I was very agreeably surprised yesterday afternoon by the arrival of Hilda and the baby. This is the first time she has been to this house since leaving it last May. We telephoned Artie and told him to come to tea. They stayed until nearly eight o’clock, and everything was happy and pleasant. The baby is thriving and is a beautiful child, and Hilda was very agreeable, actually smiling for once. Two rocket bombs fell whilst they were here, but not too close. The baby was lovely. I should like her to bring it here occasionally, if only she would. I have asked them to come next Monday, when Joan will be here. They have agreed to come, but will let me know later whether they will come to lunch or to tea.
In the course of a speech in the House yesterday Mr. Churchill said that militarily we couldn’t look for the end of the war before Christmas, or perhaps before Easter. Of course someday the war will end, but I begin to be afraid I may end before the war does. Au-Revoir.
November 3, 1944
We had an awful explosion in the night at one a.m. with a second, not quite so bad, following at two a.m. I have heard this afternoon that the one a.m. rocket fell in the Elan Park Rainham neighborhood. At ten-thirty this morning the first daylight one fell; then they came along at eleven a.m.; twelve-fifteen p.m., twelve-thirty, twelve forty-five, one-twenty and two-twenty p.m. We have had none since then. It is awful.
November 4, 1944
I went out shopping this morning, which was unusual for me on a Saturday morning; but I simply could not stay in the house and cook. I loathe the house and the housekeeping. Just as I reached our gate on my return a most terrific explosion went off. The air quivered; the whole street seemed to shake. It was exactly eleven o’clock. Two minutes later a second occurred, not quite so bad. I don’t know where the bomb or bombs fell, but evidently not in Romford. When Ted came in for lunch it was still not known where the devilish thing fell, perhaps we shall know by tonight. It might be anywhere within a radius of six to ten miles. This infernal war. I’m restless, terribly restless. I want to go roaming. Where can we roam? The war is everywhere. Damn the war.
This morning’s bomb fell on the golf course. Nobody was hurt, though one bungalow was completely destroyed, and several other houses severely damaged. We had another rocket at five-thirty p.m. and another at nine forty-five p.m.
November 5, 1944 Guy Fawkes’s Day.
A gale was blowing all day. This has been a dreadful day with the flying missiles. A rocket nearly shook the house down about midnight, but after that we had quietness until seven-fifty this morning, when the first bomb of the day fell and then followed by many others. At seven-thirty this evening an alert sounded for doodles, and a second alert was given at seven fifty-five. The all clear came at eight-thirty. Since then all has been quiet. The rockets were all near by, but the doodles were further off. I spent most of the clear time writing letters to Eddie and to Chic.
November 6, 1944
It was a foggy morning with fog signals going off intermittently. Joan arrived about eight-fifteen, for breakfast. Hilda arrived with the baby just before one o’clock and Artie very soon after. In the afternoon Miss Cannon came and also Miss Coppen. A rocket went off with a great bang exactly at three o’clock. Joan says they had ten in one day in Hammersmith, and on that same day a warden told her there had been seventeen in London. The theory as to why they are never publicly mentioned, or written of in the press, is, that silence prevents Hitler knowing whether he has got the range or not; the idea being that he may think they drop in the sea! Also if he fires off twenty a day, perhaps ten fall on Germany itself, five in the sea, and only five reach England; so hush hush! Don’t say a word. Isn’t it silly? Of course he knows they reach us. Joan says that in the city there is great dissatisfaction with the government over them because we do nothing, and say nothing. Naturally. Our Ministry of Information certainly treats the public as one big ass. How silly men are!
Joan left about four o’clock, as she wanted to be home before dark, and Hilda, with the baby left with her. Hilda was quite smiling and cheerful today. I think the baby has humanized her. She was really pleasant to Mrs. Cannon and Miss Coppen, so much so that both of them remarked upon it after she had gone. Good. I hope she will now stay friendly and pleasant. It is so silly to be dour. The baby is beautiful.
