All posts for the month July | 1941 |

July 31 Thursday 9.30 am [1941]

I don’t think I shall go to Sk. very often, the sight of all those boys being drilled to take part in this awful war is so saddening. It cannot be right to have the flower of youth wiped out, all of them belonging to somebody. Some looking so gay and bright and some who seem already to have the shadow of their fate looking forth from their young grave faces and some with uneasy worried looks as if they loathe being chivvied from pillar to post with a sergeant barking orders at them that they would obey so much more readily by request but must all be ordered since so many obey orders only. Shopping is very difficult and the attendants in so many of them barely civil. I know these are trying times but it is difficult to buy as well as sell. A plane went by just now and then a few minutes later an explosion shook the house. I wonder if it was from the plane. Post just come so will see what letters there are.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

July 30 Wed 10.30 pm [1941]

Sybil Adams been and gone again. Just the same as ever. She see-doodles about all day and yet we like her. It must be charm! She is very loveable. Poor Frank was on a “stunt” part of the time. He was so woe-begone. He had a boil too which made him very seedy. They went to church on Sunday evening. The fact that church starts at 6 o’ c and chapel at 6.30 seems so topsy-turvy to me, who was always used to it being the other way on, that I seemed to realise there really is a war and it is making a difference. I can’t explain exactly what I feel but it seems uncomfortably strange. Perhaps the war has nothing to do with church starting at 6 o’ c but it never did before the war. Sybil and Frank enjoyed the service and then sang to us until supper-time. He sang “Oh for the wings of a dove.” He has a fine voice.

We went to Sk. this afternoon. Father wanted his basic ration coupons (for petrol) also petrol and I wanted one or two things, got them all except cup hooks. Lots of people in Sk. Many complaints that they are eating up all the food supplies needed by residents. Can easily believe it as all the thousands of R.A.F. recruits and sailors from Royal Arthur must make a tremendous difference.

Mr A was just going back to his office after dinner when we arrived. He appeared rather upset. A British bomber had crashed into the sea this morning off Skegness and only part of the crew were saved. It was too late by then to expect any more to be alive even if they could be got at. The plane was completely submerged.

‘Stunt’ refers to army manoeuvres/exercise.

The British bomber, which crashed into the sea off Skegness pier, was reportedly a Hampden from RAF Coningsby. The pilot and one crew member escaped but the body of a third crew member was never recovered. (Buried wreckage, an engine plaque, was much later reported to have been recovered from the beach by Mr R Bainbridge – Lincolnshire Standard, 7th July 2004.)

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

July 18 Friday 8.45 am [1941]

I got my bucket of water hot and was going upstairs to collect clothes when I found a letter from Ron in the hall. He was coming for the day so Father had to get up and swallow a cup of tea and go and meet him. He had started and just got a lift in the car which has picked him up before, on the way home from taking milk to W[illough]by. I gave up the idea of washing and cleared up the kitchen and got lunch ready.

Keith is on 7 days leave and he and Marion Marryon came for tea. She is a pretty girl and would I think look even better without lipstick and pink nails. Her hair is lovely. Colin has chicken-pox. Ron thinks he will go to Leeds again next week instead of home. He expects to get 8 days leave in August, 4 here and 4 at Yeadon. It is leave he missed while on his course. I think he will get another 8 days in September divided again no doubt.

Rene did not stay for tea, she was chafing about Bill (dog) who failed to arrive with her yesterday. Jean and I went to the station with Ron to catch the 8.24. Father got Hallgarth to do an hour and half [Coastguard duty] to set him at liberty. Ivy and Betty came to see Rene for a recipe in the afternoon so we had plenty of company. Ivy says Annie A, married now, has registered as her father’s housekeeper.

‘Marryon’ referred to the pronunciation of the first name of Keith’s girlfriend (see 28 Apr. 1941).

Colin Hill, nephew, still at school, was the youngest brother of Keith (and of Raymond and Gordon).

Betty Harness was a sister of Ivy and other children of Harriet and Jack Harness (see 26 Dec. 1940).

Annie A, here, was daughter of Ivy’s future husband by his previous marriage.


Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

July 17 Thursday 8.15 am [1941]

I am reading “The Keeper of the Bees” by Gene St. Porter and was struck by these words, I think they are very appropriate to these days:

“I’d like to know, he said dourly, what a lot of mothers in this would mean. If they’ve known enough about the awful power of sex attraction themselves to marry a man and bear a child, why, in God’s world, don’t they know what they are letting the young folks up against when they turn them loose in utter and untrammelled freedom on the mountains and thro’ the canyons and on the beaches and in the parks and the dance halls and streets? Can’t they see that however times and customs change, the desires of the heart and the urge of the body do not change? They only grow stronger with the freedom and licence and physical contact allowed in these astounding days.”

It has been a dry night but is very dull, I am wondering if I shall get the rest of my blankets washed. I washed yesterday and got them dry but did not finish all my weekly wash. I must get my bucket on the fire as soon as I can. Jean gone to school but I am still puffed up. It is a nuisance not having a copper and it would not be so bad if it was a kitchen range instead of a “Yorkist combination” of sitting room grate and oven, very nice if all the washing goes to the laundry. Father not up yet, he was on duty until 2 a.m. and is on again at 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. He finished hoeing allotment yesterday, potatoes not very good yet but the rain will help.

Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924) was an American author, feminist and naturalist whose works included novels and books on nature. ‘The Keeper of the Bees’ was her last novel, published posthumously after her death in a traffic accident, and later made into a film.

‘Copper’ refers to a ‘copper boiler’ which typically incorporated a metal cauldron (generally cast-iron) with a brick surround, over a fireplace, in a scullery. May missed this arrangement, which she had been used to at ‘Sunny Side’. (See ‘A Yellowbelly Childhood’, Frank Forster, Seacroft Press, 2007, p24.)

The ‘Yorkist combination’ was a fire with side oven and back boiler for heating domestic water. With no mains supply, the water first had to be hand-pumped into an upstairs tank. Water for clothes washing was heated in a separate tub, placed on the unit, which was cumbersome and heavy for May to manage. (See ‘A Yellowbelly Childhood’, Frank Forster, p26, for ‘kitchen range’ illustration.)


Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

July 15 Tuesday 9.45 pm [1941]

St Swithin’s as Emily reminded me in her letter this morning and we have had heavy showers all day. Hope the old saying that if it rains on S.S it rains 40 days more or less won’t be right this year, the rain this week is doing immense good but hope it turns fine now as there is a lot of hay to gather yet. Em says her sweet peas are in full bloom. Mine are late, not one out yet. It has been so close today between showers, just the damp humid weather that disagrees with me, I am very puffed up.

I washed the clothes from the Wakelams beds yesterday 4 sheets 3 PCs [pillow cases] 2 BCs [bolster cases] 2 underblankets and 2 counterpanes and a towel. There is still the table cloth and toilet covers to wash, not much profit out of 15/0. Our own counterpanes and toilet cover last 3 months and these are not so soiled. Mrs Adams is coming again for a week or 10 days, she has received her calling up papers so says the war will soon be over now. She registered in May whilst she was here before. She is 22 on Sunday.

Ron went to Yeadon on Fri night for Sat and had a nice time. He says they had chicken and green peas in camp on Sunday. Thinks they must have bombed a chicken farm! They had had strawberries on the Sat whilst he was away. We had strawbs, and I opened my last but one tin of cream on Sun, 1s 2d lb from Sharps. We had our own peas and potatoes but pots very small.

Went to Sk[egness] yesterday afternoon. Father wanted car licence and petrol. I got a nice pinafore at M and S [Marks and Spencer] for 2/6 and 3 coupons, longer. I filled in my 3 ration books this morning, it took me 1 hour and they are supposed to be simpler this time. To most people they are a complicated muddle as they are not filled in according to their own instructions but to others published on radio and the papers, just as if everyone took papers and I am sure very few would get the correct instructions from “listening in”.

So we have made a “pact” with Red Russia, let’s hope we are not as badly “burned as scalded”. The K.S.L.I.s seem to think the war will soon be over. Poor boys, I hope it will. Oh dear I am gloomy tonight. It is a depressing evening, dull and steamy. Rene came for dinner and did a little baking. I had made myself a gooseberry pie with G.Bs the [Army] cook next door gave me with some cabbages. I gave him a 2lb jar of Black-B[erry] jam. He tucked it under his bag, I bet only a favoured few would get a taste.

