World War ll London Blitz: 3-2-42 to 3-30-42 This afternoon I heard two complaint stories from Elizabeth Coppen. She says that on Saturday the plain-clothes police went to the dog-racing track at Walthamstow and asked all the men for their identity cards, and they rounded up two hundred men who should have been at work in their factories. Now, what is this but Gestapo work? Men can’t and won’t work seven days a week; especially now when they say they get no benefit from extra pay, since the government takes it back as income tax.

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March 2, 1942

I was going through Ive’s Gardens to the library this morning and I had a chat with the one-legged old Mrs. Thompson who lives in one of the cottages. She was cheerful, as always, but this is what she said: “Where’s this war going to end? That’s what I want to know. The men don’t seem to know what they’re doing just muddling, muddling, if you ask me. This is another paper war, that’s what I say. Lots of fine words about, but what’s going to happen afterwards? That’s what I want to know. You see, it will be like the last time, 'England for ‘eroes!' I don’t think! That’s what they said before, didn’t they? Then what? Men are on the street. Men in gutters, selling matches! Paper promises! I say, that’s what this war is going to be, too: a paper war! Why don’t’ they finish it? We’re all tired of it. We want something to eat. D’you know, I’m always hungry these days, awful, isn’t it? And cold! I’ve never been so cold as this winter and why? No nourishment in the food, our blood is all thinned out. Of course we can’t keep ourselves warm. Stands to reason, doesn’t it! Two eggs in a month! What’s that? Everything is for the children. What happens? The children gorge and throw their food away. Yes, I see it; right here with the school kids, every day. Why doesn’t the government do something for us old people? I suppose they reckon we’re no good any more; we may just as well die. Well, the last war did in my old man, only twenty-eight he was, and now this is going to do in me. Muddle, muddle. It is a paper war. Why don’t they finish it, and let us live proper again?”
This afternoon I heard two complaint stories from Elizabeth Coppen. She says that on Saturday the plain-clothes police went to the dog-racing track at Walthamstow and asked all the men for their identity cards, and they rounded up two hundred men who should have been at work in their factories. Now, what is this but Gestapo work? Men can’t and won’t work seven days a week; especially now when they say they get no benefit from extra pay, since the government takes it back as income tax. The working-class has never been taxed before, and they simply do not want extra money if they’ve got to surrender it as tax. Moreover, Englishmen are not slaves; they will not be driven to work. Moreover, they say, what about the rich man? Does he give up his pleasures? What about his ascot?
The other story was about food. It concerns a young clerk in Jean Kendal’s agricultural office at Colchester. Miss Coppen knows the boy. He earns less than five pounds a week, and has been married only a year. Well, last week, two food inspectors went to his house, and searched it! Elizabeth says they even searched in the beds! The only food hoard they found was twenty tins of salmon. The case is to go to court. For what crime? The young wife had accumulated twenty tins of salmon, and she had a year to do it in. The government advised us, to lie in food stores but now if we do, it seems we have become criminals and are hoarders. How disgusting. How petty! Who told tales? By what right can police come into our houses and search them! What can a poor five-pound per week collect anyhow? Here is a young couple trying to act with foresight, according to early orders, and see what happens to them. Why don’t the food inspectors go and search in Mr. Hudson’s house? He is one of the food administrators. It is said he has one big room filled with supplies, sugar and tea by the hundredweights, etc. Does anybody suppose that Lord Woolton lives on the rations?
Land of Liberty, where? Elizabeth says the Englishmen began losing their rights in the last war, some of which have never been returned to him; and now its worse than ever, all our rights are being taken away from us, but you mustn’t say anything.
After the fall of France Hitler offered peace to England. Poland was conquered. France surrendered. What had England got to fight for? After Dunkirk we had only one division for our army. Had Hitler invaded us then we could not have held him. What did Winston do? He orated. We still had no men, no guns; but he talked us into going on with the war. Our absurd British sentimental self-righteousness asserted itself and we committed ourselves to this hellish war. It need not have been. Not any of it need have been. Men will talk, will scheme, and will fight, so here we are, in hell on earth. For what? For blah.
Now they are talking about India, and Burma, and about losing the British Empire. Why not? Why should we own and boss India, and the rest? Why for exactly the same reason that Hitler aims to own and boss Europe, for self. I can’t grieve that we lose Singapore, that he Dutch are losing Java and Sumatra, that the States are losing Hawaii and the Philippines. Those are not white mans lands. Nor are their people the white man’s burden. They are the white mans riches and the white mans servants. Why have the Australians and the New Zealanders rushed into the fight, to die in Libya and Crete and Greece? Oh oh oh! I groan at all the monstrous folly of this war, the hopeless stupidity of men. I weep for the young. Oh God, save us soon!

