31 May 2017

31st May 1948: fish and a postal order

31 Mon. Cold, dismal morning, heavy downpour till afternoon, some sunny periods in afternoon and the wind got up. To Morden in afternoon to buy fish: bought a postal order also. Gwennie, Donald and Margaret called; Margaret is getting lovely.

30 May 2017

30th May 1948: I was 3 weeks in Kingston Hospital with pneumomnia

30 Sun. Very cool, dull, the wind is variable but rough, Ciss went to see Ron and Marjorie Cooper at Frimley. To have a look at Kingston Hospital in the afternoon: I left there almost exactly a year ago after spending three weeks in there with pneumonia. I saw the ward I was in but this time from the outside, thank God.

29 May 2017

29th May 1948: tuned piano... bought lodger's rations

29 Sat. Cold, dismal, steady downpour of rain all day. To butchers in morning to get Katie’s rations, also to buy fish. Started to tune the piano. Cousin Maud called in evening.

28 May 2017

28th May 1948: my mother and father's grave

28 Fri. Rather cool, very dull and heavily overcast; little wind. Did all the usual shopping locally: to Morden to buy cats meat. In evening to the grave; dug it over and forked in peat and hop manure: it is now ready for summer planting.
* * * * * * 

Dear Readers of this blog,

With so many new readers as the result of recent local newspaper publicity, let's see again these photos from a year or so ago.

Nora and Sean Galvin, who live in New Malden, saw the frequent references by Fred to 'Dear Mother's grave'. They set out to locate and photograph this. Nora also researched Fred's family history through census records; the resulting information now informs much of the detail entered under 'Family and homes' . Since their search began, this diary has recorded the death, shortly before Christmas, of Fred's father - also named Frederick James. His body was laid to rest in the same grave.

Here are their photos with Nora and Sean's captions.  

St Mary The Virgin,
Merton Park
Walk to the left of the cross,
 some way alongside the wall,

 to a gate...

'Dear Mother's grave'
- now sadly neglected
Through the gate, the grave is about
20ft to the left

The grave, opposite Merton Park Primary school,
separated by a footpath, outside the wall,
which goes through to Erridge Road  

The grave is shaded by the trees to the far left

27 May 2017

27th May 1948: RAF's new engine "was all too wonderful for me"

27 Thur. Rather cool, dull, less wind, but a few short periods of feeble sunshine. Got Katie’s groceries and to the butcher’s. To Morden in afternoon to buy fish while there I noticed two very large long R.A.F. vans placed end to end to form a long room in which was housed a free R.A.F. Exhibition. I went in but could not make a close inspection but had the ‘radar’ equipment demonstrated to me. I also saw a gas-turbine jet propulsion unit with parts cut away to show the mechanism – it was all too wonderful for me.

26 May 2017

26th May 1948: "hail storms of great severity which laid like snow"

26 Wed. Very cool, dull; cool, stiff breeze, very heavy showers in morning including hail storms of great severity which laid like snow also a thunder storm of some violence. Got the groceries including tinned peas and a steak and kidney pudding in a tin, also cats fish and a haddock which we had for tea. Gwennie and Donald called to borrow a jam jar. Gwennie’s teacher asked her to get some fish for the school aquarium so she took the jar and a net to the lake at Cannon Hill Common to catch some “tiddlers” or tadpoles but came back empty handed, or should I say empty jarred.

25 May 2017

25th May 1948: "a safe organic fertilizer"

25 Tues. Rather cold, dull; rain commencing in evening: we need it very much. Bought a few things locally in morning. To Wimbledon in afternoon; bought peat & hop mixture at Woolworth’s: it is a safe organic fertilizer. Played much Beethoven to-day and am getting back into practice again.

24 May 2017

24th May 1948: grave digger

24 Mon. Cold, dismal morning after rain but improving with a little sun in afternoon. Bought fish, took accumulator and a few other errands in afternoon. Thence to the grave to take off the bulbs to make way for summer plants.

23 May 2017

23rd May 1948: quiet Sunday

23 Sun. Rather cold, very dismal, drizzly rain at intervals: little wind. Did not go out. The usual children called.

22 May 2017

22nd May 1948: Our lodger, Katie, gave me a shilling...

22 Sat. Becoming rather warm: fine and sunny and the wind which is less is tending to veer SW. Did the shopping early, Gwennie came in afternoon, we played table tennis, she won three games to my two - of course. She stayed to tea. Donald came to fetch her home and he stayed and had bread and honey. Mrs Alderton came to see Katie. Katie gave me a shilling for getting her rations – bless her, I suppose she feels indebted to me. Bought 3 Woodward’s Outdoor Wonder tomato plants of the greengrocer: planted them in evening. Made a few more prints of Katie’s photo – as she asked for 4 more.