Grace brought me a small hen tonight 2/0 said they had more meat than they could get thro! I was very pleased. Sent H[arriet] some young carrots, she likes them so, and told Grace she (H) could have Bimbo (tame rabbit) as Father does not fancy eating him, at least he doesn’t want to kill him. Must be going to rain again as it is getting darker tho’ only just after 10 o’ c. Think I will soon go to bed. Have just finished reading “And Pleasant his Wife” by S.C. Nethersole. A very pleasing book.

The Lees were here Sat. Rosemary on draft leave. Billy Lees has a commission. Joan gone into Boots since her shop was bombed. John Kirk home on leave. “Lights out” just sounding on K.S.L.I.’s bugle.

Mr Arthur Sharpe (spelling corrected), a greengrocer, with a market-garden in Hogsthorpe (across fields west of Harness’s Wigg Lane farmhouse), called on rounds with horse and dray. One of his sons, Ray, was a member of the Home Guard.

KSLI – King’s Shropshire Light Infantry – were locally nicknamed King’s Silly Little Idiots. Frank Adams and colleagues were members.

Rosemary and Joan, sisters of Billy, were daughters of Mr and Mrs Len Lees. The family, former holiday visitors, had been mentioned earlier (see 16 Dec. 1940).


Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

July 10 Thurs 9.30 pm [1941]

We had a heavy thunderstorm on Tues evening with a good rain, tho’ we could do with more rain. Still the gardens are looking much better already, especially the lettuces Jean has planted out. We are eating the carrots I sowed in the autumn, they are ready before those sown this spring. We are hoping to have potatoes for Sun and possibly green beans.

Mrs. Wakelam wanted to stay another week but I don’t fancy striving in the hot kitchen while they have the cool room for 15/s a week and Father likes to rest there when he is on duty at night. We had a very unsettled night after the thunderstorm as there were so many planes, and bombs were dropped a few miles away, then Michael wakes us at intervals with coughing. He is not very bad at present and has not been really sick yet I think but very nearly so, and I am pleased I told them I could not put them up longer than the week agreed upon, as I think they will be best at home in case he gets worse. He is a good little chap and spends heaps of time with the soldiers, she does not seem to worry about where he is.

Rene came this afternoon, it was a lovely day with a cool N.E. breeze to fan the heat. We sat in the garden after dinner. Father hoed some of the allotment on Tues, we may get a crop now it has rained, hope so if they only do for the pigs it will be something.

A big black and white Collie went on the mine-field in the Marsh and was blown up to-day. There was a big explosion about 8.30 to-night, I don’t know whether it was a bomb or not. A soldier next door was convinced it was a bomb dropped by a plane we could still hear, then we heard two shots which he was quite positive were Ack-Ack fire tho’ I think myself that it was someone shooting a double-barrelled gun, probably at rabbits. He is suffering badly with his teeth and is probably very nervy.

I think I am the only one left up tho’ it is only 9.45 yet. Father is on watch and Mrs.Wakelam always seems ready for bed early, tho’ I am not sure they have gone. We shall soon be losing the hour of summer-time now. Ron expects to go to Leeds Friday night unless he happens to be on guard.

Our meat ration is increased by 2d to 1s.2d per head this week but butter ration now only 2oz and marg 8oz. Cheese ration doubled to 2oz and jam to be doubled in August i.e. 1lb per month each. Eggs 3 each a week (perhaps). We are supposed to have double ration of sugar this month but this week I have not got double ration from Stows so far and I got no lard either tho’ it was charged for. Must wake them up a bit. Rene is getting double ration of sugar this week but did not get it last. Hallgarths had no butter for me this week nor next. I do miss it. Russia seems to be holding her own fairly well with Gers up to now. Think a lot of people think it will hasten end of war, but, I hope I am wrong, I have a feeling we have the worst to come yet tho’ it may be short and sharp.

‘Ack-Ack’ was a common expression for Anti-Aircraft (gunfire) – also abbreviated as AA.

