Ted cut the grass before he left for the office at breakfast time this morning, especially so as to have that job done before the rain. Now he has left with a large bouquet of cut flowers from the garden, these, of course, will be for the church. Every year Ted strips the garden for the church, carrying his best blooms there several times a week. Silly fool! Father Bishop has a garden, and there is a very large garden at the convent, but just the same Ted gives practically all our flowers to the church, seldom bringing any into his house. Oh, what an all around idiot he is. Anyhow he bores me!
Last night when the light got too dusky for reading he felt chatty, so he talked, and I perforce had to listen. He got onto the subject of names, and held forth for an hour on his pet theory that Irish names are practically the same as Italian names or Spanish names; for example: Donnelly is Donelli, Hayes is Spanish, all the Hayes he ever knew were very dark people, probably the descendants of the Spaniards of the Armada who were wrecked off the coast of Ireland; of how White is an Irish Catholic name when you think of it only as English: how Lyons is frequently an Irish Catholic name when you think of it only as Jewish. Russell of course is Irish, etc. So he went, on and on. I could have screamed, for I have heard all of this hundreds of times, and I mean literally hundreds, for this topic on average, at least once a month, sometimes oftener. Every time he talks it forth as though it was the first time, as though he had just thought of it. He mustn’t be shut up or side tracked, above all he mustn’t be interrupted. When he wants to talk, he talks, but what silly garrulousness, what senile garrulity! Oh, he is an ass! His jokes too, his awful puerile jokes, oh he is a fool.
As time goes on I get angrier and angrier. Everything seems so senseless. Yet it need not be. Surely there are enough sensible people in the world to run it sensibly. The trouble of course is to how to oust the fools in possession.
So anger consumes me, private anger at the incompetent gasbag of a husband I cannot escape, and social anger at the incompetent gasbags of politicians and statesmen and militarists who have put our civilization into its present spin towards total destruction. Well there is no sense in raving so, Au Revoir.
I received a card from Cuthie this afternoon:
Stalagluft 3. Lager A. 8th April 1944
Just a card to say I am o.k. I send my respects. Cuth. That’s all, but it is reassuring. Only last month we were told that the Germans had shot forty-seven R.A.F. officers in Stalagluft 3. Seventy-six had escaped, but had been recaptured, and forty-seven shot in attempting to resist capture. All of this happened in March. Mr. Eden gave out this information in Parliament, and we were told that the relatives of the killed had been notified, so for those who had prisoners in Stulaghuft 3 there was no need to worry if we had not heard anything. So we weren’t worrying about Cuthie and now today comes this card. He has now entered his fifth year as a prisoner. Poor boy! Anyhow he is alive and whole, and he doesn’t have to go out on the damned bombing, thank God. I’m thankful he’s a prisoner, a safe prisoner.
June 4, 1944
I have been turning through my various Mary Austen books this afternoon. I want to contact a woman’s mind. I am not interested in what any man thinks. The awful thing about life is that we are really alone in it. We can’t live for anyone else, or by anyone else. We can’t understand anyone else. I wanted to. I tried. It didn’t come off. The misunderstanding between man and woman, the blank, the total blank of comprehension between husband and wife, good people who want to understand each other. I think that is the worse thing there is in
I’ve learned one thing; everyone has to find his own anchorage, his own security. Ted found his in Catholicism. I didn’t. Mine is still to find, I’m still seeking it, but I think it is in myself, in my own soul. Yes, I think so.
June 5, 1944
I was up at six-thirty to get Ted’s breakfast and on the seven o’clock news we heard the announcement of the fall of Rome. Our allied armies entered the city late last night. The German’s did not stay to fight; they are fleeing to the North. So Rome has been taken without destruction, the first of the European Capitals to be freed from the Nazi aggressor and invader. Which will be next? Paris?
June 6, 1944
Our invasion of the Continent has begun. Early this morning our armies made landings on the beaches of France between Cherbourg and Le Havre.
Communiqué No. 1 issued at nine-thirty this morning:
Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied Naval Forces, supported by Strong Air Forces, began landing allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France.
He went on to say that the landing of the troops on a broad front has been affected, and that the Allied Forces have penetrated in some cases several miles inland. The landing of airborne troops took place with extremely little loss and great accuracy.
So! Since I heard the news, about half past ten this morning, I have been crying nearly all day. The awfulness of the event overwhelms me.
