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 till 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 five the 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 mid day 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.
Well, he was. I am still alive. In that hours 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 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!
A year today since the war started. Five raids yesterday. Three today.
September 5, 1940
The raids are increasing, lasting longer, and much more violent. Today’s list is: twelve-thirty a.m. till three am. Calling us from bed. Ten-fifty a.m. until eleven am three-ten pm till four-forty p.m. nine-ten pm till five am, tomorrow Friday, the sixth.
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 through out 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!
September 7, 1940
First raid, very violent indeed: five-fifty p.m. till 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 nights raid on London was the worst yet. Last night was terrible. 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, and he rolled himself into a blanket, and lay on 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!
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.
September 9, 1940
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 Hammer- smith. According to the radio most of the damage has been further into the center of the city, and at the docks.
September 10, 1940
First raid five-ten p.m. till six twenty-five p.m. second raid eight-forty p.m., lasting till five-fifty a.m. of Tuesday the tenth. This is the worst raid yet. City badly hit.
We had five more raids lasting from mid afternoon 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. We had raids lasting on and off from mid morning until the following day.
Three-twenty p.m. No raid so far today. Yesterday’s afternoon raid on London was the heaviest yet, but we brought down eighty-nine German Machines, to our own loss of only twenty-seven.
Last night’s raid was a little less successful than the other night raids for the Germans, because we had brought heavier anti-aircraft guns into action, and their bombers could not get through so well as the other nights. There was just as much damage done in Aldgate East London. Yesterday afternoon they got Buckingham Palace! This week London has suffered tremendously. Huge fires at the docks, Eastham, Bow, Poplar, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Bishops gate, several London hospitals, churches and museums, railway stations, schools, workhouses, shops, factories, devastation seems to be endless, St. Paul’s churchyard, Cheapside, The Bank, Regent Street. No rain.
Today a strong wind is blowing, but the moon won’t be at the equinox until the twenty-first, and twenty-second. The Briton and Londoner are not terrorized. He is simply coldly angry, and more determined than ever to lick Hitler and his Nazi’s. The devil himself can’t
frighten an Englishman.
I am frightened. Many bombs have fallen here in Romford and nearby, houses are stuck into heaps, and people killed. I lie in the corner and pray. That’s all I can do. Last night the gunfire was simply terrific. The din itself scares you. We were told this morning that it was our heavier guns in action, and that they were effective in checking the German onslaught.
September 13, 1940
Our last night warning was sounded at nine-ten p.m. and the all clear did not come until five-fifty a.m. this morning. The rest of this days raids: seven-forty a.m. to eight thirty-five a.m. nine-fifty a.m. to two p.m. This was a terrific bombardment of London. Amongst the targets hit was Buckingham Palace. Four p.m. to four-twenty p.m.
Our last warning yesterday sounded at nine p.m. The all clear was not given until five fifty-five a.m. this morning. Seven more raids today.
September 15, 1940
I had an hour of inexplicable exquisite happiness this morning. First of all I had a good sleep in bed, the first for a long time. When the all clear came at three-thirty this morning I decided to go up to bed, and hope for two undisturbed hours, in coolness and comfort. I slept along until seven o’clock, when Ted came up and began to dress for church. He goes to church every morning, raids or no raids. Then after breakfast I had time to get a good bath and dress in all fresh clothes, such a treat! Then the day was wonderful, bright and sharp and clear, one of those astringent autumnal days which I have always loved. I put on a dress I had never worn before, a dark blue crepe I bought at Pontings last year.
When I came downstairs, about quarter to eleven, I was feeling fine. I felt well and lithe and beautiful. I felt grand, Ted was out in the garden, and the dining room was full of sunshine. I turned on the radio and a most enticing dance was playing. I felt so fine, so happy, so well, I began to dance. All alone by myself in the little room I danced and danced. I danced every dance the band gave out. I was happy. Happy. Then, ten minutes after the band finished, came the first siren of the day eleven fifty-five a.m. It lasted for an hour, and when the all clear came I was back to my normal sobriety. Four raids today.
A day of incessant raids: six raids.
