All posts for the month November | 1944 |

Postscript – After May Hill – Died 18th November 1944

Sadly, May’s war ended without the longed-for reunion with Ron, but not in the way she had feared most when she wrote, on 25th October 1943:

‘It is over a year since we saw Ron. I can still see the train pulling out with Ron waving from a carriage window, and how I felt as if he was taking a part of me with him, feeling as if I must strain my eyes for as long as I could see him, knowing it might be that it was the last sight of him we should ever have.’

With his mother defeated by her own ‘old enemy’, and his father gone not long before her, Ron’s war continued. He served with the RAF abroad for almost a year after May’s death, with no compassionate leave granted to attend either of his parents’ funerals. The pain of losing both parents, as well as their brother’s enforced absence, was hard for Jean and Rene to bear. Their grief was softened when Jean moved to live with Rene and Tom in their bungalow in the village. They kept in close touch with Emmie, Ron’s wife. In the summer of 1945 Emmie and Jean shared a holiday in the Lake District. Shortly afterwards Ron was demobbed, safely returning to England where he was joyfully reunited with his wife and sisters.

Ron and Emmie reunited, 1945

Emmie and Ron, together again at last,
after his return to England in 1945

The rejoicing at the end of hostilities was mixed with grief; the war had taken its toll on the family and the village. Of the four young men who had been lost in action, as recorded in the Diaries, three were May’s nephews, Tony Hill (RAF), Kenneth Hill (RAF) and Raymond Hill (Army). Along with that of Hugh Green (Merchant Navy) their names were added to the plinth of the village war memorial, located in the grounds of St Leonard’s Church. The memorial had previously been erected in memory of Will’s brother, Mark Hill (Army), the only man of the village to be killed in action during the First World War (see 16 Sep 1944 when May laid flowers on Mark’s grave). Their sacrifices have not been forgotten and the village memorial was re-dedicated, following refurbishment, in a service held in 2005 on the anniversary of Mark Hill’s death in on 13th September 1917.

Chapel St Leonards War Memorial

Chapel St Leonards War Memorial
with added WWII Inscription

War Memorial - Original Inscription

Original Inscription WWI

War Memorial - WWII Inscription

WWII Inscription

As for May and Will’s immediate family, life began to move on. The first grandchild, Rene’s son, was born barely a year after May’s death. Jean lived with Rene and Tom for a few more years until they re-settled in Louth. Jean then moved to live in Skegness, where she continued in local government employment and met her future husband, Alan. Ron and Emmie made their home in Yeadon, near Leeds, where Ron pursued his career as a carpenter/joiner. Each couple had two children who have great pride in the Poetry and Diaries. Although they never met her, May Hill’s grandchildren will never forget the grandmother whom, through the wonderful legacy of her writing, they have come to know so well.


This Postscript is adapted from that in the book “The Casualties Were Small” (available on Amazon) which contains May Hill’s poems, selected diary extracts and many nostalgic photographs, including those above.


The contents of May Hill’s Diaries, and her Poems, with illustrations, as published in this Blog ‘Seventy Years on’, are available as annual Kindle e-reader volumes. These have the main title ‘An RAF Mother’s WWII Diary Blog’ and subtitles as follows (the links are for the UK Amazon Kindle Store – Search using ‘RAF Mother WWII’ in Kindle Store in other countries):

Volume One, November 1940 to December 1941, ‘Anticipation and Alarms’
Published as Kindle Edition in April 2012

Volume Two, January 1942 to December 1942, ‘Weddings and Farewells’
Published as Kindle Edition in April 2013

Volume Three, January 1943 to December 1943, ‘Losses and Gains’
Published as Kindle Edition in December 2013

Volume Four, January 1944 to December 1944, ‘Sorrows and Salvation’
Published as Kindle Edition in November 2014

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

Undated – November 1944?
“Tune Your Hearts to Brave Music”.

Comrades! Mourn not my loss.

Now, free from earthly weight my soul rides high.

Far, far above your little globe I seek another star,

My plane untrammelled by the pull of earth,

Beats pinions strong and swift in widest space.

Wife, mother, brothers, sisters all, shed not your



And yet it leads at last thro’ clouds and weariness and doubt,

To growing faith and strength, and gleams of sunshine,

And in after years, when time has softened sorrow’s roughest edge,

To glowing days of summer sun, and then, at last

To that same goal to which I swiftly pass.

