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31 January 2014

30th January 1944: blackbirds singing and buds on the trees

30 Sun. Rather mild, cloudy; calm therefore quite pleasant. The children called as usual. Walked up the Downs and across this end of Wimbledon Common; first glimpse I have had of it this year. Heard blackbirds singing and buds on the trees are swelling. An early pink prunus was already showing colour at the tips of the flower buds. Doris and Len called; showed them the tumbler and disappearing sixpence trick; Dorris was puzzled; she will stay the night. A solitary red polyanthus bloom is in the garden. Arthur Child called to bring a wooden collection box he had made in the form of a book for the Sunday School.

29 January 2014

29th January 1944: Raynes Park guns fire many 100s of shells

29 Sat. Rather mild for season; dull and cloudy. Cycled to Morden, thence to Merton to buy fish and ginger wine essence, the latter for Miss Brewer. Also local shopping. Dug over part of garden, burying some decayed garden refuse for manure, then planted a row of shallots. Warning at 8.20 p.m. One machine from the north came under a fair amount of fire, then about six came at intervals from the south-east and cruised about for what seemed ages. They were all heavily fired at; the Raynes Park guns have never fired such a long spell or so rapidly. There are eight or ten guns and all kept firing as rapidly as possible; I should say they were throwing shells into the air at the rate of 300 per minute; what a din! One machine seemed to drop a bomb causing a long drawn-out swish but it did not end in a bang so it probably was a time-bomb; I expect I shall hear. There were no signs of incendiary bombs having been dropped. All clear at 9.40 p.m. 

28 January 2014

28th January 1944: distant guns

28 Fri. Cool, dull, windy. Did all the usual Fri. morning shopping. Sent post-card to Madge s she knew  as she knew someone who wanted Chas. Staden's address. Got the groceries in afternoon also cycled to Morden to buy sausages and cats' meat. Warning at 10.32 p.m. Apart from very distant gunflashes in the sky there was nothing to report; certainly nothing that came within audible range. All clear at 11.15 p.m.

27 January 2014

27th January 1944: Miss Perkins in Argentina

27 Thur. Very mild for season 55 degs. The sun did its best in the afternoon. Bought liver at our butchers in the morning, also posted a letter to Miss Perkins in Argentina. Cleaned windows at back of house, both inside and out. Wrote letter to Uncle Tom.

26 January 2014

26th January 1944: cheerful jasmine

26 Wed. Cold, very red dawn, dismal rain, but the wind has abated. Did shopping locally; met Nellie Lidbury while out. On fire duty to-night. The yellow jasmine in the garden is a cheerful sight in these dull days.

Note: there are about 200 species of jasmine. Some are used to make oil, perfume or incense. Asian women sometimes wear a jasmine flower in their hair.  

25th January 1944: sold old watch at door

25 Tues. Cold, cloudy but clear air; very strong W. wind. Did shopping by cycle in morning; nearly got blown to a standstill facing the onslaught of the wind in Arterial Rd. Gwennie and Laurance brought meat for Dinky in afternoon. A man came to the door buying old gold, silver, etc. To my surprise he gave me 2/- for a very old and oxydised watch; he said he could make use of the parts; I didn't like to take the money of him.

25 January 2014

24th January 1944: about the house

24 Mon. Cold, very dull & cloudy; rain, raging west wind. Did a number of jobs about the house. In afternoon, cycled to Morden to buy tin of salmon and soap flakes. Thence to Merton to buy fish, butter beans, etc. Paid the club; took accumulator.

23rd January 1944: magician

23 Sun. Cold, dull, very rough wind. The children called. Showed them the vanishing coin trick, done with a glass tumbler. Mrs. Akroyd came to tea. Met Russell Mc.Cappin. Short walk in afternoon but best indoors.

24 January 2014

22nd January 1944: many early-morning fire bombs

22 Sat. Cold, cloudy; very rough. Warning at 4.30 a.m. Several more machines came, all being subjected to heavy fire; the local and Wimbledon Common guns firing very rapidly. Incendiaries were dropped some to northwards while great numbers must have been dropped some miles to southward. Saw a queer globe of green light in the northern sky. Cannot glean much news so there cannot be any local damage. Ten machines were destroyed eventually. All clear at 5.50 a.m. Bought cat's food in Morden in afternoon; Len's Doris stayed the night. Lily and Mrs. Jones* called.

*Fred's sister-in-law - and her mother, I believe.

23 January 2014

21st January 1944: ninety bombers... showers of incendiaries

21 Fri. Cold, clear, some fitful sunshine. Did the usual Fri. morning shopping. Also, for the first time, got the groceries this morning instead of tomorrow afternoon. Cycled to Morden in afternoon also more shopping locally. Warning at 8.16 p.m. A much larger number of enemy aircraft came, chiefly from N.W. to S.E. All were heavily fired at and all guns seemingly went into action. One machine cruised about among bursting shells for a long time without apparent harm. Two fluctuating fires on E. the other S.E. burned for two hours. They were many miles away; they followed showers of incendiary bombs; a very noisy affair, there being so much gunfire, but I cannot say I heard any bombs fall. All clear at 10.17 p.m. It is announced that 90 enemy machines came and that 8 were destroyed.

