History is never quite as real as when it is told by those who lived it. Ruby Thompson, living during the World War ll London Blitz bombing blasts history out of the realm of dry, dusty names and dates and places the reader in the midst of the terrifying events as they unfold. This is very important documentation and will have tremendous appeal to those who have an avid interest in the effect of the war on ordinary citizens.
The air ministry and ministry of Home Security stated last night that it is now known that a fourteenth enemy aircraft was destroyed during raids on this country last Friday night.
Saturday January 29, 1944
An alert sounded last night just as we were going up to bed, about ten-thirty p.m. Ted went up, I stayed down, until the all clear came, about an hour later. Gunfire in the distance only, not in the immediate neighborhood, very alarming just the same, as you know it may come closer at any moment. After I got to bed Ted was very loving. I regarded this as a nuisance. I felt too tired to be bothered, but he was set to love, so he loved. I thought; this! This! And I thought, what is the use of bothering about philosophy or religion or politics or anything, when this is the only thing that matters to man! Oh, I’m tired, tired of love and marriage, tired of thinking, tired of working, tired of England, tired of winter, tired of the war… Now I’m cooking the dinner, and I’m tired of housekeeping. I’m tired of everything and everybody.
Sunday January 30, 1944
Last night we had a most awful raid, it began about 8:30, and went on for two hours. It was worse than the one a week ago; it was sickening. I found myself praying like mad, the Catholic prayers, calling on the Virgin, begging for protection. When it was all over and we were still safe, I offered prayers of thankfulness, and I said, I will go to mass tomorrow. So, I have been but I really don’t know what good it has been, either to the church or me. I thought last night the Catholic prayers had a sort of authenticity, but in the church this morning I couldn’t feel it. The Church was crowded, as usual, of course, but the crowd oppressed me. It was so predominantly Irish, so foreign, it alienated me, and I do not belong with these people. The only thing that pleased me was the collect for the day, the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. I know that it is fear, and nothing but fear, which drives me to any intense realization of God. When I am afraid I call upon my God. It is atavism. I despise it, but I act it, suffer it all the same. I cannot help myself. In these awful raids, when we are in danger of destruction, when an awful death may strike us any moment, when we can do nothing what ever to help ourselves, or help anybody, when we are sick with terror, when all superficialities vanish, then our souls, our primitive souls, cry out from their depths, oh God, save us! God be merciful to me, a sinner! Our father who art in heaven, save us, save us! Jesus, save us! Mary save us! Oh God be merciful to me, a sinner! Deliver us from evil, deliver us from evil! He does save us, and we say Thank God! Thank God! Thank God!
Monday January 31, 1944
The Times reports: “over two hundred German fighters were destroyed by American bombers and fighters in their attacks on Germany on Saturday and yesterday. One hundred and two were claimed after Saturday’s attack on Frankfurt, in which fifteen hundred aircraft collaborated, and the following report of yesterday’s operations adds ninety-one more. The R.A.F. destroyed sixteen in the offensive over France. The allied losses were ninety six bombers, twenty five fighters, and three intruder aircraft.” My God!
When Miss Coppen visits me on Mondays she brings me her Sunday papers, The Sunday Times, and The Observer. Today there is one item worth noting. First, this from the Observer: “The Journal de Genève” reported yesterday (that would be January 29,) that Himmler had been relieved of his position as Minister of the Interior in Germany. “Possibly he has been executed,” added the report, which mentioned rumors that a “brutal elimination” of Hitler had been planned inside Germany. —B.U.P.” Lets hope all this is true, but I think it very unlikely.
Wednesday February 2, 1944
War, I think, is man’s prerogative, and so, I think, is religion, or rather, not religion, but Theology, along with the churches. Religion is that living contact between the soul and its maker, an experience of the spirit; but theology is something very different from that. For men, like as with war, theology is a game that they play, a game that is mainly only word spinning, but one that can lead to death and torture, if played hard enough. Comparatively only a few men take their theology seriously nowadays. The fanatics like my poor Ted. Mostly the churches are dead. Then why am I bothering so about church?
Friday February 4, 1944
I have been given an answer to my religious problem, but not through the workings of the sub conscious but through the workings of Hitler. Between a quarter to five and a quarter past six this morning we endured another very bad air raid. It was frightful. Sitting in my corner, retching, shaking, praying, I looked across at Ted who was reclining on his sofa, and all at once I saw what I had to do, and that is, stay in the Catholic Church, at least “for the duration.” I thought, supposing I was to get killed in one of these raids, what a distress it would be for Ted if he couldn’t bury me as a Catholic! So, for Ted’s sake, I must stay a Catholic. I am resolved to put out of my mind all my irritations and disbeliefs about Catholicism, and all my attractions to Anglicanism. I will believe what I can and all I can. I will meditate on the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and ignore, as far as I can, all those aceretionary dogmas, which float my intelligence.
It is all Quiet, no raids yesterday, nor last night. Miss White and Daisy came today, and told us that last Thursday a whole street behind the cinema at Upminster was demolished, and many houses at Great Nessing, near Chelmsford. I have not been to church. I guess my resolution is not so much to remain a Catholic, as not to become an Anglican.