At nine o’clock tonight the King broadcast. It was a quiet speech. He said, This time the challenge is not to fight to survive but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause. Once again what is demanded from us all is something more than courage and endurance; we need a revival of spirit, a new unconquerable resolve.
He went on to say, I desire solemnly to call my people to prayer and dedication. We are not unmindful of our own shortcomings, past and present. We shall not ask that God may do our will, but that we may be enabled to do the will of God; and we dare to believe that God has used our nation and empire as an instrument for fulfilling his high purpose. I hope that throughout the present crisis of liberation of Europe there may be offered up earnest, continuous, and widespread prayer. We who remain in this land can most effectively enter into the sufferings of
After the broadcast the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a short service. There was grand singing of the hymn. Oh God your help in ages past. Yes, we must pray. Pray. Pray. I do pray.
June 7, 1944
Fighting in Caen.
June 8, 1944
Capture of Bayeux.
June 9, 1944
I have finished Mary Austen’s, Experiences Facing Death. Mary Austin was a woman of genius. Reading her I see what little tawdry talent is my own. Now I shall never write the books I have always ached to write. I am now too old, the necessary concentration and effort is beyond my powers. I am a failing old woman. I know it. I wish I were a better-educated one. If I had, had a better education, and then if I had, had a different life, then I ought to have written a few significant books. It is too late now, too late. All I can do is carry on with my reading and to console my frustration by cherishing a deep hope that amongst my descendants there will be one to whom I have passed that talent I have, and that one may be able to do good work with it. I have been miscast in the play I have to play. I have played my part, dutifully, but I could have played a different part better, and with zest. There is no zest in life for me, as I have to live it. What a pity! There it is, and I can’t do anything about it at this late date in my time.
Last night I was dreaming again of Tenafly, and again I was visiting in the Eason’s home. Ruth was showing me through the house. It had been re-arranged since I saw it last, and two extra stories had been added to it. It was crowded with furniture, like a warehouse, and as Ruth took me through the rooms I saw that they held all the furniture we Thompson’s had ever possessed; pieces which I had forgotten were there in the dream, for my recognition; and at last, in the attic, there stood our original round dining-table, with the marks of the hot flat-iron which Katie Connelly scarred it with still asserting themselves. This furniture was Ruth’s, not mine any longer, and I didn’t care a damn, I was only aware of feeling relief of being rid of it. It is easy to interpret this dream, I think; it is a lumber dream, and lumber of the old furniture stands for the lumber of the mind. The different pieces stand for the different hopes and theories, and ideas and beliefs, which in the course of my life I have struggled for, attained, and then discarded. This is quite obvious I think.
What I intend to do, is make further discards from my mind. What I intend to do is clear my mind and protect it. The nights this week have been hellish, all night the planes drone over incessantly. Sleep is almost impossible for me but Ted sleeps all right. Sometimes I feel I must scream if the noise doesn’t stop. I don’t of course. I cry, I cry for the men in the planes, and for the men upon whom the bombs will drop. I feel that I can’t bear this war another minute. Of course I have to bear it. I can’t pray. It seems as though only when I know I am in danger myself that I can pray. So it is fear, personal fear, which drives me to prayer, and nothing else. Once or twice these nights I felt I was going mad, and had to hold my mind in stillness forcibly by will. This is an awful strain. About events, my mind is at a saturation point. I listen to the news reports and they just wash over me; when they are finished I can’t remember what I have heard.
June 13, 1944
There were three alerts in the night. I came downstairs the first two times, but the third time I was too tired to make the effort. Ted did not get up, he rarely does, only when the raid is very close and very heavy, but I cannot remain upstairs. News this morning that one of the raiders was brought down on the Line near Stratford. I think we heard the crash. An Ilford man whom Ted met this morning said he thought half of Ilford was falling down. Presumably the poor Gerry still had all his bombs aboard.
June 14, 1944
Churchill was taken to task in the Commons today for his foolhardy unadvised trip to France. Asked, was his journey really necessary?
This is the placard stuck up in tens of thousands of our stations, trains, buses, and shops: “Is your journey really necessary?”
Churchill has acted for a long time as though he regarded himself as God. Yet if he died, the war would still go on.
June 16, 1944
A new torment has assailed us. England has been bombarded from the air, not by the Luftwaffe, but by rocket self propelled bombs from France! Soon after eleven-thirty p.m. last night an alert was sounded, and bombardment began. It did not stop until nine-thirty a.m. this morning. Then at nine forty-five the alert was given again and the all clear at eleven-twenty a.m. It was frightful. They sounded like airplanes in trouble; the noise stops, you think they have engine trouble, and then comes the explosion. This is worked by radio location, “on a beam.”
