My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

LONDON, Monday—It is a moving thing to return to a country which you have seen in time of war and take stock of what the intervening years of continued war have done not only to material things, but to the people themselves.

As we drove through Southampton and then through the countryside and the little villages, I marveled at the work which had been done to clear up destruction in the towns.

Anyone who has known the British countryside in the past cannot help but see great changes—fences, walls, hedges, which then would have been in "apple-pie" order, now very often resemble our rather haphazard ways in the United States. A traveler coming from the United States for the first time might not realize that spaces between houses in towns and villages are usually the work of a bomb and not the result of never having been used.

Nature has a way of covering up very quickly the scars made by man in the woods and fields, but if you look carefully you will see where exploding bombs have left their marks in regions far from military objectives. What strikes the experienced eye is the neglect which has come about because people could not afford to keep up their houses or grounds. The actual cutting down of woods, necessitated by the need for increased agricultural production, must have been a great sacrifice to many landowners. In the United States to see a bit of fence knocked down and not immediately replaced is nothing very unusual, but here in the days before the war it would have been very quickly repaired.

* * *

When we arrived at Southampton, everyone aboard the Queen Elizabeth came out on deck to watch us dock. There was no fog, even though the skies were grey, which seemed a good omen for our mission.

The mayor of Southampton and his wife greeted us on board and held a reception for all the delegates in the Captain's quarters. Our own consul general, Mr. William Beck, and his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Neville Butler were also there to greet us. After our first meeting we went up to the spacious sport deck where the photographers awaited us. The British Broadcasting Corporation was also set up and I said a few words of greeting.

As we left the ship, Senator Connally, Senator Vandenberg and I spoke again briefly for the movie cameras. It all went off very smoothly and I was astonished at the efficiency with which all landing arrangements had been made. Some cars were waiting so that the delegates could drive straight to London and I drove up with Senator and Mrs. Connally.

* * *

In my first hurried glimpse I notice that while the shops put on a rather brave display in their windows, there is really little to buy and the rationing system is still in full force. If this is so in Great Britain, I can well believe what one young woman told me on the boat about Holland. She said it was impossible to buy clothes, paper, ink or soap; indeed, any of the ordinary necessities of life were unobtainable.

Which reminds me that at present in the United States there is a Victory Clothing Collection going on for overseas relief. Our goal is 100 million garments from the people of the United States. Shoes and bedding are included in this collection and we are asked to attach letters which can be forwarded to the unknown people who will receive our gifts. In this way we can give them not only material cheer but a bond of concern and sympathy from our more fortunate land.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL