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Diary 1943

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The Wartime Diary of a Country Lady 1943

3.1.1943 The Americans gave a big dance for New Year. The Colonel asked us to join his table and to bring Phyllida who is here again. The American air force has its own band led by a man called Miller who is apparently quite famous in his own country. The music was very jazzy and the girls (who seem to have been rounded up from miles around, aged thirteen and up) were dancing a new dance called the jitterbug. A lot of them were wearing the new nylon stockings I noticed. Anyway it’s a bit chilly for just using stale tea and a crayon for the seam. Though Rodney used to enjoy putting my seams on in the old days. Rodney dressed and I put a decent frock on and of course silk stockings. The American officers don’t dress but I suppose that’s the war. Of course long dresses don’t really go with jitterbugging. Phyllida wore a pre-war backless thing (almost frontless as well), very slinky, and did not lack for partners. In a US version of Noblesse Oblige the Colonel had put the RAF Liaison Officer on our table, a cold fish, but P and I each had to give him a dance. Rodney had a long chat with an American dugout who is Ground Adjutant and who had been to England before, on his way back from France in ‘18 where he served in an artillery unit under a Captain Harry S Truman who is of course now Vice President. I hope our new friend keeps Truman in touch with what is going on as Roosevelt hasn’t been looking too well in some recent newspaper photos. The Colonel decently sent his staff car for us and to take us home. The driver was an affable black from Alabama with a voice like molasses who said he liked it here as the English were so fair-minded.

4.1.1943 I suppose it is her most prized possession but I am deeply envious of P’s genuine roll of lavatory paper which she keeps to herself (I am not supposed to know about it). Rodney says it is probably tastefully overprinted with ‘LONDON AND NORTH EASTERN RAILWAY’. We debate the relative merits of the Times and the Daily Telegraph, which are allowed more pages than more common newspapers.

7.1.1943 The Colonel took us up on our offer. It’s a pleasure to have his flyers here when they drop in for a bit of a rest. They have twigged why the choice was always tea or tea and have brought COFFEE which of course we make up for them, but as far as we are concerned if they brought manna from heaven it couldn’t be more welcome. The Americans have a little book that tries to explain England and the English to them and they are beginning to understand the desperate shortage of absolutely everything in which we live. I borrowed the book which is hilarious.

9.1.1943 An indoor job for a winter’s day, sides-to-middling our sheets.

15.1.1943 My distant cousin Dudley suddenly became less distant and invited himself here. He was a Desert Rat (Devons). He kept a captured German rifle in his tank and one day potted some sort of gazelle, which would make a change from bully beef. When they stopped for the night his crew got a fire going and were starting to set up Haunch of Venison when their MO passed by and told them on no account to eat their catch, vile parasites in it etc, he would take it and bury it. So it was bully after all. Dudley in his later wandering round the camp found the MO and others enjoying venison. Not amused hardly covers it. He also bagged some sort of leopard and thought the skin might sell when he was home on leave but its backside was draped over the exhaust and the skin had a big burnt hole in it and was ruined.

2.2.1943 The Russians have won an enormous victory at some place called Stalingrad so after a slow start they are beginning to do well. Rodney wonders if they will stop once they get to Germany and he thinks we shall have to fight them next. The Russians took thousands of prisoners and Rodney says it will be a long time before they see der Vaterland again, or even daylight.

Rodney says one reason why the Russians get stuck in is that there is a whole extra army behind them whose job is not to fight the Germans but to shoot any Russians who aren’t trying hard enough.

5.2.1943 The doctor came over to look at Rodney’s back which is still not 100%. He gave Elsie (who was chewing) a curious sidelong glance as he went past. I had said that some mornings she seemed not at all well but perked up later. The doctor sees to all the village people too even though they are only panel patients.

12.2.1943 Phyllida has met a Polish girl called Katya who is broke and has nowhere to go. P socked her a lunch and got her talking. Her husband was a Polish army officer who disappeared in 1939 along with eight thousand others and Katya is sure the Russians have murdered them, in fact the exiled Poles have evidence but are not allowed to talk about it in case people lose confidence in cuddly Uncle Joe. Rodney says UJ is indeed far from cuddly and once personally shot someone in the Kremlin Gents while the victim’s hands were busy with other things.

