July 2, 1942
I tried all the chemists and sweetshops in town for peppermints, or barley sugar, but neither to be had anywhere. It is extraordinary how whatever you happen to need nowadays is unobtainable. I am also craving fruit, but literally there is none. None. Gooseberries and strawberries, which should be plentiful now, are all taken by the government, to be made into jam for next winters rations. Tinned fruits, of course, disappeared long ago. Nor is there any Vichy or soda water to be had; manufacturers of this sort of thing has been stopped by order. No arrowroot is to be had either. Whiskey is so expensive per bottle, so naturally as I am not near dying I shall not buy any whiskey to settle my tummy. I am determined to eat no more of the national bread. We hear of this disagreeing with many people; it is too harsh, and in normal times many people cannot digest whole meal bread. Now in wartime, with “national” bread, spread with margarine, which is made largely from whale oil, is it any wonder many folk suffer from indigestion, dysentery, and so forth? It is summertime now, and no fruit, and if there were, there would be no sugar to cook it. The monotony and starchiness, and unbalance of wartime diet are wearisome to endure; no wonder a heat spell can upset our insides.
Friday, July 3, 1942
Friday, July 17, 1942
At a quarter past five just now the alert was sounded. The all clear was given at five -forty p.m. This is the first time in this neighborhood since March. It has scared me pretty considerably for I am here in the house alone. Ted went off on his vacation this afternoon. He was taking the four o’clock train for St. Edmonds; from there he intends to make a walking tour of Suffolk and Norfolk. If we were blitzed there would be no way of finding him. This is his sixty third birthday.
Saturday, July 18, 1942
Last night passed without further alarms. The bomber was over Harold Wood, but luckily his bombs fell in a field. We were not told whether he was brought down or not. Mrs. Harvey James was here this afternoon, also Miss Canham. Mrs. James had brought her will, which she asked me to witness. She had intended to ask Ted also, but as he wasn’t’ here, she asked Miss Canham to witness, which she did. I heard a piece of news when Mrs. Dennis brought the groceries. She said, apropos of yesterdays alarm, that we were warned we would hear strange noises about four o’clock tomorrow morning, but that we should disregard them, as it would only be the Home Guard. The noises we will hear will only be the Home Guard staging a mock invasion. Mrs. Dennis was not only surprised that Mr. Thompson should go away and leave me alone in the house; she was very surprised I didn’t know about the mock invasion. “Didn’t Mr. Thompson tell you?” “No.” “That’s funny. He must have known.”
Yes it is funny and yet really not funny. Of course Ted must have known, equally that’s why he’s chosen this weekend to leave town. This is a fat example of Ted’s peculiar traits, his secrecy, his duplicity, and his adroitness at dodging the unpleasant. How very unkind not to warn me! If Mrs. Dennis had not given me the information I should have been terrified to sickness when I heard the racket in the night. I should have been bound to think the real invasion had started. Probably if I am wakened suddenly out of a deep sleep I shall be frightened anyhow. I’ll try to remember its all a fake. That’s a good word to describe Ted, too a fake, a hypocrite, a damned English hypocrite. I expect he is chuckling to himself, thinking how smart he is, wriggling out of an unpleasantness. Anyhow he might have told me. He ought. I don’t suppose he could see that, this action won’t fit technically into any of the categories of sin; therefore he’s got nothing on his conscience. Oh, I groan.
Sunday, July 19, 1942
It was a fiendish night, but because of the elements rather than the Home Guard. It was blowing, cold, rainy, screaming windy. Cold still this morning, but the wind has dropped and the rain stopped. I have been up since six-fifteen. A real alert sounded soon after six a.m. so I got up, came downstairs and made tea, and then took a bath. The all clear came around six-thirty, but I was much too much awake then to go back to bed. Now I have just returned from a trip to Lamberts, to pick up yesterdays papers. The streets are full of men in uniform: Home Guards, A.R.P. wardens, fire service men, ambulances and red cross, R.A.F. cadets, military police and ordinary police galore. The tank traps are set, camouflaged cars and Louie’s dot about, and cyclists are rushing about in all directions. In the alleys between the houses groups of guards stand at ease on sentry. What a performance! What a game! They seem just like children playing. They are fools of men, playing a man's game. They fill me with a disgusted sort of anger, an ever-deepening anger. I feel I hate all of the men of my generation, and the older ones who have made this world what it is; and my heart breaks for the young men whose lives they throw away, who are most literally sacrificed. For what? For the stock exchange! For the capitalists, the bankers, and the damn fool politicians. Why blame only Hitler? Hitler could never have arisen, never done what he has done, except that those who should have known better allowed the world to rot.
Pray? Why pray? I thought as I walked along South Street just now, and saw all the men playing their game, with here and there a young couple looking as though on a holiday bent, going into the station or waiting for a bus, I thought, who is going to church? Not these people. For these people I think the churches are not so much forgotten, as they never existed. Yes, the churches are dead, quite dead. Who does go to them anyhow? The old. People like Ted. The Irish, the ignorant Irish.
Why pray? Its obvious that church services isn’t going to win the war, so why bother with them? Well, sensible people don’t.
Six-thirty p.m.; News states that bombs were dropped “on a town in East Anglia” this morning,” some damage done, some casualties.”
Monday, July 20, 1942
Elizabeth Coppen says yesterdays “town” was Chelmsford. Stanley was there yesterday and saw the damage. Five people killed, eight seriously injured. Bombs fell near the railway station, it looked as though they had tried for the bridge, but missed it. There are large craters in the road.
Friday, July 24, 1942
Mrs. Prior actually showed up today. Whilst she was eating her lunch Ted walked in. He’d had enough of East Anglia. I should think so. Last night seven bombers out of forty were brought down over England, five of them over East Anglia. He looks well, but tired. The weather has been showery, and he has a sore foot. He got as far as Walsingham. He would do a pilgrimage, no doubt! Old Bert came calling this evening, and was very surprised to find Ted at home.
Monday, July 27, 1942
I was awakened by an alert soon after six this morning, and then we had a second one about seven. There is very heavy rain, and a completely clouded sky, which is fine for raiders.
I had a letter from Eric this morning. I’m also expecting one from Joan. I think she is in Hammersmith. Mother wrote this week that Joan was coming to town and if so she is sure to be coming over here soon. Bombs were dropped on Ford’s at Dagenham, also at Chelmsford. Seven bombers brought down.
Tuesday, July 28, 1942
Alarms in the night, gunfire heavy so came downstairs at three o’clock. The all clear did not go until nearly four thirty a.m. Bombs dropped at Woodford, Ipswich, Chelmsford, and again at Dagenham. The B.B.C. stated two hundred were over the country last night, but scattered, most damage done at Birmingham. We brought down eight, and one over the channel. I presume this is a reprisal raid for the R.A.F. attack on Hamburg on Saturday night. We raided there in mass, and lost twenty-nine of our bombers. Isn’t it all frightful? We have news today that Rostov has now fallen to the Germans. Hell on earth.
I try not to think of the war. That is the most sensible way I know to preserve myself. I will not let fear and loathing destroy me. When we get a bad raid, like these mornings, my body suffers in spite of my will. One is overcome by sheer primitive animal fear. I was horribly nauseated though not frightened in my mind.