Sunday, January 24, 2021

THE SPOILS OF WAR

 A teapot, a milk jug, a hot water carafe, and a sugar bowl.  What can this possibly have anything to do with 21 Aldgate?  My daughter had attended a British teapot exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, she called me to share her enthusiasm. She found it fascinating and so did I. In fact, it brought back memories of the teapot set I had inherited. I hadn't looked at it for years but recalled instantly the manner in which my mother had acquired it. 

At the height of the London blitz by Germany's Luftwaffe, Heals, a famous London Furniture Store was hit by an oil bomb and incendiary bomb. On the very next morning, Clara, of 21 Aldgate, reading about the raid and the damage caused to that establishment made a quick decision.  Without a moment's hesitation, she got dressed, left a note for her husband who was in the garden digging for victory, and walked a mile to the tube station to board a train to Goodge Street Station.  Coming out into the open from the underground she saw what was left of Heals. It was surrounded by Heal's guards and firemen gushing water on smoldering embers. She also saw it appeared to be open and she wasn't the only one sorting through what was left. Knowing exactly what she was looking for she ran in, found it, shoved all four items in a damp cardboard box, paid a shaken employee, and left. 

Clara arrived home many hours later, having been informed all trains had stopped and only buses were running, though none directly to her destination. Once home, she did not receive a hero's welcome. Her frantic husband asked her if she'd taken leave of her senses, while her daughter, who'd spent the night in a shelter with a friend, couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. After all, she'd never seen such a shiny, lovely tea service, while Clara, her mother, though somewhat disheveled, didn't seem any the worse for wear.

The ironic end to this tale is when I looked at the bottom of the teapot I found it was made in Bavaria - Germany - during the Bauhaus period.

The London blitz last eight long months, from September 1940 to May 1941

Patricia Friedberg