Monday, 6 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 4

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

The Pilot at that time was facing major financial problems, and printing this diary helped to win back readers.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 4

January 20, 1941

Ever since Christmas the weather has been bitterly cold and we have had difficulty in keeping warm. It must be dreadful for poor people, as one is allowed such a small quantity of coal a week -fortunately there was a good supply here and we have been able to get a load of logs, though very dear. There is no paraffin at all and no candles to be bought - many people have no kitchen range or gas stove and have to do all their cooking on their sitting-room fire. Auntie Emmie's friend Miss Nicholson is one of them. I don't know how people manage who have no electric light, paraffin or candles; they must have to go to bed by daylight or sit in the dark.

I have told you how difficult it is to get food, except our weekly rations, Tea, Margarine, Sugar, Salt, Flour, Oatmeal Flour and Meat. There is no salt left and so now it's made from sea-water and we get quarter of a pound a week for two - the same as the other rations.

I must give you an example of our meals the last two days. Breakfast, porridge and a cup of hot milk; Dinner, a plate of artichoke soup and slice of dry toast; Tea, bread and butter and jam, and pot of tea- never any cake; Supper, a good-sized rice pudding. Tomorrow we shall have meat and vegetables – the next day a vegetable pie.

This suits me all right, but Father says he is always hungry. One can only get 2oz. of tobacco a week and twenty cigarettes - so he has to be careful with that too.

Several people have been had up for being out after Curfew and they are fined and imprisoned for three or four days - so you see how careful one has to be.

I am waiting for better weather to go to town and get my hair done again.

Several birthdays have passed since I mentioned the last - there was dear old Tim nine years old and must be getting a fine big boy. Then sweet Nancy whose plaits are getting very long with curly ends - then Jean Marie, my eldest Granddaughter of thirteen, who I am sure is a comfort to her dear Mother all this time.

January 23

Mrs Baskerville came to see me yesterday and told us how the Germans come into people's houses to see if they are holding meetings of any sort and so she has given up holding the Mothers' Union, which she had at her house. She told us how a neighbour had a German in an upstairs room and he excused himself by saying "he wanted to see what the view was like"

There are crowds of Gestapo about, in the buses and tea rooms at Gaudins, so one has to be very careful what one says. Mrs B. said if one came to her house she would mop the floor with him, as she speaks German very well - but she would soon find herself in prison like Mrs Morrison, wife of the A.R.P. chief warden. She was in a shop and says a German Officer came up behind her and pinched her behind, and she turned round and smacked his face - he followed her out and made her get in a car and took her off to prison where she had to stay two or three weeks.

Of course, this is unusual, for taking them on the whole they are very well behaved, though they mostly look very miserable and long for their homes. They say it will be so long before they can go home, as when they have conquered England, they will have America and all the colonies to take.

I haven't told you about Nancy's experience - she and another girl were cycling home from school when a German police stopped them and said that he must take their bikes away, as they were riding two abreast, which was not allowed. They said they didn't know and would he let them off this time, but he said "No" for it was in the paper and they should have seen it, and so he took their bikes and they had to walk home.

Jennifer was near them and was very upset and implored him to let Nancy off but it was no good - Dulcie went to see the Commandant but he said he could do nothing, as it was now in the hands of the police and the children must learn to obey the laws.

Nancy had her bike back after a week and now they are very careful to ride one behind the other.

February 1

Milk is very scarce here now and we only get 4ozs. of butter between two a week, so have been using the cream to make a little. There has been no chocolate or sweets of any kind for months. I feel so sorry for the children, for they must miss it so, especially as there is so little sugar - I often wish for some chocolate myself. Father saved up 3 cigarettes recently and swapped them for two pounds of sugar. There is a long column in the "E.P." every night asking for exchange of eatables - food is our chief topic of conversation these days and so far we have not suffered, but the future does not look too bright, as bread is now rationed which will come very hard on the poor people who eat so much of it. They say too that the tobacco will be all finished next week - how bad tempered all the poor men will be, to be sure

There was a man shot on the Five Mile Road last week for walking in the danger zone after curfew - he was caught, but escaped and would not stop, so was shot dead.

February 12

We have had visitors today, and they all bring rumours of what is going to happen, such as "no buses at all after next month" and no electricity very soon and no tea - all the tea in the shops was very soon finished, and so the States took over all the stock at "Sun Works" which was a huge one, as they had not been able to ship the last load, and since then "Sun Works" have been packing for the shops - and that will only last till middle of April. Annie very kindly brought us a couple of lb. tins of tea, which we are very -glad of, as our ration does not last all the week.

We have just heard that Colonel Le Gallais has been killed by bomb in Yorkshire. It seems a pity he went away, as his house is being wrecked by the Germans - about fifty-of them living in it. The same thing is happening in Melville's beautiful house - I feel so sorry for Melville and Vi and wonder if they are still in England, or if they went to South America to look after the business.

February 14

St Valentine's Day and dear Auntie Emmie's birthday and I send her my loving greetings for many more happier days to come.

On Thursday, Dulcie and Ada came as usual. Ada brought some of her home-made butter and Dulcie brought some of her prunes, some ginger cake and a bottle of milk.

Auntie Flo and Percy came also and they brought sandwiches for tea, also sugar, tea and milk, so we were well supplied and did not have to use any of our rations.

As I have not been able to go out all the winter, I could not get my hair done, so one day last week I got Sheila Nugent to come here and she cut, shampooed and waved it very nicely. It's very doubtful if I shall be able to get a perm, if the electricity gives out soon and I hear people are rushing to get it done while they can.

How very old-fashioned we shall all be when the war is over, as there is nothing to be bought in the way of frocks, hats and coats now, so everyone will be able to wear out all their old clothes. Shoes especially are terribly scarce and there is no leather to mend with - Father had to pay 10/- some time ago to get his soled and heeled, and now they are soling them with lino.


Ramona said...

This is a fabulous post Tony - such an fascinating read. Thanks for sharing!

Ramona said...

This is a fabulous post Tony - such an fascinating read. Thanks for sharing!