Ron would have been going to see Emmie in Yeadon, near Leeds.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

July 6 Sun 10 p.m. [1941]

How my diary has been neglected lately. Since last I wrote in it Uncle Tom has passed away (June 18) and Aunt Jet has been to stay. She only stayed from Mon to Fri. She is a handful, I am sure her brain can not be normal. I don’t know how Amy will endure it, if she lives long. She certainly seems as strong as a woman of 76 can be, but has had one or two nasty turns which may have been slight strokes. She gave Will Dad’s gun which Uncle Tom had seldom used.

Ron was home on Sat for the day, he is working hard now but looks well. He gave me 3 new 2/0 pieces. I could not go to Willoughby as I was expecting a soldier’s wife (one of Frank Adams’ pals). She did not arrive until after Father’s return so I might have gone. Rene went, Jean was at Margaret Picker’s party. Mrs.Wakelam and little boy 2½ arrived 8.30. Michael has whooping cough. She says he never whooped until last night but he has had a bad cough for two weeks so think she ought to have made sure. Jean hasn’t had it so have told Mrs. W she must keep him out of the kitchen and of course Jean will not go in the room. It has been so hot in the kit. today having dinner and tea cooking. I will not be bothered with children any more. She had given him cod liver oil tonight and he came messing in the kitchen (Jean had retired) with his face and hands all oily and rubbed them on settee and chairs and I loathe the smell. Shall be pleased when the week is up. She is going to Skegness tomorrow. I don’t think Mr. W. ought to sleep here tonight, he might spread it amongst the soldiers. I bet my sheets will be a bit greasy. It is very hot tonight. The SW wind has dropped and of course it is really only 8 o’c by the sun. W’s have gone to bed but Father is on duty and the boy keeps coughing so I am not in a tremendous hurry. Rene came this afternoon. Mr. A is having a week’s holiday so she won’t get to dinners this week. Expect she will get sometime during the day tho’. I want to wash tomorrow if Mrs.W goes out.

Ron and Re have a camera now. The first lot of films have gone to be developed so we are looking forward to seeing them. I don’t like myself in the snaps Emmie took. Ron expects to go to Yeadon next Saturday. Emmie is thinking of joining the A.T.S. as otherwise she will have to go in munitions. Sybil Adams hopes to get in G.P.O at Shrewsbury. I have had 2 letters from her, they are most amusing.

Frank, George and Bill W went to the S.S. [Sunday School] anniversary at night and helped with the singing then came in to supper. George is on leave this week, he is not married. I do not like B.W. as much as the other two. Frank has everyone’s good word. He and George neither drink, smoke or swear and yet are popular with their mates and respected too. They are only 21 too but it shows there are a few strong characters left yet. I am pleased to think Ron is another. Am pleased too that he has a decent pal now.

Must try and keep my diary more up to date. Our dairy business has gone with egg rationing I am afraid. The £3.10s from C.G. box is alright whilst the war lasts, I hope, but of course it will finish then and we may have a very lean time. We are licensing the car this quarter but don’t know after that. Well it is 10.30 so think I will go to bed. I am reading a book “And Pleasant his Wife” by S.C. Nethersole which is very interesting. Have just read “Quinneys” by H. Vachell.


‘Dad’ refers to May’s father (brother of Uncle Tom), who had owned the gun.

Margaret Picker was Jean’s school-friend. They continued to be long-term close friends.

Mrs Wakelam, wife of soldier Bill, and son Michael were temporary ‘boarders’.

‘Expect she will get sometime…’ (colloquial in Lincolnshire) meant ‘Expect she will come here sometime…’

ATS was the (Women’s) Auxiliary Territorial Service. Princess Elizabeth, the King’s elder daughter (later Queen Elizabeth II), joined in 1945 and was famously photographed, dressed in dungarees, changing a wheel on a military vehicle.

Susie Colyer Nethersole was an author whose best known book ‘Wilsam: A Romance’, published by Macmillan in 1913, included descriptions of farm life in her home area near Sandwich in Kent.

Lord Horace Annesley Vachell was earlier mentioned, as author of ‘The Face of Clay’ – See 8 Jan. 1941. ‘Quinneys’ was published by George H Doran, New York, in 1914.


Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?