On the six o’clock news we were told that Mr. Morrison made a statement in Parliament this morning on last nights attacks. He said, “pilotless aircraft,” the German’s promised devastating “secret weapon” made them. He said the government, presumably had known about them, and was taking steps to deal with them. Meanwhile, he said, alerts would be sounded on their approaches, and the public was warned to take shelter. After the sound of the engine ceases, then, in from five to fifteen seconds, their explosion will occur. They carry two tons of bombs. He said last Thursday nights raid was their first use against England. He said, so as not to give any information to the enemy, they would only be reported as enemy activity over Southern England, and Southern England would take in all the country from the Wash to the Bristol Channel.
June 17, 1944
It is noon. It is my usual cooking morning. We had another bad night last night. The alert was sounded at one in the morning; the all clear given at two-thirty, but at two forty-five a.m. another alert was given and the all clear did not come until half past six. I then went up to bed for an hours sleep. The first raids were terrifying, but the latter lot seemed to be a little further away, so I was not quite so frightened. However it was pretty bad.
This morning I am putting all my books and papers and scribbles away, for I can’t do anything with any of them. In raids like last night’s I become pure primitive female. I have no ideas or convictions about anything. I have only fear. It seems to me that fear is the strongest emotion of any emotion we can ever feel; not nagging mental fear about ones prospects or affairs, but fear of danger, to be in fear of one’s life, and to be helpless to do or make anything for safety. To be alone before the unknown terror, there is nothing worse the mind can ever endure. Regret? Anxiety? They are nothing. To be helpless and in peril for one’s life, that is the worst thing in the world. In those moments one doesn’t think; one only calls on God, and the power of God, to protect us. For there is nothing else. Who have I in heaven but Thee, Oh God! Oh God, save us! Theology, doctrine, truth, vanishes. There is only you, and your agony and peril, and you flee to God. You throw yourself at his feet with your terror and your helplessness and lo, he enfolds you, underneath are his everlasting arms. Prayer. Prayer and the mercy of God, who lays his hand on your anguished mind, and Lo, you are serene, safe in his keeping; the peace of God, which passes all understanding. This happiness, you know this happiness, the power and the presence of God, ultimately there is nothing else.
The King has visited France. He went yesterday to visit the battle areas of Normandy. This must mean we are absolutely secure there, or his Majesty would never have been allowed to go.
It is seven p.m. now and we had two daylight alerts this afternoon between three-fifty and four fifty-five p.m. I think these were for “strays” probably reconnaissance planes, trying to find out what damage they did last night. No details whatever have been given on the radio, nor, says Mr. Morrison, will be. Ted brought in word at teatime that it was Woolwich last night that got the worst of the attack; he says, “he hears” Woolwich has been very severely hit. There are many casualties, much destruction. There is a great racket of planes overhead right now, but they are ours, going out on what is called “a mission.” They were over Berlin again last night, we are told. Oh my God, the idiocy of war!
June 18, 1944
I was not in bed at all last night, though Ted remained upstairs. I finally fell asleep on the sofa towards dawn, but at seven Ted woke me up, opening windows. He was getting ready for church. After he went out I set to before I dressed and swept this dining room. I had to. It was smothered in dust and scattered plaster, the surround of the window frame, blown in by the blast.
June 19, 1944
I am so tired I don’t know what to do with myself. I went to fetch the newspaper this morning and could hardly walk home. This is lack of sleep, and sleep in bed. I am bone and muscle tired. Alerts have been on and off all day. Collier Row has been hit, many houses down, but nothing in Romford. We are told fighters are bringing down great numbers of the pilot-less planes, the flying bombs, over the sea, and over open country, a sort of infernal sky tennis. We hear our coast towns have been very badly hit, especially Portsmouth, Worthing, and Bristol. That was in the first surprise attack of course. Now our fighters wait in the air all day for these things. It seems, once launched, they fly in a straight line, at about three hundred and fifty miles an hour, so can be predicted. They fly too low, for our ack-ack guns, so our fighters go up and shoot them down.
I spent a night in bed. There was an alert just before midnight, so I came downstairs, but as all remained quiet I went back to bed at one a.m. There were hundreds of search lights out, and no all clear had been given, but I felt I had to go to bed. I fell asleep, and slept until eight this morning and so did Ted! He must have been tired since he didn’t wake up for his sacred mass.