March 3, 1942

“I’m laffing me bloomin ‘ead off” as Vic Oliver says so often. I went out this afternoon to change my Boot’s book, as Ted was going straight to the Home Guards this evening, and I shall be alone until late. I was very surprised to find this road full of buses, going in both directions. I wondered if an invasion had begun. After leaving Boots I continued along South Street towards the market, and ran into the Fire Brigade. There was a jam of people by the co-op, and lo, the fire was at Westgate and Hammonds! The office and the hatters and the bakery adjoining were all burnt out on the top floors. The roofs were gone and all the windows, and though the flames were out the firemen were still hosing.
I had to laugh. This is the third or fourth fire at W. and H’s. They had a bomb there in the blitz. They’ve had burglars several times. This struck me as funny. I can’t be a bit sorry for old Bert. Maliciously I feel he deserves trouble. It must have been a big blaze since traffic had to be diverted. I guess Dorothy would laugh too. Of course I made no attempt to get into the premises, but I expect when Ted comes home he’ll be laughing too. We do sort of feel it is poetic justice when old Bert suffers annoyances and setbacks. “Let him suffer!” that’s the feeling. “Do him good.”
It is now ten p.m. and I’m constrained to add; well, I’ll be damned! On the air we have just been informed about a debate in Parliament today about clothes and fashion. It seems there is a man, Sir Thomas Barlow, who is Director-General of Civilian Clothing. One of the items that the war office announced, is that in order to save material, it has been decided to modify the regulation pattern of an officer’s service dress and khaki drill jackets, by the removal of the pleats from breast pockets. Silly damned old fools of men! I suppose they imagine every shred of material is utilized in making a shirt. They don’t understand that it can’t be. A garment is made out of different shaped pieces, not out of cubes. Nothing can be saved by eliminating a pleat on a pocket it will only mean a wider cut of waste and meanwhile the wearer has lost the utility use of the pleat on the pocket. God, what fools men are! They debate about this in parliament; and then the B.B. C. announcer takes time to tell it. Fool, fool men! They think they are going to win the war!
Earlier this evening Joad said something in the Brains Trust, which is worth noting. Somebody had asked would it be a good idea to send some of our trained psychologists to Russia to find out why the Russians fight so well, why their morale is so high, so that they might come back and teach us how to emulate the Russians? Agnes Hamilton pointed out that the enemy was not on our soil, as he is on the Russian’s; but Joad said something to this effect: “I am a socialist. I went to Russia once to see the Soviet. What was most striking to me was, that every Russian felt that Russia belonged to him, actually and that the young people of Russia knew that they were important to Russia, that they were listened to, and that they could assist in making decisions running the country; therefore, since Russia was for the Russians, what ever you did for Russia you did for yourself; if you made a mistake you paid for it; if you made a success you benefited. So different from public feeling here.”
Of course. When I heard Joad say that I thought of the people I had seen in South Street and the market today. You get an impression, what do they care? England is still in a sense, feudal, for it belongs to the rich, and the poor are compelled to accept the will of the rich, willy-nilly. The feeling I get so often in England is that the bulk of the people are trash. It infuriates me, because they are so content with their state. The poor do not question the “rights” of the rich, and they certainly don’t envy the rich. It is their mild acceptance of their lot, the poverty, the dirt, and the ugliness that distresses me. Things may not be the way they are but the poor don’t mind. The English good nature is a curse to the people.
I remembered something Artie said last year about the soldiers in training in Kent. They didn’t want to fight, he said. They said: “Why should we? Let Hitler win. We’ve got nothing now, nothing to lose. We couldn’t be any worse off under Hitler and we might even be better off.” Artie said, the men said, that after the war England would go communist anyhow. Yes, the present day ordinary common Englishman does not feel that he has a stake in the country. Maybe England will go Bolshevik and perhaps a good thing too.

March 7, 1942
Last night I was dreaming of my mother and father. It seemed that mother and I were going away on a visit to the Utard’s. Mother had already started and I was left behind to fix up the luggage. It was another version of my beastly “packing” dreams, and hurrying for boats and trains that I nearly miss. We were in Angel Road and I was packing in my old bedroom. Then I went into Mother’s room, to take her nightclothes out of her chest of drawers and Dad was lying there in bed. He did not speak to me, but he threw himself half way out of the bed towards me, and opened his arms to embrace me, and he smiled at me, with tender affection. Dad was glad to see me, welcoming me, completely. It was a beautiful dream, a phantom giving of what I look for in reality. Or rather, I should not say “in realty” but in today’s daylight life; for in reality Dad did give me his love and his comprehension, and in dreamland he still gives it to me.
I say thank God for dreams. Not the illusionary daydreams of self-delusion but the unbidden dreams that come to us in sleep to clear our minds and assuage our sore hearts.
By the way, when I went out yesterday I saw the MacTurk woman walking past. This is the third time I have seen her near this house recently. Why? Is she pursuing my man again?

March 9, 1942

This gloom inside and out is getting me down. The war news is worse and worse. Java has fallen. Burma is invaded, Rangoon threatened.  What next?  A beautiful man’s world I must say. Now the women are conscripted! When Maureen Garvan was here yesterday she said she was waiting to be called up. Well, if I had a young daughter conscripted I think I should go stark raving mad. I haven’t a daughter, and I am an old woman, no good to anybody, so the government can’t “use” me. Well Au-revoir.

March 10, 1942
Mrs. Harvey James came to tea. The chief item that distresses her about the A.T.S. is that girls are going to be detailed to act as batmen to officers. Looking for trouble, she says, for there are times when the girl is bound to be alone with the officer. I agree.
Rangoon has been evacuated and now has fallen to the Jap's. Australia is attacked, planes flying over from New Guinea. Vichy is reported to hand over forty new ships to the Nazi’s. What next? Elizabeth Coppen says her Colchester brother-in-law asserts that we shall be involved this spring, late April or early May. Essex men have their orders. Civilians on the roads will be shot.
On the other hand Banyard of the bank says, no, there will be no invasion; Hitler intends to starve us out. Who knows what will happen? Whether Hitler attempts invasion or not, the threat of it is sufficient to keep our soldiers tied to home.
Ted is still cranky, but the temperature has moderated somewhat today, so he may thaw out too. Gosh, I hope so!

March 11, 1942

It is four years today since the Nazi’s marched into Vienna. Douglas Reid says it is four years today since the war really began. Churchill announced in Parliament today that Sir Stafford Cripps will go to India, to consult with all parties about Indian Home-Rule, and to confer with the vice regent and General Wavell about the anticipated attack on India by the Japanese, which is imminent, for the Jap's are at the gates. This is the “next”, fighting in India. Ted is at the Home Guards, and will be late. I want to record something about us. This morning I thought I wouldn’t but something I read this afternoon has made me change my mind.
Last night Ted woke me from deep sleep and took me; consequently today our nerves are ironed out and there is harmony in the home atmosphere once again. As I fell back to sleep my inner woman insisted, this is not love, this is just the beastly nature of man, straight lust, an action as simple and as meaningless as the evacuation of the bowels; this is not love.
This afternoon I began to read Dorothy Sayer’s book, The Mind of the Maker. It is an author’s statement about religion, “a commentary, in the light of specialized knowledge, on a particular set of statements made in the Christian creeds and their claim to be statements of fact.”  Page 101 – Quotation from The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis:
“You asked for a loving God: you have one, the consuming fire himself, the love that made the worlds, persistent as the artists love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child,  jealous inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.  . . . A work of creation is a work of love, and love is the most ruthless of all passions, sparing neither itself, nor its object, nor the obstacles that stand in its way."
These sentences struck my attention sharply. Jealous, inexorable, exacting, as love between the sexes. Love is the most ruthless of passions. Then I remembered something Ted once said about love when we were watching the Barnsbees’s and their troubles. “Its alright,” said Ted, “and it will be alright. No matter what the rights and wrongs are, no matter how many rows they have or how many mistakes they make: no matter how often they fight; as long as a man can feel desire towards a woman he’s still in love with her; as long as that lasts they’re alright, no matter what.”
So, perhaps with Ted and me, perhaps it is one long love affair. Certainly whether I like his treatment or not, like him or not, he does remain to me the most important person in the world; and though the kind of love I offer is not acceptable to him, and his regard for me is insufficient for my liking; still he does still turn towards me with desire, therefore I must take it he does love me. Love: jealous, exacting, inexorable, ruthless yes, love is not easy, it is hard, a passion, a suffering. So, there it is, our love affair.