P says Katya is a lady and well educated with reasonable English and absolutely flawless French. I said send her to us on appro and we’ll see how it goes. Katya is Catherine of course so we shall have something in common to start us off until I explain that I am really Penny. This will take up one of the attic rooms so a further insurance against the Billeting Officer. I keep one room for Phyllida and another for Rupert as it is. At opposite ends of the house with creaking floorboards in between.

18.2 1943 Katya and I get on like a house on fire. She is a brilliant cook among her many skills so has taken over that and the hated task of coping with the rationing. Another book makes things go further anyway. She dished up an amazing beetroot soup for us and has positively conjuror’s skills with leftovers. Such a change from me fumbling with my grubby copy of The Kitchen Front, the only good bits of which are the illustrations by that Fougasse chap who draws the Government security posters. This war has been a godsend to artists as the Govt has been churning out a never ending stream of posters and booklets to tell us how to live, and indeed often seems less Government than Governess or at least Nanny. Rodney has arranged some regular pocket money for Katya but we are careful not to let her feel like a servant.

12.3.1943 I have been looking at our Visitors Book; after discovering who Jim Stewart was I try to get all our Yanks to sign in case any more of them are famous; indeed I suppose some may become famous later which will be interesting. Judging by the surnames it is no wonder their version of the English language is so different from what one is used to. Some of the names are German which intrigues me - one wonders what goes through their owners’ minds as they plaster the land of their fathers. But good of them to do it.

16.3.1943 Last evening a Liberator kept right on coming when it was supposed to have stopped, mercifully slewed and missed the house and barn and hit the stables. Molly was in the paddock thank goodness and Elsie was bashing away in the copper next to the kitchen. There was a huge fire and bullets firing off all over the place, I just ran away and lay flat. The Americans sent a fire engine and had got the fire out by the time the AFS turned up but the stables have GONE and all that stuff in there is either burnt out or just twisted ironmongery.

18.3.1943 With some trepidation I had Gaffer recommend a handyman to set Molly up in the big barn with a hitching post and a trestle manger like the one in Nativity plays only made out of Govt anti-paratrooper poles. He sent Billy Ambrose who I assume is as usual a cousin but fortunately a fairly capable one and Molly is now snug.

  • 20.3.1943 Gaffer Stannard told Rodney that someone in Attlethorpe called Danny Flack will take away our dead ironmongery from the freshly-incinerated stables. Rodney says he will hang on until he has claimed for the damage in case someone wants to inspect the wreckage. He thinks Danny is also probably some sort of cousin of Gaffer’s or why the recommendation?

25.3.1943 I do so hate the physical side of housewifery, one was never brought up to it like the village girls. It is a boon having Elsie do the washing, she bashes away with the dolly, chewing or singing the while. We kept some poles quite long and she feeds these a bit at a time into the hearth under the copper, creosoty end first so that the fire gets really going and is then kept fed. Katya said with Hitler it would be real Poles.

28.3.1943 Rodney has been shut in his study all day doing a War Damage Claim. I got a peek at it before he sent it off (he doesn’t know that) and was surprised to see how important all those agricultural things in the stable actually were, and what a lot of things there were in there, and how valuable that Cholmondley furniture actually was.

5.4.1943 Rodney had to go to London to see a Ministry man about the farm accounts but that little bit of bother seems to have passed off. He has given up his clubs so put up in Eddie’s flat and Eddie got some chums in and Rodney had a bit of male company for once. There was an NO there whose wife is a White Russian who speaks six languages. A little while back some shipwrecked Russians were brought ashore in Portsmouth and taken to hospital and nobody could talk to them so they sent for Rema who sorted everything out. When she was through they thanked her profusely but said that now they had met her, when they got home they would be shot. Thus the true ghastliness of Stalin whom we are being browbeaten into thinking of as cuddly Uncle Joe. Rodney said again that after we have broken the Germans we shall have another war, with Russia.

