JAN 1st 1940
It is difficult to take this book about now without the car, and the longer one leaves gaps in writing the more difficult. I had more than a fortnight in Birmingham . It was bitterly cold and mostly foggy all the time I was there. We had a freeze up and rationing started on January 8th. I went over to Liverpool and spent 2 quite sunny days with Trix and Bill.
My first visit since that hectic week of her operation last June.
JAN 15th 1940
Arrived home and expected to find the primroses and stylises opening – instead of that an onslaught of great cold set in. Nearly everyone was frozen up. I burnt a lot of oil and kept it going day and night and so kept the pipes from freezing. The mains froze in the village a fortnight ago and are still fast. The BBC announces that there was 27° of frost in London which beats us at 23°. The River Parrett froze, the Thames froze for 8miles and the sea froze all round the coast.
Trust this winter to be so cold; the combatants everywhere are gripped in all Europe in perishing winds, snows and frosts. All this month the Finns have been fighting great hordes of Russians, who have been sent to Finland by Stalin “to bring help and peace to the poor Finnish slaves”- they are ill-fed, ill-equipped and are dying by thousands. Just dropping in the snow dead! The threat of Stalin and Hitler grows greater and greater to the little neutral countries. All are mobilised, all are on tip-toe. Even Rumania has dug a great ditch round the frontier. Deaths on the cold seas go on, for the Nazis are mining and bombing the little trawler & merchant ships, machine gunning the sailors from just above.
Poland is in the grip of an even greater and more awful tragedy than Czechoslovakia, if that is possible. The church is being specially wiped out there as it is so bound up with the State. Priests and Jews alike are being annihilated, children sterilized and sent to slave camps in Germany. And what can we do?? Our help, if it ever succeeds in reaching them, will be too late! Our hearts in England are heavy now and rather apprehensive….and still Chamberlain’s government sits like wooden idols in the seats of power! They who have brought all this on Europe by setting aside the League principles as long ago as 1930 in Manchuria.
JAN 30th 1940
The last day of this perishing month and it goes out as glassy and snowy as it came in 31 days ago. The extraordinary feature of this last week has been the freezing rain. It literally froze as it fell and has caused much more trouble in transport etc than the snow!
Signals became locked on the railways, points too. Roads and tracks like hard glass. Gardens looked like Lalique shops. Every separate twig, every leaf, was encased in ice. The weight on the trees was so great that boughs have thrown themselves all around with rending crashes and trains have been 28hrs late from the north. People have been going out about with sacking feet and then falling down. All our phone lines are weighted so low that none of us locally can get any communication. The deathly jingle of all the clinking ice is very weird.
Philip had his conference in London on Sunday and felt deathly ill, but he went through with it and only succumbed to bed and doctor the next day with temp of 101, he has good old flu!
There are lots of air raids in Finland and on the east coast. Hitler says he will be in London on April 20th!
Men are disappointingly non-realist. They all seem to be living in dreams or rather nightmares. The only sense you can get out of people now is when women utter – and they are not allowed to criticize.
There is great muddle in the food production lines; poultry farmers, butchers, bacon dealers are upside down with mad prices and beef more like horse!
SUNDAY FEB.18th 1940
I have dashed up to London as Philip became rapidly worse and had a severe relapse. I got there to find the doctor calling twice a day.
Followed, nearly a fortnight in the strange, cave-like atmosphere of a London hotel. Red brown sauces, fog coloured furnishings, no windows downstairs so that one loses all sense of daylight and time and nature.
Philip never went back once he took the turn and ate marvellously with plenty of rest and meals all the time.
The winter really seems endless, even Spain has got a hard spell and heavy snow. Germany is catching it desperately and they are short of everything practically, at least, so we think.
The excitements of war are few and far between – except in Finland there is an apparent deadlock:- ships sunk, crews saved or left to drown in the icy seas, a few aerial scraps – mines explode on the east coast. Today comes a request to the Graf Spee, Bismarck she had an armed tanker in tow on which she stowed all the seamen that she had taken prisoner in her raids. This tanker, the Altmark, was known as the hell-ship, it was a floating prison with iron cells and it got to Norway yesterday. Norway pretended there were no British prisoners on board, when there were in fact nearly 300. We followed the hell-ship into a fiord, boarded her and rescued our men after hand to hand fighting in the old style; they were within an ace of being blown up and had been disgustingly treated. That was a dirty trick of Norway, a supposed trusty neutral, to pretend she didn’t know. The neutrals are quite fatuous and are surely digging their own graves rapidly. John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir has vanished from the scene- died of a fall in Canada; like Borah [William E. Borah] in America, Borah however had a symbolic death, a rabid isolationist he slipped on a rug in his own home and died. Tonight I feel that those who go quickly out of this nightmare of war are lucky, combined with winter and ill-health it is heavy going.
MARCH 3rd 1940
Spring is slow, frosty and bright. Snowdrop valley was never more lovely, or more peaceful than last week. I went with some friends and sent some to Trixie and Mary, brought the latter some great longings, she is homesick for the west and Tony is losing weight, a living skeleton she says, but he will not give up. Robin Harrison, captain of the Flying Boat Sutherland has his photograph in the Illustrated, which I will keep, and on Valentines Day he was engaged to Marjorie Rowley. Today I went over the fields to church in the afternoon and the spring pastel view was beyond my words to convey.
At the same time the Finns are burning their beautiful Vyborg (Viipuri) which the Russians have bombed and smashed worse than anything since Guernica – the broadcasts from the Hon. Edward Ward from Finland are too ghastly, how the man will ever sleep peacefully again after what he has seen in the way of death and carnage? Dead, frozen stiff Russian corpses in all positions everywhere in thousands. More bestial than cannibalism it seems. The American messenger, Sumner Welles is prowling round the capitals of poor old tangled Europe, seeing what he can hose out. He came out of Hitler’s room yesterday looking as if he had smelt something bad.
MARCH 25th1940 EASTER MONDAY
I really intended to write more often during March. It was looked forward too as a fateful month. The Ides of March and Hitler’s former successes in March and all that – but nothing much happened – no blitzkrieg offensive. But it has been highly miserable and depressing. I went to Birmingham, driving up by car with adequate petrol on lovely empty roads and the horrible cruel end of the Finnish war came almost directly. It was a wangled diplomatic affair ‘to prevent the war spreading’ and any help we had sent had been evilly side-tracked by the Norwegian railways and had never reached its destination, Sumner Welles the American ‘fact finder’ ran about from county to country trying to learn on what grounds we would all consider a Peace but he got no encouragement from the Allies,(we suppose). However at the very end of his visit he hurried back to Italy and Mussolini and Hitler had a grand secret meeting at a bullet proof train on the Brenner from which the world expected great things and got, exactly nothing.
Meanwhile the Finns, much harassed had to leave their ceded territory in three days from the treaty signing and to take everything out of their homes and shattered houses. Time was so short and the cold so intense that the misery and fatigue on the top of war exhaustion must have been very great. Another great trek of refugees caused by sheer brutal violence and again we can do practically nothing but look on. Our help, too late, and too little, never gets there to these small stricken people, but I believe it could get there, we could be adequate and operative if we had decent leadership. And talking about leadership, France suddenly got sick of Daladier, who had been Chamberlain’s opposite number for so long - bundled him off! We shall do the same when we wake up!
MARCH 28th1940 Easter holiday ended.
Philip’s five days flew away and he went to Birmingham yesterday. With a weekend away in prospect, we had fairish weather, mainly warm and the last day was brilliant, sunny from dawn to sunset and we two had a picnic at Listock, which was looking its best with banks of huge white violets. Mike arrived home on leave from France on Easter Thursday and Mary had all her family for the holiday weekend as Douglas got leave too and Jack hadn't gone to France.
As for our war outlook, it has not changed much. The neutrals think our chances are less and trust us less since Finland has been added to the list of our failure-to-help list. We now have quite clear command of the sea. No getting away from that though Haw-Haw brays about their naval victories; nightly. The air things are more active and whenever we do engage Fritz , it seems we mostly win. The Dutch now say that we shall remain like this, stalemate, for 40 years! Not likely as the blockade on central Europe will get tighter and tighter- great intrigues go on all the time, first with Italy, then in the Balkans, then with Russia and all round and round again, and nothing spectacular comes of it.
Canada has had an election on the war, and given the Liberal govt. there a renewal with great majority and conviction, so that’s all right.
I am hoping Trixie can come next week. Philip looks better but evidently has the flu poison still in him for he is so blotchy and had that not-quite-well-look. Perhaps stout will help get him back on his perch again.
SATURDAY MARCH 30th 1940
Trixie is coming today, alone. It is nasty and wet, grey and cold but once here I can keep her warm and snug. The lift of her bright spirit will be a joy to me. The Gibsons gave me a little tiny lily bulb which they say will flower in six years time.
A gay and promising young man, a Rugger player for England and Prince of Russia, and now a flying ace has been killed on the east coast at only 24. Why do I write about Prince Obolensky? Only because they tell us about him in detail on the air, and then we think about all the other nameless, to us, boys who are dying daily at 24 - their lives unlived. It is so easy to sink into an acceptance if it doesn’t come near home, at least into an unheedingness.
SUNDAY APRIL 7th 1940
Trix has been here for a week alone while Bill was at the lakes with Chester. She leapt from the train a week ago with her own home grown pot tulips in her arms. Such a lovely tawny colour. Her lovely opossum coat looked gay and handsome. Every day of the week we did some happy thing and the spring weather brought things out quickly every day. Primroses, violets, iris, primulas, tulips and forget-me-nots. Trixie enjoyed things as intensely as ever, that makes her a tonic presence. She certainly looked happy, a wonderful strength has come to her since her appendix op. now if a baby will only start our cups of joy will be full, war or no war.
I am alone now and the ceilings and the sitting-room are to be done by Fred Jones. Not much news of the war – old Neville Chamberlain has shuffled his old men a bit – like the Mad Hatter’s tea party, they all move up one! Practically no new blood, but Churchill is tightening the blockade.
APRIL 9th 1940 another crisis!
The awaited spring frightfulness has come in a rush – Germany stamped into Denmark overnight and this morning landed troops in Norway too! Norway is resisting but Denmark has just given in and all the towns are occupied, the radio taken over, and all the money arrangements and orders are made and given already.
They must have had everything planned ready for weeks. Sweden has been told to accept ‘protection’ or be invaded. We are told very little but the cabinet gave out at once that ‘full help’ would be given ‘at once’ to Norway – no one has said ‘we told you so’ but many think it. Every word Churchill has warned them has proved true. If Germany succeeded in bringing down Norway our vis a vis in the North Sea would be their glaring armies. One is just breathless and stunned again by the rapidity of Hitler’s moves and how he can prepare so much unbeknown and in secret is beyond understanding.
The BBC gives this startling news very laconically and one almost feels as if praying for the Norwegians and Danes and sending sympathy were all they are going to do at the moment. However big things are afoot and battles probably raging on the North Sea.
APRIL 10th 1940
The news has been vague and only given neutrals, the Nazis have collared the radio, press, and whole bag of tricks in Denmark. Norway seems to be rallying somewhat and putting up a little fight. German losses at sea are very heavy, we hear, but French and British ships have also been horribly damaged and sunk in raging battle. Norway must have known of the preparations that Germany was making but evidently turned a blind trusting eye………we are really stunned again – though heaven knows, we ought to take it all for granted – the Secret Service didn’t seem to have give any warning !
THURSDAY APRIL 11th 1940
The crisis is a vast one – the meagre news comes over every few hours but it leaves very much to the feeble imagination of what is really going on in this wild sea warfare. Churchill spoke at great length today and is confident that Hitler has made a huge blunder in hurling his whole navy out against ours and the French. We are sinking them rapidly and have had losses ourselves. The chief thing is that the route for the iron ore is blocked to the Germans forever and our blockade has become really effective. We are anxious about Lilian and the children – she was to come home on May 1st and now Sweden is in such a frightful position of danger and exposure.
FRIDAY APRIL 12th 1940
Norway is standing firm. The German troop parties are scattered and separated and if not allowed to join into large units, will be held. The King and the Royal family have had to flee from place to place being bombed – safe so far. We have mined the Skaggerack and Kattegat which is a brilliant move on Churchill’s part. A hopeful tone is around at the moment.
APRIL 13th 1940
Good news late at night, 7 German destroyers sunk by Warspite and Cossack in a fjord. Message to Norway, tell them to hang on and buck up and keep going.
