A Poem Penned in the London Blitz
My mother, Lucy (age 23) the Author of This Poem - Written 3rd September 1940
Life in 1940 (Poetical Interlude)
Not wishing to be naughty, our life in nineteen-forty
Is hardly dull to such a one as I.
From August to September, are days I remember,
How shall we fare in dull November, I do not know, or care.
From day to day we're living, each week, increase our giving
To Spitfire-funds for fighters, to crush those Nazi blighters.
A flag day for our soldiers, airmen, sailors, too,
Our A.T.S. and A.R.P and folks like me and you.
We do our daily duty for England Home and Beauty,
We use our face creams nightly that we don't get unsightly.
While Blitzkrieg rages over us we won't let war nerves bore us.
Just run along and dance awhile, you may pick-up Canadian style.
It's new, it's grand it's thrilling, the pace is almost killing,
Yet in a sense it's pleasure, a fine thing for your leisure.
Don't you now think we're flighty to spend our money so,
A great deal of the dances have "effort" funds you know.
We all attend so closely to the Chairman's true appeal,
Then open up our purses our small change to reveal.
Can I forgo a sundae? Well yes I think I can,
At least it's just my way to show I'm game as any man.
Tobacco I don't need it and cigs I do not smoke,
Though fond I am of chocolate, I can't forgo my soap.
So all these unessentials I gladly pass them by,
For what's a petty sweatmeat compared to those who'd die.
If I and others do our share in such and other things
We soon shall conquer Hitler's hordes,
And no more need to put up boards
To show the way to shelters, to which in raids one skelters.
As Spring again awakens a new life shall unfold
A system sensible and fair,
Will yet replace old grey-beards there.
In places high and mighty all still can be like "Blighty"
When young we grew up to believe the last war ended human strife
Yet when a monster such as he springs up, how can this world agree?
No politician grand am I, I'm better at a lullaby,
Yet still I know the reasons why this war must end some day.
If not for you and not for me at least the future will be free
The generations yet unborn,
On high, our flag shall keep unfurled,
And Hitler's gang in infamy, the walls of Hades shall adorn.
Written 3.9.40 in air raid shelter. Finsbury Square
(Lucy Rawinsky) Copy-write reserved (Aged 23 yrs)
About the Author of the Poem:
Lucy, my mother, was a Londoner born and bred. She was twenty-three when World War II broke out. While on a bus on the way to her job at the first-class buffet on Waterloo Station, on 3rd September 1940, the air raid siren sounded. Air-raid wardens told everyone to get off the bus and head for the shelter at Finsbury Square. It was here where Lucy rummaged in her bag for pen and paper and scribbled away to take her mind off the traumatic events which unfolded in the sky above.
Lucy gave me her poem in 1996 when she was seventy-nine and I told her that perhaps she should send it to a publisher along with other poems of hers from the same era. She said 'no' but entrusted it to me and told me I could publish it after her demise if I wished. She also said 'bear in mind the circumstances under which those lines were written'. I've transcribed the poem word for word.
She lived to the grand old age of ninety-eight-years and four months. Her mind was still active to the end and she would often talk about the war years as if they were yesterday. She never quite came to terms with the fact that she'd survived two world wars unscathed when so many of her contemporaries had perished.
I've published her poem today - 2nd August 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth. She never expected to live so long and never forgot the companions of her youth during the wartime years - some of whom didn't survive the bombing. She'd relate many stories of how several friends and colleagues were maimed or mortally wounded during those six long, years of mayhem. They were ordinary citizens like her, who had no choice but to live and work in London at that dreadful time. They were young and full of life and didn't expect to have their lives so cruelly snatched away when they were just going about their daily business, caught up in a conflict they didn't fully comprehend. Lucy told me that two of her female workmates were walking back to the staff house one evening when there was a bomb blast. One was killed outright and the other blown unconscious into an emergency water tank where she was miraculously rescued and survived with the loss of a leg.
No one in September 1940 could foresee that the war would continue for a further five years - Lucy and her workmates thought it would all be over by the following Spring. Whilst Waterloo Station was well protected by anti-aircraft guns, safety was by no means guaranteed. I often asked Lucy how she and her friends could carry on working with the thought that they might not survive the night. Often they didn't know what to do for the best. Sometimes they'd risk the short walk to the staff house to reach the comfort of their own beds and on other occasions they'd remain where they were to snatch a few hours' sleep in the relative safety of the station - in some giant baskets used to store bread! Lucy enjoyed her job and the hustle and bustle of life on a busy main-line station was a distraction from sombre thoughts.
Lucy's Brief Encounter With Royalty Outside Waterloo Station!
The above photo shows Lucy's brief encounter with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). Lucy was just leaving work at Waterloo Station during the London blitz and was looking across towards the royal couple from in front of a telephone booth.This photo was in The Daily Mirror. Apparently, the King and Queen were often seen out and about, boosting morale but these wartime visits were never publicised beforehand due to the security risk.
Brief Encounter (1945)
Working at Waterloo Station, Lucy's life was never dull. She met her fiance on the buffet just like in the 1945 film: 'Brief Encounter'. Sadly he was killed in Burma in 1944. She would tell me that during the making of another film 'Waterloo Bridge' in 1940, whilst she was working at the buffet, the movie star Robert Taylor, was smuggled into the British Rail hotel from the station below, via a dumbwaiter - thus avoiding crowds of swooning fans.
Lucy was eventually called up and was made to leave the job she so enjoyed.to work at an aircraft munitions factory in Hayes for the remainder of the war. She objected but her battle to stay at Waterloo was to no avail - the authorities said she'd be better suited to factory work. The new job involved the assembly of airborne receivers and indicators - a vital part of the war effort. She hated the monotonous production line which she couldn't keep up with and it literally 'drove her up the wall'. In fact, she'd tell me that this was how the saying came about - because if you couldn't keep up with the production line, the parts to be assembled would accumulate and stack up until they'd be going up the wall!
Waterloo Bridge (1940)
© 2017 Stella Kaye