Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wednesday 28th September 1938

"Only a Miracle can avert War now”

They were digging trenches on Ealing Common when I awoke this morning. Lois and I talked in the lounge, kissing surreptiously. If there was a war there’d be no money problem, so we could get married next month! Richard telephoned from his office, saying they were digging trenches and mounting guns nearby. “Have you been eating onions?” I asked as he rang off. “Yes, why? Could you smell my breath?”
“Yes” “What? Oh, go on!”

Wireless announcement: All men of the Royal Fleet Reserve Class B, to report to their depots immediately. The weather was close and sultry. It has been like this for many days now; as though nature were in sympathy… Mother anxious for me to get into some non-combatant unit. Apparently thought Territorials could please themselves! Robin’s school had arranged that the boys should be sent away to the country if hostilities broke out. Mother agreed that he should go.

It was lovely at Hawthorn Court. So comfortable; different from digs. With my own people – and Lois! Only father was away, on business, fatuously enough. Lois and I got the car out and went for a drive. Although it was mid-afternoon the Great West Road was crowded. People “on the run” clearing out of what began to seem like a doomed city.

Newspapers at Staines: “All Naval Reserves Called Up” “German Ships Recalled” There was a rush for special marriage licences… “Panic” said Lois scornfully.

Left the car near Egham and strolled in Windsor Great Park, beside silent Virginia Water. There were no signs of coming warfare here, at least. But the air was still sultry. (“Nature is so close” she said.) We stood above the Falls. Through the trees below, we glimpsed the teeming main road and saw two Army cars dashing westwards… On the Water, though, we watched some quacking ducks. We walked slowly back and discussed what might happen. Strange, neither of us were in the least afraid. I’d always secretly imagined that I would be very much afraid if anything like this happened. Perhaps other things counter-balanced:- The adventure; no more money troubles; no need to worry about the future; we could get married. Above all – for me – there was Milady.

Drove back. Egham, Staines, Colnebrook, Great West Road, Ealing Common. They were jubilant at Hawthorn Court when we arrived. The crisis had ended whilst we’d been out. There had been a wireless announcement:- Chamberlain’s last appeal had succeeded. Hitler had abandoned his uncompromising attitude and agreed to negotiate. Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini were to meet in Munich tomorrow. It seemed incredible! My first thought was, dammit, we can’t marry after all! Back to the frying pan of financial struggle!

Lois and I went to the theatre in the evening, The Apollo, Shaftsbury Avenue. A very topical play, “Idiot’s Delight” which ended with two frantic people in an air-raid. Playing “Onward Christian soldiers” on a piano and singing madly – until a bomb fell. Viennese Coffee – with lots of cream – at the little Austrian Café, on the fringe of Soho.

Reached the flat soon after midnight and sat together in the dark lounge, again. Until 2:20!

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