All posts for the month September | 1941 |

Friday September 26 8.30 pm [1941]

Yesterday Rene and Jean went blackberrying on the sand hills near C.G. hut. We cannot go opposite the house as it is barb-wired and mined. I am a little nervous of the mines being so near in case a straying dog sets one off as they may easily do. We have to keep a watch on “Bill” now, but I don’t think he goes up unless anyone throws a stone for him. We only got about 1½ lbs, so many people come after them as well as the soldiers but I put a lb of apples with them and made jam. I strained most of the seeds out so it should be good. The seeds don’t agree with “false teeth” or I suppose I should say “artificial dentures”.

Louie Berry came to see me last night. She had come over to her house to collect linen and silver. She was just as cheerful as ever tho’ living in London and working hard. Geo. is at a Lyons Corner House don’t know in what capacity. Ray is in the Navy, he is nearly 20 now I think and Ethel has just had a little son (11 weeks). It doesn’t seem 4 years since she married. They have a little cat which at the sound of sirens or any extra loud bumps indoors or out, runs into the air raid shelter which is built into the kitchen. If no one follows it comes out again and looks at them as if asking why they do not take cover.

There are a lot of planes going over or coming in tonight. Father is on watch until 2.00 am. Jean and Father went to the Harvest Festival sale on Tues., brought home a cabbage, apples, damson jam (from Rene), sweets etc. They took onions and carrots. It was a good sale and made nearly £20. Tom [Harness] and Mavis [H] came in on Wed morning. I was making coffee for Ron and Father and on Thurs. Betty came down with 1lb tea from her mother as she has plenty and I was short. It was 2/7 and I was very pleased with it. Then Stows sent me ½ lb instead of ¼ and as it is Jean’s week for tea I shall get ¼ lb from Halls and it is Father’s week for tea and sugar for the box, ½ lb tea and ¾ sugar so I really feel rather guilty about getting so much but we always use more than our ration and I think there is plenty about. I let Rene have a ¼ lb. Mr. Taylor brought me 1lb of dripping too so that will be useful. I did not want to have all my meat ration as I am having a rabbit “Graysie”. Harriet is having “Adolf”. They are beauties and so fat, I think the soldiers waste bread has helped them a lot. I am charging 2/0 for H’s. Have sold 3 little rabbits at 1/6 each, Colleen is having one and Mrs Maddison 2. Mr. Taylor wants Jean to cut him some sage, he will pay for it, I shall let her have the money towards her watch. It is very close tonight, feels like thunder. A shower or two would do good especially in our garden as flowers and veg are grimy from having the chimney swept and also from the outside cooker next door. My white and pink gladioli are lovely.

Father went to Spilsby yesterday to see Mr. Richardson about’s affairs. F. Simpson came in today to pay Father for helping with harvest. 1/3 hour, 9 hrs 11/3. Less than he gets on the box and hard work at that. Jean is getting tired and wants to go to bed. I wish she would go alone, but she seems nervous. It is not 9 o’c yet and it seems so long to 2 am if I go early. Had a letter from Emmie today she does not know yet if she will get in York hospital, thought it was all settled. Ron has been for his a/c 1 board and thinks he has passed for it. I keep dreading to hear he has to move. We have been very fortunate having him near so long. He will be 21 in November, should like to have him at home for that. Rene made his birthday cake last Friday and was profoundly shocked when I said put 5 eggs in (2 fresh and 3 potted) but I think that now we have tried the two wee ones we made to taste that she thinks it is worth it. She has always lived with people who have had to be careful or have been “mean”. Of course we don’t use eggs even in “Peace time” (that time which seems so far behind us and not even in sight before us as yet) every week.

Ron - shortly after joining RAF © AE Wrate, Skegness

Ron said they had a nice service at Binbrook Chapel on Sun. night tho’ they did not mention the R.A.F. (it was R.A.F. Sunday Sep 21). They sang one of his favourite hymns “Lord of all being throned afar”. He learned it at Ingoldmells school and used to sing it all out of tune when his voice broke. Haven’t heard any planes lately so will knit and read a bit and then to bed. Jean is asleep in Father’s chair with her feet on another. Am “stilting” Ron a pair of socks, can’t waste wool these days. Rene vows the army laundry boils the socks, they are so shrunken before they are half worn out. She is knitting him a helmet to wear when on guard.

