The bombing of Coventry, November 1940

14 November 1940 and following days, saw the Coventry blitz. This was one of the worst moments of the war and occurred fairly near to where Frankie lived with the children. – (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry_Blitz)

22/11/40   To-morrow I am going to Coventry to help in a canteen as apparently they are still very much needed for the homeless people. I am very much interested to see it as I imagine it is the greatest war sight which has ever been seen anywhere.

Coventry bombed in WWII. The coventry blitz
Devastation by bombs in Coventry 1940

24/11/40   I went to Coventry. It is rather difficult to describe it because it both is and isn’t what one had expected. The papers said the whole of the middle of the town was flat. Well, it is and it isn’t. Whole areas are completely flat, but round them you can drive in quite ordinary streets with rather damaged buildings all round.

 

Coventry cathedral bombed. The Coventry blitz
Coventry Cathedral after air raids, the Coventry Blitz, in November 1940

The Cathedral is demolished except that a lot of the outside walls and the spire stand. There is no water or gas at all, some electric light but no power. Everything was chaos in the organization side.

I spent the whole day buttering slices of bread. Some of them seem to have been doing it for 24 hours on end. I had no conversation with the people being fed but some of the bread-cutters were just ordinary Coventry women. I must say they were extraordinary. They were quite cheerful and full of dull jokes which I imagine only the English make, but which are very good in this sort of time. For instance when one of the women said she was going home for half an hour one of the others said “Now don’t you go having a hot bath and good lie down”. In order to appreciate this one has to realize that we couldn’t even get a glass of water to drink and that this woman hadn’t had an ordinary night’s sleep for ten days.

We asked them about the morale of the people. They all said it was wonderful. They said the only thing which got any of them down was when the papers said it had not stopped production, because they said, that, apart from the general chaos and lack of power, several of the factories didn’t exist at all any more. I do think it’s silly. It just makes people distrust all official reports.

On the way home the most odd thing happened. A soldier and his wife stopped me for a lift. I said something about having come from Coventry and the man said “O, we’re Coventry people but my wife left because of the bombing.” Then she said from the back in a perfectly ordinary voice “We lost two of our children. The third was buried, but they got her out alright.”  They both spoke in such ordinary voices that I thought they could not be talking about something which had happened recently so I said “This was some time ago you mean?”, and they said “O no, in the big raid last Friday”. This was all they said about it and we might have been talking about the price of eggs. Is it the result of shock, or what? It seems to me to be absolutely terrifying.

25/11/40   I rode my pony to Aston Cantlow this morning to get it shod and in the blacksmith’s I met a local farmer who told me I was potty to try to milk at Gypsy Hall as it wouldn’t grow good enough pasture to get a good milk yield. I bet him in 3 years I would win the record milk yield for the County. He was a farmer of the old school who didn’t believe in ploughing turf. This afternoon I had a go at milking myself and got on fairly well.

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A Woman's War