July. "Utility" crockery. Americans in Henley. Shipping losses outpace new building. HGS performs Twelfth Night.
Friday, July 3rd
Yesterday afternoon a battle developed in front of Alamein [First Alamein], lasted till evening when the enemy withdrew. It is believed that battle has been renewed. We have air superiority. This morning our positions were intact.
Saturday, July 4th
Another attack on Alamein yesterday in which we seem to have got the better of the engagement. ... Position still very critical, but every day counts, I feel. Egypt reported calm.
We have got our first ”utility” crockery, very plain and large china beakers. There is also to be utility furniture as well as clothes and what not!
[Ed.Utility, in the sense used here was a second world war invention. The OED subsequently modified its definition of utility by giving in the meaning "severely practical".]
Sunday, July 5th
El Alamein holds. Our attacks from the air go on ceaselessly and a slightly more confident note is heard. Rommel's men are being bombed without air cover, the boot for once is on the other foot and the position in France, Greece and Crete reversed. Good!
Con over to-day to ask my advice about joining one of these community schools near Stoke Poges. Board and lodging, but otherwise only £75 per annum. Advised her to try it for a year.
Friday, July 10th
Trouble at school about fire watching in school holidays. Staff think it unnecessary – probably is too. Little news from Egypt for two days. The advance halted for the time and both sides preparing for the next round - a very fine effort.
Sunday, July 12th
Sundry rumours about curtailment of travelling by rail. Wilk went to get ticket in advance, advised to wait a week by booking clerk, as much might happen in that time!
Salute to France before news to-night. Accounts of bravery of hostages, sabotage, the helping of British airmen and soldiers and so on. Fresh savagery threatened by Huns in retaliation for attack on Germans in Paris. Families to be punished by death, imprisonment, and the sending of children to "houses of correction”. The news now seems to be full of German brutality. What a legacy they are accumulating for themselves. How many years will it take to purge the crimes which make their behaviour in the last war seem by comparison civilized!
Wednesday, July 15th
The first American troops reported in Henley.
Saturday, July 18th
Things are getting so difficult to replace that that shops are charging heavy deposits. I heard of a man who sent out for three cups of tea in London and was charged 9/- deposit on the cups and saucers. A visitor to Henley who wanted a punt pole had to put down £1.
Another 100 days before winter starts in Russia, but wet and cold enough here for October!
Wednesday, July 22nd
All very gloomy as listened to news to-night. Sinkings in week to July 12th heaviest yet and much heavier than building. Germans threatening Rostov. If they get their hands on Russian oil war may go on for years. Nora late home to-night and Hilary enquired anxiously when having bath, ”Do policemen lock up mummies in prison?” A tremendous craze for model paper aeroplanes lately.
Thursday, July 23rd
Lady offered a present of a skeleton to the school. All very pleased till soap box full of awful dusty old bones turned up. On examination appeared to have four shoulder blades, three right and one left, and no skull. A boy picked out a skull and suggested that this might be it till someone else said, ”It’s got horns”! Nora giving mothercraft classes under youth training scheme asked girls what they would do if asked by three-year-old, "Where do I come from?” No answer till at length one damsel said, "I should try to take his mind off it”!
Friday, July 24th,
Fall of Rostov on Don claimed by Germans
Sunday, July 26th
600,000 men and 2,000 tanks, masses of guns and an entire air fleet are battering at Rostov, where the Russians say the situation is ”alarming”..... Phase I of the great offensive is over. The Russians have lost another great mineral, industrial and agricultural belt the size of England and Wales and the German armies stand on the Donerforms Twelfth Night at Town Hall.
Thursday, July 30th
Broke up for summer holiday. Generally rather gloomy about war and everyone wondering what will happen if the Russians crack and whether there will be a landing soon.
Children did Twelfth Night in Town Hall for Red Cross, though couldn’t go because of sciatica.