SUNDAY APRIL 14th 1940
How cold this spring is. The blackthorn is prolific – and it is truly a blackthorn winter, bitter winds and the Navy is having storms of snow. No news yet of our troops landing in Norway but the redoubtable navy has mined the Baltic in a jiffy.
APRIL 16th 1940
I heard yesterday that Bob’s flying boat was lost and Philip wrote the tragic news that he had given up hope of the boy. All the crew were lost apparently in the early part of the Norwegian attack on Narvik in the north of Norway, frightful weather and heavy seas. It is the first personal blow of the war… my little godson, whom I hadn’t seen for years, but had sent him rows of books which he seemed to love.
French and British troops have landed in Norway.
We heard that Mrs Jeeves was seen taking a man into the flat – I am going to Birmingham to investigate and see if she has been whoring in the flat!
MAY 4th 1940
The Norwegian campaign which began so hopefully and confidently, fizzled out as far as the Allies are concerned today and we are withdrawing and re-embarking under fire. Hospital ships are being sunk as they come home and though we were told that large adequate forces went over, it now appears we only sent ‘lightly equipped’ troops. It is the Dardanelles over again and today Chamberlain has spouted his satisfaction and his justifications for two hours in the commons. The country is deeply shocked and puzzled. So far Germany wins all along the line and is in possession of all the big towns in Norway except Narvik which we hold because of the iron ore. The Navy got us that, and the Fleet Air Arm. A fortnight ago the wretched Chamberlain said ‘Hitler has missed the bus!! I am ten times more confident than heretofore’ Could any ??? ??? which is what he is, say anything sillier. What has England done to deserve him?
MAY 9th 1940
This is Barry’s 5th birthday – he is a loveable stout fellow and adapts himself to whatever life offers. Jan has been here for a week. She came jaded and worried and went away yesterday ‘made over’ - as people do from here. She is really bested by life at the moment but putting up a good fight against the fatigue of work at the hospital and club, and then home on top. Mary has no conception of real work, never had, and resents her loneliness. I wish only a speedy departure for Jan and then marriage with a quiet middle aged man, secure in position – she has been the mouse-like prey of her Ma’s designs. I found her sweet and companionable, and she rode about on Betty’s horses…
Yesterday there was, at last, a flare up in the House of Commons. Parliament is at last awake to the fact we in the constituencies are alarmed, distressed and puzzled by the ghastly leadership, the defeat of Norway and the slowness of our decisions. Above all that, we are sick beyond words of Chamberlain !
There were some good hot passages and at midnight Labour forced a division 200 against 280 – but it’s a least a shake up for the old devil and he is now insecure. God grant that the Opposition keep on till he has left the premiership. The revelations of the odds against us in Navy and the terrible conditions the lads dashed about in, are really hell raising! I shut Freddy up last Sunday when he drawled “well, it all came right in the last war”. He was a victim of muddle then and resented it. ‘They’ all stand together like rocks, no matter what heinous crimes they commit.
No more news of Bob who was a victim of the abominable lack of air-parity committed at and induced by the government of the last five years!
Trixie sent me these lovely lines:-
The Irish Airman
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross
My countrymen Kiltartans poor
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight
Nor public men nor cheering crowds
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds
I balanced all, brought all to mind
The years to come seemed waste of breath
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death
This is a sorrow too deep for tears!
Friday May 10th 1940 - Whit Friday
This has been a full and thrilling and terrible day! Thrilling because Chamberlain has actually resigned tonight, but not until Amery had shouted ‘In the name of God, GO!’
The King has appointed Churchill as PM….Very terrible because at 3 o’clock this morning Germany invaded Belgium and Holland and Luxembourg. Bombing been everywhere and they all appealed immediately for our help. Given at once – the day has come, Der Tag is launched and may we all stand firm behind this new government, Labour and Liberals are cooperating.
Saturday May 11th 1940
The most ghastly marathon in the air is going on, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp and countless other towns and villages are all being bombed hourly by legions of aircraft from Germany. Troops are sweeping through the countries below all these terrible air fleets and it seems incredible how a man can live. Civilians are dying too and old places of beauty are crumbling. England is still spared…
Our new cabinet is formed under Churchill. Hitler’s last desperate throw for world power is his biggest and most thorough.
Thursday May 16th 1940
Holland surrendered on Tuesday evening. Too many Quislings and 5th column people betrayed the country. Traitors riddled the whole country, got into barges up the river, women clapped their hands at windows to guide the thousand or more parachute troops. Wilhelmina and Juliana came over here and are in London with the kids. Refugees are poring over from Holland and Belgium by every boat. The same old story – they remain neutral till the last moment and then with inadequate defences are flung into the whirlwind and are more liability for us. It seems too horrible to bear, all the old names ringing out again, as being besieged and stormed, Liege, Namur, Louvain, Arras, all the restored Belgium lands and towns are now all being smashed again. Things are not going very well for us. The German onslaught is immense and with the Dutch coast now in their hands they are nearer to us. This is a very dark and serious hour, we are warned against parachutists tonight and there is a new civilian defence force to keep a look out.
Churchill has got his government together, not a moment too soon. The Labour party met for its conference this week and Leon Blum? Came over and addressed it. The workers are solid this time and now realise that the Germans mean to smash them here as elsewhere. Musso, blast him, is still waiting, having had a fearful week of orgies of anti-British demonstrations, burning Union Jacks etc. Bless us all, we need it.
Monday May 20th 1940
A very intense battle, the greatest of all time is raging across France. The Germans are advancing thrusting through with all their frightfulness.
Tuesday May 21st 1940
Things look pretty bad. There has been a great mess up apparently in the French army and some ghastly mistakes made, such as blowing up bridges on the Meuse etc. General Gamelin? has faded out – Weygand and old ancient Petain have taken over (aged 73 and 85!) Reynaud has made a clean breast of all the horrors to the Senate and Duff Cooper here has not minced matters, Churchill too, has made it clear that the Germans are driving to the channel ports in order to attack us, God help us, they have saved their gas for us presumably. Moments of fear occur.
Wed. May 22nd 1940
The ghastly battles rage on, I sleep lightly and badly, I suppose lots of others do too. The new government is getting down to a real belated defence and now has passed a very complete D.O.R.A. (Defense of the Realm Act) giving powers over person and property, life and limb, banks and factories, rich and poor – this will give the rich the shivers, even more than the poor.
Sunday May 26th 1940
This is the national call to prayer day. The service chosen was good in that it did not take the bargaining attitude with God which these days so often have, if only the nation recognises its sins and its lack of brotherhood, its injustice and carelessness and remembers to change all that, if and when we win, well, this agony of suspense and this hideous long drawn out destruction won’t altogether have been in vain.
It is the eternal destruction that is so hard to swallow, nothing created, all smashed up- life and beauty, nature and art. Only spirit remains and I suppose that is what the men in Flanders feel.
The King spoke on the evening of Empire day, he sounded so moved and even wrathful with indignation that he was swept out of his stammer, his breathing was forgotten and he spoke all right – very well in fact.
Grim things are happening across the channel, the German troops are in Calais and Boulogne, but beyond that we are not to know at present what is happening. There is a complete shut down of news and we have to be patient. Everyone in these quiet parts feels they want to go and do something. Women with French and German fluency and possessing cars are wanted to deal with the refugees in France. That is what I could do. I should like to go in spite of continued tummy attacks. I lay it before the Lord and perhaps I could manage it with the right friend beside me.
The new government is going all out and the Yanks are speeding up planes, it is above all, planes we want.
Trees are now in full leaf, the sheep have gone from my field and at last the grass, sorely tried by the winter and much nibbling, is greening and growing. The R.C.A. Conference starts today in Blackpool, and Phillips future and mine for the next 10 years will be settled. The vote on the Gen. Sec. will be taken tomorrow I suppose and also the Assistant Sec. which he may get.
Tuesday May 29th 1940
The news came by wire today at 12 o’clock that Gallie [Charles Gallie] was elected R.C.A. General Secretary, so that’s that. My poor Philip has – what? I don’t know yet, but all I ask for him is a ten year run of not too heavy work now, at the end, it has been a really grisly day of hard knocks.
Leopold of the Belgians surrendered to the Germans at 4.30am this morning and we heard the horrid truth at 11 on the forces programme. He surrendered as Commander in Chief of the Belgian army. The Belgian government has gone to Paris and has not surrendered. What has happened to Leopold’s morale is not divulged – it may be Italian influences through his Italian Crown Princess sister, or it may be weakness of his own, in view of the horrors and physical strain.
The B.E.F. (The British Expeditionary Force) is in a terribly grave plight, but we are told they are still gallant, holding on and in perfect discipline, an unbeaten army; but God help them they are sore pressed and surrounded. Leopold’s action has broken the Belgian constitution. Every preparation here is being made against invasion.
Freddie came to see me and I had a talk with Mrs. Slade. My eyes rested on a vast bowl of spring flowers, such a lovely arrangement which one will be glad to remember for all time.
We still have faith in France. We must have faith and stick together for it is the Mein Kampf plan to separate us.
The 9 o’clock news tonight was followed by Mall(t)on’s familiar, eager voice – very reassuring in a dark hour, and after that, instead of a variety they broadcast Beethoven’s Fifth – fate knocking at the door?????
Wednesday may 30th 1940
The weather is glorious, the war is frighteningly awful. Signposts are being removed and barricades of wire and wood are ready on the Bridgwater road.
Saturday, June 1st 1940
The end of this terrible week has come as last with the news –a wire- from Mary that Mike has landed in England. He was extricated wonderfully from that hell over there at Dunkirk The relief is unspeakable, and now the B.E.F. is nearly out of the awful jam that Leopold’s defection put them in. Boats of any old sort have been going back and forth across the channel and bit by bit the men are being landed here to recover and re-equip and get some sleep. [picture with notes re Operation Dynamo pasted into diary] The thankfulness of this happening has somewhat put the invasion out of our heads. Phillip got here very late last night, the trains were packed.
Saturday June 8th 40
This week has been one unbroken spell of sunshine and blue skies, mostly over 80 indoors and in France it must have been grilling indeed. A huge battle rages against the French supported by the RAF. They are just holding but only just, against the awful weight of tanks and mechanized pushing horrors.
The Dunkirk epic fills everyone’s thoughts and tomorrow is to be a Te Deum for the deliverance. Many people seemed to think the evacuation was a victory but Churchill took off the rose-coloured glasses pretty thoroughly!
Aunt Edith died on the 6th June and buried privately today in Bournemouth, she’s the last of the clan of that generation.
Sunday June 16th 40
This has been an absolutely bloody week, blows have reined heavy on one’s spirits, even the brightest are damped. Italy declared war on Monday the tenth, with all the malice and hatred possible. Just when France was at her most vulnerable. Mussolini was justly slanged from all over the world, but words don’t avail against shells. Then on Wednesday another force of the B.E.F. was taken prisoner, 6000, surrounded on the cliffs in France trying to evacuate themselves from a hopeless place. On Friday 14th the Germans reached into Paris, and the French decided not to defend it, but call it an ‘open town’ … Paris!! The German attack is vast and continues with increased violence all round Paris – a second B.E.F. has gone back to France, better equipped by all accounts but so small! We are being heartened as usual with comforting words here from leaders, but it is obvious now we are in for a long, long war. Hitler will try a peace offer now that he has kept his date in Paris. He said he would be there on the 15th, and they marched in on the 14th and took over everything including the Paris radio which is now silent for us. Tours, Saumur, Blois, Evreux, St Audleys, all the places we came through in the valley of the Loire are bombed and those fine happy roads are full of refugees and armies.
Our statesmen swear we still have command of the seas and say they are glad we can now put on the blockade in Italy and tighten things for Germany. The new government works wonders but there is years of leeway to make up and America sends more stuff, but is still sleeping.
Tuesday June 18th 40
One felt that events were rushing to a climax, though I here put it on record that Philip seemed to see nothing impending, except a general ‘fight on’ and decency and loyalty. The French capitulated yesterday, laid down their arms after Reynaud’s [Paul Reynaud, French PM] resignation, and a lightening change of government, with Petain the 90 year old Field Marshall, they sued for peace from Hitler as ‘honourable soldiers’. A terrific shock in England – the BBC seemed stunned and changed all the programs to the gloomiest British music. It now transpires that just before France surrendered and sued for peace, our government made a wholesale offer to the French government to conclude an ‘Anglo-French union’ – English citizens to become Anglo French and vice versa, with the nations sharing everything! This apparently (seemingly it is a blessing for us!) was rejected and they threw up the sponges. So Hitler has done the next thing he set out to do, he has separated us completely from France. We still don’t know what has happened to the French navy. Churchill and Vernon Bartlett broadcast words of comfort, brief but definite yesterday, giving us to understand we fight on – ‘the last man, the last ditch etc’ has been on the lips of all; but one after another they bowed to the metal and mechanized horror.
