This diary was submitted to the HGS Heritage Museum on behalf of Denise Peverett by her daughter Caroline Wright.
My mother Denise Peverett lived at 32 Brookland Hill with her parents and four siblings. She was about five when the family moved there. She has an older brother Laurie, twin brother and sister Waldo and Winnie and a younger sister Joan.
Denise qualified as a radiographer and at the time of these entries in 1940 she was living in the Nurses Home of Acton Hospital but would go home most weekends to the P house ie 32 Brookland Hill. Some of the diary entries refer to bombings etc in Acton. She was engaged to ‘Flop’ who she had met when at school at Finchley County School. Their friend Tony lived in a flat at the Market Place.
Her father ‘Pop’ was chief sanitary inspector for Hackney. Her sister Winnie was a nurse in Hackney at the Maternity and Child Welfare Clinic.
She married Flop (my father) in the middle of the Blitz (31st December 1940) at The Free Church and in 2000 they celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary. She died in 2003.
Tuesday 18th June 1940 – …Invasion of England seems imminent now. Ewing and I sat in the garden with a portable wireless set and listened to the prime minister’s speech and new bulletins. Never did I dream I should live in such times as these. Everything seems so beautiful. The sun and moon, the trees, the birds and bees. Although we may be destroyed these cannot die. Everybody seems so cheerful and excited – all against a common foe I suppose. All I want is to see Flop before this business starts.
Wednesday19th June 1940 – ....100 German aeroplanes over E. Coast last night. 12 civilians killed. No warning here.
Thursday 20th June 1940 – More raids in night – 6 killed on NE coast. Hitler and Mussolini have decided on peace terms for France…. Told on wireless that Hitler is going to bomb us and give us a hell of a time as sure as God made little apples.
Friday 21st June 1940 – …Pop has made a safety exit for our dugout.
Saturday 23rd June 1940 – ..Germany has signed armistice with France. Germany takes over all her forces and most of her territory etc…..
Monday 24th June 1940 – . …Winnie and I watched the searchlights looking for a plane from our bedroom window.
Tuesday 25th June 1940 – Woken by air-raid sirens at 1 am. We all rushed down to our shelter. Tried to make ourselves comfortable and to sleep but no go. We ate and drank and talked. No bangs or bombs so after an hour we drifted back to bed. Extremely tired. Heard ‘all clear’ go vaguely at 3 am.
Wednesday 26th June 1940 - …Italy is making her Armistice demands of France although she hasn’t won a single battle against her. We have made some reconnaissance landing parties on German territory.
Thursday 27th June 1940 – …. Gorgeous evening. The scent of everything exquisite - especially the lime trees and the roses. We sat on seat on top of heath and saw the tail end of the sunset. Life is still good for all its foolishness and heartbreaks.
Monday 1st July 1940 - …I am sure Hitler will invade us very soon now.
Tuesday 2nd July 1940 – Feeling of surprise to wake up in morning and find that one is still alive and unbombed….Getting fed up with taking all our medicines (for low blood count) – 3 doses of iron, 1 liver and 2 vitamins per day. ……We were sitting in my room on the floor eating chips at 11 pm when Elliot burst into my room nearly in tears because there was light showing from my window.
Wednesday 3rd July 1940 – Day light raid on NE town yesterday 12 killed, 103 injured…. Waldo went up to Darlington to work in munitions factory.”
Saturday 17th August 1940 – ..Apparently there have been very few raids on England today. London was bombed for the second time yesterday – SW suburbs – Wimbledon station demolished. How I hate this war and how I long for peace as must millions of others too.
Monday 19th August 1940 – Apparently we brought down about 140 German planes yesterday…Had a letter from Flop. He is till at Crookham and is having to do all sorts of menial tasks. Poor soul…..had to go to a beastly gas lecture – most boring.
Tuesday 20th August 1940 – The government seems to be getting very cocky about the war now. I suppose it is not just luck alone that has brought all these German planes down.