6.4.1943 Eddie took Rodney to Eddie’s club for luncheon - they met a bod called Fleming who knew Jock Colville who says Jock is being driven frantic trying to keep mad inventors away from Churchill. The Old Man has a sweet tooth for any new fanciful toy that will help win the war and anything mad that gets through to him has to be investigated by people Eddie says are out to a clench already (although he has only ever served in London and has hardly seen the sea Eddie is assiduously picking up matelot argot to give himself credibility). The latest nuisance is some barmy triple-barrelled pest called Basildon-Bond-White or something who thinks the troops should be issued with poison darts. Eddie's friend told Jock the best way with these idiots is to get them certified and locked up. He knows a couple of doctors who will sign anything for a fiver. Fleming has said to search the man's socks and trousers carefully first. Actually Fleming knows a chap called Montague who is looking for a corpse so perhaps an accident with the darts might help everybody.

7.4.1943 Our guests bring gramophone records which are most welcome. They make me more in touch than I have been since I settled here! However the big problem is getting needles.

 In this case, needles. (Mr Chad comes to us from America along with Kilroy)

10.4.1943 I have taken Michael on full time. He also can milk so he and Elsie arrange turns to ensure that takes place morning and evening. In between he is digging over the garden and in particular the Dig for Victory bit which he is extending. I am putting in several rows of onions as I have discovered that they are hard to get in London and, particularly as they keep, valued trade goods. Michael is also going to renew the grease paper (if I can get enough) around the fruit trees to stop crawlies getting at the fruit this year.

12.4.1943 P & K have pushed back the dining table and rolled up the carpet in the dining room and given the floor a polish so that the Americans can teach them to jitterbug. I hope this will be therapeutic for poor Katya - I know it will be for the Yanks. I wish I could join in and have a bit of FUN but Rodney can’t hop about because of his back and I couldn’t subject him to knowing I was enjoying myself like that when he cannot. So I pretend to be a busy domestic hostess instead.

15.4.1943 The Nazi radio says a mass grave of Polish Officers has been found at a place called Katyn and that they were all murdered by the Russians who of course say the Germans did it. Rodney says they would say that and we know from Katya that it was the Russians who did this and other appalling murders of Polish officers and intellectuals. Rodney says that Socialism is based on utter economic fallacies and can therefore only be held in place by lies (first) followed by moral and physical coercion and ultimately brutality and murder, just as those poor Russian seamen foretold. Rodney says that Stalin is just as big a butcher as Hitler if not worse but nobody will say so because, firstly the Left has a stranglehold on all our communications, and second the people have to be deluded into thinking that the Russians are fighting for freedom instead of merely to impose slavery on everyone else, just as Hitler is.

18.4.1943 With Molly in the care of Michael and Elsie, who also does the chickens as well as anybody, and Katya happy to be left in overall charge, Rodney and I gave ourselves a break in London, c/o Eddie (in absentia) and Phyllida who generously gave up the double bedroom. Of course I peeked in her bedside table and note she is well equipped for entertaining her guests. Rodney has to use these trips to London to see our solicitor about compensation for the farm, a row which drags on .. and on .. and on. What we got for the lost crop - only a short while before it would have been harvested - barley covered the overdraft we had to take out to get it planted in the first place. But at least that’s off our backs. I must remember that so many have lost much, much more.

Norwich station is plastered with Government posters. On the platform a precocious child, obviously proud of his reading skills, asked his Granny in a shrill piping voice ‘Granny, what is a Venerable Disease?’

Eating out is a minefield as the basic five shillings seems to be hedged by absolutely gross prices for wine and cover charges and so forth and one has to do a little puzzle on the lines of if I have THIS then I can’t also have THAT. The head waiters and so forth expect massive douceurs and clearly have all sorts of little rackets running for their regulars. The company is not what it was pre-war with squat and swarthy men of military age clearly enjoying the financial fruits of the conflict. Piccadilly is eponymous to the Piccadilly Commandos who line its pavements and is no place for one to wait for one’s husband as one can be accused point blank of using someone else’s pitch. I imagine the police are squared. Nevertheless we went to a couple of shows and I was also able to pick up some glamorous oddments like a supply of fly papers for the summer.

20.4.1943 The War Damage Claim is through and Danny Flack has been induced to BUY the wreckage and not, as Gaffer hoped might happen, be paid to take it away. But of course it does have some scrap value including bits of Liberator. Rodney had told the Colonel not to worry himself over what happened, Rodney would take care of everything and there was no need for the Colonel to send a salvage party as everything was in hand.