This tragic day seemed to be inevitable from the day Paris fell and M. Reynaud broadcast ‘we are wounded’. Yet Peter held his opinion to the last minute that ‘decency’ would keep them fighting. His type of mind is very ostrich really and is the type that was so strongly exhibited at Munich . See what you want to see! How, really, could people who know the French imagine they would hold on after losing their heart – Paris??
Sunday June 23rd 40
This past week has been more bearable than could have seemed possible, chiefly because of the lovely sunshine, the scents of the honey suckle and hay everywhere and the very confident hopefulness of people really-in-the-know. They have given us a lot of facts to go on and one can see that we are now an ‘island fortress’ with most of the BEF packed into it and soldiers galore from other armies too. If we can hold out till the winter we shall be on the way to victory. Output is very good and also food supplies.
France must have been hopelessly split to crack like that; any hysteria and panic got the upper hand when the govt. bolted from Paris to Tours, then onto Bordeaux getting more and more muddled.
Yesterday came the news that Chris is missing. Bob has the information from the War Office, he was not on the ships that got men home from St.Valery where those 6000 men were surrounded in the middle of June. He may be a prisoner, he is evidently with his C.O. who is resourceful and might escape or he may be wounded, it is heartbreaking.
This morning the news has come that the French have signed the frightful conditions of armistice that Germany and Italy have imposed. They stayed at Compiegne, in the railway coach, dragged out from Paris again that Foch used for the 1918 Armistice. They seemed to have signed away all their powers. We are convinced the French govt., that is Petain and Huntziger, are pro-Nazi fifth column and have not got the nation behind them. All the same it is a fearful blow. I cannot remember ever feeling so miserable in the last war! There was Trixie, young and to be reared. I was under the mystic age of 35 and had work, this devilish treachery was unknown in the way it is now. What to do with this cottage is the problem. If there is a war in England, Trixie and Mary would probably come but otherwise it seems there is no one in the way of friends or relations who want the quiet shelter of it – on the other hand a refugee would have a broken sort of life with me – indecision and a feeling of uselessness are eating at me and getting me down. All I pray is to have events lead me to either work elsewhere or people to look after here. Philip has heard that Dolly has got the job of assistant secretary, so that little hope has gone too. Disappointments are for me, let me put them down and see that they do not really amount to anything like the blessings!
Disappointments: No children by Philip, No grandchildren, No top job for Philip, which means more Birmingham. Good things: Our health, Trixies health, the cottage and all its beauty.
And the fact is, that if I can take the leap and a job or make myself a fixed home either end and take a refugee, all will be well. Find a way Mrs M, find the way!! Lots of small work here but nothing I am good enough to do! The French have signed a most ghastly capitulation, absolutely treacherous to us, handing over all their arms and stock ‘to be used against us’! their great ally - it is incredible, but I have said all along, that all the governments have been riddled with crooks, bunches of them. Individual French and their colonies will fight on with us.
How I hate all this Jingoism and Englanding and Saving the King every two minutes, but it has got to be done now and we have simply got to stick like glue together inside our fortress to defy these dark fellows – Mussolini is a purely contemptible rat, and why the plenipotentiaries didn’t conceal revolvers in their boots or grenades in their cheeks when they went to? and ?, I can’t think. I would have somehow.
June 24th 1940
The French have had this as a ‘day of mourning’ with old Petain attending a high mass which is a dreadful farce considering that he was the chief traitor with Laval.
A younger spurned Brigadier General called de Gaulle. Is trying to rally the outlying colonies and navy and Frenchmen everywhere to his standard in London.
Hedging and ditching is a good refresher in these days and I have been at that overgrown tangle behind the bank which hasn’t been touched in years. With bleeding legs and goose grass in my hair I emerge to burn up the stuff. True naturalists would have discovered nests and wild creatures in the jungle, I saw nothing.
There have been some lovely bits of German music on the air these two or three days which melt the heart and make one feel that the bread one has cast on German waters in past days, does return in the form of a crumb or two now and then.
A little more news came of Chris. He was seen wounded and on the way to the dressing station at St. Valery. Only 100 men out of his heavily shelled squadron of 300 got back to England. Bob is still hopeful.
June 26th 40
Our 21st wedding day and I pray the only one we shall spend under threat of invasion and in the throes? Of A.R.P. First Aid, Fire fighting and salvaging bones etc. with raids every night to tone us up. We celebrate on Saturday 29th when Philip gets home.
July 3rd 40
The days roll on in sunshine and clear skies – it is the most consistently fine hot summer we have had for seven years. Nature will not associate herself, it seems, with our tough ways and horrible wars, and has made the land lovelier than ever. Meanwhile the Channel Islands were bombed unmercifully at the end of last week and occupied by the Germans on the next day- we must have expected it as we evacuated thousands of Guernsey and Jersey people before it happened. This means added anxiety for Douglas; his old mother remained.
Yesterday, Carol of Rumania was completely cornered by Russia which is marching in to Rumania having already occupied a good bit of it – all his treaties and pacts have failed, he is another small neutral victim.
We have air raids every night here, the machines come snooping along about 11pm and some times our houses shake when bombs drop – south Wales is what they aim at.
We are waiting on tiptoes for invasion – Hitler gave out that these were the days to attack England. However, Philip’s in London and I am going for a few days to visit Mary at Farnborough. I haven’t seen her for ages, I hope I don’t get caught while there.
July 14th 1940 Sunday at the cottage
I went to Aldershot, got back and there is still no zero hour - there was a bombing raid on the Saturday afternoon. I was there and we felt the ominous shake of the cinema walls and heard the bumps and bangs through the chatter of the movie.
Mary is doing a good war effort with her vegetables and fowls.
We saw a sapper, Stuart, who has served under Chris – he said Chris was mortally wounded in the groin at St Valery and we are leaving him to break this awful news to Bob.
In addition to all the uncertainty and indecision brought by this phase of the war, I am further plunged into a new set of problems by Philip ending up his R.C.A. work in Birmingham and taking the crumbs offered, i.e. the job Sally has had at a bit better salary. This involves a move to Welwyn of all places as the head office bolted there. What this means to me is quite simply the end of any real life in this village, I think. The journey is so long and there will be no cars or petrol soon. I see nothing but suburbia and the R.C.A. and the neglect of my beautiful garden for the next ten years. I don’t think I ever felt so hopeless as at this time. No one is allowed to express a doubt or any gloom! Yet the world is closing in on us, against us – not a single nation is really for us, and the Italian/German, Russian/Spanish and Japanese dictatorships quite simply intend to pinch out the outposts of the British Empire. This is more likely than a mass invasion. Miracles may happen to defend us.
July 23rd 40
The July days roll on and we all wait, Hitler has made another of his specious and plausible speeches pretending that he doesn’t want to hurt us at all, and won’t if we just be nice quiet creatures and let him rule us along with the rest.
A bright spot came last week in news of Chris at last. A wire for Bob, “All Safe Chris”, from Vichy (presumably via Switzerland) and it gives real grounds for hoping he is alive and not mortally wounded after all.
30th July 1940
Just 30 years ago I produced my only child – now so far away and remote in her own life with her own home and strange husband. I have not heard a word or line from her today – but the very joyous memory of her on golden sands of other summers was brought back by a superb and lovely afternoon hour on the beach at low tide.
We have reached a frightful stage in the war of nerves. The papers and news are simply maddening. Philip has got a head office job, he is glad not to have to go to Birmingham.
Sunday evening august 4th 1940
It is 26yrs today that we started war with Germany before. This one is still in a spectral horrid lull. We are told there are guns being fixed on the French coast to shoot 70 miles, and other dreads – last night Churchill gave out that we must still wait on tip toes. No slackening. Meanwhile night raids on the S. West are nearly every night. Nether Stowey was one worst; it gave us a bad shake up. The future looms up dark in the wakeful hours. I don’t want to leave here.
Sunday august 11th 40
This used to be Ella’s birthday, a long ago ghostly procession of August birthdays of whom nearly all are ghosts and only a few of us remain. Mine came in the middle of this week and Philip got here for his short holiday. Almost immediately I was plunged into one of my fearful sick and die attacks which lay me out for days. The doc thinks the cause is probably gall bladder.
In the wee small hours of fear and darkness with the bombers overhead, I lie and think of the future and want to quit, immediately, now. I have no more courage or fight to begin a new home in this terrifying world of coming famines and poverty. The British empire is going to bits as I lay here this last night fearing and thinking how I can ever go on, a voice near my bed said, very distinctly, and clearly, ‘live only for one day at a time’ and repeated it ! It was an experience like Mary’s, who heard ‘read your bible’ when she was in a fix. One of the guardian angels was giving the so much needed advice. It is what all the young are having to do and are doing so gallantly – living one day at a time. They know so little about their future except that it will probably be sad and violent. Yet I who have had so much and so rich a life find that most difficult to do, NOT to look ahead, only live for the hour, in the hour. Blessed advice – my strength began to rally in the dawn then I do believe in these terse answers to our blind and groping anxieties and prayers; they come from those who have also struggled here.
Printed exhortations to householders to ‘stay put’ are circulated this week. Things are hotting up in Somaliland and Egypt for us.
[this poem attached to page]
THE VILLAGES OF ENGLAND
The villages of England have slept for many a year
And dreamed among the hollyhocks and drowsed beneath the trees
They sent their sons to fight for us but little did they hear
Above the croon of woodpigeons and lullaby of bees
The villages of England have wakened now indeed
And thrust the poppies from the gate, the nightshade from the porch,
And each conceals his ancient name and where his wild lanes lead,
Far far-off days handed on once more the flaming torch
Again the silent belfries wait to sound their loud alarms,
And through around the casements the clematis is curled
Behind each cottage window a yeoman stands to arms
For the cottages of England are the bastions of the world.
Saturday august 17th 40
It has been a week of absolutely grandiose hot weather. Philip’s holiday is nearly over. The blitzkrieg has been in full spate in the air, nearly 500 German planes brought down this week to approx 140 or ours. Awful raids on the S.E. particularly and everywhere has had a bit, including London and Birmingham and some trains were hit. We expect worse now, gas or something awful. A few days ago Bob got a letter from Chris from Vichy telling of his escape there via Lille on an old bike, and hoping to get home via Spain.
The golden lordly storks of corn against very blue skies and evening moonlight have been the great feeling of this week and Eddie shaking around on a binder behind Caleb Eames’ tractor, a sight one would never have seen but for the war!
September 2nd 1940, Sunday
Tomorrow is the actual anniversary of the beginning of this war. Today is the day, a Sunday morning at 11 o’clock just as sunny, soft and scented as this one has been. We are scattered, Phillip at Fox Moor, Trixie and Bill in Liverpool having very heavy raids, Mary and Jan in Aldershot, Douglas in Birkenhead, Mike in Scotland, Ann in Minehead and Chris still wandering in France.
We have shut up the flat and shaken the dust of Birmingham off our shoes, we were really bombed out of the place. Out of 8 nights there, we only had 2 in our beds with our clothes off. The rest we spent miserably huddled, cramping and waiting on the stairs with old Miss Biggs, under a beastly little blue light that we couldn’t see to play cards or read by; or do anything but listen to each other snore and cough. I never spent such a foul set of nights! I submitted to huddling because it made them all uneasy if I lay in my bed barricaded by the chesterfield and many cushions against flying glass etc. Though that is what I should have done if alone. The sirens squawked at 9.30 or 9.45 every evening. People dashed off the gas and goodbye to hot water, fires, and comfort after that. One night the guns and bombs and fires raged and one could only mutter, ‘cry havoc’ ‘cry havoc’ and await the end…..and then the morning came and the peaceful sky stretched clear and the buildings around still stood – but there has been much damage and loss everywhere, more than we are allowed to know. No city or region escapes from the raiders, not even the flowery Scilly Isles, The islanders are streaming to the mainland in panic.
This is now an interlude for me in the midst of the heightened violent Blitzkrieg. I was blubbering insanely with fatigue when I left Birmingham, having packed up the flat ready to move. I felt that my face (like those of the Birmingham people) had shrunk to half its size with exhaustion (certainly Philip’s had!) But with the first breaths of this wonderful healing, aromatic air I began to recover. The air is full of the smells of heather, wood smoke, sea, hay and stubble.