It is theology, doctrines, arguments and dogmas. As I sit alone here in the nights in the midst of the raids I see the futility of religions just as clearly as I do that of governments. Governments, politics, and religions are human inventions, as simply as science is; some of them are good, and some not so good; some are useful, but some just don’t work. Of all of them, the church, it seems to me is just dead lumber. It doesn’t work today. It might have done once but does so no longer. The Church showed up in the last war as a failure; it shows up in this as a corpse. Christianity pays no more attention to the teachings of Jesus today than it has ever done; it still concerns itself only with the abracadabra of theology, and not with the plain words of Christ. Christ said: Love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you...
The churches, all of them, are all for war, and the clever theologians argue to justify it. This war is preached as a Holy Crusade, and the pastors of all denominations are settling with the politicians on how the enemy must be made to pay and suffer “just retribution.” (A fine term for hatred) Jesus said forgive, forgive, and forgive. Jesus said God is Love. It is certain that only with love will mankind ever right the world. That is the only way. Men won’t follow it. No, they will go on producing more and more words, that’s all; except they will insist that their words are the words of God. Thus said the Lord, as of old.
When Ted came in for lunch he told me what he has seen this morning up at Collier Row. In Lodge Lane one of the pilot-less airplanes exploded, with the result that about one hundred houses are more or less destroyed, some completely, but not all. Ted says it is a horrible mess. That is only one bomb that caused this! No wonder the Germans are gloating. I don’t suppose the damage they do is as great as they claim it is, but I am damn sure it is much greater then our government reporters will admit. The news is muzzled. All you really know is what you can see or suffer for yourself.
June 21, 1944
We had another bad night, one awful nearby explosion just after three this morning. This was at Hainault Road. At three p.m. just as I was at the gate, starting out to go shopping the alert went, and almost before I could get back into the house, an explosion followed. I waited half an hour, and then started off again. Going through Ive’s Garden I saw the little one legged Mrs. Thompson who lives in Cottage Number Six. She said that two women passing through had just told her the bomb fell on Brentwood Road and Princes Road. Elsewhere in the town I heard bombs had fallen at Helms Park, Abbs Cross, and Hornchurch Station. I registered for my new ration book. I have changed my tradesmen. I have registered with Metson for meat, and at Greene’s for all other groceries and household supplies.
After I have heard the news headlines at ten o’clock I am going out to get some vegetables. We have been through another terrible night. I have had no sleep at all. I started off in bed at eleven o’clock, but the alert went at midnight and I have been downstairs ever since. One bomb around four-fifteen a.m. seemed to be falling in our front garden. When Ted came back from church he had heard the worst crash was in Massiter’s Walk. When the little radio girl Joyce came in a few minutes ago she said the White Hart was down, and many shop windows out in South Street, especially near the station. Perhaps that was the one we heard so near.
Coming home an alert sounded as I crossed South Street. I did not know whether to go into a house for shelter, or proceed up Western Road. I then decided to continue walking home, as I must cook the lunch. I got in an awful panic as I saw the damned bomb going over. However, I managed to get into the house before it fell, up Upminster Way.
Ted says he has seen the damage at Hainault Road and it is indescribable. One of the killed at Collier Row is a woman who was the mother of seven children, and within two weeks of giving birth to yet another; nine of them in that house killed. When the raids are on I think most of the dying, and of those birthing, the women in labor and of those who must stay beside them. You couldn’t leave the dying, could you? Nor could you leave a woman about to bring forth a child.
I went to bed last night at about eleven, and then the warning came soon after midnight, so I came downstairs and spent the rest of the night on my sofa. The pilot-less planes came over all night, at about half hour intervals. The two nearest explosions occurred at four a.m. and seven a.m. The seven o’clock one was the most frightening. The damned thing went exactly over this house, and exploded about a minute afterwards. It fell in Pettit’s Lane, but luckily in a vacant field, so it hurt nobody. At breakfast Ted said this mornings server saw it fall whilst on his way to church. No houses on Pettit’s Lane came down but all of the windows came out in all of them. Another fell in Straight Road, a little further on, but that has caused damage and death.
The B.B.C. reports the Americans are attacking Cherbourg and are within the first zone of the defenses. The slaughter there must be simply awful.
This morning I have been doing a little of the really necessary sweeping and cleaning. Even if the house is blown up tonight it must still be kept sweet and garnished so long as ever it stands.
