Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WWII Diaries by Ruby Side-Thompson

Book Blurb

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 diary is a true and detailed account of what she experienced during that horrific time. The diary chronicles Ruby's struggle to survive in the midst of a horrendous war, where London is bombed nightly.

Ruby speaks candidly about her unhappiness enduring an unsatisfactory marriage. She was the mother of seven sons, two of whom were enlisted in the R.A.F. One of which became an amputee as the result of hitting a land mine and the other son was captured and sent to a concentration camp as a prisoner of war. Her tale is a mix of the commonplace and the historic as seen through her eyes.

The diary was an outlet for Ruby’s thoughts and feelings that could not be spoken out loud; however, in publishing the diary it gives readers an honest and unfiltered look back at a time that may have been long since forgotten.

This is volume one of a four volume series written by Ruby Alice Side Thompson.


I read this book because I wanted to discover what life was really like during the War for the people on the ground, however having read the introduction by her Great Granddaughter, I realised this was a personal venture by the author and not specifically about the war. Ruby was born in 1884, and wrote forty three diaries between 1909 and 1969. Primarily, it is about Ruby’s secret life - the woman she sees herself as and wants to be as opposed to the one the world perceives.

However, I don’t hold the self absorbed character of her journals against her, as she didn’t write with the intention of publication, but as a release from the frustrations of a life which had turned out a bitter disappointment.

For the first few chapters I was intrigued with this lady who, at the age of fifty-five had raised seven sons in America and has returned to live in Romford, Surrey reluctantly - which is not explained in this volume. She and her husband Ted are living with the two youngest, twins Cuthie and Artie who are both twenty one.

Both boys join up and are sent away to war, and although Ruby misses them, and worries for them, especially when Cuthie is reported missing in action, her writings are more about herself.  He is found in a PoW camp a month later, but Ruby’s celebrations at this news are quite restrained. She made more of the fact the local priest said Mass for Cuthie when they thought he was dead.

She was born in London and as a young woman went to Bayonne, New Jersey, a city she evidently loved and considered her true home. When War was announced she seemed determined to return there, even planning her escape route by enlisting the help of the five sons who lived there with the immigration process and even planned her wardrobe.

This dream doesn’t so much die, as shrivel, with the simple words, ‘I have reversed my decision.’ I wanted to know what changed her mind but will never know.

After Chamberlain’s famous speech of 3rd September 1939, she sprinkles her writing with news items, the invasion of Poland, sinking of ships in the Atlantic, strafing of farm animals but German pilots, the occupation of Norway and then in 1940, the London bombings begin.  Ted serves shifts at the bomb shelters, leaving Ruby alone for long periods while the raids are going on. She describes her fears very well and this must have been a horrifying time for her when the possibility of death and invasion by Hitler was a real possibility.

The main theme of Ruby’s diaries, at least the 1939-1940 one is her hatred for Ted.  And she does hate him, for she spends whole paragraphs saying what a fool he is and how he wearies her - in fact she hates him so much, when he castigates her for some trivial reason or another - which he does frequently - she cannot summon the energy to contradict, argue or even placate him. He simply isn’t worth the bother.

What I did find incomprehensible, was that when Ted regularly treated his almost grown sons to a tirade of their faults and list of duties toward him as their parent, Ruby made no attempt to defend them either.

Ruby is a thinker, and maybe she thinks too much and it has made her discontented, but she formulates an interesting theory about Ted’s fanatic Catholicism. That he uses it as an excuse to look down on women because the Roman Church has deemed them sinful and the root of mens' problems.

Ted is certainly a misogynist, and kudos to Ruby that she hadn’t done away with him years before.  Her reaction is to condemn men in general, decry them as fools in that they created this awful war that only they can remedy - she wants nothing to do with it.

In a way I sympathise, and cannot help feeling sorry for Ruby, but her journals are sad and depressing - not to mention repetitive.  The Kindle version of this book was free on Amazon, but I'm not tempted to pay for the other three.

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Press in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour
BLOG: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/anita.davison
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