29 September 2013

29th Sept 1943: Fred revisits boyhood haunts... happy times

19 Faunce Street, Kennington some 70 years later.
 (First door on left behind the lady with the pushchair.)
This is a few hundred yards from Surrey's famous cricket ground,
 The Oval - no wonder Fred is so interested in cricket!
(Photo: Google Street View)
29 Wed. Mild, very dull; calm. Did small amount of shopping locally in morning. In afternoon I paid a visit on my cycle to Kennington the land of my boyhood's day. I had not been there for a very great many years. I went particularly to see the old house 19 Faunce Street. It had previously lost its windows in the raids but these have now been replaced and the house is occupied. I felt as though I had returned home at last and that here was the haven of my desire, but I had to look and pass on as though I had no connection with it. I also saw St. Agnes Church and Schools, so dear to me but now a blasted, burned out wreck. I spent all my school days there and I owe much to those who conscientiously taught me. The Church was a magnificent building which I remember well, especially the mighty organ. It is now a roofless empty shell. I picked up two pieces of red brick from the school as a memento. Also I saw the Primitive Methodist Chapel & Sunday School hard by. These also are devastated. I looked into the lower school-room through the glass-less window; I had been to many a Band of Hope meeting there. I then went into Wareham Street to see the Chapel and stood bare-headed just inside the porch. I remembered the happy times we had had there, particularly the anniversary services and I picture myself a small boy singing with the others on the platform. I thank God for the labour of those who taught me and who helped mould my character there. I picked up a piece of lath which had fallen from the ceiling and brought it home. I cycled round all the once familiar roads, the destruction is terrible; this neighbourhood suffered much in the raids. Some roads are obliterated. I saw too the factory of T. & W. Judge where Dad worked for so long and where I worked for nearly six years; these works were undamaged, so too was the house in Ravensdon Street where we lived once, but I was so small then I hardly remember it. I saw many destroyed Churches; Kennington Theatre is gone. This district suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis and many parts are now open spaces or masses of rubble. Let us hope that one day a nobler London shall rise, never more to be blasted into heaps of ruins by high explosives.
'Girls and Infants' it says in stone over the entrance to the present day
Keyworth Primary School at the end of Faunce Street, Kennington.

28 September 2013

28th Sept 1943: sister away & Gwennie naughty

28 Tues. Cool, becoming milder; very dull; drizzle all day. Ciss went to Dolly Cooper's at Wilstead, Beds. for a few days. To Morden in the rain to buy liver for Dinky. Gwennie & Laurance brought some meat in afternoon; Gwennie played up a bit and did not want to go home. Made the other half of divided centre bay of 39 ins wing. On fire duty to-night.

27th Sept 1943: tomato crop

27 Mon. Very cold day after sharp morning frost; a little feeble sunshine in afternoon. Uncle Tom called in morning; gave him some home-made jam and a few other things. Ciss has a holiday this week so she saw Uncle Tom. To Morden in afternoon top buy fish. Gathered all the tomato crop as there are now night frosts. We have had a total of not far short of 30 lbs of six plants. Started making centre bay of new 39 ins. span wing.

26 September 2013

26th Sept 1943: "partook of some home-grown beetroot"

26 Sun. Cool, cloudy. Little Jeanette McAinsh and her mother came to tea to-day. Walk up the Downs & down Canterbury (??) Road in afternoon. Partook of some home-grown beetroot which was very good. Jean Child called for her Beethoven book & was very pleased.

25 September 2013

25th Sept 1943: sister's teeth; my beetroots

25 Sat. Mild, cloudy; chilly wind. To fetch dentures belonging to Ciss from Wilton's. Got groceries locally. Along line to Wimbledon. Bought fish. Also bought a Beethoven book of music to give to Jean Child. Dug up three sound beetroots; first I have grown in the garden. Picked runner beans; there are still some more to come.

24 September 2013

24th Sept 1943: handsome locomotive

24 Fri. Very mild; perfect sunny day after a chilly night.; we are getting ground frost now. Did shopping locally in morning, also to buy lights for Dinky at Morden. Along rail path to Wimbledon in afternoon to buy something there. Saw "Engineer Class" loco. "Cudworth", these are handsome engines.