21 May 2017

21st May 1948: washing the scullery walls

21 Fri. Cold, dull, windy morning but the sun came out in afternoon and while it shone it was lovely but the evening was cold again although the wind dropped. Got the weekend provisions – all locally. Saw Dad’s and Mother’s grave, it is now ready for some summer plants. Finished washing the painted walls of the scullery. Wrote letter to Uncle Tom, his birthday is Monday.

20 May 2017

20th May 1948: playing in the road

20 Thur. Rather cold, dull, but becoming sunny and milder in afternoon; rough E wind. Got Katie’s rations also bought nice liver. Dear Gwennie called, followed later by Janet Absalom who wanted Gwennie to play in the road. Gwennie did not want to so Janet came in – the first time she has been here: amused them both.

19 May 2017

'Letters from a WWII Airman' - a special post

Dear Reader,

During the war years, Uncle Fred mentioned visits from John, a young serving airman, from Basingstoke, nephew of Fred's sister-in-law, Lily French. John Hodgkins, RAFVR, served in 428 'Ghost' Squadron (named 'Ghost' because they flew at night). This was a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron based in Yorkshire, part of our own RAF Bomber Command. 

On the night of 3rd October 1943, John died while taking part in a mission over Germany. When his death was confirmed the following year, Uncle Fred wrote: 'I mourn his loss deeply. He used to like to come here to listen to my poor playing on the piano; he was fond of Mozart. He came to tea here only a week before he was posted as missing and I am glad I told him how much I admired his courage and applauded his exploits. R.I.P.'

A few of John's wartime letters, sent to his Aunt and Uncle, have been inherited by me, the Editor of this blog, a baby and toddler at the time. I am frequently mentioned in the letters. I have now published these, along with extensive notes, as a short Kindle book. If you wish to 'LOOK INSIDE' the book or see a description, this is a LINK to the Amazon address.

Regards to all readers of this blog,

Tony French. 

19th May 1948: cricket on Cannon Hill... "jolly good time"

19 Wed. Warm, lovely bright sunny day; the wind was not quite so strong but bad enough and still E. Got the groceries in morning. Went with Gwennie, Laurie and Donald to Cannon Hill Common where we played three cricket matches the three versus me. They won two matches to my one: oh, it was hard not to win! I mean it took a lot of engineering in order to lose, but I managed the results as I desired. Donald lost one of his stumps, broke his bat and lost the lemonade bottle but we all had a jolly good time: I am sure I did.

18 May 2017

18th May 1948: 'Speedy' the tortoise retruns

18 Tues. Warmer if anything; sunshine all day but the E wind is as violent as ever. Coming back along the bye-pass I could hardly move against the onslaught of the wind when cycling home after buying two tobacco plants and a newspaper. I later planted the nicotianas to give them their proper name. Donald came three times also Gwennie and Margaret. The tortoise turned up again to-day and the children fed it with green peas: I took it back once again.

17 May 2017

17th May 1948: an arid desert

17 Whit Monday. Brilliant sunshine without a cloud all day: there was good power in the sun but the raging E wind is as bad as ever. Planted and staked eight “Stonor’s Exhibition” tomato plants. Watered almost the whole garden in evening: the wind has turned it into an arid desert. Cycled to Old Malden where I met Ciss, Alb, Lily and Anthony having a walk.

16 May 2017

16th May 1948: wall-to-wall sun... violent wind

16 Sun. Would have been even warmer than yesterday but an even more violent E wind blew with sudden gusts that jarred the house: the sun shone without a cloud all day. The children called but Clifford is in hospital with scarlet fever. Did not go out.

15 May 2017

15th May 1948: blows a gale... but gardening

1948 was an interesting year to visit Jaywick.
 In this still  from a British Pathe newsreel,
 holidaymakers are being rescued from
 flooded houses at Jaywick. [Copyright: film for sale at]
15 Sat. Would have been rather warm but for an E wind of gale violence but the sun shone gloriously all day. Bought fish locally in afternoon. Also bought eight tomato plants – Stonor’s Exhibition in West Barnes Lane @ 7½ ea. The Thompsons are home to-day after a week at Jaywick near Clacton. Gwennie, Laurie and Donald called. Did a morning’s digging and weeding in the garden.

14 May 2017

14th May 1948: little rain for garden... added a loudspeaker

14 Fri. Becoming rather warm; lovely, fine, sunny day. Did all the usual Fri. morning shopping locally, also bought cats meat at Morden. In afternoon bought red and black flex at Woolworth’s in Wimbledon and later laid it to connect a loudspeaker in the dining room to the set. Watered the garden; the rainfall this year has been very small.

13 May 2017

13th May 1948: photos a hit with Katie

13 Thur. Becoming very mild; dull to start with but a sunny afternoon. Got Katie’s rations. Gave her the photos: she is very pleased and wants four more. Planted three dwarf dahlias in the front garden also Virginia and night-scented stock. Short cycle ride in evening. Cousin Maud called.