Thursday 22nd August 1940 - .. Air raid sirens went in the early hours of the morning after a lot of bombs had apparently dropped.
Air raids now occur frequently so not all mentioned here.
Friday 23rd August 1940 – …Edmonton, Wembley and Harrow Weald were bombed last night…..
Saturday 24th August 1940 – …. Went up to bed about 11.30. I could distinctly hear a German plane overhead and AA fire – eventually the sirens went. Traipsed down to Ewings room and made myself comfy on the floor with eiderdowns etc and slept until the all clear at 1.0 am.
Sunday 25th August 1940 – …At about 4.0 pm we thought we heard guns although they sounded a little Napoleonic but it was Gray (Flop’s brother) on his motor bike. Quite a decent little bike when the fumes die away. It will be grand when it goes properly….Hackney and the City got the bombs yesterday.
Monday 26th August 1940 –The 5 of us sat and jawed and kicked up a shindy to the disgust of the sisters who wanted to listen for bombs. We made up beds on the floor of Ewings room – having hysterics.
Tuesday 27th August 1940 – …As I write now I can hear Nazi planes humming overhead
Friday 30th August 1940 – ….Ewing and I looked out of my window for a time at the searchlights and planes. At about 2 am I was woken by loud explosions. The firemen rushed across and woke us up. I went down and slept on the floor in Ewing’s room. Bombs and explosions quite near all night.
Saturday 31st August 1940 – …During the last 24 hours we have had 6 air raids lasted 6 ½ hours……...In the end we slept in the dugout.
Sunday 1st September 1940 – …After the first air raid, Mummy and I went for a walk up to the heath and saw the damage done to a house in last Friday’s raid – not a brick left on end. Anyway you wouldn’t know what had happened…. Pretty good atmosphere at home this weekend.
Tuesday 3rd September 1940 – A year ago today the war started. We all thought then we should be dead or ruined by now. …. Usual odd sirens throughout the day but we are so used to them now. Raids in night but I was totally unaware of them until the morning.
Wednesday 4th September 1940 – …Warning went during my off duty so I sat in the sun outside the trench with the others…Warning went about 9.0 pm and from the windows of the home we could see a brilliant display of a parachute flares, searchlights and AA shells bursting in the sky over S London. It really was a sight. The firemen made us go downstairs in the end as they said it was dangerous.
Friday 6th September 1940 – …Winnie came home for a respite….A bomb dropped last night on North Circular Road at Neasden Circus. Not much damage really.
Saturday 7th September 1940 – Raid warning went at 5.0 on til 7.0. Ewing and I rushed about the home looking from all the windows. We saw 2 planes come down in the distance and a fire in the far south. The sky over the whole of S London was brilliantly red with fires. The bombs were rather near so I went and sat in the sitting room for company and sewed. I went up to bed after 11 pm and went to sleep with my head under the bedclothes…..The Germans used 500 planes in the raid tonight. By the look of the sky a terrific lot of damage must have been done alone by fire.
Sunday 8th September 1940 – The fire I saw all night were the docks on fire. As I write now, a German plane is flying overhead, there is not so far off sound of guns and bombs and there is a reflection of fire over London….So far we have had no casualties here although there were 400 people officially killed in London last night and 1400 seriously injured…..the AA fire was heavy and we had to shelter from shrapnel.
Monday 9th September 1940 – Terrific night last night. I tried to go to sleep with my head under the pillow but Keevil came and woke me and as the bombs were falling so very near we went down to Ewing’s room and slept there. The worst raid so far even worse than Sat night. All clear didn’t go until 5.45 nearly 16 hours! London had another good smashing in the night. Different tales kept on coming in of where the damage has been done. 2 or 3 hospitals, Charing Cross Station and nr Baker Street. We are all going to sleep on the ground floor in the home now….feel much safer downstairs.