Monday February 7, 1944
A letter from Artie to his father, acknowledging the receipt of a parcel with battle-dress and shoe, and a letter from Eddie which Ted had forwarded. He said Eddie’s letter gave no family news. At the end of his letter he wrote: “Fondest love to you and to Mother.” This is the first mention he has made of me since he went away. I suspect Eddie must have said something about me in his letter to Artie, and thus pricked Artie’s conscience. However I do not feel pleased at all. Artie has been silent too long, repudiated me too thoroughly, I do not feel I want his love anymore it has proved rather a worthless love I think. I think the boy has no filial principles. Suppose Hilda did dislike me, what of it? She is at liberty to dislike me. That he should go away, behind my back, as he did, with no word of farewell, and then to treat me with silence. I am afraid he is an expediency man. Why didn’t he stand up to Hilda, and say, “No, I don’t treat my Mother like that. I will take you back to Scotland, since you wish it so much, but not underhandedly. Not sneaking away.” Why doesn’t he say to Hilda: “Alright, dislike my mother if you must, but you can’t stop me loving her.” Artie has behaved abominably towards me. He has treated me with disdain, or as though I were dead, and it makes me feel as though he had died. “My fondest love to Mother.” I don’t think it means anything. It’s just a phase. I don’t believe it.
Friday February 11, 1944
Mrs. Whitbread was here, so I went out shopping as well as to the Library this morning. At Forster’s the chemists, Mr. Forster produced a roll of Selo Film, which he said he was saving for Artie. This I have made up into a small parcel, with a few Chesterfield cigarettes, and a very short note, and posted off to Glasgow. I had thought I would never write to Artie until he had first written to me, however, perhaps it is necessary for me to break the ice, so I have done so.
We had a raid last night between seven-thirty and eight-thirty p.m. Southeast England, and the London area. Reports the B.B.C. bombs dropped in several places and “some” casualties reported. I was sick with fright, as usual, and shook so uncontrollably that I am still tired from it today. I feel as though I have been beaten. Oh this blasted war! When are the lunatic men going to stop it? The weather continues bright, cold and frosty, every healthy.
Monday February 14, 1944 St. Valentine’s Day
I am just back from town. I went to get Ted’s newspaper, and to draw some money out of the post office bank. I withdrew three pounds, and will withdraw another three pounds tomorrow. With what I have on hand this will give me a total of ten pounds to take to town on Wednesday. Perhaps I shall spend it all, and perhaps I shan’t, what I don’t spend if any I will redeposit on Thursday. I am determined to myself the Wordsworth and the Shakespeare. Money in the bank is only good to be spent these days I think, we may be dead tomorrow, anyone of us. Last night we had a most awful raid, lasting from eight thirty p.m. until ten o’clock. It was awful. This morning the B.B.C. laconically reports: “We brought down four bombers last night, out of a more numerous lot than have been sent over during the last three or four raids. Idiotic! We know they “were more numerous” all right! During the raid Ted kept saying: “Well, I’d rather them come now, early, than after I had gone to bed.” How convenient for slumber! The milk boy this morning said he saw one brought down at Havering. It fell in a field, three men in it killed, but one man escaped by parachute. Poor boys, poor German boys! They were only doing their duty, the same as our boys over Germany. I grieve for all the young men destroyed horribly in this bestial war, whether friend or foe. Poor lads, they didn’t start the war, they only have to fight it. Oh lunacy, lunacy! Bestial hellish madness! It does not bear thinking on, that way madness lies.
Wednesday February 16, 1944
There was shocking news at one o’clock. The B.B.C. said we were out over Berlin last night, and made the heaviest air attack ever made on any objective in this war yet. Over 2500 tons of bombs were dropped on Berlin, commencing at nine o’clock in the evening. Of over a thousand of our planes sent out we have lost forty-five. Also yesterday we bombed the monastery of Monte Cassino, in relays of one hundred Lancaster’s and Fortresses at a time, and the monastery is completely destroyed. The Germans had been using it as a fortress for some time, until finally we decided we must attack it. The Abbot of downside spoke a few words about it at the end of the news. He deplored its loss, but said he had sure confidence in our military leaders judgments, and so the attack was a case of military necessity. He added that the loss of the great abbey was another crime to be charged against the Germans. He also said he deplored the loss of brave young lives, but he considered the life of even one man more valuable than any building, no matter how beautiful, historic, or venerable. Good for him! He said the war must go on until the curse of Nazism is purged utterly from the earth. Also we have been given the figures of our casualties in Italy. Since September 3, until February 12, they amount to over 36,000, roughly 7000 killed, 23,000 wounded, the rest missing. My God My God! This weary weight of this entire unintelligible world! Where is the end of all this lunacy?
