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Harold Austin War Diary - 1942

For the Allies the first half of 1942 was a catalogue of disasters: the fall of Singapore, the loss of Burma and capture of Hong Kong. In North Africa the Germans recaptured Tobruk and advanced to within 40 miles of Alexandria. In the Crimea the Germans captured Sebastopol and were laying siege to Stalingrad. By the end of the year, however, the war had turned in the Allies favour: the Japanese Fleet had been crippled at the battle of Midway, Montgomery’s victory at Alamein and British and American landings at Algiers, Oran and Casablanca served notice to quit on the German forces in North Africa and the Russians were closing on the German 6th Army at Stalingrad.

Monday 5 January

Weather turned very cold but fine. Alert, first for some time about 6:25pm followed by imminent danger at 6:40 and again about 7:20. All-clear just before 8. There was a number of bangs and flashes for some ten minutes in the direction of the Estuary. I should think some of the bangs were caused by bombs, judging by the sound.

Tuesday 6 January

Woke up with cold in head and sharp rheumatic pains and remained in bed until 3pm. When I did arise, I was nearly crippled with rheumatism and had to bend and straighten very slowly and carefully. Could not do my fire watching turn.

Friday 9 January

Felt a little better but was limping about all day with those beastly pains in my thighs and had a job to get my overcoat on owing to the pains in my back and shoulders.

Saturday 10 January

Weather still very cold, wind backing from NW to NE, but my rheumatism was a little better and I was able to go to Sittingbourne in morning and to Odeon in evening, where I saw Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier and Anton Walbrook in 49th Parallel, a good war film of Canada.

Sunday 11 January

Awoke to find ground covered with 3 or 4 inches of snow and had no golf for second Sunday in succession. Cleaned out chicken house in morning and cleared away snow from back and front of house. Went for a walk with Hilda round Davington in afternoon.

Wednesday 14 January

As my shop stock was very low, went to London by the 8:10am train to see what I could buy. Found it had been snowing, and the London streets were coated with black slush. Went first to Faudels in Little Britain, but they had no wool in the place. Then to Amalgamated Press, where I bought a selection of knitting leaflets. From there I went to the Parker Pen Co.’s shop and left my two fountain pens to be repaired. Walked up Kingsway and along new Oxford Street up Tottenham Court Road to Foster Porters. There I spent 942 coupons on knitting wool and yarn, both of which I was assured are going to be increasingly difficult to obtain. Lunch at Lyons Corner House and then caught the 3:35 from Victoria.

Friday 16 January

Went up to allotment in morning and gathered more sprouts. They are nearly finished now, but what a supply I have had – from early October up to the present. And at 5d a lb, in the shops this means something. Chickens are beginning to lay again – had 3 eggs today.

Monday 19 to Wednesday 21 January

Bitterly cold, with grey skies and east wind. Our bath waste pipe froze and we would not get a bath and on two nights the sink waste pipe was choked with a block of solid ice. It was so cold on Wednesday that I made the journey to Sittingbourne by train instead of bus.

Thursday 22 January

Had to turn out at 10pm for fire watching at Odeon. Had 3 girls on duty with me. Mr Burgess[1] failing to turn up, but they weren’t too noisy, and I managed to get 3 or 4 hours’ sleep. When I returned home at 5:45am I found a cold south wind blowing and a few flakes of snow falling.

Friday 23 January

Snow showers in morning, turning to steady rain in afternoon and evening. Streets and pavements covered with black slush – very unpleasant. However, the temperature rose somewhat and the bath waste pipe thawed, to the family’s delight. Wonder if we shall get any golf on Sunday. Hope so, because I have had none for a month, and it looks at present as if I shall get none after September, as it seems impossible for the club to carry on.

Saturday 24 January

Cheers! A quick thaw and rising temperature. Snow disappears and it pours with rain in the evening.

Sunday 25 January

More cheers, a fine sunny morning, with fairly cool westerly wind. Golf in afternoon with Jackman and Ward. Played better at the start than for some time past and was leading at the end of the first six holes. Collapsed after half time, however, but even so was better than of late. Had a bath in the evening.

Tuesday 27 January

What a day! Snow showers in afternoon, turning to rain in evening and heavy frost at night. About 8pm Mr Smith, the tenant of the rooms over my shop at 45 Court Street, called to say that water was pouring in through the roof. Went down there and found his front room floor in confusion with a big bath and sacking to stop the wet spreading. None was getting through to the shop, however, except in one place in the window. Fortunately, the only things spoilt were a few patterns.

Wednesday 28 January

Roads and paths coated with ice in the morning, but it had nearly all thawed by midday, Mary went to Ipswich in afternoon to see Bob, who is expecting to go abroad within the next few days. Went to Argosy with Hilda in evening and saw That Man Reutef and a horror film Before I Hang with Boris Karloff.

Thursday 29 January

Sharp white frost early morning, followed by a quick thaw, then cold rain in afternoon. No sign of Mary up to 5:15. I am getting rather anxious about her. Evidently, she didn’t see Bob yesterday, as a letter arrived from him this afternoon with a 10:15pm Ipswich postmark.

Friday 30 January

Mary returned in afternoon, to my relief. She met Bob at 8:15 on Wednesday and saw him again on Thursday. He sailed for ‘somewhere abroad’ at 2 o’clock this morning.

Thursday 5 February

Spent the afternoon doing my accounts, then took the dog a little way. Had a quiet evening beside the fire and spent the night fire watching at the Odeon. Have just started on my second year of this job – and it seems incredible on looking back to think that it can possibly have extended over 12 months, I wonder how many more months (or years) it will continue. The war seems to be going steadily against us. Our forces are again retreating in Cyrenaica, Singapore is invested, the Philippines and Dutch East Indies are being steadily over-run. When will the turning point come?

