TUESDAY SEPT 5TH 39
We have been at war 3 days. Audrey was with me here during the last tense days and I took her back to Dunster when Mary got back to the house on Sunday evening. So I am alone now and for the first time for weeks am roaming around with nothing special to do. I wanted a rest, and though it is a queer moment to be idling, I am enjoying it, and the weather is the best September sort. Philip is at Bridlington for a curtailed T.U.C. It is sitting for only two days and I hope to see him here soon to discuss plans. The government have taken over the railways and there may be changes in his work, and place of work.
Hitler had begun this war in fine foulness by bombing a passenger liner off the Hebrides. Not that I think there can be legalized warfare or humane rules!
We learnt that it is all bestial and can’t be controlled once let loose.
The dream of dropping leaflets has come true; 6 million printed in German were dropped last night over the Rhineland. In that French book Les Tribaults, it was foreshadowed. ‘If the German nation would only wake up, pull themselves together and get a peoples government, all would be well’ is the gist of the leaflets.
The darkness of the evenings is very tedious here and the wireless very restricted. Germany jammed our National wave length at once and the BBC had to move to Evesham (it is said) cancelled all contracts and only put out bulletins and records and a very few talks on 2 regional waves. Very smart move of Germany.
Today I planted 100Thomassian and crocuses around the red hot pokers and look forward to a mauve drift in the spring of next year.!!................................................... They would have been lovely but all gobbled by the rabbits overnight!
THURSDAY SEPT 7TH 39
The war proceeds- desperately in Poland – deliberately on the sea – successfully for us in the air. It is the most lovely weather, the best of the summer, absolutely golden. The evacuees think the village deadly dull.
SUNDAY SEPT 10TH 39
Philip came down yesterday and is leaving at 7.30 tomorrow. He doesn’t want me to go to Birmingham but I feel impelled to go this coming week to see to a few things before the petrol is rationed. The government prepares for a 3 year war and we are hoping for 6 months only. The Poles are so brave.
SUNDAY SEPT 17TH 39
Black Sunday-perhaps the first of many in this hideous complication. On the news there was the ultimatum of Germany to Warsaw to surrender or be bombed flat at 3pm. On the late news there was the staggering blow that the soviet led army was pouring into Poland to finish crushing them. It is just a clear fight to divide Poland again as before in 1914, but the strategy and pacts have out-witted the French and English diplomats.
When I was in Norfolk in 1915 the capture or smashing of Warsaw gave me a long nightmare and now here it is again. I have been in Birmingham trying to fix up the flat for war and Peter can keep it on for the time being as petrol rations will make it impossible to go up and down. Now I am off to London to try and clear up Junes relics. Oh what a year it has been!
SUNDAY SEPT 24TH 39
I cleared it all up; day by day I managed it. Night by night I slept at Lancaster Court Hotel in a high room with the balloons shinning all round and over me. I wasn’t nervous just put my torch, shoes, and mask ready. During the week Poland has been divided by Germany and Russia and wise minds seem to hold that Russia taking half is all to the good and is thwarting Germany and stabilising the small nervous Baltic countries. F.B.Simpson MP our ‘chimp’ of the RCA died yesterday, only 52. So sudden !
Then Freud died today – exiled but cared for, in London. Thank heaven we took him in.
WEDNESDAY SEPT 27TH 39
Warsaw fell today calamitously – reservoirs, gas works all services bombed and smashed flat by the most hideous rain of bombs of all time! Civilians carried on during the siege as a gesture to posterity of their great stand for freedom. I hope I live to see the Poles restored in their brave city- but I doubt it.
The war budget is published today – income tax 7/- this year 7/6 next year!!! Tobacco, sugar, beer and all spirits are the chief things that affect us all.
Mary has been on her last visit, she’s moving out from Dunster. I shall miss her being only a few miles away.
THURSDAY 28TH SEPT.39
Warsaw fell. They held out till not a house was left intact. Everything including churches have been smashed up or burnt and the Poles have given in at last to avoid pestilence.
FRIDAY 29TH SEPT 39
Electric light came to the cottage. The kitchen light was the first on Berhill, exactly 3yrs after moving in. This is a little joy in a dark time and the cottage looks all gay and spacious at night. Mein Kampf is being altered and Russian books are being pushed in Germany.