22.4.1943 I think my Rodney must have a hidden entrepreneurial streak. He has sold the wreck of the stables to Gaffer, buyer collects. Bricks are terribly scarce for casual jobs and gaffer is going to take them away and clean them up so that he has a private hoard for private jobs.

23.4.1943 The hens are a bit off-lay which is a pain, I think it is the aircraft noise so we shall have to put up with it. Fortunately the Billeting Officer is equally amenable to butter, indeed I am literally buttering him up. The main crisis is over as the evacuated mothers hated it here and waited daily for the pub to open, and many were used to plumbing which they rather missed in the cottages. Rodney said evacuation wasn‘t nice for them here and went away sniggering as if he’d made a joke.

26.4.1943 Nick Stannard arrived with pony Mairzie and a flat trailer. After watering Mairzie in the stream he tethered her separately - Rodney was insistent that she wasn’t left in the shafts longer than necessary in case she shied when the planes came over. If she bolts on her own she will find her way back as everyone knows everybody else’s animals round here. Nick left school last year and is Gaffer’s all-purpose serf. He is a lot happier touring the countryside with Mairzie than he will be chipping old cement off hundreds of bricks. However he has set-to loading away and tomorrow will bring a sledge to knock down what is still standing. Rodney suggested he keep on this evening and unload tomorrow so as to arrive later a.m. when the Mighty 8th has left for Germany, if this is one of its bombing days. Of course we don’t know where or when. I told Elsie to give growing boy Nick a glass of milk.

30.4.1943 My piano which has been following me around for years is popular with our visitors and their playing cheers them and the place up. The only sheet music we have is classical, which some of them play quite beautifully, while others play by ear and treat us to ragtime and swing and so forth. I liked ‘Mahogany Hall Stomp’ but couldn’t get a clear explanation of what Mahogany Hall was. A while back one of our young Yanks tuned the thing, which was long overdue. Sometimes I think they do more for our morale than we for theirs.

4.5.1943 Tunis has been taken by the Desert Rats so that’s the end for the Afrika Korps and their Italian hangers-on. Rodney says all this stuff about Rommel being some sort of good egg is a load of tosh, he is just as dedicated to plunging the whole world into a thousand-year Nazi night as all the others and has proved it by fighting for just that, including leading the invasion of France, and if he wasn’t he wouldn’t have got the job, let alone been so close to Hitler to be some sort of favourite. Morally he is just as much criminal Nazi filth as all the others. We can now use the Med as our ‘Lake’ instead of Mussolini’s which enormously relieves a lot of the strain on the RN and the Italians can stand by for some surprises.

7.5.1943 We have a brilliant new bomber called the Mosquito which is amazingly fast. It is made of wood which partly explains the stringency of furniture rationing, since the same people and materials are needed for both. Rodney says he has heard that we could have had this aeroplane six months earlier if there had been less Luddite obstruction of Geoffrey de Havilland by the Air Marshals and the Air Ministry.

8.5.1943 I called in on old Dolly Coe who keeps a nanny goat and to engage her interest bought some goat cheese. She explained how she makes it and lo! when I have worked out a system there will be cottage cheese, or possibly something grander, from Molly. Dolly daren’t leave Nell tethered by the road the way she used to in peace time, cropping the verge, in case she becomes someone else’s meat ration supplement. She (Dolly, not Nell) has some arrangement with Gaffer, who of course is related, to get a lift for Nell to the Billy in Gaffer’s van once a year.

10.5.1943 I gather Tunis was taken all on his own by a lost Desert Rat troop commander from the Cherry Pickers who made a heap of Germans surrender to him before they realised he was pretty much on his own. Apparently he wrote to his brother (friend of Rodney’s) that the battlefield was chaos. Every time he came round a corner in his little scout car he encountered a Tiger tank. His troop kept dodging this way and that until he found they were leading the German retreat! Someone in the troop had enough German to order the bewildered Huns to ‘Park tanks here’, ‘Stack arms there’ - the Germans did as ordered and lo! he had captured Tunis. His troop and another collected so many prisoners in their areas that the rest of the Company had to be sent down to help. Both these between them collected about 10,000 Germans and Italians.