12 May 2017

12th May 1948: got honey! 'Most unusual'

12 Wed. Rather mild, dismal; not much wind. Got the groceries including a pound jar of honey – most unusual. Bought fish locally. More work preparing the front garden. Made four prints of Katie’s photograph: it is very fine.

11 May 2017

11th May 1948: demobbed

11 Tues. Rather warm, dull, calm. Some soft rain in morning, showers at night with a few peals of thunder. Bought fish locally in afternoon also three Coltness Gem dahlias – yellow, crimson and terra-cotta orange. Bought Virginia stock seed at Merton. Alan Spooner called in evening: he is now out of the army.

Note: Alan Spooner is a friend who shares a love of model planes and playing with wireless sets. He once broke his nose whilst playing rugby.

10 May 2017

10th May 1948: Katie the lodger poses again

10 Mon. Very mild, very dull; not much wind; dull but not unpleasant. Took Katie’s photo again as in the first one she could not open her eyes on account of the bright sunshine. Sowed two lines of night-scented stock seed and did some weeding. Bought fish at Merton. Developed Katie’s photo. And, judging by the negative, it could hardly be better.

9 May 2017

9th May 1948: Sunday cycle in the sun... Worcester Park, Ewell, Cheam

9 Sun. Fine, sunny day, becoming rather warm but a stiff E breeze. The Thompsons have gone to Jaywick on the east coast so the party of Sunday School children was smaller. For a cycle ride to Worcester Park and Ewell, returning via N. Cheam and Morden.

8 May 2017

8th May 1948: roses out... Saturday cricket matches

8 Sat. Very mild, bright sunshine all day; stiff E breeze. The first roses are out on the Climbing Mme E. Heriot at the front door, one of good colour and shape. Bought cats fish locally, also sweet pea seeds, got the accumulator and a paper. Saw Merton bat, also saw several matches on the Playing Fields.

7 May 2017

7th May 1948: still queueing for cats

7 Fri. Mild; nice sunny day with little wind. Got the groceries for Katie, also to butchers etc. all locally, but queued up at Morden for cats’ meat. Went to see Uncle Ben at Malden in afternoon; gave him a photo of the grave with Dad’s inscription on it. Sowed more poppy seed in evening.

6 May 2017

6th May 1948: busy with visitors

6 Thur. Rather mild, some moderate sunshine, less wind. To the butchers, fish shop, bought paraffin. Mr. Costella called in afternoon, had a long talk with him. Chas. called to ask about photo. paper. Mrs. Alderton called to see Katie.

5 May 2017

5th May 1948: chimney sweep... spring cleaning

5 Wed. Cool, some sunny periods in morning; stiff SW breeze. Got the groceries etc in morning. The sweep came to do the dining room chimney. I swept the walls cleaned the paintwork and scrubbed the floor etc. and put back pictures and other furniture: the room is now spring-cleaned and finished.

4 May 2017

4th May 1948: very nice chocolate sweets... on a cold day

4 Tues. Very cool, dull, windy but a little finer later. Letter from Uncle Tom. Sent him a letter including 2/6d postal order. Gwennie brought the loaf. Walked along rail path in evening. White may is out also chestnut blossom and cow parsley. The country looks lovely but a pity the weather is so cold. Katie gave us some chocolate sweets she had made; they were very nice.

3rd May 1948: food parcel to Dresden from Austrian lodger

3 Mon. Severe morning frost; cold, dull day. Sowed runner bean seed in spite of the weather also “gleam” nasturtium seeds. Took a food parcel intended for Germany to Morden Food Office to be stamped also accompanying papers, then posted it at Morden Post Office, postage was 3/9d. I posted this for Katie who sent it to a relative of hers at Dresden. Bought good cats meat at Morden.

2nd May 1948: bad day... lit a fire

2 Sun. Cold, very dull, NE wind, showers. Gave Laurie the ½ doz photos. Being such a bad day I lit a fire and stayed in all day. Ciss went to Tolworth.

1st May 1948: food parcel from Australia

1 May. Sat. Cool, very heavy clouds, small amount of sun in morning otherwise dull. Heavy showers, one peal of thunder. Wrote Capt. Marshall thanking him for the parcel of foodstuffs received yesterday from Australia. Letter from Aunt Nellie saying Uncle Tom is getting over food poisoning. Gwennie and Laurie called. Bought fish locally. Painted the sitting room door with cream high-gloss paint: looks superb. Made six prints of the Thompson children’s photo, also four prints of the one I took of Katie. Mrs. Alderton called; she is Katie’s sister, both Austrian.

2 May 2017

2nd June 1948: table tennis champ?

2 Wed. Rather cold, dull, showers, gales of SW wind which almost blew me to a standstill when cycling against it: a few periods of weak sunshine. Got the groceries as usual on Wed. also fish and a ball of string. Gwennie called in afternoon, she has badly knocked her eyebrow and cheek in a fall at school. Played and beat her at table tennis.