I had a letter from Eddie yesterday, written in January, in reply to my last letter to him in which I told him dad wanted me to make a will, and asked him if there was anything particular he would like left to him. He writes: “It amazes me to hear you talk about legacies (either of you), I hope you and Dad enjoy yourselves and don’t leave a dime to anyone. I think I’m safe in saying that all of us over here would prefer you to enjoy whatever you have, all of it. Hell, it’s yours! If you and Dad ever have any thought of leaving any money, don’t, spend it and enjoy it, and the easiest way is an annuity. Turn your money into an annuity for yourself. “
Sunday February 19, 1944
We had a bad raid last night between one and two a.m. The B.B.C. says more raiders than usual got through to London, but no details are given yet. There was news yesterday from Russia of the annihilation of the encircled German divisions in the Dieppe Bend, and the capture of Nikopol. This was the trapped German eighth army. Stalin announces 52,000 Germans killed and 11,000 taken prisoner. It is said that the Germans were issued with triple doses of rum and told to try and cut themselves out, and ordered to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Russians, Hitler’s orders. Do young German’s still think it glorious to die for Hitler? I wonder! Oh God! When will men return to their senses?
Sunday February 20, 1944
We had a bad raid this evening, lasting from nine-twenty p.m. until ten-forty five p.m. The B.B.C. says we were out over Leipzig last night “in great strength.” We lost seventy-nine bombers.
Monday February 21, 1944
There was another raid during the night, lasting from two-thirty a.m. until three fifteen a.m.
Elizabeth Coppen came this morning and brought me an egg, straight from the hen. She made me promise not to make pancakes with it! It seems this is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, but I hadn’t realized it. I shall boil it for my tea, and eat it with thankfulness. For Ted I will boil some leeks. This diet question is an awful business. Everyone is craving fresh food, and there isn’t any. I crave fresh fruit, fresh meat, and some real bread. The National Bread gets worse and worse, and it is horribly indigestible. However, we survive it. We are increasing terrifically the weight of our bombing over Germany. Two thousand allied aircraft, including a very large force of heavy bombers, made a daylight attack on Sunday; following a night attack of nearly a thousand R.A.F. bombers the previous night, on Leipzig. They were out in force again yesterday; and all this morning I heard droves of planes flying over. Tonight I expect the Germans will come back at us. Will there be any world left at all? What is so appalling is how we have all come to take destruction for granted. Oh God, when will this awful war end?
Wednesday February 23, 1944 Ash Wednesday
We had another bad raid last night. It was just midnight when I came downstairs and one thirty a.m. when the all clear went. It was a terrible raid. I thought one bomb was falling in our side alley, but no, it wasn’t. When I went back to bed I saw from the bathroom window a big fire blazing across the tracks, Victoria Road or Brentwood again, I suppose. At eight a.m. the B.B.C. said we brought down six bombers during the night. Yesterday Churchill spoke in Parliament reviewing the war. He says our attacks on Europe will increase all during spring and summer and we must expect increasing retaliation. Naturally, but the complacency with which men, men who don’t have to fight, talk about war, infuriates me. God, how I hate old men! I think “our elder statesmen” enjoy themselves over the war. Blast them! Shall we ever know a natural life again? I wonder. I am miserable. I don’t know what to do with myself. Existence is almost unbearable. Weather is abominable. The house is gloomy, I am tired from lack of sleep, and I had bad cramps last night in my left thigh, to add to my troubles. Churchill’s speech is most depressing. The war stretches forward indefinitely. Hell, hell, hell!
Thursday February 24, 1944
We had a bad raid again last night. It began at ten p.m. and went on until eleven-thirty p.m. This was the fourth successive night. However, we had not gone to bed, so were at least comfortable with our clothes on. When it started I felt I wanted to cry. Really I feel I can’t stand much more of this war. If it doesn’t stop soon I feel I will go mad. I made myself read the Wordsworth book, Herford’s, but really couldn’t take any pleasure in it. Yet I force myself to read whilst a raid is on, endurance is a little easier. I find I don’t pray anymore, or if I do it is because my resistance is cracking, prayer now seems to intensify the sense of danger rather than alleviate it. Prayer it seems, like other experiences, love, religion, hunger, even fear, comes to an end. Apropos of love, and the insatiable appetite of men. Concupiscence and the insatiable sex hunger of men. Presumably because a bad raid was finished and we had a sense of being able to spend the rest of the night in peace, and because the bed was warm, and because my coughing had ceased, and because he felt like it, Ted “loved” me before settling down to his sleep. This was the climax of his Ash Wednesday. What is this? It isn’t love, it certainly isn’t passion, and it is not my idea of desire, it is simply the simple basic nature of a simple man. It is the nature of a man to be un-romantic, un-refined, and un-important as a simple bellyache. Yet it is inescapable, fundamental, the rock bottom base of a man, of all men.
We had another raid last night, from nine-thirty p.m. until ten p.m. It was not so heavy as before in this neighborhood, but have heard today it was the other side of London that got the worst of it, bombers brought down at Wembley and Ealing. Mrs. Whitbread was here today. She tells me a one thousand ton bomb fell in the middle of Hainault Road one night this week; nobody was killed, but there was much damage to the property. It is Harold’s thirty-sixth birthday today.
