All posts tagged God

5 June [or January] 1944
“The Second Front”.

Oh! Ye who clamour for the start of other fronts:

Do you not know? These days, they are the last our sons shall see,

Before they face the foe, and pay

With precious blood, their lives and all that makes life dear,

The price of liberty for us, who wait in fear.

Yet, scarcely fear, we trust in God and them.

Tho’ erring still in many ways,

Our aim is true and God is Lord of life and death.

He shall direct our path.

But those whose men must go, cling to them still,

And count these last few precious days as jewels one by one,

That soon shall be a memory, until eternity.

They slip so fast between our fingers and elude our grasp,

As elvers in a stream slip thro’, bound for the far Sargasso Sea.

Then hurry not the swiftly moving days of fate,

Too soon for us we hear them at the gate.

Several references were made in the Diaries anticipating the launch of the Second Front. The first was in 1942:

Sun. July 5 10.10. pm. [1942]
“…Well, the days are shortening now instead of lengthening tho’ it is hardly perceptible yet. I fear the worst winter of the war is creeping towards us now, but we may make a lot of headway before then, but if we are having a “second front” why, why, don’t we start while the weather is good. The icy winter weather aggravates the evils of war more I think than the summer tho’ the heat too is terrible…”

Then, a year later:

Sat 3. July [1943]
… I wish the war was over and Ron was home. There seems to be a lull just now like the calm that comes when we say the wind gathers strength for a harder blow. These sunny summer days are the last that many a lad will ever see, let us not be too hasty in wishing the second front would start. I fear that before another June comes round many hundreds will have gone…”

In January 1944 a number of entries, as May bcame increasingly concerned with the implications:

Wed. Jan. 5 7.30. am. [1944]
… Montgomery is in England to take charge of British Invasion Army under General Eisenhower, U.S.A. Gen. People are wishing second front would be started, but when I think of it, I think of the hundreds of boys for whom these days are the last they will see, and every day is one more for them before they pay the price for our peace and safety. Some of them go with heavy hearts, the first excitement of war is over and the grim bare bones of all its wickedness show thro’…”

Thur Jan. 13 1944 9.15. PM.
“…Papers are full of second front and invasion lore. The many new air-bases in Britain are ready for use, and are to be the invasion bases. There are such a lot within a few miles of us that I fear we may see more of the war than we have so far done. I am not looking forward to the start of second front. It might mean moving off the coast too…”

Friday January 14. 1944
“…I wonder what will have happened in this grim struggle before these few pages are filled… The second front looms ever nearer, then we shall feel the effects in this country, more than we have done since the “Battle of Britain” and how very little we knew of that down here just sheltered behind the sand-hills, while the tide of war went over only a few stray bombs that only damaged property, not people, fell round us…”

Again, in May 1944:

Sun May 7 7.45 P.M. [1944]
“’…Talk, talk, talk of Second front goes on and on. There is a lull in Italian fighting. Terrible bombing goes on in Germany…”

The month of the poem date was unclear. If it was 5th June 1944 it could have been prompted by a premonition of D-Day – the very next day, 6th June,* which was supposed to have been a closely guarded secret until the actual day. However, the poem might have been written six months earlier, coinciding with the Diary entry on 5th January.

*This link will become active on 6th June 2014.

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’?

Mon. Jan.31. 8.25 am. [1944]
# RENE COLLECTING FOR RED CROSS
# EMBARGO ON OIL FOR SPAIN
# SYMPATHY FOR GERMAN VICTIMS OF MASS BOMBING

It is much lighter this morning. Jean will soon be able to go without lights now. She and Father have gone and I have cleared breakfast away and put on soft water for washing up. We are not washing to-day as Rene wants to collect Red + [Red Cross] pennies if fine. She was very pleased with slippers and took them home with her, Sunday or no. I hope they wear long enough to pay for the trouble. Father’s are too small since they were resoled. They were good ones and worth it but the cobbler has sprigged them round instead of stitching or sprigging soles and it has taken the tops in. If I can get a pair of soles I will make him some as he can’t spare coupons to buy any. He would not like the soft soles I think. The parades went off successfully, it was a perfect day for the occasion, not enough wind to keep flags from drooping. Jean was very tired last night but did her home-work.

I have just taken down the “black-outs”. It is grey and misty, not at all like yesterday. We cannot expect every day to be like that tho’ in mid-winter. This is the last of Jan and whatever weather we may have now can’t last so long. Now that the short dark days are past, things dry up much more quickly and there is always the feel of spring in the air. This year too in spite of everything, there seems more hope and looking forward we hope it may not prove a “false dawn”.

Last week we stopped (that is America with our full approval) sending oil to Spain. None is to be sent until after Feb. and I suppose by then Spain will have mended her ways or it will not be resumed. Spain, calling herself neutral, is far too friendly with our enemies. In spite of denials that Spanish soldiers were fighting in Russ. they have lately captured some. She has apologised profusely for “orange bombs” and promised to keep a rigorous watch over her exports to England. I hope no more countries will be dragged in and so prolong the war. The Argentine has thrown in her lot with us i.e. the Allies.

The day and night bombing of Germany is terrible, we must be crippling all their factories. I feel somehow that we shall not escape punishment for all this wholesale murder. All is certainly not “fair in war”. Then how can we expect a complete victory over our enemies, we do not seem to try to conquer the “enemy within our gates”, indeed drinking and immorality seem to be encouraged by those who should set a better example. I think, until England repents and mourns for her sins as well as sons, that it is an affront to God to have days of prayer. Perhaps this is treason, but I think if the King was a stronger character and used his power for good, he could do a lot by leading the way. It is of no use in these days to simply be good, it is necessary to do good too. Christ when on earth “went about doing good”, he was not content to set a copy, he lived and taught it. Now I must start to work. It “blows like rain”.

Under General Franco, Spain during World War II was ‘non-belligerent’ but had divided loyalties between the Axis and Allied sides and there were volunteers serving on each side.

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