London in the Blitz. Fred French, 66 Chestnut Road, Raynes Park, Wimbledon, London SW20 kept this diary, blogged 69 years later, during WWII and peacetime. He loves music, model aircraft, radios, railways, roses. His sister Theresa (Ciss) goes out to work - Fred does the shopping, etc.
'On this day' and other notes by Tony French.
By the same editor Poems Please Me
Between very mild and rather warm, getting cooler. Cloudy morning but some feeble sunshine in afternoon. Shortly after midnight heard aircraft high overhead, many searchlights out but all failed to find it. Then the air raid sirens sounded and the alarm lasted three hours before the all-clear signal was heard. We all went into the steel shelter but no raid occurred locally. In afternoon dug the shelter floor deeper and laid down carpets for comforts sake & Dad made seat on either side. Had to water garden. .
Very mild, getting warm. Very dull morning but clearing up later to nice sunny evening. In afternoon treated Dinky (the cat) to some rabbit - his favourite. In evening to Wimbledon Common saw several modellists including man and wife & their three boys. All had models: the man flew a Fairey Faeula. The mother did all the building and repairing. Dope dark blue lifting fuselage. .
Very mild, very dull and cloudy after rain, cool wind. Alb & Lily came to tea. Alb gave me further particulars about the bomb. It fell in a field off Featherbed Lane, Addington - East Croydon. Walk in evening along Cannon Hill Lane, Grand Drive and across the playing fields.
Note: Alb - i.e. Albert, the diarist's brother - was married to Lily (née Lily Jones of Basingstoke). Albert and Lily lived in Tolworth. He commuted daily by train from Tolworth to Waterloo Station, London, and then walked all the way, crossing the River Thames at London Bridge, to an office in Lime Street, in the City of London. He worked for a marine insurance broker (Evans), often visiting Lloyd's of London - the major maritime insurance market, whose modern building is still there at No 1, Lime Street - along with the facade of the older building. (Photo: Jacklondon2009 via Wikipedia.)
On this day: German troops now free to occupy entire Atlantic coast of France. .
"...bomb fell as near as Croydon only 6 or 7 miles away."
Between very mild and rather warm but getting cooler; very dull and cloudy, light rain from afternoon onward. Polished the floors as usual. Re-covered the lifting fuselage with dark blue tissue. As previously recorded heard the report of a bomb dropped by a German aircraft at 12-15 a.m. on Wed 19th inst: have just heard it fell as near as Croydon only 6 or 7 miles away. . On this day: the Polish liner Batory was the last ship to escape from France, sailing for England from St-Jean-de-Luz, bringing Polish soldiers who had fought in France, along with Polish officials. .
Rather warm but getting cooler. Some moderate sun, less wind. Do some amount of gardening every day. To take accumulator to Whiteborne's in evening and called at Conrades in Firstway to get Harold's new address: showed Mr.S, how to bud a rose. Spooner's wireless broke down so gave them a transformer which Alan fitted and he says it is going better than it has ever done.
On this day: Hitler met French officials to accept surrender, in a railway carriage in Compiegne Forest, where 1918 Armistice had been signed. .
Between mild and rather warm; some nice sunshine but the boisterous wind is maddening in its long continuation. To Wimbledon along line to buy herrings for Dinky. Aunt Liza, Doris and little Gwen to tea. Dug up polyantha plants, divided and re-planted to make a good border.
On this day: Churchill, writing notes for a speech, about being bombed - 'Learn to get used to it. Eels get used to skinning.' .
'flickering lights in the sky and the heavy report of a bomb'
Warm, some nice sunshine but very boisterous. Walk along Arterial Road in afternoon. In evening to water Dear Mother's grave, also did some gardening.... At a quarter past midnight this morning I heard the heavy droning of a bomber. Looked out to find searchlights trying to locate what proved to be an enemy aircraft. I saw flickering lights in the sky and then the heavy report of a bomb: a wireless report said this machine was shot down in Kent.
On this day: Jersey Airways completes evacuation of 320 islanders who wished to come to Britain. The airline used five of its fleet of six de Havilland DH-86 transports. .
Warm, lovely genial sunshine but very boisterous N wind. To Wimbledon to buy a high-tension battery at Stones also to buy Dinky's fish, and to take some jam to Miss Trewin at Payne & Birdseye's ticket office: she delivers it to Hayward's office staff through her sister on behalf of Ciss. To give Aunt Liza some roses in evening. Germany has not yet granted an armistice to France and is sweeping across that country with little opposition now.
On this day:
Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons, said,"If we open a quarrel between the past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future... Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'."
