On a blog, the first post you read is the latest one posted. To read the diaries from first post to last, please use the archive, starting May 28. The Diary is copyright.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

1944 April

April.  "A wilderness of destruction". Hard to like the Americans, boastful, chewing, tactless. Ken Hunt with elbow smashed at Anzio. Battle exercise on the Thames. Victory over utility suits. Glorious weather.

Saturday, April 1st
              A very cold day and double summer time to-morrow, which will not make it any warmer in the mornings.
              The Ukraine front has collapsed and the German commentators speak of disorganization and separated columns retreating independently. Rumania has been invaded and foothills of the Carpathians reached and Soviet troops within 14 miles of Czech border.
              On Friday night we lost 94 bombers, the R.A.F.’s heaviest loss to date, the previous being 79 on Feb 19th. They were about 1,000-bomber raids in both cases. The enemy put all their night fighters and some of their day fighters in the sky. It is thought the desperate defence of Nuremberg is due to the destruction of the Siemens electrical works in Berlin and the importance of protecting the surviving works in Nuremberg. The sky was clear and moonlit.

Sunday, April 2nd
              An excellent talk by a newspaper man, Alan Moorhead, on the state of Europe. We do not realise, because we cannot imagine, the complete breakdown that has occurred. All settled ways of life, all security, all certainty about future have vanished. He described the state of Naples as the Germans left it: no transport, no water, no electricity or gas, no medical services, and he said that we must not expect to find any different state of affairs in Northern Europe – breakdown and chaos everywhere. After the war we shall be an oasis in a wilderness of destruction.
              Article (in Sunday paper) on German aircraft industry pointing how if one factory smashed the personnel moved to a similar one where they start a third shift. Bombing makes expansion impossible, but not replacement. Germans realizing the future is at stake and making the kind of effort we made in 1940-41.

Thursday, April 6th
              Went to Welcome Club on Monday and only host there. Found American military police only amateurs in this district, chosen from ordinary troops in station and clad in gaiters and given a truncheon. The ones I talked to said duty came round about once a week. Many sleep in little tents called “pup” tents owing to their resemblance to dog kennels. They have small stoves, but no fuel, so have to scrounge wood. Met a few reasonably intelligent ones for the first time. Most of the troops are medical and supply. Some with A on shoulder; understand this means 1st Army of Invasion.
              One tries so hard to like the Americans but it is difficult with their boasting, chewing, spitting, tactlessness and comments on shortages, which they make worse by crowding everywhere and buying up unrationed foods such as buns and cakes for which they seem to have a passion.

Easter Day, April 9th
              Hilary hoped to be able to have a picnic at Remenham by the river, but it was a windy day and inclined to rain. However, we went with Nora to the 11 o’clock service there. There are, of course, no chocolate Easter eggs. In the afternoon we went for a walk and in the evening he helped to mow the grass, running about on the lawn in his bare feet, which he loves to do. Hilary and Jack Wray were hear Friday to Monday, which meant a great deal of cooking and food providing for Nora. I worked hard on my bees and yesterday spent a good time at the allotment planting seeds and lettuces. Sleeping four nights at the school for fire watching, spent part of time catching mice!
              This Easter marks the end of German occupation of Russian territory, for the Russians are now a few miles from Odessa, which must soon fall. The German collapse has been as spectacular as their advance.
              The spring has come with a rush, as it so often does. Hyacinths and daffodils, chestnut buds showing flowers, anemones and bluebells in the chestnut walk, hawthorn in leaf and wallflowers and tulips in the borders, thrushes and blackbirds sitting on their nests and song in the garden all day.

Monday, April 10th
              Heard the first cuckoo this morning about 7 a.m. G.M.T. It was evidently a migrant as only heard it for a few minutes more during the day. Eight days earlier than in 1942.
              Hilary much impressed by vicar’s sermon at Remenham. Vicar a simple minded soul and referred to church warden’s absence – a colonel who went up to London everyday, so busy he had only time to eat a sandwich while he worked. Hilary asked in an audible voice if he only had one sandwich to eat for the day.

Wednesday, April 12th
              Walked along the Thames from Maidenhead to Cookham and had a most expensive dinner at the Bel & Dragon. The ferries were often a very doubtful quantity, which made it rather chancy. Saw a lovely grass snake with new skin wriggling across the towpath.

