World War ll London Blitz: 12-1-41 to 12-31-41 It was a queer weekend. Big mock invasion maneuvers are being carried out in this region. Four thousand Home Guards from our Romford district are out tracking down the enemy, who is being acted by the real military units.

Purchase Diary Here:   

December 1, 1941

I am on a spending jag again! I went out early this morning to find a book about drawing at the library, and to buy myself a supply of paper, pencils, crayons, paints and so forth. I struck lack of supplies again. No crayons, no watercolors anywhere. Finally I bought a dozen pencils at Craddocks, and three drawing books. Then this afternoon I went out again, to Craig’s, looking for further supplies. I found two old pencil boxes, two old tins of Reeves paints. I also bought a curtain length. I also went to Pearson’s for earring and watch repairs. I had forgotten these items, which I took to Pearson’s in September, but I collected them whilst out this morning.

In addition this afternoon I bought at Craig’s a length of velvet to be collect and paid for later. This is pure unadulterated extravagance! I bought it solely for its lovely color; it’s beautiful pinky mauve. Now I’ve saddled myself with the problem of how to pay the dressmaker. All I can hope is, that I’ll have a little time to collect a fresh supply of cash, before she sends her bill in. I guess I am an awful fool, but I feel happy and I don’t care. I’ll manage somehow. Let us be gay!

December 3, 1941

A filthy night and it has been a filthy day. Nevertheless I have been out twice today; this morning to see the butcher and find out what are the prospects for a Christmas dinner (which are nil!) and this afternoon to the post-office, to send mother some precious suet, three quarters of a pound; and then to the library to find another book about art. I have come back with, The Social Value of Art, by F.R. O’Neill, published in 1939.

The news is shocking. In Parliament yesterday the Prime Minister outlined proposals for the further mobilization of manpower, and woman power, to achieve the maximum national effort. For the men the age for compulsory military service is to be raised from forty- one to fifty-one, and lowered to eighteen and a half: and to send them for service abroad at nineteen instead of twenty. For women, unmarried women between twenty and thirty to make compulsory liable to serve in the uniformed auxiliary services or Civil Defense: with the rider that women joining A.T.S. will not be compelled to serve with guns, only volunteers may do that! This is outrageous.

Further, boys and girls between sixteen and eighteen will be registered and encouraged to join various organizations through which they can obtain training required to fit them for national service; and boys of sixteen in some areas are to be allowed to join the Home Guard. The children! England will be as totalitarian and tyrannical as Germany. It will be more so if she puts these compulsions on women. Oh my God! The damn fool men! Don’t they know anything about the nature of women? Oh, the damned war, and the damned men!

December 7, 1941

It was a queer weekend. Big mock invasion maneuvers are being carried out in this region. Four thousand Home Guards from our Romford district are out tracking down the enemy, who is being acted by the real military units. Ted had to report at his headquarters at two p.m. yesterday, but as he is one of the oldest men he remained at headquarters for the night. This was lucky for him, as last night torrential rain fell. He came back to the house at about ten-thirty p.m. bringing another Home Guard with him. They were off duty until midnight. Then he returned to the house again at seven this morning and went to mass. He came home to breakfast and returned to headquarters at noon today. He expects to be finished at six p.m. This is “practice.”

The war news remains bad, although the Germans have retreated from Rostov: but fighting rages unceasingly in Russia, and also in Libya: moreover at any moment hostilities may open in the Far East, between Japan and the U.S.A. Yesterday President Roosevelt sent a personal message to the Emperor of Japan, a last attempt to avert war. The Japanese seem bent upon it. They haven’t’ licked China yet, why should they want to attack America? Hitler compels them I suppose. Isn’t it frightful? This is a crazy world.

At eleven this morning an address by Cardinal Hinsley was broadcast from Westminster Cathedral. Mass was being offered there for the victims of Nazi oppression in Europe. The cardinal is a wonderful speaker: physically so too, for he is a very old man. Listening, I wept; even over the air one receives an impression of the goodness of this man.

I’m beginning to feel sleepy. I could not sleep last night, alone in the house, so I amused myself making transcriptions from O’Neill’s book, The Social Value of Art. This book has given me great pleasure more, it ha definitely excited me. Reading and copying it has been
for me catharsis. Yes. I guess that is the spelling, what I mean is, that the keen pleasure such a book gives me eases me into positive happiness. Following and absorbing the author’s arguments I am happy. This is the kind of mind I like to meet and contacting it I am satisfied. More, I am in a glow, I am happy.
It is nine-thirty p.m. and war has started in the Pacific. The Japanese have attacked several U.S.A. bases, particularly Guam and Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Treachery, murder, and damnation.

