31 May 2010

Friday 31st May 1940

Rather warm, getting cloudy & cooler, but a pleasant sunny day. Did some weeding in the garden. Watered dear Mother's grave in evening. Alan Spooner called saying trenches were being dug on Wimbledon Common, so it seems our model flying ground is doomed for the duration of the war.

On this day: in USA, President Roosevelt asks Congress for further $1.3b (in addition to previous $3b) for military preparations.

30 May 2010

Thursday 30th May 1940

Rather warm, some pleasant sun. Along line to Wimbledon to fetch my new blue mixture suit from Rego's. Walk in evening to post a letter. The first rose out in back garden is Desmond Johnstone; scarlet cerise and ochre yellow.

Chart (click to enlarge) showing the routes, together with their distances, which were used between Dover and Dunkirk during the evacuation, Operation Dynamo. Ostend  is a few miles to the east. (Fold-out chart in John Masefield's 1941 book The Nine Days Wonder. )

Wednesday 29th May 1940

Very mild, cloudy, rain morning and evening, a little sun midday. The guns from France are louder to-day, sometimes loud enough they shake the windows. Cleaned the windows at back of house. Walk on cannon Hill Common in evening; saw a young oak tree in Parkway I planted as an acorn.

On this day: German troops occupied Lille, Ostend and Ypres.

28 May 2010

Tuesday 28th May 1940

Mild, getting cooler, cloudy, gentle rain nearly all day. To buy Dinkey something thence along little rail path and half-way along big rail path. Into Kingham's in evening to look at wireless set; new H.T. battery needed. King of the Belgians orders his troops to cease fire and capitulate, but his government do not acknowledge his command. British Expeditionary Force to retire as they are surrounded on all sides and their only escape is by the sea. Very serious.

Troops wade out to a rescue ship. (Graphic Photo Union in Masefield's The Nine Days Wonder.)


27 May 2010

Monday 27th May 1940

Rather warm, perfect cloudless day, rather breezy. Bought geraniums and petunias near Raynes Park Station. Paid visit to Len Garrod. Little Peter Child called to take his father some marrow plants. Planted the geraniums and petunias on dear Mother's grave in evening. Could hear the bombardment in France very clearly this evening.

Note: radio news of troop positions was now being withheld. Yesterday, Germans set fire to the oil tanks in Dunkirk. The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force and the First French Army was named as Operation Dynamo. 6,000 troops were evacuated today from the waiting 300,000. Five troopships took 4,000 from the harbour, and ships' boats lifted 2,000 from the beaches.

'Waiting in the dunes.' Troops wait to be taken off the beaches. The Times photo in a short book first published in 1941, The Nine Days Wonder, by John Masefield. 

26 May 2010

Sunday 26th May 1940

Rather warm, gentle rain all day, rather nice. Alb & Lily to tea. They brought with them one of the two Czech boys who are staying with them - Jean Stein. A very interesting boy; showed him my aeroplanes. His father was a doctor of psychology in his own country. Uncle Henry & Mrs.Akroyd & Uncle Ben called in evening.
On this day: the evacuation of Allied troops began. 224,585 British troops and 112,546 French and Belgian troops were evacuated over the course of a week, leaving 40,000 French troops behind. 231 rescue ships were sunk. Over 860 ships were involved.
Photo: Dunkerque Tour de Leughenaer. (Martinp via Wikipedia)

Vera Brittain, visiting England's south coast, wrote: 'Signposts being moved from all roads by Ministry of Transport.'

25 May 2010

Saturday 25th May 1940

Rather warm, soft pleasant light, warm breeze. Polished the floors as usual. Went to buy Dinky's food for the week-end. Miss Hilliard came to tea; she was in the same ward as Ciss in hospital: she looks very well and much better than when I saw her in the ward. Took the gas masks to Whalley Avenue School to have them fitted with an extra filter against smoke-gas. The climbing rose at the front door is magnificent and calls forth remarks from passers by.

