Diary of a CWS Penguin Brand Umbrella 

Monday 23rd December 1940

“Well, I don’t think any of us got a wink of sleep last night. 

The raincoat and myself were shaken awake at 8pm as the air raid sirens started blaring across the city. Miss Rose (our dear owner) used both of us as she dashed across the backyard to the Anderson shelter. The bombs rained down all night; jolting us awake as soon as we even thought about dozing off. 

By the time the all-clear was finally sounded at 6am the following morning, it was barely worth going to bed for Rose. She had to start her shift as a typist for the Co-operative Wholesale Society at half past eight. I was left by the door as she dashed around the house, wrapping her hair in a scarf and drawing on her stockings. The poor thing has run out of the un-darned ones now and has been using the new tip of eyeliner and painting on gravy browning. Rather her than me; it’s freezing today! 

Rose puts me up as we wait for the bus in the grey morning drizzle. From the height I can see the smoke rising above the city. Some fires are still burning from the incendiary bombs that were dropped - they cause such blazes!  As we’re waiting, there is ash as well as rain falling on me. I hope she remembers to wipe me down before we go into the office.

The bus arrived a good ten minutes later than usual and as we set off it became clear why. We have to take a diverted route, as our usual one has been badly bomb damaged. As we pass houses that have been completely destroyed, and saw families surveying the wreckage of their homes, I say a silent thank you that ours was spared such destruction. 

We trundle slowly past the train lines along Hunts Bank to Victoria Station and turn onto Corporation Street. Rose’s office is there inside the Co-operative Wholesale Society building. My heart sinks. More damage! The building still stands but many of the windows have been shattered by the blasts from goodness knows how many explosions. Yet as we approach the staff entrance I see a stream of CWS employees carrying my Penguin colleagues as they hold out ID cards, ready for work. 


The spirit of co-operation is alive and well in the bombed out city street as typists from the office huddle under their penguins in the drizzle and get ready for their last working day before the Christmas break. Myself and Miss Rose take a deep breath as she flashes her ID card to enter the building. Life goes on.”


This creative writing piece was inspired by the CWS publicity department film "Manchester Took it Too" which filmed the devastation of the Christmas 1940 blitz. 

You can view it online here: https://vimeo.com/148875942