December 8, 1941

At six thirty p.m. tonight we heard President Roosevelt addressing Congress. He said it was not necessary for Congress to declare war on Japan, because Japan had already declared war on America.

WE ARE AT WAR! It was a very short speech, very impressive. At nine p.m. Churchill broadcast to us, and to the world. He sounded tired, he had been in The House all afternoon but he spoke well. As promised, we line up with the U.S.A. and we too are at war with Japan. This is frightful. Roosevelt’s speech made me weep. War, God-awful war America is to be involved now. Ted, too, tremendously affected. He spoke right away of Johnnie. Johnnie is an old Plattsburg cadet, so I suppose he will be among the earliest commissioned. Johnnie now has five children! Ted brought out the precious whiskey, and we drank to America, and the boys. Oh God! How can we endure?

December 10, 1941

We had dreadful news at one o’clock. The Japanese have sunk two of our largest ships. H.M.S. Prince of Wales, battleship, and thirty five thousand tons: and H.M.S. Repulse, cruiser, thirty two thousand tons. Churchill has just announced this fact: no details yet.

December 11, 1941

Over two thousand men have been rescued from our ships, but Admiral Tom Phillips, is among the missing. Both ships were destroyed from the air, by Japanese bombers, and our loss was due to lack of fighter support.

December 12, 1941

Two thousand three hundred and thirty men saved out of a total of two thousand nine hundred and twenty five, but we are told the final figure is not fixed so we can hope a few more may be accounted for saved. The loss of these ships is a major catastrophe. We are told that the absence of adequate fighter protection is believed to have been a consequent of the suddenness of the Japanese attack before a declaration of war, and of the shortage of aircraft which has been experienced throughout the Empire since 1939, and which is only now being remedied by Great Britain. The anti aircraft defense of the ships were certainly used to good effect, but this was not enough, and the lesson of the importance of protecting the skies above the seas where the navy operated has again been painfully learned. Well, the boats are gone, but thank God so many lives have been saved.

December 20, 1941

Artie came in soon after ten p.m. He has leave until the twenty-ninth. He looks extremely well.

December 21, 1941

We had news at nine p.m. that Hitler has dismissed Von Brauchitsh and announced that he himself has taken over supreme command of the German Amy. The Germans are now suffering defeat in Russia. Let us pray that at last the Germans are cracking. I do not write down the war record. It is too horrible. The Germans are suffering. It is So much the better. When they suffer enough then they will cease inflicting suffering on others.

December 22, 1941

I have been to the movies this afternoon with Artie. We saw a Mickey Rooney picture, at the Ritz, Andy Hardy Begins Life. Now I am alone in the house, waiting for the news.

December 24, 1941

Christmas Eve. At nine p.m. our time there was a rally from Washington of speeches by Roosevelt and Churchill on the occasion of the lighting up of the community Christmas tree on the White House lawn. Very moving.

December 25, 1941

 — Christmas Day

We got an airmail letter from Charlie. It is eleven twenty five p.m. and I am just about to go to bed. Artie is at the Pullan’s playing bridge. I want to say this: This is the first time since we came to England (now fourteen years ago!) that I have been happy at Christmas. The fury of the war increases. Hong Kong fell to the Japanese today, but at last today I have a realization of the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of God in the world: the coming of Peace and Goodwill to men. Yes, the worse the war is, the more evident is the value and glory of Christianity. We must be Christians or perish.

December 26, 1941

It is cold and frosty. Artie is sleeping. Ted is out playing mass. I am still serene. Yes, I am at peace. I do not know what has happened in the world since yesterday. We got up too late to hear the news, and there is no paper today. I am always sorry to hear the news because I’m always hoping to hear Hitler has hanged himself and I really should hate to miss the announcement of his decease. However, I expect he’s still alive, and still planning his evil deeds.
I find this Christmas I am even for the war! I’ve lost my impatience with the senile and self-seeking politicians. I still think they are fools and criminals, but they are behind us. 