November 7, 1944
It is Election Day in the States today. Also this is the twenty-seventh anniversary of the set-up of Soviet Russia. I suppose the Russian Revolution was the greatest historical event of my lifetime. After all a war is nothing new. This war is only bigger than other wars. The overthrow of Czarist Russia, the Russian Revolution, was a unique event. True, there had been the French Revolution, but great as that was; it was but an infant affair in comparison with the dreadful and terrific Russian Revolution. I’m afraid of Russia. It is Russia who is winning this war, first by her arms, and next by her ideas. I expect if I could live long enough I should see all Europe sovietized and communized. I should hate it. Dr. Alexis Carrel is dead, in Paris.
November 8, 1944
President Roosevelt has been re-elected for a fourth term. The commentator says this gives Roosevelt the green light, the go-ahead sign. Yes, I am glad. I think Roosevelt ought to be in office to help wind up the war. We have had no disturbance since half an hour of flying bombs, Monday evening. The Germans have been driven from their last posts on Walcheren. This means the approaches to the Port of Antwerp are now free for us. Clearance engineers and special mine sweepers are already on the job. Vienna has been bombed for the fifth night running. The Germans are giving ground in East Prussia.
Oh God let the war end soon!
Our planes are very active this morning; they are passing and re- passing incessantly, ever since early dawn, and it is a foggy day too. I think a big battle must be in progress somewhere.
November 9, 1944
For once the sun is shining and the sky a clear blue. Planes were going out ever since early morning, long before we got up. Today I am in a state of exasperation hard to bear. Ted gave me a beautiful lecture over breakfast, all because I asked him to change my Boot’s book this morning and he said he hadn’t had time. Then he launched forth about the rottenness of today’s literature, by which he meant novels. This is what Ted does with the books he brings home for me; before he will even let me touch them he opens them and reads pages on which cursory reading he passes judgment. If he finds one word about sex, love, or the body, the book is condemned. It is filthy he says, or degenerate, or immoral. To suit Ted all novels must be innocuous as the Dickens’s, where men and women only have faces, and live strictly by conscience and the Victorian Sunday. This morning I got his usual harangue, complete with his condemnation of modern women, and me in particular. I listened in silence. I have heard this song before. Inside I was groaning. This man is such an awful fool. In speech, in what may be said or written, Ted is as prudish as the Victorian spinster; but in action, in the bed, when he feels like it, he is as brutish and as sensual as the Victorian paterfamilias. Nothing may be uttered but everything may be done and must be done when the man is in the mood. I have never known Ted to desist when his inclination urged him, never. Last Sunday night I nearly went mad with him. Sunday had been a hectic day with bombs and raids and warnings all day long. I was a nervous wreck. In addition I was crampy. Ted wanted to love; I hadn’t an atom of feeling, except pain, and the expectation of pain. What did that matter to him? He turned me on my back and clambered upon me. Then I did get a cramp, a severe one in my left thigh, and he had to let me go. I walked the floor. I was in and out of bed several times with the damned cramp returning, and all the time I was in dread of another warning! Finally I became easy, but was I allowed to lie in peace and sleep? Perish the thought! Not until he had taken his satisfaction. I lay in bed full of hatred and loathing, I felt sick to death of him and of marriage. I am weary of him. I am dead weary.
November 10, 1944
We have had three rockets today so far. Churchill actually “told the House” about the rockets this morning. These are the V2’s. Apparently he had to mention them because the Germans were told about them on the eighth and all the damage they were doing to us. They fly through the sky at an altitude of from sixty to seventy miles, Churchill says. So that is why we can’t be warned of their approach. He minimized them of course. What humbuggery is talked in Parliament!