On this day: German planes attacked two lighted and identified British hospital ships off the Anzio coast, sinking the St David and damaging Leinster.

22 January 2014

20th January 1944: Wrote air-graph letter to middle-East

20 Thur. Rather cool but the sun shone faintly through haze and clouds. Walked along rail-path to Wimbledon; saw Pacific loco. Bought a few things. Wrote air-graph letter to Cousin Frank who is serving with the R.A.F. in the middle-East. Distant warning at 9.51 p.m. A machine was held in a cone of searchlights in a S.E. direction. The local guns fired a shot at it. After a wait a second shot was fired. The machine then showed a red & orange Very light and all the searchlights went out. Apparently it was one of ours that needed to be identified. The all clear sounded at 10.2 p.m.

19th January 1944: "And so good-bye to another uncle..."

19 Wed. Very cool, very dull; damp, finishing up with rain. In morning to the Combe Lane flower shop to get sheaf of flowers and narcissus, which I took to Dupont Road as a tribute to Uncle Alf. Aunt Hannah was there also Cousin Harold and  Winnie. In afternoon to the committal service at Morden Cemetery; it was read most beautifully by Mr. Luckrock. And so good-bye to another uncle whose memory will never fade; I shall always remember the visits in which he always showed me his garden; so neat and trim.

18th January 1944: anti-aircraft fuse on our lawn

18 Tues. Rather mild for season, 50 degs; very dull. rain later. Cycled to Morden to buy fish. Also to get Ciss' shoes from Essam's after repair. Bought firewood at Smaldon's. Found a very thick paper tube with a small hole through the centre on the lawn. It smelt like a firework case; probably a fuse-tube from an anti-aircraft shell.

19 January 2014

17th January 1944: ...he taught me to sing

17 Mon. Less cold, very dull. Ordered a sheaf of flowers for Uncle Alf's funeral at a shop in Coombe Lane. Chas came into the shop while I was there on a similar errand. Dr. Luke Wiseman died yesterday, aged 86. He did a great work for us at Cottenham Park in the early days of the new church. I admired him like few men and I shall ever remember his wonderful work as choirmaster. I gained much knowledge and improved my singing voice under his training.

*Wiseman. Cutting from Methodist Central Hall bigwigs (full pdf):



18 January 2014

16th January 1944: a family in the war...

16 Sun. Hoar frost, thick fog all day. Ciss went to Tolworth in spite of the fog and walked all the way there - four miles, as there were no buses. She rode home by train, having to wait 40 mins for it. Alb, Lily & Anthony had to walk from Surbiton Station to Tolworth last night with a German plane overhead, the guns firing all round and the shrapnel whining down; they had just returned from Basingstoke. Have heard that time bomb on the railway between Tolworth and Chessington had stopped the trains over that section, but they were running again this evening. Doris stayed the night. On fire duty.

16 January 2014

15th January 1944: walking & bombing - in thick fog

15 Sat. Severe hoar frost which remained all day. Fog all day; visibility even during daylight was never more than four or five yards. Nevertheless, I did shopping locally, then walked to Morden to buy meat for Dinky. Took a few wrong turnings but eventually found my way safely home. Warning at 7.38 p.m. It must have been impossible for the Germans to have seen the ground. A machine came from the south, passed overhead, then veered north-west. It came under considerable fire, especially from the local guns. I thought it dropped a bomb in N.W. direction. It soon returned among another outburst of shelling and dropped another bomb S.E. from here; I cannot be certain of the direction however. Three or four other machines were under fire to eastwards. All clear at 8.18 p.m. It is announced one machine was destroyed. Last night two bombs were dropped on Croydon; there were no warning sirens. One hit a stores, and another got a direct hit on the Davis cinema, Georges St. Five people ere killed and thirty-three injured. Len's Doris stayed the night.

Note: the Davis Theatre was the largest cinema in England. There were 2,000 people in the cinema the night of the bombing, watching Joan Davies in Two Senioritas. See http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/29092 and several other websites.

15 January 2014

14th January 1944: Alf died last night

14 Fri. White frost to begin the day, but the sun rose in a perfectly clear sky which soon dispelled it. The sun shone without a cloud to cover it all day, which was most pleasant. Did all the usual shopping locally, also walked to Morden to buy a few articles there. Aunt Liza called in afternoon to say that Uncle Alf* passed peacefully away at 10 o'clock last night. He was always most pleasant to me and I shall always treasure the memories of him from my boyhood's days upwards. Cycled to Morden to tell Uncle Ben but he had already heard the news.

*Note: Alfred French, buried on 2nd February 1944 at St Pancras Cemetery (Camden)

13 January 2014

13th January 1944: distant gun flashes

13 Thurs. Rather mild, dismal, very windy. Warning at 7.35 p.m.. Some very distant gun flashes in the S.E. but apart from that there was nothing to report. All clear at 8.8 p.m.

On this day (well, on 11th to be precise), President Roosevelt asked Congress for a new national service law to prevent strikes and to mobilise the whole of the working-age population for war work.

