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  Paul  Rowntree 

Communiqué No. 17 by Paul Rowntree
sent from London during the first WW2 blitz

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Communiqué No.17

Barts, E.C.1

Mon 9 Dec ,1940

Dear Parents,

I don’t think I told you that my sports coat had arrived. It is better tailored as well as being better material. The pockets are roomier and mainly because they bulge inwards they don’t look full.

I wore it first last Friday 6 Dec 40

I had “skins” that morning and when I arrived in the ground floor medical Path. Lab. everyone else was there. I can only describe the impression it made as a sensation. People all around were admiring it – people on the other side of the room put aside their concentrated attention on the patient’s skin and cheered and made signs – of admiration. So that even I, in my nonchalant glamour could not hide blushes of pleasure at such a reception.

Perhaps it is because they noticed a contrast to my previous appearance.

Saturday 7 Dec 40

Most of the team arrived safely at Harrow on the Hill. This was after last minute searchings for stop gaps, our best players being raked in at the last moment.

We saw all the usual school boy faces wearing their shallow boaters. We were greeted by 15 six formers who each took a man back to their house to change. But four six formers were without mates. We got three substitutes and two more of the team arrived so we started with 2 subs. , the other two of the team arriving at half time. We had expected them to be in good training and they were, but they were quite impressed with us too – perhaps because we had taken the precaution before the game of explaining why we hard working medics were less fit than them.

We started at great speed and with cheering school boys. Our scrum was stronger except when their scrum half put the ball in crooked (which was always).

Their wing three quarter ran like the wind and had a habit of running straight across the field. They had a tiny stand off who Merryfield soon realised was a menace, he just dodged and ran through.

After the first quarter our forwards could not stick the pace and their wing ran through to a centre try which they converted. Our forward rushes were effective however and I picked up and put down the first try.

In the second half we played two short while the late arrivals changed and they slopped through another try which they did not convert. We realized we were up against it and unless we went all out we would lose so we played to win or nothing.

By the last quarter the forwards found themselves again and fought again in a pack. We managed to keep up our attack until we got another try to make it 8-6 to them.

The threes were playing very well (Kingdom, friend of the other Pat especially well – he has played in the first).

They and Picton at back were tackling and passing well.

We found we hadn’t tired ourselves too much and so we tended to take the ball at the line outs instead of passing back and after a brilliant play by both sides we scored again and took the lead at 9-8.

It is nice to play a school team and it was an extremely good( and fairly clean) game.

Both sides were exhausted as they wandered up the hill and later met for a terrific tea with fish and chips, sweet as well as the usual cakes.

The schoolboys were very pleasant and polite and no different from the usual public school people.

Their numbers dropped to half after the London blitz. They have had incendiaries on their buildings but their grounds have patched up craters.

And so we returned very tired but victorious. The 1st lost gallantly to Aldershot Command ( 9-11) – the A again had no game.

Sunday 8 Dec 40

After days and nights without even a warning, the raid started early on Sunday night.

I had a date for a rum and lime at Piccadilly Circus and on coming out into the night saw Eros light up in a brilliant flare of light.

At the top of Lower Regent Street little figures were running about with shovels around a very bright incendiary bomb which thought it was a jumping cracker and started exploding about. The Jerries didn’t seem to bother to bomb the light.

Then as we ( the students) went to bed ( in the post) the raid developed into a proper blitz. Again and again the door would rattle, again and again the foundations of the building would shake, again and again we thought something had hit the building but we didn’t ( or I didn’t when awake ) hear any very loud bangs.

The barrage, although very heavy at times, didn’t seem so intensive as the original blitz and I couldn’t hear any big naval guns. I have heard, though, that the guns were fully active in south London.

We had two casualties in the post which I didn’t see. One had an incendiary fin in his leg – the other a piece of F.B. in his eye. Barts had about 15 cases to treat some serious I believe. There was at least one B.I.D. – shrapnel in the heart. Another (casualty not BID) had shrapnel in his lower chest missing his lung. Another had a leg shot off – which I am told was not a pleasant sight.

One of our posts had two B.I.D.s one a fireman to the building. They also had a terrific explosion but couldn’t find the damage. They think a land mine exploded in the air just near.

There were quite a lot of fires started. One student passing some distance away in a bus thought that the Houses of Parliament caught fire but ( particularly as no one else had heard the same) he is not at all sure.

We are rather surprised to see not damage – not even to windows round our post, in fact I have seen no new damage yet. I have heard that Gross and two other shops in Lower Bridge Road just off Ludgate Circus have been wrecked. I have heard that the P.L.A. buildings have been hit or fired or something, but I recalling haven’t had a chance to find out just what damage has been done. My impression is that they were out for incendiaries rather than the not so successful H.E.

I was rather surprised when the doors were shaking last night, I felt none of the usual stomach sensations and ( with all modesty) was rather indifferent – or perhaps I was thinking of other things.

As far as I am concerned I just slept my usual sleep in my new bed and haven’t seen any injured or wreckage which I’m afraid is rather a bore for you.

Incidentally Barts did not receive any injury at all in spite of “5 hospitals being hit”.

The general opinion is that the raid is the greatest we’ve had since the first few days of the blitz.

During breakfast an Alsatian dog wandered in, wandered round and lay down.

At lunch I could indistinctly see 17 Balls Pond Road on his collar. He seemed shaky, got up and wandered out. No one knows how or why he was there.

Monday 9 Dec 40

Although, like last night, the weather is ideal for bombing, there has been no siren all day ( up till now 10 o’clock.)

London is lit brightly by the 2/3 moon and there are thin patches of cloud which do not mask the brightest stars and which the Germans would like.

It’s midnight and no siren. I have been chatting all the time with Dick Gutteridge, one of the ARP men who with his father and twin brother is a big name in the spotting world as trainer. We ( or mostly he) have been chatting away about people he has dealt with – he was with Ben Ford in Germany, in film with Victor MacGage and many others and he had allsorts of stories to tell.

He had an Autograph Book for his son with all the famous boxers. One who’d shot his lover when he found her phoning another boyfriend. When we had to stop big boxing – they tried to defend him on “punch Drunkenness but he was lying. Many of his young pupils in this book had lost legs, arms, yes, or lives in Dunkirk. An Italian had sunk in the torpedoed liner full of German and Italian aliens.

He told me of a very finally built Dr.’s son who had terrific guts and would have earned lots of big money, but he knew that at 30 he would be as good as dead as he wasn’t “wicked” in the way and would become punch drunk.

He persuaded him to go back to doctoring (as he wasn’t born a boxer) and he needed a lot of persuading.

Gutteridge says he is terribly afraid of doctors if he has to see them about himself ( and especially if they are wearing white coats).

Oh there’s lots more of great interest but there’s not the time to write.

He had seen Jock Fingleton, the watcher on the roof who had been in Hill End. He said that the nurses were “angels” They had a raid on there.

9am Tues 10 Dec 40

No raid all night. I suppose the Jerries are only planning to keep London in shelters each night and so get ill

Much Love Paul