As I mentioned in my previous post, Arthur’s life was shaped by war.. ‘Balloons and Airships’ introduced us to his memories of WWI, and are carried on thoughout his memoir in the chapter, ‘Navel Occasions’.
At this part of his life, ‘the main, overwhelming atmosphere of the period was still war’ (77). He uses imagery to explain how the routine war became something of boredom, and carried on far past his expectations,
The War was showing itself in its true and unexciting colours, so different – so vastly different from the dazzling false opening display.
He carries on to say how ‘a greyness descended upon everything’ (78), a contrast to how the sky lit up for him when the Zeppelin went down over London in my previous post. The reality of war was finally hitting him, along with his mention of the ‘murdering of the national diet’ – referring to rationing. In 1918, the government introduced rationing due to the navel blockage from early in the war, attempting to stop ships delivering supplies to enemy countries. Food such as bread, meat, tea and sugar were rationed meaning you could only have a limited amount per home. The amount was documented through coupon books.
Harrod’s even introduced a line of new ration-book wallets for the stylish ration-shopper.
Its interesting to see how war was a nationwide concept, and even Arthur’s middle class background was no exception to war and rationing.
The raids over London continued to get worst, and as ‘apprehension and insecurity nagged’, ‘air raids grew more severe and seemingly more discriminate’ (77). He remembers London suffering some, ‘nasty blows’ (77) and most nights were spent with him and his mother on the ‘unclean platforms of the tube station’ (77). The London tube, being vast and underground would hold hundreds, even thousands of families trying to avoid the deadly threat of bombing in London.
Much of Arthur’s memoir is about war, a war he and his family felt would be ‘the war to end all wars’. However, it did have to come to an end at some point, with Arthur remembering this moment clearly within his memoir.
The 11th November started, ‘grey, gloomy, with intermittent drizzle and heavier rain threatening’ (129). Rumours where spreading about the war coming to an end, however life had so become, ‘hopeless’ for most that the thought that the world could ever ‘be at peace again’ (129) was simply ‘impossible’ (129). However things did change, with the moment of war coming to an end happening when Arthur was at school.
He recalls the ‘thudding of maroons’ (130) which usually signalled another raid. However his teachers seemed to be acting ‘out of character’ (130). He remembers clearly one of his teachers Mr Southen, usually, ‘grim and much feared’ (130) jumping up onto the playground wall to get a better view of the city which was filled with the sound of, ‘whistles and hooters’ (129) and the ‘thumping and herumpting of the maroons’ (129). He then remembers Mr Southen crying out, ‘It’s the end of the war! It’s the end of the war! Lets give three cheers – HIP HIP – !’ (131) and the ‘cheers rang out wildly’.
After witnessing Arthur complain of the mundane routine war brought, along with the feeling it was a never ending fight, the war finally ending brings such a lift to his memoir. Finally London could return to its normal state, and families could go about their day to day life without the threat of imminent danger. I find Arthur’s account fascinating, and the memoires so clear of this time, which obviously signifies how war made a huge impact on his childhood and future endevors.
Nick Cooper. (2013). The Underground at War. Available: http://www.nickcooper.org.uk/subterra/lu/tuaw.htm. Last accessed 1/11/2015.