October. Miss Shehan puts drunken Yanks in their place. Army demonstration at HGS. Musical emotion in Reading. Germans' last stand at Stalingrad.
Friday, Oct 2nd
Stalingrad struggle still continues with no spectacular advance by either side. The Germans are said to have 45,000 troops in the city. Heard London Symphony Orchestra in Reading, Schumann's piano concerto in A minor, Beethoven’s 7th. Had not been to a concert since last Christmas because of my leg.
Saturday, Oct 3rd
Schools may have central heating on before Nov 1st only if Medical Officer says so.
Sunday, Oct 4th.
J. B. Priestley on propaganda: "The trouble with most of it is that it has to be done under ultimate direction of men considered by the highest authorities to be sound fellows who won’t go off the rails” and unfortunately what is regarded as sound here is regarded as unsound almost everywhere else, and what our allies or potential allies want to read or hear are not men still on the rails but men who have gone off them!
Rommel has told newspaper correspondents in Berlin that Egypt is within his grasp, although he admitted that they came up against large quantities of American war material in the last battle. The new American tanks [Ed: Sherman], he said, are a much better weapon.
Propaganda magazine issued in Russia contained photographs showing ”tranquility” in England. Not well received by Red Army!
Wednesday, Oct 7th
A small raid was made on Sark last week. It confirmed the suspicion that people were being deported from the Channel Islands for forced labour in Germany.
Sunday, Oct 11th
Papers full of latest German move – the chaining of British prisoners taken at Dieppe because they say German prisoners were bound. Apparently an order was given to tie prisoners’ hands to prevent them destroying papers, and this was unauthorized and was not in fact put into effect. We have in reprisal manacled a similar number of German prisoners. This does not seem wise or dignified. Two wrongs do not make a right, and in competition in reprisals we shall be beaten every time. For one thing we have comparatively few prisoners.
Thursday, Oct 15th
U.S. Army said to number 7 ½ million. You see lot of Americans about. Some seem tough, some look very pansy and degenerate and prop themselves up against walls with their hands in their pockets and droop. I saw about 30 U.S. troops on Reading station, and everyone a coal-black negro. People were staring at them in lively wonder. They had, I imagine, hardly expected this. There may be trouble. They are already a great nuisance in Henley as they get drunk and then molest women. Miss Hunter said the women would soon be frightened to come up to firewatch, and Miss Sheehan had already pushed three into the gutter.
Sunday, Oct 18th
Yesterday had lunch with Mrs Peach, an excellent chicken, a great treat. In the evening an A.R.P. exercise at school at 7.30. 4 boys on roof and 6 in cellar to be rescued by First Aid Rescue parties with ladders, ropes, slings etc. All boys labelled to show injuries - fracture on roof, shock in cellar etc. It was dark, but with a moon breaking through clouds. The groups of tin-hatted figures scurrying here and there to the beams of shaded lamps without, at first, apparent order, yet really working to a coordinated plan, the hum of the engines and the streams of water, the slowly-moving headlights of the ambulances and the rescue parties’ lorries – it all made an interesting pattern of sound, movement and shape.
Spent morning jacking up, washing and cleaning car; when it comes out (from garage) again the war will be over. Chastening thought that "when". Drained radiator, removed distributor head, locked and covered up. Used stirrup pump for washing car and Hilary much enjoyed squirting and worked the pump most efficiently.
Friday, Oct 23rd
Extracts from a speech by General Smuts to a meeting of both Houses of Parliament. "One thing, the most precious of all, remains, and has rather increased. For what will it profit a nation if it wins the world and loses its soul. The soul remains. Glory has not departed from the land. I speak not of outward glory.... I speak of that inward glory, that splendour of the spirit, which has shone over this land from the soul of its people, and has been a beacon of light to the oppressed and downtrodden people in this new martyrdom of man. This is the glory, to have stood in the breach and to have kept the way open to man’s vast future.... This is the glory of the spirit, which sees and knows no defeat or loss, but increasingly serves, nourishes and sustains the will to final victory.....
"Hitler has trampled under foot the great faith which has nourished the West and proved their greatest dynamic in all human history and made western civilization the proudest achievement of man.... The real issue has been made clear. This is a challenge to all we have learned to prize even above life itself.”
Smuts has a clear rather thin, precise voice. He was introduced by Lloyd George, ”the architect of victory in the last war”, in the low, deep voice of an old man of 80.
Mrs Roosevelt arrived to-day to stay with the King and Queen to see women’s work and visit the American troops. Nora said, Hope she does not do so at night! Went to a concert of Purcell and Handel’s music in Reading. One song was heard with a kind of spellbound and entranced attention by the audience. Art thou troubled?/ Music will calm thee. / Art though weary? / Rest shall be thine. The intense emotion of those who listened, soldiers, airmen, women in service uniform and civil defence workers, all of us caught up in the trials and worries of living in wartime, filled the garish dance hall, and as the song went on you felt a kind of lightening of the load, and had an almost physical sense of burdens falling away in a silence so complete that the clock on the wall ticked loudly through it.
Sunday, Oct 25th
I spent some time yesterday hunting razor blades in Reading. I was not very successful. In the end I managed to get two autostrop, the kind I use, and purchased with great difficulty a new safety razor and bought two blades for this. One shop said they got 100 autostrop blades in six months and they sold out in 24 hours. Came back to Henley and registered for compulsory fire watching. Up to now Henley has been watched (or not) on a voluntary basis, but as the inflammable shops in the centre were not sufficiently manned it has now been made a compulsory area in which men from 16 to 60 and women up to 45 are to be enrolled. I spend a good deal of time travelling by train to and from Reading now that I have no car, but do not find this disagreeable when fine, though the walk to the station is long in wet weather and there are not many trains at night.
The offensive appears to have begun in the Western Desert..... . This is the fourth offensive in Africa and the records of the other three are not encouraging.... Must hope this will be different.
Tuesday, Oct 27th
Hilary to-day remarked: "That stool was made by my grandfather; I was two then; he was young then, but now he’s dead. Had a daylight raid warning yesterday and to-day. I heard that yesterday’s was on Slough and some damage was done. Had the children all down to the bottom floor, but seems and awful waste of time.
Last furious German assault on Stalingrad before the winter begins. The defence of Stalingrad the greatest monument to human courage and endurance. Russia to-day a proud but bitter country, bitter because of losses and occupation of so much of their country, their struggle alone.
Friday, Oct 30th
Great excitement among the boys to-day as demonstration by the army. I expected a lecture only; instead as well as the lecture there was a six pounder anti-tank gun with a lorry, carrier pigeons with officer and a parachute sergeant. We first had a lecture on Tobruk, then the parachutist displayed his weapons, a miniature rifle, Colt automatic, hand grenades, a dagger; food in small tins, solid meta fuel, smoke candles, etc. He said they carried enough food for a week and had a little frying pan and dripping so they could fry a rabbit if they "knocked one off.” Then the pigeon officer brought in his birds, displayed the wings and showed how the messages were written and attached. Messages were written and the pigeons sent off to Salisbury. Finally the gun crew performed their drill with the 6-pounder. Hilary arrived at this point and was very apprehensive when he saw the gun, however he returned and examined it holding my hand tightly. There was only one casualty – the sergeant cut his hand on the dagger and was plastered up! All this seemed very intelligent on part of army and was a great success.