I have written to Gladys to tell her not to come to London this summer, as she had some thought of doing so. We are London, so far as the war is concerned and there is no doubt Gerry will continue to attack us from now on until we have him finally beaten. In a speech at a luncheon in the Mexican Embassy one day last week Mr. Churchill said words to the affect that with continued unremitting fortitude and endurance it looked likely that in the fighting of the coming summer months we could have the Nazi’s beaten. From such a doleful prophet and cautious speaker as Churchill this was hearty encouragement, and practically a promise of imminent final victory for our arms. Pray God that he is right. Anyhow we can’t help allowing ourselves to think he is, for he has never promised easy victory and a short war; he wouldn’t change his tune now. Maybe victory is in sight, or in his sight, anyhow, and he ought to know, and to be able to see what’s coming, if any man could.
June 24, 1944
It was a very bad night, the pilotless planes coming over steadily. As before, the worst was at four a.m. This fell in Pettit’s Lane. However this day has been free from them, at any rate in this district we haven’t had one since the one we had at seven a.m. The B.B.C. assures us the R.A.F. is strafing their launching platforms, day and night. I heard of this sad case today, told to me by the vegetable man. A friend of his, who lives in Hainault Road, has lost almost his entire family when a bomb fell on his house this week. His wife and four children were killed outright, and two other children are in the hospital, so badly injured they are not expected to live. The man himself was in the hospital wounded, back from France. He begged the authorities to let him out to go and look at his wife. When he saw her he went clear out of his mind. He had to be put in a straight jacket and now is in the lunatic asylum. This is one of the items of war ... bombing ... Man’s inhumanity to man. Senseless war.
Ted is at church. Of course. It is a fine sunny day, but has turned cloudy now and a strong wind has sprung up. This will hold up the unloading on the Normandy beaches. The battle for Cherbourg is in its last stages. We had raids on and off all day.
June 26, 1944
We had another bad night, with flying bombs falling every five minutes after each hour, four times. Also coming intermittently all day. Some are worse than others. We presume the attack is meant for London and we are getting only the strays.
June 27, 1944
There was news today of the fall of Cherbourg. The flying bombs continue their assault without pause, night and day. We had no sleep at all last night. Mrs. Canon came this afternoon. She told me that Mr. Canon had telephoned her at two o’clock to see if she was alright. We had a very bad bomb here at one p.m. He told her that it was bad in the city and that Mount Pleasant (the P.O. where he works) had a very narrow escape at midday, when two bombs fell, one on either side of it. He said when they heard them coming all the men took up their refuge stations. It was very bad.
About a half hour ago we had a close shave here; one of them sailed right over these houses, almost roof-top height and exploded only two minutes afterword, don’t know where, probably in Pettit’s Lane again. The thing sounded like an express train on the roof. They’re terrifying. I opened the pantry door and stood close behind that. We are warned to shield ourselves from windows, because of the flying glass. I should hate to be in the city. Presumably Hitler is having another try to destroy London. We think the casualties must be heavy (they are heavy here in Romford) but no information is given out so that Hitler may not know what results he is getting. We are told our fighters are shooting many of them down, into the sea, and into the fields, and that our bombers are attacking their starting ramps. Nevertheless, hundreds and hundreds of them are coming over Southern England, mainly this London area. I guess the only way to stop them is to land in Northern France, the Calais section, and this we maybe able to do soon, now that we have taken Cherbourg.
June 28, 1944
Last night there were fewer bombs over this part of Southern England, but nevertheless there were many. I got some sleep, but was disturbed every hour by the crashes. As usual an extra bad one came at four a.m. and then another extra bad one about six-thirty a.m. I got up and dressed and put the room to rights. All day today they have been coming over though at less frequent intervals than before. Presumably our R.A.F. has put some of their launching platforms out of use.
June 29, 1944
I have been out between the showers and the warnings to get some fresh books from the library. The weather is improving, the sky clearing, temperatures rising. Maybe our flyer's will be able to finish the launching ramps of the flying bombs today and tonight we may be able to get a little sleep. Last night was bad again, many flying bombs coming over. It was also a very stormy night, cold and rainy and big gusts of wind. Even the weather is against us. Last week Pennsylvania suffered a hurricane which killed many people and wrecked many homes. This usual violence of nature, in unusual time and place, is sort of frightening. It makes one think of Jehovah and his devastating wraths.
I have had a letter from Harold and it came yesterday. I have not shared it with Ted; it would only call forth his condemnations, so why ask for them? Here comes another warning.