TUESDAY OCT 3RD 39
The BBC broadcast a very moving programme about Poland’s short 20years of freedom snatched away again how The Trumpeter of Cracow, silenced again. They played his broken melody so well. Heart breaking! America is not recognizing the conquest.
SUNDAY OCT 8TH 39
Thirty years ago was my wedding day! The last feature of the war is a long set of peace proposals by Hitler – all very spurious and specious – we have to consider them regarding Polands conquest as an irrevocable fait accompli and go on from there. Some clauses show him to be madder than ever. One remark is that ‘there will be no islands in the war’ if they really get to grips in the west with us – he is eaten up with jealousy of our island. There is no more news; these ‘peace’ offers have to be chewed over. Philip is in Liverpool, it is colder here and I love the electric light in the blackout!
THURSDAY OCT 12TH 39
There is a feeling about that our peace aims want much more clearly defining and chamberlain has uttered dryly once more ‘Hitlerism must be conquered’. Lansbury all for a conference at once – as usual – Stafford Cripps again everyone else as usual. Then Attlee and Archibald Sinclair shadowed the public feeling that we must be more explicit.
People vary in their estimates, nut everyone is deadly puzzled. Russia swallows up the Baltic countries one after the other and now making for Finland which is completely mobilised and children are being taken out of the towns in ships to Sweden. Movement everywhere and hearth and homes deserted. Philip writes ‘the war may last for years and be the cause of vast loss of life, terrific destruction and great upheavals before it is finished’. We shall see – he has got his teeth into it, as he had into the last war, from the completely reversed angle. There is certainly something of the fanatic under that calm exterior!
TUESDAY OCT 17TH 39
On Saturday 14th the Royal Oak was sunk at anchor in harbour at Scapa Flow by a U-boat. 800 men and officers went down, only 400 saved. How the U-boat got in is not yet known. Since then an offensive has started on the Siegfried line. Edinburgh has had an air raid yesterday and today there have been air raid warnings all down the east coast. The air force has beaten off the attacks and Edinburgh was lucky as most bombs fell in the water.
Phillip has been here for a weekend. Autumn glory is growing daily and I am going to Birmingham tomorrow and hope to see Trixie.
The evacuees will now begin to wish that they had not gone back. This is certainly a critical time.
THURSDAY OCT 26TH 39
I came back from Birmingham yesterday and had a week there and Trixie came over from Liverpool in a mauve dress with a twisted scarf round her hair – she looked a pet and much stronger and better. Phillip was in London at one of his council meetings so we two had a long long talk over the gas fire there and it was a treat for me as I had not had her alone for months and months. She is undoubtedly happy and I think really does intend to have a baby somehow sometime.
Since writing the German air raids rather small and abortive, but have gone on round the firth of forth. In Edinburgh there are almost daily warnings but not much else – the Royal Oak as sunk by a U-boat whose commander lay outside the harbour for 2 days watching the way in, between defences, taken by our boats and finally he nosed in – very clever and daring.
All the ridiculous peace offers Hitler has made are rejected as they give no shad or neediness to their state Poland in Czech and so Ribbentrop was put up at Daulzis this week to say that we the British are now the sole object of the war by Germany and they are working day and night to separate us from France.
‘Hitler’s last year of power’ is an astrological forecast from horoscopes of the destinies of all the leaders and movements. Hitler and Chamberlain are under the same stellar influences in different aspects. I shall get the book.
The horoscope of the 1919 revolution in Germany is also given and is still being worked out. Hitlers nightmare years are only regarded as an interruption in the movement towards a republican state in Germany. I find that this is reasonable and it is so easy to lose sight of the long view.
SUNDAY NOV 12TH 39
Yesterday was Armistice Day, wet as usual. The cenotaph service was abandoned and the silence was let go- officially. I was up on the top field at 11oclock and there was a small black pony gazing sadly out to sea. Berry’s tractor on the big -acre opposite, and the birds, were the only sound. A Muffled dense silence over the shrouded sea, not even a foghorn.
Since I last wrote there has been an attempt to kill off the leading Nazis, at the burger brau in Munich where they were having their speechifying and Nov 9th celebration (Hitlers abortive pitch 1923) The bomb went off a quarter of an hour late when all leaders had left. The British secret service is accused. A good peg for more lite! There was of course a rift inside the Reich – pity so inaccurately timed.
