Glimpses of the Blitz
Raymond Postgate is well-known today as the founder of The Good Food Guide, but he was also a vivid eyewitness of events as a Londoner under siege from Hitler's bombs. We publish here for the first time, a selection from his wartime correspondence with the American publisher Alfred Knopf, introduced and edited by his son, John Postgate.
My father, Raymond Postgate, died in 1971. Yet he is still remembered, principally as the founder of The Good Food Guide in 1950 and the author of successive editions of The Plain Man's Guide To Wine. He is remembered, too, as a labour historian (he was co-author, with G.D.H. Cole, of The Common People), as a journalist, novelist, reviewer and broadcaster. He was a dedicated Socialist; so strong were his convictions that, as an undergraduate of St John's College, Oxford, during the First World War, he went briefly to prison as a conscientious objector, and was later expelled from his college for pacifist activities. At the end of the 1914-18 war, his intensely Tory father disinherited him because he married Daisy, a daughter of the Socialist MP, George Lansbury (later Leader of the Labour Party and a cabinet minister). He was a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1921 but broke with it 'noisily' after about a year. In the General Strike of 1926, he was considered to be so important an activist that his mail was tampered with.
In 1930, on a part-time basis, my father became European representative of the progressive New York publishing duo, Alfred and Blanche Knopf. The business letters they exchanged often included personal and political gossip, and after the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Postgate's news and comments from London, where he lived, were much appreciated by the Knopfs for the glimpses they gave of life in wartime Britain. These extracts convey a vivid impression of how a man of Postgate's background and interests saw London life during the early years of the war.
Writing on September 12th, 1939, his two sons safely evacuated to Devon, Postgate was gloomy and irritated, like many Britons in those early days, by the demands of security and by air raid precautions: