A Woman’s Revelations Enduring War and Marriage
Author: Victoria Alderidge Washuk
Book form: paperback, illustrated
Pages: Vol.I-212; Vol.II-262
ISBN: Volume I- 978-1463783693 ; Volume II- 978-1466434219
Remark: also available as e-book
Review:War is never just a matter of soldiers; many citizens are also suffering under the force of arms. World War II is no exception. The bourgeoisie had mostly suffered from air raids and in many families, husbands and sons were drafted into the military. Ruby Thompson, a London housewife, was one of those citizens, who burdened by the war. She was born in 1884, married and mother of seven sons, including twins. When the twins were in service with the RAF, the war came closer to Ruby. All of her feelings like the fear of her fate and that of her family and the anger because of the war she described in her diaries. With those journals she had started years earlier in order to give expression to her marital problems, because she could not share those problems with anyone else. By inheritance, these diaries -43 in total-holds- came in possession of her granddaughter Victoria Aldridge Washuk. She was especially fascinated by the four volumes, covering the Second World War. Their interesting contents she did not want to deny to the general public and so she decided to publish these 4 diaries. Meanwhile two volumes are published: “World War II. London Blitz Diary Volume I “and” World War II. London Blitz Diary Volume II “and there are yet two more volumes to come.
The first volume includes the years 1939-1940, the second volume includes the year 1941. The first journal begins on September 1st, the day on which Poland underwent the first German bombardment. The war still seemed far away from England. Ruby wrote therefore mainly about the problems in her marriage. Between the war descriptions the reader is witness of Ruby’s drive towards independence. She felt trapped in her marriage, because her husband Ted limited her in everything, including her own development. But at the same time she thought of herself being too old to get divorced. The only way out for her intellectual freedom to the mind, were the many books that she read about art, literature, history and theosophy. In addition she had her diaries, in which she could freely express her feelings, which held her occupied at that moment. Feelings such as anger at both her husband and to the outbreak of war. Meanwhile two of her sons had joined the R.A.F. In May 1940, she received a letter about one of them, Cuthie was reported missing. After a while Ruby found out he had become a prisoner of war and was held in camp Dulag Luft. (short for Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe).
But then the war expanded further on Europe. Especially in volume II the war became more attention. Ruby did not only report on the bombing of England in her diaries, she also described what she learned about the invasions in other countries such as the Netherlands, France and she even wrote about the attitude of Germany. Even the discussions that took place in America about whether or not to participate in the war in Europe she followed with great interest, partly because some sons of her lived in America. Until then Ruby was not much concerned about her Christian faith, unlike her husband Ted, who was a devoted Catholic, but now Ruby started to pray more and more to find peace. After all the fear of being hit during a bombardment and the care for her family became tangible larger as the hostilities of war increased.
Thanks to her talent for writing and her keen insight Ruby was able to depict an interesting image of time in these diaries, both of the Second World War, as of the prevailing society. She gave for instance an impression of the daily worries, at the same time she wrote how the bombings disturbed the everyday life. Also some things were suddenly no longer so obvious during the war. For example Ruby could no longer write everything in her letters to her sons in America as she used to, due to censorship. She was ordered not to mention when and where bombings had taken place. Such cases led to more rage again and again to Ruby Thompson and she got less and less appreciation for men, because men had caused the war. Men were fools, was her opinion. Her own husband was no exception, he was also not a realist, but a daydreamer.
Her personal reports are very direct and candid, because at the moment Ruby could not have imagined that her diaries would ever read by outsiders from later generations. She considered her thoughts in her journals to be safe. Thereby the feeling of being an intruder comes over you. After all, you participate in a world that originally was not meant for your eyes. Then again, a representation of reality is now created, that otherwise probably would have become blurred if the author had already been aware of a wider readership. In particular in those parts in which the war has been raised. “World War II. London Blitz Diary Volume I & II “are therefore without doubt to be considered as remarkable documents.
Assessment: X X X X Very good