World War ll London Blitz: 5-3-44 to 5-30-44 Planes passed overhead incessantly all night; our planes.
May 3, 1944
Our wedding anniversary, the thirty-ninth, it was a Wednesday, too, the day we got married. My God! How long ago!
May 4, 1944
Planes passed overhead incessantly all night; our planes. I thought our invasion of Europe must have begun, at last. But no, all we have been told today is that our aircraft were out over occupied territory during the night.
May 5, 1944
Mrs. Camus was here this morning. She tells me that Bobbie (Roberta), her youngest daughter, barely sixteen, has commenced as a probationer in a London Nursery Hospital, and that Beryl, the elder, has volunteered to do Red Cross work, in her evenings, here at Old Church Hospital. She says Old Church is absolutely empty of patients, but has increased its staff of doctors and nurses, and that many foreign doctors are there; American, Polish, Czech, etc. They are standing by waiting for invasion casualties. Beryl has been warned to prepare herself for terrible sights, men without legs, men without faces. War, damnable devilish war!
In London a conference of Prime Ministers is sitting on Wednesday dined with the King at Buckingham Palace. Mr. Fraser of New Zealand, Mr. Curtain of Australia, Mr. Mackenzie King of Canada, General Saints of South Africa, two Indians, the Maharajah of Kashmir and Sir Firoz Khan Noon, and Sir Godfrey Higgins; and of course, Mr. Churchill. The old gang, they have met, they say, “to examine afresh the main efforts and opportunities which lie before their peoples in war and peace.” In effect, how to conduct the war, how to make more men fight, work, and pay taxes, and how to pocket the proceeds. Vile old men, on the spree. Old men who talk glibly about war and glory. Rich old men who suffer none of the discomforts of war. Talkers; damned talkers. Opportunists. Fools. Hateful old men.
May 6, 1944
In the Catholic Herald of yesterday, is printed this: “An allied woman who does not wish even her nationality disclosed because the people she worked with might be arrested and put to death by the Nazi’s talked to me in London about her experiences in Hungary. She escaped there from one of the occupied countries and worked for some time in the underground movement with others of her compatriots who have escaped. Two or three months ago she managed to get to this country by way of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, a great deal of the journey being done on foot although she managed to travel on trains when she could board them away from the big towns. She arrived in Hungary about March, 1943, and spent seven months there.” (Then there are a couple of columns about what she saw, etc.) This is what caught my attention, and what I wish to stress: “But” and this was said very sadly, “I sometimes wonder if resistance to the Nazi’s does any good to a country. It is heroic and noble, I know, to resist as the Poles have done, but what have they gained? They have lost three and a half million of their people, not to speak of one and half million deported to Russia, and their position is not going to be too happy in peace. Big nations cannot understand the position of small nations who have to live beside powerful neighbors. To resist them may only be folly. It may only be abnormal. It is unfair to judge those who feel they are unable to do so… Everyday some member of the underground movements in Europe gives up his or her life for the course of freedom from the Nazi yoke. I wonder sometimes, are we right? The end is not so rosy.”
Exactly. What is the use of it all? Jesus said: “Make peace with your adversary quickly.” War is madness, the most colossal madness possible to mankind. It need never be. Men insist on making war. Oh, I hate men, the old men who maneuver nations into war, for their own ends. War fills me with furious anger, not against the poor young combatants, who are forced to fight, but against the statesmen who bring it to pass. The fool politicians.
May 13, 1944
Artie and Hilda moved into their house today. We have combed this house to gather enough furniture so that they can start on their own. Finally Bodger’s carried away a van load. New furniture is absolutely unobtainable, but young couples starting up housekeeping, or folk who have been blitzed out, can obtain from the government a book of coupons permitting them to buy a certain limited amount of utility furniture. Artie says he can not get his coupons until he has his premises, then he must fill in forms, then he will be investigated (authorities will probably call here to interview us, to find out if his new address is authentic, and so on) then he will get his coupons, after that, then he must wait until the merchant procures it, probably up to three months. What a game! So we’ve furnished him. This makes me think of Mother furnishing homes for Eric out of surpluses of her house. There is a heavy rainstorm this evening, and a big drop in the temperature. We have had summer weather for a month past, maybe all the summer we are going to get this year.