Now I can think of those hard stairs, that even harder varnished stinking corridor, of the Austins and Miss Biggs fussing, where we spent 6 nights, as a fantastic and foolish nightmare – Peter in a cap and a blanket prowling around, and me stuffing chocolate and whiskey till I never wanted to taste either again! Even as I write at 9.30 on a starlit warm Sunday evening here in the heart of the country, guns are banging and some bombs have fallen and the boom and drone of the Dorniers is overhead. The electric light keeps jumping, and Barnie keeps close to me. Mrs Brill died a week ago in Weston-super-Mare. Poor little thing! I am so very anxious for Trix and Bill now, as well as all our friends in London.
September 12th 1940, Thursday
Three days after I last wrote, Mary wired she was coming to stay and arrived with Jan, who enjoyed sleeping over in the loft and was not nervous all night of bangs and bumps. So there we were, Mary rushing and whirling from morning till night, smoking, flinging ash, drinking and talking without a pause till Churchill made a speech yesterday which upset her applecart. She seemed to see an invasion already invading the cottage; packed, wired and chattered, and this morning departed with her family in hot haste for home and as she thinks, safety – well, here I am alone all of a sudden again, having expected her to be here most of the month.
I wrote in the last entry that I was anxious for all my own, but in the last week the blitzkrieg has smitten us. London has had five terrible nights, Buckingham Palace hit, St. Paul’s churchyard, north, south, east and west but the worst is east. The East End smashed and banged, the little homes crushed and lost. Untold bravery everywhere. Trixie too, right in it! Terrible raids on Liverpool- incendiaries in Sunnyside Drive. She writes that she faces the nights in green corduroy slacks, Audrey had got wine coloured ditto, and Jan looked ‘darling in blue dittos’. They are the wear now for old and young!
Philip is fairly comfortable housed at a Private Hotel in Welwyn Garden City. He says he’s sleeping pretty quiet.
The Blitzkrieg is right on and we are standing up to it. The RAF are like immortals. The sea is rough and perhaps Hitler will ‘hate der sea’ more than ever when he finds he can’t cross it to smash us.
There has been no rain for months and all gardens and fields are parched and cracked open.
Rumania has succumbed to Germany and Carol fled to Portugal.
Nearly a week since they went and no word from Trixie. But a ‘Town in the north west’ mentioned daily and we know what that means!
Life seems to be on a heroic scale for most, but some of us have for our lives in to an impasse and waiting is the only thing, waiting in eternal anxiety and sorrow. London is having a terrible time, bombs in all the familiar places, Bond St, Piccadilly, Buckingham Palace 3 times, St. Paul’s saved by a miracle and the heroism of engineers.
It seems hopeless to expect Trixie now, and here I am stuck till further notice – letters take 4 days to most places, and we cant get through on the phone.
If I had had foresight I should never have tied up all my money here in the cottage. I should have foreseen the war and foreseen Phillips now sedentary stationary job, so different from anything he has had in the last 20yrs. He sits for the whole week in Welwyn office! He suggests getting a large house at Hitchen, it is all horrid to contemplate, but must be faced up too in the hope that the Lord will mitigate and water down the bitter cup. The cottage was to have been so happy, so enjoyed, and now it is only a shell for me, the flabby snail inside! Why a bomb isn’t directed onto me instead of onto some of gods more useful creatures? Anyhow there are autumn crocuses out, gay flirting things defying the wild winds that are blowing other things to bits.
One cannot but be very conscious of the suffering hearts of even those people in this immune west, every face you see has anxiety peering from its eyes. For myself I would almost welcome something direct and bear the off glancing side long shafts of waiting misery are hard for me to bear alone here. No phone calls or telegrams are taken for civilians.
Trixies voice like a miracle on the phone at 11am this morning, how she managed it I don’t know – joy was dashed however but the news that term has been put forward a fortnight and begins at once and she cannot leave through she was packing to come. I felt shattered all day as I must have been counting on a sight of her. However at 7 tonight there she was again on a call booked sometime ago to say she might be able to come on from a wedding in Cheltenham on the 28th. Spirits rising again !
I found Mrs Preddy very depressed and low and anxious about her belongings in London and those nice grandchildren, Mrs Stoat too, worrying over hers. Last nights raid on London bashed up Bourne and Hollingsworth and dear old John was completely demolished. The raging tearing gale of 100mph did a bit of scattering of the old German invasion barges, Churchill says the danger is not over yet.
I am actually daring to expect Philip on Friday 2pm so I am feeling more lordly tonight.
Sept 24th 40.
Well, he came and his train from London was only half an hour late. In some queer way he came as a stranger – why? I don’t know, unless it is that he has seen such shattering spectacles in London lately and been in the thick of things and feels separated mentally. The weekend was partly happy and the weather partly glorious, at the end I said as he went ”thank you for coming” and he replied as if he really was a visitor “thank you for having me”! I had meant thank you for the great effort and the journey and he answered as if I were Mrs.Braddick entertaining him for a weekend !!
I feel he has done with this phase of our life at the cottage – his interest in it has gone and now once more there is the job of a new house – two more I expect before we come to rest here finally.
The autumn crocuses have been gorgeous, none from Holland this year to add to the number. Oh, I was in the glooms on Sunday, it is so awful to feel London being so wounded and this war on the homes of people is hateful. Even if one is sitting in ones own comfy nest, but the chief reason for such easy weeping and depression is always ones own wretched physical condition and once more my inside was all full of bile and gall getting loose and upsetting everything.
Philip seems to think he will buy a house as a solution to the immediate problem at Welwyn and I offered my £300 war loan to help with purchase money. He was very quick tempered with me, waved his hands about and snarled!
I found a fine horseshoe on the top field and brought it home, hoping it will enclose a spot of luck for my dear ones. Bristol got a heavy daylight raid yesterday and bombers were brought down in Somerset and Severn.
General de Gaulle, that brave fine man, went off to Dakar with some forces and has been shot at by his own people! He went to rally more French strength there but the Germans have got them already under their thumb, so that expedition has failed and de Gaulle has withdrawn the whole thing.
I am having a veritable ‘war of the roses’ with the hedge ramblers, and have torn my hands to bits getting out the old wood – I shant do that again but try clipping in future autumns like an ordinary hedge – I did that with the briars this year and it worked well and looks nice.
A ten year pact has been signed by Germany, Italy and Japan. It has upset America and shaken Washington to the foundations. They may come into the war before the presidential elections. General de Gaulle’s Dakar failure has also upset America – and us!
Yesterdays raids were the biggest for a fortnight – 133 were shot down in the day. Still they come. Philip has had no luck yet in getting a house or rooms. Trixie had said she would come tomorrow for a few days, so I am still hoping.
She arrived the next day (Sun.29th), now she has gone again, but it has been a wonderful strange few days. The weather was fine and dry and Trixie slept very soundly and long hours making up the great shortage caused by endless air-raids. She lay down in her bed and seemed never to move an eyelash for nothing was shifted or creased, and awoke 9 hrs later.
Now she has gone back to the hourly dangers and worries of Liverpool which is now mentioned in the same breath as London for risks and danger from bombs and fires. Welwyn has had hard bombing and it has decided Philip not to risk buying a house. It seems that I must stay on here at the moment, and he must endure the hotel, grim as it is – though better now that there is more sitting-room. I want someone to stay but not to entertain. I have a lot to do at the school, but in the evening I want company and must pray to find some one.
Chris has arrived in Gibraltar, which is a wonderful achievement to have wriggled out of the Gestapo.
The equinoctials are in full swing and Musso and Hitler have met again on the Bremmer to hatch further plans against us. Most people think it will be the attack now on the Mediterranean – Gibraltar one end and Suez the other.
Chamberlain has resigned and gone at last, thank goodness! Churchill has reconstructed the cabinet again. Morrison is Home Secretary with the tragic mess of London to clear up first. They won’t be able to shelve him afterwards.
Since Trixie went there have been lovely spidery dewy mornings and quiet nights here, but London has been showered, banged and cruelly bombed all the time. St. Paul’s has had a direct hit amongst all else.
Marion came in answer to my prayer to be able to help someone. She is a brave young creature of great integrity and how she did love the hills and this place!
I am now preparing to join Philip at Welwyn for a few days. The blitz goes on and on, particularly near Merseyside, alas.
The war is shifting its red-hot centre to the Balkans and it looks as if there will soon be a great flare up there, but Russia sits uneasily on the fence and so Turkey and Greece are in great peril.
Oct. 21st 1940
J. B. Priestly whose postscript broadcasts on Sunday night have been good and exhilarating has been bombarded by vested interests and privilege, and is now stopping his postscripts – Old Baldwin appealed last night eloquently for a good cause and then turned to the announcer, before the mike was switched off, and said in a coarse, hoarse and horrid voice – ‘there; shall I leave the shift with you?” It made a repulsive impression, his change of voice and they always said that face to face you could see he was an actor and presented a false face in his public utterances.
Winston has broadcast to France tonight to try and rouse the spirit there. He appealed to them not to hinder us, if they can’t help us.
A lovely, glorious St. Luke’s summer day – I have been getting ready to go away.
November 7th 1940
Quite a lot has happened since I last wrote. I went away to Welwyn in a spell of awful cold winds, following the warm St. Luke’s summer. We had a queer little dirty flat belonging to an old school master, for a week. Welwyn struck me as a dismal waste of red brick. The product of a few dull minds. We heard of half a house to be let and hurried off to see it. It was advertised as a flat, but proved to be 2 up and 1 down with share of kitchen and bath. A pleasant enough house with a young couple in the other half. It is so hard to get houses that we closed on the spot. We planned to move the furniture right in so left for Birmingham. Travelling with seething crowds, had a hot and heavy spell of raids and fires. It was an uncomfortable time but I got the furniture away and then left for home with a desperate cold and my old tummy performing.
Philip received the stuff that end, and is still waiting for me to join him and move in. So that’s the next thing. He is pleased to be quit of hotel evenings and no wonder. What it will be like to share a house with complete strangers, I can’t think, but hope for the best.
Since I wrote, Italy has flown at Greece and attacked furiously and we are giving help. Roosevelt has been re-elected President of the USA thank heaven! So we may hope for a continuity of ‘help to Britain’ from them. Chris is home after his adventures, prisons and gaols, and Sir Samuel Hoare intervening, finally. The blitz goes on very violently at times on London, Liverpool and the Midlands, we all long for a bit of real success, and we all dread the winter. James came to see us at Welwyn and I went to St. Alban’s to see Bob and meet Tina. Here I have had a week of peaceful nights and mostly housebound days with heavy cold and awful wet weather. No-one who has not seen the destruction at first hand can have any idea of what it really looks like. Pictures give you only a faint inkling.
I went, just a month ago to the half-house at Welwyn. I went on a soaking day, the usual smoking chimneys and raw look of new rooms was most repellent. When my cold finally left me and the curtains and household goods had been tweaked about by me and an electric fire installed as a second string for heating, I could see that it was a good thing to have snapped at it.
Hair in the bath, long henna red! And bits of sponge (other peoples) in the basin waste pipe and cooking in public in front of the cutie and her mother and son, take a bit of getting used too, but how adaptable we are in war time!
I began plying Philip with fish oil – in capsules, and got a 2-times a week, silent Welsh girl to help chase the dust. Philip did the blackout and got the stuff into place before I got there. He is being full of R.C.A. more than ever – it fills his entire life and he asks nothing else as far as I can see – in a month, I never saw him touch a book!
Bombs have been the feature of this last month – Coventry, Southampton, Leicester, Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool have all had fearful blitzes as well as London. We have all had hideous experience of land mines – the worst of the lot.
The great epic of Greek valour is the heartening thing – true to the grand tradition of old.
Mussolini’s best soldiers are being sacked – is it the beginning of a rift in Fascism?
In spite of everything, there are renewed threats of invasion and uncanny aerial quiet. After the recent blitzes and difficulties of food, sinking of great numbers of our merchant ships, blocked transport and all the rest. Christmas is gathering momentum and there is the ‘spirit’ beginning to get about. Philip had planned to stay in Welwyn until Boxing Day, but has now wired, phoned and written that he has decided to come tomorrow the 20th, which cheers things up for me.
The war in Egypt and the desert is in full spate. The Army are doing wonders and the Italians are hating their war and hardly trying at all, surrenders are very large, by thousands and there seems to be real discontent in Italy, not to say rifts in the Fascist lute, at last. The Greeks have been putting up the most epic fight, chasing the wops over their mountains and on through Albania, and perhaps they will rid that little land that was collared by Mussolini on good Friday 2 yrs ago of their invaders.
