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Communiqué No. 21 by Paul Rowntree
sent from London during the first WW2 blitz
Sunday 23 Feb 41
Thank you for the letters and parcel. I am hoping Bradley will write and let me know when I can go and chat to him – it is hopeless to get much out of him via letters.
There really isn’t any positive blitz news but I’ll put:
Sunday 16 – 23 Feb 41
Slept one night at the post but I could have slept every night at Barts since any raid there has been has finished before midnight. I don’t know of any bombs dropped except via newspapers.
On Wednesday I cycled in the dark across the huge crater at the Bank Station. It has a very good one way bridge stretching from side to side carrying cars and buses etc (but not pedestrians) .
On Thurs, I have received a form from the ministry of lablour and national service on which I have to give my employers name and business and also the foreman’s name. It was addressed to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. There have been many others but I don’t yet know how it should be filled it.
I have read “Antic Harry” belonging to E.E.Perkins as he has left his books in my room. I particularly liked the first chapter when the hero is a schoolmaster and during the chapel service he thinks of having a pneumatic attachment to trousers.
I was unable to get a fixture for Saturday and as it was a lovely day I persuaded Gwen to come for a nice long walk in the park, we rowed on the Serpentine – apparently she was never allowed to row before and was thrilled with it – so of course I let her.
On the way home I saw her onto a train at the right platform at Tott.Ct. Rd. but the trains were going the wrong way ( there was a shuttle service as far as Leister Square only) – we discovered later). I had to hold the closing door back to let her get in and as it closed after her, her shoe fell onto the platform.
It was one of those trains with netting on the windows and only a small hole to look through. I frantically signed for her to come back ( as she was going in the wrong direction anyone) and she was signing to me to come on.
Afterwards I realized that I could quite easily go one the next train to Goodge St. especially as she would be hindered anyway.
In the train she met Cyril one of her childhood friends who introduced her formally to his friend – Gwendoline trying to unsuccessfully hide her unshod foot in her behind.
I waited 5 minutes and a train came back without her ( actually she had only just missed it) so when the next train came in another 10 minutes I went to Goodge St. with her shoe in my pocket. But she wasn’t there. Another ¼ hour and a train came into each platform. I couldn’t examine the incoming train without missing the train going back to Tott. Ct. Rd. so I caught it. But she was not there.
I was approached however by a man who told me (after asking if I was the young man with the shoe ) that the young lady had been here and had just gone back to Goodge St.
( on the train I didn’t have time to examine.)
I asked if I should go to Goodge St and he said yes I was to follow.
Luckily a porter came up (with a better memory) who said he’d been told to keep me at Tott.Ct. Rd. at all costs and so after another 10 minutes, she returned running in her stockinged feet.
And so she got into the Northern line at the Bank instead over an hour later than she had started.
I have been surprised at the amount of chocolate that we have been able to buy in the “refectory”. Although it has all gone now you could buy 2 x 2 ½ slabs at each meal you went to.
At tea today ( Sunday) I was talking to rather a “wet” named Druitt ( who is a vegetarian and wouldn’t think of entering a pub even to drink lemonade – otherwise ok)
He was at a maternity Hospital on “Black Saturday” the first big fire raid on the East end. He was delivering a child during that 72 hours of bombing. At each explosion when the mother was getting lax, she would start again, he would protect her from the window and the sister would dive under the bed.
He had been standing at a doorway and was blown outside. He picked himself up unhurt go back to the door when a second bomb repeated the action.
He had taken some excellent photos of the biggest of the fires that was about 250 yards away. 3 photos showed various stages of a school caught in the blaze – the last at night. They were excellent photos taken fro the hospital roof.
His sister is a Dr. and is in York. She had worked in the Dispensary 9 months and liked it. She had done a locum for Gosling ( as one of the partners, Cocky Marshall, had been called up and he hadn’t arranged for the woman who is now doing it.) Now she is an H.S. at the County ( though he said the Royal York first).
While writing this the wireless has drained down, then the sirens sound ( 8.15), a plane has flown loudly overhead and a thunderstorm of anti-aircraft fire has burst out but died done again.
It doesn’t effect me as I am off duty tonight. I expect the all clear will go in about 3 hours.
I refuse to write anymore about the Commandant – there is ton to write about but it would tire me to write volumes on variations of the same theme – her bitchiness. She has prevented Dick Gutteridge ( who was seconding in the Odeon RAF boxing fights – when the King was to have attended (He did)) from going to a better paid massage job in an orthopaedic hospital.
She has ordered us and then ordered two other men to clear our beds each morning from the decontamination rooms (female) telling some of us it was because they were untidy and others that the gas danger prevented us from leaving beds there. She has prevented Keeble (the nurse that was at Barts) from becoming an assistant Commandant and rushed another nurse into Red uniform to make sure – but I told you this.
I used to worry as to how I could make conditions in the post better – but now I realise that so much is wrong ( and all that is Commandant) that it just isn’t worth worrying at all.
The affairs of the other members of the post go on ( I hear them all from Gwen) and they are amazing and complicated.
If all the different incidents and characters were put it one book you would not believe them as likely as actual life – and the book would be crowded with conflicting and various currents.
Have you heard about the warden who was holding a baby to give its mother a rest; but after a time he rushed the baby back. He could no longer take it as the “yellow had come through”
The raid has fizzled out into complete silence – there can only have been one plane.
It seems ages since we were in York and really it’s a little over a week.
I have not had any letter from M and S.- I don’t think their reply, if existent, would be due yet anyway.
I have written a suitable letter (I hope ) to Elizabeth Barnes.
Has Nadeen come to stay yet ?
Back comes the Jerry.
I am hoping to join the U.H.S.C. [ United Hospitals Sailing Club] early this year. It has been open all winter. But I’m not sure who to send the money to. I should like to sail next Sunday if possible.
I should be grateful for some pants if possible. Mine now look as if they belong ot Daddy’s Unit ( but more “egg” and green)
Paul 9 pm Sun 23 Feb 41
P.S. I see W.A.Hamer touched down 2 tries for Mary’s 1st against Wads y’day.