Note: Looking at a modern railway database - - this could be Southern Railway's N15X Class of which only 7 were built at Brighton Works and which served from 1914-1957. Equally, the class also appears to be named Remembrance. This non-expert can't locate the 'Engineer Class' of Fred's diary.

23 September 2013

23rd Sept 1943: public shelter meeting on fire duties

23 Thur. Mild, nice sunny day, after a ground frost in morning. To Wimbledon along rail path to buy fish; also bought a book of Beethoven's music arranged for the piano. In evening attended a meeting at the public shelter to appoint a new fire party leader & deputy as Miss Cox former leader has retired. Mr Conley was appointed he was already deputy; Mr. Hart becoming deputy.


A rather different post today - not from the 1943 diary but from the modern blogger. Two days + 70 years ago Fred mentioned John in his diary, and I added a photo and notes on the airman who was to die within two weeks of his visit to Fred in Raynes Park. I wrote this poem last year, using for the 2nd and 3rd verses words from John's letter to his aunt and uncle. I remember flying a small aircraft, as a private pilot, in areas once contested by the RAF, which makes the history even more poignant.


You fly with me above the clouds

where dreams compete with memories
of pain and pleasure, long-forgotten stories
of bold young heroes -
warriors who killed, were killed
for... honour? freedom?
Some were very gentle warriors...

'I am writing this to the music of Mozart,'
his final letter -
'there is a time when we must talk...
I am more than thankful for everything
everything that you have done for me
and the many happy times
that I have spent with you...

' can guess that I am well away
listening to such lovely music...
if I could have practised my piano more
I feel sure I could have done so well...
I should very much like a small photo
of Anthony if you have one to spare...
Cheerio for now, the war will soon be over!

'Love to you one and all,
Your ever loving nephew,

                                           Tony French, 2012

The body of John Hodgkins was eventually moved to Hanover War Cemetery.
Hanover War Cemetery, Germany

22 September 2013

22nd Sept 1943: 'longitudinals'

22 Wed. Mild, sunny afternoon but little warmth in it, rough, chilly N. wind. Shopping both locally and at Morden. Put up two longitudinals and palings towards the repair of the end garden fence; need some more wood to finish the job.

Tirpitz accompanied by destroyers in 1942
On this day: six British midget submarines set out on a mission to enter Norway's Altenfjord in order to fix explosives to the Tirpitz. Two submarines reach the German battleship, attaching eight tons of explosives that severely damaged the ship - which the Germans henceforth kept in Norway as a floating battery, not attempting to return it to Germany for repairs. It was finally sunk by Allied bombs on 12 November 1944. This is a link to a short contemporary newsreel of the 1944 attack. (First minute of 8 min film.)

21 September 2013

21st Sept 1943: testing, testing...

21 Tues. Mild, cloudy, very chilly at each end of the day. Bought some wood & nails at Smaldons to repair the fence at end of garden. Gwen & Laurie called. Fire watch practice at night but was not required to do anything; it was more a test of communications than anything else.

20 September 2013

20th Sept 1943:

20 Mon. Mild, some pleasant sun in afternoon but quite cold morning and night. To Morden to buy meat for Dinky, also to Martin Way Post office. Gwen & Laurie called. Mr. Conley called to tell me I am due to take part ion a fire drill tomorrow night. Paid Slate Club.

19 September 2013

19th Sept 1943: the pity of war

19 Sun. Mild, very cloudy; calm. Gwennie, Laurance & Jeanette called. To tea - all the Tolworth folk, also Frank and John from Basingstoke. John is an air gunner in a Halifax bomber and has been on six bombing raids on Germany - twice to Berlin. Short walk in evening. Mrs Akroyd to tea.

John Hodgkins
Notes: John was Sgt John Hodgkins. He died 14 days after this visit to Raynes Park.

Frank was his father. They lived at 12 Soper Grove, Basingstoke. John's mother, Nellie, was the sister of Lily, the wife of Fred's brother, Albert.

Sergeant John Hodgkins RAFVR, wireless operator and air gunner, died along with five colleagues during a raid over Germany on 3 October 1943.

The following February the Red Cross wrote to his parents saying that John was laid to rest in the cemetery of Burguffoln in the district of Hofgeismar Nord, 13 miles northwest of Kassel. His body was later moved to Hanover war cemetery, at grave Number 11.C.1.