I see the present imperatives of fighting evil. It doesn’t matter now that incompetents allowed Hitler to murder Europe; what does matter is that the competent shall now and henceforward proceed with the annihilation of Hitler and all his works. Hitlerism must be exterminated. We shall go on suffering in the fight, all of us, but we shall fight, and we shall win. Good and Evil. God and the Devil. Satan rampant. Yes, Satan. With the help of God, good men will vanquish him in the end. Right must prevail over might finally. This is our Christian belief, our Christian knowledge, God above all, and God in all. Hitler has refused to acknowledge God, and he has damned himself. He has damned all his followers. The Nazis are, and will, excreted by all good men now, and until the end of the world. The Nazi’s suffer for Hitler and will be infamous forever as recompense. The nations who fight Hitler suffer, but dead or living, will have glory. Yes, Evil must be fought. The righteous will endure righteous suffering, with Christ, the Lord. God with us now and forever more. God with us today, the newborn child. The helpless infant. Any infant, calling for care and tenderness, calling the God in our heart. Tenderness. The love of God. Yes that is what Christmas means: Love. So the worse the world is, so much the more do we need Christmas, the coming of God into the world.

December 27, 1941

Churchill addressed Congress last night and this speech was broadcast from Washington. It was a fine speech.

I was surprised this morning by the arrival of Gladys. She left again to catch the three o’clock train, so as to get back to Angel Road before the blackout, so, it was a very short visit. She looks better than she did in August, but she still looks queer. She looks old and she looks dowdy. Gladys has never had any clothes sense. With more money to spend on herself then any of us, she has never looked other than dowdy; she has looked what she is, the spinster school marm. Yet she was the handsomest one in the family and could have looked simply stunning properly dressed. Today she was wearing a navy blue knitted dress that she had knitted herself. I thought it was a catastrophe. Knitted clothes for women are no good at any time, but some can be better than others. Gladys had elected to use very heavy coarse wool. She had ribbed the skirt, but stocking knitted the top with her usual raglan shape, and the neck and front opening finished with some crocheted blue pale blue cotton edge. It was a thoroughly ugly thoroughly unbecoming garment. If she had only chosen finer softer wool it would have been less ugly. But no!

The same with Joan, Joan can’t dress either. Joan particularly needs careful dressing. Joan wore a tight grey tweed skirt and a heavy knitted jumper in bright red. Awful! Around her head she had wrapped a length of knitted scarf in a speckled brown. It was hideous. Gladys, too, wore a knitted scarf in a speckled brown and she wore a knitted cap, sort of nightcap style, in the same coarse wool as her dress. On her, with her graying yellow hair and cadaverous face it was simply preposterous. No, neither of them knows how to dress. Joan could look distinguished. Gladys could look elegant, yet the appearance of both of them was tasteless and third rate. Why? Especially when there is no need for it, particularly with Gladys. If I had Gladys’s money I would look like a Grand Duchess.

December 29, 1941

What a completely rotten day! Artie left for Scotland at nine this morning. Elizabeth Coppen and Miss Owlett were here together this afternoon. My company, two old maids! This evening Ted did not light the parlor fire but sat here in the dining room with me. This was completely an evening of torture. I suppose he is tired, but certainly he is damned cranky. He was disagreeable about the radio, as per usual. It had gotten out of order yesterday, the accumulator completely run down, but when I tried to adjust it this evening, after Silcock’s had been here, he protested immediately. Not a sound must be made. Further all the expostulations about the B.B.C. tripe. Naturally, I shut off the radio. Then he insisted about talking about Scot, or rather, about religion in Scotland, Protestantism, and etc. ad nausea. I gave polite response, growing more and more bored and exasperated all the time. Finally he settled down to reading, going through some back “Tablets” and a book by the Bishop of Chichester, Christianity and World Order. Oh I could not settle to anything. I feel the restraint of Ted’s presence, and can never be natural or spontaneous in his company. This is a horrible feeling.

Well, after the nine o’clock news there was a play, adapted from a Somerset Maugham story, Up at the Villa, with Diana Wynward in the star part. So I left the radio on to listen to it. Ted actually consented, and put down his “Tablet” to listen to it. It was a preposterous plot, about a beautiful but mercenary widow who on an
impulse picked up a sad young beggar and took him into her home, gave him a meal, and then gave him herself! When he discovered that this did not mean anything, he shot himself! So the lady had to dispose of the corpse, which she did with the help of a roué, whom she finally had to promise to marry, since the man she had intended to marry, an elected Governor of Bengal, would have to give up his career if he married her.

