February. Death of King. "Our sovereign lady, the Queen Elizabeth." Henley accession proclamation. Phyllis Auty and family. Identity cards to go.
Wednesday, Feb 6th
About eleven I happened to ring up Mr Evans at the Alexandra School and he told me that at 10.45 the wireless had announced that the King had died last night at Sandringham.I put on my gown and went round to all the forms except one, which seemed to be misbehaving with Miss Burra, and said: You will be sorry to hear that the King died last night. They heard it in silence.The wireless was closed down for the rest of the day and no further news was broadcast till one o’clock and six.
The funeral of old MacKenzie, ex chairman of the governors, took place at Fawley, so when the governors met this afternoon, after the chairman referred to the royal family, we all stood for him. Lady Hambleden appeared all in black and sat on the chairman’s right.
Thursday, Feb 7th
At prayers this morning used the Collect for the first time for "Our sovereign lady, the Queen Elizabeth", and then repeated, perhaps, the words of some Tudor master in 1558!
Mayor rang up later to ask if we would sing the National Anthem at the proclamation of the Queen’s accession on the steps of the Town Hall at 11 o’clock tomorrow.
At nine o’clock the P.M. spoke. He did it very well and seemed full of vigour and life. Winston loves to feel he is a part of history – Elizabeth Tudor, the young Victoria and Lord Melbourne, Queen Anne and Marlborough. He ended up with God Save the Queen.
Friday, Feb 8th
Today after prayers had whole school in playground and practised God Save the Queen. Got them against the sun first so had to turn them round, choir in front and growlers at the back. At 10.30 took them down to Market Place. Wore Nora’s square, which amused them somewhat, and Uncle’s heavy silk cord gown. Presently the wives of the councillors and clergy appeared on the steps, then the councillors in blue and the aldermen in red, then the Mayor, the beadle and the clerk. The clerk called for silence. The boys took off their caps and the Mayor read the proclamation, standing a little sideways to the microphone. At the end he announced that H.G.S would would sing the first verse of the National Anthem. Mr Brind stood on a chair to conduct them and they sang quite well. We processed back in good order.
Sunday, Feb 10th
Open Day! Very cold and ground frozen which made it possible to walk from Penshurst to Chiddingstone over the fields. Spent a good deal of time in Hilary’s cubicle. Went out and made fire for lunch then back to school to hear what Brian had to say about trip to Spain. We were thinking of going back to fire to make tea in billican, but Nora lay down on H’s bed and nearly fell asleep, so we decided to stay there. I’ve made tea in a lot of places, but this took a lot of beating. We lowered the can on the end of a long hooked wire from a sloping (? lip) in the central heating boiler of the huts and let it rest on the white hot coke. Then when it boiled we hauled it up and made tea.
Hilary had succeeded in reforming his handwriting to my great surprize. Daisy said it was such a pity when he had turned the corner that the school was going to lose him. He had evidently been active on the Library Committee and the room had been much improved.
Tuesday, Feb 12th
52. M sent posy with daphne, primroses, celandine, polyanthus and scilla. It was rather a trying day. Two staff away, air force examination, then to put the lid on it 2 fire officers turned up and wanted to go round the school. We had Mrs Brown, the Canadian social worker to lunch.
Wednesday, Feb 13th
Celebrated my birthday with M by going to see Bless the Bride at the Palace, Reading. Had a seat at the back of the circle for 5/6. We very much enjoyed it.
Thursday, Feb 14th
A brush with Mrs C about the broadcast of the funeral procession tomorrow. She wanted the whole school to listen, but I think listening a mistake. Some children are always bored; it is extremely difficult in our school to prevent interruptions of every kind; and we really have had enough of death and ceremonial of every kind. As the Spectator very sensibly said: Such tension cannot be prolonged indefinitely without provoking the uneasy question of whether the emotions are not being pressed too hard. Hear, hear.
Friday, Feb 15th
The day of the King’s funeral. We started with Senior and Junior Assembly. Had as hymns Immortal, Invisible and Let saints on earth in concert sing ; for a lesson the last half of the passage on Charity and Things that are seen are temporal. Brind played the Solemn Air of Vaughn Davies. It was a short but, I thought, very moving service. Some forms listened to the broadcast in the hall. At 2 we observed 2 minutes silence in our forms and then went on with our ordinary work.
I see the cheap press has been publishing close ups of the Queen and Queen Mother when they left Westminster Hall. This attempt to exploit private and personal grief, even if the persons are royal, is in the worst taste. The Manchester Guardian quotes the Royal Commission of the Press : The greater evil lies in the degradation of public taste, which results from the gratification of morbid curiosity and in the debasement of the professional standard of the journalists. Insensitive sentimentality describes it well.
The European army project is running into heavy weather between suspicions of France, demands from Germany and exasperation of the Americans.
Saturday, Feb 16th
Up to London by bus. Had lunch at N.B.L., then to see French drawings at Arts Council, then to tea at Phyllis’ flat to see the adopted children, now a year and 18 months old. Young Jimmy crawling vigorously, very jolly, laughing away, with light hair which may be curly. Phyllis worried because Minette, French girl, had been out all night with a man while she was away and she was frightened she would be held responsible by family if Minette had been got with child by him. Minette had been to confession; Phyllis had been to the doctor! She was additionally worried because John, the elder baby, had apparently been the result of one first and single intercourse. Phyllis declared, "I was looking after her like my own daughter.” – which tickled us after Phyllis’ chequered and somewhat varied sexual life.
Masses of people crowded down to Windsor yesterday to see the wreaths. The police closed the place when it got dark and large numbers were left there having seen nothing and were very angry with the police. One constable described it aptly as "mass stupidity”. As Nora said, much the same as Hitler worship except that monarchs have no power, fortunately.
Tuesday, Feb 19th
Reading Cry Korea, an English correspondent’s account of the campaign from the Inchon landing to the parallel. It was an eye opener! The Americans after the landing without any serious opposition (along the roads). When their transport was held up they called in the air force for air strikes. They had masses of tanks and jeeps, but no trained infantry. Their machines dealt out indiscriminate destruction on the peasantry they were supposed to be liberating. The Chinese gave one warning of what was to come, but MacArthur took no notice. The Chinese then intervened, not in hordes, for they were never more numerous than the Americans, but with fighting infantry, who kept to the hills by day and attacked the columns by night. The lines of transport trying to get south choked the defiles in disorderly retreat. It looks as though the rearguard of the British and Commonwealth brigades saved the the rest from complete disaster. The Americans seemed to have no regimental morale and very inadequate discipline. The high up officers were good, but there were no junior officers or N.C.O.s with any authority. There was a big gap, which in this country would have been filled by the middle class. The G.I., with his hatred of any superiority which conflicted with his ideas of equality, had nothing to look up to and no standards. He corrupted the South Koreans by the scale of his supplies ; Coca-Cola, candies, toilet requisites, sugar, etc etc. A thought provoking book.
Wednesday, Feb 20th
Mary and I went down to the river, taking our tea in a case and carrying a kettle.We dumped these near the edge and walked along the bank. We met two fishing bums, one tall and the other small and rat-like. They said good afternoon as we passed them. When we got back to our dump, found my Pakamac was missing and case had been opened. I ran after the bums and eventually saw them some way ahead crossing a field. Very winded I ran after them shouting. They took no notice until I was about 20 yards away, then they stopped. I asked if they had seen my mac and the rat-like one pulled it quite cheerfully out of his inner pocket saying he thought it had been left by a fisherman from the weekend. I thought fishermen were supposed to respect each other’s property, but I was wrong. No honesty anywhere today.
Thursday, Feb 21st
Heard tonight on news that after 12 years identity cards are no longer needed and registration numbers are to be kept only for the National Health Service.
Monday, Feb 25th
Half term. Garage said back axle in danger of packing up and must have new crown wheel and pinion. This estimated to cost £21. The trouble is you can never tell how honest the garages are. They say parts are difficult to get, so I suppose some one is taking a rake off.