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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

1944 November

November. Roosevelt again. V2's. 107,000 houses destroyed, 870,000 awaiting repair. Destructive as Germans? Bumf crisis. GB's war contribution. Farmers' efforts

Wednesday, Nov 1st
              Went to Young Farmers Club brains trust at Town Hall with Donald McCullough (as) question master and sundry agricultural experts, including our representative at the Hot Springs Conference. He said Norwegian representative had remarked, “What! No meat to-day – only turkey, chicken and lobster!” Story told of shepherd who was asked how many sheep in a field, said 104. Asked how he managed to count them he said four by the gate and about 100 over there. One question asked about advantages of being on veterinary panel. Told that herds as well as individual animals treated, at which Nora whispered just the thing for the school cats who should certainly be on panel.

Saturday, Nov 4th
              Walked and bicycled along the tow path to Hambleden where we had lunch on a seat above the weir sheltered from the wind. The trees were looking very beautiful in the November sunlight and the water rushing through the sluice flung up a great shifting and sparkling mass of ever changing spray like the lace ruff on a Rubens portrait.

Sunday, Nov 5th
           Distempered my bedroom. Nora went to Long Dene to see Hilary. A gale, the air full of leaves, heavy rain in the afternoon.

Wednesday, Nov 8th
              Roosevelt is President of the U.S.A. for the fourth time. He has done 12 years; he may do 16.

Friday, Nov 10th
              Very cold north wind. For sometime we have been hearing stories of rockets, V 2. Now Churchill has referred to them in public. They go about 60 or 70 miles and apparently come down anywhere – well scattered. We have heard that one hit Cheltenham, presumably it was aimed at London. They appear to cause an earth tremor that can be felt for a long way. Their penetrating power is more than the V 1 but the blast is less.
              Last Monday half term went up to London and saw a film called The Hitler Gang, not funny, not funny at all, but good history. Started with Munich beer cellar and ended with blood bath in 1934.

Sunday, Nov 12th
              Yesterday a memorable Armistice Day in Paris. Churchill and de Gaulle walked up the Champs Elysée to the Arche de Triomphe and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then drove to a saluting base where French army units of the F.F.I. and containing units of the allies marched past them. …. Churchill was cheered and cheered again, while the crowds chanted “Churchill”, for he returned as the living symbol of resistance in the face of apparently hopeless odds…..
    Yesterday went to see a very charming film A Canterbury Tale, the tale slight enough, a farmer in a small village near Canterbury who put glue on girls’ hair so they should be frightened to walk out with soldiers at night and the soldiers would come to his lantern lectures on local history instead. Lovely shots of the Kentish countryside and charming American sergeant who found among the local craftsmen those who spoke the same language as the carpenters of his native Oregon. It ended in the cathedral with a farewell service for the troops going overseas. It began with Chaucer’s pilgrims letting off a hawk, the hawk soared into the summer sky until, a tiny speck, it turned into a Spitfire flying over Kent.
    The housing shortage in London acute. Some are sleeping in the Tubes, in the eight deep shelters holding 64,000; Nissen huts are coming in, though it is doubtful whether they are fit for families to live in, and a rather better wood and asbestos hut with a living room a small 6ft square kitchen, and 2 bedrooms heated with the hot air from the coal flue in the living room, an electric cooker and copper. The huts are supposed to take 40,000, but they are only being delivered slowly. By September 107,000 houses had been destroyed and 870,000 were awaiting repair.
              Slogan for the Beveridge Plan: Consumers of the world unite – You have nothing to lose but your bills.
    Discussion to-night after tea about art treasures. I remember a Frenchman saying in 1940, “They will take everything, including our paintings”, but apparently they have not done so. On the whole in France and Italy there has been no wholesale destruction of art corresponding to the violence of the fighting; Athens, Paris, Brussels have all been (unreadable) unscathed. It looks as if it may be otherwise in Germany, if we blast them out of city after city. Nora said gloomily that in the perspective of history we might appear more destructive than the Germans!
    Just heard an account of yesterday’s celebrations in Paris…. description of the scene at the Hotel de Ville where he was given the freedom of the city of Paris. Here he was overcome with emotion and his eyes filled with tears.
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim.

    He is a very great man. “If a man is to strive with all his heart, the significance of his striving must be unmistakable.” We have been a part of history.
              “It was necessary in June, 1940, that the French parliament should leave France and go on fighting. The government chose to do something else, which meant doing nothing. So far as the men involved are concerned, the choice was a mistake which cannot be redeemed. But there were those Frenchmen who knew what the necessary course was and who acted on the knowledge. So France is alive.” Agar in A Time for Greatness.

Thursday, Nov 16th
              The Tirpitz sunk at Tromso…. It had been bombed and torpedoed before, but this time the job was done for good and it turned turtle in shallow water. The fourth – Graf Spee, Scharnhortst, Bismarck and Tirpitz.

