Henley Headmaster's Diary, 1946
Tuesday, Jan 1st
Molly and Ruth arrived and after supper discussed the possibilities of a farm.
Ruth very dumb indeed, had not realized how stupid she was.
Wednesday, Jan 2nd
Got Molly alone with difficulty and went for a walk in the afternoon but came to
no certain decision. The weather still very cold indeed.
Thursday, Jan 3rd
Molly and Ruth left. A “bitty” day and got very little done.
Friday, Jan 4th
Drove to Watford to see Aunt Alice, 85. Said she wished to be buried in Luton
(Kent) where in 1863 grandfather had a brick vault made. Nice job going down
there. Aunt had a twin brother who lived a few days. She wished to be buried
with him. (Added later. Aunt died in 1958 and Molly had to see her to Luton).
Saturday, Jan 5th
Decided to take a correspondence course in mixed farming at Bath
Correspondence College. At any rate a new intellectual interest and find it very
stimulating. Went over to a sale of Friesian pedigree stock at Reading on
Wednesday and saw a bull sold for 700 guineas. Today much warmer.
Sunday, March 6th
J.B. Priestley broadcast again tonight for the first time on Sunday since those
fateful days of 1940. He chose as his title The Secret Dream – liberty, equality,
fraternity – England, Russia, U.S.A. – and he spoke tonight of the English dream
Thursday, Jan 10th
Last night the delegates to the first assembly of the U.N.O. were dined by the
King at St James’s Palace – soup, salmon mayonnaise, partridges, ice cream;
most came in dinner jackets, some uniforms, one at least in morning dress. The
King made an excellent speech. Today the assembled nations met at Central
Hall, Westminster; the Belgian Foreign Minister elected chairman. We heard the
P.M. speaking on the news tonight. “Today as never before the world is
united….. We must, we will succeed.”
The people here are interested, but there is none of the boundless
optimism and belief in the coming of a new world that marked the old League’s
birth. We have learnt caution – just as well. But everyone realizes that the
choice of ways is before us. We must hope that the conference does not get
bogged down in a quarrel between the great and the small nations and that the
Russians will decide to play.
Sunday, Jan 13th
U.N.O. seems to have got away to a good start….. It has avoided delays in
selecting the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. The
Russian foreign minister has not turned up yet.
Hilary went to see Peter Pan on Thursday, postponed from last year
because of the rockets. Term starts tomorrow with all the men coming back, the
caretaker, and 2 boilers at last.
Sunday, Jan 20th
Term started with a bang, but it did not get far! By Saturday the returned P.O.W.
had succumbed to the cold; Miss Hunter’s father had had a stroke in Lyme
Regis; one woman’s face had swelled; and the wife of one of the men had a
baby in Stockport (Lancs).
Am well away with my mixed farming course, but find my arithmetic
barely adequate to problems of stocking and feeding costs, and my scientific
knowledge definitely inadequate for dealing with manure!
Persia has appealed to the newly formed Security Council against
Russian interference in her internal affairs. Will the United Nations function or
will the U.S.S.R. refuse to play and the charter prove ineffective from the
beginning? We shall soon see. I regret that I am so suspicious of backslides by
the Russian government – but I am. Hope I am wrong.
Wednesday, Jan 23rd
A very cold spell indeed, so cold that I noticed that if you handled metal it stuck
to your skin. Something I have never felt before. No snow to speak of however.
The Russians have brought Greece and Indonesia before the Security
Council, tit for tat for the Persians. De Gaulle has resigned and French politics
are again in a state of eruption.
Sunday, Jan 27th
Went to an excellent film on Friday, Johnny Frenchman, about the relations
before and during the war of a Cornish and a Breton fishing village. The star of
the picture was a French actress, Françoise Rosay, who came over here and
joined the Free French.
Thursday, Jan 31rd
A speech of Churchill’s in secret session in Feb 1942 just published. We
outnumbered the Japs in Malaya by 3 to 1 – it must have been Buggins’ turn.
Italian divers got into Alexandria Harbour and fixed limpet bombs to our two
battleships, Queen Elizabeth and Valiant, so we had no battleships in the
Mediterranean and there was nothing (with which) to fight the Japs between
San Francisco and Colombo. The Ark Royal had been sunk by a single torpedo.
What a list of disasters. To help protect Egypt from a possible amphibious
attack we had to send torpedo-carrying aircraft there, hence the Gneisnau and
the Scharnhorst were able to sail up the Channel from Brest. Yet Churchill
correctly foretold the failure of the Japs to invade Australia and the disaster
ahead for the Germans in Russia.
The Persian complaint against Russia came up at the Security Council
yesterday. The Russians wanted the matter left to direct negotiation and
dropped, but the Council stood firm with a strong lead from Mr Bevin and the
U.S. Sect of State, Mr Stettinius, for reports to the Council on progress. There
was some pretty plain speaking from Mr Bevin’s side…
Debate on Bill to nationalize the coal mines in House of Commons.
Saturday, Feb 2nd
Bevin made a forthright speech in the Security Council and asked them to give
a verdict on the Russian charge one way or another. "Have we been
contributing to, or endangering, the peace of the world?” The incessant
Moscow propaganda setting us one against the other, that was the danger to
the peace of the world. The Russians do not want open discussion of the great
powers’ policies and when Persia was raised they put forward Greece as a
gesture in support of this. It was obviously disingenuous and has been followed
up by a wireless and press campaign, which is peculiar between countries
which have a treaty of friendship and are allies.
Saturday, Feb 9th
The more one thinks of this Russian business the more disgraceful it seems.
Our troops have been in Greece for 12 months. Mr Vyshinsky arrives (late) for
the U.N. conference and says nothing about it, waits until Persia without any
encouragement from us brings up the question of Russian troops in Northern
Persia, and then for the sake of scoring a tactical point he tries to make out
that Persia and Greece are the same. He secures no support from the Council
as everyone knows the British troops in Greece are not a threat to the peace.
He refused to agree to a formal resolution of the Council clearing G.B. and
threatened to use the Great Power veto if it was put forward. His attitude was
cynical and irresponsible. He showed no desire to help forward U.N. as an
agency for settling disputes but simply to use it for his own purposes to score
off this country and make charges against her. U.N. depends on the loyalty and
co-operation of the great powers. If this is the U.S.S.R.’s idea of co-operating in
nursing an infant organization it won’t last long.
Nora went down with ‘flu on Tuesday night and got up today. The epidemic is
widespread but it is not a very bad kind – Virus B according to the doctors. This
year it is accompanied by bad pains in the back. Nora got it helping Eve Weiss,
who got it badly at the same time as her three children.
Food is front page news again. Owing to the droughts there is a world
shortage of grain, both maize and wheat as well as rice. Our bread is to contain
more roughage, as in the war, and feeding stuffs for animals are to be cut.
There is general impatience and dismay. Dried eggs were withdrawn first (when
lend lease came to an end), then this week an ounce was taken off the fat
ration. People did not realize what was happening; they are fed up with ration
books, queues and shortages and are consequently in a thoroughly bad
temper. They also suspect the Food Minister has not got a proper grip on the
Sunday, Feb 10th
"Muddle” heading in Sunday paper. The coal crisis is on again, production has
fallen again after a slight improvement before Christmas, factories have
actually had to close for short periods because they had no fuel. If the men
would put in four full days a week we should get the output, but apparently
Then food. The Food Minister is not in the cabinet. Up till recently the
cabinet did not seem to have realized the facts of what was happening. The
question of the dollar exchange has got all mixed up with the world’s food
shortage. We don’t know whether we are being asked to “sacrifice” because we
can’t afford it anyway, or because we are giving it up to some one else. Jam
tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today. To cut feeding stuffs for
stock again is very bad.
The job of the world food crisis must be tackled by international, not
national, action, i.e., sacrifices of G.B., but what about U.S.A., Rumania,
Denmark? We don’t want to send stuff to countries where it is wasted by
thieving, incompetence and black markets, e.g., Italy.
Anyway what with coal, food cuts, influenza and the U.N.O. we are as
depressed as we were during the war. For it is clear that we are going to get no
real international government. We are simply going to have a conference of the
However, there are bright spots. It is clear that the position in Germany
is not nearly as bad as we were led to believe it would be last summer. The
winter has been exceptionally mild, and there have been no major epidemics.
In the country districts people returning say the Germans are better fed than
we are, but conditions in the towns very poor.