This absurd rigmarole progressed on for more than an hour, peppered all through with “I love you” and so on. Not one situation or one character in it was true anywhere. It made me laugh it was so silly. Where- upon I was immediately in hot water. Ted said it was no laughing matter; no wonder young people got themselves into trouble when such stuff was given to them, and they believed it, and thought that it was the way to act. I protested that I didn’t think the youngsters were such fools and that they wouldn’t listen to such stuff anyway it was too talky.

Ted asked how did I know? But of course I would like such stuff, it just pleased my mushy sort of a mind. I protested I didn’t like it, that it was so absurd it made me laugh. It did. I couldn’t quite stop laughing; it struck me as so idiotic. Ted was off; he didn’t know why I had listened to it. I was listening because he was killing my evening anyhow, and I could passively listen to something when I was quite unable to read or write or amuse myself. I listened to kill time, boring time, time which he was making boring.

Well, I got an earful. He preached away at me until he went up to bed. He jawed away about my rotten mind, my rotten taste in books, my lack of morals, ending up, above all things, about my bad influence on young girls, how I contaminated their minds, especially as I had been so selfish as to positively preach selfishness to Doreen the other night.

This was ridiculous. I don’t know what he was talking about. The last time Doreen was here Ted sat in with us the whole time, and was slewing off to Doreen in great style. He talked down on her in his usual style, assuming she knew nothing whilst he, naturally, knew everything. Doreen was concerned to know what was the aim of life and I tried to get it into her that life was for living. Oh well, so I have preached selfishness to the young. I didn’t contradict him. Secretly it amuses me the selfish condemn selfishness. They can’t tolerate selfishness in you. You must be unselfish. Why? Your must serve others. Why? Because they are the others. It is Funny, but true.

December 30, 1941

Affairs are still going badly. This morning I was near tears but I am all right now. Ted is still cranky. We had trouble again about the laundry baskets. I asked him to pass them down to me. He practically through them at me and then gave me another lecture about not saying what I mean. If I had meant him to bring them down, why hadn’t I said, “bring” instead of “pass”? Why don’t I use language correctly Why do I never say exactly what I mean? He always does, but because I don’t phrase my speech to his liking, lo, I am some sort of a liar! Really, he’s detestable. Who the hell is he anyhow to keep calling me to account and correcting my every utterance? My God! I am sick of him! He really is a most unpleasant person.

The books he reads are not to my taste; his conversation is didactic and boring; but I let him alone. Supposing I was to jeer at his reading, to carp at his talk, supposing would he like that? I don’t think so. Why must tit be that he is the one to make the standard? Why is he the criterion for everything? I can’t see it, and I’m tired of him, oh most terribly tired of him.

What affected me this morning was a letter from Harold. It was written November 30, and has taken until now to get here. This was before America was in the war of course. They have moved to Bayside Long Island, and Kay is expecting another baby in January. This will be their fourth child, and our fifteenth grandchild. I said to Ted, This will be their fourth child.

Ted said, There you go again with your false ideas! You seem to think four a large family, whereas it is only the beginnings of a family. My God! He was off on one of his against birth control spiels! I stopped him.

I said, Listen I never said a word about big or small family’s. I never expressed any kind of opinion or idea. I simply said this would be their fourth baby.

He shut up. Ted wants to condemn me. He wants to put me in the wrong about everything. As for the subject of birth control he doesn’t know what I think about it, and he never will. I know what he thinks about it, good and plenty. When I hear men talk about birth I shut up tight. Men are awful fools.

I am filled with the terrible old homesickness. I want to be in America. I want my sons. I want their babies. I want my whole American family. Instead, I have one husband, one old-style English husband. I want my life for myself. Yes I do. If that’s selfishness, very well, its selfishness. Fifteen little children to love and to hold, and except for Sheila and Dickey, I’ve never even seen them. Cuthie, in Germany, Artie in Scotland, all the rest in America and here am I alone in Romford, alone with Ted Thompson, a futile religious egoist; a cold, comfortless, unloving man. Yes, letters from America upset me. England is easier endured when America can be forgotten.

It is seven fifteen and Ted at his Home Guards. I feel harassed. I am harassed to the point of extremity. I feel tonight that if Ted doesn’t stop nagging me I shall close my eyes and die. Directly he came in tonight and began. I was sitting in the half-lights, listening to the radio, trying to calm my soul with the sort of music Doris Arnold plays. Immediately Ted objected: the radio was too loud. I dimmed it and it squeaked. That didn’t suit him either. I am weary of his nagging.