Sunday February 27, 1944
We had no raiders last night. It is 2:15 p.m. now, and a most peculiar darkness has fallen over us. It is not fog, nor yet darkness like night, but, a green-yellowy blight, obscuring everything. It began soon after one o’clock, whilst we were at dinner, and has gotten worse and worse. If I turn out the electric light the room is as black as a coalhole. Ted has just gone out “to walk around the block” for curiosity. Not a sound to be heard. It is most weird. It makes us think of that day in May when France fell, and a similar peculiar darkness fell over England. It makes me wonder: What is happening right now? Has the invasion begun? Has France broken into open revolution? Has Hitler been assassinated? One can’t help feeling that this worst peculiar, most unnatural, most frightening atmosphere and darkness are an omen from Heaven of some great world gloom and doom. What is it?
Monday February 28, 1944
No raiders over last night. On Saturday Ted received a letter from Artie, with an enclosure for me; this is it: “23, February 1944. Dear Mother, It was very kind of you to purchase a film for me at Forster’s and send it on. I had it on order and they are so hard to get. The Chesterfields too were more than welcome and I was pleased to have them. I am sending you the money with this to cover the film. I hope you are feeling better and not disturbed by the raids. Love and prayers, Fred.” That’s all.
It is leap year, which I had forgotten. We had another quiet night. I had a good deep undisturbed sleep and feel much better for it. Ted the same. I have had a letter from Joan, written Sunday. She writes: “Three times last week I tried to phone you but the queue of people waiting to use the phone was so long that I gave up as a bad job each time. We have had it very badly in Hinsmith, and all around us too, we have had oil bombs dropped here in each of the raids last week. On Wednesday night when I got back from the shelter I found this house had been blasted again, the front door was blown in and the window in this sitting room was blown complete with the frame out of the wall, and yet not a bit of glass broken. In Mother’s bedroom some of the ceiling was down and the whole house was covered with fine black and white dust. On Thursday men came and put the window back and saw to the front door, I cleared the mess up and once more I am clean and tidy. One night the fires were so bad I was afraid to go to bed for hours after the all clear had sounded; the smoke of the fires came into the house. A number of houses on this road have lost their windows again and the same in King’s Street. I will not tell you where all the bombs fell in Hammersmith, but whole roads of houses have gone this time, and the reason why we have had it so badly is because General Montgomery has his Headquarters in St. Paul’s boy’s school in Kensington; all around there is in a mess: as a matter of fact West London has had a packet full. I go over to the shelter as soon as the warning goes and hope for the best. I am very jittery, but thank goodness the desire to run away is no longer with me, so I suppose my nerves are standing up to the strain. Don’t you drag all this way over here to see me, especially just now when the line is up between here and Liverpool Street. It took Eric an hour to get from Paddington to Hinsmith yesterday. He took me out for a drink at lunchtime today. He is being moved to Wales next week. Except for the raids, life with me goes on very much as usual, and except for my back, which troubles me a bit, I am very well. ….. Except for the raids. Yes, except for the raids!
Wednesday March 1, 1944
On the radio at seven fifty-five a.m. this week the Reverend Bloomer, Vicar of Barking, is talking. I always here these “Lift up your Heart’s” talks, because I am getting the breakfast, and have the radio turned on so as not to miss the eight a.m. news. This man’s theme this week, is forgiveness, which he extends to the world at large, and all people’s “becoming one”. Well! Not only am I aware that I can’t forgive my enemies, I am even more deeply aware that I don’t want to. As for the world being one, I am aware that I don’t want to be “one”, not even with our allies. When I hear the “wonderful Chinese,” I am revolted. I don’t care a damn about the Chinese. I certainly don’t want us to go and fight the Japanese so as to help China. Our boys will have done enough when they have licked Hitler, why should we throw them away against the Japs? Let the Chinese people settle their own affairs betwixt themselves. For all the talking about the heroic Chinese, and the establishment of our future with the Chinese, it makes me sick. I don’t want anything at all to do with the Chinese people, let alone make friends with them. I remember the talk that went on in my childhood about what my Father’s papers called “The Yellow Peril.” The idea then was that yellow people would over run the whites. What is happening is, that the whites are about to be destroyed in “helping” one set of Asiatic exterminate another set of Asiatic. It is true that the Japs have made war on the United States, and Americans will have to conquer the Japs; but I don’t see why they, with us should proceed further against the Japanese in their war against China. We kept out of it when the Japs began against Manchuria, why be talked into that war now? As a matter of fact I don’t believe in the goodness of the Chinese. I can remember the Boxer Rebellion, when the Chinese acted with the same cruelty of barbarism, which is charged against the Japanese today. I can’t see much to choose between yellow dog and yellow dog. I’m positive I don’t want my country, whether it be England or America, to have continuing alliance with China once this world conflagration has died out; any such politics would be just as unnatural. Why should we fight China’s battles for her? I don’t like the Chinese and no talker, not matter how clever or persuasive, will ever be able to make me do so. Such a liking is against nature; it can’t be made to occur. No, I don’t want to be one with the world, no, I certainly don’t.
