Blitz Diary : Life Under Fire in the Second World War Hardback
by Carol Harris
The historian Carol Harris has collected together a remarkable series of accounts from the war's darkest days, with heart-warming stories of survival, perseverance, solidarity and bravery, the preservation of which becomes increasingly important as the Blitz fades from living memory.
War with Germany seemed increasingly likely throughout the 1930s.
The British Government and the general population believed that bombs and poison gas would be dropped on civilians in major towns and cities with the aim of terrifying them into surrendering.
Today the Blitz, far from breaking civilian morale, is seen as achieving the opposite; it helped galvanise public opinion to carry on fighting the war.
But in 1937, preparations to protect the population were hopelessly inadequate, and the British government was far from confident that people would respond in this way.
In May of that year, Dr Duncan Leys wrote angrily about a government lecture he had attended on Air Raid Precautions (ARP): "I call the Government's Air Raid Precautions Scheme willful deception of the people.
I believe also that it is a deception which will defeat its own object.
Panic is a mild word for the wrath which the people, rudely enlightened by the first English Guernica, will display against their rulers and officials when they survey the ruins and the dead...
Betty Bullard, aged 21, had volunteered for the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), and was working in a recruitment office in Norwich when war was declared: "Sunday 3rd September 1939 - A terrible day.
Great depressions but a firm belief to the last that it couldn't really happen.
Sat waiting by the wireless. At last a fine speech by Mr Chamberlain announcing 'a state of war between this country and Germany'.
Series of announcements. Black-out at night, cinemas closed, carry your gas mask, keep off roads at night etc etc.
It had come - decided to go to the sea with Geoffrey, Else and Margaret.
Just arrived when M arrived for me to report at office at once.
Went off in great excitement - all for nothing. Like many other people, she expected Germany to win. "Friday 22nd September 1939 - Went up to tea with Charlotte who is polishing up her German in case we lose the war!" Mass bombing of cities began in earnest with the Blitz on London, one year later.
Civilians were now fighting the war on the home front.
Will, a schoolteacher in Leytonstone, East London, was an air raid (ARP) warden.
He wrote to his brother and sister-in-law in Abergavenny, Wales on September 22nd 1940, describing his work during one of the raids. "I put on my mac and then it came - a 'Molotov basket' of 50 incendiary bombs on our street, a few on the flats behind us and a number on the railway embankment behind Mrs S's.
Some fell on Norlington School which is just across the line.
I rushed out and blew my whistle to summon the wardens (3 of them) who were standing by.
The whole street seemed ablaze with white magnesium glare.
There were 10 fires between our house and the post. (Number) 94 escaped, but two (incendiaries) fell three doors away.
I tackled one which was blazing under a front window and got it out quickly.
Then the woman screamed out that one had fallen on a shed full of timber in her back garden and was blazing away.
I rushed through the house and tackled the bomb with sand.
Then I put out the blaze in the shed with buckets of water.
The other wardens were working singly on other fires down their end of the street.
Norlington School was blazing furiously and the Magnet Laundry next door." Choc Steed was a typist working for HQ South Western Command in Plymouth during 1940-41.
She married in March 1941 and was on her honeymoon when..."We heard on the radio that Plymouth had had a very bad blitz on the Thursday and Friday night, so we packed and left straight away...We had been away nearly two weeks and when we returned, the church where we were married was nothing but a shell.
I believe we were the last couple to be married there.
The restaurant where the reception was held and the photographers' were gone, as was practically the whole of the centre of Plymouth.
The whole town was devastated and firemen had come from miles around to tackle the blaze.
Friends of ours who lived in Torrington in North Devon, 54 miles away, told us how they stood on Castle Hill and watched the glow in the sky over Plymouth, knowing that men from their families had gone with the brigade to help..."
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 192 pages
- Publisher: The History Press Ltd
- Publication Date: 01/06/2010
- Category: Diaries, letters & journals
- ISBN: 9780752451725