All posts for the month September | 1942 |

Sep 30. Wed. 9.30. pm. [1942]

Events seem to crowd upon us thicker and faster. I caught another cold and am only just getting well again. This week I really begin to feel able to work again and cleaned all the bedrooms today and bath-room and stairs. Harriet and Ivy came this afternoon for a few minutes. Ivy is getting quite plump again. Told us news of Annie. All very pleased. We told her our news of Rene’s wedding which is to be 21st Oct. if all is well (Father’s birthday).

Ron was home last week from Mon until Friday night. Emmie came on Sun. night until Sat morn. It slipped by like the elvers slipped thro’ my fingers when I was a child. We strove in vain to grasp the hours and keep them. He came to Peterboro’ from I.O.M. 3 weeks ago and this was probably embarkation leave. It was so nice to see him again. We saw so little of him in Aug. and had so looked forward to this leave. We had a quiet day with him on Friday. They did not go out and we sang a bit in the afternoon, Emmie and Jean playing the piano. His favourite hymn “Lord of all being” that he used to sing at school and “The Church’s one Foundation”. Emmie bought him a bible (with illustration) and a belt with purse and we all gave him a writing case, not just what we wanted but what we could get. It was 8/6. We had collected about 2lbs choc which we packed in a tin for him to take away if he goes soon. He may get again to us or to Emmie’s. If possible he will come for the wedding which is to be very quiet. We took him to Sk[egness] station to catch 5.30 train and sent him off with a smile. Emmie is very brave. She said she once saw a woman in great distress saying “Goodbye” and her husband was so upset, that she made up her mind to shed all her tears at home and send Ron off gaily.

The new friends made in war-time (I don’t mean cook particularly) are one of its great compensations. Our outlook is broadened and our prejudices softened and we learn to give and take more and see the other’s point of view. Mrs Brown came for the day on Monday. It turned out wet and Father took her home in the car. She was very affable. Ron and Emmie went to see her while they were here. Had a letter from Emmie Tues. Must answer it. She arrived home a little before 4 o’ clock. A tedious journey as she left here at 8 a.m.


The news was of niece Annie Faulkner’s pregnancy. (See 9 Feb. 1942.)

Elvers are young eels. May’s descriptive prose reflection ‘Elvers’ recalled a childhood experience and related it to her more recent thoughts.

Ron was briefly stationed near Peterborough before being posted abroad.

Rose Brown, Eardley’s wife, was probably meant here (see 31 Jan. 1941).

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

September 1942

What are elvers? Oh, young eels, aren’t they? Just a passing snatch of conversation but it brings back two scenes in my life more than 30 years apart.

The first when I was somewhere between 7 and 10 when I saw elvers for the first and only time.

My home was in the low lying land between the hills and the sea, not actually fen but marshland, long since drained by large and small ditches known as drains or in local dialect dreeans. Through the scattered hamlet ran two large drains … with several small drains all cut to run into one of the large ones, the twain meeting some short distance from the sea and running under the sea-bank and beach emptying into the sea.

Now the larger drains and some smaller ones are known as Parish drains and are kept in order by means of the drainage rate, the private ones belong to the owners of the land. They keep them in order or not, at their own expense or risk of sodden land as they are inclined.

Now at this time I speak of the bed of one of the large drains was being cut deeper and a new lock being put in so that the drain was dammed back and the water below the dam drained itself to the sea leaving a comparatively dry ditch to work in. Of course (the dam being a few hundred yards from the village school) it was an ideal spot for the children to play and watch the work. I see myself a small dark-eyed child with black bobbed hair (ah yes! Mine was bobbed nearly 40 years ago, perhaps I set the fashion), slipping and sliding down the bank to the dam and there in the deep water above the dam were the elvers. They were about 4 inches long and as thin as a stocking needle, struggling to get over the dam, hearing the far off call of the Sargasso Sea. I used to crouch there and try to catch them, I can feel them now slipping slipping slipping between my fingers, never could I grasp one. It was an unforgettable sensation. Never can I forget the feeling of impotence almost amounting to pain as I tried over and over again to grasp those elusive bits of life.

