All posts tagged Italy

Mon Feb 21. 8.30 a.m. [1944]
# MASS BOMBING RAIDS ON GERMANY
# NEWS FROM RON IN ITALY
# GIFTS OF CLOTHING RECEIVED

It has continued bitterly cold, too cold to snow some people say. It usually turns a little milder before snow. So far all we have is icy cold sleet showers.

Largest weight of bombs 2,300 tons dropped in Ger. early Sun morning, 79 of our planes were missing. No, the enemy is not conquered yet. 2000 U.S.A. bombers went out in daylight yesterday. Russians have cleared up pocket of trapped Gers, a terrible waste of life there. We are having a stiff fight in Italy, if we can push in where we have made bridge-head at Anzio beach it will have a great effect on German morale, proving their West defences may not be impregnable. Our Gen[eral]s are determined to do it.

Had 2 letters from Ron Thur or Fri. Rene 2 and Jean 2. 6. Mine were the most recent Jan 19 being newest. We think he has moved on as he says he missed writing one week. He is very pleased with African Star and Clasp. Said they had a great sewing-time when they received ribbons. The actual star they will get after the war. He says they have had big frosts but it gets quite hot in the day-time. He had been washing his hair and says it is a treat not to have it full of dust and sand as in summer. Says Italian women aren’t very good laundry women.

Emmie sent Jean’s grey wool all ready knitted into a very nice jumper. She had intended kn[itting] it herself but owing to other work she could not knit at mill so got a woman to do it. Jean was very pleased as it came just right for the B.B. [Boys’ Brigade] social. I am pleased too as I have plenty of work without it. Made a little dog last week from pieces Jean’s blouse. Will do for a pram toy for a baby as it is cream colour. Blouse fits well. Mrs Wilson sent Father 5/0 and a pair of very nice slippers for me. Felt soles and inner soles and very finely knitted uppers in wools of all colours. I took blk-out down before Jean went to school to-day. Eff ‘s hens are laying again, have had 1 doz eggs and can have ½ doz again to-day. Amy coming tomorrow and Ken if all well. We have killed large rabbit (Lady) as they like rabbit and the Sunday joint looks very sick by Tues.

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Mon. Feb. 14. 10. 0’c PM [1944]
# VALENTINE’S DAY MEMORIES
# SHOPPING AND LIBRARY VISIT IN SKEGNESS
# FRIENDS VISIT – DAUGHTER ENGAGED
# WELSH SOLDIERS AT CHAPEL SERVICE

St. Valentine’s Day. I remember some of my young aunts having valentines set out on their dressing-tables when I was small. Went to Sk[egness] this morning altho’ it rained. Only a little drizzle while we were there. Got stockings for Jean. Says they are too dark so may change, she having those I got from Pontings. I have a bad pain under my left shoulder, don’t know whether it is asthma coming on or just indigestion as it comes and goes. I took Ron’s light hat to be dyed and reblocked for myself. Dark maroon, don’t know if it will be a success as woman in shop said it would not make a very big one. Of course I don’t want a very big one but don’t want one with no brim. Changed library book. Mr Middleton’s “Our Village” was not in, so got one by Georgette Hayer not one that Emmie recommended as they had not got them or they were out. Had an A.M.L. [air mail letter] from Ron Sat written Feb. 2. He had got mine written Jan 19th. He is fit and well.

Ted B[rown] and Bessie came Sun afternoon. B. engaged but says not going to be married until after the war. Well I’ve heard those tales before, she may or may not. We all went to Chapel on Sun. night. A lot of Welsh soldiers were there so the singing was very good. Afterwards they went to Cen. Hall for tea and cakes and a sing-song. Father and I did not go, but Jean did and came home with Elsie. Called at G’ma’s, Chris [Lammiman] was there, he is growing a nice little fair moustache. The boys are growing up.

Better news from Italy yesterday and to-day but the struggle is very fierce. Gers over Eng. last night about 50. Some damage and cas[ualties]. About 15 got to London but no bombs dropped. B. Brown is going to Wales when she goes back from leave, near to Bangor, for a course, she is a L[ance] corporal now.