Monday, Feb 11th
Still we have come through worse than this! Another of Churchill’s secret
speeches to the H. of C. released today. This one in June 1941 after a year of
setbacks and the loss of 4½ m tons of shipping in the Atlantic. “In a few
months we may be exposed to the most frightful invasion the world has ever
seen.” He spoke of “the iron, unyielding, un-wearying tenacity of the British
character by which we live, by which we alone can be saved, by which shall
certainly be saved – and save the world….. All the great struggles of history
have been won by superior will power wresting victory in the teeth of odds or
upon the narrowest of margins.” So Churchill proclaimed in March “the battle of
the Atlantic” and issued a secret order stating that all methods of attack were
to be concentrated on the enemy’s U-boats and aeroplanes. The loss of 86,000
tons in February dwindled to 18,000 in June The deadly U-boat and air attack
on which Hitler’s hopes had been built was ruptured. He was using the power
which Parliament and the nation had given him to drive others irrespective of
anyone’s feelings. If we win nobody will care. If we lose there won’t be anyone
to care. The language the critics used had come nowhere near the language he
had been accustomed to use, not only orally, but in a continued stream of
written minutes. I bet it had.
Friday, March 1st
Papers full of food situation, famine in India and near-famine in British
zone of Germany. The Russians have done themselves no good and their
behaviour has hardened American opinion. “What a tragedy,” says Nora. “How
short sighted,” think I, “for the sake of propaganda points to alienate their
allies and go some way to wrecking the chance of co-operation.”
Went down to see Hilary on Sunday last, bus from Victoria took one hour
and 50 minutes. He was well but as usual took some time to warm up.
Apparently he still cries rather readily, but announced in a junior meeting “You
see, I cry very easily”.
Been trying to get Heath into a medical school, but no London school
will take him because of all the returning ex-service men.
Thursday, March 7th
Speech made by Churchill in presence of President Truman in Mid-West. A grim
speech! He proposed an Anglo-American power coalition to hold Russia in
check. This not particularly welcomed by American opinion but sufficiently
outspoken to start rumour that demobilization of American forces has been
“Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international
organization intends to do…. Or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive,
proselytizing tendencies….. From Stettin to Trieste and iron curtain has
descended across the continent. Behind that line lie Warsaw, Berlin, Prague,
Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Sofia. All…. are subject to a very high and
increasing measure of control from Moscow. Police governments are prevailing
in almost every case…. There is not true democracy. Turkey and Persia are both
profoundly alarmed. What Russia desires is the fruits of war and an indefinite
expansion of their power and doctrines. This (peace) can only be achieved by
reaching now, in 1946, a good understanding with Russia under the general
authority of the United Nations.”
The U.S. has sent two notes to Russia on Persia and Manchuria, and perhaps of
more significance still they have sent their largest battleship, the Missouri, on a
goodwill visit to Turkey.
Nora very depressed about all this. It is depressing that the Russians will not
come out into the open, that they are continually breaking their agreements,
e.g., in Poland and Persia; that they will continue to use these conspiratorial
methods, that they continue to keep up a stream of propaganda against us
What can we do with them? They ended the war with a
tremendous popularity in this country and every good feeling towards them.
This they have steadily thrown away, culminating in their attacks on London at
the Security Council.
Monday, March 11th
A lot of visitors at the weekend. On Saturday Margaret Burton, Timothy (Phyllis)
and Eric Cunnington to supper. Evening ended with some one remarking that
the next war will have begun before we know it with mysterious outbreaks of
disease among animal and human populations. Some one else remarked that
we shall not know it because we shall all be dead in a few minutes. “Perhaps
we already are” I said. Then Eric, noticing the cat, said “Well it’s nice to think
he has come too.”
Observer terribly gloomy about the food situation. Leading article headed
“Hunger” and says the immediate crisis will be followed by a further crisis in
1947. We have got through the war reasonably fed to be starved in peace.
Everyone more and more disappointed at the prospect of the indefinite
continuance of rationing and shortage and dullness of our diet. Dullness is the
thing. We want a little variety to break the monotony of our austere existence –
a treat! a bust! a beano!
Timothy had tales of escorting the Sassoon family into which her friend
Flavia has married. One of them wore a blazer with the Wormwood Scrubs arms
on it. He had been forbidden to drive a car, but dressed up in his mother’s fur
hat and fur coat had proceeded in a sports car at 70 m.p.h. through the village.
The police, however, rumbled him and fur hat and coat and he went to the
Margaret more bitter and disappointed than ever. True she went through the
blitz, as this scrap of conversation shows: “That was the night we finally caught
alight!” “Yes, I remember that night, I saw you burning.” Now her old flame,
George Fosnacht, rapidly doping himself into collapse with cigarettes and black
coffee, aided by his wife who is recovering from pneumonia. As they have a
pathetic scrap of a two-year-old daughter, this rather tragic for her.
Vernon Mills, now an undergraduate at King’s, came over to lunch on
Sunday, refreshing after the savagery of Margaret and the optimism of Phyllis.
The students had just removed from a public lavatory “Please adjust your dress
before leaving” and screwed it firmly to the principal’s door.
Wednesday, March 13th
Children came over with a rumour this morning that the Russians had invaded
Persia, but this proved simply to be report from Washington that there were
troop movements going on towards the occupied parts. It only shows to what a
state of jumpiness we have reached through the Russian secrecy and
Read New Statesman at weekend. Its point of view that the Russians finding the
U.S.A. and G.B. impossible had just given up trying to co-operate with them..…
Churchill said in New York that at Potsdam Conference the western powers
offered Russia a revision of the convention regulating the Dardanelles, but the
Russians would be content with nothing but less than a fortress commanding
Constantinople. Stalin’s reply to Churchill was quite off the point as he assumed
that Churchill wanted war with Russia.
This week we have offered independence to India and have said that
whether she stays in the Commonwealth or not must be her decision. All we
would do is to arrange the machinery by which India is to devise their own
constitution. The Moslems are loud in their demand for Pakistan but Congress
has welcomed the offer.
In Germany things are not looking good in the political as well as the
economic sense. The Russians in their zone are amalgamating the Communists
and Social Democrats and some people think that unless we reach an
agreement with the French about our western zone and offer them something
more akin to their own social democracy we shall sooner or later have a
Communist Germany on the Rhine.
Goering having now given evidence is being cross examined at
Nuremberg. He says he gave up hope in January 1945 when the Russians
reached the Oder and Rundstedt’s offensive in the Ardennes had failed. He has
all his wits about him and made a vigorous and cunning speech in his own
defence. He is trying to use the witness box as a platform to create a Nazi
Fish is now coming in quantity. Queues are to end outside the empty slabs of
Tuesday, March 19th
Nora’s birthday but no flowers out in the garden owing to cold winds. Bought a
dozen daffodils for 5s 3d! My wireless listening turns now mainly on four points,
the two symphony concerts on Wednesday and Saturdays, the Brains Trust on
Tuesday and Itma, Tommy Handley, on Thursdays. Tonight on Brains trust had
terrific argument on the hardy annual capital punishment.
Monday, March 25th
The Russians announced of their wireless yesterday that they were evacuating
their troops from Persia…. The position is still grave. What have the Persian
government promised in order to be rid of their awkward neighbours.
The first day of spring today, lovely clear sunny day with a lot of heat in
the sun but cool wind, the bees flying strongly, the celandine and white violets
out, but the wallflowers rather late I think.
Wednesday, March 27th
Have just finished reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the full privately printed
edition of 1928 (this copy printed in Paris had been given to M by an old
gentleman who did not want it found among his papers). Even though one may
find D. H. Lawrence’s blood and guts theories a bit trying, it is a fine thing to
have attempted to express in writing the miracle and mystery of the fusion of
the body and the spirit in the entry of the man into the woman’s body and the
ecstasy of their mutual orgasm.
Also been reading Eric Linklater’s last book, Private Angelo, about the
Italians and Germans at the time of the invasion of Italy, most witty and
entertaining. The weaknesses of the Italians in both carnage and honesty are
fine fields for satire – a British Anatole France.
Monday, April 1st
Boat Race Day on Saturday and to my great satisfaction Oxford won it. Moving
to listen to the news and that this was the second “peace” boat race I had
experienced – the last in 1920 (or was it 1919?). Anyway made you feel good to
think that there was another normal event of peace restored again, and as
popular as ever.
I spent Sunday helping M tidy up and clean her new flat, all very compact
and convenient. We went out to tea to stop ourselves from working but about
six we had got it ship shape and had thrown out masses of stuff belonging to
the old tenant.