March 12, 1942

In the beginning of the war general opinion tended to a hope that the common people of Germany would make another revolution; but as the war goes on, from one disaster to another, and all our fool politicians making the absurdist excuses but never proceeding to do anything sensible, and only annoying the people with endless petty restrictions. I find myself thinking that it is perhaps the people of Britain who will make a revolution. Our politicians are and have been a mass of duds. Ineffectual men get into high places, and do not work for the country, but for themselves, for their own glory, or their own pocket. Parliament is nothing but clack, clack, clack, and the gabble of ducks. Think of the ridiculous debate last week about clothes.
Well, I am old enough and old fashioned enough to think that what Parliament lacks is gentlemen. When salaries for M.P.s was instituted that was the beginning of the rot. How can men who “have risen from the ranks, from labor” know what is good for the country or how to rule it? They think only of themselves and their own class, and of today, for they know nothing of history or culture. Lo here we are on the rocks. Eventually if we continue to exist as an independent state, we shall either have to return to a proper functioning Aristocracy, as our fathers knew and understood Aristocracy, or else we shall have to go communist like Russia and all its vermin together. Certainly democracy as we have it now is an awful flop.

March 14, 1942

An announcement made by the admiralty has just been read on the nine o’clock news. It is that the allies lost twelve war ships, five cruisers, six destroyers, and a sloop, in the three-day battle of Java. They are listed as British, the Cruiser Exeter, and the destroyers Electra, Jupiter, Encounter, and Stronghold. Australian: The Cruiser Perth, and the sloop Yarra. United States: The cruiser Houston, and the Destroyer Pope. Dutch: The Cruisers Java and DeRuyter and the Destroyer Hortense. In addition the Dutch destroyer Everston was damaged and beached.
The Japanese losses are not known, but it is believed that an eight inch gun cruiser was sunk, a second damaged, and two more set on fire, while one destroyer was sunk and three seriously damaged and left on fire or sinking.
The only allied survivors mentioned in the communiqué were some members of the crew of the British destroyer Jupiter, which sunk near the mainland of Java. These men have already reached Australia.
This was the battle in the Java Sea on February Twenty-Seventh and this is terrible news. Not a single ship of the original allies force, which entered the battle, escaped. It is not stated how many ships the Japanese had, but only that it was a bigger enemy fleet. Awful. Awful. What price the British Navy pay now? Again an Axis partner is the winner. Now the Jap’s, the despicable little Jap’s, licks us. What was our white world doing to allow this to become possible? The lunacy grows and hell increases.

