February. Len called up. German defeat at Stalingrad. London full of Americans. Bomb kills Aunt Nelly, Nora's narrow escape in Reading raid. "This formidable general."
Tuesday, Feb 2nd
Len Hayes, caretaker and stoker, has been called up in Home Guard, but shall try to appeal for him as only man now left [at Grammar School]. Report that when European offensive begins England will be denuded of regular troops and left to care of Home Guard.
Von Paulus captured at Stalingrad and 15 other generals. Russians say 300,000 men originally in Stalingrad.
Wednesday, Feb 3rd
Announced from Hitler’s H.Q. to-day that resistance at Stalingrad has ceased. Funeral drum rolls were played and there is to be three days of mourning in Germany, all places of amusement to be closed and there are to be special wireless programmes.
Times gloomy to-day about U-boat warfare. Thinks Germans have lost hope of victory, but still think they may be able to bring about a stalemate because Allies will not be able to apply their predominance effectively. Says rebuilding is only keeping pace with sinkings, while the U-boat strength is increasing by about 10 a month.
Some suggestions that bread may be rationed next.
Monday, Feb 8th
Up in London for weekend. Full of Americans, drunk or sober, including a lot of American air force. A searchlight exercise on Saturday night, the beams of the searchlights formed a huge kind of Union Jack pattern and at the centre of the intersection of 20 beams a tiny gleaming bomber looking like a silver toy. The hotel water so hot that it boiled in the taps, so no fuel shortage there.
Churchill back after about 10,000 miles, Casablanca, Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Algiers. Papers full of stories of a bunch of bananas brought back by Lord Louis Mountbatten for Princess Elizabeth from Casablanca and taken by the Queen to a children’s hospital. Bananas a thing I do not miss much, I am glad to say.
Tuesday, Feb 9th
Heard to-night that Nora’s Aunt Nelly, aged 83, had been killed by a bomb at Eastbourne. She had left Eastbourne for some time and then returned. A curious end for an old lady.
Wednesday, Feb 10th
A little variety to-day! About 4.30 there were some loud bangs. It was rainy with low cloud. I thought “bombs at Reading” and sure enough a bomber dived down on the station, let go some bombs and fired its machine guns. Nora was sitting in a train at the station, but it was over in a minute and the train started off. The bombs fell just off the main street. Fortunately it was early closing day and wet, so I don’t suppose there were many people about at the time. M was not in Reading as she had gone to lunch at Calcot.
Friday, Feb 12th
It was a raid by a twin-engined bomber and carried four bombs. One fell on a British Restaurant [Ed: in which Nora had been having tea shortly before the raid] and killed the people having tea, another wrecked Wellsteeds Drapers; a church and a bank (not sure if it was mine) were damaged.
Churchill spoke yesterday. He said we were gaining slightly on sinkings by new building, but there would be an increase in escort vessels, as ships saved were better than ships built. We had the measure of the U-boats, but though the U-boat war could not bring victory to the Germans it might postpone defeat..… We should be better off as regards shipping by the end of 1943 than we were now.
Montgomery he describes as “this vehement and formidable general, a Cromwellian figure, austere, severe, accomplished, tireless, his life given to the study of war, who has attracted to himself in extraordinary measure the confidence and devotion of the his army.”
“We await the unfolding of events with sober confidence. We are sure that the British nation will display in these hopeful days, which may nevertheless be clouded over, the same qualities of steadfastness as they did in the awful period when the life of Britain and the Empire hung by a thread.”
Sunday, Feb 14th
Was in Reading yesterday. Wellsteeds a shell, all clocks stopped at time of blast, a lot of tiles off the church, but my bank not hit. Windows broken very erratically. Some shops with no fronts. Was able to put my head in greengrocers from street to ask if they had any watercress…
Two funny old tramps, women, one of whom sold potatoes, the other sat about in doorways, both killed. Talked with a parent who was roof spotting, said it was a big Dornier and did not drop all its bombs on Reading; may have been same machine which attacked Newbury a little while later, where some alms houses and a school were damaged. M said atmosphere on Thursday, when they were still searching for bodies in the ruins of the restaurant, was very bad; big crowds yesterday watching soldiers shovelling away debris.
President Roosevelt has spoken of invasions of Europe, note plural, as soon as the Tunisian tip has been cleared. German propaganda now on possible bursting of the dykes, which hold back Bolshevism from western civilization, but it, won’t wash any longer. Half an hour ago the Red Army announced that it had recaptured Rostov.
Thursday, Feb 25th
Hilary has measles and I went up to London for half term, hence gap..... The Prime Minister has been ill with pneumonia but seems to be recovering.