Friday, Jan 1st
Two years ago it was question of holding out and managing to survive somehow..... But in 1942, though a year of disasters, saw also the turn of the tide. The great naval victories of the U.S. at Midway Island and in the Coral Sea, which prevented the Japanese from pushing further west into the Indian Ocean, and perhaps the African coast, and invading Australia; the rout of Rommel at Alexandria; the great landing in North Africa; the superb defence of Stalingrad - all of them have changed the face of things in the West. We now stand on the verge of victories in Tunis and the Ukraine, but when the outworks fall we shall then be faced with the main fortress of Nazi Europe, to force which we will need all our resources, courage and determination. Besides, if the delay is too long there will be little to rescue. From Holland to Athens people are dying of starvation, Jews and Poles are being systematically exterminated. From a struggle for our own survival the war has changed to an expedition to rescue a continent slowly being bled to death. Both in the material rebuilding and re-planning at home and in the rebuilding of an international system men’s minds are turning to restoration. With the passage of winter and the turn of the year hope springs anew and one’s thoughts turn to peace again, and victory, if distant, can be seen in the years ahead.
The sciatica, which finally struck me down in February 1942 and kept me from leading a normal life until the autumn, is slowly but on the whole steadily improving. One’s digestion does not stand up very well to the diet of potatoes, but as Bishop Gore said: God forgive us for feasting while others starve! Do not think there is much else to be rationed. The first of the utility furniture is on sale in small quantities, but only newly-married couples, a married couple expecting a child, or the bombed out can get it – and that on a points system! Hotels are going to ask visitors to bring their own towels as well as their own soap.
Saturday, Jan 2ndIn future you are not to be able to order soling and heeling of boots and shoes. You are to leave it to the boot maker to patch holes as he thinks fit.
Hitler in his new year message to the German people says: “It has become clear in these four years that the conflict is in truth a struggle to be or not to be.” The tone of this speech and his message to the Army is very different from the boastings and threats to which we became accustomed in 1939 and 1940. This time he has promised new weapons for the spring, but it is doubtful whether he can keep his promises. Germany is still suffering from the winter campaign of 1941 - 42. This strained their transport to breaking point, so the 1942 offensive did not begin until July, and when it did it was only launched south of Voronezh. Last month men could not be released from the army for munitions work, so Europe has been combed for slaves and there are reckoned to be five or six million foreign labourers in the Reich. But transport is still a great weakness, and much is being destroyed by the R.A.F. The demands on the Mediterranean front are growing, and although aircraft production may be rising it cannot catch up with the allies..... The output of U-boats is growing, but taking it all round, as the months pass German resources wane while ours wax.
The Russians captured the “fortified hedgehog” of Velikiye Luki [Ed: north of Smolensk] – this is further west than they have got either this winter or last…. The American soldiers are to have a new secret weapon, called by them a “Bazooka”. A Pan-American clipper has made 12 crossings from Europe to New York in 14 days!
Saturday, Jan 9th
Went up to London from Wednesday to Friday and met various people. Denys Thompson’s experiences in the Air Ministry not very good. Said he had done eight weeks work in a year and for a long time there was nothing to do except read books and write letters. Went to a ballet and an exceptionally dull Russian film about Lenin, which one felt that even the faithful must find a bit indigestible. London very crowded. Even the Leicester Square (Lyons) Corner House pretty short of food by eight o’clock and I was reduced to sausage and mash, no choice of sweet, and one soup. However, when things are normal again I am going to have a good feed of ice cream.
Margaret Burton in censorship and very gloomy about Tunis, thought things had gone very badly wrong there and that American and British troops very unseasoned compared with the Germans. Saw a newsreel of the Tunisian mountains, which looked very formidable, high, rounded and barren. Had some trouble in hotel about towels. None supplied at first because of late return from laundry, but tried to make out did not supply towels now. Also one bed had a used sheet on it.
