All posts for the month August | 1944 |

Aug. 28. 44
The Black Pony.

All is the same as when first I beheld it,

Nothing is changed since those glad summer days.

The cool air still flows off Chevin,

Over the vale, to the meadow’s gate.

The deep green leaves of the spreading trees,

Dry last night’s shower in the sunlit breeze.

I sit outside the grey house of stone;

Only I am changed as I sit alone.

All I see of the moors and trees,

And the vale between, in the sun and breeze,

Is the meadow-gate and your figure there,

And the little black pony that came to your call,

And you fondle his nose and smooth his hair,

As you did before in that summer fair.

You are gone away but seem so near,

Nearer than all the trees and moors,

But you are away on the mountain’s height,

While I am here in the vale.

And the little black pony is gone away.

The Black Pony

‘The Black Pony’ – photographed near The Chevin
by © Brian R Hill (son of Ron Hill)

‘The Black Pony’ was written in memory of husband, Will, when May and Jean had visited Emmie’s family in Yeadon for the first time without Will after his death. It was in Yeadon where Will had met the black pony at the meadow gate near Emmie’s home. May had been somewhat apprehensive about the visit (see 7 August 1944). Her writings concerning it, both before and afterwards, showed that her thoughts were dominated by memories of happier times with Will. Ron, of course, was also constantly on her mind at this time.

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in 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’?

Thur 7.a.m Aug. 10 [1944]
# PREPARING FOR TRAVEL TO YORKSHIRE
# RECALLING LAST GLIMPSE OF RON ON SKEGNESS STATION
# FEARS OF RON BEING POSTED TO FAR EAST
# PLIGHT OF LONDONERS AND EVACUEES

To-morrow morning we shall have to be up before this as we go to Yeadon if all’s well. It is fair and not misty this morning tho’ dull. However it is only 5 o’c by the sun so plenty of time to be a fine day. It will be better for travelling tomorrow if not so hot, and the adage “It is better to travel than to arrive” will I hope not fit the case for us. What a lot of last minute jobs there always seem to be, or do we decide to do a lot of things that don’t matter? Must have everything packed to-day and will take Mrs Russell’s slippers with me to finish if I can’t get them done here. I am not used to travelling and rather dread the journey. I have always depended so much on Will at these times. The other time when we went he was there too and the last time I was on Skeg[ness] Station Ron was going away, I see his face now framed in the carriage window as he waved his last good-bye to me for many a day. I try to put the dread fear that he may be going East out of my mind but it is there nevertheless and he does so hate the heat. Still the fact that they are in a way acclimatised to it and the intimation some time since that some of our forces would be available the year for the war against Japs seems to point that way. To us it seems that they might let the U.S. troops go there, they have not been at war 5 long weary years. Fly-bombs come over day and night.

Don Iddon in D.M. wrote a serious article yesterday, he thinks the governt. and press are not letting rest of country know how serious it is but news must be filtering thro’ now with all the evacuees and people who come for a few days rest all over the coast. One woman who came to Con’s has left her two little boys, torn by anxiety to have them safe and unable to stay away from her husband who is working hard and no doubt has an A.R.P [air raid precautions] job of some sort too, most men and lots of women do. She has had to leave them and return to London knowing she may not see them again. I suppose they cannot use tube shelters in daytime and the “things” as Radio so crudely calls them come any and often all the time. They are trying to reduce the chaos of different warnings to one distinct signal. It should have been planned ahead if they knew as long ago as they profess to do of this menace coming. It is of no use to pretend it is of no war value, it is striking at the inside of the fortress and however brave and fine the people are, loss of sleep and continual harass[ment] must wear them down in time, and thro’ the sufferers here spread to our men abroad. If a man’s wife and children are killed in Eng. it will take all heart out of him. He is fighting for them first of all. If they are gone and nothing to look forward to at home it must make the fight either a fierce fight for revenge or induce a “don’t care much” feeling in a lot of them. Patriotism is more than half love of our own close little circle of home, not all are able to fight on in the same spirit for love of country and friends. As time goes by life becomes more and more memories and looking forward less and less, a thing of the moment. We try to live one day at a time now, as regards the future on earth we dare not plan ahead. I am getting nervous again so hope the holiday will set me up. Must get up, it is 7.20 and Jean not up yet either.

May’s recollection was of her last sight of Ron, at Skegness station, before his posting abroad (see 30 September 1942).

Don Iddon was the Daily Mail’s New York diarist at that time.

