February. Shortages and inefficiency. Economics of evacuees. Soap ration 4oz. German naval feat. Fall of Singapore. Red letter day. Sciatica.
Sunday, Feb 1st
Snow has been falling steadily again and is now about a foot deep. More tobogganing for Hilary, more sciatica for me !
Thursday, Feb 5th
Freezing very hard to-night and very cold wind, sciatica poor..... Letter in Times to-day to say that detection of Japanese infiltrators in Malaya impossible as troops in civilian clothes and were not distinguishable from natives by British and Indian troops. Bad enough in the plantations, but in the jungle hopeless. Short of shooting at all civilians behind the lines nothing to be done.
Friday, Feb 6th
The N.S. talks about the need for an enquiry about the “mismanagement” of the campaign (in Libya). It is very disappointing certainly that we never quite seem able to bring it off, only “up to a point, Lord Copper”. Our hopes are raised by talk of Marlborough etc, and then we get a very uncertain battle followed by a withdrawal. However the Sunday Dispatch, equal to every occasion, had a headline: “Little enemy resistance to British withdrawal” ….. If you are being paid to edit British news you must try to make the public think that a defeat is a strategic withdrawal. Are we getting like France in the Blitzkrieg ?
Saturday, Feb 7th
Still bitterly cold. Economics of evacuees very curious, and considering our evacuees have been here for 2 ½ years about, very unsatisfactory. They do their cooking on an oil stove provided by us, get their own fuel, except the electric light, for which they pay 2/- a week. They pay nothing further. We get 13/- a week, 5/- per adult and 3/- for the child from govt. For half a house I pay all the rent, all the rates, including the water rate, provide fuel for the hot water system, and pay a girl to clean the staircase, passages, bathroom and lavatory, which are common to both. When asked to do her share of the load, Florence (Mrs Alp) replied she was too busy! Rent £70, rates £42.10, evacuees £33.80.
Sunday, Feb 8th
Grandma [Tydeman] returned to-day, apparently better than ever ! and tougher! Still very cold, but picked first snowdrops and sent them to M.
Japs have started artillery strafe on Singapore
Monday, Feb 9th
Soap rationed to-day at 4 oz a week.
Friday, Feb 13th
Japanese offensive in full blast; tanks, dive bombers, high level bombers and artillery all pounding the unfortunate defenders of Singapore. The enemy are within sight of the suburbs. ….They have also got access to the mouth of the River Salween in Burma…..
To add to our cheerfulness, we seem to have muffed things in the Straits of Dover. The Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Printz Eugen were sighted at eleven yesterday morning approaching the Straits, having come out of Brest. They were attacked by Coastal Command, Swordfish torpedo carriers, fighters, destroyers and motorboats. Screened by their own light craft and protected by swarms of fighters, they got through the straits to the Heligoland Bight. We lost 42 aircraft. All the B.B.C. can say is that they were probably hit and that their speed when last seen was 20 knots!
Been reading a book by American radio commentator, W. L. Shirer, who was in Germany in 1939 and 1940, Berlin Diary. Interesting on why invasion not attempted in summer of 1940. Says Hitler in no hurry as believed England would start peace negotiations, so did not push forward invasion preparations as quickly as he might. Waited till second week of July, then offered better peace terms (not revealed) in Reichstag speech – see Diary July 20th 1940. These immediately rejected, but waited another week and not till August 5th held conference of leaders in Berlin. At this probably decided in mid-August to smash R.A.F. in preparation for invasion, as army would not move without air control. This promised by Goering in a fortnight on grounds that as Luftwaffe had four times strength of R.A.F. even if he lost three quarters of his strength would still have a quarter to British zero. He sent out a thousand planes a day, but as the R.A.F. refused to put more than a fraction of their force into the air at any one time, see Diary for September 16th, they were not wiped out and the losses of bombers were so heavy that they were forced to turn over to night bombing and gave up attempt to destroy fighter strength. Hence invasion did not take place.
Saturday, Feb 14th
Times comment on “the Channel failure”; main leader headed “A fresh start”. We certainly need one. Not since the 17th century has a hostile fleet sailed with trifling loss from the Atlantic to the North Sea through the Straits of Dover. Germans have done successfully what the Duke of Medina Sidonia failed to accomplish and we are very sick about it.
Sunday, Feb 15th
Been looking at the list of books taken out from the subscription library [Times Library at Heelas store in Reading] 1939-41 – about 70 a year, but depressing, as very few titles one can remember after 12-15 months. Returned (from school) about 6.30 to be told by Hilary that Singapore had surrendered. Curiously enough discussing earlier what were our earliest memories. Said half in joke to Hilary, ”When you are an old man and have children of your own you will be able to say you remember hearing of the surrender of Singapore!”
Nora very gloomy and considers in any case we are finished as a great power in the Far East whatever result of war – the day of the Sahibs over. Well, in that case Hilary will not have to be a Sahib!
Churchill spoke to-night, quiet and subdued….. From the heart of misfortune would come the impulse of victory. “We shall not fail.”
(Ed: My father later said that he boxed me over the ear when Singapore fell in an effort to impress upon me the significance of the event, but I have absolutely no recollection of either the fall of the island or being boxed over the ear!)
On home front, the lodgers announced they are leaving on Saturday after 2 years 5 ½ months!
Friday, Feb 20th
In bed with sciatica yesterday and to-day. Still very cold.
This has been a black week, blacker than any since the fall of France. And worse, I suspect, to come. "We can expect very little for the rest of the year but loss and disappointment," says Spectator.
Tommy Inskip, late minister for coordination of defence in Mr Baldwin’s government, now chooses a daily text from the scriptures for the Daily Sketch. Wits suggest that thus he has at last found the job for which he is really suited.
Saturday, Feb 20th
Red letter day in domestic affairs as the Alps left. Mrs A has taken job as matron of a home for newly evacuated children, and Mr A is carried along with her like the dirt on the backend of a cow. Hilary wildly excited by arrival of furniture van, but will miss Peter.
Heard from M to-day that bomb in sea off Cornish coast provided inhabitants with fish for several days. A miraculous draught!
Port Darwin in Northern Australia bombed on Thursday, the first attack on Australia, though a very distant and isolated town. Bombers escorted by fighters launched from aircraft carriers.
Wednesday, Feb 25th
Still in bed with sciatica and still very cold. Rangoon is preparing for attack and civilian population has been evacuated. In Java, Japs trying to destroy airfields and ground our aircraft preparatory to landing. The Red Army has had an important victory and surrounded the 16th German army