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: 6-25-41 to 7-5-41

June 25, 1941
There is trouble in the house. When I was showing Mrs. Prior through this new little house, we conferred together about a better arrangement of the furniture upstairs, and she said she could move it, if she had the assistance of her husband. So it was agreed between us that on Prior’s day off, he should come here to help her shift wardrobes, etc. The job was done today. Mrs. Prior arrived at lunchtime and started to take the beds down. Prior arrived at two o’clock and with her finished the shifting.
Ted is very angry with this. I hadn’t told him what I arranged to do. Why should I? The house is my affair. As for moving furniture, I’ve had enough of his nastiness about that. I don’t forget, and I’ll never forget, his ill temper and unkindness over the old red wardrobe, when he refused to move that, or to let my stand where I wanted it to stand. I vowed to myself then that as long as I lived I’d never again ask him to move a bit of furniture and I never will. So he had a surprise when he went upstairs at dinnertime today and found Mrs. Prior taking the beds apart. He came down in a rage. That wasn’t woman’s work, he said. Then explained: if Mrs. Prior hurt herself she could sue us for damages. We didn’t pay insurance for her, so we’d have to pay, but that I should be the sufferer in the long run, because that would mean so much less money for me to waste. Very nice!
Well, I listened to his timidity and caution expressing itself, but I noticed he didn’t go and assist Mrs. Prior. Then he put me through the third degree as to why I wanted to move the beds, and so on. He said that he should have been consulted first. I didn’t ask him, but I asked myself how much he consulted me about any of his movements. He never consults me about anything, and only tells me what he can’t avoid it. Anyhow, the house and its arrangement and care is my job, not his. He carried on in absurd style and when he stopped for breath I just quietly told him, that I had the idea of switching over the bedrooms for some time; that I knew he would be disagreeable about it; that I wasn’t asking him to move anything; and that I had agreed with the Prior’s about the job and that was that. If he hadn’t been so angry I would have explained to him just why I wanted the furniture moved around. He didn’t ask for my reasons. He just assumed I was unreasonable, and fumed accordingly. You might have thought to hear him that I had committed a crime and a sin by daring to re-arrange my bedrooms.
As a matter of fact I had seen when the R.A.F. boys were here, and I had to put them to sleep in my own bedroom, that the middle room was the better room for family use. That is because of the peculiar layout of the house. So I was determined to move my bed and bureau etc. out of the front room before I had more strangers billeted on me. For certainly all strangers and guests might use the front room. When Mary Bernadette was here last Saturday I had to put her into my bed, and also keep awake to warn Ted when he came in that the girl was in his room and in his bed.
Well, I have an aversion to other people sleeping in my bed. When I had to put the air force boys into my bed, I hated it. My bed is my bed and I feel very strongly about it. One of my cranks, of course, but it’s a fact. Also I wanted to eliminate the single bed in the anteroom, and to get the white wardrobe back in there, which is the most fitting place for it. Sometime ago we had to fill in forms about our houses; number of rooms, number of persons we could billet, etc. Ted wouldn’t fill in the form, but made me do it. So I stated two bedrooms only; and I do not intend to have any possibility of a third. I don’t intend to have either refugees or factory workers billeted on me. If I have to have anybody I will take service-men, two of whom can share the front room, but I don’t intend to have factory workers, nor any munitions damsel in my ante-room.
Ted didn’t wait to hear the reasons, with which he would have agreed at once had he heard them, but simply raved at me for having the audacity to move the furniture without first getting his permission. Silly fool. I wonder: is this my home or isn’t it? At teatime he was morose, quite miserable. You’d think I’d killed the baby. Silly fool!
