Betty's Wartime Diary, 1939-1945

Betty's Wartime Diary, 1939-1945

Betty's Wartime Diary, 1939-1945

Betty's Wartime Diary, 1939-1945

Synopsis

Some years ago, journalist Nicholas Webley stumbled across a remarkable find during a routine investigation in a small house in Norfolk - a diary kept during the war years and scribbled for the most part in school exercise books and scraps of decomposing paper, written as it turned out by a seamstress born in the 1880's. Betty Armitage was a theatrical dresser during the first part of the century and moved to Norfolk before the war. Her diary is unusual, as it views the events of the war through the eyes of someone born around the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. So many accounts of the war are based on military experience or life in cities during the Blitz; here the great events of those years.

Excerpt

Some years ago I discovered, purely by chance, the diary of someone whom, I have since learned, was of remarkable character. With much persuasion, and only after agreeing to some very strict conditions, and a solemn pledge to be discreet regarding matters of identity, permission was given for me to publish edited extracts from what I shall henceforth refer to as ‘Betty’s diary’. the story of Betty is not unique; I have no doubt there were many such people, doing similar things in their own way throughout the Second World War on what is known as the ‘Home Front’. People like Betty kept the spirit of a nation leavened with determination, a sense of what was right (something that was instinctive in Britain at the time) and a sense of humour that, while not making light of the appalling things that were happening in lands not that far away – and at times looked as though they would be happening here (see the entries for May and June 1940 in particular) – managed to keep things in perspective. Although Betty settled well to her rural existence in Norfolk her years of travelling, and many years in London, were apparent in her ‘we can take it’ attitude – reminiscent of the ‘London can take it’ slogan during the very worst of the Blitz. London was a symbol of defiance to the world. One specific example of just how influential on events such a spirit was can be judged by the effect it had on one man: Ed Murrow, the American journalist who was in London during the worst of the bombing of 1940. Ed was often to be found on a roof somewhere giving a running commentary as the bombs fell about him. Such an effective broadcaster mobilised the spirit of a civilian population and sent it to war. Betty, and people like her, mobilised the spirit of the people they knew and were the personification of what it was that made the fight worthwhile. It would be a brave, foolish or ignorant individual who would deny that.

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