The weather seems to be awful, blizzards and horrors like the Finns had last year, but the Greeks fight with brains and pep and evidently the Albanians are helping them.
Quote: GREECE 1940
Greece, undismayed, in ages gone
Saved the worlds soul at Marathon
A darkness greater that before
Seeks to eclipse the world once more;
So Greece, in fearless, swift disdain,
Strikes for the soul of man again.
It has been a wonderfully peaceful fortnight here – grand sunrises, sunsets and moonlit nights, which are mostly unseen though, worst luck, because of the black-out. It is grand to do bits of gardening, leaf sweeping etc and then to rush in from the winter afternoon and hear Myra Hess playing divinely in a Beethoven Concerto, then out again, with clay on feet, to do a bit more. That’s the sort of thing I like, beyond everything.
Bill and Trixie are staying in Liverpool. The land mine that missed them has given Trix much work – visiting Czechs in prison, because her friend was battered and in hospital.
Mushroom Lane in Sheffield caught it and Jenny has her house damaged. Poor old Clara was killed in the terrific Sheffield raid that happened about 10 nights ago.
Christmas is over and it has been unexpectedly peaceful all over the country. Something frightful was expected and double watch was kept all round the coasts over the festival. Liverpool and Manchester were selected for the most dire blitzes on the three nights of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd. By Monday the 23rd I was distracted with anxiety, then it was such a relief as Trixie got through on the phone in the afternoon and said they were all alright and that they had not actually been so shaken or damaged as in the preceding blitz. Also that they had a place to flee too, a cottage at Park Gate, if it became too desperate. I was so greatly cheered and relieved. Then the surprise of “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” being observed by them - and by US !
London spent Christmas in shelters and dug-outs but celebrated in spite of that. We are still expecting an attack on us here but we also expect Bardia (Calvena) to fall to us. The siege is going on now and the Italians are getting hemmed in there. Churchill made one of his Rousers to the Empire about “one man, and one man only” meaning in this case Mussolini who had dragged in the troops to their hopeless war. The King made a Christmas speech too, mostly to children everywhere, and a feature of the Christmas programmes has been the overseas evacuated children talking to home. Very moving that!
Philip has had one of his usual colds so we have not been out much. Our usual Christmas evening party was a success and their turkey, small, Irish, was excellent, also a tiny plum pudding, and apart from oranges, nuts, sweets, chocs and butter, everyone has had lots of everything this year. It is absolutely wonderful when one thinks of the long, long line our Navy and Merchant men have to string out too. Even cards too – plenty of them, nearly as many as usual in the end and Lieschen’s “vereiste keks” made by herself as usual, arrived with Trixies lovely presents and together gave me great happiness. It would have been awful not to know for certain where Lieschen is - and a matter for rejoicing indeed that at least we left one little German refugee family intact – whatever the motive!
Dec. 30th 1940
Philip went back to Welwyn today and another Christmas is really over. He didn’t work much, better for his rest and he had a rotten cold which makes him always dour and morose. But we shall peg on down the years I suppose looking at each other with querying distaste at times! He is at his best in his office these days.
The peace of Christmas was used by the German Luftwaffe to prepare the most hideous raid on London – thousands of incendiaries were hurled on the city last night in a huge attempt to burn the heart of London right out – and they jolly well nearly have done so!
Roosevelt has made a very rallying speech to America. The first since the presidential election, and told the Americans they simply must work and supply us with everything. He believes we shall win !
Lord Halifax is going there as the new ambassador in place of Lord Lothian who died about a fortnight ago – of overwork. He was a good ambassador.
I am waiting now to see if Trixie is able to come here for a few days and to clear up the quarterly school matters and parties – then to Welwyn.
Quote from newspaper inserted here:
“I saw the morning break”
The following poem by the late Sir Owen Seaman, which formed the close of the first speech made by the late Marquess of Lothian after taking up duties as Ambassador in Washington last year, was sung at the memorial service to Lord Lothian at Westminster Abbey yesterday. It was set to music by Dr. Ernest Bullock.
You who have faith to look with fearless eyes
Beyond the tragedy of the world at strife
and trust that out of night and death shall rise
The dawn of ampler life:
Rejoice, whatever anguish rend your heart
That God has given you, for a priceless dower,
To live in these great times and have your part
In freedoms crowning hour;
That you may tell your sons who see the light
high in the heaven, their heritage to take:
”I saw the powers of darkness put to flight!
I saw the morning break!”
The year ended in London with one of the most gruelling fire raids and St.Paul’s was only just saved as the city was a ring of fire! Hundreds of lives lost.!
A veterans prayer
Feet that have borne me for uncounted miles
O’er marsh and mountain, smiling strong and brave,
be not too feeble, now that nothing smiles
to bear me half-a-furlong toward the grave.
new years day 1941
I woke to snow-light in the first hours of this year. A powdering lay on the hills and fields and the temperature began to fall. Icicles again hang like a little shawl fringe from the thatch – not yet as long and fat as last year’s but the wind is due east and it looks as if snow is piled up in the sky.
I have worried about Philip in this new bout of chill weather. 1940 ended for me rather oddly with my hand in a French woman’s hand at the social, she sang Auld Lang Syne with us. Perhaps it is a portent for me that France will be lifted out of misery by us. There is invasion talk on all sides also lots of confidence rolling about. Not complacency now, but something more active. At the do last night the attractive figures of the young Home Guards, Johnny Davis, Bob and others no older, boys who were wriggling in their school desks so short a while ago are now looking as if they were longing to do some active defending of the beach and hills.
I throw a little good stuff on my allotment daily and the top soil is already breaking with the frost.
Today I heard from Norah Carr that she and Cecil were torpedoed in mid Atlantic, on their way home from the USA and then rescued by a tiny merchant ship, by a miracle, from the stormy sea in an open boat.
January 13th 1941
I am nearing the end of my time here and go on the 15th to Welwyn – Philip will be away all the next weekends, but food is so difficult that I feel I must go and help him through the midweeks, loath as I am to leave here.
The earth is turning, moving, and once or twice I have smelt the spring definitely on the wind. My dear little wireless is such a boon by my bed. I have had many happy listenings up there in these weeks.
The terrible fire blitzes go on and on. London, Weston-super-Mare and Portsmouth are the latest to be pounded. It is all so inconclusive and apart from “sticking it” and trying to prevent fires, it is difficult to see how progress is being made in this part of the war.
Africa, on the other hand, is a great and glorious victory!
FEB. 14TH 1941 VALENTINES
There was snow falling all the time at Welwyn – really foul weather of dirty slush and lots of mist. I couldn’t get any help at all and after Karen went to the RAF her parents came ……..- a shadowy, dirty old man like a Bronte ghost who creeps about – and her mother who takes her eye out at night and spreads herself all over “our” kitchen, till I told her we were paying a stiff price for the use of it – the vile hole! It is pretty deadly there with Philip away, which is most of the time. I don’t trust the plausible Mrs Kicks. She owned up to emptying the chambers down our basin – OUR BASIN, where we wash out faces!! After that, one can believe anything. Philip suspected it and we caught her!
During this month I have merely domesticated and been to London twice to see Lieschen .
There has been a lull of about three weeks in the blitz – very ominous and all this moon has been unused by Jerry, except for very isolated doings. Attention has been concentrated on the Aussies in Africa who have done deeds of glory, dashed hundreds of miles, taken thousands of prisoners and swept all before them – sickening for the old Duce! [Note: Duce. Title bestowed on the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini by his followers and later adopted as his official title] who is a pricked balloon!
Haile Selassie is back in Abyssinia and will soon be enthroned again. All this has hitched Hitler’s plans up possibly but an invasion here is definitely expected in a few weeks.
Crocuses and snowdrops out in the garden and perhaps Trixie is coming next week – Oh glory!
Sunday Feb 16th 1941
This was to have been snowdrop valley Sunday, but a relentless cold rain poured down and I seemed to be harbouring the prevalent flu bug in my head, so I have stayed beside the fire all day and imbibed the usual pints of barley water. Philip is at Preston on his wretched cold monthly executive meeting – such a journey for such a thing! These are the sort of inconveniences Hitler’s villainies impose on ordinary men in their work.
George Ridley has had a stroke from high blood pressure, and his appearance shocked the stolid Philip severely this week. Ridley has gone at life too hard and being M.P. with R.C.A. work seems just too much for a man. It finished Simpson and poor Ridley feels he is finished too.
A most complicated situation is boiling up in the Balkans – Rumania and Bulgaria are crumpling under the Axis wheel, but it is hoped that Yugoslavia and Turkey are going to stand firm. Hitler now wants to crash in on Greece and the Dardanelles and engage us heavily there. It looks as if soon we shall whirl into events as rapidly as last spring. It is expected soon that a very deadly peril awaits our food and shipping in the Atlantic. Churchill gave the nation one of his most glorious speeches a week ago tonight – his confidence is catching. Wendell Wilkie and Harry Hopkins have gone back to Roosevelt to urge “give us the tools and we will finish the job” as Churchill ends his speech.
Feb 26th 41 – Ash Wednesday
This is a red letter entry! Trix came on 21st and before we got to the cottage she murmured the good news, that a babe is expected in September – she has been tested for it and it is positive! This glad news bearing on our personal lives gives me, at any rate, the renewed zest for life and a focus point for love and energy that I so longed for and Trix has been so patient and faithful. Her crowning experience will bring her, of all people, well deserved joy. It is lovely to be able to shove the war a bit aside in this family hope. I run round the cottage and think the little place may be useful and loved yet by her child and know that its building in this little field was justified.
Trixie went home yesterday in a packed train – the blitz rages again tonight and I can’t get through on the phone – oh may the good God preserve her and this new life from all the hideous dangers of the moment.
Germany hasn’t yet taken the final step of annexing Bulgaria but it is all on the eve of happening – damn him! The winter goes on and on and another fall of snow came on Saturday and still lies on the hills.
March 4th 1941
Lovely spring days and starry moonlit nights are a terrible contrast to nightly fires and gunfire, the booming is coming across the water from Cardiff, flares hanging in the sky and the whole horrible paraphernalia of night warfare. It goes on every night.
We have broken off diplomatic relations with Bulgaria. The asses have signed themselves into the axis – so will probably get involved in battlefields on their ground – Turkey is sitting on the fence and Hitler is trying to coax the Turks down on his side – pity Kemal Pasha isn’t here to plump down on our side. Stalin is disgusted with Bulgaria and the whole Balkan hotch potch is only waiting to blow up violently.
Gallie, the General Secretary, R.C.A. has been here for the weekend and said it was next best to Scotland. Philip was very well, sprightly and gay at the weekend.
March 16th 1941 Sunday
The glass has been rising slowly while the weather got colder and wetter – more snowy and misty, but at least it seems as if the real spring has come, flowers are opening! Perfect invasion weather!! High tides!! Will he ever do it??? Churchill’s invasion pamphlet comes out shortly but Hitler is so embroiled in the Balkans that some folks think he can’t tackle it. Anyhow, night raids are frightful again and there is a concentrated attack on all our shipping starting with hordes of new U-boats. Roosevelt has got his land-lease through and American stuff is supposed to pour across the Atlantic from now on. I am off to Liverpool and then to Welwyn and hope to get back before things happen.
April 4th 1941
I came back 2 days ago with a load of sorrow in my heart. This is Trixies fifth wedding day and the joy we all shared over her promise of a summer baby has been dashed.
On my arrival at Liverpool, Bill darted forward to prepare me that Trix had been put to bed with a threatened miscarriage and severe flu – Poor little thing. She had an awful time and stayed there ten days. On Sunday night the climax came, then a nurse came and convalescence went on slowly.
It is such terrible bad luck and comes with the break up of their home and Bill being swept into the Army. I suppose the three awful blitzes in March and the chill plus the shock of Bill being called to go at once (which he didn’t) all brought it on at the critical time of three months.
I got so dead tired and didn’t sleep much owing to the row the soldiers made that when I got to Welwyn I was like a doped idiot and Philip gave me meals out. Now I am back home I am worried again about Trixie’s future, but it seems as if things will, in their inscrutable way, straighten out and that she may get a cottage near her friend at Over Stowey – that would make me very happy!