24 May 2010

Friday 24th May 1940

"I could hear incessant gunfire..."

Between very mild and rather warm, some pleasant sunny periods. Took off the bulbs from Mother's grave and dug it over well in preparation for summer planting. Flew the low wing with Alan Spooner on the Rec in evening; he flew his large cabin model. The Germans occupied Boulogne yesterday; I could hear incessant gunfire all afternoon. The British Expeditionary Force is cut off and have the enemy on three sides and the sea on the fourth; there is a gap 25 miles wide in the Allied lines and things are desperate. Heard the King** broadcast a message at night.

**"The King spoke on the wireless tonight (Empire Day) - dull, heavy, uninspired, full of platitudes..." - Vera Brittain's diary (ISBN 0 7089 8716 8).

Thursday 23rd May 1940

Cleaned the piano keyboard and hung up pictures after cleaning in Dad's room.  Uncle Alf called for some marrow plants. Walk along little rail path in evening. Re-covered repaired half of low wing and doped. Fitted aluminium wheels to low wing model to lower the centre of gravity.

On this day: Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons, said, "No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered with a searching, but at the same time with a steady, eye."

22 May 2010

Wednesday 22nd May 1940

Mild, torrents of welcome rain till afternoon, then a nice calm evening. Had an afternoon and evening at polishing all the furniture in the sitting room and putting the pictures up after cleaning. Had a look at the guns on the playing fields in late evening, and had a talk with a gunner; it is a Scottish Company of the Royal Artillery.

21 May 2010

Tuesday, 21st May 1940

Mild, some sunny periods but cold E.wind blowing great guns: terrible. The first roses out on the climbing Mme E. Herriot rose at front door; they are very fine this year, of better quality and greater number - 80 buds so far. Walk around playing fields in evening to find an encampment of soldiers and two great anti-aircraft guns there. Uncle Ben called.

On this day: Germany claimed to have annihilated France's Ninth Army. Rommel's troop halted British south of Arras. Vera Brittain's diary noted brilliant sun and cold east wind - 'Hitler's weather' - and 'Had my hair washed after tea; may as well be bombed with clean hair as dirty.'  Our diary writers wouldn't have known that yesterday the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp opened in Poland.

Monday, 20th May 1940

Very mild, brilliant sunny day but dreadful cold E.wind. Put in four marrow plants on a prepared bed. Had to water garden; the dry weather and high winds have made the ground like a desert. Repaired woodwork of damaged wing of model.

19 May 2010

Sunday, 19th May 1940

"Uncle Henry and Mrs.Akroyd called in evening
 with damnable effrontery."

Mild, brilliant sunshine, cloudless sky, but devastating cold E.wind. Alb & Lily to tea. Uncle Henry and Mrs.Akroyd called in evening with damnable effrontery. Walked along Arterial Road**; the laburnum trees are fine.
**Note: was there (or is there still) a road called Arterial Road in Raynes Park? Or was it just a general term (although Fred writes it with a capital A and R) for the main road into London, i.e. Bushey Road.

On this day:

  • Vera Brittain records on 19th May (in book 'Vera Brittain's Diary', Thorpe, ISBN 0 7089 8716 8) a 'complacent BBC voice' reported ' ghastly a storm of mechanised battles... as one could have imaged.' She adds, ' The Blitzkrieg (is) destroying what the men of the past built up with infinite exertion - towns, art, literature, civilisation itself - is a betrayal of the whole human race.' 
  • Churchill, in a BBC broadcast today: "Our task is not only to win the battle, but to win the war."
  • Yesterday, the battleship HMS Resolution near Narvik was hit, but not sunk, by a 1,000lb bomb from a Junkers Ju 88. 

18 May 2010

Saturday, 18th May 1940

Very mild, fine sunny day but stiff E.breeze. Flew the low wing and the small spar models on the Common. The low wing flew with great height but damaged its wing on a tree. The spar model which flew so well last night would not perform for some reason I could not discover.