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

Wed Aug 9 10.30 p.m. [1944]
# MAKING SLIPPERS AND PYJAMAS FINISHED
# GIFT OF STOCKINGS FROM NIECE EVA
# MORE NEWS FROM RON
# WOUNDED VILLAGE LAD RETURNED TO ENGLAND

My slippers take a lot of making and as Cis was busy I have made a mistake or two. Will try to make next better. Don’t know if I shall finish these before we go. They are worth a little trouble in these days of coupons. Have finished Jean’s pyjamas. Very nice. Jean brought me the stockings Eva promised me, grey, pure silk and rayon, fully-fashioned! She would take neither money or coups. A.M.  [air mail] letter from Ron today written Aug 1st. Enjoying his rest, bathing from boat in water approx 60ft. deep (sea). Was probably going to swimming pool that day. Says they are pestered by little “kids” worrying them all day long to let them do their washing. Ron had let them do his that day as he said it was hot and he did not feel like washing clothes. He had made bathing shorts out of old pullover. Wonder how he keeps them up.

Rene says Mrs Faulkner pleased Ralph is in England altho’ he is wounded in knee and seat, seat not painful he says. Rene says Mansell Robinson is going to Persia. Ciss had a nice letter from Gwen to-day, she said she was expecting one from her mother on Wed. Expect she’d get one as Rene posted it yesterday. Went back to P.O. to-day and got £4.12.0 pension money. Won’t be so much next time but Jean will soon start her payments. I must buckle to and get more toys made when I come back. Had a long letter from Mrs P Smith to-day.

Ron’s airmail letter was probably written during the time that RAF 93 Squadron ground crew personnel were in port or at sea being transferred from a base at Piombino (Tuscany, Italy) to one being prepared at Ramatuelle (St Tropez Bay, France). For some of this time the squadron’s aircraft were based at Calvi (Corsica – see 6 August 1944) from where they patrolled southern France until the move was completed.

Mrs P Smith was not believed to have any connection with other Smith families mentioned previously.

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

Tue 6.a.m. Aug 8. 44.
# SEA MIST ROLLS IN AFTER FINE DAY
# REPORTS OF [V-1] ‘FLY-BOMBS’
# PLUCKY VISITORS FROM LONDON DESCRIBE BOMB DAMAGE
# TENDING WILL’S GRAVE
# NIECE CISS’S BROTHER-IN-LAW KILLED IN ACTION

Bank Holiday fine, not too hot, but breeze not so cold as it has been lately, also the sun shone most of the day. About 5.20 pm the mist or aar which had hung over the sea all day rolled in and made it damp and chilly. It spoiled the evening but when we went to bed at 10 o’c it had rolled inland and left us clear. It had blotted out the wolds. We could see a big bank of it inland. Some of it, nearer was only a few feet high with tops of trees showing above. It has come back now and is a white fog, can only see just over the road. I think it will only be on the coast. It will be terrible if it is in the fly-bomb area. We cannot seem to stop them, whatever they may say about the numbers shot down and the “lairs” they bomb daily and I fear there are not nearly enough deep shelters in London. Thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands have left, and the summer visitors say it is terrible, the uncanny pilotless planes coming so swiftly and bursting all over the place. Ciss’s visitors have just lost an only son in Normandy and a relative from London came Sun. She brought news that during the week they have been here, their house had all the windows blown out and a newly covered suite cut to ribbons and one wall curved like a bay window. Some of them say that scores of houses that are not actually hit are made unstable on their foundations and are not safe. They are remarkably plucky. One woman staying in vill[age] when told all her windows were blown out amused us by saying, “If I’d have known I would not have cleaned all those windows before I came.”

