'Do not commiserate. You
should envy us because we are carrying out the greatest enterprise in the world's history ': Defiant Londoner's letter to Americans reveals he did not fear death weeks before fatal bomb
23:23 GMT, 1 December 2012
William Beveridge Robertson was just one of around 30,000 Londoners killed by German bomb attacks between August 1940 and May 1941.
Three weeks before he died in a bomb blast at his house in Belsize Park, at the height of the Blitz, Robertson wrote of how he had no fear of death at the hands of the Nazis.
And as the Battle of Britain was fought in skies above, Robertson described his utter confidence in Allied
victory, what he called the 'greatest enterprise in history'.
William Beveridge Robertson, pictured here as a young man working in South Africa, who was killed when a German bomb struck his north London house in September 1940
I was fascinated to find out the full story of my great-grandfather's death when I was shown a treasure trove archive of dusty documents, photos and newspaper clippings at my uncle's house.
William Beveridge Robertson, as he looked when he was killed when the Nazi bomb struck his Belsize Park house in September 1940
Robertson had decided to carry on his job as an advertising manager at Amalgamated Press, then based in Farringdon, while his wife and pregnant daughter Natalie (my grandmother) took refuge with friends in Florida.
He wrote to his wife's hosts on September 4, 1940.
It was the same day Hitler's minister of Aviation Hermann Goering changed tactics from targeting British air bases and aircraft to bombing British civilian populations in cities.
Beveridge was bullish about his reaction to the increasing incidents of German air attacks on England.
'I have not lost a single hour’s sleep. I heard the
guns going off for about three minutes when I was out at the farm in Hedgerley
'They woke me at about one o’ clock in the morning and I cursed
Hitler and rolled over to sleep.'
And he painted a picture of London as a city under siege, with stoical citizens carrying on as chaos erupted around them.
'For the last few days
we have been having a few hours a day between the sirens giving the alarm and
the companion siren giving the all clear…We are all getting
rather fed up with that.
'More and more of our people are carrying on as usual
and will take shelter only when the guns begin to shoot or the bombs begin to
Robertson quizzically described how life insurance companies were attempting to profit from the death and destruction.
'As a matter of fact Lloyd’s people are giving personal
insurance of one against a thousand per month.
'That means if I pay 5 and I am
killed within a month from taking out the insurance, my wife will get 5,000.'
A copy of the letter William Beveridge Robertson wrote to his American friends, who were hosting his wife and pregnant daughter as the bombing occurred
He ended with a Churchillian flourish; bullish confidence and a stiff upper lip.
'Do not be alarmed for
me unduly, and do not extend any commiseration.
'The proper emotion is that you
should envy us because we are carrying out the greatest enterprise in the world's history and are
going to justify the confidence that we shall win.
'I do not know a single
individual who is not certain in his bones that Hitler is going to lose the
had provisionally penciled in Operation Sea Lion (the Nazi invasion of
Great Britain) for September 15 but as the fighting tilted Britain's
way, the operation got postponed until September 27 and then put off
until further notice.
On September 24, Robertson came home from work and went to the bathroom to wash.
The bomb struck around midnight.
He and two unidentified maids were killed instantly.
It was not until the middle of the next day that their bodies were found amongst the rubble.
Many tributes to Robertson were written especially in the specialty advertising press.
Advertisers' Weekly wrote: “We shall miss his kindly smile, his friendly greeting, his Scots humour.
who were privileged with his friendship, and came under his influence
are better men for having known him and will go forward with broader
views, deeper sympathy and more elevated vision.'
But his letter serves as a tribute to him and the maids who died with him, and to Britons' courage in the face of the full might of German firepower.
A tribute to Robertson after he was killed in the bomb blast
Another article reporting on the death of Robertson after he was killed in the bomb attack on September 24, 1940