Tuesday 10th September 1940 – The damage in London terrible again - hospitals, flat and houses bombed … Winnie has had incendiary bombs on her FAP Laurie’s office bombed. Daddy came home with dreadful tales of damage and suffering in Hackney which has not had such a terrible time as the East End. The firemen at Acton all went to the great City fires.
Wednesday 11th September 1940 – ..Royal Free has been bombed and when I arrived at the hospital in the morning, there was great excitement as, a high explosive fell in Acton last night and some incendiaries. …. Had a letter from Flop saying he has 7 days leave beginning on Wed week but I also heard that all leave has been cancelled as there now seems to be an impending invasion….. From 9 pm onwards there was the most terrific barrage of AA fire that I have ever heard. 4 of us played cards and stuffed our ears with cotton wool it was impossible to sleep. Such a chaos of noise as I never thought possible. Few of us expected to see daylight again.
Thursday 12th September 1940 – The terrific barrage put up last night was something new in our defence. It certainly keeps the raiders out of greater London… Daddy and Mummy went up to see Joan in hospital in St Albans. I stayed at home …rather worried as to whether Mummy and Daddy would get home before the sirens and the guns started. They got home soon after 8.0 pm and the warning did not go until 9 pm. We went straight to the shelter as everything seemed very noisy and near. In the early hours we could see several fires over London again. The fear of invasion seems to have increased.
Friday 13th September 1940 – ..The 112 bus had to go off its route to avoid delayed action bombs there are quite a lot in Acton and Ealing. Today’s warning lasted 6 hours and lots of people thought the invasion had started. It seems as if we will be invaded very soon.
Saturday 14th September 1940 – My weekend off. .. Only Mummy and Daddy at home, seemed so lonely compared with other weekends. Joan is still in hospital and Tony is still in Bagshott. Felt in positively bloody mood. We went to bed in our beds upstairs and didn’t trouble to go to the dugout although it was just as noisy as other nights.
Monday 16th September 1940 – We brought down 185 German planes last night – a record. A letter from Flop which says his leave is cancelled until the threat of invasion has ceased…… 3 years ago today Flop and I became unofficially engaged down at Beer.
Thursday 19th September 1940 – At 3 am this morning I was called back to X ray a skull. Lots of air-raid casualties brought in all night. Results of bombs late last night. Bartlett came on duty looking a bit tired and white. The bomb had fallen in the road next to hers in Ealing. Market Place has had two hits, Guerney Drive – 3 houses demolished… It is very dreadful…. Nearly every big shop along Oxford Street has been hit now… lots of sightseers looking at the damage at Ealing Common.
Friday 20th September 1940 – ..2 buses came up the road in the evening with homeless people from the East End. They were dumped in all the empty houses – they only have camp beds.
Saturday 21st September 1940 – …a landmine on a parachute had been dropped in Acton and destroyed 2 streets of houses. Continuous stream of casualties came in all day to be x-rayed.
Sunday 22nd September 1940 – …Joan home from hospital now…Winnie also home looking very tired as she has been so busy with casualties she has not been able to sleep at nights
Monday 23rd September 1940 – Awful news this morning that one of our boats carrying 90 child evacuees to Canada has been torpedoed – 83 children drowned. … there seems every chance that we may be evacuated soon. As we were sitting in our bedroom, the lights all went out…
Tuesday 24th September 1940 – Bad road accident case which kept me busy all morning…….Passed a lot of air raid damage on bus along N Circular Rd chiefly in Hendon. Apparently they had a bad night at home last night. Several delayed action bombs around. Joan and I went to pictures in afternoon - so marvellous to see dancing and hear music….But on the way back we passed so many people on their way to shelters with their bedding etc….Rather uncomfortable in the dugout as there were 5 of us in there. A noisy night and we were very cramped.