On this day: Marshal Philippe Pétain named vice-premier of France. Germans captured Amiens, Cambrai and St Quentin. Germans advanced some 45,000 vehicles at 30 miles a day through broken French lines. Hitler decreed reincorportaion of Eupen, Malmédy and Moresnet into Germany. And in Italy, Mussolini affirmed alliance with Germany. 

Friday, 17th May 1940

Very mild, some bright sun but chilly wind. Hard work in garden digging up bulbine** roots and unwanted raspberry canes. Flew miniature spar model on  Common in evening with fine results including a flight of 52 seconds.

** Can this be accurate? Bulbine according to the Wiki page, is found mainly in South Africa, with some of the 160 species in Australia. Fred's handwriting (click to enlarge) is shown below. Comments and assistance and corrections welcome! 

Thanks to Groatie (see Comments below) it looks as if Fred's diary reads 'bellbine' which is another name for bindweed (the link in Groatie's Comment), or see Calystegia in Wiki.  

16 May 2010

Thursday, 16th May 1940

"Large British bomber accompanied by six Spitfire fighters flew over in evening"
Very mild, brilliant sunny day after morning rain, but very rough chilly wind. Some work in garden; had to put new stake in to support Lady Penzance sweet briar. Put picture up in the living room after having the chimney swept. Large British bomber accompanied by six Spitfire fighters flew over in evening.

On this day:
Germans breached extension of Maginot line - a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defences, which France had constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy. Photo shows Block 14 at Ouvrage Hochwald in 1940. These were were interconnected via a network of underground tunnels that often featured narrow gauge electric railways, power stations, barracks and mess halls, kitchens, water storage, ammunition stores, workshops. Their crews ranged from 500 to more than 1,000 men. (See Wikipedia)

15 May 2010

Wednesday, 15th May 1940

Rather warm, fine sunny day, cooling breeze. Few flashes of lightning at night, slight rain.Further repairs to garden path; planted a few dwarf dahlias. Walk along  line* to Wimbledon in evening. Saw first pink roses out on a climbing rose at Wimbledon. The may and chestnut trees are at their best.
*footpath alongside railway.

This postcard was send to Uncle Fred by Cissy (his sister Theresa), on 6th August 1909, from Weymouth. She wrote:
'Dear Fred, You will see I have slightly cracked your engine, through sitting on it in the train. Weather glorious, had a good journey behind engine 150. Kind regards to Mother and all of you. Cissy.'

On this day: Britain's RAF lost half its force in France in past three days; 100 aircraft lost. Churchill continued private correspondence with President Roosevelt, asking for loan of ships, guns and ammunition - and US Navy's presence in Irish ports and Singapore. Tonight, 15-16th, the RAF would send 99 bombers to attack, ineffectively, steel and oil production and storage in the Ruhr.

14 May 2010

Tuesday, 14th May 1940

Rather warm, 68degs warmest day so far, lovely sunny day but fresh cool breeze, nice calm evening. In morning to buy fish and stationery. In afternoon re-made side path in garden and planted row of crimson campion. Alan Spooner called to show me his new electric soldering iron. Mrs.Akroyd called. There are 60 buds on climbing rose at front door - some showing colour.

On this day:

  • Germany Stukas bombed Rotterdam, killing 980 people and destroying some 20,000 buildings.
  • Holland surrendered; the government moved to the UK. 
  • 45 RAF aircraft, Battles and Blenheims, from a force of 100 were lost while attacking German troops at Sedan.
  • French forces failed to stop German tanks at Sedan, the Germans turning west to isolate the Allies in Belgium.

13 May 2010

Monday, 13th May 1940

"..the holiday was cancelled owing to the serious turn of the war." - Uncle Fred.

Should have been Whit Monday but the holiday was cancelled owing to the serious turn of the war. Very mild lovely sunshine but a rather fresh breeze. First trial of my new low wing monoplane on Wimbledon Common in evening; great height but rather capricious on the glide. Aunt Liza and Maud called.