Everyday of Artie’s leave he nagged about Artie. He did have the grace not to nag at the boy, instead he scolded about him to me. What ever the boy did or did not do was adversely criticized. What time he arose, what time he went to bed, what he said, what he ate, his opinions, his friends. All was wrong, or should have been some other way. Of course there was nothing wrong with the boy. Artie is a healthy young man and he acts talks and feels like a healthy young man; all wrong for Ted, he ought to have been different. Oh it is so wearying listening to Ted. I think he is the most censorious being in the world. Last night when he was criticizing the play’s exposition of love, which admittedly was silly, I could not help thinking that he himself does not know what love is. Actually, for Ted “love” is the sexual act but love as tenderness, geniality, affection, sympathy, understanding, and indulgence of the beloved. He has no comprehension or practice at all. He is a cold man, jelled in his own self-complacency and self-righteousness.

If he could only accept us as we are! He can’t. In the very first weeks of our marriage he began on me, trying to change me, to make me over to fit into his ideas of what a woman ought to be. Right from the beginning he criticized my tastes; what I read, the music I liked, the pictures I cared for, my opinions, my religion, every thing was wrong. I was too young then to ask who was he to judge? So I suffered horribly. Now I disregard his everlasting dogmatizing, keep my opinions to myself, and think and feel as I please and according to my nature. In the depths his judgments make not the slightest impression on me, but on the surface, alas, I can still be ruffled, as today when he has me very exasperated. I shall get over it. So will he. Probably both of us are simply dead tired, suffering from the cold, from the rotten war diet, and the lonesomeness of Artie’s departure.

Another instance of Ted’s peculiar secretiveness has come to light. The other day when walking down the street to meet Artie to go to the Pictures, two nuns from the convent overtook me. They spoke about Artie, and how well he was looking. Then one of them added, We saw him at church with his father, but we did not speak to him, and Mr. Thompson got away before we could speak to him. Sister wanted to thank him for the beautiful bible he has sent in to us.

So? Several pounds for that I suppose. But typical of Ted, oh yes, of course he’ll give a bible to the nuns. What a man! What an awful fool of a man! Oh, if only he could give to us, flesh and blood, the love and devotion he gives to his damnable religion! He can’t. For him his religion is perfect, and nothing matters to him but his “belief.”

December 31, 1941

Last night I was dreaming of love, assuaged in a dream. At eight o’clock in the evening Winston Churchill had broadcast from Canada, from the House of Parliament in Ottawa, so I suppose I went to bed with Canada at the back or top of my mind. Anyhow, the man in my dream was a big Canadian, dressed Canadian or American rancher style. It was a long dream and went through all the stages of love: meeting, courtship, consummation, pregnancy, childbirth, even suckling, and the final response of daily affection and constant cherishing. It was so sweet. I was happy. Then I awoke to see Ted dressing for church. All these winter mornings he goes out in the darkness to daily mass just the same. In the estimation of the nuns no doubt such constancy makes him a saint. But I don’t think him such. In my estimation he is what Churchill called Mussolini last night: a flop. As man, lover, husband, father, friend, a terrible flop. Yet he has achieved what he has set out to do. Years ago in America he said the ambition of his life was to quit business, to leave America, to go to England to live, and be able to go to mass every morning. Well, he has achieved it all. At what a cost to others! To me and to his children.

This morning, watching him at his praying and dressing, I thought, well I know quite well when I am dreaming, and the difference between my dreams and reality; but Ted spends his whole life in a dream. All the phantasms of theology are his constant preoccupation, his realities, whilst flesh and blood, real people, is very secondary considerations to him. People don’t matter to Ted. Nothing matters to him but his religious beliefs. He is A queer man, happy in himself, but unsatisfactory to all normal people. I thought again of the inescapable throngs of heredity, and the conditioning we receive in early childhood. What a ghastly awful family Ted was born into, and what moronic evangelical pities slobbered in his home! Of course he has never gotten over any of it. He is still the slum child with the culture above the Salvation Army sort. Awful! Awful! This is what I linked my life to. In ignorance of course; but I have to pay for my mistake just the same.

I wonder about our children, and what we have done to them. Long ago I felt thankful they must have at least fifty percent of me in their make up, and relied on my rationality to prevail in them. What did the home we made do to them? Whilst they watched Ted and I together in our marriage, how were they impressed, what did they think? What sort of husbands and fathers have my sons become? If I could see them I should know. I can’t see them. Ted sundered us long ago, in a sundering worse then death, and now I shall never know my sons in their manhood. I hope that I am stronger in them then their father is, that it is my blood that prevails.

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