May 17, 1944
Artie and Hilda came today, in time for lunch, and afterwards Artie laid the lino in the front bedroom, from which we had let him take away the large blue carpet. Hilda looks very well. They tell me they have received a card from Joan inviting them to spend the evening this coming Friday with her in Hammersmith.
May 18, 1944 Ascension Day
Ascension into what? The stratosphere? The Bomber Squadrons? The Spitfires? The Mosquito’s? The Flying Fortresses?
May 19, 1944
I am reading “The Sheltering Tree” which is the autobiography of Netta Syrett, one of the popular novelists of my youth. I quote, with agreement:
“The war years began for me on that night, and it is only in retrospect that I realize how much more than the actual four years of its duration it took out of the lives of women my age; of most women my age, at any rate. In nineteen-fourteen we felt young, full of energy, as ready for exertion and almost as unmindful of it as we were at twenty-five. By nineteen-eighteen, even for those of us who like me led a quiet existence and suffered no bereavement through the war, much of the “spirit’' of youth had fled, and I fancy this was largely due to a prosaic physical cause; undernourishment. It was, as I remember, only when by chance I had a good meal that I realized how much I needed it, and loss of physical vigor meant a corresponding loss of the feeling of youth, to my contemporaries and me. That after all, is so little a thing compared with the terrible suffering of thousands of other women as not worth mentioning.
It was a changed world into which women of my age emerged after nineteen-eighteen, how greatly changed it took some time to discover.”
Yes. That is how it is today; we are undernourished, we are filled but not fed. When this war began in nineteen thirty-nine I felt well and in the prime of middle age, but for a long time now I have definitely felt myself to be an old woman. All my spring has gone, all my resilience. Everything has become a trouble to me, and I am always tired. Every extra exertion fatigues me excessively. I regard the house with detestation; I don’t want the trouble of looking after it. I don’t want to dust, I don’t want to cook, and I don’t want to sew. In fact, I don’t want to do anything. Above all, I don’t want to have to look after anybody, but I long to be looked after. I am always hungry; not with the healthy hunger from emptiness, but with a gnawing hunger which craves a satisfaction from something, it doesn’t know what, but can’t find. I long for juicy meat, and for fruit, for real bread and real butter. I am so disgusted with all the substitute and ersatz foods. I want real fresh food, and plenty of it. I wonder, I really do, if when once again we can get good food, shall I be able to recover my vigor on it, or shan’t I? Shall I be beyond recovery? Oh, damn the war, damn the war!
May 20, 1944
Oh, but I am tired! Almost all night long, airplanes have been droning overhead, our planes going out, and then returning. There must have been thousands of them. Europe must be bombed now more than we were in 1940. Civilization is committing suicide.
May 22, 1944
Just before ten this morning, as I was beginning to put my fresh bandages on, the alert sounded, and we had a short day light raid, the first day light one for some time. This mornings bombs dropped somewhere, supposing they had dropped on me.
What has disturbed me right now is a photograph from America, which I received on Saturday. It is a fine large photograph of Eddie, holding his little son; the child looks adoringly up to his father, and his father smiles out at the world. My eldest son and his eldest son. My heart is pinched and bruised afresh. I long to see Eddie face to face, I long to see all the little children. Of our seventeen grandchildren I have only seen two. I have missed all of the pleasures of their adorable infancy's. For what? So that Ted can live in England and go to mass daily. Isn’t it absurd?
Artie came in at teatime without Hilda. He said they had been shopping downtown and she was tired, so he had sent her home ahead. I told him that I had expected them for lunch. He said, I hadn’t said lunch, so they didn’t like to come in, because of rations, etc. His chief news was that he is “starting” work tomorrow. He received his Army discharge last week, so now is a civilian again, back in the family firm.
