Prepared by Gena Philibert-Ortega.
I think most genealogists wish that they had inherited a diary from an ancestor. In the case of the editors of "World War II London Blitz Dairy," they were fortunate to have 43 written by editor Vicki Washuk's great-grandmother, Ruby Side Thompson (1909-1969). Written between the years 1909-1969, the diaries were discovered by her sons upon her death and detail years of her life including the World War II years.
Reading a diary almost feels like eavesdropping on someone's inner most secrets and such is the case for "World War II London Blitz Dairy." Ruth talks about her marriage and unloads about what she thinks of her husband and her in-laws. Ruby documents some more intimate moments, as one would expect in a diary that was not meant to be read by others. At times you may feel like your intruding on a family's skeletons, but it also is a nice reminder that our ancestors had some of the same thoughts and feeling that we all do. Life is messy, and Ruth not only endured an unhappy marriage but also the horrors of living through a war. Like the writings of women like Charlotte Perkins Gillman, Ruby's writings reflect the frustration of living with the attitudes, stereotypes and expectations placed on women during this era.
Reading a diary, even one not associated with our ancestors, provides us with social history about a place and time. I was especially interested in what life was like for those living in England, during the War. Ruby's diary chronicles the reality of rationing food and material goods, air raids, sons who have gone off to fight in the war and trying to live life normally during extraordinary life circumstances. While some may find the depictions of her personal life tedious to wade through, they are worth it as you learn more about life during war time. Her mentions of the leaders of the time including President Roosevelt provide a different perspective than what you would find in a traditional history book. With mentions of Roosevelt you get the impression the frustration of America not entering the war until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The reader can feel the futility as she writes of the strength of the German military and how seemingly no one can stand up to them.
As I read Ruby's diary I truly got the sense of what it was like to be a woman in London during World War II. It also made me curious to read about other women's experiences of London during the Blitz. It gave me a deep appreciation not only for what the soldiers had to endure but also their families left behind.
I was first introduced to this work by following the diary's editor Vicki Washuk (@Vicki Washuk) on Twitter where she tweeted lines from her great-grandmother's diary. You can also read excerpts from the diaries on her blog at World War II London Blitz Diary 1939-1945. This book is available in 4 volumes either in print or in a Kindle edition.
World War II London Blitz Diary: A Woman's Revelations Enduring War and Marriage, by Ruby Side Thompson. Edited by Victoria Aldridge Washuk and Adele Thompson Aldridge. 2011.