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
31 Fri. Very severe white frost, only giving in patches where the sun shone. Saw brilliant glow of prismatic colours in a white cloud near the sun, caused doubtless by the sun's rays being split up by the ice crystals in the cloud. Got the meat, liver & suet from the butchers also other things locally. Thence to Wimbledon along rail path. Bought a nice note book at Altons for my 1944 diary. And so ends a year of greater achievement by the United Nations. The New Year will be one of bitter fighting on a hitherto undreamed of scale, but 1944 may see Hitler and his forces put into a hopeless position; indeed, it may by God's help be a Year of Victory.
Total cycling mileage for the year 1943 was 1,134.5 miles.
(Note a reader's interesting comment on today's blog)
30 Thur. Very cold, bitter N. wind, clear, some sun.Cycled to Morden to buy fish and dried, green peas. Warning at 7.17 p.m. A heavy bomber came from the south, was picked up by the searchlights and apparently identified as ours as the searchlights were quickly put out; there was no firing and no other incident; all clear at 7.42 p.m.
27 Mon. Bank Holiday. Very mild for season, very dull. Cycled to Tolworth to dinner. Ruth & Ena were there. From thence to tea at Len Garrods; Mr & Mrs Jennings were there. Had some music and played Auctioneer game. Maud came here to stay the night. On fire duty - no incident.
Note the comments on this post... there are a reader's links to an old cycle-shop photo and memories of the area... the same reader added comments to 'Extensive Notes from a reader' (See side column)
26 Sun. Boxing Day. Rather cold, very dull and damp. The children called, all full of the excitement of having the presents brought to them by Father Christmas. Monica brought a lovely illustrated book called "If Jesus came to my house". It was a poem of the little Lord Jesus and how he would be welcomed and entertained at the home of a little boy. Mrs Akroyd to tea. We each enjoyed a slice of delicious Xmas cake sent by dear Cousin Elsie from Canada.
25 Sat. Christmas Day. Cold, very dull. Dad, Alb, Lily and Anthony came to dinner and tea. Gave Anthony his "Mosquito" plane*; he was very pleased with it. Cousin Elsie sent a parcel of goodies from Canada, including some very rich fruit cake, luxury chocolates, ans some cream-filled biscuits. We are unused to such luxury fare here in wartime - most kind of her.
*Possible photo mislaid. Blogger will report at a later date! A reader of this diary blog, Fred Brewer, who posted a very full set of comments (31 March 2011) had this to say about Christmas Day postal deliveries: Christmas day The Post Office was open on Christmas morning, for the only delivery of the day - usually, there would be seven deliveries, or more, in a single day (in the absence of any other form of communication). The BBC radio would have a special programme on Christmas morning, to follow a selected postman on his rounds, and to get the reactions of the recipients as they received their Christmas mail. These annual broadcasts were very popular with the listeners.
24 Fri. Severe white frost, giving only where the sun shone. Got the meat, provisions and other things locally, also cycled to Morden to buy Dinky's meat also sweets at Woolworths - among many other things - a busy day. Len Garrod called; he wants me to go to his party on Monday. Mrs. Childs wants us to go to her tomorrow evening.
23 Thur. Rather cold day after white frost, very dull. Posted cards in morning. Phoned Alb in afternoon. Also shopping locally, buying a holly wreath etc. Also bought fish at Morden. Alan Spooner brought me a calendar. Showed Mr. Akhurst Anthony's plane, he said it was splendid. Mr. Williams brought some copies of Mr. F. J. Bonham's book* on the history of Wimbledon Methodism.
*This will have been 'Notes on Wimbledon Methodism, 1849-1943'. 52 pages. Seemingly self-published. He also published a supplement, in 1949.
22 Wed. Rather mild dull. Did shopping locally in morning. Phoned Albert* in afternoon, told him about Ciss being unwell but hoped all would be well for them to come Xmas Day. Maud called and brought me some China tea. Addressed a number of cards. Warning from 10.5 to 10.20 p.m. No incident.