Mr Middleton, named as author of Our Village, was probably NOT one of the local Middletons (see 11 Oct 1942), but may have been the broadcaster CH Middleton: The ‘World’s first television gardening programme’, In Your Garden, With Mr Middleton, had been broadcast by the BBC in 1936. On radio he launched the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign in September 1939.

Georgette Heyer (1902 -1974) was a popular British author who specialised in historical romance – especially the Regency period- and detective fiction.

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Fri. Feb. 11. 8.40. a.m. [1944]
# BITTER WEATHER CONTINUES
# MAIL ORDER STOCKINGS DELIVERED
# FIGHTING AROUND CASSINO CONTINUES
# ETHICS OF BOMBING HISTORIC BUILDINGS

Still very cold yesterday. We had snow and hail showers all day and this morning it looks very squally tho’ not so much wind. Father finishes patrol to-day. The sleet had cut his face yesterday. No more coal as tide is in and he cannot get far on beach, but what he has got is very useful. Have washed all drawers in set I have from Rene’s and scraped paper from inside. Have just the case now to wash, then it will be ready for use. Wish I had room for them downstairs. Did a few inches of cardigan last night. Must get Jean’s blouse made this weekend if possible. Parcel from Ponting’s came yest. Stockings etc. very nice. Rene brought me a bunch of wallflowers, they are very sweet. We cut up oranges for marmalade. Shall soak them until tomorrow I think. Eff brought me 6 eggs on Wed. I had not had any from her since some time before Xmas. Have a very small quantity of potted ones left. Jean went to pictures at C[entral] Hall last night.

We have been fighting round Cassino for 8 days now and no sign of falling yet. Even if we drive them out can’t occupy it unless Gers are driven from the Benedictine mon[astery] which they have turned into a fort, as they can shell from there. So far we have spared it! How many lives are to be lost just because of an Historic building? Nowhere in the Bible do I read that the bricks of any building are counted, but that the very hairs of our head are numbered. How dare they throw away precious lives for the sake of an old monastery. It is time some of those old monasteries had the light let into them. We pander far too much to the R.C. religion and they are getting a firmer hold than ever on Britain. Not that I mean we should shell B.M. because of that, I would say shell St. Paul’s if it were full of Gers menacing us. We would too. I cannot somehow see Gen. Montgomery sparing a building at the expense of his men. And why quibble at one building? We have not spared Cologne cath[edral] or any other in our bombing raids, altho’ not deliberately wrecking them.

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Tue. Feb. 8. 44. 8.40 a.m.
# COAL FROM BEACH
# WAR NEWS GOOD – CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

Much lighter this morning, clear and cold and windy. After raining a little yesterday morning it cleared and all the clothes dried. I finished Rene’s gloves at night, being too tired to finish quilt. Washed Jean’s hair, it dries quicker now it has been cut. Father got about 4 st. coal in big lumps yest. morn. and his handkerchief and pockets full at night as he forgot his bag. He wonders if the lighter which was blown up and sunk last year has started to break up. It was loaded with coal.

Russians have trapped several Div[isions] of Gers and all efforts to rescue them seem to have stopped. Pacific war pace increases and in Italy things appear to be going well. Altho’ we are warned not to be too optimistic, nothing can quite subdue the feeling that the end cannot be very far off. Not in a month or two perhaps but this year we hope.

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Fri Jan. 28. 8.30 a.m. [1944]
# MEN’S UTILITY SUITS UNPOPULAR
# AIRCRAFT ACTIVITY AND EXPLOSION
# GERMAN RADIO SILENCED BY BOMBING
# CHURCHILL REASSURES AUSTRALIA ON JAPANESE
# SHORT DIARY BOOK COMPLETED

Probably most of the utility suits will have to be kept and exported after the war. It seems utility suits can be made by government orders, but they can’t make the men buy them. Indeed they can’t buy many suits at all as by the time socks and underclothes and boots are provided it would be difficult to find 26 cou[pon]s for a suit. It must be a problem where there are growing boys of from 14 to 17 wanting suits as big as their father’s and growing out of them and wearing them out much quicker.

