January. Hilary's fate in case of 1940 invasion. Possible use for V rockets. Tobogganing. "We have given everything". Clifford home. Power cuts. Russians near Berlin.
New Year’s Day, 1945
Train to Exmouth, a cup of coffee and a bun, then bus to Otterton, whence I walked to Ladram Bay. Made on up the cliff path to High Peak. The ground was still frozen and not muddy. I sat on the south-west slope of the hill in dried bracken at 300ft and looked down into the bay and across to Woodbury Common and the faint outline of Haldon beyond, both appearing from the valley mist like the hills in a Japanese print. I thought how in September 1940 during the Battle of Britain Mary and I had crouched in the bracken here as fighters came over, not very certain whether they were English or German. I made my way down hill again, getting more muddy for the frost on the surface had begun to melt in the sunshine and onto the beach. Here I found a sun trap under a semicicular overhang of a cliff. After lunch (sandwiches) I started back to Otterton. There was no one on the beach, but saw two coastguards. From High Peak I could see cormorants sitting on the rocks and while I was eating my lunch a rock pipit appeared hunting flies and walked almost up to my feet. Caught bus to Exton in time for tea party. This was the least satisfactory part of the day. There was no interest whatsoever in the conversation, which never got beyond local gossip, and I was very bored.
Tuesday, Jan 2nd
Yesterday the air battle over Belgium and Holland was the biggest since the day in September 1940 when the Germans lost 195 fighter and bombers. Yesterday they lost 188. It was a low level attack on our fighters when they were believed to be grounded and followed a no surrender speech of Hitler’s which he gave on the Swedish wave length after their broadcasting has stopped for the day.
Here only the penny papers, no Times. The New Chronicle and Daily Mail mainly devoted to the arrival of the first men on leave from France…. Interviews by reporters who appeared to have followed them into their homes and almost into their bedrooms.
Friday, Jan 5th
Con came over for lunch and Nora left for Southampton.
Saturday, Jan 6th
Con and I walked to Hambleden Lock along the towpath. Happened to be talking to Con about the German invasion plans in 1940 when she said that Nora had once told her that if the Germans invaded she intended to kill Hilary and then herself. I think this shocked Con, and it certainly shocked me!
Sunday, Jan 7th
In September I brought home some rope to repair the school flag pole, but it is still curled up in my room. The pole is difficult to unship and at the moment the hoisting of the flag to signal victory does not seem to be very urgent.
Hilary is enjoying Treasure Island which I am reading to him. One day a large number of bombers came over leaving vapour trails. ”Look ”, he said, ”it is like sledging in the sky.” He has been disappointed because with rockets in London we decided not to take him to a theatre. Alexander has been up most days. He remarked to his mother: "Hilary is much nicer to me than he used to be. He is not cross so often.” So boarding school has certainly made him better with other children. Heard from Con that one day he came down to breakfast in tears. Later she found out the cause. One of the Beaver girls had said she was going to report him to the junior meeting for peeing out of the window (Feminine jealousy for an exclusively male accomplishment?)
Tuesday, Jan 9th
Nora up in London yesterday and a number of rockets came over about five o’clock just as she was coming home. Papers say V rockets will soon reach New York…. Pity they couldn’t drop a few near Washington and wake up the Senate.
While Nora away she heard stories of queer casualties in Dorothy Wade’s hospital. Old woman from Brittany with German bills on her had evidently been supplying the occupying troops but stayed on too long; a German girl sniper, a Russian mercenary, all abusive and violent. The old woman persuaded with great difficulty that she was not in German hands; mercenary when he woke from anaesthetic spat straight in the matron’s eye. Nora lugged home some white paint from boat yard as white paint almost unobtainable here, only “war emergency” brown paint.
Wednesday, Jan 10th
Hilary tobogganing this morning after a sprinkling of snow. Alexander (Weiss) came up later and sprained his thumb. Hilary behaved very badly and refused to take him home. However later he went down with a note of apology.
Thursday, Jan 11th
A lovely cold day with powdery snow and some sunshine. Hilary spent the day tobogganing and was very tired at the end of it. Heard to-day that our neighbour, Mrs Douglas, got her daughter back from Kenya by aeroplane. The girl, with two young daughters, was knocked down by a drunken officer in car in Nairobi and her spine broken. She is quite helpless and can only move her shoulders slightly. She was taken to the Military Hospital at Oxford for examination..... they suggested she may live for one year, but think at most three. She can read a book if she is propped up and even turn the pages by her shoulder movement., but she cannot use her hands or arms and below the shoulder is completely paralysed. Three years like that! Waiting for death. (I later visited her. She could then use her arms). (Added in 1961: As far as I know she is still alive!)
Sunday, Jan 14th
Still very cold, north wind and ground frozen. Went up to London yesterday and saw over St Mary’s Medical College and to lunch with Margaret Burton and to tea at her Hampsted flat. This one large ground floor room of decayed Victorian house, gloomy in the extreme, looking down in a garden in disorder, general effect not helped by broken window (rocket) repaired by piece of carpet. Margaret as usual very gloomy about future, especially taxation and shortage of labour – false values of American civilization which look down on personal service and leave it to Negroes, coloured people and European-born immigrants.