March 25, 1942

I am in low spirits. Artie is home; consequently Ted is at his most disagreeable. Today Artie remarked, “I notice Dad is even more irritable than usual.” Artie naturally wants to have a good time. He has been through a hard winter of rigorous training, and now he has nine days leave. On the thirtieth he must report at Edinburgh, and then what? At night when Artie comes in after we have gone to bed, Ted pulls his watch out from under his pillow and flashes his torch on it, to see what time it is! The Puritanism of Ted’s entire horrible conformist upbringing comes out strong. The self-righteousness of Ted has to be endured to be believed. He seems to have forgotten entirely what it is to be a young man, to want to frivol, to dance, to drink a little, and to go out with the girls. He constantly criticizes Artie to me, the boys thought, manner and speech, till my spirit groans. Oh, let us be happy whilst we can, I think; what do these trifles matter? But no! Ted must nag and nag. It is really awful.
As for the war it gets worse and worse. I am sick of the war, totally, absolutely, completely and permanently sick of the war. As for the politicians, I loathe the lot of them! What a crew! And the blah blah goes on daily. The English are a nation of hypocrites. Who ever gave that verdict gave a true verdict.
I am going to record some facts regarding the conscription of women. The conscription of women as such, I consider criminally stupid, and an astute way of obtaining cheap labor, but apart from the compulsion of the conscription I want to note these facts about the sexual side of it. It is already notorious that the girls in the services are producing bastards. Dorrie Stanforth has told me she has seen a document in the old church hospital that assures service girls that if they get into trouble they will be taken care of, that their child will be taken care of, and their secret will be kept, They are specifically told not to worry about their parents finding out, for their parents will not be informed, and that this is a promise to them. So, after taking young girls away from their houses the government condones them if they fall into immorality. Very sweet.
Pauling Dunball tells me that at Exeter an older woman was sent from London to lecture to the A.T.S. girls, and she said, “If any of you girls are going to have a baby, whether you are married or unmarried, you will be taken care of. If you do not want the baby, it will be taken away from you at birth and put into a good home. Do not think that having a baby will release you from service. After the birth of your baby you will go straight back to your uniform.” Horrible!
Last night I got even more information. Mary Bernadette came into see me. She is now in the W.A.A.F.s and she is in the administration department. These are some of the things she told me, is now going on in Hornchurch Aerodrome. There are four hundred girls in the camp, and besides our own R.A.F. there are Czechs, Poles, Canadians, there. Every night it is the duty of the Administrative staff to go the rounds and see that all the girls are in their beds. “But its no good,” said Mary, “because although you may see them in their beds, half an hour afterwards the bad ones will be out. Not out of camp either. There are enough rotten officers up there and the Czechs and the Poles are particularly bad. They make arrangements through their batmen, and any girl who wants to oblige can easily do so.”
She told me that in the health lectures the girls had to listen to they were warned that the Czechs and Poles “were not like our men.” Also, that the girls were watched, and after any girl had been seen out four times with a Czech or Pole, her parents were notified! The girl was given seven days leave, with secret instructions to her parents to give her a careful talking to. Sweet.
Mary said that the regulars, “the girls in the business,” are in with all the rest of the girls and it’s disgusting. The authorities use no discrimination to keep the vicious apart from the virtuous. The bad girls desert regularly. They go to town on their leaves and do not return; they have to be found and fetched back by the military police. Mary says they don’t care a hang; they take their punishment, and at the next opportunity go right off again. If anything is said to them, they just retort, “we didn’t ask to come here.”
Mary says all the girls are dosed daily with bromides, to keep their sensuality down. The stuff is put into their morning tea, without them knowing anything about it. This week, if you please the medical officers gave orders for the dose to be doubled on account of it now being spring. What price the sweet English Rose? Another thing Mary says is, that it is distinctly bad for the men to have the girls around. “You can see the girls distract them,” she said. Of course. The average age, I suppose, both for men and girls is twenty. What do they care if there is a war on? Twenty is twenty, and boys and girls together are bound to carry on at love making, but to give the girls bromides!
Well that’s the damn fool government. No wonder we don’t win the war. It has taken this war to make me thankful I don’t have a daughter. If a girl of mine had to go away from home into one of the women’s services I think I should go stark raving mad. Of course the girls can stay good and sweet, but thousands of them don’t. Then there is the contamination. In civil life a respectable girl need not associate with prostitutes but in army life she cant evade them, and not only must she work with them, she must even eat and sleep with them. It is horrible. The conscription of women, if that isn’t one of the stupidest rulings of our addled politicians I don’t know what is. Anyhow, if we can only win the war by conscripting our women, we’ve lost it anyhow. It would be better to cry quits.

March 28, 1942

Today the girls of seventeen are registering. In two weeks time the girls of sixteen will have to register. To me this is outrageous. Have the children got to fight this damn war?

March 30, 1942

I am now going to Boots to exchange my library book. I was wakened in the night by a terrific crash, so probably a bomb fell somewhere near. The B.B.C. news said, “No damage was done by the bombs which fell on the country last night.” Of course they didn’t say where they fell. Perhaps I shall pick up some information on South Street. The tempo of the war is increasing daily, and invasion is expected within two weeks. It’s a crazy world and I am sick of it.
Afternoon and I am awaiting Miss Coppen. I was struck anew by the ugliness and drabness of the people in Romford. Worse, I perceived in the shop mirrors that I look like the rest of the crowd. My own reflection gives me a pain, as I look as deplorable as any other Romford dowager. Sickening.

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