Sunday, Nov 19th
              Papers continue to speculate about Hitler. Has he gone mad? Why has he made only one short appearance, which might not be genuine, since the attempt on his life…. Pointed out that in his speech, which Himmler read, a very careful and far from mad statement of his intentions. He intends to go on with the purge in Germany, opponents are to be exterminated….
              Heard that Tom, the caretaker, in village near Caen, has been to Deauville and hopes to get 48 hours leave in Paris. Little thought he would be in Paris before me!
              Went to see Richard III in London – excellently done. Richard’s speech:
God and our good cause fight upon our side;
 For what is he they follow? Truly, gentlemen,
 A bloody tyrant and a homicide;
 One raised in blood and one in blood established;
 One that made means to come by what he hath,
 And slaughtered those that were the means to help him
 If you do free your children from the sword
 Our children’s children quit it in their age.

Very topical. A stir ran over the audience but they did not cheer as I hoped they would and as I think they should have done.

Monday, Nov 20th
         Toilet paper situation again acute. Nora got a roll from the local stationer where she was served by the Mayoress!

Wednesday, Nov 22nd
              Metz is in our hands, enemy retreating in the Vosges and the French into Alsace at Mulhouse…. In the north the enemy has decided to stand and fight for his life outside the Rhine moat. Here it looks as if a battle as decisive as that in Normandy in August is developing.
              Ice cream is to be manufactured again – cold comfort in November. I should not think it will have much acquaintance with cream so much as the by products of dried milk.
              Heard of a man went to India, found his native troops1) had not heard there was a war 2) did not know it was against Japan 3) they were too worried about their wives, whom they had left, to care.

Thursday, Nov 23rd
              To-night the French have reached Strasbourg. The news was announced in the Chamber in Paris and everyone stood and sang the Marseillaise, which was itself composed in the city. I remember the square by the cathedral, the medieval houses, the eighteenth century palace, museum and art gallery, the wooden children’s toys in the shops, the small restaurants filled with officers from the Maginot Line, where the population had fought on both sides of the war in 1914, a trip to the Rhine and the German troops working on fortifications behind matting screens (this was 1938), getting on the train to return to Paris with my rucksack full of ninepins and a boat for Hilary.

Sunday, Nov 26th
              Most people think 'lease lend' only works one way and we are drawing good from America all the time. It does not. We provide goods, services, raw materials, capital, foodstuffs here which otherwise would have to be brought over with the U.S. troops. So far we have supplied £604m in aid to the U.S.A. and £269m to Russia. Some goods, such as sparking plugs for U.S. planes and jerry cans, 5-gallon petrol cans, so called because we copied them from the Germans in N. Africa, have been entirely supplied by us, not to mention the artificial harbour on D Day. The President paid us this compliment: "Five years of smashing bomb attacks which have destroyed or damaged millions of homes, killed 56,195 men, women and children, and injured many times that number; five years of monotonous work at long hours with scanty rations of food and clothing and even less of most other consumer goods: 22,500,000 removals of civilians because of evacuation or government directives to labour for war work in this country of only 45 millions.” We also produced all the Bailey bridges needed in Europe, and the rail bridges, while the Americans sent the engines and the rolling stock. In the Pacific theatre they are using our rockets. There has been “a stockpile of brains”.
              A Wren chief petty officer who has been released to look after her parents and is helping me at the town library came to tea. She had some ripe stories of the way Navy officers treat the Wrens, expecting them to darn their socks when they have wives doing nothing, and threatening them with imprisonment when they want compassionate leave. She appeared to have struck one particularly outrageous captain, who ran a Wren as a defaulter because, while bending down in his garden, he noticed through his legs that she did not salute his backside!
              Been reading Fair Stood the Wind for France [by H.E. Bates], a novel nearly as good as For Whom the Bell Tolls. Reading it one wonders what it must be like to be surrounded by hatred and loathing as the Germans are, to the west the French with their dead hostages and tortured F.F.I., to the south the Czechs with their memories of Heydrick, Lidice and the Prague students, to the east the Poles with Lublin and the Russians with Stalingrad to avenge - without allies, without friends, without hope.
              Description in the paper to-day of how the Dutch, when they heard Breda was liberated on Sept 4th, believing that final victory was only a matter of days or weeks, completely lost their heads. Jubilant crowds filled the streets of Rotterdam and Amsterdam waving flags and wearing orange dresses. British tanks were reported where there were no tanks at all. There followed the Dutch railway strike and then followed the German reprisals and the intensification of terror.
              Angry letter from farmer to-day complaining that people who say we are the best fed country in Europe thanks to the Royal and the Merchant Navy seem to think that food grows by itself, whereas 70 – 80% of our food is grown by farmers who by skill, long hours and devoted service under great difficulties have saved England from starvation.

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