12th January 1944: cycle work

12 Wed. Cold, dull morning, getting milder. To butchers and grocers in morning. Managed to put new cable in handlebar, but don't know if it will hold. Also cleaned head bearings of bike.

12 January 2014

11th January 1943: "I shall succeed" - a determined man!

11 Tues. White morning frost, but a downpour of rain, lasting all day soon set in. Very dismal and raw cold. Small amount of shopping in afternoon. Failed to see how the new brake cable can be fitted in handlebar of cycle using the makers method; shall have to do it in my own way, but I shall succeed.

10th January 1943: time for a brake

10 Mon. Cold, very dull, cutting wind. To Smiths, Merton to buy brake cable as the front brake of cycle is frayed and ready to break. It cost 1/1.* In evening commenced work putting it in; it looks a difficult job. Also bought fish at Morden. Uncle Ben called to borrow the piano key.

*One shilling and one pence. (About five-and-a-half modern pence.) Compare the value of earnings, then and now. See comment with its website link.

11 January 2014

9th January 1943: Cottenham Park kids

9 Sun. Rather mild, 53 degrees, cloudy, dull, rain later. A crowd of children called, all full of the Sunday School party they went to yesterday. 

8 January 2014

8th January 1944: Fred the cook

8 Sat. Rather cold, dull, windy. I always cook dinner midday on Saturday. Got the groceries as usual, also cycled to Morden to buy a few things, also bought something in Merton.

Comment by 2014's blogger: writing about cooking dinner really makes it sound as if he's keeping the diary for someone else to read later... 

7 January 2014

7th January 1944: jet propelled aircraft announced

7 Fri. Rather mild for season; fair, some soft sunshine. Did all the usual Friday shopping locally. Went to see Uncle Alf who is so seriously ill as to be near the end of his life. To Wimbledon along rail path in afternoon; bought a new trilby hat at Pierces for 13/11; a bargain for war-time. The up main line between Wimbledon and Raynes Park has been re-laid with new rails and a new style of coupling plates designed to avoid wheel thump has been adopted. Chas called in evening. The Air Ministry has announced the successful application of jet propulsion to aircraft, thereby obviating the need for propellers. On fire-duty from 2.0 to 4.0 a.m., no incident.

6 January 2014

6th January 1944: gave soldier money...

6 Thur. Very cold, dull; cold West wind. Cycled to Morden cats' meat shop. Took some provisions to Madge for the children's party to be held on Saturday. Fell in with a soldier walking back, gave him some money to buy cigarettes. 

5 January 2014

5th January 1944: 'red balls of fire'

5 Wed. Severe white frost, very cold day. A pretty speckled pink, slate and blue sunset. Warning at 2.14 a.m. Two enemy aircraft were under moderate fire some miles to eastward. Then a plane came from the south and immediately came under terrific gunfire from all angles. The local guns fired with great rapidity, the Wimbledon Common heavy guns fired many rounds and there were many small-bore, high velocity guns in action. I think the din was the loudest and most continuous I have heard; a great uproar. The shrapnel whined down and crashed on the roofs but the plane went steadily on to northwards where it dropped two heavy bombs with resounding bangs. It then flew back south apparently unharmed. All dull red balls of fire - special shells of some sort were bursting in a north-easterly direction indicating the presence of another plane. A hectic quarter of an hour. All clear at 3.0 a.m. Understand the bombs fell at Wandsworth. Two raiders were destroyed. Did shopping locally in morning. Madge called in evening. Maud stayed the night.

4 January 2014

4th January 1944: cold and quiet...before tomorrow's action

4 Tues. Very cold, fairly bright, bitter N. wind. Bought fish at Morden also shopping locally; took Ciss' shoes to be repaired. Connie Bradley sent a photo of her two children Christine and John.

3 January 2014

3rd January 1944: 'electric torches'

3 Mon. Cold, cloudy, windy; rain at bight. Cycled to Morden to buy fish; met Collins*. Got accumulator; bought bulbs for electric torches. Paid the club, met Harold there.

*Collins was the name of a' electric shop' (Fred's words) in Merton Road where he also bought a pick-up for a record player, and dope and elastic and other parts for model aircraft, etc.

2 January 2014

2nd January 1944: red & yellow flares

2 Sun. Rather mild for season; dull. Monica, Shirley, Gwennie & Laurance called; showed them how to make a paper box by folding the paper only. Cousin Maud stayed the night. Warning at 11.45 p.m. A machine came from the west, passing overhead and dropped some red & yellow flares over south London where it came under slight gunfire; the searchlights failed to find it. Two other machines were being fired at but much further off; heard sound of two bombs; all clear at 12.23 a.m. on 3 Mon.

1 January 2014

1st January 1944: most heavenly place


1 Sat. Cold, dull, rather windy. Got the groceries at Eyle's as usual, also bought a writing pad and a safety razor, the latter for three shillings at the Raynes Park Post Office; they are stationers and sell fancy goods etc. Also bought cats' meat at Morden. The chubby round-faced, smiling girl there, makes a cats meat shop a most heavenly place; I wished her a happy New Year. Cousin Maud stayed the night.

Morden area, 1944 map