Many years after I felt the same sensation of an infinitely greater pain and sense of impotence.

Frank, May, Emily and Parents, around 1900

May 'the dark-eyed child with black bobbed hair' with brother Frank, sister Emily and parents, around 1900

Cradle Bridge, School and St Leonards Church, around 1910

Cradle Bridge, School and St Leonards Church, around 1910


It is not known when May wrote this passage or whether the final sentence refers to a specific event. Further reference will be made to this when reaching forthcoming Diary entries, later in 1942, in which May mentions ‘elvers’.

The two main drains passing through Chapel St Leonards were the Orby Drain, which ran under Tylers Bridge and Cradle Bridge, near the school, and Willoughby High Drain which ran under Chapel Bridge near ‘Hill View’ and the Methodist chapel. That drain had a lock, and the two drains then merged, close to ‘Keal Cottage’ (a former home of May and Will). The merged drain ran alongside St Leonards Drive towards the ‘basin’ (a gated drainage reservoir) linked via a ‘tunnel’ to the ‘outfall’ to the sea. (See 6 Mar. 1941 and Village Map.) The postcard view is by JS & S (Sands) as reproduced in ‘The Casualties Were Small’ with the permission of the photographer’s family.


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

Sat Sep 5. 9.15 pm [1942]

We returned from Yeadon on Tues 28th [July]. We left there at 9.a.m. went to Leeds by bus’. Mrs R[ussell] went with us which we thought very kind. We picked up Joyce Coulston by the bus’ stop. She had been staying with an aunt at The Woolpack Inn. The train was in the station so we got in at once as they are so crowded. We had a quick journey to Alford only changing at Doncaster and Grimsby and no waiting anywhere. Arrived home about 3 pm. At Alford we heard the news of raid on Sk[egness] so Father went to Watch Box to find out exactly which streets were bombed and we were relieved to hear it was not near Coulston’s. We did not tell Joy[ce] until then. Her parents and [her] Grandma came in car for her after tea. She is a very capable girl to take out anywhere.

I was not very great the next day but between us we prepared Wed and Thurs for the Boswells arrival at tea time on Thurs. Four of them this time. Mr and Mrs and Aubrey and Doris a daughter, a very nice girl. They are very little trouble but I was ill two days, so poor old Jean had to work most of her holidays as I had to go to bed on the 12th two days after they went and was there a week and only got up a few hours daily for another week. Am not very strong yet but bronchitis better. Cook has just gone, he came in for fish and chips. A heavy shower delayed Aunt Eff so Father missed his as he went on W[atch] at 8.p.m. It was a stormy sunset but is fair now. Rene was here during the shower. Jean is nearly asleep so must wash up and go to bed.


Joyce Coulston, Jean’s friend, had travelled by train to Leeds with the Hill family in order to spend a few days with her aunt in Yeadon.

When Skegness was bombed on 27th July 1942 the following civilians were killed: Mrs Chadwick, Mrs Kirk, Mrs Shaw and daughter Florence: See Skegness War Memorial Roll of Honour.

The Boswell family was staying at ‘Lenton Lodge’ as paying-guests.

Many years previously, Frank and Eff Raynor had a fish and chip business in the village. On this occasion Eff, on bicycle, had probably collected fish and chips, as a favour for the family, from ‘Joey’ (actually Edgar) Elliott’s shop in Hogsthorpe. (Irene Elliott, Joey’s wife, was in the Red Cross.)

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

Sep 4. 42 Friday 8 pm [1942]

More than a month since I wrote in my diary. I had just written this one line and then in came Cook to sit and smoke a cig. He sat down and found he’d left them in his billet upstairs. In a joke he asked Jean to fetch them but her “No I won’t” was quite decisive. He thinks he’ll “away to bed” as Father is on watch until 2 am. He never stays long if Father isn’t here. He is most careful of his reputation! Jean has been to Life Brigade, Sprogg is wandering round so Jean has taken him out, to go to bed. I was changing into my slippers to-night and put my stockinged foot on the mat and got a sting from a wasp. Have applied the blue bag and it is easier. Jean was stung on the leg this morning. It is cool tonight, won’t be too hot on top of the Point on C.G. duty to-night. The W.Bx is in a state of transition from the original site to the Point and in the meantime the C.G.’s share the telephone with the military in a bungalow and watch on the bank from a beach hut. Hope the weather is not very stormy until it is up again.