“Tune now your hearts to music, brave”,

And set your feet to climb the hill.

Until at last the “Golden Years” shall come,

When all shall dwell within the Light of God,

In Happiness and Peace and war shall be no more.


“Tune Your Hearts to Brave Music” was discovered, incomplete, on loose sheets with about half a page missing, possibly containing ten or twelve lines around the middle section. Whilst the date is not known, this could have been May’s final poem before her death on 18th November 1944 which was just a week after Remembrance Day, 11th November. The poignant words fittingly serve as a remembrance of May herself athough she may have written them with her beloved departed husband Will in mind.

The inspiration for the poem clearly came from a prayer, attributed to St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), which contained the lines: ‘Flood the path with light, we beseech you; turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music …’

St Augustine’s Prayer, is freely quoted in prayer books and individual church websites, although several variations in the wording and length occur. Some versions are truncated before the line ‘tune our hearts to brave music’.

Although It is believed that overall the main wording of the poem is original, written by May Hill, it is possible that she had deliberately quoted a poem that she had found elsewhere. However searches have not revealed lines other than those referred to above as part of St Augustine’s Prayer.

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small (available on Amazon) 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.

The final item in this Blog, to follow in about a week’s time, will be a short Postscript relating to son Ron and the rest of May’s family.

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

Sun. Nov 5 6.20 P.M. [1944]

Jean did not parade to Hogsthorpe Church for Remembrance Service this afternoon as it came a squall of wind and rain and sleet between 12 o’c and 1 and still rained at ¼ to 2 o’c. She has gone to Chapel tonight, expect she is on Parade. Rene came while we were having tea about 5, rather late for Sun. but Jean put the water in the pot without any tea, and it seemed to take so long to boil up again. Rene looks pale and seedy yet but decidedly better than Thursday. Says she still feels wobbly inside. I thought it rather risky coming on her cycle so far, as it was still rather windy. Says she is coming tomorrow but rather not wash! It should be our big wash week. I must try to do some of them on the QT before she gets here. I have just written a Xmas AirGraph to Jock Brown. Have not written to him since the Spring. Ciss went to Church Parade with Red + this morning. Con came home with her for dinner. I would have liked to go to Chapel tonight but there is still a good bit of wind, tho’ it is not so cold. Have a touch of asthma too, tho’ not bad. If Father had been here we would have gone perhaps. I am afraid my chrysanths will have suffered in the wind and rain. It seems to blow all round these houses. Think Ciss’s must be preparing to go out, there seems a lot of tramping to and fro and switching scullery light on and off. I wouldn’t mind a visitor myself tonight.

Later. Listened to the spelling bee and beat them. Spelled most words correctly. Rene brought me 10/0 for Golly from Mrs Hutton. So with Elsie’s 11/0 for rabbits and 10/6 for dog my Dr bill of £1.15.6. is nearly paid. If I can only get more toys made I could put a little more away for a rainy day. Jean took flowers to churchyard today, chrysanths and the last gladiola unless the coloured ones come out, I have two in water in the house. My snap-dragons and marigolds are still blooming but wind and frost have nearly spoiled the asters. My anemones are coming up well, I am so pleased.

The golly for Mrs Hutton, in the village, and dog for a friend of Ron’s Emmie, were soft toys which May had made. Elsie Grantham, daughter of the Anderby Road farmer, had bought live rabbits from May.

May died on November 18th 1944, about two weeks after this, her final Diary entry. It was fitting that she concluded it with a mention of her beloved garden flowers.

This Blog will contain two further items within the next two weeks – one more of May’s poems (which was probably the last one she wrote) and a short Postscript relating to Ron and the rest of May’s family.

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

Sat 8.50 pm Nov. 4. [1944]

Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow (Sun). It has been very cold to-day but wind not my side of house so could get in and out alright. I am tired again to-night as I have had a busy day. Gwen took Rene an apple-pie for dinner. Jean took cakes and tarts for tea. I was going to give Gw. 3D but Cis said it was her good deed for the day, she was enrolled as a Girl Guide last night and must do at least one good deed a day. So I said “Very well Gwen that’s your good deed done”, but Gw. said rather dubiously Well Rene gave me 6D!