Wednesday, April 3rd
Sports Day in peace and the veterans back from the war. A most lovely spring
day, warm and sunny. Many parents came and it was the most enjoyable sports
day I remember in 12 years. There has not been a warmer day at this time of
year in the 90 years since weather recording started. The thermometer in
London reached 75 (F).
Just heard from Timothy that whereas in the old days on our passports
we had strings of titles and a coat or arms, now we have Ernie Bevin. He has no
titles and no coat of arms. Very awkward, very awkward.
Thursday, April 4th
Kept a long standing promise to Hilary that I would take him in a canoe when
he could swim. We went down the regatta course to Remenham.
Saturday, April 6th
Dug my allotment with Heath. Got a lot down and no ill results to back!
Monday, April 8th
To Exeter and found Molly at Maud’s cleaning furniture out of Glenbanna [Home
of Diarist’s father in Exton?].
Wednesday, April 10th
Started off by car to Runnage. Had a look in Cathedral on way where they were
removing scaffolding from organ with its newly restored and gleaming pipes.
Strange to see cars scattered about the devastated area – no lack of free
parking space now! The drive to Runnage was lovely, but the moor dark and
blackened by burning of heather in which since it was not allowed during the
war there was a lot of leeway to make up. The liquid call of the curlews, which
always thrills me, came to us across the marsh. Ruth had a good lunch for us at
the cottage with plenty of butter and cream. The cottage had a long room with
a low ceiling, stone floor, tiny windows, an open chimney and bench fitted
round the wall. The shippen and hayloft was next door, dark cramped and
medieval it might have come out of Wuthering Heights. When the heifers were
in they had to lie tail to tail. There was a pump and an inconvenience some
Wednesday, April 11th
Went to Exmouth in the afternoon. All, the wire and other relics of 1940 – 45
have been cleared away. Only white concrete holes about every five feet in the
Promenade told where the steel stakes had been driven. The lawns were cut,
the shelters painted, men were at work repairing the front, and the marks for
parking cars were all newly lined out. Everything is being done to get things
cleared up, tidy and clean for the summer visitors. The Clarence in the Close
gleamed in its cream stucco and the Royal Arms stood out in blue, red and
gold. I felt heartened by these signs of recovery….
Friday, April 12th
To Exmouth where had lunch, queuing at 12.30, then by the ferry to Star Cross
where I caught bus to Teignmouth. To Shaldon to see boyhood friend Wilfrid
Westall. Must say I thought him rather decayed from overwork. We walked
along the estuary with the sun throwing a beam down the water to the sea. A
charming place. It was a lovely day with a brilliant light but a cold wind.
[Wilfrid Westall became Suffragan Bishop of Crediton 1954 - 74]
Saturday, April 13th
A wonderful spring day. Gardened for Maud in the morning and in the
afternoon went to Exmouth, tottered along the front to Orcombe Point, paddled,
had tea from Signor So So’s Ice Cream Parlour and then tottered back in easy
stages. Maud a bit doubtful about going to Exmouth on Saturday because of
the proletariat from Exeter, but enjoyed herself, I think, and the proletariat
proved very well behaved!
Good Friday, April 19th
Came back from Exton last Saturday very comfortably, train not full and ran
ahead of time. Tuesday went canoeing with Hilary, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday gardening and bees. Hilary helped with the bees for the first time in
my best beekeeper Wellingtons and gloves. He was very sensible but today
when a cloud of bees buzzed round him he left. However, I told him to go away
and they would leave him. Presently he returned and helped me with the last of
the hives quite cheerfully.
Today we went on the Goring downs in the afternoon and took our tea.
The first time I have been with Nora and Hilary since 1929. We did some bird
nesting at which Hilary proved most efficient.
Saturday, April 20th
Busy gardening and working with bees and making goose “palace”. Hilary
helped me with the floor of the latter but owing to faulty knowledge of five
times table was unable to calculate the number of bricks required! Better at
Ester Sunday, April 20th
This afternoon had a successful tea party with two Clayden boys, Alexander
and Victoria Weiss, Hilary and Alan Potter. Jack Potter told me something of the
utter corruption and inefficiency in Malaya. They were told they were joining
the world’s greatest naval base only to find when they got there that they were
not expected to use their A.A. guns because there was a shortage of
This week the foreign ministers are to meet in Paris to prepare the peace
treaties with Italy, Finland, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, but the reality of
the situation is far different. The real division is not between the victorious and
the defeated but between East and West…. Have just looked at last year’s
Diary at Easter. Full of jubilation. Wonder if this will make bitter reading in
future. It seems far away and long ago so quickly has the gulf between Russia
and the West grown up.
A good talk by a scientist in “the crisis of our time” series. He sees the
crisis in the terms of the recognition of man’s moral and spiritual life, of
goodness as goodness. Only if we can reach some common moral agreement
about goodness can enough mutual trust be created to make international
Easter Monday, April 22nd
One satisfactory thing about the Budget this year is the earmarking of
50 millions from the sale of surplus war stocks to the Land Fund, from which
such things as youth hostels, national parks and the National Trust will benefit.
…. We went to picnic this afternoon on the Ewelme downs and looked for bird
nests but found very few.
On Friday memorial windows to be dedicated at St Sepulchre’s, Holborn,
to Sir Henry Wood. His father sang in the choir there and he was appointed
assistant organist at the age of 13. Masefield has written these lines.
At this man’s hand a million hearers caught
An echo of the music without flaw
Whose endless joy is Heaven’s only law.
O music lovers, bless him in your thought.
Thursday, May 16th
Have neglected the Diary for three weeks, but so much to do. In addition
to garden have taken a W.E.A. course in art appreciation at Burnham, not very
easy and bad room and a lot of boys in addition to the usual W.E.A. women.
Dr Cook, an Indian medical missionary, visited us and gave talk to the V
and VI forms, then Molly. She had a letter describing the visit of the Admiral
and Bruno Brown to Tsingtao [Qingdao, port, Shangdong Province of China].
There they found the foreign representatives going about in Packards, etc, but
the British representative had nothing at all, so they offered him a bicycle,
which he accepted gratefully. Shortly before their arrival the press had a leader
entitled “The moth-eaten lion”! In Egypt we have started negotiations – but
with much agitation in Commons as we began by announcing our intention to
withdraw all armed forces. Clear anyway that we cannot go on as have done in
past; those days have gone forever. Have no longer population or economic
resources. Why not start a western bloc with France and smaller powers?
Sunday, June 2nd
New Food Minister, Strachey, and need one too – food boring to
extinction. He says he is going to add some variety. We could do with some.
Only fruit we have had lately a few dates on points. I don’t know why things are
so tight. There must be fruit, tinned or dried, somewhere in the Empire but we
haven’t seen any. As far as food is concerned we are as badly off as in 1942, it
seems to me. A bread rationing scheme is being prepared in case we need one.
We appear however to have got the Americans to take a more responsible
attitude to feeding Germany and India
Railway fares are to go up. We still don’t seem to be able to get the
production of coal up at all. There is talk of inflation starting.
Been reading a grim book on the Russian government by an ex
newspaper correspondent. General drift is that they will not co-operate but use
our democratic system to put over their own ideas, but have no intention
whatever of permitting any contact between other people and Russia. It is all
one way. …. He suggests
1. A balance of power USA + GB // USSR.
2. A clear definition of spheres of influence and no nonsense from them, no
3. We must remain strong.
4. The facts about Russian policy should be made known.
5. Patient and persistent but realist in attitude to secrecy, obscurity,
dilatoriness, not expecting goodwill for past help.
6. Liberal foreign policy so no ground for Russian propaganda.
7. Abandon idea that Russia has high ideas of human race.
8. To do what we can to further friendship but recognise that not much can
be done until Kremlin changes its policy.
Victory Day, June 8th 1946
Many felt that to celebrate at this point is unnecessary and unreal. The more
we hear of the German treatment of occupied countries the more we have to
be thankful that we escaped defeat by such narrow margins, but this is not
reason for public celebration. Europe is famine stricken, the three allies are at
deadlock, which shows no sign of breaking, there is neither peace nor security,
nor any unity of purpose among the victors. The Atlantic Charter is dead and
the U.N.O. does not look like surviving its infancy.