September 17, 1940
The second warning of the day sounded just now at nine-ten a.m. The first lasted from eight to eight forty- five a.m. Last night was one of the very worst yet. When the all clear came just before three o’clock, we decided to go up to bed. We thought the Germans were through for the night. Not a bit of it! Just before four the sirens sounded again, and the onslaught, lasting until five thirty-five a.m. was even heavier than in the first part of the night.
The main attack, of course, was on London, but what damage was done we have not been told yet. When Ted came in from mass, at eight this morning, he told me that one bomb hit the presbytery last night, but bounced off the roof again without doing much damage. The Germans deliberately pick out churches and hospitals for targets. They have hit Westminster Abbey, and nearly destroyed St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, with the latter we were lucky. A bomb weighing a ton buried itself in Dean’s Yard, by Amen Corner, but did not go off. At awful risk our demolition squad was able to dig it out and rush it to Hackney Marshes, and it exploded there. Had it exploded when it fell, the whole Cathedral would have been brought to the ground.
Buckingham Palace has been bombed three times. Hits have been made on the Law Courts, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, and St. Thomas’s Hospital. Cheapside is practically laid flat. Regent Street has suffered badly, and Victoria Station, and Clapham Junction are practically wiped out. Nearly every London hospital has been bombed, and many churches. Some are quite demolished. Many city shelters, built to shelter hundreds of people, have been hit.
Maybe. Who really knows what the truth is? All we really know is what we actually see and suffer for ourselves.
As far as can be conjectured this sort of war can go and is going on indefinitely. God help us all, it’s simply hell on earth. Today is cloudy and windy. The equinox is near. Clouds are worse for us than clear skies, for the Germans can hid behind the clouds and bomb us before we know they are over us.
Oh my God, what a world! Now the clock has struck ten and everything is quiet outside, thought the all clear has not been given yet. Oh, here it comes, ten o’clock. Well, now I must bathe and get dressed before the next warning sounds. I have to cook this morning too. Au-Revoir. Three more raids today.
September 18, 1940
Eight raids today. Eight warnings. This is the worse day yet. Last night was terrible. London is the main objective. Here in Romford Victoria Road was hit for the second time: three stores and four houses demolished there. On Eastern Road the Inland Revenue Offices were destroyed and on South Street, Jays, the furniture shop. Again, the Germans must have been trying for the Railway Bridge and station, as all these places lay near it.
Mrs. Branney came in this morning, between raids and Mrs. Jude came into lunch. Mrs. Jude had a tale that invasion has been tried. She says her window cleaner man, who came from Frinton yesterday, told her that at Frinton hundreds of dead Germans are being washed up on the shore. Maybe.
Three-Thirty p.m. Only one raid so far today After a very long night raid, lasting from eight o’clock last night until half past five this morning, all has been quiet except for one short warning lasting from eight fifty-five a.m. until nine-ten a.m. The night was awful. There is indiscriminate bombing against London. The B.B.C. said the casualties were again very heavy, in central London over ninety known to be killed, and more than three hundred severely wounded. Oxford Street, Berwick Street, Berkley Square, Piccadilly, Grosvenor Square, Marble Arch, got it last night. This is just plain murder.
When Ted came into lunch he told me he had had a mother and daughter in the office this morning, looking for a flat, and they told him they had been bombed three times! First in Poplar, where their house was demolished; then in Walthamstow, where they had gone for refuge, and again in a church, St. James the Great, where they had been transferred for safety.
One night last week over three hundred men, women, and children were destroyed in a school, to which they had been taken “for safety” after their homes had been destroyed. There is no safety in London anywhere. Hell! Hell! Goddamn Hitler.
I am most awfully tired, and getting very cranky. Nerves, of course. Last night Ted gave me a whiskey, but it didn’t help me to sleep anyway. Ted rolls up on the floor and goes sound off, but I lay on the sofa and quake. Sometimes I can doze off, in a lull, but directly the guns begin again I awake immediately. The barrage is very heavy, but the planes fly over steadily just the same. In
Anyhow, my thoughts are straying again to Mrs. Eddy, and her Christian Science. It is because I hate the works and words of men so much. I listen to the treacle that comes over the air: men talking. I listen to Ted and his damn foolish chatter and I know I hate the minds and talk of men. I hate men. I look at this world, which men have made, and I listen to their explanation and their exhortations, and I despise the idiots. Then they explain the almighty, and the mind and intentions of God! I think them presumptuous silly fools, and I think their religion worthless. No: give me a woman’s religion: give me a woman’s reason. No woman can be such a damn fool as a damn fool man.
