2nd June 1943 - A Visit to London

Lovely sunny morning, birds singing loudly under a clear blue sky.  Then heavy clouds came sweeping over from the S.W.  Went to the station with Joy to catch the 9.22.

The merchant seamen in the carriage were talking very wildly about ships being sunk in the estuary of the Tyne, one said to be an air-craft carrier.  

Saw the damage at Chelmsford, not so bad as I had expected.  The bus garage, which I had been told was “flat”, is in fact now in use again, although the glass of the roof has disappeared.  The Y.M.C.A. where I went to the blacksmith’s meeting a few months ago, had a direct hit and is totally destroyed.  Saw one of Poney’s horses outside the station, so his place must be alright.  Huge battery of rocket guns on the Recreation Ground, and more damage to a house near Crompton Parkinson’s.  Very few balloons up, although a cloudy day, very suitable for an attack.  Near Shenfield a plane suddenly swooped down over the engine, but I saw it was an R.A.F. machine as it flashed past.  The other people in the carriage only heard it, and wondered if we were being shot up.  As we went past Brentwood School, I saw 5 men pulling a lawn mower on the cricket field, while another man steered it, I suppose they have never heard of horses.

Rain was now falling heavily.  Country looked very well, although there is still a good deal of rough grass in the London area.  Raining hard when we got to Liverpool St., but by the time I got to Holborn by tube it was over.  Walked up Coptic St. and saw a book in a shop window there – “Coach & Sedan”, a reprint of a pamphlet dated 1636.  Interesting, bought it for 6/-.

Plenty of horses about in Bloomsbury.  Gt. Russell Street looked lovely, with all the plane trees in front of the British Museum in leaf.  Walked through Bedford Square, still unharmed by either bombs or the London County Council.  Even the railings have not been stolen.  London University, [Senate House] now full of Ministry of Information, still untouched.

Went into Chaucer Place.  Chaucer House [the Museums Association's headquarters] untouched, but buildings on either side have been destroyed, including the A.R.P. station.  Went in, walked up stairs, and could not remember the name of the Museums Association's Acting Secretary until the office girl spoke of her as “Mrs. Bond”.  She was very glad to see me, and we had a long talk on museum work.  She was bright and cheerful, full of “post-war planning”,  I full of gloom and misery, pouring cold water in gallons on every suggestion and refusing to believe that there will be a “post-war” time for which to plan.  At any rate, it was quite clear that Colchester does not figure in the post-war museum world. 

Walked round to Tottenham Court Road.  Horses everywhere, and a tremendous number of taxis and buses.  Quite a lot of damage along here, especially on the east side.  On the west side, an extraordinary new police station has been built, with a huge blank wall to the street, broken only by half a dozen tiny windows and a little door, screened by a blast-wall.  The place looked most sinister.

Went down Charing Cross Rd. to Foyle’s, and found that the Welsh Department had been amalgamated with the Oriental Dept.  Saw Griffiths.  Said he had no “Herald Cymraeg” left, but that so far as he knew old Carreddoq [who edited this publication] was still alive. 

Walked on to Piccadilly through huge crowds of every nationality.  Saw a good many white girls walking arm-in-arm with black men.  Eros boxed in, and covered with posters – “Lend to Defend”, “More bombers” “Stop Careless Talk”, etc.  Everywhere American soldiers standing about, always spitting.

Had lunch in St. James’ St.  The ancient façade of the Palace still looks up the hill to Piccadilly.  To Burlington House, with a ceaseless stream going into the Royal Academy.  Sir Joshua Reynold’s statue has been taken away.  Kathleen Kenyon’s little red car in the courtyard, a reminder of happier days than this.

Annual Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute, much the same as usual.  Old Prof. Hamilton Thompson in the chair.  Hawkes, O’Neill, Philip Corder, Miss O’Keefe, all there, about 50 all told.  Hamilton Thompson very old, and liable to wander a bit.  Hawkes reported on a conference recently held, at which a “National Archaeological Council” was set up.  Wonder if anything is likely to come of it?  Lot more talk about “post war developement”, so remote as to be quite uninteresting.  Three good little papers were read, and they served us with an excellent tea.  Heavy rain all the afternoon, and so dark that we had to have the lights on all the time.

Went out across the courtyard to the Academy, first time I have ever been.  Struck me as very curious, such an odd mixture.  Far too many wishy-washy pictures without character at all.  Several portraits of extraordinarily beautiful women, especially Patricia Napier and Mrs. Stephan Hope-Wynne.  Another portrait was that of that arch-scoundrel Sir Charles Portal, who is responsible for the systematic destruction of the best cities in Europe, and the murder of countless thousands of defenceless people.  

Saw old Sir Gurney Benham’s portrait by Codner, and Rushbury’s lovely drawing of St. Paul’s.  He also shows several very charming drawings of little Yorkshire towns.  Algernon Newton has two very fine pictures of Beck Hole, near Goathland.  Not so many war pictures as I thought there would be.

In almost every gallery the glass roofs leaked, cracked by bombs.  When I got out, the weather was clearing up.  No balloons up all day, so I kept wondering if there would be an attack.

Went along to the “Monsignor” Cinema at the Marble Arch but the whole place was closed and deserted.  Caught a bus to Liverpool St. driven by a very reckless driver, who skidded and lurched in a most alarming way.  Had tea at Liverpool St.  Huge crowds in the station.  Caught 6.40, Manningtree soon after 8.

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