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’?

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