"I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears." - Winston Churchill.

On this day: Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons, said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears." He also said, "Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road might be, for without victory there is no survival."

12 May 2010

Sunday, 12th May 1940

Very mild, sunny morning but getting cloudy and cooler later; chilly N.wind. Mrs.Akroyd to tea. In evening along Coombe Lane, up Copse Hill and home down Arterberry Road. The gardens are lovely and the flowering trees and shrubs are overwhelmingly beautiful

Note: Fred's walk with those roads mentioned, reminds me that his family often spoke of their Methodist Church at Cottenham Park.

On this day: overnight 18 Whitley and 18 Hampden bombers from the RAF attacked Monchengladbach - the first raid against a centre of population, albeit aiming for roads and railways. Three bombers failed to return.

Winston Churchill, speaking on this day in the House of Commons: 
"History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days."

11 May 2010

Saturday, 11th May 1940

"Saw heron fly over low in evening..."
Mild, small amount of sun, chilly, boisterous East wind. Out only to buy Dinky's food for the week end. Alan Spooner called. Polishing the floors is my usual Saturday job now. Saw heron fly over low in evening; they always do from N.W. to S.E. now.

On this day: yesterday, Britain occupied Iceland to take on responsibility for its defence - though not without some Icelanders resenting this. And overnight, Britain had begun its campaign of bombing strategic German communication facilities, in Geldern, Goch, Aldkerk, Rees and Wesel - in this case using eight Whitley bombers (Wikipedia photo). In Belgium, Germany easily took Fort Eben Emael, a supposedly strong defence point protecting Liege. 

10 May 2010

Friday, 10th May 1940

"Incendiary bombs dropped near Canterbury. - The swallows are now here."
Rather warm, some gentle sunshine; lovely. Repairs to floorcloth in my room. To Wimbledon along line. Bought 12 yds. 1/4 rubber strip at Wells-Wests'. Also fish for Dinky and tea knives at Woolworths. Germany invades Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg in the early hours to-day. Incendiary bombs dropped near Canterbury. - The swallows are now here.

On this day: as Uncle Fred recorded, Germany invaded the Low Countries. And on this day British Prime Minister Chamberlain resigned in favour of Winston Churchill (below), and a new coalition government was formed with Conservative, Labour and Liberal.

9 May 2010

Thursday, 9th May 1940

Very mild, lovely sunshine all day; a stiff cool breeze but a lovely Spring day. To buy Dinky some liver. Cut the lawn - first time this year. Built one side of new 21 1/2 ins fuselage. Alan Spooner called. Repaired tail of Jack Bradley's Leopard Moth model.

On this day: Mussolini personally decided to bring Italy into the war.

A POTENTIAL COINCIDENCE IN 2010: tomorrow (Monday) may see the UK with a new Prime Minister - we await the outcome of talks between political parties following an indecisive General Election. It was on 10th May 1940, as we'll recall in this Blog tomorrow, that Winston Churchill became Prime Minister, heading a coalition of Conservative, Liberal and Labour. Chamberlain had resigned saying, "new and drastic action must be taken if confidence is to be restored to the House of Commons and the war carried on with the vigour and energy which are essential to victory".  - Just reporting - not suggesting any parallels! - Tony.

8 May 2010

Wednesday, 8th May 1940

Mild, very dull but calm and quiet. Bought liver for Dinky. Drew out designs for new 21 1/2 ins fuselage. Mrs.Matson came to tea.

On this day:  Marshal Semyon_Timoshenko (1895-1970) was appointed in the Soviet Union as the People's Commissar for Defence, a post soon taken over by Stalin when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June. Born to a peasant family, he was drafted into the army of the Russian Empire and served in the cavalry in WWI. A lifelong professional soldier, he still served his nation fifty years later, chairing the State Committee for War Veterans from 1961. 

7 May 2010

Tuesday, 7th May 1940

Very mild, lovely sunny day. Some work in garden. Short walk and to buy Dinky's food.

