Imagine yourself seeing hundreds of Messerschmitt war planes overhead and hearing the explosion of bombs being dropped around you. Wondering if this is the day one will fall on your house. Ruby Side Thompson’s personal diary was written during the terrifying World War Two London Blitz. Her... read more
Friday, September 1, 1939
War started today. After another week of lies and duplicity, Hitler launched into actual warfare early this morning. At five thirty this morning he announced the enclosure of Danzig in the Reich, and at five forty-five he bombed his first Polish town. Reports were... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Friday, September 1, 1939
War started today. After another week of lies and duplicity, Hitler launched into actual warfare early this morning. At five thirty this morning he announced the enclosure of Danzig in the Reich, and at five forty-five he bombed his first Polish town. Reports were that the Germans had already bombed eight Polish cities, and were attacking on all frontiers.
The BBC has just announced that King George held a Privy Council this noon, and has signed papers completing the mobilization of our Army, Navy, and Air Forces. Further news is to be broadcast at four p.m.
Sunday, September 3, 1939
At eleven fifteen today Mr. Chamberlain broadcast from number Ten Downing Street. He said: This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final note stating that, unless we heard from them by eleven o'clock, that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.
I have to tell you that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany. He ended his speech like this: "Now may God bless you all. May he defend the right. It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against, brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution, and against them I am certain that the right will prevail."
He had scarcely finished speaking when the air raid signals sounded. Naturally we all took cover. About twelve o’clock the all-clear signal came. We thought it had been the Germans, of course, but in tonight’s news we were told, that it was a strange aircraft, which had been sighted over the Channel, and that when it had been identified, it was found to be a friendly plane, and allowed to pass. However, the warnings were a shock. It was such a beautiful day, sunny and with clear skies. At five o'clock the French government broadcast a similar statement to Mr. Chamberlain, saying they had no reply from Hitler and that as of five o'clock the French were at war with Germany.
So here is the war. We have been fending it off for years, but at last it is here. The folly of men is now going to destroy men. Force will fight force. Maybe the right will prevail. I don’t know. I can only hope so. God keep us all!
Monday, September 4, 1939
In the middle of the night we were wakened from sleep by the air raid sirens. We got up, closed all the windows, put on our robes and went downstairs. Here we remained in the passage by the staircase until the all-clear signal came, about four o'clock. The kitchen clock struck three whilst I was waking Artie. However, we were informed at nine this morning that this was again caused by the passage of unidentified aircraft over Essex and the midland counties; our fighters went up, identified the airplane and then returned to ground. We are not told exactly what planes they were or why they were flying over England at three in the morning.
Real news of war came early. The Atlantic Liner, Athena, was torpedoed off the west of the Hebrides, and sank at five o’clock this morning. She had fourteen hundred people aboard, most of them Americans returning home. She was from Glasgow, bound for Montreal. Now, noon, we are informed that a notice has been posted in Glasgow, signed, Cook, Master, stating that all passengers and crew, except those killed by the explosion, were got safely into the boats, and many of them had already been picked up by other vessels. President Roosevelt broadcast in the States last night that America would stay neutral. However, if the Germans attack the Americans on the seas, what then?
It is eight-thirty p.m. and I am in a blaze of anger. At seven o’clock Ted said, “I’m going down to Forest Gate, to see what traveling is like in the dark.” He went too! Now, all lights are forbidden, all cinemas closed, all gatherings, indoor, and outside, prohibited, because of the danger from bombs. No lights in the trains or the busses, no lights in automobiles. Ted has to go to Forest Gate to see his precious guild of course, his pious and adoring spinsters and oafs. Well, it may be fine Catholic piety, but its damned bad husbandry. All around many women are ill and hysterical, and very bad when the air raid signals sound. It is nerves and they can’t help it.
What does Ted care about me? It is night, the raiding signals may be heard at any moment but I am left alone in the house, to endure it as best I can. The Catholic Evidence Guild is of very great importance to Ted, but I am of no importance at all. This heartlessness at a time like this fills me with dismay. I cannot believe he would act so, yet he does. He goes off on his own pleasuring, danger or no danger, and I am left alone, danger or no danger. Anyhow I am in a fretful mood, and have been, all this time of gathering tension. I think of Cuthie, who is surely going to immediate death and of Artie who will follow him. I think of my boys in America, who I cannot reach and their children whom I have never seen. In my heart I am crying and crying.
The lot my husband has imposed upon me is a cruel one. He has denuded me of my children, and of himself as lover and friend. Now he leaves me to face terror alone, as well as desolation. I know there may be no raid before he returns but the chances are equal there may be. I say he has no right to leave me alone at such a time. It is a cruel thing to do. It hurts me, and it angers me, and I feel I shall never forgive him. But I suppose I shall! What is there else to do? I have to excuse him. I say he is crazy. I am angry just the same, very angry. He has no business to treat me like this, with such callousness. Loving kindness, he just doesn’t know what it is: ordinary friendliness, he doesn’t know that either. As Eddie says, “He's not human."