Rita Pullan came calling tonight. I took her upstairs and showed her the arrangement. She thought it a vast improvement all around. It is. Anybody could see so, without having to have any reason why. It is a better disposition of the pieces themselves. For one thing I now have my dressing table beside a south window, instead of in a dark corner where it had to stand in the front room, and this south window is freed, instead of being blocked by Artie’s big desk, as it was before. Altogether there is much more space and light in the middle room. As it was before it had two huge wardrobes in it. Now it has no wardrobe at all; one has been transferred to the front room, and the other to the anteroom; and the room has two cupboards anyhow, so doesn’t require a wardrobe. The rooms, all three of them, look better but Ted simply glooms and says “Horrible!” He returned from his home guarding before Rita left, but he couldn’t overcome his gloom to be cheerful even with Rita. He was polite, of course, but obviously downcast. Silly idiot.
June 26, 1941
Ted is still in the glooms. Mrs. Prior came today to do the usual cleaning. When he spoke to her at dinnertime he gave her a long harangue about shifting furniture about, and women never knowing their own minds. She simply laughed at him. “Why not have a change if you like it?” she asked him. But no, with Ted nothing must change. Listening to him talking and talking about women’s vices and inconsistencies and inconsiderateness, really, the German attack on Russia pales into insignificance. “Men!” comments Mrs. Prior.
June 27, 1941
My new room looked so nice and inviting last night that I nearly went up there to sleep, but didn’t. A good thing too, because soon after one a.m., flashes and heavy gunfire awakened me, and this was twenty minutes or so before the alarm was sounded. Ted, of course, who had gone to bed in the front room, had to come down here to his sofa. He fell asleep again at once, but I cannot sleep during a raid. Whilst it was going on I thought of another good reason for the change around upstairs; it has removed a lot of heavy stuff from the room immediately above this one where we sleep. Most people have removed all heavy furniture from upper rooms above the downstairs sleeping apartment, so that there is less to fall upon you if your house receives a direct hit. When the Peel’s house was destroyed Mary Bernadette had an escape from certain death. Had she remained for the night with the Peel’s, as they wanted her to do, she would have been crushed to death because the divan on which she would have been sleeping was buried by the ceiling falling upon it, and a huge wardrobe which was standing on the floor immediately above. So here with us, the room alone contained a bed, two wardrobes, one big desk, and two large trunks, filled with the boys’ books.
This morning when I went up there to dress I realized that today was the first time I had dressed myself in this house with pleasure. I sat before my dressing table and really saw myself, and without moving I could look out of my sunny window tint the full length of the garden, which is now a blaze of color, and onto all the beautiful trees which stand in between here and Eastern Road. They are very long gardens of Eastern Road and Western Road, meeting, making a large open space, full of trees and flowers, really beautiful. As a matter of fact, when I surveyed the middle room this morning, all clear and clean and sunny and bright, I thought: Why, this is the most pleasant bedroom I’ve ever had since we came to England. It is. Gee, I’m jolly glad I carried my idea through. Ted can keep grousing, I don’t give a damn. I had a good idea, I carried it out, and result is excellent.
It is seven twenty-five p.m. and a lovely summer evening. Ted has gone out to his Home Guards, and I am hoping to be left alone for a while. Mrs. Thomson was in this morning, and this afternoon Peggy Thompson and her two children were here. Ted was quite amiable at teatime, so, I know what to expect later on tonight. “Men!” as Mrs. Prior exclaims.
Anyhow he brought me in a box of Muratti and Mrs. Millin’s book, from Boots. Last night he was talking about Carlyle, Ruskin, and Macaulay, and wondering why nobody wrote like them nowadays. This was an attempt to approach friendlily, but I was so bored with his topic, I only made bare responses. I have heard him on this subject before. It was one of his specials. I got through with these old Victorians before I was twenty, but Ted has never got through with them. As he admired them in his adolescence, as he admires them today. I never admired them. Indeed, I resented them. I wanted to know, forty years ago, by what right these old writers put themselves up to lecture and scold the British people; by what right they suckled us with their standards and their pieties. Ted always liked them; their very instructing and dogmatism was what most deeply pleased him, I suppose. But not me, I never could stand being preached at, and now he is wondering why people don’t read them today. I should wonder if they did.
Macaulay might be readable today. I don’t know, and certainly I’m not going to try and find out, but I should guess both Carlyle and Ruskin were practically unreadable for any adult mind today. That’s the important thing, the adult mind. Has Ted got an adult mind? Often I don’t think so. He seems to me to be completely stuck fast in all the fantasies and crudities and ignorances of his boyhood mind. He has never got beyond the 1890s.