The war is entering another phase, there is an awful feeling of length creeping in – years and years and years of it, and a very definite shortage of food for stock. Alas –
Monday April 7th 1941
In the early dawn yesterday, (as usual, these monstrous deeds take place on a Sunday) Germany declared war on Yugoslavia and Greece, announcing the intention of fighting against us, the British, on Greek soil. It is a year all but 3 days since the Norwegian rape and nightmare started. One hears a lot of silly optimism still about Hitler’s cold feet. My own opinion is that this will be very touch and go, a crucial moment for us. He is committing on another Dunkirk very confidently.
The budget is out – Income tax goes to 10/-……I gave up smoking (thank goodness) for Lent and shan’t begin again.
The foul Nazis are exalting on the air tonight and drowning all other sounds on the ether, as they always do. When they “march” – blast them all, they are a completely impossible nation and one always knew it in one’s inner most mind, even though one stuck up for them.
It is a cold, cold wet spring, but thank God, so far we have some coal and warm clothes. The Wilkinson’s only son is lost flying in the North Sea and Ken Bright has a new son, Michael – so it goes on with sons every generation – come and go, but go so young!
Wednesday April 9th 1941
Look back to exactly a year ago and, except that the weather is more awful, if possible., it is a repetition of the German spring blitz, only down in the S.E. corner of England. They have banged their way through the so-called impossible and are already in Salonika. Complacency reigns here – “all for the best - They know what they’re doing, etc etc” , but it looks like a second Dunkirk being aimed at by Hitler in the Dardanelles – to our poor little B.E.F. there.
I have been home here a week, - bitterly cold all the time but I thrust the early potatoes into the ground today to grow with the waxing moon in the cold earth.
There is a most grim silence from Trixie, I worry and worry – is she ill again? Is she nearly dotty with Bill’s nerves and moods? She says he is “haunted”. I know that he is so egotistical and imbalanced that I bet he is just wearing her down with his uncertainties, and she is so weak still.
Really, as I garden and think over that tragic miscarriage, I feel it is the most pathetic thing I have yet met as a close up. Five years frustration of her own desires, five years of dull service to him, and he is bone selfish and jealous of her still. It is a week since they are supposed to have wired to Miss Davis about taking the cottage but no one seems to have heard a word since. I wonder if Bill is jibbing or what – I even feel at times he might make a suicide pact! He is so upset and rattled over his change of work, or prospective change.
This is a regular grouse, but things look very black indeed for us, and as one can say nothing to anyone at all that sounds of criticism or doubt, it is well to outpour into these harmless pages!
April 24th 41
Another government has gone, the Greek King and govt. to Crete, following the Yugoslav young King Paul to Jerusalem (the Greek king and government subsequently escaped to S.Africa)
April 29th 41
We have had a week of very wretched sad news – the chief being that we have been again whacked by the German armies pouring through Greece in masses of tanks and all sorts of steel and iron things on wheels. They swept all before them and are now in Athens with the swastika flying on the Acropolis. Our B.E.F. was half Anzacs and half British troops and they have been evacuated; what in, we haven’t heard, but out of a hell just like France last year and will have awful losses. There has been a lot of unrest and talk about it all, the German propaganda machine has done its absolute damndest to get Australia and New Zealand mad with us for going to help Greece with their troops. Churchill remains calm, but sounded a bit subdued on Sunday. What we all implore and pray for is for America to realise that if they are going to help us and save the situation it must be prompt, and all out and NOW! Turn back to May 1st, last year – we seem to have learnt nothing.
I am going to Welwyn tomorrow, the garden is at its most flowery and I am carting up a sheaf of flowers and bits of balsam poplar to cheer us. Spring is here, but so cold and late. On Sunday we dash another hour off the morning time and shall be getting up at 6 in the chill dawn – 2hrs of “summer time” instead of one.
Trixie has got her move in hand and, I hope, will have got here by the end of this month. Raids are every night on some unhappy town. Plymouth has been the last victim for four nights running, at least. We seem further off the end of the war than ever. No sign of a crack anywhere, only German victories.
June 6th 1941
It is rather idiotic to keep a journal and leave such long gaps when so much is happening day by day, almost hour by hour.
It is six weeks since I wrote and although I only intended staying at Welwyn for the first fortnight of May, I was there for a month as Philip had another of his bronchial breakdowns just as I was coming home. He ran the usual temperature, had the doctor and had to “steam” several times a day. It was an awful job nursing him in that house; the kitchen, particularly at breakfast time, is beset with toast-scraping, humming females – though humming is one of life’s lesser trials.
I found running up and down those steep stairs very laming and finally I conked out in the left hip altogether and had to shop by taxi and take to a nursense (a home-based wireless sensor monitoring system). Miss Corselles gradually got rid of the worst pain for me, the whole treatment did me lots of good and I was an ass not to have it sooner.
All the time we were in Welwyn our nights were quietish, but raging raids went on in Liverpool and Plymouth. Bill and Trixie had 8 nights in succession and on a Friday night a land mine and several bombs dropped round their house and they had to leave early on the Saturday morning and go to Joneses who took them in for over a fortnight. I did not get news of this for a week, when I did hear Trix wrote in happiness and confidence or so it seemed. Of course she was thrilled, in spite of all inconvenience sorrow or shatteration, to be staying with himself! One result of that raid was the loss of the records about their move, as the L.M.S. offices were gutted, so everything looked like being held up or indefinitely postponed. During that May, full moon too, London had another huge raid on the scale of the earlier ones and the House of Commons was burnt out amongst other important places. Members moved across to Central Hall and all went on calmly but lots of historic things went up in those flames in the House. Big Ben got a hit in the face, but did not stop. The Abbey was badly holed. The morning after showed streets of splintered glass, once more, and showering ash.
June 7th 41
During May another hour was knocked off the night and we now get up at 5.30am if we stagger out of bed at 7.30 ! The mornings are cold and my goodness, this is a late cold spring – nearly every morning at Welwyn during May there was frost on the grass outside. When we returned to the cottage the garden had run riot, despite the cold, though flowers are backwards, weeds are forward and the path merged into hay.
June 14th 41
I never catch up on the month of May, during which so much happened. The chief headline of the month, after the awful London Blitz, was the arrival by air in Scotland of the Fuhrer’s pet organiser and murderer, Rudolf Hess. He flew alone, and we have put him somewhere near Aldershot. We haven’t had any official information as to why he came. Churchill hasn’t uttered and so we are left to think what we can. Perhaps he came on a peace mission, or maybe to save his own skin in an impending purge. Anyhow funny doings are going on now with Russia, and Hess hates Russia and Bolshevism and dreads the Bolshevisation of Europe above everything.
During May, our great battleship, Hood, was hit amidships, blew up and sank with only 3 men saved. Then we chased the Bismarck who did the deed and fired the”lucky shot”. After a stampeding chase down the Atlantic to 500 miles off lands end – we sank the “unsinkable” darling of the German navy herself, so new, so unsinkable…
Then clothes rationing came in and the Kaiser died, among other public happenings.
June 18th 41
Summer really has come now, we have had some flaming June days, very long and sunny and very short nights. It is still broad daylight at 11pm and you go on gardening and never notice the time – the news a 9, supper, and all get passed over, then suddenly you discover its is 10.30!
The month of May in this garden has never been caught up, it missed me and all the weeds of every rank sort got right down into the clay and shot up 2ft high. At last I have got a bonfire going with all the muck. At last the roses are coming out and the new gold Easterman is about to bloom. The standards are really beginning to do their stuff this year after being well sprayed. Peonies are on the burst at last too. The irises have been lovely, but the roses are my heart’s love.
So the war has been a good deal in the background of my days just lately and tomatoes, potatoes, sprouts and whatnot have moved in to the foreground. But oh, how tired the old back gets with the weeding.
They now say the war is going to be even longer and more terrible than anything we have hitherto had or expected. It certainly looks pretty hopeless. Hitler seems on the verge of getting a complete bloodless conquest of Russia. Stalin is going to bow the knee. Perhaps that is why Hess came here. Many think he came to warn us. He hates Russia.
We seem to be pounding Germany at night now pretty hard, while we are having a most definite surprising lull. Syria is the latest field of war and all the Bible names are to the fore. Tyre and Sidon, Damascus and all. We are fighting the Vichy French and the Germans with the help of the Free French and it is all very complicated especially as we don’t want to smash up the old historic Bible places, yet we want to save the oil.
There have been searching debates and inquests on our awful defeat on Crete which happened at the end of May. No one attempted to justify the fatal lack of air support there and the truly awful way we left the aerodromes intact for the Germans to use. We had been there seven months and were chased out and had to evacuate under the most harrowing circumstances of heavy continuous bombing, in 10 days. It was a real blow to the people here, and to the Dominions.
23rd June 41
Summer at last, really heavenly weather of roses and June glory with hay being cut. I am off tomorrow to Welwyn to keep our 22nd wedding anniversary with Philip. It is not so good to be rushing away just as the real weather gets in, but in these uncertain days it is well to keep in family touch on family occasions – so I am darting up for a week.
Yesterday morning, Sunday, a statement again of Nazi disgustingness was announced with Russia being invaded by the German armies at 5am. Churchill spoke at night and said “we are going to give all aid to the Russians” This is a very confusing situation and will put the communists and pro Hitler fellows here into a quandary to adjust themselves Churchill has always loathed communism but feels it is anyhow better than Nazism! But he will have the city grousing, I guess. Hitler is after the oil at Baku and more food before he tackles us and the Russians are anyhow now standing firm and are going to fight says Molotov – but who trusts Stalin? Turkey has signed away her freedom in one of the silly pacts with Germany and will be invaded when Hitler needs a passage through. It is all becoming too gigantic and monstrous to envisage – so, perhaps, too big for even the German armies to cope with. The armies of Russia are large but have a knack of being disappointing. This sudden promise is what Hess knows, I suppose, and it came as no great surprise to our government which recently called home Stafford Cripps from Moscow and sent Winant [John Gilbert Winant, American Ambassador] to Washington to report, and gathered all the exiled governments in London to a conference last week at St James Palace. The last exiled king to arrive here is King Peter aged 18 of Jugoslavia [spelt this way all through journal]. The Greek king has gone to S. Africa. Quelle Histoire!
July 3rd 1941
Now we are in the blazing height of hot summer days. Misty sunshine from morning till night and I have been in Welwyn for the last week of June. Even there it was golden summer with roses, elder flowers, sandals, shorts and cotton frocks like flower beds everywhere. So that the place became less villa-ish than in winter.
Yesterday, Trixie brought her difficult team of two over to see the cottage, to bathe and laze. The boy Chester has taken his doctorate and now goes into the Army. He is the light of Trix’s eye and her passion for him is as yet unabated. He certainly is a human sentient piece of male beauty and the greatest contrast to the spiteful fishbone she married – poor child. Five years of Bill has proved more than enough – he had her love, her money, her youth, her time and brains and all the mothering his awful inverted mother fixation has needed – and what has he given her? Precisely one thing - a little mental stimulation and a little amusement. She has always said he isn’t cruel – yesterday his cruelty was of the refined repair sort, I observed it all day. I could gladly have hit him with the tent mallet!
He crammed in his unattractive personage, so that on no one occasion could Trixie be near Chester.
Well if one needs the early history of her determination to marry her scrooge, one can but realise that she was warned by Mamma! You have been warned!! After all it means nowt in affairs of this sort, and the poor child now says she must and will be alone to find her way again through the triangular triangle that enmeshes her. Another pregnancy and months of quiet from vampire Bill might set her life on a new basis. A bit of army life may drill a few holes in his smug selfishness. How I dislike his face and temperament!
Russia. The 170 German army divisions are pouring into Russia, and three provinces are already swamped.
We saw Bob at Welwyn and he, like everyone else, declares that if Russia can’t hold the German army, the finish up there will be swift, and the invasion and whole scale bombardment of us will be next. It is queer to turn to the first page of this journal and read of the pact that so astonished everyone on August 24th 1939 and then now to listen to Stalin and Churchill with their backs to their respective walls.
July 11th 41
We are in the 4th week of a wonderful spell of sunshine. Hay, roses, scents of all kinds, warm days and no darkness except a scrap after midnight. To all the other scents have now come tobacco flowers, which so sweetly and generously come up every year on their own to compliment all my honeysuckle, briars and verbena.
Sunday July 13th 41
The skies have clouded a bit and we have had some heavy rain.