12.5.1943 Elsie has had to give up as the explanation of her various troubles has become all too obvious.

15.5.1943 Rupert reappeared. He is ‘Wavy Navy’ (wavy sleeve stripes) and Rodney says there is a song about them, ‘There’s a muck up on the Flight Deck and the Wavy Navy done it.’ Rupert says his lot are nearly all Wavy Navy now as the RN lost so many of the pre-war airmen in Courageous and Glorious and Ark Royal and Eagle and Hermes and so forth. He has two stripes now and is ‘Senior Pilot’ of his squadron because they move up so fast. I asked him if he had to take turns steering the ship and so forth but he said that’s not his part of ship, the dabtoes do it, that sort of thing is not on his slop chit. He has an Africa Star as apparently some of his lot had to be landed in Africa to do some bombing to help out the army as there weren’t enough RAF. And an Atlantic Star and a War Medal. And a funny little oak leafy thing. My poor Home Guard hero’s chest is bare except for a War Medal. Rupert is a brick in the way of bringing us things and had magicked some oranges and lemons from somewhere which is brilliant, and also some tins of what he calls ‘Herrings In’, i.e. in tomato sauce which are no end of points if you can even find them. Also what he calls kye which is a block of chocolate you scrape off to make cocoa with. He had had a long and cramped trip here and apologised for looking like a scranbag.

Rupert said he had only been in the Andrew a dogwatch before he was luffed off to be a wafoo. I met him on the landing this morning, he dressed only in a short dressing gown. He apologised for being a slack hammock and asked me to excuse his rig. Of course I want the poor lamb to have a lie in when he visits. Anyway it’s easier over the bathroom if guests get up later. Rodney thinks most of Rupert’s basic training must have consisted of a language course.

22.5.1943 The Home Guard mounted Guard at Buckingham Palace. Rodney’s little lot weren’t in it but it was a great honour and his platoon are all quite bucked by it.

3.6.1943 Rodney’s little gang had an awful shock as they were sent to practice with grenades and one of the youngsters messed it up and got it in the face with a lot of bits. He has been whisked off to East Grinstead where a surgeon called McIndoe who has done wonderful things for some RAF pilots is to try and put the poor lad’s face back together.

8.6.1943 On my travels around I often stop to chat to the road men, Alf and Joe, who are a mine of information as the walk their round tidying up. They are very affable old boys with a keen eye and ear for local gossip.

15.6.1943 The American officers continue to drop by in twos and threes to sit around. We try to raise a cup of tea for them and they often bring something to help that along. I think Rodney is acquiring a taste for Bourbon. As to the individuals they come from a variety of backgrounds, lots of lawyers and the odd IBM salesman who said he found it ‘spooky’ looking down his IBM-made bombsight at an IBM factory in Germany and dropping bombs on it. His company was got going by a man who had been selling pianos off a horse-drawn cart and who, to ensure he looked his best, often had to stand in the back room of a cleaner’s in his underwear while his suit was steamed and pressed. Some of these people have given up large salaries to serve in the USAAF. And some of them, sadly, will never go back to those old jobs or anything else. Some of them seem very young and although they come across as keen as mustard, when I look into their eyes I often see a rather frightened boy.

20.6.1943 An RAF ‘Type’ told Rodney that the reason we have Liberators here is that they don’t quite have the range of the Fortresses so have to be as close as possible to Germany. The Fortress is not a patch on the Lancaster which can go further and can carry more bombs and has been pushed back into Yorkshire as a result. The ‘Type’ said he was on Halifaxes which are not quite as god as the ‘Lanc’ in that respect but he prefers them because the escape hatch is bigger. He fears some Lanc crews may have been stuck in their aircraft after an attack whereas Halifax crews seem to get out more easily. When one considers what this means for a Lanc crew in a burning aircraft it doesn’t bear thinking about.

30.6.1943 Elsie says her sister Sally is leaving school and have we anything she could do? I will try her indoors. Told Elsie to bring her along.

5.7.1943 The Colonel had us over to the base for their Independence Day picnic. It was a rare privilege to have a full meal! It was all very American (and non-alcoholic) with a ‘soda jerk’ serving soda rickeys or Pepsi-Cola of which several tanker loads must have crossed the Atlantic by now, and lashings of ice cream.