Why must God be masculine? Oh, Christian theologies all seem to me so childish. I listen to Ted, so naïve, but thinking he’s so full of wisdom! I simply lump him for what he was in his beginnings, a Primitive Methodist. Well, that’s all right for that type of mind, but it’s not my type of mind, and I simply can’t stomach it.
I notice that Ted never expects intelligence in his listeners, never expects even an ordinary standard of education As for culture; all his assumptions are that it is non-existent.
As water seeks its own level, so do people. We are happiest when we all with our own kind, the sort of people we sprung from. So with Ted, he came from the poor and the uneducated, the chapelgoer’s, and unconsciously he assumes that all people in the world are only those sorts of people. I find this dreary and boring.
Here is something, which interests me. It is a letter, which was printed, in last Saturdays “Times.” I transcribe:
To the Editor of the Times
Sir, in my great misery I came across the following by Sir Walter Raleigh, written in fifteen-ninety-six.
Hope in it may comfort other as it has me, I send it to you:
I believe that sorrows are dangerous companions, converting bad into evil, and evil to worse and do us no other service than multiply harms. They are the treasures of weak hearts and the foolish, the mind that entertained them is as the earth and dust whereon sorrows and adversities of the world do, as the beasts of the field, tread, trample and defile. The mind of man is that part of God, which is in us, which by how much it is subject to passion by so much it is further from Him that, gave it to us. Sorrows draw not the dead to life but the living to death.
I am, Sir, The father of a missing pilot. St. James’s Street. S.W.I.
Yes. The mind of man is that part of God which is in us. My mind is that part of God which is in me and my mind is all I have in this world to help me. Reason, Conscience, and Love, which Voysey used to preach about.
Without my mind I am not. I cannot put my mind in blinkers. I cannot bamboozle my mind. I believe, as I must, not as I’m told. I can not do otherwise. As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is. Ted is one sort of a man, and I’m another. I’m not masculine at all. I’m woman. I feel as a woman, and I think as a woman, no matter what the pundits lay down. I accept no man’s values, no man’s rulings, and no man’s authorities.
Oh well, I cannot stop to sort this out now, but it is like the bouquet Mrs. Eddy made up. I don’t care if she was a plagiarist. In fact, I don’t care what sort of woman she was. She did get a hold of a great idea, and she did get it over to the world, especially to the world of women, who needed and still need, a woman to speak the mind of woman.
Men have spoken for us too long. We will speak for ourselves now. At least I’m jolly sure I will. There is no man living who can speak for me. No man can tell me anything contrary to my own mind and have me accept it. As for accepting the man! Oh, I groan.
September 20, 1940
Eleven Thirty a.m. air raid is on. The first warning of the day, sounded at eleven-ten. The weather is colder, cloudy, and blustery. The airplanes are passing and circling overhead, but I’ve heard no guns or bombs yet. Probably the main attack is again on the city. Last night was a most awful night. The warning was given at eight p.m. and our guns went into action immediately. The all clear did not sound until five-fifty am this morning. The B.B.C announced at eight that the damage on London had not been so severe as in some previous nights, most of the bombs falling on the outskirts of the city, in the East, Southeast, and Essex. Right here in Romford it was one of the most terrifying nights of the war. Bombs seemed to be falling all around us. I have not heard yet what damage was done, as nobody has been in yet. I was most horribly frightened, and fell back again into my praying. This is instinctive and primitive. There is nothing else one can do but call upon Go. Reason simply has nothing to do in such a situation of terror and helplessness.