Wednesday, September 6, 1939
In the middle of the night we were wakened from sleep by the air raid sirens. We got up, closed all the windows, put on our robes and went downstairs. Here we remained in the passage by the staircase until the all-clear signal came, about four a.m. The kitchen clock struck three whilst I was waking Artie. However, we were informed at nine this morning that this was again caused by the passage of unidentified aircraft over Essex and the midland counties; our fighters went up, identified the airplanes and then returned to ground. We are not told exactly what planes they were or why they were flying over England at three in the morning. Now, all lights are forbidden, all cinemas closed, all gatherings, indoor, and outside, prohibited, because of the danger from bombs.
Sunday, September 10, 1939
The war has now completed one week. All week the weather has been perfect. All summer it has been very poor, no warmth, nor sun, nor brightness at all. Now it has cleared up and we have had more sun and warmth and clearness in this past week than in all the rest of the summer put together. A good thing too for it has kept people’s spirits up. It is hard to be melancholy in perfect weather.
The Germans, of course, are overrunning Poland, that was to be expected. There are reports they have taken Warsaw and counter-reports that they haven’t, but it is not known yet for a fact.
Old Bert has closed Arden Cottage and gone to live in Ongar. So have Bertie and Peggy. Bertie comes into business every day, but not old Bert. He is scared stiff. Ted behaves as usual, and he goes to mass every morning. Ted is the complete escapist.
Ted is more talkative than ever. I listen and listen, and I just despise him as a silly fool. Also he is more critical. He has been criticizing Artie to me for a long time but now he has begun picking on the boy directly. Artie answers back. They had a spat together in the scullery this morning about a pane of picture glass, which after hanging about the garden for months, had been smashed and Artie had cleared away the fragments. Today Ted missed that piece of glass, and gave Artie one of his typical cross-examinations about it. The boy answered politely but Ted then began to read him a lecture about carelessness, about laziness, about impoliteness, about being brusque, and so on.
Artie got riled. He said, “I resent those remarks. They are not true.” Ted went on some more. Artie said, “I still resent your remarks. You know that I am the only one who makes any attempt to clear up the place here and to keep it neat. I didn’t know you wanted the glass. It had stood around for weeks and weeks and you never mentioned it. It got broken. I cleared up the pieces. Why should I have to tell you? I think your remarks are uncalled for and unkind.”
The word “unkind” got under Ted’s skin. He answered sarcastically “Thank You” and walked away into the parlor. Ted fancy’s an idea of himself as of a benefactor. It’s all a part of his general interfering “doing well” he calls it. I’ve endured it for years, over and over again. The reprobates he dreams he is reforming have cheated me. Sucker after sucker has found out Ted for a good thing. He’s never cared. He always thinks the next “deserving case” will answer to his interest and charity with reform and with gratitude. So to tell him he is unkind is too much for him.
He is unkind. He has a most malicious tongue which he exercises on all those who can’t or don’t round on him. Now it’s got to Artie’s turn. Cuthie has got away. He made Cuthie miserable with his nagging for years all for Cuthie’s “good” of course! We said, "Hell!” Now it’s Artie that’s wrong. Artie, apparently, is going to answer back.
Oh, Ted and his moralizing, his sarcasms, his belittling, his sneers, oh, what a disagreeable person he is to live with! Yet he never suspects it! He thinks and says that he is broad minded, just, kind, and courteous. Whereas actually, he is fanatically narrow-minded, spiteful, mean, secretive, intolerant, and intolerable.
This week he has been awful. I say as little as possible. Silence is the only way to protect oneself from him but he makes me feel that I regard him either as an utter fool, or as a very hateful man. I don’t want to feel or think like that about him. I don’t want him to upset me. I want to keep serene. I want to keep myself. I want to keep free from him, untouched by his follies, unconfined by his limitations, impervious by his lack of love, not biased against the truth because of his peculiar prejudices that is it. I want to be free of him, inviolate.
“Sunday, September 1. The raids at one p.m. and five-thirty are the worst Romford has yet experienced. At mid day fifteen bombs were dropped in the very center of town. The first one fell in Victoria Road, only missing the railway bridge by a half block. Then in a straight line across all those little roads towards Hornchurch and the Romeo, fourteen others were dropped, demolishing shops and houses and killing many people. Rumor gave the estimate dead as fifty, but we do not know the actual number yet. Perhaps it was more. I sat alone here in the most awful terror I have ever known. The noise was devilish, the house shook so much I expected it to fall upon me, and the suction in this air is indescribable. Machines were dwelling right over the house, and each bomb as it fell sounded as though it might be in the back garden.””
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