Last night we had two alerts for flying bombs. I counted at least seven explosions in the last attack. I was so frightened, and so ill. Planes are buzzing about right now, very low. I hate the sound of them, even our own. What an invention! Now man destroys himself with his own cleverness. How can one control fear? I am sure I don’t know. It is a physical malady, which assails you. With me it has nothing to do with my mind. I am not afraid of the Germans. I am not afraid of death, as death, yet I can sit and shake like a frightened dog. I simply can’t control my nerves. My animal body is aware of danger and that awareness pervades the whole of me. I hate the Germans and I loathe the fiendish stupidity of war. My mind remains in control of my reason. I do not scream or cry or become hysterical. Actually I try to divert my mind with a book. My body misbehaves. My stomach retch’s, sometimes I vomit. My limbs tremble and my hands shake. Sometimes when I am very frightened, pulses beat in my neck, my jaws quiver, my head trembles like a palsy. Nor can I do anything to stop these reactions; I just have to suffer them.
November 12, 1944
Last night we were awakened about four-thirty a.m. by a most awful explosion. It must have been fairly close, though so far today we have not heard where. It shook the house, shook the bed. It also shook my heart. I can easily understand how people can die of shock or of sheer fright. In the dead of the night these shocks are truly awful. It took me a long while to get to sleep again.
November 13, 1944
We had four rockets during the night: two between noon and one o’clock today, and doodles this evening between six and seven p.m. Miss Cannon and Miss Coppen were here this afternoon, bringing news of the various neighborhood fatalities. Two brothers who attend Liberty School, and their mother, were killed by a rocket in Brentwood, the father, who was out, escaped. One rocket fell on a shelter in Dagenham and killed the six people inside it. A falling fragment killed an A.T.S. girl walking by Gidea Park Station. So it goes on. We are told that these things are fired from The Hague, Holland.
The newspapers are full of comments on the supposed Hitler broadcast to the German people, read for him by Himmler. November Ninth was the first time in twenty-one years that Hitler has failed to broadcast to his Nazi’s on the anniversary of their Munich Beer Cellar Putsch. Why didn’t he speak on this occasion? The Germans have been told he was too busy; a very inadequate excuse, for since he found time to compose his speech (if it was his) surely he could have taken twenty minutes to broadcast it from his headquarters? Yet he didn’t. So the world is asking: Is Hitler sick? Or is he mad? Or is he dead? The last time his voice was heard was in July, at the time of his attempted assassination, when he went to the microphone to assure his dear Nazi’s that Providence had preserved his precious life.
November 14, 1944
This is one of the dreariest days for weather that I ever remember. Darkness covers the face of the earth. Not fog, darkness. I went to the cleaners to collect my dresses. Outside the cleaners a wedding-taxi all tied up with white ribbons was held up for traffic. All of us in the shop exclaimed Poor Bride! What an omen! This makes me think of the day in nineteen forty when France fell. An extraordinary and unaccountable thick darkness covered the world here about that day. If only this were an omen of the fall of Germany! Oh, how thankful we should be! One woman in the cleaners said: “Maybe Hitler’s dead. The Express says he is likely to be killed any day now by his own Germans.” “Yes,” said another, “I expect there are crowds of folk in Germany who would kill him if they could.”
We have had three rockets so far today; I have expected more in this darkness. However the day is not over yet. Last night we had none. I had a lovely sleep and also a good loving. For once our moods coincided. I feel serene today, in spite of our ominous darkness.
Mrs. Fitch has been in, and staying to drink a cup of tea. That’s how much free time I have got! We talked of the war of course; there is nothing else to talk of. She too had seen the held up bridal taxi; and felt sorry for the bride. We agreed together how queer it was to see all the South Street shops with lighted windows. “Like before the war, wasn’t it!” It was queer, and somehow it didn’t seem right. We have all been so habituated to the black out that to see lights shining out in the darkness somehow seem wrong and definitely unsafe.
November 15, 1944
We suffered a dreadful night. Very soon after midnight the alert sounded. I came downstairs at once and the all clear did not go until one-fifty a.m. I lost count of how many bombs flew over, seven or eight, perhaps more, some of them very close indeed. After I had fallen asleep we were awakened again abut two-thirty a.m. by the explosion of a rocket, two hours later came another, then at five twenty-five a.m. came a most terrific crash, shaking the bed and the house and crashing in the dining room window. Ten minutes later an alert was sounded, and before I could get out of bed a flying bomb passed before our window, sailing over the back gardens down this street. It was most terrifying. I grabbed my petticoat and gown and hurried downstairs. Four others passed, practically in the same track, but the all clear came fairly quickly, being given at five-fifty five a.m. I went back to bed, very shaken. A text flashed into my mind: “ His mind is stayed on peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” God. Yes it is God to whom I instinctively turn, God and no one else.
