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25th February 1945

We were just leaving the apartment to go to Mass when the alert sounded. We decided to risk it but we had not even arrived at the street-car stop, three minutes away, when the full alarm followed fast. We turned back because we did not relish the thought of being ordered into a sidewalk trench and it was just as well we did because shortly afterward it started to snow. It was quite a heavy steady fall and now that the alarms had been sounded and half-forgotten, with the menacing sky hidden, empty, silent, there was a feeling of seductive peace. But shortly after lunch there was a series of loud explosions and I brought Anita down to the basement which, this time, was crowded to capacity. All the lights were out and it was pitch-dark. The radio had also been silenced so that we had no means of knowing what had happened. I went up to find out what I could. The electric current was still an across the bridge a hundred meters away and we sent off the apartment messenger-boy to listen to the bulletins. It was only early afternoon but quickly the skies darkened so that it seemed to be sundown. It gave us all who were watching a queer eerie feeling, a vague uneasy sensation of catastrophe. Heavy black smoke was billowing up from the direction of the imperial palace. We could see the flames clearly. Someone said that the military police headquarters just around the corner had been hit.

Then there was a new alarm. The bells and gongs started clanging hollowly around us, warning that planes were believed to be directly overhead. Almost immediately we saw a constellation of fire-bombs fall softly and silently, almost, it seemed, in the next block. There were several maids watching from the apartment foyer and when the fire-bombs fell into sight they gave little cries of fear and astonishment but others giggled and squealed. The men did not like it. The head of the district association shouted hoarsely that all the women should make ready to fight fires. They pattered off submissively. Everyone calmed down when nothing else happened. A boy of ten with a heavy knapsack full of tinned goods came up to me with a smile and said he studied in the school opposite the embassy. A Thai naval officer, who is working in a local factory, asked me whether I thought he could go up now and go to bed. They were really working in his factory, he explained. Nobody ever went home anymore.

The snow was getting heavier although it was grey with soot. The streetcars had stopped running and the slope of Kudan Hill lay white and silent beneath us.

“Once,” the Thai said reminiscently, “I was coming home late. It was almost midnight and it had snowed. There were some people skiing down the slope.”

There was a touch of mockery in the thought of those midnight skiiers flying soundlessly down this hillside in the heart of the capital. The snow was getting dirty now and ever and again a sudden flare in the distance would send a purple shadow skimming along the street before us.