Louie and George Berry owned (but were not living in) a house near the village centre. Ray and Ethel, here, were their children.

Tom Harness, nephew, married to Mavis, managed a shop in Nottingham. He was Harriet’s youngest of three sons. (His six sisters, including Betty, were all younger.)

‘Affairs’ refers to Grandma Hill’s business (distribution of eggs etc.). Mr Richardson, in Spilsby, may have been an accountant.

Ron’s elementary school was in nearby Ingoldmells, rather than Chapel St Leonards School attended by his parents and sisters.

‘Stilting’ was part of the knitting process for socks – turning a heel or toe to prevent a thick seam.

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

Saturday September 20 8.05 pm [1941]

A quiet day with very little sunshine. Hope the night will be quiet.

Last Tues night a Jerry plane came over just north of the C.G. box from inland, think it came over the coast at Mablethorpe and circled round Alford way and then out here. It dropped a great many incen[diary] bombs the explosive kind and as it passed we heard the whistle of the two H.E. [high explosive] bombs they dropped on the beach amongst a lot of incen. bombs. Jean and I were in bed as it was ¼ to 10. I had asthma and bronchitis and went early, after a dose of sweet-nitre and aspirins. Jean was very frightened, I was too for that matter, she would get up and I came down faster than I had for some days in my dressing gown. Jean did not wait for hers but seized her overcoat in passing. Father was at the C.G. box so I went in the room which was not blacked-out to look out. I cannot see the box from the window very well as the poplars are full of leaf, but the bank was all lit up and great flashes kept going up, so I put Father’s slippers on and ran to the gate. I was very pleased to see the old box still intact. We sat up a little while but heard no more planes and as the fire was out, went back to bed. I was surprised to find we had been up just an hour, the time had passed quickly in all the excitement. I did not get a chill and was much better on Weds and Thursday but had a bad day on Friday. Am still very nervous when I hear planes at night.

Ron came on Wed but I did not feel up to going to Will[ough]by with him at night. He hopes to get his ac/1 shortly. Emmie is going to nurse in York Hospital. Amy came on Thurs on 11.05 bus’ until 7.40 at night. Ken [Smith] came too, spent his day with feet on fender (in Jean’s slippers) chuckling over “Nipper Annuals” and the “Scrap Book”. Rene took a “snap” of them and then discovered he still had the slippers on.

Aunt Jet, Cousin Amy and Ken (reading 'Nipper' Annual)

Cook from next door came thro’ the fence and had his photo taken then in his white? cap and apron.

Cookie 'Jock' Brown and Bill

We have been so bothered by the chimney smoking lately, that ill or not I had it swept yesterday. It was well choked up, think a lot of the trouble is the bad coal. Mr Faulkner brought his ladder and scraped the chimney pot. Cost me 3/6. Jean and I cleaned up all the soot and washed paints, floors etc so think we got rid of it. It doesn’t smell sooty now anyway. George Cutts came in the afternoon just after I was washed and dressed. Frank A. is on leave. G had walked from Seathorne went back on ¼ to 10 bus.

Father has mown the lawn and weeded and straightened the paths so we look very spruce or shall if we ever get the garden weeded. My gladioli are coming into bloom, they are lovely. Amy took stocks and wallflowers back with her. It is the Harvest Festival today. One of the new ministers preached, Jean and Rene both liked him. The Harvest “sale” is on Tues night. Jean wants to go if Father can fetch her. Am reading an interesting book by O.W. Holmes “Elsie Venner”, rather weird but better worth reading than many. In the “Standard” this week is printed an old prophetic epitaph from a 500 year old tombstone in the Ch yd [church-yard] at Kirby Essex.

“When pictures look alive and movements free,
When ships like fishes, swim beneath the sea,
When men outstripping birds, shall scan the sky,
Then half the world deep drenched in blood shall lie.”

The “half” is vaguely comforting somehow. Bulgaria announces her readiness to join Axis in full. I wonder if Turkey is to be trusted?

