About Me

My Photo

World War ll London Blitz:  Buy On Smashwords
I am the great-granddaughter of Ruby Side Thompson. 
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)

World War ll London Blitz Diary: 4-25-41 No fresh news from Greece. We cannot win a victory there. Reports say the Germans sacrifice their own troops “sickeningly.” It is said their losses in the battle last week were 75,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. Their numbers are endless, and last year in France, Hitler said he was willing to lose a million men to gain the battle.

Purchase Diary Here:


April 25, 1941
It is a quiet night. Still sharply cold, a stiff wind blowing, but a clearer sky this morning, and then sun shining a little later. No fresh news from Greece. We cannot win a victory there. Reports say the Germans sacrifice their own troops “sickeningly.” It is said their losses in the battle last week were 75,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. Their numbers are endless, and last year in France, Hitler said he was willing to lose a million men to gain the battle.
I am not quite so moody today, but very restless. I was dreaming of Edith Pilcher last night. I was playing her accompaniments for her to sing. She was singing, “Bid Me Discourse” and “Come Unto These Yellow Sands.” Then all at once we were running away from the Germans. Why was Edith Pilcher in my dreams? She belongs back in my girlhood, before I even met Ted.
Last night Rita Pullan came over. She brought a message from Cuthie. In a card she had received from him he asked her to let us know he had received the books and the chessmen. Whilst she was here an old man came over to collect one of Ted’s old suits. His name was Wizen, and he is the husband of one of old Mrs. Burton’s daughters. Later in the evening Ted got on to the subject of this family, singing their praises.
Mrs. Burton, who died about two years ago, was the scrubwoman at the church when we first came to Romford. Later the job was taken over by one of her daughters. Mrs. Burton had been born a gypsy, born in a caravan, but she was a convert to Catholicism. Presumably she married a Catholic man and joined the church when she married. She could neither read nor write, but she could drink whenever she got a chance, and she was a great codger in true gypsy style. She had many children. She was very religious. She sucked up to Ted in fine fashion. She knew a good source of supply when she met one.
Well, “Mr. Mizen” is one of her son in laws. He looks like a hawker, the type of person who pushes a barrow. No doubt he is a most estimable man, but the coster class. So with all the Burton’s family; they are laborers, peddlers, charwomen; probably honest, but positively low class and illiterate.
Well, last night, Ted got on the subject of the virtues of Mrs. Burton. “No doubt she brought up her family well. They are all in church. They stuck to it. Speaks pretty well for her, and for them, I think.” This left me cold. Those sorts of people are no recommendation for the Church. On the contrary, if they are in it, decent people don’t want to be. Yes, I know, technically they may be “good,” may even be saints, but they are not my kind of people and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. This question of being Catholic or not being Catholic has become Ted’s only criteria of human worth. Further, this class of people is the class he likes. In my opinion, it is the class he belongs to. Prior to leaving Tenafly, Ted began to boast how he had been born in Whitechapel, and so he was a Cockney. I used to think it was a pose, one more of his eccentricities. Since we have returned to England I have had to realize, more and more, that it is a literal fact. The Thompsons were the usual low class East Enders, and that class of people is the sort towards whom Ted just naturally feels affinity. Not the toughs, of course, but the respectable ones. Well, I don’t.
Later, after Ted had settled on his sofa for the night, he read for half an hour, as he occasionally does on quiet nights. His book: The Belief of Catholics by Ronald Knox. Now behold. First of all it is the book of a convert. Next, it is propaganda and apologia. Why does Ted need to read such a book? He has been an ardent convinced Catholic for over thirty years. Doesn’t he know what the belief of Catholics is? Does his conversion still need corroboration from other converts? Why does Ted still want to talk about the subject so much? Talk, talk, talk; he makes me tired.
I noticed a comment about Alcott in Peddler’s Progress yesterday. On page 228 the author says: “But whatever might be the reason, talking was a thing that Alcott could do. It was a thing he loved to do, perhaps partly because it committed him to nothing. It was like that writing on the snow in his boyhood; beautiful today and gone tomorrow.”
I think this could be most exactly and most justly said of Ted. Ted loves to talk. In fact, you can’t stop him talking. What he says is of no lasting account; he harangues, but he does nothing; he never says anything original, and he never convinces; his speech is like his person and his whole life: ineffectual. The only conviction is in him; he thinks he’s a wonder, and he thinks he’s a wise man. Ted looks attractive, sounds appealing, but everyone who comes into lasting contact with him discovers sooner or later that there is no real man behind the fa├žade, he is only some sort of a dummy straw man, made up of live men’s discards, and whistled through by the wind in all the chinks of his nothingness. A sap; one mortal fool.
As for me, well, you can see. I can get over my angers and hatreds, but I cannot get over my boredoms. When I am bored, I am certainly everlastingly bored.
America is very slowly but surely being talked into the war. Talk again! Last night Cordell Hull and Colonel Know were talking about quick aid to Britain, and how to give it, convoys etc., whilst Lindbergh was talking against it.