Sunday, Jan 10th
War Office in Dieppe Raid said had bought single railway tickets to the coast; after all might not be returning from the same point, or the same country, or even might not be returning at all! Report from Stockholm of quarrel between Hitler and generals, latter wishing to retire before situation grows any worse, but may be intelligent surmise based on events…. No news from East allowed to leak through to German people at home and no place names mentioned, except Velikye Luki, which they claim still to hold.
Announced that Richard Hillary, author of The Last Journey, an account of his life as a fighter pilot till he was shot down and badly burned in the face and then a description of his experiences with plastic surgeons in hospital, who made him a new face, has been killed in an accident while training for night flying. He was only 23, the age I started as a Leatherhead schoolmaster.Good news. On Friday at 7 a.m. the Desert Army resumed the offensive and has driven Rommel back by 40 miles. This a great victory, it seems, comparable to the El Alamein blow. Our aim is the destruction of Rommel’s forces and not the capture or more desert.
Other news heard with mixed feelings. Berlin bombed for the first time last night for over a year and big fires started. Two alerts to-night about supper time. I hope this will not start up reprisal raids on London - think of all my friends there and all the children who have gone back
Monday, Jan 18th
It did! Two raids on London last night. They lost 12 bombers and failed to get into central London. The barrage very heavy: heard it here at 4.30 a.m. Our local buzzer went but the firewatcher (very sensibly) did not call me up. We bombed Berlin a second time and lost 22 bombers, which seems a very heavy cost. In a bombing match of capitals, the Germans have the advantage of distance.
During the last week Hilary lost one front tooth. It was hanging by a thread and I pulled it out when he went to bed. The new one rather serrated (“My wolf’s teef”) had grown up behind it. The second event was his sudden discovery that he could read. This came quite rapidly and by the time he goes to boarding school in the autumn he should be reading quite nicely. Sam Pig all the rage at the moment, except when Moses and the Pharaoh are preferred to him.
To-night heard the siege of Leningrad had been raised and the city freed for the first time since November 1941, except for the lorry link over the icy Lake Ladoga in winter.
Sunday, Jan 24th
News that Tripoli is ours broken yesterday by P.M. Well, that’s the end of Musso’s Roman Empire – Abyssinia, Somaliland, Eritrea, Libya, Tripoli – the whole bang lot. News of the German rout in the Caucasus (and it appears to be a rout) is beginning to be let out and the Germans have at last been told the Stalingrad garrison is short of men and food.
Monday, Jan 25th
A significant broadcast from Radio Paris said, “A few days ago German statesmen declared that the Reich had definitely burnt all its bridges behind it and that the German nation had the choice between victory and death…. the German armies will never capitulate.”
Wednesday, Jan 27th
Very surprized to read this morning that Roosevelt and Churchill had met at Casablanca and had a conference with all their military advisers. Stalin invited, but could not come because personally directing war. Thought President could not constitutionally leave U.S.A. while in office. Feel good news, but some criticism in papers as too dangerous, unnecessary, why not Joe Stalin there etc etc. De Gaulle and Giraud have met too at time of Casablanca conference and hope some good will come of that as well.
M’s birthday, went for a walk on the Downs at Streatley and had dinner at the Swan, windy and inclined to rain but mild enough to have tea out and walk till it got quite dark. Came down about 7.20.
Sunday, Jan 31s
Was in Reading yesterday for lunch and saw something about postponement of Goering’s speech for tenth anniversary of Hitler’s accession to power in 1933. Heard the whole story at nine. Our new, very fast Mosquito bombers arrived at eleven o’clock over Berlin, at the same time as the fat Reichsmarshal. Confused noises off followed on the wireless and it took an hour to get him teed up again. No aircraft were lost. More Mosquitoes arrived for Goebbels’ speech in the afternoon and one was lost. This is fine propaganda, for Goering promised at the beginning of the war that no bomber should fly over German soil! Goebbels warned the German people that they were approaching the climax of the struggle for existence. What a change – and what an escape!