All posts for the month August | 1943 |

Mon Aug. 30. 8.40. a.m. [1943]

Jean and Father have departed. I am not working to-day. Rene will probably collect Red + pennies and we will wash tomorrow. Wrote a long letter to Ron yesterday and went to Chapel evening service. Tom preached. He is a good preacher and gives the impression that he has spent time and thought on his preparation. Mary and C[harles] were there. M. looks and sounds worn out with sorrow. We are not wearing black. M of course was in blk with white blouse. I hope she won’t think it heathen but I resolved long since that I would only go in blk for anyone very near and then only for a short time. There is scarcely a home without loss and if all wore black it would have a very depressing effect and that is the last thing that we need.

Tom gathered blk.berries and gave them to Jean to take to school for jam for winter puddings. Mr. Sp[endlove] says the jam allowance is totally inadequate for school dinner but that the Gov[ernme]nt would let them have sugar if children brought fruit. It is very windy this morning and is just coming a shower. I expect Ron would like to see it. He says he understands now why the poets write of England’s green and pleasant pasture lands. We had letter from him on Sat. date July 23, and airgraph Aug 11, so had been delayed. Think he would be in Malta then. He had collected bits of wood to make a frame to keep his bed off the ground, tho’ it would not be comfortable. Says he has almost forgotten what its like to sleep on a proper bed. Poor boys, they remind me of little motherless children, tho’ I know they are full of resources and by no means as helpless as we are apt to think them. Father is coming off box at 11 to go to station.

Russians are keeping up their advances well. Trouble seems to be boiling up in Denmark and Sweden now. Danes are getting tired of the German yoke which presses ever more heavily. Danish king is kept a prisoner in his palace. Swedes are being severely reprimanded by Ger. press for their own press’s way of discussing the war. I have seen the last few sheaves of a fodder stack thrown out sometimes and the mice, which hitherto the cat has been able to catch one by one and devour, run out in all directions. The cat is so bewildered that most of them get away. Well I think Hitler is getting nearly to that, but I think he will be fortunate if he gets away. I rather think the mice will continue and rend him. Summer seems to have slipped away with our hour of D[ouble] summer time. These last few days have felt very like Autumn, a damp close atmosphere that depresses one. Let’s hope we have a month or six weeks of golden Autumn days yet before winter. It is not Sep. yet so we could get two months fine weather yet. It was open weather until Xmas last year.

Mary and Charles Hill were in mourning for their son Raymond, recently reported lost in action (see 24 Aug. 1943).

Ron had in fact already been moved from Malta to Sicily on 20th July.

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

Thursday August 26 8. 30 a.m. [1943]

Had a busy day yesterday, after Father had gone on watch at 8 and Jean to school, Bet[ty] Elston brought a telegram to say Mrs Dawson would arrive at Sk[egness] Sta. at 5 p.m. instead of 10.30.a.m. so I took it to the W.Bx [watch box] to Father then went to tell Mr P[arish] he need not go up at 10 to relieve Father. Called at Hall’s and got the 2 oz butter owing from last week (they were short) and brought this week’s fat ration too, thought I would be sure of it, as Sat, when I usually get it is the last day of week and they do get short of butter sometimes. True, if it is plentiful I sometimes get a little extra but that never balances a short week as there is never too much in these days of rationing. Jean says I won’t have any butter for next week but I shan’t start of it except a little to-day as Em. L [Emily Lewis – sister] is coming to-day. Expect she is going back to Amy’s tonight but she may be stopping. Father went out to try for a rabbit for dinner, last night, but did not get one. I wanted him to kill one of ours but he thinks they are too small. “Lady” has a family but “Sara” has proved a disappointment once more. The lazy beggar has only had one family this year and is as fat as butter and must weigh 8 lbs.

Yesterday I got a telegraph form to send a message to Ron. They are stock phrases, but it will cheer him to get it from home. Jean and Father have each chosen one and I must choose one. Price of sugar is to go up soon by 1D a lb making it 4D which won’t exactly ruin us as we only get ½ lb a head weekly. Still a penny here and another there add up to a larger amount very soon. I left Father to pay grocer, coalman and baker yesterday when I went to can fruit at Mrs Faulkner’s per the W.I. The baker had not been when I returned but Father was surprised at the small amount of change he had out of £1, and the few groceries plus 2 bags of coal all there was to show for it.

[Aside: Canning fruit.] The canning was very interesting. I had not seen it done before. Rene, I and Elsie G[rantham] had 18 cans between us. We did E[ff]‘s as she was busy, it being harvest time. We put 14 lbs Vic plums in 10 cans and the rest damsons (wild) and brambles (wild). First we wiped plums and picked the damsons and brams over then packed tins full, cutting large plums to make them fit at top. We did not stone them and did them in water not syrup, so we can use our sugar for jam. Boiling water is poured over (cans have owner’s initial and P. D. or B. scratched lightly on. If you scratch too deeply it goes through coating of tin (very thin) and rusts. Then they are placed on machine, after putting lid on of course, and a handle turned until tin is free. This seals them, then they are put in copper of boiling water and boiled 20 mins or until end of tin bulges (pears and apple 30 mins) then taken out into a bath of cold water, lids go back to a flat surface in cold water. They are then taken out and dried and are ready to store when tins are cold. Tins cost 3D each and we paid 9D each for machine and woman. Also we paid Mrs F 1D each for copper etc, which I think was not enough. Miss Drewery the machine worker said her mother was paid 3D a head.

Miss Emily Drewery, the receptionist for Mr Moulton, the dentist, in Skegness, was probably meant here. She may have lived in Huttoft at that time but was later in ‘Ivy House’, Sea Road, where Miss Lister (see 27 Jan. 1942) had lived.