On this day: The US Navy was ordered, by President Roosevelt,  to remain in Hawaiin waters. And Netherland's  forces had mobilised.

6 May 2010

Monday, 6th May 1940

Mild, very dull, rain in morning. Dug over a part of garden. Walk along part of way along rail path. Saw loco. King's Wimbledon the one I have been on the footplate; it is now fitted with 24 ins dia. chimney, and Lemaitre multi blast pipes.

Railway locomotive photo from Fed's files, probably taken by him years before this diary entry, but scrawled on the back: Between Raynes Park and Wimbledon. (Is this an 0-4-4 tank engine? Comments most welcome!)

5 May 2010

Sunday, 5th May 1940

Rather warm, lovely sunny day except for a cool N wind which made it one of those hot-cold days. Uncle Henry, Alb & Lily to tea. To Wimbledon Common; saw some very good model flights. Pontifex's apply tree is a picture; so full of bloom. Cut two fine bunches of violet from tree in front garden: best it has ever been.

On this day: French Foreign Legion landed at Narvik. Germans pushed north from Trondheim.

Sunday School Outing to Oxshott. 1904.

I wonder if any of their descendants will ever see this Blog?-TF

One of the few family-linked photos surviving (click to enlarge). The title (above) comes from handwriting on the back - clearly a Sunday School Outing wasn't just for children! The gent in the centre of the back row is named as Mr F French (the name of the author of this 1940 diary) - but he appears in the photo to be much older than the fifteen years that our Fred would have been in 1904. On his right (our left) is a very pleasant Miss Chapman, a name that occurs in the diary. The other hats, boaters and tashes belong to:
Back row: Mrs Laurence, Mrs Blackman, Mr Bennett, Miss Chapman, Mr F French, Miss Hay (Kay?), Mr W S Bond, Mrs Walden, Unknown.
Front Row: Mr Walden, Mrs Sealey, Miss Yalden, Miss Read, Miss Ringwood, Mr Dawson.
Also on the back, written separately and in a different hand, as if this was to be her copy, is written Miss French and her address. This would surely be the Ciss whose time in hospital in 1939-40 we have seen recorded in the diary. 

4 May 2010

Saturday, 4th May 1940

Very mild, fine, sunny, but spoilt by chilly N. wind. Removed under-camber of wing of small span aero. and re-covered with white tissue.

3 May 2010

Friday, 3rd May 1940

Very mild, fine sunny day but spoilt by boisterous chilly North wind. Mrs Wheals bought some jam. Walked along rail path and back, saw the big tank engine No 518.

Fred's 'Housekeeping Account' for this week in 1940. To feed Dad, Ciss, Fred, and Dinky the cat.

Note 6d to have the windows cleaned and 13 shillings for the rent. And the gas was presumably via a meter with several one-shilling entries. And note the farthing!
Click to enlarge to full screen for better contrast and easy reading.

Thursday, 2nd May 1940

"Saw fire-fighting practice... ordered blue mixture suit"
Very dull, mild, calm. To Wimbledon along railway. Saw loco.Lord Hood. Saw fire fighting practice at back of railway works including putting out a fire and rescuing girls from an iron (?) building. Ordered blue mixture suit at Rego. Bought clear dope at Collins'. Aunt Liza, Doris and Gwen and Maud to tea. Dope low wing which completes the model and is ready for test.

1 May 2010

Wednesday, 1st May 1940

Mild, dull, calm, not unpleasant. With Fred and Alan Spooner to the Common with their aeros - good results. The spring foliage and blossom is lovely.

A short entry, above, from fifty-plus-year-old Fred who, like a child, flew his model aeroplanes on Winbledon Common, while on this day:  Norwegian troops at Lillehammer surrendered to the Germans; Mussolini, despite Roosevelt's specific request for Italian neutrality,  told the USA that Germany could not be defeated with so many countries to call on for supplies.