Thursday March 2, 1944
There was a raid last night between two forty-five and three-thirty a.m. this morning. It was very terrifying. One bomb sounded as though it was surely going to land in our alley. When I went back upstairs to bed at the all clear, I saw three distinct fires on the horizon in the direction of London. The B.B.C. announced at eight a.m. that we had brought down five of the raiders.
Sunday March 5, 1944
Yesterday the Americans bombed Berlin for their first time. We will probably get a reprisal raid tonight.
I awakened about six this morning suffused with a delicious languor feeling of desire. I was warm, the bed was comfortable, I had a good sleep because Gerry didn’t come, I had pleasant dreams, and if Ted had only turned to me I could have loved him with passion, and it would have been good. Early morning like this is when I feel naturally most inclined to love, but nothing happened. Why didn’t I take the initiative? Because I know better. He would have repulsed me. I must never make the first move. I learned this lesson with heartbreaks years ago. Love is for when Ted desires, not when I do. Of course he had to go to church! Damned idiot!
Tuesday March 7, 1944
This morning Daisy White came in. She was after some more of the Mrs. Henry Wood’s, which she enjoys keenly. She took away two volumes. She happened to have her business attaché case with her, and offered me some soap, coupon free. She also had some real linen tea towels, four of them, one coupon each, those were all she had, and she let me buy them all. She says it is the coupons that bother her business; with only twenty coupons to spend to cover the entire “clothes” ration, people can’t and won’t spend coupons for towels, handkerchiefs, etc. Of course not. You must give up eighteen coupons for a suit or a dress, seven for a pair of shoes, six for a vest, so it goes, people simply can’t buy oddments like towels.
Thursday March 9, 1944
Yesterday at teatime Ted brought in two American soldiers for coffee. One was from Albany, N.Y. and the other from Olympia, Washington. They were ground staff boys of the air force. Talk turned on what the Americans are doing in Berlin now, and one of them, the Irish boy from Albany, said he guessed they would have to do the same to Rome, and that though he would like to see the grand old monuments he guessed there would be none left by the time they got there. After the boys left Ted began talking to me about the likely coming bombing of Rome, and whether it should be bombed etc, Then he branched off into his disquisition about life and art. “After all, he said, “When you think of it what is life but length of days? So if a man dies in war it only means he has less length of days. What are days in comparison with great works of art? I wouldn’t want to see Rome destroyed. Some of those art treasures are irreplaceable. I think we should make every effort to preserve them.” “Yes,” I said “and so are young lives irreplaceable, and we should make every effort to preserve them. There is no work of art that is worth more than a man’s life.” But “Ah!” said Ted, “I’d hate to see Rome damaged and as I say, “life is only length of days, so if men give up some of their length of days so that the glories of Rome may be saved, I should think it would be worth it.”
The two American boys here this week upset me. I like to show friendliness to American soldiers, but they remind me too much of my lost American sons, and inside I am disturbed. Then, too, I have been staggered by Artie’s desertion. I try to forget it, but do not succeed very well. Life is not the way I would have it, and I do get fretful. Yes, I know I ought not to, but knowing what is right and being able to pursue it are two different things. I think I am depressed by poor food, as well as by the duration of the war. Some really good fresh food and a little whiskey occasionally would cheer up my spirits considerably, I’m quite certain.
Saturday March 11, 1944
Yesterday we were told that United States government had requested the government of Eire to close down the German and Japanese Legations in Dublin, in view of the very near approach of the Allies invasion of Europe, and because it is known that the German’s draw constant information of our affairs through the German and Japanese Legations in Dublin. This morning we are told that the Irish have refused the request. Naturally. The Irish were all for Germany in the last war, and they are the same in this. What an urgent need there must be for this request for the Americans to make it! They too must have known it would have been refused; surely, yet they have asked it. De Valera has answered with the explanations about the neutrality of Eire, etc. Well, we know all about the neutrality of Eire. Eire has been a positive and active friend to the Axis constantly from the very beginning of the war. Because of Eire’s neutrality thousands of our boys needlessly lie on the ocean floor. God curse Ireland. He has done, and he will do.
Monday March 13, 1944
Joan arrived at eight a.m. and stayed for the day. This is the first time I have seen her since December 12. Now that the longer days are coming she says she will come to see me about once a month. She looks very well. She told us of the recent bad blitzing in Hammersmith, Kensington and Fulham. She said the King and Queen came to look at the damage, and their visit was resented. The unfortunates thought they were only showing common curiosity. Churchill also visited the neighborhood, and was resented. It was in the Broadway, where a bomb had fallen, Joan said they had nine bombs in Hammersmith alone, that he waved his hand and called out “It’s quite like old times!” This remark was not well received, and one man who answered rudely, and swearing, was taken away by the police; it turned out that he was one of the unfortunates, whose family had to be dug out of ruins. Joan said Churchill’s cigar is so deeply resented: “him and his two shilling cigar!” Well, it would seem more politic not to puff those cigars in the faces of the poor and the blitz victims.