After the wedding ceremony we had the breakfast in the school-room or hall belonging to the New Scarboro’ Chapel. Everyone admired the cake. It was a very nice breakfast, they were fortunate enough to get a caterer to undertake it. Ron said a little speech and Emmie too. Vic was quite serene when he made his, and spoke very nicely and Joan did well too. All the Yorkshire people were very nice but we hardly saw Ron as they went to catch 6 [p.m.] train at Leeds. He and Emmie too looked very happy and Ron seems to be very popular with them all. When they had gone we went back to Copt Royd St and lots of the others came too. They are all so friendly and we enjoyed the evening. I helped Mrs Russell pack Vic some sandwiches as he had to go back Sat. night and also some cake for the boys in Ron’s old billet at Binbrook. We slept at Mrs Russell’s on Sat night and Rene and Jean went to her sister’s, Mrs Emsley’s. Father and I went to The Park with Mr R. on Sunday morning. It was a bit drizzly but lovely when the sun came out. In the afternoon Rene and Jean went a walk with some girls on Otley Chevin moors. It was hot and they were tired but enjoyed it. I think Fa and I and Mr R had a nap but Mrs. R was busy getting a lovely tea ready. We had one of her famous Yorkshire puddings for dinner. They are delicious. In the evening we all walked in the Park again.

When we were dressing on Monday morning the siren blew. It is a weird and eerie sound. It was the first time I had heard it except in the far distance. We hurried down but soon the “all clear” went. When we got home we found Sk[egness] had had its severest raid with several people killed at the time we heard the siren at Yeadon between 8 and 9 Mon morning Jul 26 [actually 27th], 42. It sounded again in the night but we did not have to get up. Rene heard it and called to Mrs Emsley to ask if they were getting up and she said in her soft friendly voice, “No, love, that’s the “all clear”. Jean never heard either. On Monday Mr. R went to work and Mrs R took us to the mill. It was most interesting, and they were very kind in the mill and one man took us nearly all over it. Even Mrs R had not been in some of the rooms. After dinner we went by bus’ to Ilkley. Mrs R Mrs E and Addie came too and walked up the hill out of the town on to Ilkley Moor. I was able to walk quite a long way and the air was so pure and lovely quite a different smell coming over the moors, to our sea air. Mrs R and [Mrs] E and I sat on the moors not far from White Wells where we could see across to the Hydro and from there, there were lovely views all round right across the valley with Ilkley straggling down into it, to another range of hills or moors opposite and a slight mist rolling in and out amongst them. Father, Rene and Jean went with Addie right to the top and round the “Cow and Calf” rocks, they picked some heather which was just beginning to bloom and also some bilberries which they ate, then Addie (who ate them too) remarked that the sheep walked on them. I never imagined them growing so near the ground. I thought they grew on bushes! I gathered some heather too. We found no white heather. Mr R says most of the white is bleached by covering where it is coming in bloom, but I expect there are a few odd bits that grow naturally. It is easy to realise how people can be lost on the moors now I have seen them, and to realise also how a plane can crash into the hillsides in the mist if it gets too low in the valleys as the Sunderland did in Scotland last month when the Duke of Kent was killed and all the rest save one, who may recover.


The original site of the Coastguard  ‘watch box’ was north of ‘Lenton Lodge’. It was being moved southerly to ‘The Point’ (see Village Map).

The Russell family home was in Copt Royd Street, Yeadon, near Leeds.

Mrs Clara Emsley was the sister of Emmie’s mother, Mrs Russell.

Mrs Addie Russell was the wife of Dick Russell, Emmie’s cousin.

The severe bombing raid on Skegness, on Monday 27th July 1942, is referred to more fully in the next Diary entry, dated 5th September 1942.

Prince George, Duke of Kent was killed when an RAF Short Sunderland crashed in poor visibility near Dunbeath, Scotland, on August 25th 1942.

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