In Henley people were asked to hang out flags and decorate their
houses. There was no church parade, but in the afternoon the children were to
have sports and a free tea and in the evening the church and the bridge were
to be floodlit and music was to be amplified from the Town Hall into the market
place for people to dance. I started out to the sports on my bicycle in a drizzle
which soon became a downpour. A scrum of little boys were engaged in a
potato race, but soon everything had to be abandoned. Most went home, but
about 300 children crawled round to the hall where the tea was to be held. It
was too early for tea. At that point I came home very wet. Very few people
indeed had hung out flags and the reluctance to do so was very noticeable. No
one was about except two drunk men in the Market Place and the atmosphere
was that of a wet Sunday!
Rather troubled by eye strain and found out by visit to oculist that
glasses too strong and need a second pair for reading. Old age creeping on
Thursday, June 13th
Negotiations begin again in Paris between the four powers tomorrow and
another and probably last attempt to get agreed peace treaties with Italy,
Germany and Austria.
The Russian govt believes that the U.S.A. is in economic confusion, the
British Empire impoverished; therefore sooner or later the Marxian revolution
must come. The capitalist west must be hostile, therefore why bother to
placate it. Their analysis is doctrinaire and academic, it (?)miscarries because it
does not understand the liberal and humanist tradition of the West. They were
wrong about the war in 1939 and 1940, it was “imperialist” and no business of
theirs; a Communist revolution in Germany was counted on. They have thrown
away their psychological advantage by their opportunistic and “ends justify
means” policies. In 12 months they have completely lost the prestige and
influence that was theirs in 1945 by trying to be too clever.
Friday, June 21st.
Last Monday morning I had a bout of indigestion but thought nothing of it; by
evening bad stomach ache, which went on all night and was getting worse,
some retching and sickness, no sleep. At eight got Nora to call Dr Irvine,
though later pain moderated and nearly cancelled call, but luckily did not. At
12.30 he arrived. Had thought of gastritis, flu or even stomach ulcer. Could not
understand why he took so long to deliver an opinion. Finally to my surprise he
told me I had appendicitis and should go under a surgeon straight away. By
2.30 I was in ambulance with Nora and bumping over to Dunedin Nursing Home
(in Reading). The surgeon turned up about 4.30 and confirmed the diagnosis.
He proposed to operate at 6.0, so at 5.0 I was being shaved and given a
preliminary shot of dope, which made me feel comfortable and slightly drowsy.
He refused to give me a local, as I had had for hernia and tonsils, so that I had
to have a general anaesthetic, which I have always dreaded since the rough
and ready methods of anaesthetists in my childhood, who forced mask over
your face until you slowly, very slowly, passed out.
At six a trolley was rolled in onto which I got and was given an injection
of pentothal in a vein in the arm. I remember smiling at the nurse and then
nothing. At about 9.30 I woke up in bed and noticed it was dark, my bedside
lamp was alight and a nurse was standing at the end of the bed. I did not feel
at all sick but a bit thirsty. I slept quite well and woke about seven. Then I did
feel a bit sick, but not much, and by breathing deeply it soon went off after a
short vomit or two, in the intervals of which I shaved. Altogether they have now
got anaesthetics to a very fine pitch indeed.
Sunday, June 23rd
I am sitting up in bed. Curious comment on our present state compared with
Victorian or Edwardian domestic conditions that this is probably the only time
that some one will wake me up in the morning, pull up the blind, comment of
the weather and bring me a cup of tea and a biscuit for years to come.
With regard to atomic energy the Americans say get an international control
scheme in proper working order and we are willing to surrender our monopoly
of the bomb; the Russians want all existing bombs and bomb plants destroyed
before they will agree to any control. The Russian counter proposals are not for
international control at all. They simply want a new kind of Kellogg Pact, which
the individual governments will be left to enforce (or not). As the Americans
have the bomb at present it is hard to see that the Russians would lose by
accepting their offer of international control. However they have clearly
decided to reject it, either because they expect a capitalist attack or because
they want to follow their own nationalist ambitions. In which case even if the
bombs are invested in an international authority we shall still have 2 power
groups arming against each other and the world will still be haunted by the fear
of destruction. Some still believe in deterrents, “no one will make war with the
new weapons” – this has never worked in the past, will it now? The Russian
decision (for it is a decision) to refuse to co-operate in any international control
opens up the grimmest prospects for the future.
Monday, June 14th
Today heard the great Arturo Toscanini conduct Beethoven 1st and 9th
symphonies from La Scala, Milan. For 16 years he has been in exile from fascist
Italy in America. Now we can hear him again from his own country, which has
become a republic.
Tuesday, June 25th
“Out of suffering comes understanding”, “Rest in God and may he make you a
great saint as He very easily can”. St Theresa of Avila.
Our trouble is not that we have not the power, we have too much; not
that we do not know, we are brilliant intellectuals and marvellous technicians;
our trouble is that we are not good enough.
Wednesday, June 26th
Soap is to be cut again, but apparently there are alternatives called detergents.
It looks as if obstacles have been put in the way of the development by the
government, whether to protect the consumer against trash or whether owing
to pressure from the soap interests, it would be hard to say.
Routine in nursing home: 7.20 a.m. called with tea and biscuits. 8.20
washing and shaving. 9.00 matron arrives with papers. 9.10 breakfast tray with
letters. Bed pans. Room mopped around. 10.0 Surgeon puts his head round the
door for about 5 seconds. 11.0 the drinks queen brings in Horlicks. 12.0 Drink
queen removes empty glasses. 1.10 Dinner arrives. 4.0 Tea arrives. 6.30
Washing. 7.15 Supper. 8.0 Matron looks in and day nurse goes off duty leaving
bedside lamp. 10.40 Night nurse puts you down for the night. I was very scared
of my first visit to Henley Hospital for hernia in 1939, but that gave me
confidence in 1942 for tonsils and more again for this trip in 1946.
Dissatisfaction with continuance of petrol rationing. Late minister of fuel said it
could be doubled or trebled or abolished altogether. Even a proposal to double
it in August and September to reduce congestion on the railways met with no
response. Rather think we won’t have bread rationing. Bankers against it and
Canadian harvest reported promising.
Account of an organized holiday camp at Clacton on Sea. Some people think
there is a great future for these with chalets for sleeping, communal feeding,
organized games and dancing, day nurseries, palm courts, swimming pools etc.
On the other hand they sometimes sound like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New
World; loudspeakers wake you with song and thereafter you are organized by
cheer leaders into competing groups shouting Hi-ditti Hi-ditto and every 15
minutes the loudspeakers tell you what is going on in your planned day of mass
amusement. Not my idea of a holiday!
Soap is to be cut again, but apparently there are alternatives called detergents.
It looks as if obstacles have been put in the way of the development by the
government, whether to protect the consumer against trash or whether owing
to pressure from the soap interests, it would be hard to say.
Dissatisfaction with continuance of petrol rationing. Late minister of fuel
said it could be doubled or trebled or abolished altogether. Even a proposal to
double it in August and September to reduce congestion on the railways met
with no response. Rather think we won’t have bread rationing. Bankers against
it and Canadian harvest reported promising.
Thursday, June 27th
Curious profession a surgeon’s. It certainly cuts you off from your fellows a
good deal. You go through this tremendous specialist education getting more
and more intensive as you proceed until you finish up as a very skilled
technician. You have a very responsible job, the general population regards you
with fear and dread, mixed with hope. You make a lot of money, but you have
to spend it on expensive motor cars, houses, secretaries etc, and the general
cushioning of your daily life. Your hours are irregular and you have to work at
high pressure. You need a very sound physique and a very phlegmatic
temperament. Like other technicians, by working with the body as a machine
you certainly see quick results.
Have not been able to read very much as glasses need changing and am
waiting for reading pair. Mainstay has been a small wireless set (N says next
time a television!) and there has been some good music….
Bread it to be rationed at then end of July. This is a surprise after all. The
meat ration is to be increased from 1s 2d to 1s 4d. Bread and points are to be
interchangeable. It will not save much more than 10% and does seem rather
unnecessary, unless we have decreased stocks and they intend to cut it down
further is supplies are short on delivery.
Friday, June 28th
Came home from nursing home in taxi at 10.30, went to bed but got up for
supper. Bit tired and very unused to negotiating stairs. As usual in
convalescence felt rather depressed, not helped by news that Timothy’s friend
Flavia was dying in hospital in London and Nora has lost the whole of our petrol
coupons till the end of September. I don’t mean that these are comparable
On Sunday an atom bomb to be exploded over the centre of a group of
ships inside a remote Pacific atoll, Bikini…. so that effect of protective
measures can be tested.
