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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

1945, July

July. Polling day. One-day regatta.  Fratting. Potsdam. London lights come on again. Labour wins. Man of Munich returned in Henley. Germany's 1940 plans for Britain - what an escape.
Friday, July 6th
Polling Day; but instead of hearing the results to-night and to-morrow we have to wait three weeks while some northern constituencies poll and the service vote comes in. Hardly think that Liberals and Labour between them will get a majority, more likely in many constituencies let the Conservative in on a minority vote. What we want is a front populaire. In great doubt as to whether to vote Liberal or Labour. Long ago Henley was a Liberal constituency and at the last election a Liberal with no backing at all got 8000 votes, so wonder if Liberal more chance than Labour of turning out the ex-MP, a Conservative yes-man who voted for Chamberlain to the end in the summer of 1940. Finally both Nora and I voted Labour. The prophets say a Conservative majority of 50 – 100, but they are usually wrong.
A woman of 93 asked “Is this where I vote for Mr Gladstone?
It was a lovely day yesterday and after school we took a skiff on the river. The booms had been put up along this end of the course, painted white with red flags; on the bank an enclosure had been erected and men were cutting the grass round the tents and marquees. There were two stands. Eights went by with their coaches in launches or on bicycles and men in white college blazers walked along the towpath. Berlin seemed far away.
The regatta is a one-day affair with two Australian eights, some college eights and a number of schools are rowing.

Tuesday, July 10th
The regatta took place on Saturday in lovely weather and there were big crowds but not much food!
The Russians proving difficult again in Berlin, this time over food, billets and prohibited areas. It is to be hoped that the high-ups will soon countermand the order about non-fraternization with the British. It seems that we shall soon be fraternizing with the Germans, for as the News Chronicle put it: the army can be divided into two classes, those who are not interested in women and those who are determined to practise fraternization wherever they may be.

Monday, July 16th
The meeting (at Potsdam) of Truman, Churchill and Stalin has probably started. The Russians are supposed to be doing the food, the British the bedding and the Americans the cutlery! This afternoon Churchill drove from Potsdam round Berlin; he visited the Reichstag and the Reichs Chancellery, where Hitler is supposed to have died. I bet he got a grim satisfaction out of it all.
Phyllis down for the weekend and was reading some of the files of the U.N.R.A. dealing with the camps of Displaced Persons, DPs as she calls them. Reports written late at night by chaps who had been dealing with these huge numbers of starving, dirty and hopeless released serfs, describing the struggle to bring order out of chaos.
Yesterday the two hour summer time was cut to one hour and last night all the lights of London came on at last.

Wednesday, July 18th
A terrific thunderstorm on Saturday night, almost but not quite as long and violent as that in 1924. Hilary much impressed as school sent us a drawing of it.

Friday, July 20th
Much impressed last night coming back from picnic with the dazzling brilliance of peacetime street lighting with new bulbs. Had quite forgotten how powerful they used to be. Great pools of light at the foot of each lamp standard. No privacy now for a return after dark through the streets of Henley!
Last week ration books lost or stolen. Papers had to be signed etc. Finally emergency cards were issued, but we lost our sweet coupons and Nora her clothing coupons, though possibly some of these may be renewed.

Sunday, July 22nd
Very stupid publicity for Potsdam consisting of accounts of all the luxury equipment flown out for the statesmen. As we cannot get sheets, blankets and so on here we are not much amused by this. Then the pictures of British troops and German girls ”fratting”; nice for the wives and sweethearts; next the delays of hours in getting ”trunks” on the automatic telephone and the impossibility of finding any holiday accommodation; and so we go on – the horrors of peace indeed. Nobody can tell me whether any of my staff will be released for the new term.

Saturday, July 28th
The election results declared on Thursday a great surprise to everyone, including the Labour Party. By 12 o’clock it was clear that the government were losing heavily; by two o’clock that even if the govt won all the remaining seats they would not have a majority and by six the dimension of the landslide was known and Churchill resigned. He held office for five years and saved Britain, and through Britain, Europe. Is this the way we reward a great statesman, foreigners ask. No. Mr Churchill the national leader is as popular as ever, but Mr Churchill the leader of the Conservative Party and claiming votes for them on the strength of having led a coalition government are quite clearly separate in people’s minds. We were not going to hand over the government of the country to the Conservatives for five years because Mr Churchill chose very unwisely to accepts its leadership in 1940. Nor were the electors frightened by talk of the horrors of socialism, and all the other bogeys that were trotted out by the press to scare the credulous.
Unfortunately in our constituency the man of Munich was returned; though Labour polled heavily and the Liberal came third.
We now have such a progressive majority as we have not had since 1906-1914. If they can work together and not fall out they should be able get something done in the next five years. Most people express uneasiness at the result and regard Eden as irreplaceable as foreign secretary and Attlee too weak a character to make a good P.M We only had to wait till this morning to hear that Bevin succeeds Eden.
The documents for German administration here have been discovered. All men between 16 and 45 to be deported and all children to be subject to the penalties of adults.What a prospect and what an escape from misery, torture, disease and slow death of all we loved.

Tuesday, July 31st
Worked all day at extracting honey. Had 2 ½ helpers, Eric Cunnington, Molly and Hilary, so hardly knew myself. Unfortunately the jars had not come so could not finish in two days as I had hoped.

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