I think the M.Ps [Members of Parliament] have made a mistake adjourning for 7 weeks. People are sure to think they are scared and have run away from their duty. Roly Grantham says they, F.Bs, not only come straight but turn in their tracks so that you cannot judge where they will end. Whether the one he saw was an isolated case and a freak I don’t know but he is reliable and witnessed a case of one coming over and turning and bursting 2 miles from him. Elsie spent yesterday afternoon with Rene and Tom, they went over to Cumberworth but did not stay to stuffed-chine tea as there was such a crowd. Joyce [Coulston] and Harry Suter came after dinner and Jean and they went to sea for afternoon. They went home about 8 o’c. Jean and I washed a few things in morning most of which got dry tho’ it dried slowly. I took flowers to grave after dinner as Eva came Sun. aft. with Eileen [Faulkner] and Jean and I went to Chapel in eve. and I was too tired after to go. The piece of veronica I planted at the foot is growing. I wonder if Len [Short] will notice when he banks up the grave. My roses are growing, one may even flower and best of all Father’s favourite “Mrs Sara Macready” is showing a definite shoot well up on a twig so it is not a briar. The one that looked quite dead is the one that may flower. The one I am training to a standard is the latest. The ground is covered with apples under the trees but there is a good crop still, but I saw on a branch or two of bramleys the cotton wool of American blight. I painted all I could see with paraffin. The other tree appears to have a blight and has a great quantity of “crumpets”. Most of the other apples on this tree are specked on skin and even the pear-main apples have specks on them and several lots of “crumpets”. These, the crumps, ripen early and Harry, who is tall, reached up for two nice red ones and alas! the wasps had been first or else the blackbirds, there is one who seems to call “fruit fruit” very often.

Jean’s lettuces which she planted out are fine. She has another holiday this afternoon. Gwen went, or rather Per[cy] took her to or near Spilsby Sun for her holiday. We miss her tho’ she is so quiet. Ciss washed and ironed as her vis[itors] went to Sk[egness]. Grace is getting better fast. H[arriet] going to see her today. Rene said she would be here sometime to-day, but I must get on and sew as she won’t be here much this week with Tom on holiday. I cut out a pair of slippers last night, hope to get them done for Mrs Russell. Ration Cards back yest., they have sent emergency cards for two weeks instead of one. Nearly 7 o’c so shall have to soon get up and get Jean off. My gladiolas all growing but only one dahlia. It is nearly in bloom. Turkey has leisurely got down off the fence on our side at last as she sees we are winning. Not at war so far and Bulg[aria] has told Ger they won’t all[ow] them (the Gers) thro’ their territ[ory] if she does declare war. Very brave all at once now Ger is getting whacked.

10.15 pm Same day.
Warmer than yesterday after mist disappeared, thunder and a good shower in evening after which Frank came and cleaned out down spout on house which was blocked with dirt and leaves etc. Philip Ranson has been killed in Italy. Percy very upset I think, he looks so old and ill tonight. Ralph F[aulkner] is home from Normandy wounded in knee. Mav[is] came this afternoon, still looks seedy. Paper today says Scot[land] and N.Eng[land] may be able to dispense with blk.out in about 1 month from now and to have a modified type of street lighting. There are a lot of planes about with that looming drone I hate to hear. Expect it is really the heavy clouds about, but they sound so like evil business threatening us or our enemies, most likely enemies. I think the worst menace for us is over unless he gets those other long-range pilotless planes going.

Roland Grantham was one of Elsie’s brothers.

Harry Suter was the boyfriend (who became the husband) of Jean’s schoolfriend Joyce Coulston.

‘Too tired to go’ (after Chapel) refers to an intended visit to Will’s grave on the Sunday.

Len Short, elder brother of John, was a gardener and the church-yard verger. Len was a Home Guard member(see photo – Diary: 6 June 1944) and an assistant in the Boys’ Brigade. Their sister Freda was a Girl’s’ Life Brigade member (see photo – Diary: 19 June 1944).

Bramley cooking apples and Worcester Pearmain dessert apples were the varieties on the garden trees.

Philip Ranson was the brother of Ciss’s husband Percy.

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

Sun 7.15. a.m. Aug 6th [1944]
# DIARY RESUMED AFTER TEN DAYS
# JEAN STARTS WORK AFTER LEAVING SCHOOL
# VISIT PLANNED TO EMMIE’S FAMILY IN YORKSHIRE
# RON’S RAF ADDRESS CHANGED
# VISITING RELATIVES IN VILLAGE
# GARDEN PLANTS GROWING AND FLOWERING

I have neglected my diary lately. Seem to have been fully occupied. Jean started work last Monday July 31st at Town Hall Skeg[ness] as Junior Water Rental Clerk. Tom thinks it is a good start. 22/6 a week paid monthly but the other girl gets the same and has not been to sec[ondary] school. Girl who teaches Jean (Freda) very amiable, showed Jean how to type one day and Jean typed a little letter to Ron. Must remind her to write to him and send it. She has Mon. (Bank Hol.) off, also Tue. afternoon and has been granted leave of absence for the week we go to Yeadon. She seems to like her work. We go to Yeadon if all’s well on Fri and return Thur 17th so hope Emmie can come back that day.

