe the war, all wars, but I didn’t bring it on, and I won’t be brought into it for one tithe that I can evade. The war is madness, but I won’t be mad. Now Ted has gone and joined the Home Guard. What a fool! What a blasted fool!

January 26, 1941

Rita Pullan and Edna Renacre were here to tea. Rita brought some socks and mittens she had knitted for Cuthie, and a helmet Mrs. Pullan had knitted for him. She also brought six slats of chocolate. We have received another label from the Red Cross, and may now send off another parcel.

January 27, 1941

Ted is growing more and more peculiar, in funny little ways. For instance, this morning’s mail brought a letter from Artie with a ten pence postal order enclosed, for me to save for him. He frequently sends postal orders like this and then I pass them to Ted to change. So this morning he took it, and opened his wallet to give me a note in exchange. He turns sideways from me and opens his wallet under the table! He is hiding it from me! He doesn’t want me to see what money he has. It was such a childish gesture. It’s a frequent one too. He doesn’t want me to know anything about him. It’s typical of his secretiveness; also, I think of the deceitfulness of Catholics. Of course I don’t remark on these gestures, but it is impossible to miss noticing them.

The next thing that happened was foolishness about Cuthie’s parcel. I made it up this morning, weighing everything, filling in all the particulars asked for on the forms provided, and tying it up and addressing it ready for the post. At noon Ted declined to take it to the post office. He didn’t know that it was all right; he said that he would have to examine it. This is really insulting to me, for why must he assume that I’m incompetent to prepare the parcel properly? Does he think I am a three year old? I notice more and more lately he treats me as though I am an ignorant child whom he must oversee and instruct. I think he’s got softening of the brain.

January 28, 1941

There are frequent alerts today. The German’s have been very quiet over London for a week. We have had seven consecutive nights without a raid, and five days without one. Today is rainy and cloudy, good for tip and run raids.

I’ve been in a state of anger and grief since yesterday, but am coming back to serenity now, thank God. I asked Ted last night whether he had actually joined the Home Guard, or whether he was only thinking about it. He replied he had put in a written application to join. I asked him, had he stopped to consider me in the matter, and what was I to do whilst he was out defending the town hall, etc. He replied, oh yes, but I could take care of myself. I said I couldn’t stand it to be here alone during night raids. He said, I would have to stand it, moreover, I would have to stand it this very coming Saturday night, as he was down to be on guard at the office all night.

Then I flew off the handle. Every man of sixty is exempt from all fire watching. Why does he go to guard the office? Let old Bert pay fire watchers, as other firms do. I think it’s an outrage that I should be left here alone nights. It’s terrifying. I haven’t forgotten yet how Ted went off in August and left me alone in the raids, and that was for his mere pleasuring. Day raids are frightening enough, but to be alone in a night raid nearly kills you with fright.

This whole business again is settled without regard to me. Ted does, as he likes. He makes his plans, and then announces them to me when he is ready to put them into action. I say this is not the way to treat a wife. I say, If Ted voluntarily goes off and leaves me alone in the nights, to endure whatever bombing comes, and I will never forgive him. I never will. It is clear I am of no consequence to him. His dreams are far more important. My hero! He has written to Ellen Margaret: I am quite looking forward to being in khaki soon. This will be the last war I shall have a chance of being in, as I was born in the seventies! See the romantic fool! My God! How I hate him!

Well, we quarreled and quarreled last night. All the time he was busy reading, The Interior Life, a lengthy book by James Tissot. It’s funny, really, but my, how maddening! Ted and his religion, Oh what a curse it is! He said I was never willing for him to do an unselfish act, and back he went and took up the old sore subject of the Catholic Evidence Guild.

You see, he thinks it’s unselfish to join the Home Guard, or to preach on the street corners. I can’t see things that way. I think those actions is sheer exhibitionism: and I think his first duty is to me and not to strangers. The fact is he is tired of me. No wonder. I am tired of him. This marriage lasts too long, oh my God, What weariness it is! It need not have become so. If only Ted could have been a normal man, instead of trying to turn himself into a saint, and then finding me distasteful because I’m not saintly. If he could only forget the urgency of seeking the truth, and then the compulsion to teach it to others. A prig, a bigot, Oh, what a trial such a man is!

I cried last night. It just seems to me cruel that he should manage to go away nights and leave me alone in the blitz, and above all, not to tell me a word about his plans until he has made them. Other women have their families around them. I have nobody.

Then he tried to tell me what a good time I have. Yes, actually. He compares my life with the very poor, the cottagers, the workingwomen, the illiterate cockney women, and I resent this. I resent this like hell. I did not come from the working classes, and I refuse to descend to them. My people weren’t born in Whitechapel. If I had known Ted’s people were Whitechapel, it’s a certain sure thing I never should have married him. Ted’s ideal woman is the laborer-working wife. All right, but I’m not she, nor never will be. In the beginning Ted liked me for what I was; now he hates me for it.

Nevertheless the kind of woman I am, I am. After all, I am the one who is cheated. He appeared to be one sort of man. I thought he was an educated gentleman, but in reality he was nothing but a smart guttersnipe, and in his maturity he has settled into the primitive Methodist sort of person his poor parents were. It’s all hateful. I could stand his people if only he could be jolly. I am so sick of his seriousness, his religiousness. I want to laugh, I want to play, and I want to take life easy. I don’t care what people believe or what the state of their morals is. I’m sick of hearing about ethics and words and beliefs. I’m sick of talk altogether. Look at all the infernal talk now going on about the war. If there weren’t so much talk the war would fizzle out, for lack of exhortations. Talk! Oh, How I hate talk!

Now the guns are talking, very near. There must be raiders in the vicinity. Guess I’ll get into my corner. Au-Revoir.

January 30, 1941

I want to record a dream before it fades. Last night we suffered very bad raids again. They began before dark and continued the whole evening, though the all clear came just before midnight. We had no raids for ten nights, so when they began again after the lull, they seemed worse then ever. I was made sick with fright. In the middle of the night I awakened from a most beautiful dream. I was dreaming of Jesus. He was walking into the house, very casually, like any caller and he said to me, several times, You must believe. You must believe. Everything was bathed in peace, a total assuagement. It was beautiful.

This morning the raids have begun again. There was very heavy gunfire, very near, at nine-thirty. My Lily did not arrive until ten-fifteen; she had been ordered by the warden to take shelter, and had to go into a house she was passing until the all-clear signal was given.

January Thirtieth, is supposed to be an auspicious day for Hitler, according to his own reckonings. So possibly he will intensify his raids today. 

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