The Colonel is appreciative of us hosting his officers who he says really do need somewhere to unwind after what they go through. Rodney has dug out a chess set and some long-forgotten board games for them. Also Draughts which they call Checkers. Lots of village girls were at the picnic, this time sans stockings (it’s been really warm) but I hope not sans knickers. Major Miller was busy elsewhere but there was a talented band made up from the Base’s own people.

12.7.1943 The driver suddenly turned up with a condemned parachute for us. The Colonel must be psychic. I gave half to Katya and we take turns on my sewing machine making silk knickers, such luxury!

As I wielded my cutting out scissors I was reminded how, in the dark days of 1940 when we faced invasion and Rodney was away with the Yeomanry, I used to sleep with them under my pillow in case the Hun came knocking. I had some idea of what he might be after. My mother used to keep a cup of weed killer on her mantelpiece so that she could offer the nice German boys a cup of tea. Thankfully there was no invasion but the Blitz got Mother anyway, when her shelter took a direct hit..

17.7.1943 The all-seeing eye of Government has fastened on tennis balls, of which only reconditioned ones are to be allowed. Rodney says the manpower involved in managing the current vast array of controls must be absolutely enormous; and that now that Government has acquired a taste for organising every minute detail of our lives, necessary as this is in the scarcity of total war, Government will continue in this way in the Peace; the senior people in charge of vast departments will have empires to preserve.

23.7.1943 Sally is a success and continues the clear-out and clean-up upstairs. She also takes the drudgery bit off Katya’s kitchen activities and is very attentive to what she can learn in the kitchen. Intelligent and a good worker. I have scrounged some more distemper off Gaffer and shall put Sally on that so that the whole of the top floor will look a million dollars as our guests would put it. Sally milks too.

28.7.1943 Our Americans have reinforced a massive RAF raid on Hamburg which has been hugely successful. As the Americans arrived smoke from the fires could be seen 150 miles away. I think we’ve finally got the hang of dealing with Fritz after a slow start and those futile leaflet raids in the early days.

30.7.1943 Elsie’s baby is very dark with frizzy hair, but it’s an ill wind etc and Michael is much relieved. He is now my handyman until he turns 18 and is called up. Rodney advised him to volunteer for something he does want rather than wait and be sent to something he may hate. Michael fancies a new thing called the RAF Regiment which guards airfields. He is not very bright, centuries of in-breeding have seen to that and besides as in many country districts the brightest always pack heir bags and go as fewer and fewer people are needed on the farms, so the RAF and certainly the Royal Navy are closed to him but this might well do for him as I gather he work is mostly lifting a gate pole up and down and checking people‘s identity cards. I told Elsie she could help herself to Molly’s milk for the baby but Elsie said she was doing quite well on her own, but thank you. She is always polite. She brings the baby with her as she wants to stay on here where she says it is peaceful.

6.7.1943 I think Sally’s head may be screwed on the right way up. She says she loves being an aunt but has no ambition to become a mother. She is very good with Elsie’s little Abe.

19.8.1943 The bombers went off on a really big show two days ago and half of them didn’t come back and of those that did some had incredibly big holes in them or engines half shot away. Some of the villagers’ special friends haven’t turned up, but several of them are ground crew so safe. I’m afraid the ‘Mighty 8th’ as they call themselves has taken a hell of a pasting.

25.8.1943 We were chatting to a couple of the Yanks about marriages with English girls. One of the men asked if we had seen ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. I said, Yes, we had, we thought young Henry Fonda was an extraordinarily powerful actor. Our American said that is what it would be like for some of the simple farm boys who have escaped from that sort of drudgery by enlisting. After the war many of their men will have bettered themselves by learning engineering or radio for instance but there are others for whom it will be back to the farm again. In the South there is still real poverty and some of the English brides will be in for a dreadful shock. I think some of them have been completely taken in by the glamorous image the Americans project. And that leaves out of account those who will turn out to be married already, or who will just disappear. For a good time right now, fine, but for a permanent future there are grave risks and great trouble ahead for some. Of course many of our men won’t want to go back to the England of the 1930s either. HUGE social problems loom.