21 Tues. Rather mild for season; rain. Warning at 1.50 a.m. All that happened was one of our fighters circling round for half an hour and a fixed searchlight signalling V.E. V.E. V.E. in morse for that period; all clear at 2.15 a.m: no firing heard. Did shopping locally in afternoon. Ciss is very bad with gastric flu to-day. Warning at 7.25 p.m. A plane came from the south and manoeuvred overhead. It was fired at heavily from all quarters, the local guns firing continuously with great rapidity. Its engine stopped but came on again later. Other planes were being fired at over London all clear at 3.20 a.m.
20 Mon. Rather cold, as much bright sunshine as is possible for the season. Warning at 2.25 a.m. Several planes; some I think were ours; one was held in searchlights over London; no firing whatever; all clear at 2.55 a.m. Further warning at 5.55 a.m. Two planes in cones of searchlights over London, many others prowling round; could not tell if any were ours, but one plane in the S.E. had six shots fired at it but not by local guns; there was no other firing at all. All clear at 6.30 a.m. Cycled to Morden to buy cats meat, also torch batteries. Bought battery for cycle lamp at Whitbourne's. Posted Xmas parcel and letter to Uncle Tom. Ciss had afternoon from office to do Xmas shopping but came back with the flu.
18 Sat. Less cold, dismal, drizzle. Uncle Joe and Cousin Will from Hornsea called. Many years since I had seen Cousin Will. Wrote letter to Uncle Tom. Warning at 10.28 p.m. Some brilliant flashes in the east; they gradually came and went, duration about two seconds. Am unable to say how they could be caused; is it Hitler's secret weapon? All clear at 10.42 p.m.
17 Fri. Very cold, dull; misty. Miss Brewer came to do the cleaning again. Did the usual Fri. morning shopping. Also did some more in afternoon. Len called to say his mother was ill and was going into hospital. On fire duty from 4 to 6 a.m. no incident.
15 Wed. Very cold, very dull, windy. Did not go out. Got the boy next door to get some sausage meat from the butchers. Gave Anthony's aero a final coat of silver dope and decorated it with pale blue. Affixed the red, white & blue roundels which finishes a very smart and realistic model; not unlike the de Havilland Mosquito.
13 Mon. Very cold, a little brighter. Cycled to Morden; bought liver for Dinky & two nice Xmas cards price 7d each. Fitted transparent celluloid cabin top to Anthony's aero & gave it a coat of silver dope. Cousin Harold called to say his father is in a very poor state of health and the doctor says he cannot last that much longer; he came to prepare us.
12 Sun. Very cold, dismal. The children called. Amused them by making folded paper toys. We loved our paper boats, bird beaks, paper bellows, etc when we were young, but few seem to know of them now. Mrs. Akroyd to tea; she brought an amusing toy for Anthony.
11 Sat. Very cold, showers of snow & sleet, very dull. Got groceries as usual also to Morden; bought meat for Dinky and some spice. Called in at Alf's. Len & Doris called. When Doris came later she said Len had gone to bed with the flu. More work on Anthony's aero, started painting it silver and pale blue.
10 Fri. Very cold, dismal morning, brighter later, bitter wind. Miss Brewer* of Tolworth came to do the house cleaning in place of Miss Dixon to-day. Did the usual Friday morning shopping including going to Wimbledon. Bought more Xmas cards. Warning at 7.30 p.m. Nothing came this way but prolonged gunfire over London way. All clear at 8.25 p.m.
*Note: Miss Brewer and her sister lived at 104 Largewood Avenue, Tolworth, Surbition, Surrey (3 houses along from Fred's bother & sister-in-law). It would have been a ten-minute walk to a bus stop then a fifteen-minute journey to Chestnut Road along the old Kingston By-Pass.
8 Wed. Very cold, dismal, misty. To butchers in morning also bought Xmas cards for Ciss among other things. Paid my last respects to dear Rosie Kingham. Was present at her interment at Morden Cemetery in afternoon.
Rosina Dorothy Kingham
died 3rd Dec. 1943.