Thursday, April 13th
              Met Hunt, old boy of Grammar School, now a major with a smashed elbow. Caught a mortar shell in the Anzio bridgehead. Is now at Roehampton. Will come out with the use of his fingers, but no left elbow, the forearm being fixed in what they call the optimum position. No more rugger for Hunt.

Sunday, April 16th
              The first swallows. A complete German rout in the Crimea. Gave second blood donation yesterday. Did not affect me nearly as much as first time. Elaborate precautions to prevent you actually seeing any blood.

Monday, April 17th
              Burma Campaign a puzzle. Apparently Wingate and Mountbatten persuaded Quebec Conference to approve plan for deep penetration by mobile columns into Jap territory against opposition of more conservative military opinion in India. Now Wingate killed and policy may fall with him and be condemned without a fair trial.
Len Hayes called out at 5 o’clock on Sunday morning for test alert for Home Guard. “When I go”, he remarked, “I’ll send you my postal address.”

Thursday, April 20th
              Looks as if invasion will not take place till May, as the Germans did in that lovely summer of 1940. Hope we shall have a calm summer in this critical year….. Went for a walk between Pangbourne and Goring and saw Americans at work throwing a pontoon bridge across the river. It was evidently a battle exercise as there were many explosions of various kinds….. Tried to buy some flower seeds, but none to be had anywhere….
              All the “diplomatic bag” privileges have been withdrawn except for U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. All communications from foreign representatives to their governments to be censored. No chances being taken.

Saturday, April 22nd
              Went on river 3 – 6, a lovely summer’s day. An American troop carrier flew down the regatta course about 50ft above the water, most unpleasant in a boat underneath it! Home Guard crawling around the house with mortars on Thursday night and some big flashes and bangs from the opposite hill, which alarmed Hilary, who was in bed.
              The Russians say when the attack is launched in the West the end will come soon. They also have a joke. Child: What is the second front? Father: You will now when you are grown up.

Monday, April 24th
              About 9.30 this evening as the thin crescent of the new moon was floating in the red and yellow afterglow of the sunset, the bombers began to come, flying south-west. They were high, tiny black midges in the clear evening air, their four engines indistinguishable except through glasses. I have never seen so many at this time of the evening. I counted 30 at once…. Will the roar of their engines continue to fill the night air next April? I somehow do not think it will. Then perhaps this sight in the spring sky will be one of the memories of war’s beauty and destruction – an epic memory.
              Opposition from the Luftwaffe seems to be decreasing. They cannot match our attack. Their reserves are below danger mark as replacements are being cut at source..…We can now reach any point in Germany by day or night and our purpose is to destroy the German Air Force. When that has been done, Germany will be at our mercy.

Tuesday, April 25th
              The raid last night was on Karlsruhe and Munich. The bombers went by a very roundabout way to avoid the German fighters. They flew southeast almost to Milan and then turned north across the Alps. That is why they started so early, before the light had faded over England.
              Men have won a victory over utility suits. They have just refused to buy them, so now the order has been withdrawn and it is reported they are being kept to re-clothe Europe. Another opinion says demobilized soldiers – but this is risking revolution. One great grievance against utility suits was the reduction of the pockets from the standard dozen or so men require.
              Going through a general shortage this week – milk, fats, meat, cheese, chocolate – everyone short!

Thursday, April 27th
              Old men say they cannot remember an April like this, so dry and sunny, like midsummer. Hilary and I went on the river to-day to Greenlands. The high spot was the discovery of a carnivorous water beetle and a horse leach. The latter got away. The lilacs are out, the beeches and limes in full leaf and the chestnuts in the chestnut walk in full bloom.

Sunday, April 30th
              Weather still glorious. Strange to think that we are on the eve of the most momentous and hazardous enterprise in the history of this country. Here is no precedent for this attempt to create a western front from an island. One thinks of the slowness to assemble divisions in 1939. We have not only to establish beachheads and seize ports: we have to advance in a matter of months to a decisive victory. To this has gone four years of work in factories and forges, four years of training and four years of planning. A tremendous piece of machinery of enormous complexity and power will start to move when once the signal to begin operations is given.
              Many of the young men, who are soon to storm the German fortress and liberate the world at the cost of their lives, have grown up in the shadow of war and passed their brief maturity in it, like Jack Hopgood, Margaret’s husband, taken from a university, married but without a home and no settled life but a series of moves and separations.

No comments:

Post a Comment