Ron’s address B.N.A.F. again now, he has moved, I wonder if he is back in Africa. He is very fit and well, brown to his waist. Annie’s visitors came on Tuesday, they bought my knitted penguin, a golli and a Teddy Bear 7/6 each and ordered another golli and a rabbit but bought two rabbits and a golli. Rabbits 5/0 and 4/0 the smaller one. I forgot to allow turnings on pattern. My live bunnies are thriving, 7 beauties. We moved them into long hutch yesterday. Also moved hutches. Have got wood stacked on end to save rotting down. We are reducing the pile. It soon goes with no one to replenish it. Dear Father, he seldom came off patrol without something. I have hung the float up in the kitchen. He would like to think we have kept it. The old garden seat wants repairing, I don’t know whether I can do it or if I have wood that will do. These little things worry me.

Will, Bill, May (holding the float), Rene, Ron

Supp[lementary] Pen[sion] reduced to 16/6, and 5/0 orphan’s Pen. stopped, so tho’ we are no better off for Jean working we are 11/6 a week more independent. If I can only get kapok and get licence and sale for toys we may soon do without Supp. Pen. The widow’s pension I consider my right, earned and paid for by Father. I went to Labour Ex[change] on Mon. re toys and hope to obtain licence soon now. Then I can make a move about selling them. I bought a new black dress from Keightleys 38/6 just what I wanted so still have Jean’s £1 from Aunt Jet. Jean’s shoes were 25/0 from Cooper’s. Must remind her to take coup[on]s. Lily sold my brown ones for 12/6 and 3 coups. Commission 1/0.

Went to Harriet’s last evening to see how Grace was after appendicitis op. on Wed. She is as well as possible to be after it and hopes to come home at end of fortnight. It was acute and would soon have been necessary, perhaps suddenly. They are very taken with new doctor. Eileen is marvellous. Maisie and the other Eileen have gone back to Scotland. Ciss has visitors for a week. Gwen going for holiday today. I must get some Pen. money this week, also leave rent with Ciss. Ron’s allotment not thro’ yet but must not touch it. Called at G.ma’s as I came from Harriet’s. Ken and Den [Raynors] having a boxing match in kitchen. G.ma says Ber[nard] doing a big trade with baskets. Must have cycle basket for Jean when she gets cycle, so good and useful. Rene brought flowers to-day for grave. I want to take them to-day. I miss my flowers so. I hope another year to have plenty. We have got square of grass at back quite neat and have mown it twice with lawn mower. It is not very level but will roll it when it rains. I am filling hollows with tufts of grass from garden path which want removing. Markery growing well under apple tree. Antirrhinums Mrs Stewart gave me beginning to flower, all red I think. Mary brought me wallflower plants and marigolds, also eggs and dried peaches.

It is 8.30 so think I will soon get up. Rev Lowther is preaching so want to go to Chapel once. Have not got oil stove top back so must light fire. Had better get meths for Fri. as we shall not want to light fire but hope we will have stove back by then. Tom starts holiday Tues and is off Monday so Rene won’t be able to come much, but with Jean at home Mon and Tues aft we shall manage. Made trousers of Jean’s pyjamas last night. Peas in fields not filling Elsie says owing to lack of sun. We had more sun yesterday than for a long time but cold clammy mist night and morning almost like sea aar. Not quite so thick this morning but still very dull. Think I hear Brock’s, milk botts not put out!

Freda Whitmore was Jean’s senior colleague at work.

Ron’s RAF Squadron (93) had moved on from mainland Italy to Corsica in late July 1944. This location apparently came within the ‘umbrella’ of the British North Africa Force (BNAF) at this time.

The ‘float’ was a green-glass ball which had been attached to a sea-fishing net and had presumably been picked up from the beach by Will. May is pictured holding the float in the family group photograph taken by Jean in 1942.

Eileen, whose grandmother was Harriet, refers to Herbert and Annie Faulkner’s baby daughter (see 11 May 1943).

‘The other’ Eileen here refers to Ben and Maizie McGuigan’s baby daughter, who was born in Scotland at Ben’s parents’ home. Maizie was considering staying with Ben’s parents again but she returned to live in a rented house in Chapel St Leonards to await Ben’s return from Navy service (see 18 November 1943).

‘Ron’s allotment’ was probably an allowance towards ‘home rent’ from RAF pay, possibly in recognition of his father’s death.

Rev. Lowther was a visiting Methodist minister.

Aar – or haar – was a sea-mist.

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