Later in the evening Thomson from next door came in. He wanted to telephone to Mrs. Thomson, in Cullompton. He told us Plessis had been bombed on the previous night. They employ seven thousand people. Luckily no one had been killed. He also told us of different experiences of various people in the firm who live in the East End. Walthamstow has been particularly badly hit. In one rescue school, three hundred and ninety three people had been killed in one raid. He said, that on Wednesday night, when the raids began again, the women of Walthamstow began screaming. The A.R.P. wardens had to remove them forcibly, and their screaming was awful.
Of course it would be. The damned lying papers, and news reporters, and B.B.C. announcers, will insist that the people are standing up to the raids with fortitude. Grim and gay, says Churchill. I don’t believe it. No woman can be gay about war. Women loathe war, and all war-makers. Women recognize the common sense of Jesus, who said, Go and be reconciled with your adversary quickly, whilst you are yet in the way, and before he delivers you to the judge and you will be fined to your last penny.
September 21, 1940
We had only one other daytime raid yesterday. It lasted from seven-fifty p.m. until eleven fifty-five p.m. So, when the all clear came we went upstairs to bed. However, the warning came again at one twenty a.m. this morning, and lasted until half past five. This was an awful period, and I thought every minute we should be stuck. There was one most awful explosion, which nearly frightened me to death.
When Ted came into breakfast, he was ready to weep. The big explosion we had heard had been a land mine, and it had exploded in Havering Drive. Amongst others, the Ryecroft house had been destroyed, and the whole family killed. Ted was grieving fro young Peter Ryecroft, a young musician Ted liked very much.
Bombs had been dropped in various spots, one at Strathmore, opposite the laundry: two on Oakland’s Avenue: one on Kingston Road, opposite the nursing home: one in the back brook at Arden Cottage: and one by the post office on Carlton Parade. Water and gas mains were broken, and we were with out gas here until repairs were completed at about five this evening. Our other raids today were from eleven-fifteen a.m. till eleven-fifty a.m.: six-ten until seven-twenty p.m. and the last given at eight-eighteen p.m. is still proceeding.
September 22, 1940
It is worse and worse. Last nights raid lasted until four forty-five am this morning. Another land mine was dropped; this time between Stanley Avenue and Carlton Road. About two hundred houses are shattered and down, but luckily nobody was killed!
September 23, 1940
It was another awful night. Our last evenings raid began at seven-ten p.m. but the all clear came at two forty-five a.m. Ted went up to bed but I didn’t. I knew the Germans would be back again before daylight, and sure enough, back they came at three-thirty a.m. Ted, of course, came down stairs, very promptly. The all clear came at six o’clock.
On the seven o’clock news we were told of the sinking of one of the vessels carrying refugee children to Canada! The ship was torpedoed and sunk over six hundred miles out in the Atlantic last Tuesday night. The full ship’s company totaled four hundred and six, including two hundred and fifteen of the crew and one hundred and ninety one passengers, including the children. Only one hundred and twelve of were rescued, and two hundred and ninety four were drowned. In all thirteen children, of who seven were traveling under evacuation scheme, were landed from the rescuing warship.
Ninety evacuee children were traveling with nine escorts. Only seven of these children and two of their escorts have been landed. The remaining eighty-three children and seven escorts have been lost.
This is German warfare, on a par with the present indiscriminate bombing of the women and children of London. The whole civilized world curses Hitler. I hope he burns in hell forever. Four-thirty p.m. now, we have has two more raid for the day so far. It has been announced that the King will broadcast to the nation at six o’clock this evening so I expect we shall get a heavy raid right then.
Mrs. Ryecroft was found in the debris of her house, but not the slightest trace of Peter could be found. Mrs. Ryecroft was pinned right through her breast by a big beam. The rescue squad had to saw her in half to extricate her body. This is horrible. I weep and weep. I think such violent and sudden death may descend on me in any hour, and I weep for my children, whom I may never see again. My boys. Oh God, preserve me, and give me my children in this world again.
When speaking of the Ryecroft’s Ted said, But they are all in heaven! Such a remark drives me crazy. Heaven! What one wants is life in this world. Would it console me to think my dear ones were in Heaven? No, not ever. I want life here, where I know it, in the flesh. I want my sons to live their full human span, not to be destroyed in their flower. Oh God, save us, save us, and bring this war to a speedy end.