The United States declared that it would not accept any attempt by Germany or Italy to transfer 'any geographical region of the Western Hemisphere from one non-American power to another non-American power'.
Rather warm, some nice soft sunshine but very breezy. France capitulates to Germany and is vanquished in the field and Britain is left to face the military might of Germany and Italy alone. To buy Dinky something and fetch accumulator; saw loco Lord Howe, with enormous taper boiler. Making out new ration books. Searchlight and anti-aircraft practice at night, picking out the machines very well. .
Very mild, rain in morning, cool N.wind, a little rain in evening. As far as the windmill** on Wimbledon Common in evening; Met Alf, lily and Mr Rose coming back. Walked home with them, and was asked into Doris Bridge's in Lower Doris Road to see her garden. National Day of Prayer on behalf of France. Paris and Northern France are in German occupation, and the outlook is desperate indeed.
**See http://www.wimbledonwindmill.org.uk for details of the restored windmill. When I was a teenager I researched an article about windmills in Surrey, and wrote of '...a mill which can only just claim to be in Surrey is probably the best known of any in the Home Counties. This is the hollow-post mill on Wimbledon Common, which was built in 1817. It is unique in that it is the only mill in this country in which the machinery, housed in the large base of the mill, took its drive from the sails through a hollow, central post. The visitor may read on a plaque that Baden-Powell wrote his famous book Scouting for Boys in the mill-house in the year 1908. The mill has been restored and must look now much as it did when it ground its last sackful of flour.' (Photo and postcard to follow, when found!) .
Warm, lovely day with plenty of not too intense sunshine. Polished the floors as usual. To John Innes to see Merton's opponents hit up 225 for 8 dec. In evening for a nice walk about Coombe district where there is still open country. Maud called in evening, she is going back to Preston tomorrow. She is very interested in roses and wanted to know the name of a beautiful white one I gave her - Marcia Stanhope. I like Maud.
On this day: Vera Brittain's Diary (ISBN 0-7089-8716-8) records, 'Paris completely in hands of Germans; Swastika flying from Eifell Tower.' ' .
Warm, lovely day; the sunshine being soft. To Mother's grave to water the newly planted things. Madge called on her new bicycle in evening; she said burglars broke into her house last Tuesday and stole about £100 of jewellery and money. Aunt Liza and Maud also called in evening. Maud saw the garden and was charmed, especially with Pauls Scarlet Climber: gave her some roses. .
Between very mild and rather warm: very dull and cloudy; a few showers. To Wimbledon along rail path; bought heliotrope and zinnias and went straightway & planted them on Mother's grave. Hoed over and weeded half the garden. .
Rather warm, fine and sunny. With Dad to see Merton v Wallington cricket match at John Innes. Also saw the rose gardens there, which were lovely. Flew the usual balsa on Joseph Hood's in evening with good results. . On this day: Churchill was in France, on a secret visit. Rheims and Rouen were occupied by Germany, and German troops were within 12 miles of Paris. Spain declared neutrality. The USA ordered 22 new warships. .
Warm, fine sunny day. To Uncle Ben's at Malden too see his garden: very nice indeed. Had tea there and stayed till Frank and Arthur came home. Made a change.
On this day:
Australia, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Italy.
Italian aircraft bombed Malta for first time, also French bases in Corsica and Tunisia.
Churchill rejected request by French leader M. Reynaud to release France from pledge not to sign a separate peace treaty with Germany.
36 RAF bombers, refuelling in Channel Islands, set out to bomb Italy. 23 aborted due to weather, 10 bombed Fiat works and elsewhere in Turin, 2 bombed Genoa, one was lost.
This is from the minutes of the War Cabinet for 11 June 1940, recording the cover-up necessary when Churchill secretly visited unoccupied France to talk with Reynaud. Churchill warned he may need to stay a second day. (The War Cabinet minutes can be downloaded from The National Archives.)
A short discussion followed on the guidance which should be
given to the Press as to the reason for the Prime M i n i s t e r s absence
from the House of Commons in the afternoon, which would certainly
The War C a b i n e t i
nvited the Lord Privy Seal to make a statement in the
House of Commons in place of the Prime Minister as to
I t a l y ' s entry into the war, in the course of which he should
explain the Prime M i n i s t e r s absence by saying that he
was naturally closely engaged in urgent business with the
Very mild, half dark all day: very humid and misty. Uncle Ben called. Walked along rail path all the way to Wimbledon. Italy declared war on Britain and France today for no reason that was given. The Germans are still advancing in France.