Wednesday 25th September 1940 – ..It is rather like living in an adventure book. The half-lit wards – the blood covered patients, the crashing of the shells and the crump of the bombs When I am working like that I don’t mind the planes overhead and the whizzing bombs.
Thursday 26th September 1940 – ..Cycled home but had to go miles out of my way because of delayed action bombs and got hopelessly lost. When I got to Falloden Way I saw to my horror that the Garden Suburb to the right seemed to be in ruins – 2 land mines fell there last night. Coleridge Walk, Willfield Way, Erskine Hill etc in ruins. Club House gone. Plaster of ceilings at home down and black out torn down. My, my its getting hot.
Friday 27th September 1940 – Walked with Mummy on way to work across that part of suburb that was desolated by the 2 land mines – it is ghastly – hundreds of houses uninhabitable – like a grey ruined city from Addison Way to Temple Fortune. 112 bus made a grand detour again to get to Ealing. They had had a bad night there with fires etc.
Saturday 28th September 1940 –Winnie was home. She and Cyril (Joan’s fiancé) slept in the house but the rest of us slept in the dugout.
Sunday 29th September 1940.We all sat by the fire until the guns and planes became very loud and then we all went into the dugout including the great Dane and Rob. It was extremely laughable. Cyril slept in the house but the other 4 of us slept in the dugout and had a jolly good night although judging by the guns and bombs someone was having it hot somewhere.
Monday 30th September 1940 –Great difficulty getting back to Acton. A huge bomb crater in front of Ealing Common Station. They had a bad night at the hospital. An oil bomb just missed the home and fell in adjoining grounds. This war is beginning to make my feet feel a little cold. If Hitler goes on like this for 2 or 3 weeks London will be in ruins.
Tuesday 1st October 1940 – In the bright sunlight the Blitz is not so frightening but rather thrilling. Life is wretchedly uncertain now and it is definitely a relief to wake in the morning and find oneself still here safely in bed….we have been issued with ear plugs – with God Save and bless the King written across the tape.
Wednesday 2nd October 1940 – …Phoned Winnie in the evening and heard to my astonishment and horror that a bomb fell into the garden at home on Monday night. Mummy and Daddy unhurt were in the dugout. The black out was torn down and lots of china broken but not a window cracked. The bomb had sunk very deeply into the soft earth. The hedge at the top of the garden has gone and our best apple tree. A bit of a shock to me.
Thursday 3rd October 1940 – …The crater in our garden is astounding – very deep and very wide. Mummy and Daddy have had a very lucky escape. The ‘Star’ came and took some photos of it. Mummy is away at G’s now as the baby is expected soon.
Thursday 4th October 1940 – Had the most astounding adventure today…. Crowds of people queuing to sleep in the tubes held me up and when I got to Highgate it was pitch black, raining and blowing and an active air raid in progress. I waited ages for a 58 but nothing came so a man standing by my side suggested we walked. – A bomb fell pretty close to us and lots of shrapnel.
Tuesday 8th October 1940 – …Good to see Waldo again he is a dear lad. In the evening we all sat in the dugout and drank port and talked and laughed, it must have sounded odd to have heard us laughing above the bangs of the guns. Winnie slept under the piano and Waldo under the table, Mrs B (?), Pop and I in the dugout.
Wednesday 9th October 1940 – So funny to see W and W having breakfast in bed under the table and piano. We did the early morning exercises on the BBC amid such laughter. Waldo took some photos of us in and on our bomb crater - it is getting dreadfully muddy up there.. It is such a shame he has to back to Darlington today, it was fun and like old times having him home again. Acton Town Station was bombed in the night which is damned inconvenient.
Graham came round just for a few minutes before the barrage started.
Sunday 13th October 1940– ..Great activity at home – building the dugout larger and filling in the crater which we have once discovered is 50 x 40 feet
Tuesday 15th October 1940 - …A poor little dog rushed into our bedroom last night terrified with the bombs. We kept him there all night and I took him to the police station in the morning…..During the night we were all suddenly awakened by the loud rushing noise and thuds of 2 or 3 bombs. Our beds shook and the window rattled so they must have been pretty close.
Wednesday 16th October 1940 – The bombs which awoke us last night fell in the school playing fields at the back of us and on some houses there.
Thursday 17th October 1940 – A water main was hit last night so we have no water in the hospital today. I never realised it was so essential for our normal life.
Friday 18th October 1940 - Had to wait ¾ hour for Winnie at Piccadilly Circus. Leicester Square and Piccadilly have been bombed since I was there last Saturday….. Gladwys is in the throes of having her baby.
Saturday 19th October 1940 –News is given out today that Hitler attempted an invasion on Sept 16th which was foiled.
Sunday 20th October 1940 – …the water main was hit again so we cannot wash the films…… Miss Finch – an ARP worker here was killed last night and another house demolished. I wonder, oh how I wonder, if we shall be here this time next year and what we shall be doing!
Monday 21st October 1940 – …We are all due to be inoculated against typhoid this week which is a horrible business
Tuesday 22nd October 1940 – Cycled home for my half day. Winnie came home too. Knitted and talked by the fire all the afternoon with Mummy.
Thursday 24th October 1940 – ….After December 1st no more silk stockings are to be made, so we are all rushing to buy some now. The purchase tax has now come into force which is beastly….
Sunday 27th October 1940 – We all slept the night in the dugout which Pop has enlarged.
Monday 28th October 1940 – …Phoned Mother hoping she hadn’t worried about me too much yesterday. She must be getting used to me not coming home at nights now. I asked Dr Staveley if I could get married and she says as far as she is concerned it will be alright. I have to see Matron next. It is all very exciting. How awful tho if my husband has to go abroad for years after only a week’s honeymoon. The ‘three’ tease me a lot and say I ought to have a family etc.
Tuesday 29th October – ,,,We still have no water supply (at the hospital) and the problem of washing the films is becoming acute. I have not had the pluck or time to go to Matron and ask if I can get married.
Saturday 2nd November 1940 - …Pop came home from Hackney where he had been all night examining the sleeping conditions in the shelters down there…. I asked Matron when I got back to the hospital. It will be alright about me getting married but being non-resident will have to go before the committee.
Monday 4th November 1940 – First night for 56 nights without and air-raid alarm
Saturday 9th November 1940 – …Sat by the fire in the twilight. Although the raid was rather fierce in the night we couldn’t desert our lovely fire and comfy beds for the damp dugout.
Tuesday 12th November 1940 – Today I was nearly bombed out of this world. Sitting on my bed having a cup of tea with Monks and Roberts in the evening when we heard two bombs drop very close – we were on the floor by then and then the third seemed to be sure to come on us but it exploded 20 feet from our window. Showers of dirt and glass came down on my back and soot and dust clogged the air. The blackout was torn down. Roberts had her hand cut but no other casualties. Rather a frightening experience but very exciting. Home in an uproar – Elliot quite crazy. I had to go over to the hospital to X-Ray a case twice during the night.
Wednesday 13th November 1940 – …Numerous men in the home looking and reporting on the damage of last night’s bomb. All the windows at the back are broken and some ceilings down on the top floor. Still great excitement.
Saturday 16th November 1940 – A frightful night last night. The barrage kept up continuously and the Jerries were flying exceptionally low. Every bomb seemed as though it were coming for me…Heard unofficially in the afternoon that the committee have decided to let me be non-resident, married and have a week’s leave after Christmas.
Tuesday 19th November 1940 –dropped at the bottom of the road last Friday – but didn’t explode. The HGS (Hampstead Garden Suburb) had a bad time that night 4 or 5 landmines.
Wednesday 27th November 1940 –Our wedding now fixed for 30th Dec. Spent mints of money on phoning the Minister of the Free Church, Registrar, Estate Agents etc. Things really seem to be happening now. The Rev Ballard will marry us at the Free Church. The others kidded me because I actually blushed while phoning the minister. Beginning to feel jolly excited.
Saturday 30th November 1940 – …altered our wedding now to the 31st, - the last day of the old year. He suggests we spend the whole of our honeymoon at the flat.
Saturday 7th December 1940 –Gray came for us and we all went down to the P house….the three of us went round to Tony’s. Joan already there. Danced to the gramophone…We all walked back to the P house. Made up beds for Gray and Flop on the floor. Little devils. No warning all night.
Sunday 8th December 1940 –I hope he caught his bus from there alright as the sirens went as we arrived home and the blitz started almost immediately. Quite a noisy evening.
Thursday 12th December 1940 – Some pitiful cases in the wards this morning. There are still people trapped.
Friday 13th December 1940 – …We are beating up the Italians in Egypt now – one of our first victories
Tuesday 17th December 1940 – Met Winnie for lunch at Selfridges. Searched the shops for a hat to be married in. Hated it when I got home. Bought blankets and a few odds and ends. …Phoned the minister re marriage. We are going to get married in the little chapel adjoining the church…No sirens lately – very worrying when the Germans don’t come because it seems as though they are saving up something dreadful for us. We seem to be doing very well in Egypt though and the Greeks in Albania.
Thursday 19th December 1940 – Spent afternoon in hairdressers. E and I went to the flat and put up some blackout. … we built a fire and ate rolls and cheese and drank beer – great fun. The police pealed on our door bell because we had a light showing. We all went to the Red Lion afterwards and drank and ate again and played games.
Monday 23rd December 1940 – Had to go over to the Registrar Office at Burnt Oak in afternoon to arrange about the registrar being at our wedding.,.. I am so busy now I don’t have time to think about the war except when it actively touches me and now we are getting used to that.
Tuesday 24th December 1940 - ..rushed up to town to buy a new hat to get married in and all my Xmas presents. The Xmas spirit completely lacking – no huge shopping crowds or gay decorations. The house was very full so we all went round to Tony’s. We danced to T’s gramophone. He had lots of new records. Danced until we were exhausted After cooking supper we went home to P house.
Friday 27th December 1940 –.Sirens went and blitz quite heavy but fairly early all clear. Gray and I both stayed the night in the flat keeping warm by covering ourselves with rugs etc.
Sunday 29th December 1940 –Blitz started early and there was colossal fire over the city. I rushed back to the hospital amidst much gun fire.
Monday 30th December 1940 – Raid damage last night very extensive. Many buildings and churches in the city utterly gutted. Waited all morning for Flop to phone. Phoned just after 1 pm. Moved the rest of my stuff to the flat after bidding the hospital farewell for a week I went up to meet Flop at the station. He was extremely thrilled with the flat. It was fun to watch him trying the chairs and the bed. We did quite a lot shopping in a very domesticated fashion….went back home to spend our last evening as spinster and bachelor with our respective families
Tuesday 31st December 1940 – Well today I was married and for the last time I write in my diary as Denise M Peverett. I am now Mrs S P Cooper. Spent the morning in general preparation. The whole family there inc Gladwys and Laurie, the baby and 2 dogs. Nearly reached chaos as the doomed hour of 2 pm approached. Awfully nice wedding ceremony at the Free Church. I felt terribly nervous and I think Flop was too. The reception at the tea house was quite fun. About 30 people there. We were both so glad though to find ourselves in the car on the way back to the P house and better still when we arrived at the flat. Flowers and telegrams awaiting us and a nice supper prepared by Ewing and hospital(?). Can hardly believe Flop and I are married. It has all happened so suddenly after years of waiting. So lovely in our very own flat by our own fire and with each other. The perfect end to the old year.
The following is an extract from a letter she wrote to her husband in February 1944 when London was again being heavily bombed with doodlebugs and V2s.