Another Sunday sensation! It was announced at 10 o’clock that a political announcement would be made at 2 o’clock. What could it be, other than something to do with Russia. - Yes! A real agreement signed with the Soviets! Stafford Cripps and Molotov signed yesterday in Moscow. This is a very important thing for our Labour party, though wary of communism, the Labour party has always urged a rapprochement, and now, a Tory Prime Minister has made the great step. Whither is he leading his backward sheep? There will be a great deal of confusion but the plain fact that no Tory can deny, is that anyone who fights against Hitler is fighting for democracy – Roosevelt grasped that at once.
Paderewski is another of the lordly ones who have died during this summer working till the last for Poland in America. Hugh Walpole too in a lesser constellation. Note:Paderewski became ill during a mission to the United States while requesting additional support for Poland against Hitler's Nazi invaders. He died in New York City on June 29, 1941, and his body was interred in Arlington Cemetery, near Washington D.C.
It was Paderewski's wish to be reburied in Poland when his homeland was again free. This wish became a reality on June 28, 1992, when his body was returned to Poland and laid to final rest with full honors from the American and free Polish government.]
August 4th 1941- Bank Holiday, and very wet.
The holiday is being observed and though people were asked not to travel, they have done so, and until this day the weather was glorious.
I have imported a Ranyard nurse who needs a country pickup. She is dull and pale and, no doubt, good at her job. She fractured her head in a bike accident; she is already a lot better after only two days here.
It is 27yrs today since the other war started and Edmund Lewis pressed a large junk of cheese on me at Waterloo, with which to stay the hunger, as our provisions had suddenly run short.
For the first time, all the top dogs in the U.S.A. and here, are saying that we are “beginning to win this war”. Certainly Germany is beginning to feel the weight of our governments and they are not liking the Russian armies at all.
Russia has ceased to be a cherry orchard and is giving the Nazis a hot time, but all is not sure there. They may yet get the Ukraine and the wheat they need. We have, at least, another six months of tension ourselves - Six weeks at least till we see how Russia holds up. Russian occupied Poland and Russia have chummed up again and buried the hatchet. A Polish army is now fighting with the Soviets. So, as I mentioned in this journal on Sept. 24th 1939, it was a good thing that Russia snapped up half of Poland before Germany could get the whole place. Oh how cruel it all sounds! MEN! Could anyone in their senses imagine women going on about other peoples homes like this if they had the shaping of foreign policy.
Thursday, August 7th 41
The summer weather is horribly broken still and every day we see the roses and other flowers beating and waving about in a furious wind. I am confronted daily with great masses of straw in the drive – which is blowing down constantly from the hole in the roof. Now also, the ridge of the garage thatch is rapidly being pulled off by a tree tearing back and forth in a gale. I write and beg the thatcher to come – he says, yes, gives a date, and comes not. I suppose Bill would say, “practise non-attachment” but it is a poor idea to me where expensive property is concerned and where, as in this case, the property is for someone else, after my time.
The war rages on in Russia and people say a lot about the whole thing ending this autumn! Not a chance or a possibility in my opinion! Germany has vast schemes yet in Africa and they still have to smack at us again.
Quentin Reynolds is the star American broadcaster and he has given two broadcasts to Goebbels “the good doctor” and the Fuhrer “Mr Schuckelgruber”, which have been really brilliantly amusing and subtle, ending with “really Mr S. really” in an inimitable tone of voice.
Otherwise, things are flagging a bit, Americans keep going off the boil, chiefly they distrust us about India, and no wonder.
We now get no eggs at all. Woolton rationed them and we have had none for three weeks – in the heart of the country too!
August 21st 41
A week ago today the 14th Aug. a solemn announcement was broadcast that the Government had an important declaration to make at 3pm. By 3pm everyone was keyed up, ears were glued to the wireless all over England. Thoughts of invasion here, landings there, gas, deaths of the high and mighty, all chased each other through our minds.
The announcement was to be made by Attlee, “deputy prime minister” (the first time he has been called that!) so speculation about Winston’s health and whereabouts added to the tension. And where was he? On the high seas – he was away meeting with Roosevelt, they were together in the Atlantic on a destroyer and had framed a charter of our New Order. Jolly good too! Eight clauses! The Atlantic Charter, it will be called. It’s a nasty blow to the Nazis to feel these two leaders can dash out into the ocean and meet and enjoy themselves in spite of the U-boats.
Winston is home again now – they didn’t get him, but must have tried pretty hard. Russia is having a frightful time, terrific pressure all over the place, the Germans getting back in the Ukraine to the big river and blowing up dams, factories and all else as they go. The Nazi thrusts lose none of their pep. They manage, so amazingly, to cart food, water and whatnot with them.
I am alone this week here, so can really push along at the garden, when the weather allows. It is very stormy, a thoroughly beastly August for weather, and of course, the farmers have really got a grouse with all the corn standing.
August 22nd 41 - THATCH
This week has been a real beauty week for the cottage. The thatcher arrived at last and with incredible rapidity leapt to the roof and tore off the bad old broken ridge. A new ridge appeared on garage and cottage porch, - eyebrows were lifted and a general shave and brush-up was effected all round. This hairdressing ought to last the cottage at least 5yrs and I hope for 8 or 10, but it is up to the birds now.
This week the Odeon at Bridgwater burst upon us with a pre-release film after weeks of tripe, “Emma, Lady Hamilton” and Laurence Olivier as Nelson – unforgettable as the little untidy, scowling, smiling chap.
I took Trixie and Bill and we had a family lunch at Maynard’s, which was crammed to the walls for market day. Trixie has lost so much gaiety these last months, she never laughs spontaneously now, she is wholly absorbed in “keeping Bill good and happy” like a tiresome schoolboy, only you would cuff a boy, and say SHUT UP! Darling darling Trixie, what a possibility she had within her of raptures. She was much moved by the Nelson film, her broken love is weighing her down, and only a baby, I am sure can give her peace and assurance again. That miscarriage was a bit of Menninger on Bill’s part – I see now, having read Menninger, that he went away and left her in those critical nights and that critical week in March, having made no provision at all for fire watching in his place, or taking her away to stay with a friend or getting a friend there to her – because in his subconscious, he did not want that baby, he thought he did, but his subconscious knows that once Trixie has a baby, he will whine and tease and badger her with less effect – he will come second, in fact, or anyhow will have to share her attention, if she lives. [these may be references to Karl Menninger, a prominent psychiatrist of the 1930s and ‘40s]
Hell, he will never know, till after I am dead, how I scorn and despise him. Not only his character, but now at any rate his intellect too.
Sept 16th 41
I am supremely enjoying the garden this week, the days are passing in a long soft blaze of September sunshine, perhaps the best of all the year. The ripening tomatoes smell good: the reaping machines are still buzzing a field or two away. The potatoes I dig up are so clean and golden and come bobbing up out of the clay in this dry weather so that one can hardly believe the great clusters all come from the one seedy little brown wretch put in, in the cold spring.
I came back from Welwyn last week and found that Trixie had not stirred from her cottage beyond the orchard since I went away. This is a very bad sign, her general feeling of illness and lassitude made them get a doctor to her. He is making tests but has given no diagnosis. With horror, I realize that all these shocks and the long, long nervous strain of her incomplete married life, followed by the passionate love and the disappointment and shock of the miscarriage, followed by the departure and presumably the going out of her life of the loved one, have all produced the shocked condition I was always so warned against and tried to protect her from. These psychological shocks have been, of course, reinforced by countless physical shocks and overwork and underfeeding caused by the war, also the great difficulty of feeding Bill all the time, four times a day, miles from a shop! I await the doctor’s news and hope for the best.
Peter took me to Edinburgh as a birthday present for the Trade Union Congress. We stayed at the North British Hotel. It was a great change and a marvelous tonic to leap so far from the well-worn track to Welwyn. Impressions that remain are of the flower planted Prince’s gardens in the sunshine. Shelters covered with flowers, block houses decorated with painted vases. Lordly creatures in kilts, very pretty girls, heaps of Poles and heaps of T.U.C delegates – a great many bald heads, but also a good lot of youngsters. Walter Citrine made a very good impression on me; he must have a strong character.
The journey back to London was the most packed I ever made, at home or abroad.
The Shah of Persia has hopped it – abdicated yesterday – which is a great relief to us and the Russians. He was hiding Nazis and trying to cheat us all round. The really terrible thing at the moment is the battle of Leningrad. They are having it this September as London did last year, only in addition to bombs of all kinds from above, they have got the Germans all round them. It is a breathless and awful tussle; the world is anxious.
Today I am giving a blood transfusion at the village hall with the neighbors. Last night we got a fire watching scheme worked out for this scattered area. If we don’t get other colossal attacks this autumn we are going to get them in the spring, surely.
Sept 23rd 41
I have been worried about Trixie’s strange prolonged ill health and this evening she rang up to say that the doctor has diagnosed an infection in the right kidney – bad enough, poor darling. She has struggled on against it for weeks. Bill went away to Liverpool 2 days ago so now at last, she can relax a little and live her own life at her own pace. It is all she asks at the moment but there is a good deal of rubber-necking and nosey-parkering and arranging for other, going on round her. They all want freezing off as it is quite obvious to all but the congenitally blind that there are masses of girls and women fit and able to go and turn lathes and sew balloons, without Trixie being worried.
The weather is lovely, misty early and then warm and sunny. All the worries of life, they do press heavily at times, with this life and death struggle going on in Russia and the agony of the democracies not being able yet to help adequately. All worries I say, fall away in the effort of breaking up this untoward clay soil and hammering some new plants in!
Philip is coming in two days for a week’s holiday.
The blood transfusion service at the village hall was very well run by the Army. It was transformed by the neat beds, stretchers, Nurses, Doctors and Orderlies in a marvelous way. Cups of tea were dealt out to us and we reclined on stretchers in the billiard room till we had recovered our balance. I believe that about 70 people turned up and only a few collapsed – mostly men – queer fellows! I felt deadly sleepy and weak in the legs at intervals for a day or so, but no other bad effect.
There is a great wave of pro-Russian feeling sweeping us, we are now squaring the triangle in fact, as in the early post revolution play it is forecast that we should. Beaverbrook, Harrison and Walter Monkton are hob-nobbing with Molotov and comrade Joe Stalin and all finding each other very congenial workers.
The long lull in air raids over our cities continues and except for a few raids every night down the east coast and on Scotland, we are left in peace. Although it is not to be expected that the German Luftwaffe have done with us, though many people appear to think so and lots of children are back in the cities. You bet that Hitler is keeping back his pick of men and bombs to deal out some more death later on! This is good invasion weather – foggy moonlit, high tides and quiet seas, but it looks now as if we shall have to wait for the spring for them to try it.
Trina is actually feeling safe enough to come away and stay with us for the first time during the war.
Trina came and we had a really active week together with lovely autumn weather, blackberries like plums growing on the hedge opposite, delighted her. She is a marvelous octogenarian and slept well, lost her screws and was always up to everything. It was good to have her here once more, and may it not be the last visit.
Bill has been in Liverpool in digs and has now had another London interview to be followed by a week at the cottage. So tomorrow I shall hear if he goes straight into the Army.
The desperate battle for Moscow is raging, literally raging! The dead on both sides must be astronomical by now, but the Germans press on and on and never seem to be short of tanks, planes or cannon fodder. Every news makes one hold ones breathe, but so far Moscow has not fallen. The government has gone east and it looks as if we must be prepared for a long siege of the city – and Oh, how it is borne in on us that it really will be our turn to meet the hordes on these coasts next year. It is inescapable in my opinion.
Oct 21st 41
Even after a terrific gale the leaves are as thick and green on the trees as in July. No autumn glory round the field as yet, which is still a green room containing 14 ewes and a colossal ram with horns that curl and batter the gate.
I am going to Welwyn tomorrow and am gritting my teeth in consequence and doing the least jobs of liming and tidying in the garden.
Moscow is still holding. The Panzer Pincers are gripping the city on 3 sides, Stalin has put the city under martial law and every worker is on the defense, every eye is fixed on possible spies and 5th cols!
Bill had his second London interview and this time with the War office; he has cleared out of Liverpool finally and goes into the R.A.O.C. on Saturday. He is excessively defeatist and told me on Sunday that the mass of young officers have no hopes that they can defeat Hitler’s arrival in the future, if they were not considered strong enough to fight Germany now that the whole mass of the Reich army is in Russia. He takes a hopeless view of ever loosening Hitler’s new order grip on Europe and says that if we are invaded he shall be among the first to raise the Heil Hitler fist salute! – And I believe he would!!
Trixie had begun to look rested and unstrung but she was twitching again on Sunday and working too hard. Of course will not get much to eat again this week as Bill brought no rations and no coupons! Thank God the Army business is settled, at last, and Trixie has a cubby hole of peace and beauty.