I received a parcel from Bumpus. A twelve-volume edition of Shakespeare and a four-volume edition of “Middlemarch.” Nothing else. I am very pleased with these. We had a raid last night between one a.m. and one-thirty a.m. I came downstairs but Ted remained up in bed. The figures for casualties in the air raids for February have been given today. Civilian casualties due to air raids in the United Kingdom during February were nine hundred and sixty-one killed (or missing, believed killed) and seventeen hundred and twelve injured and detained in he the hospital. This is the highest total since May 1941. Churchill is speaking in Parliament today about the ban on travel to and from Ireland. Last week the United States Government, with the approval of our government, asked DeValera to expel the German and Japanese representatives from Eire. The request was refused. The reason for the request was severely practical. It was to clear out the nests of espionage and plotting in Dublin, and to free Allied Forces in Northern Ireland from continuing danger. On Sunday it was announced that because of Eire’s refusal to expel the Germans and Japanese from Dublin, a ban on all travel between Eire and the United Kingdom would come into effect at once, and further steps would be taken to isolate Southern Ireland from the world, for reasons of military safety.
Wednesday March 15, 1944
There was a very heavy raid last night between ten-fifteen and eleven forty-five p.m. The B.B.C. states this morning that we brought down nine bombers. It was most frightening. Even Ted showed nervousness. He became very pale, and finally took his rosary out of his pocket and began saying it. This is the first time I have ever seen him do this. I didn’t pray. I couldn’t. Instead I kept on with my reading, luckily a light book, Esther Maxwell’s “Life of the Young Lincoln.” As the war goes on my “Christian” religion evaporates more and more. I can’t see what Jesus Christ and the gospels have to do with this affair, and as for the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, even less. As for mass, nothing. My God is a spirit, and I worship him in spirit and in truth as the human Jesus once told a woman to do. This religion about Jesus I cannot swallow. I cannot believe in a God who was an historical person. That is why I like the Anglican Church so much, Jesus is in it, of course, but much more so is God there, the God one can find in the Old Testament, the God that declared that he was not a man that he should repent him. I have to try to have feelings about Jesus, and responses to him, it is all artificial, a pretense. I don’t have to try to have feelings about God, they are spontaneous, I can feel God in the Old Testament, I can feel him in the sunshine, the moon and stars, the grass, in my love for Ted in the night when that can be spontaneous and true, in an infant, in an eclipse, but I cannot feel God in the Christian religion.
Thursday March 16, 1944
We had an alert at six-thirty this evening, before dark. The raid lasted only a little over half an hour. It was a small attack only. The weather is still very cold. Winter is lasting long this year.
It is the first official calendar day of spring, but the weather is most unspring like. It is very cold. The Government has published a ban today on all travel to the coast, from The Wash to Lands End, and certain portions of the Firth of Forth, to come into effect on April first. All schools in the country were asked a few weeks ago to close down by March thirty-first, for the Easter holidays, as no travel will be permitted after that date. Is the Invasion about to begin at last?
Wednesday March 22, 1944
It is colder than ever. We had another very heavy raid last night, over London and the S.E. coast. It began here about twelve forty-five a.m. and went on until tow a.m. this morning. It was extremely bad. Several times I thought we should surely be hit, but no, here we are, still intact. We are in the dark of the moon now, so many expect several more raids during the next week or so. There is a new moon on Friday. I wrote to Marjorie today, and to Eddie last Sunday. I have received a card from Sket, dated December tenth. He writes: “Dear Folks, I had a parcel from you a few days ago. I was pleased to get only what I asked for. It is hard to realize that only in a month’s time I shall be twenty-five years old. I hope that it is to be my last birthday in captivity. Art has got out of the war pretty lightly so why should he not be cheerful? I have no more to say. Sket.”
Thursday March 23, 1944
Well, after I had finished writing to Marjorie yesterday, I was overcome by the most dreadful feeling of depression and dereliction that I have ever known. Never before in my whole life have I ever felt so derelict and forsaken. It was terrible. I did not know what to do with myself. I could do nothing, nothing at all. It was evening and Ted and I were sitting here in this little dining room together. He was reading, and happy as usual. I could not read, I could not think, I could hardly breathe. In my breast was an agony, not a physical pain, but a torture of despair. It was complete mental agony, utter dereliction of soul. I was sitting here by the table, my eyes closed, in a state of suffocating suspense, then lo, all at once my mind began to say the Hail Mary, and then it went on into the Salve, Regina and then the Memorale. Release, consolation, encouragement, and then, best of all, conviction. This went on for hours. It is still going on. I had to get up in the night for an air raid, and it still went on. I still have it. It is a conviction of the reality of the supernatural, which I have never experienced before. I felt the reality and the presence of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God. I felt her. I felt her as my Mother, my heavenly mother, surpassing my own earthly mother, and in a different way altogether from the flesh. It was supernatural. Mary, the mother of God, and the mother of me. All my mental distresses passed away. I have been thinking for months past that I was definitely out of the Catholic Church, and that I was making up my mind to re-enroll myself in the Church of England. But no, it isn’t so. God the father, Yes, but God the son, I cannot ever see him, but Mary, yes. That woman, she I can see as a Divine Person and now I have experienced her. I have.