, will be few. It sounds excellent and hope it will fill in the gaps when there is
nothing worth listening to on the Home Service.
Wednesday, July 3rds
Sat up on Sunday night to listen to the atomic bomb, which was broadcast from
Pacific over U.S. radio but heard nothing except atomic policies. The tendency
at first was to minimize the effect of the bomb but it is clear that the was
devastating on signal equipment and that fleet would have been rendered
deaf, dumb and blind by the explosion.
Petrol coupons found in attaché case!
Friday, July 5th
Fierce and noisy debate on bread rationing. Main argument of Food Minister
was risk of delay in replacing supplies owing to American labour conditions,
etc, during August and September now all our reserves have been diverted to
famine relief in Germany, Europe, India. Cannot take risk on small margin.
….70lb sack of oatmeal just arrived for chickens so hope shall be able to keep
some pullets at any rate through winter, now meal ration reduced from 5 to 2lb
a month. Am, hoping to dry grass and acorns and collect beech mast as well.
Been reading Lewis Munford’s Condition of Man and Admiral Jones’
letters from Portsmouth during war years, former learned and profound, latter
very racy and crisp. Churchill being offered tea by his wife replied "My doctors
will not allow me anything non-alcoholic between breakfast and dinner”.
Saturday, July 6th
Atomic bomb killed 80,000 people at Hiroshima, nearly three times as many as
killed in all air raids on London – “indiscriminate bombing”! It is estimated that
the bombs over London would kill 50,000 and destroy 3 sq miles of buildings. It
was not a question of whether the battleships at Bikini were obsolete, but
whether mankind will become obsolete.
Tuesday, July 9th
Went on river at Wargrave and through Shiplake lock. Thought this better than
going on river at Henley as still convalescent and don’t intend to go back until
next week anyway. Why have appendicitis is you can’t have a month’s holiday
on the strength of it?
After a great effort the invitations to the Peace Conference have at last
been sent out. Molotov stone walling to the bitter end…. object to prevent by
rules of procedure any amendments by the small powers of big power decisions
- in so far as they have reached any.
Wednesday, July 10th
Went today by car to see goslings. Anyway to have six at 1 guinea each. Had
lunch and tea in beech woods near Fawley. Lovely summer day.
Been reading Enemy Coast Guard Ahead by Gibson, the man who
breached the Ruhr dams. An excellent account of the planning and execution of
this and the great raids on Berlin 1943 and 1944. Unfortunately he would go
back to bombers after the dams and lost his life when conducting a raid as
The problem of Germany has not been dealt with yet….. The Russians
will not and have made no attempt to implement the Potsdam Agreement by
which Germany to be treated as one economic unit. So in order to keep
Germany in the west alive at all (and only just) we have had to pay out 50
million pounds and the Americans 150 mill. dollars. We have to ration bread to
feed the western Germans while from the food producing part of Germany in
the east nothing is transferred. It looks as though the Russians intend to use
this as squeeze and blackmail – the threat of complete breakdown and disorder
which may give them the chance to organize a communist Germany….. He who
sups with the devil needs a long spoon. We seem to have got ourselves into a
Move to get housewives classified with manual workers on bread
rationing scheme, and so they jolly well ought to be.
Tuesday, July 16th
The American loan has gone through (the House of Representatives). Most
people are glad because it means the possibility of an expansion of our
purchases, but much gnashing of teeth by the imperial preference Tories,
“selling out the Empire” and so on. One of the first results of the loan is an
increase in the petrol ration, at present six gallons, by 50%. However as my
last outer cover split on Thursday I am running without a spare wheel and not
much chance of getting a second hand cover. Petrol will not in the end be much
use without tyres. All tyres are supposed to be going on our export cars.
Churchill has visited Metz to meet General Giraud. He remarked when he
landed at the airfield: “We have kept the rendezvous” – made in N. Africa in
1943. The great man drove through the city and addressed the guests at a
banquet in the Town Hall. This he insisted on doing in his peculiar brand of
French. However, it was a great success as it introduced a conversational or
choric element to the speech, as when the speaker was at a loss for a word the
audience supplied it.
Thursday, July 18th
Bakers said yesterday they couldn’t work the scheme for bread rationing, but
today they seem to have come round. Debate on order imposing rationing in
Commons tonight. Churchill said unnecessary, using sledge hammer to crack
an empty nut. By September crisis would be over anyway. Very difficult to make
out the whole thing. Read an article that German farmers still holding back
wheat and grain from cities for animal feed, so we are, according to this
argument, feeding the German cities by cutting our livestock in order that
German farmers can keep theirs.
Ten years ago the Spanish civil war started. Really in fact the beginning of the
war which was started in 1939, and Franco still in power.
Friday, July 19th
Had a visiting French student for an exchange to lunch – a nice boy from the
Massif Central, fairish and grey-eyed. Reading English at university (Clermont
Ferrand) and hopes to teach it. Gave him two copies of the King’s letter to
children on Victory Day, at which very pleased.
Saturday, July 20th
Took chair at W.E.A. summer school on India. About 30 present. Last time June
29th, 1940. Before tea W.E.A. tutor on mistake we made in allowing communal
voting in India, for it led straight to the development of the Moslem League and
the present impasse. We should, he thought, have encouraged the National
Congress as a democratic body embracing all religions and communities.
Hoped we would not repeat the same mistake in Malaya, Ceylon, E. Africa.
Generally rather pessimistic. After tea, Pulinwood, B.A. Bombay, very charming
and sympathetic speech, full of hope for future of India. An Indian Christian
Sunday, July 21st
Timothy Auty down for weekend, bought me a sponge from Rome, but dark in
colour. Back from tour in Jeep (45 m.p.h., six gears) from Belgrade, Sarejevo,
Dalmatian coast and back to Belgrade. Nearly all villages burnt out because
houses of wood, great hunger, but people working like beavers, on land, on
roads, on houses. U.N.R.A. supplying flour, grain, seeds, also some steamrollers
for roads. Italy one of the better countries for food now, Yugoslavia bad,
distressing accounts of rickety children she saw in Sarajevo clinic; but Austria
worst of all.
Bank Holiday Monday, Aug 5th
Term ended on Thursday and I went over to help Mary clean walls of her flat on
Friday. Bought an anti-gas oilskin for 6s 9d – no coupons – enormous trousers
and short coat; hope it will do to keep warm out camping and on Dartmoor..
Hilary very excited by prospect of going camping on Wednesday, but have had
great trouble getting a tyre for the spare wheel. In he end found one at
Maidenhead but had to pay £3-5-0 for it second hand, so that by the time have
bought tyres, sleeping bags and ground sheets, would have paid one to stay at
a good hotel!
Thursday, Aug 22nd
Returned with Hilary yesterday after a fortnight’s camping at Cuckmere Haven.
A lovely site within 100 yards of the sea, but 1½ miles from milk and bread and
¼ mile from water. The weather was bad, two gales when one hardly slept at
all, and so hours of continuous rain. Out of 14 days 4 days sunshine. However,
with exception of broken guy rope on the stores tent they stood up to
John Guinness and family came down three times from Wilmington and
Hilary enjoyed bathing with John’s daughter Lindis and Anna Brock. He stood up
to all the trials and difficulties with weather manfully and thoroughly enjoyed
the holiday. Had a great satisfaction in contending successfully with the
elements and cooking and preparing meals. For doing the former I developed a
low neolithic cunning, sleeping with the matches next to my skin to keep them
dry and so on. Hilary kept shrimps and crabs in a bottle under his bed at night
“in case they got wet”. He remarked of the grasshoppers which started at night
time, “they are tuning their violins”. It was a fire-builders paradise because of
the enormous quantities of driftwood after the storms. We used to go on what I
called a flotsam and jetsam walk to see what we could find
During this time we heard no news, listened to no wireless, read no
newspapers, went to bed when it got dark, got up when it got light – the
delights of the primitive life. Only heard when we returned of H. G. Wells death.
[Ed. We were almost the only campers on this enormous site – when I saw it
again years later you could hardly see the grass for the caravans and villa
tents - but while we camped on the flat there was a couple camped on the hill
to the east of the estuary and according to family legend, they referred to the
rain-sodden Diarist and son as “That poor man down on the marsh”. Among
the flotsam and jetsam we found a meteorite about the size of a big fist under
the cliff and a string of glass floats used by fishermen at that time to keep nets
afloat. The family still has the floats; the meteorite has disappeared).
