Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday 23rd June 1944

Spent the night at Hampstead. Pat took me for a pleasant evening stroll among the picturesque streets near the heath – I saw Sarah Siddon's house, and Galsworthy's, and Romney's. People with bundles were converging on the Tube stations as dusk fell and down below they were crouching in the draughty passages. I heard eleven robot-planes crash before I went to sleep. One was quite near. It is weird to hear them droning over without any roar of gunfire.

I cleared all my kit from Hampstead, bringing away two kit bags and a pack. Spent the morning and part of the afternoon in clearing-out that filthy cupboard in the basement of Majories flat. Except for a bundle of old report and order books which I discarded, I managed to pack all my belongings into the old wooden chest. Then I nailed it down and corded it; went out (sirens wailing) and bought a cup of tea and some tie-on labels; rang Carter Paterson and asked them to collect one chest and one empty tea chest from 99 Westbourne Terrace, and deliver to “Little Dene”, Church Street, Great Burstead, Essex; and finally returned to the flat and tied on lots of labels. (I'd written them out in a nearby Post Office.) I'd a splitting headache by this time, but had a splendid bath at Paddington Station, and then felt better (and less grimy).

All day the air raid warnings were sounding. People hurried through the streets, gazing upwards. Sitting in a cafe, having a late tea, I heard a robot plane bomb go droning past. People cowered nervously against the walls, and someone cried, “Look out! Mind the glass window!” “Ah well!” I said complacently, “They can't turn round and come back!” “Can't they?” cried a waitress, “I saw one fly past yesterday and then put on a swerve and turn back! They do sometimes!”

With my two kit bags and pack I caught a train at Fenchurch Street, which meandered slowly to Pitsea, via Tilbury. Whilst we were puffing clear of the ruined East End streets I heard the sirens screaming the “all clear.” I read “Auden and After” and dozed.

Got on board a bus at Pitsea Station, and Violet was waiting for me when I alighted in Vange. A letter from Blackpool was lying on the kitchen table at Terori. It contained a cheap-looking badge of white metal, marked “FOR LOYAL SERVICE” and known as The King's Badge (for ex-servicemen). I shan't wear it; I don't want to be branded as anything.

There were also documents which told me, to my surprise and pleasure, that the Ministry of Pensions considered me 40% disabled as a result of war service (Post Malarial Depression) and had awarded me a Pension of 17/4d weekly plus 4/- marriage allowance “until further notice.”

21/4d per week! That will be very useful, while it lasts.

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