There was a very heavy raid last night. It began about eleven p.m. and went on until after one o’clock this morning. On today’s one o’clock news we were told that whilst the Germans were bombing London, we were bombing Berlin. The R.A.F. dropped twenty five hundred tons of bombs on Berlin, during one half hour. Seventy-three of our aircraft are missing from the thousand who were sent to do the job. Over here we suffered damage and casualties, but, as usual, details are not given us. Most of it, of course, was in London. The only “fact” we are given is the information that we brought down eight of the enemy raiders. The German’s have occupied Hungary.
Friday March 31, 1944
The weather is very cold and we had frost in the night. It was a bad night, a raid from three-thirty to four-thirty a.m., also much crossing over of our own aircraft, back and forth. There was bad news on the one o’clock bulletin, a report that the R.A.F. made a raid in great strength over Nuremberg last night; and ninety-six of our aircraft are missing. This is awful. This is the highest loss in one night we have had yet. One night in February we lost seventy-nine, but this is much worse. Poor boys. One prays that they go straight to heaven. Poor boys. When, oh when, will this damnable war end?
April 1, 1944
I am frightfully tired now after cooking and clearing away our dinner. I should like never to have to cook a dinner again as long as I live, and never to have to tend a fire, or dust a room, or be polite to the boring neighbors. I had a conversation with Miss Owlett this morning about her Mother who is seriously ill, and after looking at her plain, plain face; I came back into the house remembering how nice looking Mother was. Mother kept much beauty, right to the very end of her life; she was a beautiful old lady. When I think of the old women on either side of me, Mrs. Thomson with her medusa grey locks and her wrinkles and her make-up and thus Mrs. Owlett with her almost bald head, and her daughter with her reptilian eyes and neck and her scraggy grey hair, Oh, I think of the three witches in Macbeth, Hago, all three of them! I hate the sight of all three. Do women have to become so ugly? There is one think these old hags make me darn sure about, and that is, hair. Hair is a woman’s crowning glory, and I intend to have hair. I’ll never have my hair cut again. I remember Mother’s hair it was beautiful. So could mine be, and it shall be.
We had no raiders over last night. This afternoon I managed to do a little writing. Ted took himself to the parlor and I had a couple of free hours. I wrote about ten pages, I think they are passably good. I have no interest right now in any of the countries of Europe, and as soon as the war is over I hope to get right away from it, and never see it nor hear of it again. It is like all the war books. I don’t want to read anything about the war. It is hell enough to endure it- why read about it?
Monday April 3, 1944
In the postscript to the nine o’clock news last night a press correspondent, a Mr. Moorhead, just back from Italy, gave a description of occupied Europe, with an admonition that we had better consider the future of Europe after the war! He said that England was an oasis of safety and plenty in comparison with occupied Europe, and that we didn’t sufficiently realize the maliquity of the war. He said that Italy was a shambles, and all the Italians wanted was food. Food! I didn’t care a hoot. I don’t care if the Italians are suffering, or the French either. I think, Let’em suffer. I think: Europe wanted war, now Europe has war. Very well, pay for it. No, I’ve no tears for the poor Italians; no sob story about them is ever going to stir my stony heart. This war need never have been. It is a sure thing we English didn’t want it. Hitler and Mussolini would have their war, and their Germans and Italians were whole-heartedly behind them, but now they are squealing. All right, let them squeal, but give them a bellyful of war, their glorious war. I don’t care if they starve to death. Hitler and Mussolini inflicted Hell on the world and nobody raised a protest against them; their people followed them like sheep. Well I am not sorry for sheep. I am sick to death of Europe and all Europeans, and I’ll never be sorry for one of them. Let’em suffer and the more the better. They willed this war, now they must endure it, and take the consequences. Devil takes them all.
April 5, 1944
On Monday Ted received a letter from Artie saying that the Medical Board had passed him grade C, and so it looked as though he would be in uniform until the end of the war, and asking his father to send to him a whole list of his army belongings, which are still here. Bed, shoes, pajamas, books, etc. This morning Ted got a second letter from him, saying that he couldn’t understand the War Office communication, and he couldn’t say definitely yet whether he was remaining in the army or not, but to please send on the things that he asked for, to Glasgow, in case he had to report for duty. At lunchtime Ted said to me: “I didn’t tell you I had written to Artie, did I? And refused to send on his things. (There was a sheet long list, and information where to find everything; how to pack it, and how to forward.) I told him, that when King Louis XIV got tired of his court company he used to say: “If I were you gentleman, if I was in your place, I should go home now” and that I was saying to him, if I was in your place I should go home now. I told him that I hadn’t got time to attend to all those things, and he had better come and fetch them for himself, and also take a good look around the house and see what else he wanted. I wasn’t going to lug through that lot of work for him, he added. It would be a lot of work. Several things he asked for are in trunks, under the bed, very hard to get at.