Poor Ted and poor me, who find myself so often, too often, exasperated by his inadequacies, inadequacies of both mind and manners. Here stand out again in our inescapable backgrounds, I suppose. Ruskin and Carlyle avowedly wrote for, and wrote down to, the British workingman, which is what Ted’s father was. Ted grew up in a working class home, a “respectable home,” with the working class culture of the late Victorian period. I didn’t. The unfortunate thing for me is that Ted had successfully erased all signs of his origins when I met and married him. He had only achieved a temporary erasure; had he remained in America he might have remained a good American; but alas, coming back here to England in the way he did, he returned to all his origins, and they express themselves in him more and more markedly with every year that passes. He is showing himself to be the kind of man his father must have been, and oh my God, what an aversion I have to that kind of man! But there it is, and there is nothing I can do about it. Now Au-revoir; I’m going to read awhile.
June 28, 1941
Ted has gone up to bed. This has been a bad day for me, one of my very worst. I have been in misery all day. Why? Because having Bertie’s children here yesterday made me long for my own little grandchildren, particularly Sheila. Was it a reaction from the stress of furniture moving? Was it boredom arising from the fact that Ted was home all day? Or euphoria? Or some simple alteration in my glands? I don’t know. All I know is that I have found the day unendurable.
June 29, 1941
I am not in quite the same misery as yesterday, but am still feeling decidedly antisocial. I expect mother to arrive about eleven and I don’t want her. She is coming to see me now every other Sunday and I am finding it is too often. As ever, Mother’s company fatigues me. I can’t help it. Perhaps if I could ever feel that she came because she wanted to see me I should feel differently about Mother. It is never like that. So obviously and frankly she only comes to please herself, to give herself a day’s outing.
Oh God, what is the matter with me that I suffer because people don’t care for me! I’m weepy this morning anyhow. Ted went out to mass soon after seven, and did not return until nine twenty. I had the radio on for the nine a.m. news, and was about to listen to some Corot records, Weber and Chopin, which were to follow. Immediately Ted said something against “the everlasting wireless,” and turned it off. No by-your-leave or, do you mind; no enquiry as to what was coming and did I want to hear it. No civilities whatever. I was hurt. I felt the tears coming, but luckily was able to keep them back. Two hours church for him, but not two minutes of music for me. I said nothing, what is there to say? So, I’m feeling anti-social, to use Kay’s word. I don’t want to see anybody, or talk to anybody. I don’t want to cook a dinner, or to bother with the house in any way at all. I want to be alone, absolutely alone. I’m tired of myself.
The day is sunny, but windy and cool. What I should like to do is to go up and lie on my bed in the sunny middle room and browse awhile in Mrs. Millin’s book and fall asleep, and sleep warm and deep until I was slept out; then wake up refreshed and renewed, sane and sensible once more, my own woman. Instead I must now go and prepare fresh coffee, ready for Mother’s arrival, and then be her daughter and Ted’s housekeeper for the rest of the live long day. Oh I groan, but there it is, that’s got to be my day. So au-revoir.
July 2, 1941
To the hairdressers again today—I had my hair thinned out. Weather is so hot, and my hair is so heavy. Have had my parting eliminated but can see this pompadour style does not suit me. I shall have to put the central parting back; that is the only style of combing the hair to suit my head and face.
Last night I slept upstairs in my bed. This is the first time since last August. It was delicious to get between the sheets and stretch out in a real bed. Since Germany attacked Russia we have had quieter nights in England. Ted has been sleeping upstairs for about a month, but I have had to call him down on several occasions, when the guns began. However, we have had quiet nights now for a week, so I decided to try it upstairs myself. It was bliss to sleep in a bed again. Ted came to my bed, too. So, I am happy and serene again, for a while anyhow.