May 24, 1944
This morning I did a through cleaning job of the top floor. Mrs. Whitbread wrote a month ago that she would have to give up the job, as she did not feel well enough to work any longer. (I imagine she is going to have a baby) I was sorry about this, as she was a very good char.
I had several visitors this afternoon. Mrs.Fitch and Bertha, Mrs. James, and Elizabeth Coppen. We had another daylight alert from four forty-five until five-twenty and only a little gunfire. I suppose it was only a stray reconnaissance plane.
May 27, 1944
I am afraid I am perilously near what is known as a complete nervous breakdown. I am so tired in body and exasperated in mind I feel I can’t endure another minute. I was in such a state of nerves this morning whilst cooking the dinner I felt I should break down and cry, and I did not dare to let myself go in case I should never stop. I am sick to death of cooking dinners, I am sick to death of the house and the housework, I am sick to death of looking after a husband and I am sick to death of the war, this infernal war. I am sick of myself, this miserable body. The weather has turned very hot suddenly and consequently my legs are bad. It is torture to walk about. It is worse I suppose because of all the heavy work I have done this week. I really do feel on the verge of collapse. Ted is too silly for words. At dinner just now he said if the war ended now he was afraid it would be too soon, because we, England, hadn’t suffered enough. France had suffered, he said, and Poland, and now very likely Germany was suffering, but we hadn’t suffered enough. This is the religious maniac talking; also the safe old man. It is true this country hasn’t suffered invasion, but it suffered the expectation of invasion and still isn’t free of the dread of the threat of it. It is Ted who doesn’t suffer, but he is an abnormal man. What about Artie? What about Cuthi? What about me in my grief for them? What about all our millions of young men fighting and dying in the air, on the sea, on the land, all over the globe and all their families grieving for them? What about our blasted cities and villages? What about our young women thrust into the factories and the services? What about the demoralization of our juveniles? What about the nightly air raids, the fires, the terror? What about the taxes, to put something down to Ted’s comprehension? This war will never be paid for, even in cash. All who survive will be impoverished for the rest of their days in mere money, let alone in their affections.
If Ted were a young man who had to go to fight he might feel differently about the war. To say the least he would find it inconvenient to have to leave his home, and to have to take orders from his superiors. Isn’t it conceivable that millions of our men, especially the older and the married ones, find Army life a suffering, long before they come to the actual fighting and the danger? What about their wives and their mothers? Isn’t it suffering for them to sit at home, or in their compulsory “directed” job, alone? Partings, the breaking up of homes, infidelities, intolerable loneliness, intolerable herding, insufficient money, restrictions! All these miseries on top of blitzes, Foreign Service, wounds, blindness, and death. Then Ted calmly says we haven’t yet suffered enough! I suppose he wants everybody to be crucified like Jesus! Oh, he’s mad! It is true that the sea has saved us from the boot of the invader, but it hasn’t saved us from anything else of war. The air war has been and is terrible. There isn’t a family, scarcely a solitary person, in this land, who hasn’t suffered because of this war, even Ted, though he takes it lightly, yet one of his sons is a prisoner, and the other is mutilated, and will be mutilated for the rest of his life, perhaps another fifty years or more. What of the agony of body and of mind which Artie has suffered? There are thousands like Artie, and will be thousands more. War. Devilish, damnable war; yet men will war. I can’t understand it. I don’t think any woman can understand it. Men are fools that’s what women understand, right well. Ted Thompson is an intolerable fool. He’s mad!
May 29, 1944
It is hotter than ever. The B.B.C. reports temperatures of ninety-six degrees in the Straights of Dover.
May 30, 1944
Still hellishly hot. The B.B.C. reports temperatures in the shade at Dover, seventy-nine degrees. The R.A.F. is out all day and all night just the same; day flying planes return so hot that ground crews have to spray them with water before they can touch them. This heat is making me feel downright sick, as well as being bad for my legs. It makes me feel cross also. Damn rotten world.