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

Wed Aug 25 8.50. A.M. [1943]

Rained fast at 7 a.m. but fair before Jean went to school. Ankle rather swollen and stiff. She turned her foot over when running to AR [air raid] shelter yesterday in test practice. She also has a cold. We got thro’ one large batch of ironing yesterday. We had a huge wash Mon. as we only washed necessary things while Emmie was here. Jean had a P.C. [postcard] from her yesterday. We hope to be canning fruit today at Mrs. Faulkner’s. We get cans and machine thro’ W.I. [Women’s Institute]. Father is on watch until 2. p.m. but is having an hour or two off to go fetch Mrs G Dawson from Sk[egness] at 10.45. I made about 3 ½ lbs Vic[toria] plum jam yesterday. It is lovely, but 9d lb for plums seems too much to make a quantity of it. Rene brought me some of her bramble and apple jam. She had strained seeds out and it is very good indeed. Not a trace of bitterness which sometimes spoils wild blk.ber. [blackberry] jam. The blk.bers which grow near them are the finest I have seen, almost like cultivated ones. They think it may be because soldiers cut them all down two years ago and it is all new growth. The birds sound grateful for rain. I can hear a blackbird calling “fruit, fruit, fruit” but think he’ll not find much in our garden, even the loganberries are almost over. They have done very well this year and my log[anberry] and ap[ple] jam is a great success. Perhaps what he really says is “grubs, grubs, grubs”.

Hope the car goes alright to-day. It has been nothing but trouble all the summer, either Evison is a dud or car worn out. I am inclined to think both. Still he says when we get our own gear-box back we shan’t want to part with it, though Father says he would sell it if he could make £30. Some hopes, I say. Have paid E[vison] £10. Am putting money in bank now until he has finished with it (if ever). Oh dear, I am getting pessimistic, but we should have had such a good season if the car had been alright, now Father has had all the work and worry and most of it will have to go to pay for repairs. It seems as if “we never are but always to be blessed”.

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

Tue Aug. 24 8.20 A.M. [1943]

Over a month since I wrote in my diary. The long light days don’t seem to allow time for writing except for letters and I seem to get more and more to answer these days. Also, Emmie has been 2 weeks Wed. Aug 4 to Thurs 19. She was under Dr. and thoroughly run down but improved wonderfully with rest and sea air. I got out with her as much as I could and enjoyed it. Had a letter from her yesterday. Says she gained 3½lbs. and had been taken off the panel. Hopes to go back to work after this week, which she is spending with Joan Smithurst at Windermere.

Emmie at  'Beverley' - August 1943

Emmie at ‘Beverley’ – August 1943

Sicily has been in our hands some little time and we seem to be preparing to land in Italy unless they capitulate. Mussolini has reached the bottom and resigned. A good while since I said he was at the top of the arc and would for the future be coming down (as a shell from a gun goes up so far then falls to its level) and it has proved so. Ron was in Sicily on Aug. 5 and presume he still is. He had gone from N.A. via Malta and had some days there when he got a few nice swims. He seems to enjoy swimming in Med. I sincerely hope he did not mean he had to swim, but he says so little.

We have lost Raymond. He was killed in action on July 11, 2 days after the first Sicily landing. We think he was there. News came Aug 11. It is a great blow to us all. He had been on Mary’s mind lately a great deal, and the shock is great to them. I think he would be 26. Emmie, Rene, Jean and I went to Mary’s to tea two days before the news and she showed us his last photos and we talked of all the boys. He was a fine, good boy, a good son and brother and now he has gone with many a hundred more.

“The little leaping lad of days that were
Somewhere alone amid the wrack of war.”

When I came from taking Emmie to Will[ough]by on Thurs. and saw the fields of corn all ready for leading, such bounteous crops and all the peaceful countryside, I thought of all the sacrifice that had been made to keep it for us and prayed that we might try to be worthy of it. Down here we know so little of the great sacrifices people even in England are making and we have had none of the terrible sufferings a lot of them have had. Just a few scares and “near misses” as they say in the papers, but so far no one even injured in our little village, tho’ two girls have been hurt at their work away from home. Certainly we are all living under a certain amount of strain and anxiety. I seem to feel a dull heaviness now when I think of Ron, a little fluttering fear creeps in. I do not seem to dare to look forward to the end of the war, there will be so many gaps in our numbers, Hugh Green, Tony, Ken and Raymond. If Ron should go we have no other son.

News of the recapture of Kharkov by Russians on the wireless this morning, Stalin keeps determinedly out of war talks. Winston and Roosevelt are in Quebec discussing situation. Finns trying to start negotiation for peace with Russia. Japs being pushed back. Woodhall Spa was smashed badly last week, 2 land mines dropped and caused a lot of damage, few casualties.

The photograph of Emmie was taken in the garden of Rene’ and Tom’s bungalow in Sunningdale Drive, Chapel St Leonards (see Village Map).

Raymond Hill was 26 when he died in action on 11th July 1943 as an army private serving in the Northamptonshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion. His official memorial is at Syracuse, Sicily and he is honoured on the Chapel St Leonards village memorial. (Some information from Commonwealth War Graves Commission Casualty Register.) May’s epitaph was probably inspired by AE Housman’s work A Shropshire Lad.

‘Leading’ refers to leading the horse-drawn wagons loaded with sheaves of corn, from fields to farmyard.

Kharkov in the Ukraine was first recaptured by the Russians in February 1943, re-taken by the Germans in March and again recaptured by the Russians in August.

Woodhall Spa had a bomber airfield. The ‘Petwood Hotel’ in the town had been requisitioned by the RAF and was used as an officers’ mess for 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron after it moved to nearby RAF Coningsby from Scampton in August 1943 (and later to Woodhall airfield).

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