Sunday, July 06, 2008

Friday 1st September 1939

Breakfast in bed at 10:15a.m. whilst I thoughtfully read the paper.

“Germany says she offered terms, received no answer”
“Polish Envoy told of plans at 8p.m. Berlin two hours later say they were rejected”
“Fleet fully mobilised: more army men called”
“Evacuation: over 3,000,000 to be evacuated from congested areas”
“Trek from the danger zones begins today – nine one-way routes out of London”

But I’m still in civvies and have a couple of special business calls to make today!
As I sat over my end-of-lunch cigarette and cup of tea a wireless quick-step finished. Then, special news bulletin:

“It is now learned from several sources, that general hostilities have broken out all along the German-Polish frontier. Warsaw has been bombed…”

I left a telephone number with Mr Allen and hurried out to make the aforesaid business calls! After two call in Leigh on Sea, I sat in the car on Western Esplanade, writing reports prior to going for a swim.

I never had that swim, dammit! A newspaperman came along crying, “Poland invaded! Britain orders mobilisation!”

I bought a copy. Yes, there it was in the stop-press; the King in Council had issued an order mobilising the whole Army, Navy and Air Force. I hurried back to Stock…

Towards the end, among other similar announcements from the BBC’s 6 o’clock news, were instructions for all Territorials to report to their place of joining at once – as I’d expected. My kit is now packed and I’m in semi-uniform. Shall shortly dash into Chelmsford, leaving Slinky B at a pub near the drill hall, from where Mrs Allen will have it collected.

Thus perhaps (unless after all, this crisis ends peaceably) begins a new chapter in my life. Thus also – somewhat dramatically – ends my Shimmering Haze 1939. And what a glorious Shimmering Haze it has been! So –

“Tenderly, day that I have loved, I close your eyes…
I bear you, a light burden, to the shrouded sands…
Faint hands will row you outward, out beyond our sight,
Us with stretched arms, and empty eyes on the far gleaming
And marble sand…”


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