18 September 2013

18th Sept 1943: all presents

18 Sat. Very mild, some moderate sunshine; calm, pleasant. Did shopping locally in afternoon & took some beans to Miss Dixon. Also bought meat for Dinky at Morden. Cycled to Tolworth, taking a present for Dad, some sewing machine accessories & some photo paper for Alb.

17 September 2013

17th Sept 1943: classic music score: eightpence at Woolworth's

17 Fri. Very mild; very cloudy. Shopping locally also to Morden in morning. In afternoon to Wimbledon; bought book of Schubert's music at Woolworth's - 8d. Letter from Harold Marshall.

Salerno and its habours
On this day: German troops began pulling back from Salerno.

16 September 2013

16th Sept 1943: Mr Conley, "He's a special bloke"

16 Thur. Very mild, very cloudy. Rev. Chas. Staden called for the wireless set I repaired for him. He was in London to attend Centenary meeting at Richmond College. He returned to his home at Spalding taking the set with him this afternoon. Bought fish in Morden in afternoon. Short walk in evening; saw Pacific loco. also Brighton 4.4.0. In earl;y hours 2.45 a.m. heard terrific, resounding explosion to northwards. Warning from 9.47 to 9.59 p.m. Little Ann Conley tells me her father has been made deputy fire party leader - "He's a special bloke".

15 September 2013

15 Sept 1943: gunfire, red glare, crash

15 Wed. Very mild, cloudy, rather rough. Did shopping locally in morning. A Rutlish boy named Peter called re model aeroplanes: he is an enthusiast. Warning from 9.52 to 10.53 p.m. A few machines approach London: only slight gunfire. While watching a cone of searchlights to northwards I saw a red glare suddenly light the sky, followed by lesser but similar flashes. After the lapse of some seconds I heard a drawn out crash: I got the impression a machine was down; gunfire ceased almost at once. Heard one bomb to northwards.

14 September 2013

14th Sept 1943: Fish and chains

14 Tues. Rather warm, humid, plenty of warm sun; lovely day: showers later. To Merton to buy fish. Finished adjustments to bicycle chain & tested same by a short ride. Aunt Liza called.

Illustration: WAAF with bicycle, 1943. Toy model being advertised at this company's website: Britain's Soldiers.  

13 September 2013

13th Sept 1943: fruitless shopping - but music & repairs

13 Mon. Between very mild and rather warm; some periods of pleasant sun, but humid after last night's storm. To Morden but came back empty handed. To Len Garrod's to play the piano for him. Some repairs to Chas. Staden's wireless.

12th Sept 1943: Sunday's children

12 Sun. Mild, dull, cloudy, windy; some thunder at night. The children called including Shirley. Little Jeanette is very loving. Monica had not seen the organ before. 

11 September 2013

11th Sept 1943: creating b&w photo prints

11 Sat. Warm, fine, sunny day; lovely. Did shopping locally, also to Wimbledon along rail path. Tried to buy photographic gaslight* paper but could not get any. Madge called in evening. Repaired 3-speed control chain of cycle, but shall have to assemble it accurately another day.

Eastman Kodak Darkroom Lantern
with hinged flap and slid-in glass filter
*A paper against which photographic negatives were placed, in close contact with the paper, in a glass frame, making a 'contact' print by exposing the whole to light for a measured period and then washing the paper in a tray of liquid 'developer', then rinsing this, then a 'fixer' to stop further darkening. The 'gaslight' term comes from the possibility of handling these papers without fogging them in a darkroom lit only by dim electric or gaslight, usually with a filter of a colour to which the paper had minimum sensitivity. Your 21stC blogger recalls Fred's brother using an electric bulb in a tin lantern with a (waxed?) thin cloth filter of yellow. 

10th Sept 1943: mustard, organ, model aeros & thunder

10 Fri. Rather warm and humid after a night of rain; cloudy calm, not unpleasant. Did the Fri. morning shopping including a fruitless walk to Morden. Also an errand in afternoon. Showed Shirley the organ and my aeros. Sowed mustard seed. Thunder at night.

9th Sept 1943: music & exams

9 Thur. Very mild, very cloudy, rough east wind; rain at night. Shopping in morning. Bought cycle lamp battery. Margery Costella called. Mrs. Child & Jenefer called to tell me her niece Peggy has got her L.R.A.M.* for oboe playing and her daughter Jean has passed her matriculation** exam. Gwen & Laurance called.

*Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. A professional qualification, at that time either for performing or for teaching.

**The entrance exam for universities. 

10 September 2013

8th Sept 1943: Italy surrenders. Victory much closer.

8 Wed. Between very mild and rather warm; some periods of pleasant sunshine. Did shopping locally, also to Morden to buy fish. It is announced that Italy surrendered unconditionally last Friday. The news was withheld as there are German troops in Italy; the Italians will now help us to drive them out. This is great news and it brings victory much nearer. Light adjustment to dial of Mrs. Child's wireless. Met Aunt Liza and Gwennie with Barbara, Cousin Cyril's wife.

7th Sept 1943: fire party women

7 Tues. Very mild, some periods of gentle sunshine, almost calm. Warning from 3.15 to 3.37 a.m. Reported for fire duty for the first time. Other members of the party were Mrs. Kink, Mrs. Varney & Mrs Dawson: no incident. Walked part of the way along rail-path but returned owing to a shower. Started designing a new 39 ins span wing. Heavy detonation at 11.5 p.m. 

6th Sept 1943: music and fire duty

6 Mon. Very mild, some gentle sunshine, cloudy and rain later; boisterous.To Morden in morning to buy Dinky's meat. Went out with a view to making an adjustment to Mrs Child's wireless but got no reply when I knocked at her house. To Len Garrod's in evening for music. Distant warning from 9.40 to 10.20 p.m. Was on fire duty but the party did not turn out the warning being so distant.

5th Sept 1943: many children called today

5 Sun. Very mild, much sunshine of the soft sort; a pleasant day. Very many children called to-day before and after Sunday School. The three Conleys had not seen the organ before. Shirley Bridges called today. Mrs. Akroyd came to hear evening service on the wireless. Walk along Aylward Road to Mostyn Gardens where there was a large bed of glorious dahlias of every gorgeous hue.

6 September 2013

4th Sept 1943: the grocer's wireless & tea for many

4 Sat. Between very mild and rather warm; lovely sunny day of the moderate kind. Got groceries in afternoon. Mr. Eyles the grocer asked me to look at is wireless set, it gives out a loud hum; told him I thought a smoothing condenser had broken down. Gave him P.G. West's address; he down repairs. Also bought sprats at Morden. Mrs. Child Audrey, John, Peter & Jenefer came to tea, and had a happy time I hope; I did. Showed John and Audrey the microscope. Sent Alan Spooner a record.

3rd Sept 1943: Allies back on mainland of Europe

3 Fri. Very mild, very cloudy. Did all the usual shopping in morning. Gave sweets to Monica & Ann. Met Shirley in the bakers. She was running errands for Mrs. Collis who is laid up following a fall. To Tolworth in afternoon. Albert has week off so he was at home. Also to see Len Garrod who is progressing after his fall. British & Canadian troops land in Italy opposite Messina in Sicily which is now in our possession. So Allied troops are now on the mainland of Europe, the first time since the B.E.F. left France at Dunkirk in 1940: the invasion of the Continent has begun. Fourth anniversary of the opening of hostilities.

2 September 2013

2nd Sept 1943: child-minding & wild hops

2 Thur. Very mild, dull, but a few periods of moderate sunshine in afternoon. Mrs. Jordan brought Nigel for us to mind while she did shopping in Kingston. He was very good and amused himself particularly with my wireless junk. To Wimbledon to buy fish. There is a plant climbing on the railings beside the rail-path; it looks like wild hops. 

1 September 2013

1st Sept 1943: troop-carrying glider

1 Wed. Very mild, very dull, rain evening. Shopping locally also to Morden. Cycled to Mitcham in afternoon; saw cricket on the Green. Continued as far as the Pond, Thornton Heath. Saw an R.A.F. lorry with a crashed troop-carrying glider on it. Heard a distant all-clear at 1.50 a.m. 

31st Aug 1943: coal comfort

31 Tues. Very mild, dull morning, some pleasant sun in afternoon. Ciss & the Tolworth people went to Basingstoke to-day. Had in 1/2 ton of coal - £1.13.11. Walk along rail path in afternoon. Met Mrs. Child and Jenefer.