I received a card from Sket today, dated the fifth of January 1944. He writes: “Dear Folks, just to say I am o.k. I am glad that Christmas Day and New Years are passed. It was a depressing period. I had hoped to get my glasses by Christmas but I suppose they are still in Switzerland. This year there was no flood of Christmas cards from England and strangely enough we have survived without them. I send my respect, Sket.” Poor old Sket! These are weary years for him.
Thursday April 13, 1944
Soon after we got to bed last night we had an alert. The raid lasted from eleven p.m. until nearly midnight. The moon is waning so we expect raids every night until we get moonlight again. At first it was the moonlit nights that brought the raiders, now it is the moonless nights.
Friday April 14, 1944
We had a raid in the night, between one thirty and two fifteen a.m. The B.B.C. says we brought down two of the raiders. I want to note this “letter” in this week’s “Listener”. It is headlined, The Doctrine of Forgiveness. It reads: “I am not much good at elegant streamlined phrases, so please forgive my bluntness when I ask just what does Mr. W.R. Childe mean by his “philosophy of Christ?” When the Master said, “Love your enemies,” he could not possibly have meant by it ‘a considered policy – when the power of harming others has been taken away? There is no vitality of love in a forgiveness of that sort. It makes me think of a widow placing a nice wreath on her deceased husband’s grave with the sentimental satisfaction of knowing he can no longer torment her as he did when alive. ‘The key to the healing of the nations’ is to be found in Christ himself- not in any ‘Lo, here is Christ’ and ‘there is Christ’ philosophy. Brigg. Mary Watkinson.” I note it for its touch about the widow. It’s about a quarter of a century now since I noted the first widow of my acquaintance began to bloom and blossom. She was old Mrs. Norval. William Norval died rather suddenly just before the last war started. He was a good man and a good husband, and Martha was devoted to him; but after he had been dead a little while the change in Martha was obvious to all of Bayonne. She has always been a serene and contented sort of person, but my! After she was widowed she became a radiantly happy one; she absolutely bloomed in her contentment with her new single life. It was in watching her first of all, and then others later, that I discovered that the only happy women in the world are the widows with independent means. They are completely satisfied women. They have known everything, and ultimately they are free, the only truly free women in the world I think.
We had no raid last night, but I slept badly all the same. I have suffered with insomnia ever since the beginning of the war. For one thing, I have to go to bed too early. Ted retires about ten thirty and I have to also, not more than ten minutes later. Consequently I lay awake for hours. When the alert went at one thirty a.m. the night before last I had not slept a minute. Naturally I am what my mother would describe as a “night bird”. All of us in our family were, usually we didn’t have supper until about ten, and never thought of retiring before midnight. Anyhow, my brain is most active at night, which is when I could write. I could write all night easily. So for me to lie awake in bed is a sheer waste of time. Of course I can’t read because I have no light. If I could go to bed when I was ready for bed, that would be all right, but no, that is not permitted. When Ted goes to bed I must go to bed, that’s the rule. The household must pleasure the husband, “the head of the house”, that is the inviolate rule in England. Why do I put up with it? Why don’t I say, no I don’t want to go to bed now, I want to listen to the radio? I say nothing. I let him get away with it. I let him get away with murder. I am certainly terribly tired of it, deathly tired of it. As I lay awake last night I thought of how sick I was of goodness and of being good. I thought of all the fun I have missed in life, tagging along with Ted Thompson. I should have burst out of bounds years and years ago; I ought to have done so.
Sunday April 16, 1944
I spent most of the day writing letters. I wrote and extra long one on Harold. When Artie and Hilda are here again I shall not be able to do my writing whatsoever. I wanted particularly to write to Harold, and have done so. Happily for me there were no visitors today. I did not go to church. It was a rainy morning, so had myself excused.
Thursday April 18, 1944
My birthday. I am sixty today. Awful. Old Mr. Holloway, the Owlett’s lodger, has spent most of the day in the garden, hacking and coughing a lot. The old lady called him “Ernest”, and I always get the suspicion he was one of her old boyfriends. He is seventy-nine- almost eighty, in good shape and active for his years, but -----But! I hate old people. I hate the sight and the sound of them. Ernest in his garden all day has gotten on my nerves. I suppose he can’t stay in the house with the corpse. I can’t be sorry for him, nor Miss Owlett, or for the departed. I hate the sight of Miss Owlett too; she is so ugly. Yes, I know this is hateful of me. I know if I live long enough I too shall be decrepit and revolting looking. All the same, I can’t bear old people. I simply can’t bear them. It isn’t that I want young people either. It is that I can’t tolerate the sight of the human being in decay and a company of old people fills me with disgust. The Resurrection of the Body. Which body? Will Mrs. Owlett resurrect as the woman she died, a hag of eighty? Or as the girl she was at twenty, or the mature woman she was at fifty?