2.8.1943 The clothes ration is cut right down now to an average of four coupons a month each, through the WINTER and I’m sure the winters are colder now than they used to be. For many people clothing is now a substitute for fuel. Rodney is lucky in having a clever wife who can unravel and re-knit, and who can turn a sock heel or set a collar. I was wasted as a deb.

5.8.1943 I should give the devil his due though in respect of clothes rationing, the Govt has used top designers for the ‘Utility’ range of garments, such as Molyneux, Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies. Something of a bonus for the vast majority of women who would never have been able to afford those couturiers’ work before the war.

4.9.1943 Rodney fastened on the photo in the Times of German soldiers clearing rubble after a bombing. It is just part, he says, of the way our bombing is keeping Hun soldiers back from the Russian Front. There was also a picture of a ‘Horsa’ glider. Rodney says that like the Mosquito they are made of wood and we shall need thousands of them for the Invasion when it comes. Strict furniture rationing, with its simplicity of permitted styles, is making a direct contribution to the war effort here.

8.9.1943 The Eyeties have surrendered. Roger says the Germans will now take over the fight as the Eyeties have messed up by surrendering before we got a proper grip and it will be a long slog in Italy. On one of his London trips an NO told him about a submariner who had spotted that Smiling Albert Kesselring always took breakfast on his seaside balcony. Sadly instead of lying in wait and shooting him up anyway (maybe his patrol time was up or something else happened), the submariner decided to ask his boss if he could run a special trip to do that. This went all the way up the line in Malta and was scotched by some high up as an offside. Clearly the 1939 mentality hasn’t died out yet.

As to Musso, it means I suppose that the Beano will have to drop its “He’s Musso da Wop, He’s a Big Adda Flop” cartoon. How inconvenient.

15.9.1943 A good year for fruit and I have sold quite a lot in the village. Personally I don’t make jam but the extra sugar ration for jam making comes in very handy for all sorts of other things. In the village, jam saucepans boil and bubble, many of the jammers like to make the odd bob with it. Their big problem now is getting hold of jam jars as the pub has run out of glasses and is making people bring their own, and many are using jam jars for that, as they can’t get glasses either.

21.10.1943 Phyllida has heard from Mario who is now in Sicily where he has a lot of friends who are helping the Americans, who are using a lot of Italian Americans as go-betweens. He sent more silk stockings for P and for me, six pairs each. He has told Phyllida that if anyone gives her any trouble in London he has friends there who can help. There were some lemons in with the stockings which are like gold. As ungraspingly as possible I have hinted to P that if Mario’s Americans have access to any decent makeup that would be enormously welcome. P thought that a good idea for herself too as she likes to look her best, particularly in London. She says it’s not just a question of her morale but that of her friends by which I think she implies her MEN. Rodney says her ex-friends should have their own club tie.

28.10.1943 here was an excellent harvest this year but of course we are not part of it as we are growing a fine crop of Yanks instead. Perhaps just as well as the Govt put up agricultural wages but would not let farmers put up their prices, so the other farms around the village are squeezed, less if they have Land Girls who of course are of varying quality from excellent to the other thing.

1.11.1943 The gardening having eased off we have had Michael clear completely the footings of the stable site, yielding a tasteful rubble from which a rockery will grow in rear of the house, subject to a bit of landscaping.

28.11.1943 Michael has his call-up papers and seems to have been accepted for this RAF Regiment thing (most of the lads go into the Norfolks). Rodney has already found a youngster from his platoon who is happy to work for us, Alfred Strutton (nephew of the milkman, so no tales out of school about Molly etc.).

10.12.1943. Rodney sat too near the boiler trying to get warm, and scorched the seat of his grey flannels. I had them off him and have re-fashioned them into an elegant new grey flannel skirt. I MAY give Rodney some of my precious clothing coupons in return. Perhaps. Eventually if this war drags on long enough he will be wearing his dinner jacket trousers for gardening.

22.12.1943 Another big Christmas dance at the Base, P lent Katya a frock and we all had a jolly evening. It was the only night Miller was available as he is much in demand. We do quickstep while the village maidens leap about in a very uninhibited manner. It is too cold for them to canoodle outside poor things.