Extract from Private Battles
THURSDAY, 31 OCTOBER 1940
Maggie Joy Blunt
Metal factory worker living in Burnham Beeches, near
Slough, age 31
The winter is here. It seems to have come so quickly.
Yesterday I found the dahlia leaves blackened by frost
and I lifted and stored the tubers and cut the remaining
flowers. They are in a vase now in front of me: their
delicately crinkled petals spread in perfect circles
of pale colour. I didn’t realise dahlias were
so lovely. What shall I be doing and feeling, and what
shall I have done and felt, by the time those tubers
bloom again …
SATURDAY, 2 NOVEMBER
Ernest van Someren
Research chemist in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, age 37
Jean R. came to see us. We sat and talked most of the
afternoon and evening, largely about incidents in London.
She has just moved from an old house very near a railway
to a steel and concrete block of flats. She told us
about a woman having a bath in Kentish Town whose house
was damaged by a very close hit, so that her bath slid
down into the street without spilling the water or hurting
her in any way. It was dark too.
MONDAY, 4 NOVEMBER
Secretary in coal shipping firm, Glasgow, age 38
At 2.45am the alert woke me up, but I went to sleep
again, and did not hear the all clear; this is said
to have gone at 3.50. I have been surprised by the changed
attitude so many people are showing – they stayed
in bed. Familiarity must be one factor, and I should
think the cold nights another.
My friend Miss Whittan was ’phoning London friends
this morning and they reported that last night – the
first for 56 nights without an alert – was so
quiet as to be ‘eerie’. There they were
in their shelters expecting something to happen and
nothing did. The ears get used to the noise and then
quiet keeps one awake.
Miss McKirdy has heard of a house that was bombed in
London, and immediately the salvagers began to go all
over the debris looking for a pair of pink corsets.
The owner had £2000 sewn in and had not happened
to be wearing the garment at the time the bomb fell.
Ernest van Someren
Up early for Jean to get a coach back to work. A good
post, letters from my brother and bro-in-law in RAF
and a note from my mother with some ham from my sister
in USA. Tony, my brother, has been moved from Scotland
to Lancashire to a RAF training camp where he is allowed
to do some consultant work as a psychiatrist, which
he had hoped to do.
During the day a parcel arrived from Tessa with assorted
sweets and two pairs of nylon stockings. After we had
sampled the sweets we found a letter saying that they
were for Esmee and her two boys. We sent on the rest
of the sweets the next day.
In the evening wrote diary and letters. It was fairly
Maggie Joy Blunt
Heart of my heart! It seems six or seven bombs have
just fallen outside my back door. I heard a plane
and then zzzoom! zzzoom! zzzoom! – one after
the other. I felt the ground shaking and dived for
the table. We have had bombs at H Corner which destroyed
two council houses and the landmine in the Beeches
but nothing as near as this. What damage now is done?
I heard the soldiers stationed in the woods shouting ‘Lights!
These people aren’t blacked out at all!’ But
it’s not easy to keep a slither of light from
showing now and then. The times I have pulled and
tacked and padded my black-out.
The silence now … and the darkness! Outside never
was such a dark night and that one plane swooping from
the clouds, dropping its bombs without warning … I
have heard no siren … In this quiet, withdrawn
spot it is the unexpectedness of such an event that
is so terrifying. I would rather be in a town and hear
the barrage guns.
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