Rockets falling pretty regularly. Subway to tube at Paddington damaged. On way to Hampsted passed V bomb damage, the gaunt empty shells of houses. Many people live in tubes because they have no where else to go. Margaret like all the rest of us very tired.
Saturday, Jan 20th
A bitter day with frost and north wind. Hilary returned to Long Dene with ropeladder, hatchet and sawfly in box ! Finished reading Treasure Island at 7.30 last night, a great success.
There has be a good deal of criticism of “unconditional surrender”. P. M. replied [in speech on Thursday] that this in no way relieves the victorious nations of their obligations to humanity and their duties as civilized and Christian nations. “We are not extirpators of nations or butcherers of peoples. We make no bargain with you. We accord you nothing of right. Abandon your resistance now …. If you surrender now nothing that you will have to endure after the war will be comparable with that you will otherwise have to endure in the year 1945.”
“We have given everything – we are the only unbroken force that declared war on Germany of its own free will. After June 1940 we stood alone for more than a year. We seek no territory, we covet no oil fields, we demand no bases for the forces of the air and the sea. We shall emerge from this war more stricken and impoverished than any other victorious nation.”
Notice there is said to be more paper for stationery. Wonder if this includes bumf! At the end of last term, a Thursday, bright people removed what was left of the school supply.
Sunday, Jan 21st
Last night a slight fall of snow and to-day a beautiful winter landscape, white fields just covered, sunshine, the arabesque of dark branches on which buds of chestnuts glistened stickily standing against a sky which ran from whitish blue to deep azure. Among the bushes tits darted and momentarily caught the light like jewellery.
Tuesday, Jan 23rd
More snow to-day and much snowballing at school. Noticed a pair of green woodpeckers at work on school bell turret, one each side like a pair of heraldic supporters. Trees weighted down with snow. Very cold at school as one boiler out of action.
Letter from Clifford, senior master, who has returned to Plymouth from India after three years. His child two years when he left; now at Infant School. Says he will look forward to something constructive after three years of flaming and burning, smashing and destruction.
Form asked to-day how we could avoid making Hitler a martyr. Replied that I hoped Germans would shoot him themselves and save us the trouble.
Going back to school after lunch to-day heard a boy saying, ”Look out! The old man’s coming.”
Wednesday, Jan 24th
Electricity cut at 8.30 this morning in some parts of southern England because of breakdown under increased load. Domestic consumers asked to cut electric fires between 8 and 12 in morning. Extremely cold still. We are to have 30,000 temporary homes from America and dried figs, hazelnuts and sultanas from Smyrna. The Burma road is now open again and looks as if we will soon be in Mandalay.
Thursday, Jan 25th
The frost is still very severe. A great day for sliding for the boys. One form went down to the playing field in the games period and had a snowball fight.
German transport is reported to be streaming back from the west, road and rail ceaselessly harassed by our air force, to centres such as Hanover, on the way to attempt to check the smash up in the east. In the other direction refugees are streaming through Berlin, riding on the buffers of trains, anywhere. They are crowding along the roads from the fronts, too, just as the French, Belgians and Dutch in 1940.
To-day the meat did not turn up so we had a school lunch of square doughy pudding in which were embedded some small pieces of spam. It was accompanied by dried peas. I called it one of “Evelyn’s’ Iniquities”.
Writing to cousin Amy in New York mentioned shortages here – matches, toilet paper, soapflakes, good knitting wool, toilet soap - had to add hastily that this was not a begging letter.
Saturday, Jan 27th
Nora in bed yesterday afternoon with a temperature. Carrying a large roll of toilet paper round last few days on which she blew her nose. Commented on this rather unfavourably, but told no paper handkerchiefs since the fall of Norway!! Frost still holds. Rats have returned and duly reported to Town Clerk, who hope will send Rodent Officer, alias Vermin Detector, alias Ratcatcher!
Very necessary for women to know something about pipes! Entire female staff sitting in common room yesterday listening to water pouring like Niagara in the girls’ lavatory from a cistern. Miss Hunter, when I pointed out the tap by which supply turned off, said rather huffily – Not my job to know that.
Sunday, Jan 28th
Very busy day with cooking, washing, outside and inside chores;. Nora still in bed. News still good. Another five Silesian towns in Russian hands, including Katowice.
Tuesday, Jan 30th
Last night it started to snow and this morning there were some drifts with a kind of frozen crust on top, but when I went up to the orchard I noticed the wind had gone round to the south and by midday the big thaw had set in. Nora better but still in her room. Killed Diamond [goose] to-night and started to pluck him, but found I had taken on a big job. The kitchen got more and more like a Buster Keaton film with feathers and down everywhere. Then after the long frost he turned out to be very small.
Wednesday, Jan 31st
Always pleased when January over though February often just as unpleasant. Snow disappearing with remarkable rapidity, floors and walls streaming with condensation. Diamond, mainly plucked, taken down in newspaper to the butcher’s.
Hilary’s two rabbits in one cage supposed to be does, but really from their behaviour after lunch one behaving in a most un-doe-like fashion.
To-night the Russians are 67 miles from Berlin….. They have asked for it and they have got it. Prussia not defeated since Jena on own soil. It was time.