On this day: ...and Canada declared war on Italy... and French officials began to leave Paris for Tours, and the French government made a plea for help 'before it is too late' to the USA. . .
Very warm, sunshine through haze in morning, but thunder storm of considerable severity in afternoon ending in torrent of rain, also hail. Walk in evening; met Madge, Margaret, Eileen and a little girl, Margery Raybold. Along Coombe Lane, to Malden, returning Burlington Road & By-pass. Met Aunt Liza and Len's girl Doris; they are both quite certain that Len is safe: I hope he is.
On this day: British and French completed withdrawal of 25,000 men from Norway. 4,400 British had died, 1,335 Norwegian, 530 French & Polish, 1, 317 German, and a further 2,373 Germans missing or lost at sea. Hitler considered the campaign 'bold' and 'saucy'. .
Very warm, grand scorching hot day. 86 in the shade. Flew low wing on the Common; made one grand flight but machine suffered slight damage as a result of striking a war-time defence trench, followed up by a rank bad launch. The garden is lovely to-day, the rose Joan Howarth is beautiful; cream & pink of most exquisite shape.
On this day: British aircraft carrier Glorious and two accompanying destroyers were sunk by German warships Genesenau, Hipper and Scharnhorst. There were 1,561 men aboard the British ships; only 46 men survived. .
Glorious, 76 in the shade: the wind is now S.E. Aunt Liza called in the morning to say that cousin Len whose regiment is the Queen Victoria Rifles has been reported missing. His regiment had orders to hold up the German advance on Calais at all costs while the British Expeditionary Force was evacuated from the sea after being surrounded on three sides. Only 30 of the 3,000 men sent are safe, so the chances that he is all right are unfortunatrly small. A great blow, but a gallant fight by which 335,000 men were saved. --- Uncle Ben and cousin Frank called in the evening.
On this day:
France bombs Berlin
UK and French troops start withdraw from Narvik
Norwegian government retreats to Britain to establish government in exile
Italy orders its ships at sea to sail to neutral ports (prior to entering the war).
Very warm, brilliant, cloudless all day; the sun being very powerful. To Wimbledon along the line and bought herrings for Dinky. Watered the garden: getting very dry. Some nice roses out to-day, especially an exquisite lemon yellow Mabel Morse.
On this day: General Charles de Gaulle was appointed under-secretary of state for war.
Warm, gloriously brilliant cloudless day, but very rough - another door-slamming day. One had to struggle against it when out walking: the wind is like it is at the seaside. Hoed and weeded part of the garden, also some tidying up. Walk along Arterial Road in evening, returning along Coombe Lane. The roses in the front garden are superb. Aunt Liza called.
Rather warm, brilliant cloudless day, but very boisterous cooling N.E.wind: a door slamming day. Paid Uncle Alf and Aunt Hannah a visit and to see their garden. In evening along rail path: saw special trains conveying members of the British Expeditionary Force returning from France and Flanders after being surrounded by the German hordes and barely escaping from annihilation.
On this day:
Dunkirk evacuation completed. 180 UK aircraft lost; six French and UK ships sunk, 75,000 vehicles abandoned along with 11,000 machine guns and thousands of other artillery pieces and other equipment.
Winston Churchill, to Parliament, "We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing ground, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender."
On radio, the same words were spoken as if by Churchill - who said he was rather busy - but in fact by a stand-in actor impersonator, Norman Shelley of the BBC repertory staff. Churchill approved the broadcast, saying, "Very nice. He's even got my teeth right."
Grand, warm, cloudless day, but boisterous cooling N.E. wind. With Alan Spooner to Wimbledon Common. Flew our model aircraft under adverse conditions with fair results. My first flight was really magnificent but subsequent ones were mediocre. The ground is very dry and had to water Mother's grave and the garden.
On this day:
Paris bombed by German aircraft
Norway sought partition, recognising they couldn't regain control of all their territory in short term
Warm, fine sunny day; cool E.wind which was not unwelcome. Harold called in afternoon. In evening walk along Coombe Lane along Beverleigh Brook over golf course to Wimbledon Common and home down the Downs. Alb and Lily called in late evening. Heard that dear Annie Chapman is coming to the Church again after a great many years absence. .
Rather warm, intermittent cloud and warm sun: good. Cut the privet hedges & bush in front garden; had little Peter Child to help me clear up the leaves afterwards: gave him some flowers. Walk to Wimbledon Common to see how much room is left for flying, as the place is criss-crossed with trenches - not much, but saw some modellists I knew.
On this day:
the evacuation from Dunkirk continues (below)
also today, first US battleship launched since 1921, in Philadelphia, the U.S.S. Washington