We heard our planes going out again around 6 o’c last night. They began to return before ten o’c and seemed to be droning around for hours. Once there was an explosion which rattled doors and windows. On the 9 o’c news we were informed that several Ger. Stations were off the air, and that before going off they had warned the listeners that the enemy planes reported earlier, were travelling in a S.E. direction. How quickly news travels now. Father has started patrol to-day. It was so dark he did not start until 8.15. It still blows the soft warm wind like yesterday, but not so strong yet tho’ it keeps freshening. It still sounds like rain. We thought it would have rained yesterday.

I went to meet Jean at Cooper’s last night when she left school. Got her pair of navy shoes with suede inset 17/9. The heels are rather high as she has only had flat heels before, except her white ones for weddings. I hope she will be able to wear them. I also bought myself a pair like Rene bought this week but black. Had only 3D left out of 25/0 Xmas money which I had saved for them. Still 24/9 is not very much for these days and I would have paid that for Jean’s. Hers had been in stock some time and were much better than some higher-priced ones we saw. Have finished one of Rene’s gloves and my quilt is progressing steadily. Had a letter from Emmie yesterday, she has got Jean’s wool, so I must get my cardigan finished ready to start Jean’s jumper when it comes. We have a nice pattern.

Fierce fighting is going on now in Italy and Gers are turning attention to the allied landing party between them and Rome. Should think the next two months will do a lot at them. Churchill has given the Australians an assurance that we shall fight until Japs are beaten. We are apt to forget the war with Japs when we talk of the war being over soon or rather, I think we hide from the thought of it, but it is there none the less and will have to be gone thro’. If Ron is sent out there instead of coming home it will be a bitter disappointment for all of us. But it may well happen I am afraid. He has got African Star and Clasp, Emmie says. We are so pleased. Well here’s the end of this attenuated book. Am pleased the next is larger. This has lasted just two weeks, so no great amount of history made.

A little scrap in the warring years
To be read some day with smiles or tears
When we add up the sums of loss and gain
That emerge from this time of toil and pain.

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Mon Jan. 24. 9.50. P.M. [1944]
# KNITTING AND RENOVATING GLOVES AND GAUNTLETS
# FIERCE FIGHTING IN ITALY REPORTED
# GEORGE FORMBY ON WIRELESS
# MAKING TREACLE TOFFEE

Father is on watch and Jean and I have been busy all the evening. Jean with school-work, hair washing tho’ I washed it, and then with a little glove knitting and is now putting curlers in her hair. I knitted a little after tea at Rene’s glove which I am renovating, re-knitting gauntlets, from wrist as the hand and fingers were worn out with cycling. I am using 3 different oddments of wool and they will look quite nice I think and be very useful. We did a fairly large wash, as we left sheets last week. It dried slowly and started to rain soon after dinner so they were only half dry. Still they are ready to put out tomorrow if fine and won’t take so long to dry in the house if it is a wet day. Wind keeps rising. I think it is probably rain-squalls. It rained fast when Rene went home and when Jean came from school. Father chopped his thumb when getting kindling and splitting little logs. The shed floor is springy, not good for chopping on.

New landing in Italy very successful, but Gers. fighting very fiercely on old front. George Formby gave the Postscript on Sunday night. He and “Beryl” his wife had been on tour of the Med. Forces. He was most interesting and absolutely unaffected. I detest his broadcasts as a comedian, but was pleasantly surprised with his P.S. and feel he is a better man even than comedian, popular as he is. His wife must be a fine woman too. I have done a bit more to my kapok quilt, in fact I did about 2 to 2½ hrs work on it and I think it is going to look very nice and be useful too. Now I have got a good start it doesn’t seem so formidable a job. During the evening I made some toffee with treacle, sugar and marg. No recipe. It is very good, but perhaps not boiled quite long enough. When we try to get a piece out of the tin, it reminds us of the way the elephant got its trunk. We prise a piece up, seize it and pull. It pulls out longer and longer and at last a piece comes off. It’s most eatable tho’. Sometimes we feel as tho’ we must have something sweet, over and above our sweet ration.

The Postcript’ was on the radio, following the evening BBC Nine O’Clock News. Audio clips of comedian George Formby and his wife Beryl, describing their activities as wartime entertainers, are available online.