Sunday, Aug 25th
International situation seems deteriorating. Timothy, down for weekend, says
UNRA being wound up because Americans are not in mood for international co-
operation on relief and prefer to deal with demands for help themselves on
their merits. Seems likely they will take a tougher line. They are strengthening
their fleet in the Med. And are for the first time a Mediterranean naval power.
Where the Atlantic powers of the West meet the Russian land power of the East
is the line of mountains bordering the Adriatic and there in the Straits lie the
American cruisers. Some say we cannot go on long like this and there will be
either a showdown or war.
It looks as if the Russians are going to occupy East Germany indefinitely,
for they are taking over German plants and transferring the workers to Soviet
employment. American feeling has been much inflamed by the shooting down
of American planes by the Yugoslavs and there are angry press comments.
The Paris conference drags on but has made little progress…. Tragic that
when we need a settlement so badly the Paris meeting has been used simply to
make propaganda and speeches. The Big Three have never met informally. The
latest effort by the Russians has been to put up the Ukraine to renew the attack
on Greece. In fact some one said the Russians use the U.N.O. as a punch bag;
bring up some problem and you get a sharp comeback in the form of a
propaganda attack somewhere else.
Hardly any honey but what there was I began to take off. A rotten year
in the garden – and the geese ate the young purple sprouting plants; put in
some more but very late.
Monday, Aug 26th
India now has its own government but Moslem League refuses to co-operate.
Terrific riots, looting, killing and arson have broken out in Calcutta, and thus
there is a possibility that northern India, where there are Moslems in large
numbers, is on the verge of civil war….
Wednesday, Aug 28th
Squatters have now occupied empty camps. It has taken them a long time to
do so. They are not to be evicted where there is adequate water and sanitary
accommodation but some will be charged rent and the local authority made
An excellent talk by Harold Nicolson on Russia and the Russians. The
Russians suspicious of us and hostile because 1) their Marxist doctrine tells
them there must be a war between capitalism (U.S.A) and communism and 2)
in that war we shall side with the U.S.A. and be used as an advanced base for
an attack on Russia. 3) Many know little about our war effort and what they do
know does not outweigh the policy we followed from 1919 to Munich. They feel
desperately not only the physical destruction but also the destruction of their
life’s work by which they succeeded in raising living standards and are now
thrown back again to begin once more. Hence their determination to protect
themselves by a wide and deep fence from the West. Their feeling that we are
going back on what we promised at Yalta, Teheran, Potsdam.
Saturday, Aug 31st
Off to explore Youth Hostels (with M). Lunch at Exeter then off by one of the
most crowded trains I have ever been in to Brent. There we set off for
Brentmoor House up a lovely moorland valley. The house was on the moor by a
torrent in the narrow valley and the sides were thick with rhododendron and
pine. The food was terrific, masses of bangers and sausage meat rissoles and
potatoes and dried peas. As we got near the hostel it started to rain.
Sunday, Sept 1st
Spent an hour on the moor in morning but soggy and wet, heavy showers in
afternoon and dreadfully wet.
Monday, Sept 2nd
The great walk! From Brent by moor to Bellever. Started off in sunshine but at
one o’clock in the tapioca pudding bog it began to rain – it rained without
stopping till Thursday morning. We struggled on over the quaking quagmire,
meeting on the top two men going the opposite way. They had taken off their
shoes and stockings and were indulging in a kind of beastly paddling. We got
off the bog about 2.30 and arrived at Dartmeet about 3.30 where we had tea at
Badgers Holt. It was coming down in sheets and we went on to Bellever up the
Dart. This was in parts nearly as bad as the high moor, the side streams were
flooding the banks, but we arrived very tired and wet about 6.30. Brent House
was a private house turned into a hostel which overflowed into the
outbuildings. Bellever one large barn converted into a hostel by dormitories.
The food at Bellever though less substantial was better cooked.
Wednesday, Sept 4th
Rain all day yesterday and today. Went out along road, but got very wet. The
wind howled and the roof in the men’s dormitory dripped.
Monday, Sept 5th
Walked to Gidleigh by the road and by the track over Hamel Down. Got in about
7 very tired and hot. Showers only.
Friday, Sept 6th
Walked to Chagford, bus to Exeter, lunch, train, to Reading and home. Much
enjoyed the hostels. At one table you see sitting together men and woman
from the Tyneside, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Birmingham, London, Sussex and
Cornwall – they are England! Each hostel is so different from the others, you
never know what to expect….. The wardens are a weak point, at Bellever two
young and not very agreeable women, at Gidleigh a very disgruntled fat
Sunday, Sept 8th
Hilary 10 today. A rather quiet day though Alexander came to tea. Hilary
has become interested in Scouts. I gave him a Morse buzzer and Nora a knife in
leather sheath. He also had an air-sea rescue kite from R.A.F.
Sunday, Sept 22nd
Since last entry took Hilary to Whipsnade. Much enjoyed it, especially the
The weather continues appalling – no sun, rain and last Friday a colossal
gale which produced floods in many places and brought down a tree on the
field. The weather is the worst since 1879 though on points (number of wet
days and inches of rainfall) 1879 wins handsomely, so what must it have been
like then. We have been gleaning in the barley field on the other side of the
valley, but occasionally have carted off a sodden sheaf which has been blown
down in the wind and is already beginning to sprout. Collecting sunflower seeds
and acorns, but a long time working and very little to show for it at the end in
Dorothy Wade down for a few days from her criminal girls. Sad story of a
foundation garment. Very fat and shapeless girl caught by police on soldiers
camp after many attempts to find her in tents. Sent to D who at length
persuaded clerk to pay £5 for corsets. Girl greatly set up and told by D if good
more corsets forthcoming. Unfortunately girl had a relapse and went off
sleeping with hop pickers and when returned by police was without corset, left
in some muddy field with the hop pickers. Now D’s name mud with clerk, who
goes about muttering, “Spend £5 on corsets, the idea!”
Today Heath to lunch; has at last been accepted by the Medical School
at Sheffield, so now set up for medical career
(Ed. The name of Donald Heath – later Sir Donald Heath - recurs
throughout these Diaries. He was probably the most distinguished old boy of
Henley Grammar School of the Diarist’s time as headmaster. He was a
specialist in the blood vessels of the lungs. In 1968 he was appointed Holt
Professor of Pathology at Liverpool University, where he continued to work for
the rest of his career.)
Saturday, Sept 28th
Weather has become warmer and improved. Went on river today – a
meeting of sailing club and river like a Pisano or Monet painting, sails crossing
and re-crossing. Hilary gone back to school for nearly as week, said to me one
day, “Of course you’re always wonderful.” Beginning of adolescent criticism of
parents? He is developing very rapidly now – very adventurous, goes off for
long rides on bicycle and anxious to go sailing before he went back, but current
too rapid when wind blowing downstream, so had a canoe.
International situation improved by statement by Stalin that he did not
believe any signs of war existed, or any reason why communism and capitalism
could not live side by side. Proof of pudding in the eating….
Beginning of series of lectures on Russia at Henley W.E.A. Speaker pointed
out differences in conventions; ladies bathe naked but gentlemen do not raise
their hat to them as did C19th botanist!
Peach over to tea. Told story of a friend at dinner next to a dirty little man
who remarked, “I don’t like these long debates, I can’t hold me water”. Found
out he was His Majesty’s Principle Secretary of State for War.
During the war we were always telling each other what we would do when
peace came – now we find we either can’t get things or can’t afford them. Went
out buying hyacinth bulbs as intended to go in for them in a big way, but can’t
get many and thy cost 8d each for small ones.
This week the B.B.C. is starting a Third Programme for “perceptive and
intelligent” or “alert and receptive” listeners and then go halfway to meet the
former by sustained attention; there will be items of considerable length, great
works will be performed in their entirety and “hearing aids” – introductory
talks, explanations and the like
Saturday, Oct 5th
Some wit returning from the East said that to judge from the hoardings the
govt was offering three things, Diphtheria, VD and Death on the Roads.
Had the ex-head of the Royal School, Addis Ababa, to stay for the night.
Described how Haille Selassie came to the school with a fruitcake and a fish
slice with which he cut the cake into small squares to regale the boys. After
they had partaken of the royal bounty he returned to his limousine in which he
sat and cried to the boys “Push!”