About Lindbergh, today’s Times reports: “The ‘America First’ Committee, organized to oppose American intervention in the war, staged a mass meeting here (New York) last night. Which was addressed by Colonel Lindbergh, Miss Kathleen Norris, a writer of sentimental novels (they mean Mrs. Kathleen Norris, of course) and Senator David A. Walsh of Massachusetts, one of the leading non-interventionists in Congress.”
About 25,000 persons listened to their speeches: 10,000 in the hall; Manhattan Center, where the meeting was held; and the remainder, with the aid of loud speakers, in another hall and in streets round about.
Some of the wildest cheers came when Colonel Lindbergh repeated his familiar assertion, “It is obvious that England is losing the war,” and declared with respect to the nations to which she had promised assistance, “We know that she has misinformed them, as she has misinformed us, concerning her state of preparation, her military strength, and the progress of the war.” Colonel Lindbergh asserted that he believed that even the British government realized that “England is losing the war” and “that they hope they may be able to persuade us to send another expeditionary force to Europe and to share with England militarily as well as financially the fiasco of this war.” He asserted “that America had been led towards war by a minority of her people. This minority had power and influence and a loud voice. It did not represent the American people. Most of the people had no influence or power. Up to now they had relied upon their vote to express their feelings, but now they find it is hardly remembered, except in the oratory of a political campaign. These people, the majority of hard working American citizens, are with us.”
He made clear that in his mind the only practical course for America was to keep as far away from as was possible. Senator Walsh, described the “propaganda” which he said had brought the United States to its present position in respect to war, and he ended his address with an attack on the proposal to convoy supplies to England. “Convoys,” he shouted, “mean war. Do we want war?”
“No,” roared the audience.
This morning’s New York Times (April 24) commented under the headline, “Colonel Lindbergh’s Realism: ‘At one point and at only one point in his address last night did Colonel Lindbergh have a good word to say for the British people in this hour of their struggle to survive.’ He believes that ‘it will be a tragedy to the whole world if the British Empire collapses.’ Therefore, runs the argument of a man who spoke in the name of realism, let us take no risks to help prevent it from collapsing.”
So! Lindbergh is not ashamed to keep his head and keep his belief that war is wrong for America, and to say so. The big boys of America have already tied up their finances with Great Britain, and they will maneuver America into the war to save their money, spouting all the time about ideals and liberty, of course! So the war will go on and on, until another million or so common men have been slaughtered.
Churchill’s speeches, Roosevelt’s oratory. We shall pay for all this fine talk. Why don’t they talk, quietly and soberly, with Hitler? Hitler is winning the war. Why not come to terms with him sensibly? Go and be reconciled with your adversary quickly! But no! We must have our fire-works first. Our glory, our honor, our sacrifices, etc.
I loathe the men who talk sacrifices. The other man’s sacrifices they usually mean. Like Ted, who told Joan he would greatly sacrifice the boys, and me, would gladly see us die lingering and cruel deaths, if by doing so we could defeat Hitler. Yes, he’d applaud the sacrifice. We could die the deaths. Oh, men and their wars; men and their talk. I hate men.
The blatant assumptions that Britain and America are wholly virtuous whilst Germany is wholly vile. Oh God, such absurdity makes me sick. Each country trying to corral God in for umpire! How he must laugh! Meanwhile common people everywhere suffer and die. Where will the bombs drop tonight? London, Berlin, Athens, Romford.
Ted has just gone out to his Home Guarding. I want to write about Edith Pilcher. Her memory, and a vision of her, has been with me all day. Now I want to write her down. She was one of the loveliest women I have ever known and if she is still alive I am sure she is lovely still. She was exquisite. If alive she must now be nearing seventy, for she was a good ten years my senior. She belongs to my old St. Martin-le-Grand days.
I went into St. Martins in September 1900. I was sixteen and five months old; Edith Pilcher must have been twenty-six or seven. According to my ideas at that time practically an old maid. Definitely she was one of the seniors. I was drafted into the old “H” Division of T.S, which was the only provincial division run by female staff, and considered very superior and exclusive. Most of the girls and women in the Post Office were put into the metropolitan section, which was bitchy. I can’t think of a better word. The provincial work was much harder and required more skill, so the men did most of it; all except the “H” division, which took in Bristol, Exeter, Bath, Swindon, Chippenham, Torquay, Falmouth, Plymouth, and Jersey and Guernsey. I don’t know how many of us worked the “H” division, perhaps a hundred, or perhaps not so many.
Anyhow, we were a separate clique in St. Martins; we never really mingled with the girls in the “Met,” on whom we rather looked down. At first I was very shy amongst all those professional women, but after a while I found my feet, and when I made good was accepted as one of them. I liked most of them, and they liked me. In fact, some of them, the older ones, were extraordinarily kind to me. Miss Annie Moore, for instance, one of the supervisors, tart and acid and punctilious, but who took me under her wing from the first, and made allowances for my mistakes which she would not make to any other junior. She frightened me the first time she spoke to me. She said, “Why did they call you Ruby? Is it because your hair is red?”