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Sun Jan. 23 7.45 PM [1944]
# MINERS’ WAGES AND COAL PRICES INCREASE
# ALLIED ADVANCES IN ITALY
# BNAF SOLDIERS RETURN TO BRITAIN
# NEW BICYCLE FOR RENE

Miners’ wages, including those of “Bevin’s boys” are raised. Coal and coke is up 3/0 from 1 Feb. In Italy part of 5th Army has landed between German divisions and Rome, West coast Italy. It was a successful operation and we have advanced several miles inland. Russians doing so well in North that Finns are wondering whether Gers are going to be able to hold them. More and more Forces reported all over as returned from B.N.A.F. Alex, May L’s husband came to Newark on leave last week. He went out round about time Ron did. Wonder if Frank Adams will come too. He was in Sicily, but has been in B.N.A.F. some time now.

Rene has her new bicycle a Rudge. Very pleased with it. I tried it on lawn and as it is a modern type with little room between seat and handles I got my foot fast and sat down flat on lawn to the no small amusement of Rene and Jean and Elsie G[rantham]. Neither cycle or I was hurt except a wee bit of skin of my thumb knuckle which was bruised too (I bathed it in boracic). I am very stiff to-day tho’ about neck and shoulders so expect I wrenched them a bit.

Jean went to C[entral] Hall Fri. night to see a film Rev. Hodgson had brought. It was “Mr Deed goes to town” and very good. Ron saw it in London when he went with B.B. [Boys’ Brigade] and I believe he saw it some years later in Sk[egness]. The “Panto” Aladdin is at Sk. Only one matinee (on Sat) which was booked weeks before so had no chance to see it as last bus is at 7.15. Mrs Hall and [Mrs] Cooper went and Father fetched them back at 5 from mat[inee] as they knew bus’ would be packed. Rene came before tea, had a cup and piece of cake but not a full tea. Tom had gone on patrol. The flower I made for her coat looks very nice.

I have started to read Don Quixote, have read extracts before of course, but have never read all of it. It belongs to Mavis. I am expecting to enjoy it. Jean is enchanted with it. Have written to Ron and Mrs Fletcher and Bessie Brown. It is nice to get letters thro’ to Ron so quickly. Had a letter from Mrs Russell Fri. She says Emmie had just had 10 letters from him, very cheerful ones. She says they hope to come in June. Was not at work yet but hoping to start in a day or two.

Bread is very dry and chaffy but we must not complain as we have bacon and dripping in addition to butter and marg. ration. It was a very wet night but turned fair about 10 o’c. A.M. and was a bright sunny day tho’ windy, a west wind which went after a sudden squall about 5.45. Have turned out all my cut flowers and still snowdrops will not be out yet and my one anemone bud grows so slowly. I have a wee chrysanthemum plant in a can which is just coming into flower only one bloom tho’. I think it will be white tho’ at first I thought it was yellow. Eff came Sat afternoon, brought me some fat bacon, 1/0 lb which will be useful.

Bevin’s Boys’ were industrial/ mine-work conscripts. Although some were conscientious objectors many had elected to join the forces but were not given the choice, as May noted. (This policy also caused problems after the war, when ex-servicemen received more favourable support.) Ernest Bevin (Labour Party) was Minister of Labour and National Service in the coalition government.

Operation Shingle’ began with the Anzio landings on the west coast of Italy on 22 January 1944.

Alec Hunter (written as Alex) was the husband of sister Emily’s daughter May, née Lewis (see 18 May 1941).

Mrs Cooper, wife of Walter Cooper, cobbler, whose home and shoe-shop was near Belton’s garage at that time, is probably meant here. Walter was in the local group of the Royal Observer Corps and their son, Eric, in the Boys’ Brigade.

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Wed. Jan. 5 7.30. am. [1944]
# CATS DOSED FOR COUGHS
# ROLES OF MONTGOMERY AND EISENHOWER
# ‘SECOND FRONT’ APPREHENSION
# ALARMING NOISES – ‘BUMPS AND PLANES’
# RAID ON HITLER’S BUNKER REPORTED
# RON LETTERS FROM WINTERY ITALY

Father on watch at 6 a.m. brought me tea and bread and butter. He has tea and porage before he goes and takes tea and sandwiches (mutton to-day) and mince-pie and cheese with him for lunch. Jean bought the “Tibs” and dosed both cats. About 15 minutes later said “The Sprogg” already looked better! Am sorry to say I can hear him coughing now. I was cold after Father got up so rose at ¼ to 7. It is nice to get up and dress by a good fire these cold mornings tho’ I do not as a rule like coming down before getting dressed. I am sorry to find I get a touch of my old enemy again, it was nice to be free from it while convalescing from “influe”. I wonder what kept it off then. Perhaps one “peg” drives another out. Anyway it was only “scotched” not exterminated apparently.