The verdict at Nuremberg this week. Most people uneasy at sentence of
death on two soldiers, Keitel and Jodl; also all our consciences uneasy because
not sure that the men who used the atom bomb ought not to be in the dock
too. Trial conducted in a fair and dignified way, but wonder whether history will
say it was well done and marked the rousing of the world conscience against
crimes against humanity itself.
The governors met this week. They had to elect a new chairman, but
when I enquired whether we would get some one other than the decayed
landowner he replied, “You’ll have to wait for an act of God.”- been waiting for
12 years. I have evaded Prize Day since 1939, but will have to have one this
autumn, though books are still very difficult to get.
Razor blades are now very plentiful, but you can’t get shaving soap, only
cream, because some speaker on the B.B.C. advised housewives to buy if for
washing clothes. Shirts are difficult too; some at one shop ordered in January
arrived in September and all sold out within the week – and only 4 dozen at
that. Transport is certainly very much better but one of the few things that is.
Coal, milk, tyres, bread, clothes bad or worse. Chicken mash cut this week from
40lbs to 16!
Sunday, Oct 6th
For the first time since the war we are back on Greenwich time, neither
summer nor double summer. Nora could not sleep and brought the breakfast in
at 7 G.M.T. Eggs in short supply. My five old hens lay about 7 a week and the
pullets have not begun.
Sunday, Oct 13th
Came down by train yesterday from Reading to Gomshall and walked with M to
Holmbury St Mary where stayed at the youth hostel. This had been built for the
job before the war and was very nice indeed, although the beds only had
sleeping bags on them and they were very hard. Walked to Leith Hill and back
by Friday Street to Gomshall. On Leith Hill we cooked our lunch on a fire we
made in a sandpit. It was a cold and sunless weekend which was disappointing
as Friday was a brilliant day. The paths through the woods among the browning
bracken, beech and pine, sandy and soft to the feet, were delightful and we
met hardly any other walkers.
Monday, Oct 14th
The Paris Peace Conference ended today in a state of exhaustion.
Characteristically Molotoff had the last word by saying he was unready when
his turn came…. Now the recommendations of the conference go back to the
Council of Foreign Ministers, which will meet in New York…
Thursday, Oct 17th
Goering slipped through our fingers after all. Three quarters of an hour before
he was to be hanged in Nuremberg jail he committed suicide by taking cyanide.
How he concealed or obtained it is a mystery. The rest were hanged, beginning
with Ribbentrop. In fact all the leaders escaped the gallows, Hitler, Goebbels,
Himmler and now Goering.
The bodies of the Nazi leaders cremated and ashes dispersed secretly –
that we hope will be the end of what began in 1919.
The Queen Elizabeth now making a maiden voyage to New York as a
passenger liner with Mr Molotoff on board. Remember the Queen went up to
Scotland launch her just before the war broke out…..
Saturday, Oct 19th
Went over to see Aunt Alice. Had tea from a service bought as a wedding
present for Grandmother in 1853, guess a model, hand-painted with flowers
and stencilling, from the Great Exhibition of two years earlier.
Several of the boys have been up to see the Britain Can Make It
exhibition at the Victoria & Albert.
Sunday, Oct 20th
The Americans are now short of meat. Price controls were taken off by
Congress in the summer and in spite of rocketing prices the consumers ate
more than the usual supply. Taking advantage of this, the meat packers kept
back supplies and have produced a near vegetarian U.S.A. in order to discredit
the govt and smash up all the controls.
All the opposition to the planned economy of Roosevelt is gaining momentum
and “free enterprise” is endeavouring to head as fast as possible to the
economic anarchy of the pre-New Deal era. What an undisciplined people they
are! How Molotoff and the communists must despise their lack of plan.
Unfortunately we are involved too, e.g., there is now a leather shortage as by
holding back slaughtering, or slaughtering on the black market where hides
could not be sold, has produced a run on the S. American market and prices we
cannot afford to pay. For now we have to shop as a nation very carefully,
picking and choosing our markets for purchases in relation to capacity to
export to pay for them.
Saturday, Oct 27th
Peter Fleming came to talk to Teachers Group on “Education as he had seen it
on his travels”, but he proved quite bogus, had prepared nothing, had no ideas
worth mentioning and was well ginned up. A snob.
Nora went up to London and had tea with one of the Long Dene teachers –
now left – who said Hilary ought to have a job where he could deal with people
as he got on so well with his group and was so sensitive to people’s feelings.
This week Churchill sounded a warning in the debate on foreign affairs…..
He asked how many Russian divisions were on a war footing on the line from
the Baltic to the Greek frontier. This question gave a shock to the house….
Tuesday, Nov 5th
Went down to Long Dene on Sunday and saw Hilary, took a billycan and cooked
lunch in wood near school. Football now being played.
Rations are to go up at Christmas but don’t feel very happy about it
considering the appalling conditions on the cities in our zone of Germany. Our
govt still refuses to allow food parcels to be sent and improvement as a result
of the foreign ministers conference will take so long to get under weigh.
Reading Horned Pigeon [by George Millar], an excellent account of
prison life in Italy by officer in VIIIth Army who was taken to Germany on Italian
surrender, escaped to Strasbourg, worked his way through France, crossed at
the third attempt to Spain, and finally reached home to find that his wife had
fallen in love with another woman.
Went to see King’s Pictures which included a portrait of Duke of York’s
Necessary Woman – necessary for what?
Saturday, Nov 9th
Conscription to be continued and is to last 18 months. It seems a pity they
cannot make do with a year
There is now a Republican Congress and therefore a stalemate in the
U.S.A. The Americans are sinking steadily back to laissez faire, freer hand to
the businessmen and more power to the party bosses. The trend will be
towards a more aggressive policy towards the U.S.S.R. followed perhaps by
isolationism and revival of tariffs and restrictions on foreign imports. As The
Spectator says, both parties are running down hill, but the Republicans are
running with the breaks off. What is clear is that the Democratic policy, feeble
though President Truman may be, is more likely to help forward world peace
and prosperity than Republican. Yet as it is U.N.R.A. has been wound up, price
controls ended, government buying in foreign countries stopped, and the plan
for a world food board rejected. The result of this is that our zone in Germany is
starving and India and S.E. Europe are near famine. The Americans are so
impossible, and clearly Truman has no grip on the situation.
The repatriation of those Poles who want to go back hanging fire and the
rest are about the place in uniform; 24,000 have elected to stay and 18,000 to
go back. Few of them can speak English and until they can do that they cannot
be absorbed into English industry. Neither the miners nor the agricultural
workers want them. They have on the whole a bad reputation and are
Tuesday, Nov 12th
New chairman of Education Committee, Mrs Hichens, sounds quite mad. An
aristocrat – Lyttleton – never answers letters, though when inviting her to give
away prizes did not realize this. On anniversary of son’s death in war gave a
great dinner party, .… and la grande dame takes the head of the table,
telephone call to say friends in Oxford cannot come, Mrs H in evening dress
goes out to fetch them in her car. Car runs out of petrol in the village; Mrs H
takes car of friends without permission that she finds outside their house. Runs
into bus, crawls out of wreckage, taken home in ambulance, has stitches put in
leg and comes down stairs a wreck to find guests departing. Is unable to attend
meeting of new Development Committee, “important engagement”, a police
court where heavily fined. A real aristocratic eccentric. As for people like
headmasters or directors - all below cabinet rank do as Mrs H tells them like
the one-time servants of the estate. Curious commentary our democracy, so
Sunday, Nov 17th
Brains Trust asked recently if they knew of any good news replied, “No, they
couldn’t think of any.”
The Germans in our zone have reached a point of moral and economic
collapse. Eighteenth months after the surrender they are facing another winter
without the stocks of food, fuel, clothing they had last year. Rations are falling
to slow-starvation level. The unconditional surrender policy seems to have
been a ghastly mistake and has been followed by an inefficient government,
which has always been forced to conform to the effects any actions may have
on relations with other powers, never on the zone itself.
At home the news of the week was a revolt of 50 or so M.P.s against
Bevin’s foreign policy. The motion expresses the fear that we shall be involved
in a capitalist – communist conflict. The fears are partly economic, that we shall
be involved in an American slump, partly political, two powers at war. We
cannot however be economically independent; we are too poor and depend on
American good will….