Ron had another narrow escape. In turning a plane on the ground the tail hit a bomb on the nose. Fortunately it was not one that went off on impact. The directing groundsman was very careless. So near to death we all dwell in these troubled times. Eff got me a box of Quaker Corn Flakes on Thurs from Cannings.

Sweet Nitre – a popular remedy. The 1946 edition of Stedman’s Medical Dictionary gives the following definition: ‘Spiritus aetheris nitrosi: an alcoholic solution of ethyl nitrate, aldehyde and other substances. A sedative, diuretic and diaphoretic in doses of 20–30 min.’ (‘A minum is 1/60th of a fluid drachm: practically speaking, a drop.’)

‘a/c 1’ refers to the RAF rank of Aircraftman First Class.

John Kenneth (‘Ken’) Smith was May’s cousin Amy’s son (see 16 Dec. 1940).

Mr Thomas Herbert Faulkner was previously mentioned on 2 Apr. 1941.

The Nipper Annual was based on a comic strip which appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper.

Seathorne was an area of Skegness, on the northern edge, nearest to Ingoldmells, not far from ‘HMS Royal Arthur’.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, American author and doctor, described Elsie Venner – A Romance of Destiny (published 1861) as one of his ‘medicated novels’.

The Skegness Standard was the weekly newspaper (Lincolnshire Standard Group).

Miss Norah Canning’s stores and tea-shop was near ‘The Pullover’.


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

Wednesday September 10 9.20 pm [1941]

Wed. and Ron has been home again for the day, says his leave, if all is well, starts 6 weeks today. He will come home Wed. and go to Yeadon on the Sat, that is if Emmie is still at home. He is looking very well. Says the bomb that was dropped under plane where he was working had its propeller spinning, they do not know why it did not explode. It gave me a queer shock when he told me. We all seem to live betwixt this world and the next in these days.

On Sun. night (7th) two bombs were dropped in Chapel, one in the field behind Mrs Robbs and one over the dyke in Reads field. They made huge craters, one released an underground spring and water and sand gushed up. Only odd pane of glass was broken and no casualties whatever. We heard the plane and the whistle of the bombs but were not shaken very badly tho’ I called Jean into our room in case more fell and shattered her window. She is sleeping in Ron’s room and is very near the window. One bomb was dropped on Alford Station goods yard and a man was killed and the shed wrecked, several more fell within a few miles and people were killed at Louth. Some were dropped near Binbrook but Ron did not wake, he says he sleeps very soundly and hardly ever wakes. I saw a Wellington bomber pass just along the sandhills on Sunday. Ron said PH-C was one of theirs and the number would be 61.

Rene just got here today when Ron came in from viewing bomb craters and said bus’ was full so Mr. A had returned home. She went back and got dinner for him and came back about 3 o’c. Mr A did not go to work as it was so late and tho’ pretty well has not quite recovered from op. yet.


Yesterday Father, I and Rene and Mr. A went to the “Central” Sk. to see “Pygmalion” by Gilbert and Sullivan with Wendy Hiller, it was very good. We very seldom go to the “pictures”. Hope we have a quiet night. Father is on duty until 2 a.m. Have heard a few planes. The electricity keeps dipping but have decided that it often dips when there is the siren wailing. Was pleased it was Father’s night at home on Sunday. We did not get up tho’ we may have done had we known it was so near us.

Jean is undressed and asleep on couch. It is very close tonight. One of our little brown rabbits is dead. I thought it looked rather dopey yesterday and it hadn’t much chance amongst that crowd. Have sent Mrs. Adams the snap we took of them. Haven’t heard from Frank any more, nor has he been. The S. Lancs have changed over with the other part of regt. They have been busy clearing up but the smell from drains is worse than ever today.

Frank and Sybil Adams on the Sandhills

Potatoes look like being scarce and dear, they are already going bad and have some sort of blight, all the tops going brown and dying before pots. are ripe. A lot of harvest has been gathered this week with the drier weather. Father went to F. Simpsons again Mon. and helped with harvest etc. but his rheumatism is pretty bad again. No Kelloggs Corn Flakes today and no Heinz beans, no soft cheese and no bacon either from Stows or Taylors. Think they may have bacon Fri. It has started to rain, can hear it pouring into tubs. Poor old Ron will still be in Grimsby. His train is not until about 10.30. It is a good thing he had his overcoat.