Montgomery is in England to take charge of British Invasion Army under Gen. Eisenhower U.S.A. Gen. People are wishing sec[ond] 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’.

7.50. Queer bumps I can hear and planes. Moon is not set I think but it is cloudy. Hope it is not Ger. dropping bombs or one of our planes crashing. Wonder if we bombed Berlin again. It must be terrible to live in Ger industrial towns now. Hitler’s huge …….…. [? word missing] was bombed a few nights since. His shelters underneath were in three tiers with 7ft concrete on top, but our bombs crashed thro’. I hope if I have to die in a raid it will be in the open, not buried under piles of debris. May God send help to all in distress. The weather in Italy is cold, snowy, and wet, but I think Ron has good warm clothes. In Emmie’s letter he said he had got trousers made to fit him. At first they were a lot too long, rather tight under the arms and seating room for two! Planes still coming in, should think one was dumping his bombs in the sea, where they all ought to be dumped.

Don’t think Tom is very thrilled with C.G. [Coastguard] job now he has got it, tho’ as he is now put on for aft. patrol he may like that better than watch box duties. Sprogg came in when I opened the door, think Jean’s Tibs must have taken effect, he is so loving (most unusual) and is singing all the time.

The missing word, which May probably intended to insert in the gap later after checking the newspaper, was probably ‘Führerbunker’.

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Wed. Nov. 17. 8.30. a.m. [1943]
# BEAUTIFUL PHEASANT SIGHTED
# MORE DRESSMAKING
# RON VISITING CHURCHES IN ITALY

Very squally again this morning but I hope not quite so cold. It was “perishing” yesterday. It came a very snowy sleet shower about 4.30. to 5 and on the sea-bank in shade of a bramble-bush sat or rather stood, a beautiful pheasant. I was putting up black-out curtain and saw “the Sprogg” run across the lawn and creep up the fence so wondered what he saw and it was that. Its feathers blended so well with the grass and leaves that it was only when it shook its head or turned it that it could be detected. I stood and watched it some time, with “my mouth watering”, but alas, even if anyone had been here with a gun, it was no use, for the bird was in the middle of the mine-field! Sprogg crept quietly along the road and the last I saw of him was when he was starting up the sand-hills. I don’t think he had much chance of catching the bird, especially as he went up the wind side of it. I looked out a bit later and it was gone. I hopefully scattered some bread on the lawn as I have seen signs there sometimes of its presence.

Rene washed at “Bev.” ['Beverley'] yesterday. I may have a few things washed to-day if it is reasonably fine. Must wash hankies in any case. Father was on watch at 12 noon yesterday so we had early dinner. Then before Rene came for hers I changed sleeves of my A F [air force] Blue cardigan so that the elbow wear would come in a different place. They look so well that I am wondering if they were put in wrong the first time, as they were made for left and right! Usually they are both alike. I saw the idea in a book or paper and thought it very good as my cardigan was very thin at elbows in fact. I had to darn underneath one tho’ not in actual holes. Did two patterns on my new one and think found where I make mistake in patterns. It is a teaser or I am a bit stupid I think, and it is very difficult to alter mistakes in it. Think Jean’s green skirt will turn out alright but I was rather foolish to cut it out when I was so seedy as I have got it about 6 inches too long. I can cut it off but the piece left might have been more use in one piece.