Deadlock stale mate and all the rest on the Maginot-Seigfried, but Holland and Belgium are now strung to the less pitch of readiness and taut nerves. Masses of German troops, cavalry and machines have collected on their frontiers and Hitler badly wants air bases on their coasts from which to tackle us more easily. In spite of protests daily, the neutrality of Holland and Belgium will be respected. The little Low Countries expect to meet the fate of Poland. Leopold and Wilhelmina met last week to wage a conference to help things, but it was brushed aside so Holland is flooded and her lighthouses extinguished and they are ready to defend themselves. Surely the German army cannot be held indefinitely in such a mass on all those frontiers, doing nothing. It would never surprise me to hear they had right about faced and were marching home to throw the Reich into revolution.
Last armistice day we had just shaken ourselves down to life again after the Munich agony of suspense. I watched as a farm cart was creeping bumpily along with turnips and Swedes. Its old driver huddled in a sack, and thought that if all men had to get as exhausted with the toil and poverty of daily life as that sort of labourer, there would be none of this bursting of frontiers and jackboot stamping. Money and leisure combined keep on leading the world into mischief because of the ever springing energy of the male! Keep him poor and fine drawn and worked out and his offspring will be as good, but he will be too spent to want war.
Hard luck for poor James to miss his sons’ babyhood.
TUESDAY 21ST NOV.39
No great change in the way of the war and no violent attacks anywhere, but all the little countries are standing absolutely ready and fully armed awaiting a pounce from somewhere.
The worst features of this moment are the German mines which they have laid in masses down the trade shipping route of the North Sea on our side. Every few hours two or three ships are sent to the bottom and their crews struggle in the bitter oily water.
All nationalities are caught and the neutrals seem to be suffering heavily. The German navel command say they are our mines, as though we should infest our own trade route with these devils eggs!
The other horror at the moment is the terror reigning in Prague. The students have been rounded up and something like 5000 arrested and machine guns put in the universities which are to be closed in Czechoslovakia for 3yrs. Some of the students have been shot ‘as an exemplar’! others taken to the awful Buchenwald concentration camp.
NOV 28TH 39
Just a week ago I went to spend a week with Nora. She quite enjoys being Lady Carr. Rock is full of Whitehall mentality and various nibs and nobs. I found the house lovely to look at, inside a feast for the eyes, but draughty and coldish with no real opportunity of a good toasting oven. A fire – peat fire smouldering and shut up cosy’s at half strength. The Atlantic boomed and raged the wind smoked the chimneys. Cornwall looks too grey in the rain and I’m glad to be back at home. Nora was kind but she is too self-contained to make one really happy. Anyhow I felt lonely there as I don’t here. I found myself at night turning my life over and over and inside out and feeling a thorough failure and washout. This morbid state of mind was no doubt induced by an excess of roughage as diet and consequent, colly wobbles added to every evening, the horrible recital of small ships by Germanys latest horror weapon, the magnetic mines. Culminately with the Rawelpinde which went down on Sunday night after a frightful battle with the Deutschland and another German battle ship – 2 against one!
I lived on the roughest milled bread and herrings and things that don’t really suit me at all so got rather hungry.
While there I heard from Mary that Mike had gone to France, no letters getting home as yet. Alas that Jack is engaged to Maureen and will probably be married here in January – Douglas approving and Mary being happy about it. This is a time in which the most certain things and fixed plans go topsy turvy –private and public.
SUNDAY DEC 10TH 39
Nothing that we really expected to happen to England has happened. The army is getting off lightly in
France, the navy, merchant navy and RAF are bearing the full brunt of the war and the sinking of ships are terribly numerous. The ‘secret weapon’, those beastly magnetic mines have done their damndest.
That engagement of Jans developed suddenly into a hasty war wedding, which was given out in The Times, and by silver printed invitations to Dunster church and a reception at the Luttrell arms last Thursday. It all sounded happy and well planned and the families all liked each other. Trixie rang up on getting her invitation and said she would like to come down for it. So last Monday she duly hopped out at Bridgwater from the one good tram from Liverpool in her new opossum coat looking like a very cheerful cosy little writer hibernator. We settled down here to five days bliss culminating with the festivities at Dunster. On Wednesday morning we were like pricked balloons when Trixie sent a wire that the wedding would be postponed, followed by another wire that it was indefinitely postponed, followed by a letter to say the Douglas had called the whole thing off as he had received information about the young man – derogatory- was her word, but goodness knows it must have been positively vicious to make him take such a drastic decision. Could anything be more harrowing for them, following as it does on Jans broken engagement? Trix and I sat and speculated on the nature of the fellows unsuitability but we came to no sensible conclusion and have not been told so there the matter rests. Trix went back to Liverpool on Friday. It was a sort of little Christmas treat and as the weather was mostly clear and kind we did enjoy ourselves.
