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Bombed but unbeaten

Woman jumping from building, Croyden, Aug 8 2011 (Times of London)

Headlines from my beloved and besieged London sent me back to Bombed but Unbeaten, a book of letters written in London during the Blitz by my aunt, Beatrice Warde. Here, she describes her first time in an air raid shelter, in the laundry room of a “council flat” (housing project) near Victoria Station on Sept. 3, 1939:

There were about fifty of us, men and women. They were all, of course, very poor and “common” people and they were all …as cool as cucumbers—just as gallantly matter-of-fact as you’d expect them to be. One young girl was sniffling a bit, and her friends were jollying her out of it. The men busied themselves in shifting a pile of sandbags. There was no joking, no talk to speak of; the only expression on their faces was one of deep disapproval—the incredulous, “shocked” disapproval of a man who is serene enough in his own mind to feel morally outraged without feeling flustered.


Hackney (New York Times)… I hadn’t of course known up to that time how I’d take it. It’s odd, but the one thing I’d been dreading was the sound of the sirens: and in actuality they weren’t what I imagined at all. The sound was as expected, but the effect on me wasn’t! I just thought “Well, well.” (Mind you, I never suspected that it was a false alarm.) When I’d seen all those grand people toting their gas masks and smiling at one another I felt rather privileged to be in that L.C.C. community laundry; I remember thinking that if that was to be my last ten minutes, I couldn’t have chosen a better place or better company…  


Hackney looter, 8-9-11 (Peter MacDiarmid/Getty Images)Well, then they gave the “All Clear” signal and I hoofed along to the Cathedral and arrived on the dot. There was a wonderful sermon by a Dominican, about Peace. He said Peace was the State of Order—the mind ordered within itself, individuals living in such a state of ordered tranquility as to allow every man his right, nations obeying Law and Order. We were to attain internal peace and know that it was Peace we were fighting for. Very stabilizing and sane.


Looters rob a store in Hackney, 8-9-11 (Peter MacDiarmid/Getty Images)I caught a fast train out of Victoria; it was reassuring to see the balloon barrage in full force around London. The sky was dazzling blue, with great white cumulus clouds, and hundreds of bright little silver fish riding amongst and around them—the sun flashing from each one…

Clean-up volunteers, 8-9-11 (Reuters)The reason why I feel confident about the British is that they have gone into this thing without any illusions to speak of, without hatred, without any noticeable emotion… These people know what it’s all about. At present—while they can—they’re representing Reason and the Free Intelligence, and going over the Cause as if to memorize it—rather as one learns to memorize a road nowadays by daylight, or to notice, at dusk, where one’s bedroom slippers are.

Clean-up volunteer 'mob,' Clapham 8-9-11 (Times of London)

Posted on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 12:07PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn in , , | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

Dear Brenda, this is just beautiful. Thank you for Beatrice's comments. Christine
August 9, 2011 at 03:49PM | Unregistered CommenterChristine Appleberry

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