Now, all my life I have gone through the world looking for beauty, and for beautiful persons. I still go looking. Every time I ride in a train, or go into a shop, or a church, or a theatre, or walk down a street, I am looking for a beautiful face. Beauty is rare. I do not often see it. So, in the “H” division I began at once to look around me for the beautiful ones. There were a few, with beauty more or less. It was Edith Pilcher who held my most fascinated attention, though I did not class her as beautiful. This was because she did not have the straight profile, the Grecian features, which I demanded as beauty. Of course she did have beauty, for her appearance gave pleasure, very great pleasure. I never tired of looking at her.
I noticed her first when she came in to “sign on.” The way she walked, gliding graceful yet quick, smooth; the way she held her head, the way she smiled, the way she said, “good morning” with a certain matter-of-fact graciousness. She smiled at me. She took the trouble to acknowledge the presence of the new child, which many of the others didn’t. No fussing, no concession, just a passing including smile. She arrested my attention. It must have been days or weeks before she spoke to me, and then one day when I was “spare,” I was sitting beside her at a station, and she began to talk to me, very easily. Her voice was as pleasant as her appearance. I suppose she drew me out.
I can’t remember, but presently she said to me, “Did anyone ever tell you, you are the perfect Rossetti type?” I didn’t know what she was talking about. I hadn’t heard of Rossetti. She told me about him. Finally she said, “I shall call you Beata Beatrix, because you look exactly like her. Remember, she was beautiful, and so are you, and don’t you ever forget it!”
I was embarrassed. Secretly I had often prayed to be more beautiful, but I should never have thought my prayers had been answered. I could not see myself of course. I was too young and ignorant to know anything about the differing kinds of beauty, and I certainly did not know I was a type, particularly a type I had never heard of. However, Edith Pilcher saw me as such and she made the whole office see it too. All the time I was in T.S. I was reputed a beauty, a Rossetti beauty. Myself, I never really believed it, because that wasn’t my ideal of beauty, I suppose. However, you could never afterwards disabuse the minds of the girls of the notion. If Edith Pilcher looked at me with pleasure, and made others take pleasure in my looks also, I also looked at her with pleasure. She had a beautiful skin and a great abundance of hair, which she dressed softly, but without curling. She had beautiful brows. I cannot remember her mouth, but her nose was distinctive, and it was chiefly because of her nose that I did not think she was “beautiful.” I demanded straight noses for beauty, but her nose slightly curved in. Of course she was beautiful, though again it was not my idea of beauty. She was tall, as tall as me, and extraordinarily graceful. She flowed; she had no awkward motions; and though she was quick, she expressed repose, which to me is irresistible. In addition, she had charming manners, and a charming mind. I used to love to talk to her. She was cultured. She was a lady.
I remember a talk with her about Plato. She was thrilled with the account of the death of Socrates, and she made me read it. She used to talk to me about poetry and about music. She sang well, and her own ambition was to sing in opera, but she knew she never could. She made a special study of the songs of Bishop, and of Puccini. She also enthused about Pagliacsi. She scoffed at Browning, though she rather liked him. She insisted that I read the Love Letters of the Brownings. She also made me read the essays of Schopenhauer, and discuss them. She made me read Thoreau, too.
She was interested in clothes. Her feeling was all for harmony, and it distressed her when people wore the wrong colors, the wrong styles, the wrong coiffures. Moreover, she experimented herself with dressmaking. This was a very rare thing to do in the early 1900’s. None of us thought we could sew, except “fancy work” which was generally preposterous. Edith never did “fancy work.”
Then one day she came to the office in a dress she had made herself, and it was quite a success too. After that, she must have taken great pains with them and got much pleasure out of the doing, and they were always the right things for Edith. I don’t think she ever missionized about home-dressmaking. She didn’t want everybody to do it, and I am quite sure she never suggested any such idea to me. She told us she made her blouse or frock, and she liked to receive our admiration for this work, but she never tried to persuade us to do likewise.
She was interested in travel. One holiday she went to Germany, to visit a girl named Anna Ault, who had gone to live there, a little later she announced her engagement to Anna’s brother. He was an engineer she said, and had gone to Canada. He was going to build her a house there and when the house was ready she would go there and marry him. As a matter of fact she sailed to Canada in 1904, when the St. Lawrence opened, as I went to New York in April 1904. We never corresponded; but the first English letter I read after the birth of my Eddie gave me the news that someone had heard from Canada of the birth of a son to Edith Pilcher Ault.
I never heard any more about her. I very rarely ever think of her, but I can never forget her. Of all the women I have ever known, she was the most full of grace that I have ever met. Last night she filled my dreams; today my waking thoughts: gracious and lovely. She was the kind of person I like to have in my life. The kind I need. The kind I miss.

No comments:

Post a Comment