Lying in bed, trying to warm up, trying to fall back into another hour of sleep, a certain peace of mind did come over me. I thought I am at peace with everybody. Ted and I are good friends. There is more amity between us during these latter awful war years than there ever was before. This war has drawn us closer together. Hilda no longer troubles me. As for Artie, well, I seem to have no feeling about him at all. He sundered himself from me completely about a year ago, when he stole away to Scotland. That was sort of death he gave me then, and death is death. Artie left me. I have gotten over it. He is not important to me anymore. I have no sore feelings about him now, nor even any disappointed ones. I have let him go. My angry feelings about Hilda have vanished too. He and she are not strangers to my regard, but they are not friends. Equally they are not children. They went off violently into their own life all right. As far as all deep feeling goes, I am finished with them. It doesn’t matter. As for the other boys, I lost them long ago. There remains only Cuthie. When he comes back, will he be like a son to me? Or will he be simply another stranger? I feel it is immaterial. If he wants me I am here. So I am for all of them. I am alone, always alone.
Thursday November 16, 1944
I dream a dream. I live in a nightmare. Night was quiet until five-thirty this morning, when a crashing rocket fell. Then it was quiet again until seven-thirty, when an even more deafening one fell nearer. We shook in our bed, and more windows cracked. I got up to prepare breakfast. Ted came into the room and bumped the door; more glass fell out of the window. I began to cry. I felt I could not stand any more of this life. I suppose why my thoughts are dwelling so persistently on the Novembers of my childhood is a way my mind is protecting itself. Memory is retreating into the far past, even when Novembers could hold happiness for a child when life was safe, and when the whole personality floated serene in the irresponsibility of protected childhood. I thought I could write it all down but that thought was a dream; I can’t write, my mind can only wander. It is impossible to concentrate on anything.
Joyce, the Radio girl, has just been in. She tells me that this morning’s seven-thirty rocket fell on Collier Row Lane, directly opposite the police station. “Roseland’s again!” she said. She had driven past. “It’s awful up there this morning,” she said. “People all over the road, running about with blood all over their faces. People screaming. There is glass all over the road. Houses down, I don’t know how many. Ambulances. Makes you fairly sick. So much blood.” The poor child shuddered. This girl had her eighteenth birthday last Saturday, yet here she is, carrying on with her job, driving her van through the desolation, continuing her rounds as usual, earning her living, keeping her nerve. God protect the poor child.
I am very distressed by this mornings “incident”. Havering School is down to the ground. Luckily there were no children in it. The rocket hit a bus, which turned completely over before exploding. It is not known yet which way it was traveling, but it would have been full of people going to work at that hour in the morning. Mrs. Copsey and her daughter were killed, and three children who lived next door to her. Total casualties are not known yet; digging for the bodies is still going on. The number must be large. Rosedale Road is quite gone. All of these people were alive at half past seven this morning. Their deaths do not help Hitler in the slightest. This is not war; this is murder. Wanton blind murder. God damn the Germans, now, and for all eternity. Oh, damn, damn the Germans!
Friday November 17, 1944
I have been in a passion of fury for hours. Two rockets have just fallen on each other’s heels, and a previous one fell at ten-fifty a.m. All through the night they fell, approximately every half hour until six a.m. how many poor unfortunates have been bombed into the streets in this, God knows. I am sitting here in the little dining room with the black out curtains still drawn, to keep out the weather. Rain is beating in at the broken window, and the curtains are soggy with it, but at least the curtains are holding it, so far.