People grumble at the changing of bread units into points because the bigger
families are so much better off – they don’t need their bread units and change
them into points and then sweep the grocers clean when things like biscuits
and treacle come in. Moreover the Food Ministry is prosecuting people for what
are technical offences while the black market gets away with it. This week a
corporation was summoned for serving too many dishes, to wit cheese, when
Debate in H of C on monopolies in the press and appointment of
commission….. Doubtful if political opinions of electorate much influenced by
press, more by discussion in the fish queue. Fish Fryers Assoc reported to have
sent message of support to the proprietors: “Our work is wrapped up in yours”.
Alleged that some angry reporters said to Proprietor: “You are nothing but a
Judas Iscariot!”. Proprietor rang bell and shouted, “Boy, get me Who’s Who”.
Wednesday, Nov 26th
Rain and wind for weeks on end, floods, damp and slime. Also rheumatism in
Sunday, Dec 1st
Damp playing hell with my leg. Today was back to 1942 standard and saw
Droitwich looming ahead of me – that miserable little town where I was so
unhappy in that August. Copied out speech for prize day.
Monday, Dec 2nd
Bought Hilary a tent on Saturday, an ex-American army bivouac. Wonder if I
shall be in fit shape to camp with him next summer.
Tuesday, Dec 3rd
Prize Day at Town Hall. Went off quite well as far as I was concerned but
chairman, aged 82, distinguished himself. Got him piloted into the waiting
room, as I thought, but he bolted through, climbed onto the platform all by
himself, took off his bowler hat and overcoat, which he deposited under the
table, and sat in solitary state wiping his face with a red cotton handkerchief.
Miss Richards had to be sent to persuade him to come down again, which she
had great difficulty in doing as he was very deaf and continued to sit and smile.
His speech, in which he mentioned his escape from France at the time of the
Franco-Prussian war (1870), more audible than expected, but in speaking about
the Regatta he got mixed up with the Grammar School, and so did the
audience. Then the vice-chairman, old Ashford, 79, said a lot of quite
unnecessary and untrue things about the chairman’s qualities. Everyone knew
them to be untrue and that no school could have a worse chairman – except
possibly old Ashford himself. I spoke for 15 minutes and the whole thing was
over in an hour, which pleased everyone. Wanted to say that during the war
“never in the history of education had so little been taught to so many by so
few” but forbore.
Never certainly had so much hair cutting been done in Henley as last
weekend. I had warned the boys they must have a clip and Clifford, who went
to set an example, had to sit in a queue for an hour or more.
Wednesday, Dec 4th
This week they are playing all the Beethoven quartets on the Third Programme
and tonight played B flat 130 with the second finale. Most lovely.
Saturday, Dec 7th
This week a Bill passed in second reading to end the payments to Nelson
brother’s relative. We have paid out about £800,000, which seems enough. The
present beneficiary is an elderly clergyman and his aged brother
Sunday, Dec 8th
Leg very bad today and agony getting out of bed this morning. Weather
appalling, rain and east wind. Rosalind Hind arrived for tea. Told a story about
W.E.A. in Lincolnshire. Some discussion in committee as to whether a course on
Plato should be given at village called Kettleby. After it had gone on for
sometime the Mayor, who had been asleep, woke up and heard the word
“Plato” – “Well,” he said, “Gipsy Smith has just made a platonic marriage with a
girl of 18. What’s good enough for Gipsy Smith is good enough for Kettleby.”
Thursday, Dec 19th
Ten days of bad rheumatism in hip joint….. Killed off geese last Sunday, four
successfully, then the remaining two took fright, so when I got them in the yard
they took to their wings. Later inveigled them into garage and did them in
there. Sold them for £2 - £2.10; they weighed 9 –12lbs. I bought them for a
guinea each so I did not make much by it all.
Saturday, Dec 21st
Broke up yesterday. If only it would get warmer. Weary with the pain in my leg.
This looks like being a most miserable Christmas. On Thursday night Nora
came home with some sort of stomach upset. Can’t keep warm as can’t
exercise and we are in a big room which is difficult to heat, but if we move into
the small room there is no wireless.
Christmas Eve, Wednesday
Yesterday mercifully the weather got warmer and today sunny and pleasant.
Spent the morning arranging a new site for the bees as the powers that be in
Oxford have apparently decided to dig a big drain through them. Also much
annoyed because they have decided to decorate the school piecemeal while
the children are there.
Leg still very painful…. Ate a chicken today, three years old but quite
good. Mary sent me over a life of Montgomery, excellent – a case all right. Have
moved into smaller dining room and find it warmer and more comfortable than
the big one – wonder have not thought of it before. The invaluable Tom Wheeler
moved in the wireless in an hour with new aerial, earth and switch.
Had a carol service, but as soon as school in hall at 9 o’clock the electricity
cut off – no light, no organ!
Christmas Day, Wednesday
Christmas Day followed its usual routine. Found a nest with 10 eggs in the
morning. Did chores. Dinner about 1.40. Goose, sprouts and potatoes, apple
sauce, stuffing, bacon, Christmas pudding, brandy butter and a bottle of
unnamed Bordeaux sold at 10/- a bottle controlled price.
Hilary rather bored and misses other children (only children a great mistake).
I gave him an American army tent which we erected as best we could in the
dining room after dinner. He had a good many presents so evidently things a
bit easier to get. Nora gave me a dung fork and good wishes for my being able
to use it later.
King broadcast in afternoon at 3 and just finished washing up in time to
hear miners from pit bottom who immediately preceded him. This indicates
present position and interest in coal which we all feel. Anyway now miners have
a five-day week and a nationalized industry must hope things will settle down
and we shall have some more coal next winter.
Clear from reading Montgomery’s life that had he and not Eisenhower been in
command many things would have been different, both in Italy, where he did
not campaign, and in the West. Here he believed the war could have been won
after the Normandy victory in the autumn of 1944 by a concentrated thrust on
a narrower front against the Ruhr, whereas Eisenhower decided on a forward
movement on a broad front up to the whole length of the Rhine. This meant an
extra years campaign. Interesting to meet a man without any interests outside
his profession, no thought of money, place, politics, influence, society.
Incorruptible by all means generally used to influence men in high rank.
Defined democracy the other day as the equal sharing of discomfort – and
Boxing Day, Thursday
Got up for breakfast. Washed up and did room. Cleared out fowl house - about
a month overdue – then helped Hilary put up his bivouac tent. In afternoon split
firewood. The hens have started to lay in earnest and now have 14 eggs in
rack. Because of rheumatism Nora has to feed them and at one time wanted to
get rid of the lot just as they were coming in to lay. Hope I can persuade her to
carry on till I get better.
Friday, Dec 27th
Hilary’s school report arrived today. Much debate lately with Nora as to which
school to send him to next –Dauntsey’s, Leighton Park or Dartington. If he goes
to the latter he will have to go in May and John G will have to be given notice.
Should prefer him to continue in a co-educational school but they are difficult
to find….. Nora sometimes feels that public school education such an
advantage afterwards, sometimes that these modern schools too individualistic
and not enough emphasis placed on spit and polish, so people educated in
them are untidy and slovenly. Hilary certainly untidy, everything flung and
dropped anywhere, but then Nora not a model of this herself to say the least of
it….. All small boys untidy unless you have ample time to check up on them all
the time, which in our harassed and busy domestic life, treading water hard all
the time to keep our head above the surface, we certainly have not got.
Monday, Dec 30th
A funny sort of a year, very unlike we pictured it. Instead of going back to a
civilized existence with a rush, things have crawled slowly forward and in some
respects seem hardly to have crawled at all. Rationing of food, clothes, petrol
goes on just the same, except that bread is now included and chicken food is
more tightly rationed than before. We get steadily shabbier and more down at
This year we stood on the Sussex shore and watched the cross-channel
steamers to Newhaven and Dieppe. Travel has greatly improved. There are
more trains, they are less crowded and they run to time. This is also true to a
less extent of bus services. Fuel however has been worse. Fortunately we only
use gas for cooking, not heating, but the supply of electricity and gas has been
more uncertain this year than during the war.
The new government has worked hard and plenty of legislation has been
carried through, but it is mostly long term planning and will not affect us
immediately…. It seems to me we want more pepping up by the government.
The danger is not bad staff work but poor morale - apathy – the old country is
up the creek, or let’s get a safe job and then put our money on the dogs. The
miners can be away from the pits, but not the publicans, footballers and
greyhound track staff. On the other hand women are having children, the birth
rate is rising, though when it will reach replacement level we don’t know. The
dream of a more spacious life less cramping than the old is still a dream, but
perhaps in 1947 we shall see a more perceptible progress towards it