Had a nice letter from Ron yesterday dated 10 Oct so not so bad. Says he likes to go in the churches they are so quiet and peaceful. It seems strange to think of him being able to go a two hours ride to a town in a country at war. It is good to think he is well away from the fighting line. He does not seem so hard-worked at the time of writing, and says it was a lovely day, everything drying up after the rain (I am afraid they’ve had a lot more since then) and he was sitting outside writing his letter. His letter was quite cheerful, but somehow I feel he was very homesick when writing. It is really nothing in his letter, but the tears came to my eyes as I read of his liking to visit the quiet churches, as they seemed so peaceful and he could think of home. I should think the lack of privacy, and leisure to think and be quite alone is as trying sometimes as too much solitude.

After being based for two months in Sicily with his RAF Spitfire squadron, Ron and his unit had moved on to mainland in Italy in late September 1943. He had been in Battiplagia, Salerno, about 65km from Naples, for about two weeks when he wrote the letter on 10th October.

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Wed. Nov. 3/43 10.45. P.M.
# MORNING SHOPPING IN SKEGNESS
# CAR PETROL RUNS OUT
# HOME GUARD ON PATROL
# SOFT TOY MAKING AND KNITTING
# EVENING AIRCRAFT ACTIVITY
# WAR NEWS GOOD FROM ITALY

Have just come to bed. Jean has been in some time but I stopped to write an airgraph to Ron. However I have not finished it as I could not remember what I wanted to put in. I am tired after going to Sk[egness] this morning. Went on 10.30 bus’ and came back with Father. He took Mrs. Atk.son to catch 12.20 train. He had his hair-cut 10D and we went to try to get fish to take home for dinner. Did not fancy gournets with skin on and Halibut was 2/9 lb. so did not get any. Got sausage rolls (very good) and cheesecakes and with a bit of cold ham for Father made do for dinner. Rene came just after we arrived home between 1 and 2 o’c, she had done a big wash. Hope it dried. It was first fine day this week. It was so warm that we sat on seat near back door after dinner. We should have been home earlier but just got to corner of Lan[caster] Av. [Skegness] where Dr Menz[ies’] house is and pet[rol] gave out. It was a long way to walk to Pet. St[ation] on Burgh Rd. but Father found a good Samaritan who let him have a quart, very illegal, but helpful, as the garage man might have refused to put him some in a tin. He did do tho’ when we finally arrived there to fill up so Father left it at Hallgarth’s on way home. Mr. Bell had borrowed it for Father when he fetched Mrs Seal and baby home from Huttoft. What shifts we are reduced to. Shall we ever become honest again. Heard chatter and clatter of feet go by just now. Wonder if it’s H.G. They are supposed to be out tonight. Wonder how Pete Taylor is feeling to-night. I bet he wishes he were out with them.

I had been showing Eff my toy horse this aft and it was on table when H Blanchard came. He promptly asked how much it was and gave me 5/0 straight away for it. It’s worth it too according to the toys I saw to-day in shops at Sk. Mean looking, terribly badly dressed dolls 22/6 and much worse animals than my home-made one from 4/6 to 14/6. Have cut a doll out tonight. Must make it and let Jean take it to Gerry Balding. The patterns are very good and this one encloses pattern for dress and knickers, that will take off. Have started back of Jean’s cardigan too and finished Tam o’ Shanter hat except for lining so it will be ready for Sunday, saw one in Sk. like it on someone and they looked very nice in it. I think I am going to like mine, and it will cost nothing, it being made out of materials I had. I have an old round silver brooch which I think I shall wear on side of it.

A great lot of planes went out tonight round about 6 p.m. and there was a big explosion which shook the house and rattled doors and windows just before Father went on watch. Heard planes return between 9 and ten. Wonder where they had been and if many were lost. War news keeps very good. Armies in Italy advancing all the time, if slowly. They have taken villages and places commanding plains where Gers are withdrawing, and Russians are advancing by leaps and bounds. It will be a good thing when the bloodshed is over, altho’ it won’t be all plain sailing then.

Mrs Atkinson (see 5 Sep 1943) was probably meant here.

‘Gournet’– a fish alternatively known as gurnet, gurnard, grondin, griofle.

Mrs Seal was the married name of Edith, the daughter of Reverend Bell (see 19 Dec 1942). She lived in Sunningdale Drive.

Harold Blanchard, one of the two brothers from Hogsthorpe, was almost certainly meant here (see 5 Nov 1941).

Gerald Balding, whose elder brothers were George and John, was the child of Billy (see 15 Oct 1942).

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