Sunday 16th Nov.41
I went to Welwyn on 22nd October and stayed exactly three weeks. It coincided with an extreme onset of winter, bitter cold winds and even snow and sleet on day!! I do not find myself admiring the Hicks pair more as time goes on. She is a Trull and he quite openly wangles leave and looks like a Tom Cat now, with budging cheeks.
Philip announced, at once, on my arrival that he had a confession to make – which was an unfortunate word to use, as it gave me the immediate impression that he felt guilty about something. The confession turned out to be that he had stayed for three nights with Mrs. Bostock, with Mr. Bostock away. It was not a sudden happening. They knew he would be away and Bostock knew Philip had fixed that weekend to stay with them. I certainly was upset at the way he told me – knowing that he finds her very attractive and of course she is young and the right age for him now. However, I could never, never, be jealous again and nothing of that sort would even hurt me again – but he was such an ass, so unperceptive in insisting that their relationship was “just the same” as mine and Eddie’s – or “mine and James” – possibly with a few great differences!
This start-off was not auspicious and one evening when I had been up to town to see Lieschen, I was foolish enough to say that ‘England is still not organized for war’ or something of that effect. He fairly went off the deep end and much suppressed irritation came to the surface ending in a deadly coolness for some days – very horrid!
Bill meanwhile really started his army training and Trixie’s doctor had diagnosed her trouble correctly and decided on Bridgwater hospital for treatment. She had a weekend in London with her town men – Chester having passed out of the training place into being posted to his station and getting his uniform etc. They met like three sad ghosts, she said, and I reckon they will not see much more of each other for 2yrs.
About the war – Russia has defended and held Moscow all these weeks and just now the weather has helped in slowing down the inexhaustible Germans. All is not yet lost on the Russian front, though a good deal has gone.
The Americans news flash is that, by 18 votes, Roosevelt has got his Neutrality Act off at last and is arming all merchant ships – this really does mean that they are at undeclared war with Germany! He has an awful job – strikes all over America in the big industries just now.
What else – well we have now really lost the Ark Royal, but out of 1600 men, only one has been killed – all the rest saved! Goebbels announced her sunk many a time, and she never was, till this week – off Gibraltar.
While I was at Welwyn, I met Clare. She was very full of original opinions about the war, as usual. As I already mentioned, I saw Lieschen again, she was still happy there with her family, but recently knows that there has been a new clear-out of elderly Jews between 50 and 80yrs old, to Poland. Just to make them die quicker!
The BBC is trying to make people here realize the ghastly life in death of the occupied countries and frequently fives vivid description of sufferings. I find that people ‘switch off’ and won’t listen. God knows it is awful but it ought to be faced by us as a whole nation. Soft, kind forgiving hearts here will excuse all the Nazis have done while those who have suffered will after the war be raving with revenge and a list of vengeances. I’m sure everyone ought to read about the beastly French prisons and all the other European rottenness and degradation that has dragged us down into this conflict, in order to understand how much there is to clean up and alter afterwards.
Our village was nearly blown to glory whilst I was at Welwyn. There was also another bomb near Trixie’s cottage and an aeroplane crashed at Spaxton.
I took Trixie to Bridgwater hospital on Friday after a little jollification of lunch and a flick. Today I have been to see her. After the treatment she looks pretty ill, but is in an airy, 4 bed ward and comfortable. She misses her men terribly but time will show her what to do. They are irrevocably mapped now for the duration. She has certainly had a very rough year.
Autumn glory is just at its height now. Tomorrow we are having some sort of remembrance of the Czech student slaughtered in Prague 2yrs ago and November 17th is to be kept in future as an international student’s day. Universities are a very special butt of the Nazis ‘bedevilment’ Hitler calls them.
27th Nov 41
These are the darkest mornings of the year. Very dark indeed until after 9 o’clock, but is more tolerable than to have it dark at 4 o’clock. The retained summer time is a blessing.
Since writing I have had Trixie here for a week, getting over her hospital treatment and maulings. That doctor of hers is a queer fish, but he has got her kidneys right. According to him she has the most peculiar state of internal arrangements and it seems entirely problematic whether she ever has a baby. She is brave; feels that she is getting the knocks good and hard now and much chastising. I put her back in her own basket yesterday complete with cat and warm fires and hope the guardian angel will point a clear way for her to walk through the difficulties of these years.
This moon is bringing bombers to our Bristol Channel unpleasantly often. We get the lions grumbling round the sky most nights. Two cracking banks near here on Tuesday night made me nearly drop the dished-up supper. Our luck held and there were no casualties again.
Last week-end, Bill raced down from London to see Trixie and was here for 24hrs. He is digging into the work on radio locations and all its changes and developments and is much happier already – 24hrs of home life made him very appreciative.
Meanwhile, we are back on the Libya campaign trying to clear the Axis tanks out of North Africa. It is a horrible sandy clashing battle up and down the desert, but this time, at least, we seem to be better equipped and more on equal terms with the Germans. Moscow still stands, though they are pressing nearer and nearer. Hitler has had a sort of birthday party of the New Order with all the quisling puppets speaking and jerking at it. Oh my, we have a long way to go yet, but we have got to stick, stick and stick it!
Japan is surely going to leap into the fray, and that will bring America right in. The strikes out there will have to stop, but probably we shall get less help from them at once.
The autumn days here have been glorious for colour, much more lasting and golden than usual. I found a mushroom this week, and roses still bloom freely.
We have got the submarine that sunk the Ark Royal last week.
Dec 21st 1941 – shortest day.
Three weeks since I wrote. 11 days of it at Welwyn and 10days at home. Mild weather all the time, and tremendous happenings packed into these two last weeks. When I last wrote, the war might almost have been called European, now it is absolutely world wide!
On the 7th (Sunday) while Roosevelt was sending messages to the emperor of Mikado of Japan, or whatever he is called, to try and halt the war preparations and while Kurusu [Saburo Kurusu, Japan’s ambassador to Germany], their hateful little ambassador was actually at the White House, the whole weight of the Japanese air force and navy swept down on Pearl Harbour – the great U.S.A. naval harbour, and sunk ships galore. It was a fearful blow and defeat. No-one seems to have been on the look-out or prepared and the Japs had it all their own way! At the same time, they bombed and invaded the Philippines, and the Hawaiian Islands. They spread all over the Pacific and landed in Malay to attack our possessions.
Thailand (Siam) came to terms with them at once and let them occupy their whole country.
On the Wednesday, 10th Dec., the ghastly news came at lunch time that the Repulse and the Prince of Wales had been sunk simultaneously by aerial torpedoes. The Prince of Wales, our best and most treasured battle ship! It is a most devastating blow to the Navy. All lives, except 600 men were saved, but the Admiral commanding one Pacific fleet went down with the Prince of Wales (Sir Tom Spencer Vaughan Phillips).
Roosevelt sent his 1st Sea Lord Knox to the Pacific to investigate at once. He has swept away the admirals and generals who have blundered or been asleep and replace them with others.
Meanwhile, the Japs are sweeping on and now today we are holding our breath for Hong Kong and Singapore. Both are in deadly danger and Hong Kong is almost ousted from us and occupied. It seems almost impossible that we can hold it and beat them off.
Hourly the news may change and for the first time, the Empire, that we have so often laughed tolerantly at, as at a familiar plaything becomes a cherished and necessary possession that tears at our hearts.
While all this is spreading over the East, the Russians are doing deeds of grandeur in fighting back the German line; from North to South they are pushing them back and Moscow is safe once more. Also Rostov and Leningrad are almost safe. Likewise in Libya the Germans are in a headlong rout.
The grim battles there have resisted Rommel and his mixed enormous batteries. All this good news would have set us singing but for the new Greek sorrows and dangers.
Christmas is a casualty this year, and nearly all of us will be very quiet and fireside as there is only very limited travel and no leave for the forces. I am expecting Philip on Tuesday 23rd. Yesterday I helped Trixie to get off to Richmond to Bill. So we, at least, each have someone to care for and be with.
Monday Dec.22nd 41
One day nearer Christmas, and though it was a misty dank day, I picked a ring of Christmas roses. In the garden there are lots of things flowering, in small quantities. I have put up the holly and made the cakes, now I am wondering whether I shall be alone, high and dry, with Peter stuck at Paddington unable to board the train. This is a very real possibility and I am feeling a bit anxious tonight, but other Christmases have been foggy and bad going and we have got through.
The Japs are absolutely sloshing their way through in the Pacific, thousands strong and the horrid news is a nasty offset to the splendid Russian and Libyan news.
Sunday 28th Dec. 41
The last Sunday of the old year. The Christmas holiday is nearly over. The weather here has been mild, gleamy and lovely. Philip arrived at the end of the foggy period and on Tuesday 23rd after days of no sun and no hill, the dawn broke brilliant, quiet and with clear blue skies. It was a glorious surprise.
Philip caught an earlier train than he intended. The days have been very peaceful and the dresser is pretty well covered with cards as usual. Lots of letters and even tiny presents. At the end of Christmas day the 9 o’clock news broke the gravest tidings that Hong Kong had surrendered.. They were pounded day and night, the water had given out and finally the ghastly Japanese had set fire to the island and it was a ring of fire. It was a terrible blow, though expected, and the miseries and dangers of the garrison and civilians seemed to reach out to us here. Since then the Japs have gone on blazing their trail of fire, bombing open towns and burning everything up. Landing by the thousands, putting Australia, New Zealand and all out in the East in great danger.
On Tuesday morning 22nd, the astonishing announcement came over the air at 7am that Churchill was in Washington with Roosevelt at the White House. He flew in a bomber and they are all conferring and getting plans made. On Boxing Day night he made a tremendous stirring speech in Congress there to the Senate and to the world. We heard it perfectly, it was like being at an historic event. The world hearing it must have taken heart from end to end and known for certain that the English speaking peoples will pull them through in the end, even though there is such lee way to catch up on the immense and careful preparations of the Axis people. Japan is faithfully following Nazi atrocities, literally and in detail. We have now to wait for the Singapore battle and for a check on this awful naval and aerial hustle of the Japanese. Russia is pounding on after the Germans, chasing them on and on and General Claude Auchinleck in Libya with the 8th army is still chasing Rommel and is now in Benghazi – may we hold it this time.
New Years Eve 1941
This old year is going out with a bright moon and a sharp frost, there was a beautiful, hopeful sunset. All looked peace and beauty in the field with the first ewes brought back for their lambing. If only men could learn from the ordered beauty of the world, this fearful misery and torment that engulfs every home in every country would cease forever.
Now we begin to hear of Nazi troubles in the desert and in the Russian cold. For the first time they are getting a bit strafed, but it is part of their devilish good strategy that we can’t rejoice about this as the Japs are doing such an onslaught at such a rate all round the Pacific and I don’t think the Empire can ever have been in such fearsome peril. Australia is positively front line now and the Singapore battle is starting soon. Our supplies will jolly well fall off soon. Rubber, tea, quinine and all the rest of the East Indies things will stop coming – and Invasion talk goes on.
Philip has gone back to Welwyn and Trixie came back to break the desolating news that her luggage, all her best clothes, ornaments, rings, her fur coat and Bills clothes too, had been spirited away between Taunton and Paddington packed in her big blue case that I gave her for her 21st. She had a quiet Christmas in a comfy hotel at Richmond in the clothes she stood up in, with Bill. They have tried to be philosophical about the great loss, and be thankful for their lives. It has been a grim year for Trixie, bless her heart. I hope I turn the page to record better things for everybody.
Jan 6th 1942
The year has turned on the first day of it, there was some good news for us. Philip had succeeded in tracing Trixie’s missing luggage. We collected it from Bridgwater on the 2nd. When she unpacked it, she rejoiced as everything restored to us was a gift and present.
In these last days, the Japanese have still swept around successfully and the crisis must soon arrive at Singapore, but tonight Roosevelt has announced the most formidable colossal tank, plane and gun program for the next 18 months and given the cheering words that American troops will go everywhere in the world and even come to us if we are invaded and in danger.
Churchill is not yet home, and the news that he has landed safely back will be a great relief.
A cocoa tin of sweets made by ‘Dick Turpin’ from Dorothy Curry, arrived today, undented, unrusted and with only a customs form pasted round it – from Australia. It touched my heart. A marvel to receive it in the midst of war all those thousands of miles by sea!
The children’s parties are all over and I shall soon be starting off for my 3 wks at you know where!
[The end, no further entries Granny died in an air raid in London].