Age 18 years. R.I.P.
Fitted undercart and landing wheels to Anthony's aero; beginning to look very businesslike. Inquired of Gladys how Russell was progressing; he is just recovering from pleuro-pneumonia; getting on well. Eileen McCapin's daughter is quite well of an accident to her head which blinded her in one eye for a time; now quite well.
7 Tues. On fire duty from 2 to 4 a.m.; no incident. Very cold, dismal. Cycled to Morden to buy fish. Made pair of ebonite wheel discs for Anthony's aero and fitted wire undercart to same.
Notes. 1. 'Ebonite' is a brand name for a very hard rubber, first registered by Charles Goodyear. It has been used in castors, so Fred's use for wheels is appropriate. The Ebonite company www.ebonite.com now manufactures bowls. 2. 'undercart' - a correct but now outdated term for an aircraft's undercarriage.
6 Mon. Very cold, dull, bitter wind. Ciss hurt her knee yesterday and could not go to the office so phoned her firm to tell them. Mr & Mrs Cooper went home this morning. Did shopping in morning; met Kitty Morris whose sister Rosie Kingham died a few days ago. I saw Rosie grow up from a tiny girl; she was only 18 when she died. A sweet girl whose lovely character will be a great loss to all who knew her. Bought some aero materials at Merton in afternoon. Called in to see Mrs Child about buying a model aero kit for John Child.
5 Sun. White frost, very cold, fairly bright. Ciss hurt her knee this afternoon but went to Tolworth to tea with Mr. & Mrs. Cooper and the two boys. Took Mrs. Winsley's wireless back; going well except for some noises when the tuning knob is turned; will put this right later. Ron & Roy went back to their hotel in Bloomsbury to-night. Nice to see them again; they are both very clever.
4 Sat. Very cold, dull, cutting N. wind. Ciss got the morning off, so she cooked dinner to-day. Mr. Mrs. Ron & Roy Cooper came to stay the weekend; we are greatly honoured. Did shopping locally in afternoon also to Morden, bought liver for Dinky, fish & some soap at Woolworths.
Note: we don't hear much about Ciss (Theresa), Fred's sister, who shared No 66 Chestnut Road with Fred. She had an office job (including it seems Saturday mornings) at Holloway Brothers, a substantial building/construction company dating back to 1882. Her office would have been in Millbank. The company was very busy during WWII building RAF and armament facilities. It was also responsible for building sea-forts in the Thames Estuary. The company constructed bridges over the Thames (Chelsea, Hampton Court, two at Reading, Wandsworth), over the Tweed and the Esk, the Towy Bridge at Carmarthen, and several in the Middle East. The Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) and the Bank of England were among their many construction projects.
Chelsea Bridge Photo by DAVID ILIFF via Wikipedia (licence CC-BY-SA 3.0)
3 Fri. Cold, foggy, dismal. Miss Dixon gave notice that she will not be doing the weekly house-cleaning again. Did the usual Friday morning shopping. Ciss came home in a bad temper. Undertook to repair Mrs Winsley's wireless. Repaired output transformer, fitted new fuse. It goes but tuning condenser plates are touching, giving rise to devastating noises in loudspeaker.
2 Thur. Cold, bright, clear. Did shopping locally in afternoon, also on cycle to Morden to buy fish & some ginger wine essence at Merton. Fitted engine nacelles to Anthony's aero, also perspex fairing to fuselage; beginning to look nice.
1 Dec: Wed. Cold, dull, damp. Did shopping in morning. Met Winifred Ewing. The first time she has been out since her return from a long time in hospital; pleased to see her but she is not yet well. Made two engine nacelles for Anthony's aero. Warning at eight p.m. Local system did not sound and a machine from the south got here before the warning was sounded. It received a fair amount of gunfire from distant batteries. A second machine came from the north and circled round for ten minutes then went east over London, was fired at by distant guns only; heard nothing come down. All clear at 8.45 p.m. Len called in evening. He is going into hospital tomorrow to have his knee put right. Doris stayed the night.