All this week the members in Parliament have been debating White Papers on the demobilization of the services and the demobilization of the workers as soon as the war with Germany is ended. It isn’t ended! Yesterday they even passed a regulation permitting the manufacture of ice cream, as from today. Our politicians winning the war! Last weekend Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden visited Paris, taking their wives with them, and Churchill his daughter Mary. They collected plaudits and all had a good time. Churchill is enjoying the war. He appears everywhere with his big cigar and his big paunch, a grinning Uncle Toby. His son, though in uniform, is carefully kept out of the firing line, another nice fat baby. Oh, I fume. This intolerable war drags on and on, whilst the old men keep on talking. When there is no more money for the top dogs to be made out of it, then it will stop I suppose. Are armaments made for nothing? I don’t think so.
The B.B.C. tells us this morning those six-allied armies are now attacking Germany in the West, over a front of six hundred kilometers, from Holland to the Swiss border, and that the Red Army has nearly cleared the Hungarian Plain. Well? I think of our poor boys, fighting in this weather, which is atrocious. Poor fellows! (The Germans are doing fine, it seems, in spite of the six allied armies. Oh my God, how are we going to endure?)
It is now evening and a rocket at seven thirty-five p.m. and another at nine forty-five p.m., very bad. Again tonight I am afraid to go to bed, an awful feeling.
Saturday November 18, 1944
Reta was at the door. She had been coming up the street as the bombs fell. This mornings bombs fell in Rush Green. Reta stayed until nearly nine o’clock. Another bomb fell at seven-fifty and another worse one just now at ten thirty-five p.m. A moment before it fell our light went out and at the explosion still more of our windows crashed in. Ted is starting the night in bed, but I cannot go to bed tonight. From the back windows I can see a fire on the horizon; looks at the back of the station a big blaze. I shall spend the night down here on the sofa.
Ted received a communication from the air ministry this morning, informing him that his son, P.O.W. A.C. Thompson, had been promoted as from May 1st, 1943, to Flight Sergeant, and as from May 2, 1943, to Warrant Officer. So the poor prisoners get allowed their promotions, so that is something to the good.
Sunday November 19, 1944
We suffered an awful night. We hardly slept at all. Cars were driving up and down for hours, and many trains whistling and passing on the line. A bad bomb fell around half past one, but no others followed. Our first daylight one fell at seven-fifty this morning. At breakfast Ted brought in the news that the ten-thirty bomb last night fell on Rush Green, and that’s where the fire was. Casualties are not known yet, but believed to be many. Wardens are still digging out the dead from the Collier Row incident. This has been a terrible week.
Monday November 20, 1944
I have written another letter to Eddie. Life is now more precarious than ever, I feel I must communicate with my children whilst I know I can. Last night I heard of the sudden death of Mr. Dumaresq. This was not due to bombs, but natural causes. He was taken ill at South Street last Tuesday, brought home in a taxi, and was dead by the time the taxi reached his house. He was buried on Saturday in Romford Cemetery. What a tragic way to die, alone in a taxicab. I received today a card from Cuth written July 2, 1944.
Saturday November 25, 1944
About twelve-thirty Reta Pullan came, and again a bomb was falling somewhere as she came up the path to our door. “I seem to be a Jonah,” she said. She came to tell us she received a card and a letter from Cuth this week, dates of July 2, and July 11 in these he expected to be home in a month. Poor boy! She did not stay to lunch. Miss Coppen told us the noon time bomb fell in the Thames, near Woolwich. Maurice was on the Woolwich Ferry and felt and saw it fall. It sunk a boat a little ahead of the ferryboat and then struck the riverbank on the Essex side. He said women and children on the ferry screamed “something awful.” He also said that there was nothing you could do about these rockets, there was simply no time at all for warnings or to take shelter; if you were hit, well, that was all about it.
Sunday November 26, 1944
A rocket fell early this morning on Longbridge Road, Barking; fifteen houses were down, casualties not yet known. Worse yesterday, for one fell on Woolworths’s store in New Cross, when it was filled with Saturday shoppers, mostly mothers and children, hundreds killed. Last night I found myself reciting the Hail Mary! Over and over.