We were surprised this morning by the news of the transference of Sir Archibald Wavell to India. We think this is ominous. It looks as though our government expects the Germans to take the Ukraine, and smash through there and attack us in India. Perhaps. There is continuous and fierce day and night fighting all along the Russian-German border. The accounts of losses and gains, from both sides, are prodigious. We believe neither side, but it does look as though the Germans are penetrating into Russia, and Hitler, as usual, is winning. It is truly awful. What next? Supposing Hitler does beat Russia, then what? He will have won the world, for not even America could then stand up against him. We should be doomed, that’s certain. Meanwhile the carnage continues.
July 5, 1941
Feeling fine. I have been sleeping upstairs in my bed ever since the first, and feel a different woman for it. I have also been out every day, which has done me heaps of good, I am sure. The weather is good too, summery, but not too hot for comfort. I have also had many visitors, who keep me from too much introspection; so that’s good too.
Myrtle Arch has been in two days this week. She and Geoffrey Medcraft are getting married on the twenty-sixth. To my surprise she tells me they are being married in St. Edwards, the parish church, not St. Edwards our Roman Catholic Church. She is Church of England, but it appears Geoffrey was only a convert to Rome, not a born Roman Catholic, and has now gone back to the Church of England, into which he was born. This is a double surprise, for I had always assumed Geoff to be a born Catholic, and also because this is the first convert I have ever met who publicly returned to their original faith. I have not told Ted this, for I do not want to prejudice him against Geoffrey.
Mary Bernadette was in to tea last night, and she is marrying a Protestant too. By the way, Mary has just been refused a permit to go to Ireland to visit her mother; because she is English, she says. Politics again. Is she suspected of being a spy, or a fifth columnist? Anyhow, she can’t go to Ireland to see her mother.
The war continues to get worse and worse. Today the Russians have claimed to kill seven hundred thousand Germans in White Russia alone. The Germans have claimed to have killed five hundred thousand Russians, and taken two hundred thousand Russian prisoners. I don’t know who counts but presumably the losses on both sides are enormous. The Germans continue their advance. The Russians continue their retreat. The R.A.F. is now bombing Germany in daylight every day. The Italians in Abyssinia are nearly finished, but in Libya the fighting continues and also in Syria. The Vichy French do not quit. The Turks continue to sit on the fence. Last night Roosevelt gave a small broadcast “for freedom.”
Our supplies diminish markedly. Myrtle Arch told me this morning that the queues of shoppers in Romford this morning were the worst yet, and there isn’t a potato in town. People quarrel about food, and about the waiting. In Wallis this morning Mrs. Thompson saw a man and woman come almost to violence over a quarter pound of bacon. The man refused to wait another turn. The woman shoved him and abused him. The man swore at her. He said, “I work twelve hours a day seven days a week. I get only three hours of sleep a night, and I’m damned if I am going to wait about hours for my rations. You can wait, you’ve got all day.”
The woman said, “I’ve got my kids waiting for me, and who the hell do you think you are, anyhow? Just because you’re a man! Think the world can’t get on without you, don’t you? Think you’re winning the war, don’t you? Well, let me tell you, the women are in this war just as much as you are, and you can damn well wait for your rations the same as the rest of us.”
Food is scarce and very dear, and rationing severe. There is a great food ramp going on. As soon as prices are coded, food disappears. Someone is making money. There are frequent scandals, and the bureaucrats are smothering us. New ministries are instituted nearly every week, and with every Board of Control, muddle is increased and prices are increased and supplies become extinguished. There is far too much government control, most of it only gumming the works. This wonderful land of liberty is snowed under continuous official forms, and harassed and annoyed by the ever-increasing army of ineffective petty clerks. War! They say, but most of it is just plain stupidity.
This isn’t what I wanted to write about. All this will be in the war books, and let it molder there with all the other items of the greedy and stupid and beastly record.
I sat down to note I was feeling fine, and why. I am.  I’m feeling simply splendid. Of course if Gerry comes and bombs London again tonight I shan’t feel so good. Meanwhile, he is giving us a rest whilst he gives the Russians a deviling, so we’ll take our happy ease whilst we can.

No comments:

Post a Comment