Certainly the winter had not fallen on our woods and fields and spring was ready to break already. Catkins and polyanthuses are blooming gaily and the weather is gloriously open, if moist. A contrast to the hideous dark battles that is raging up and down Finland in the perpetual artic night.
Russia invaded Finland seven days ago and the four million Finns are so far holding there own against gigantic odds. The soviet armies began with bombs from air, sea, and landed armies and are now using poison gas.
It is all clear now that Ribbentrop promised Finland as an unhindered present to Russia in return for his foul pact that he made with Stalin in September and it is also clear now that that is what Russia wanted us to promise during the long abortive negotiations we had with them in the summer. They have simply been sold by germany, their former friends!
The Scandinavian countries are feeling wretchedly nervous now and though world sympathy is pouring out verbally from all sides, there is little practical help forth coming.
For how can it come to these small isolated far off states? We are sending gas masks, Italy sends aeroplanes, germany rifles (to the enemy of her ‘non-aggression’ allie (this was contradicted later.
And so the war spreads and widens and gets more and more confused and the Kremlin is getting out on a great imperialist venture and thats the long and short of it with boundless aims and objects some say even to have a real shot at India this time!
Philip is here this weekend and says he considers the Bolshevization of Europe is the immediate limit of the Russian aim.
Last Monday morning brought an explanation of the sudden calling off of Jans marriage, briefly, her intended has been convicted at some time for fraud and paid the penalty and Douglas made him confess. Evidently the family is not on the straight and possibly it was Wartnaly who put the rector of dunster and Douglas on to the track. Mary says she hated the father and he is probably another solicitor crook. The shock is dieing down now and Jan hopes to get down to a real nursing job directly after Christmas.
There has been a naval victory today, the Admiral Von Spee is done for- but it has been a grim week for us and for finland. The league is meeting – Russia expelled.
DEC 22ND 1939
The ship I called the Admiral Graf von Spee is actually the Graf spee –she was taken on a week ago by 3 of our small cruisers, Exeter, Ajax and Archilles. They ran her into Monte Video harbour very badly crippled, they were also crippled themselves. Two of Ajax’s conning towers were shot away and the Exeter with many casualties. In harbour the graf spee was given 72 hours to repair and come out. The usual time lengthened a good lot. Hitler bower ordered her to be scuttled which the commander duly did, blowing her up right in the middle of the river plate. He saw that all his thousand odd young crew were safe, the dead buried and then shot himself. This suicide was a horrible shock everywhere. Scuttling and suicide together are simply tragic and all Hitlers wretched hateful way of doing things. Graf spree may have come out of harbour and had another dash, there were no big ships waiting.
Now we are only three days from Christmas Trix and Bill have sent me a lantern for the porch to be lit for Victory. Parcels and letters and cards are finished and James and Philip come tomorrow. Today was lovely, sunny and blue after a fortnight of gruith?? Hitler is having a diabolic smash at all our fishing boats and trawlers, raking them from the air with machine guns and bombs. The finish army fights on in white smocks, a phantom army in the snow, but they need food and clothes and arms and we can do hardly anything or else we wont – and stalins birthday is celebrated today as him being a worthy successor of Louis!
DEC 28TH 1939
Christmas is over and it has been very calm for England and France. The holiday kept everywhere in an accentuated family way. On Christmas day the Russians bombarded Helsinki and other parts of finland most cruelly and held up Christmas dinners for hours. We in England had soft sunshine, chris nights and a bit of fog. Money seemed to be fairly plentiful and presents came rolling in more than ever. James came, looking tired and worn but the good sleeps and walks he got revived him.The cottage expanded itself to hold 10 people on Christmas night for games. The Jewsons were here and he brought some grand old brandy with him which he poured liberally.
Phillip and I go to Birmingham tomorrow for a fortnight. Trixie rang up on Christmas night which crowned my day, she sounded well and happy.