Jean is very tired tonight and has not gone to Toc. H. Her photos have come, they are very good indeed. She has made some toffee, her personal points are all spent with still a week of this period to run. She spent the last of mine to-day for 2oz sweets. Have written to Emmie and sent her one of Jean’s photo’s. News on, Switz. asked to renew relations with Russ. Russ. refuses. What’s on now?

Jean, October 1944 © AE Wrate, Skegness

Jean, October 1944
© AE Wrate, Skegness

Jean says Rene much better and wanted to come home but Tom said not. I had sent word too that she was not to come. The weather wasn’t fit, after being in a few days tho’ not in bed. I must go tomorrow if possible. Elsie fetched the 4 rabbits on Wed. To-day she came and paid for them 2/9 each. That is 10/6 from Emmie for green dog and 11/0 from Elsie, a nice little addition to our small income. Jean’s hand still has a bump but not so painful. She has not complained of gnat bites.

Greece cleared of enemy. I keep losing what I want to write, and have kept feeling slightly dizzy all day. I often seem to get this dizzy feeling. Think perhaps I have done a bit too much this week after being so poorly up to Wed. Have not heard from Sybil yet. I think it must be a month since I wrote to her, I hardly like to write again at least yet. Anything may have happened in these sad days.

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

Nov. 3 Fri 9.20 p.m. [1944]

The whole of Belgium is liberated. These poor occupied countries seem to think their troubles are all over when “liberated”, but I am afraid quickly find they are still a long way from real peace and prosperity. The first snow has fallen on the Western Front and there has been a fore-cast by meteorolog. experts of a hard winter. I wonder if they and the “cat haws” are right or if old Traves idea of a mild winter if thunder occurred after the equinox is right. “Time will prove” I suppose. The war seems to be going satisfactorily but hopes of a finish in Europe this year do not seem quite so rosy. Indeed W.C. [Winston Churchill] thinks it possible it may not finish until spring or early summer 1945.

Keith and Marion came last Thurs. ev. I had finished dog and they admired it very much. Rene took it to post Friday. At tea-time Emmie dropped on us (Friday) off 4.15 bus’. Was delighted to take us by surprise. I was pleased I had a hot beef pie waiting for Jean’s tea and I quickly put pot. and veg. in oven to warm (It was hot after baking.) and got her a meal very quickly. Then she went down to see Rene on “Sara”, and back before Jean was home. She stayed until Mon. and Rene went with her to Sk[egness]. Elsie came Sun ev. She bought my four young rabbits, Eff is having the other Mon. Emmie and Jean went to Chapel Sun. morn. It rained when they left. Rene went too and got very wet and took a chill. She had not been too well for some days. She has not been since Tue. I went on Thurs. 10.20 bus’ and came back at 5 o’c. She was feeling better and more like food.

Emmie on Rene’s bicycle ‘Sara’ at ‘Lenton Lodge’

I have had a busy day at home to-day and when Jean had gone to G.L.B. [Girls’ Life Brigade] fell fast asleep in my chair. I don’t know when I have felt as tired. Had a letter from Emmie and 10/6 for Dog to-day, I also sent her a Teddy and rabbit. She did not return Father’s bag, I do hope she doesn’t lose it. Expect she will return it with Jean’s wool. Jean banged her hand at the office, it is swollen and painful tonight. She has had her legs bitten by gnats and they irritate too. One or two explosions have just rattled doors slightly. I am rather nervous in case Hitler sends any of the V2 rocket bombs. Because we have destroyed one nest doesn’t say he has no more. May we be spared from the next war. Sent Ron’s parcel to-day. Wonder how Rene is, must find out tomorrow. Wish I was able to get about better. Eva came when I was out yesterday, stayed at Ciss’s a while then walked home. I was sorry to be out when she came. It has been very wet again to-day tho’ it cleared this afternoon.

‘Cat haws’ are the fruit of the hawthorn. (See ‘A Glossary or Collection of Words, Phrases, Place Names, Superstitions Current in East Lincolnshire’, Jabez Good, Long Sutton, c1900.)

William Robert Traves, who had died in 1938, was probably the ‘Old Traves’ referred to. He was the father of John Hadwick Traves who owned Croft Farm on Bradshaws Lane in Hogsthorpe, not far from Milsons’ farm (see Village Map).

‘Sara’ was the name given to Rene’s bicycle. This was also the name of a rabbit that had been kept at ‘Lenton Lodge’.

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