Ron’s description of the circumstances of the live bomb incident, which could easily have been fatal for him (see also Diary post 6 Sep. 1941), was almost certainly what prompted May to write the poem ‘The Casualties Were Small, in which she expressed her worse fears for Ron’s safety. The poem inspired the title of the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Wendy Hiller acted the part of Eliza Doolittle in the 1938 film version of ‘Pygmalion’, based on the ‘modern’ play version written by George Bernard Shaw who cast her in the role. WS Gilbert’s much earlier comedy play Pygmalion and Galatea was based on characters of Greek mythology.

Mrs Robb lived on Skegness Road, near Cradle Bridge, on the same side as the Vicarage. The field was known as ‘Three Acre Meadow’.  See village map.

Reads’ field was behind Mrs Robb’s and ‘Three Acre Meadow’, closer to the village.

Frank Simpson, here (NOT May’s brother), refers to an unrelated farmer, on Stones Lane, beyond upper Wigg Lane in the direction of Hogsthorpe.

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

Sep. 1941.
“The Casualties Were Small”.

When Winton Aerodrome was bombed,
The “Casualties were small”.
Just your son, and my son, and little widow Brown’s son,
The youngest of them all.

And your son was your eldest lad,
Handsome and straight and tall.
A model for your younger sons,
Beloved by you all.

And Mrs Brown’s, her youngest boy,
Her sole support, and stay.
So like his father, all her joy,
Was quenched, on that dark day.

And mine, my only son and pride,
So loved and dear to all.
The blast of bombs spread far and wide,
Tho’ “the casualties were small”.

The exact date of the poem ‘The Casualties Were Small’ is not known. It is likely that May wrote it, as an expression of her worst fears for Ron’s safety, following his description of the circumstances of the live bomb incident could easily have been fatal for him (see Diary post 10 Sep. 1941). The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It inspired the title of the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

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

Saturday September 6 9.30 pm. [1941]

Another week gone and we have commenced the third year of war. Two years ago on that Sunday morning Sep 3rd we heard the news. In the evening we saw 12 bombers go over the sea. I believe they all returned. Jean has had her bath and then come down and had her cocoa. We shall soon go to bed. She doesn’t want to go until I do. I have got a new 60 watt Mazda bulb in the kitchen, the 40 watt tries my eyes. This one is very nice with a “pearl bulb” that does not dazzle.

Father is on C.G watch until 2 am. He is out with preachers again tomorrow, also next Sun. Mr. A not going as he had operation taking off his cyst on his head only Friday so not feeling up to preaching. He did not have to stay in hospital the night but has not been to work to-day. Rene came this afternoon for a few minutes.

Ron was home on Wed, is looking very well again. He might not have come at all. Whilst loading bombs in the plane Ron was working in, one was somehow dropped under the plane and was in danger of exploding. The loaders ran and forgot to warn the men inside. Fortunately it did not explode and they did not know of the danger until it was past. If it had they must have been killed. So thin is the dividing line between life and death these days.

Mr Taylor killed the two black rabbits yesterday, one for Eff and one for Daisy. I charged 3/6 couple, they are not very big but one doesn’t get much meat for 1/9 these days. Wrote to Ron last night and posted it today. Also to Mrs Adams, not posted it yet. I have finished Ron’s socks. He took them Wed and since then have knitted Gladys [‘Lewis’]’ baby a bonnet. It is like a miniature helmet, very pretty in pale blue “Bairnswear” silk and wool.

The wind drums in the E.L. wires tonight, very irritating. 10 o’c. Must really go to bed. Shall probably read a little while. Jean is back at school very proud of being a senior. She is in 3A now, was 10th in exams, not at all bad. Have just finished reading “Doctors House” J.E Buckrose, a very readable book about a young country Dr.

Gladys Small was the married daughter of May’s sister Emily Lewis (see 18 May 1941).
JE Buckrose was the pseudonym of writer Mrs Annie Edith (Foster) Jameson, born 1868. ‘Doctor’s House’ was published in 1932 by Hodder & Stoughton, London.

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