Friday 6 to Tuesday 10 February

The situation in Singapore gets steadily worse and it is obvious that it cannot hold out much longer.[2] Heard from Evelyn that she will be home for 7 days leave on Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Thursday 12 February

Evelyn arrived at 7:20am looking very tired, and after having had her breakfast, she went straight to bed, remaining there until tea-time. The ground being still frozen hard, it was impossible to do any gardening, so I cleaned out the chicken house.

Friday 13 February

A black day. Three German warships, Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen, bottled up in Brest for a year, steamed up the English Channel through the Strait of Dover to bases in Germany. They were attacked by 600 of our aircraft of which we lost 42,[3] and by MTBs and for a quarter of an hour by destroyers, but they were strongly protected by relays of fighters and auxiliary ships, and although they were apparently hit several times by torpedoes and bombs they got through. Not a comforting piece of news.

Saturday 14 February

Herne Bay station dive-bombed, no casualties and very little damage.

Sunday 15 February

Golf in morning with Jackman, Joy and Ward. I again played badly (my rheumatism troubling me considerably) and we lost by 4 and 2. Went for a 4-mile walk round Homestall Lane with Hilda in afternoon. Heard on 6 o’clock news that Singapore has fallen, and that the PM would broadcast at 9pm. Nothing fresh in PM’s speech.

Tuesday 17 February

Cold weather is affecting egg supply and the output of my chickens is again falling. On my suggestion, we agreed to ration ourselves to one egg breakfast per week, in order to preserve a good number of eggs for next winter’s use. From the way the war is at present developing it looks as if we shall be compelled to tighten our belts considerably next winter. I decided to make enquiries about the price my car would fetch and wrote to the Canterbury Motor Car Co, from whom I purchased it. It is very difficult to decide what is the best course to pursue. It might fetch a big price after the war; on the other hand, it might get a bomb on it and I should lose every penny I had spent on it. To gamble or play for safety?

Thursday 19 February

Saw Eve off at the Railway station, her 7 days’ leave having expired. How I hated her going! She has to report at Hallam Street, London W, by 4pm. I was supposed to do fire watching this night, but my rheumatics were very troublesome owing to the bitter east wind and I did not go. We were sitting in the drawing room when, at 10:15pm, a knock came at the front door. I opened the door and found – Evelyn (to my great joy). She had been sent home again on extended leave until Sunday night.

Friday 20 and Saturday 21 February

Business dropping off considerably, as it usually does at this time of year in the wool trade. Were my rheumatism not so bad I might obtain a situation for the duration of the war, or obtain war work of some description. I must visit Dr Cannon again and get him to overhaul me thoroughly, as I strongly suspect there is something rather serious at the bottom of the trouble.

Sunday 22 February

I went up to the station to see Eve off and came away feeling rather depressed.

Friday 27 February

A busy day at Sittingbourne, with Cadbury’s and Paton’s rations both arriving. Eve turned up at 7pm on leave until Monday morning.

Saturday 28 February

A busy afternoon in Faversham shop, where the month of February has proved to be a very good one, despite the handicap of clothing coupons and lack of supplies. Have been wondering why my chickens have gone off laying of late and found that they have all been perching out in the run each night, with temperatures generally well below freezing point. Took them off the perch and put them in the house and shut them in. Must put another perch in the house tomorrow.

Monday 2 March

Started off with a near tragedy as l overslept until 6:30am and Eve had to catch the 7:15 train. She did so with 5 minutes to spare, having no time for breakfast, but taking some sandwiches. A severe depression set in at the Faversham shop, where we have practically no wool to sell. The situation looks very serious.

Wednesday 4 March

Went to London with Hilda in a vain search for wool. The information given us was most disquieting as regards the wool situation, and I sat down when I got home and wrote to Mr Kenneth Brown enquiring if he could use my services in the newspaper business at No. 23.[4] Wouldn’t it be strange to be working there again? But I am afraid there is little hope in that direction.

Thursday 5 March

Fire watching at 10pm. Had a good night, Burgess did not turn up and I was not kept awake by his infernal snoring. The girls read and I slept from shortly after 11pm to 4am with the exception of brief intervals of consciousness during some of which I heard our planes passing over.

Friday 6 March

Sent greetings telegram to Brother Fred on the occasion of his birthday. Mr Brown replied to my letter, but held out little hope, promising to write me again.

Saturday 7 March

Eve walked in about 9pm for a few more hours’ leave. She had been playing hockey for a WAAF team in the afternoon and so could not get away earlier. She told me she was to be posted on Monday.

Sunday 8 March

Weather warmer, quite a nice spring day, although still on the cool side. No golf. I am really rather glad as my neuritis is foul. Eve returned at 8:25 just before which siren sounded and Jerry dropped bomb near Westgate station.

Tuesday 10 March

Sittingbourne in morning, gardening in afternoon, but a cool east wind sprang up. Wire from Eve that she has been posted to Abingdon.

Friday 13 March

Another letter from Brown asking me to call and see him when next I was in town. Replied that I would do so on Wednesday or Thursday, if convenient to him. He said in his letter that he had consulted one of his co-directors and probably some arrangement might be come to. Busy day at Faversham shop.

Saturday 14 March

A fine day and decidedly milder. To my joy, Jackman appeared to fix up our much overdue morning foursome weather permitting.

Sunday 15 March

Weather did permit, despite rain the previous night and we had an enjoyable game. My form was somewhat better than of late, although nothing like my best and Jackman and I beat Ward and Philpott on the 17th by 2 and 1. Had a short nap after lunch and then went for a cycle ride with Hilda in afternoon round Graveney, Seasalter, Dargate and Hernhill.

Thursday 19 March

Caught the 8:40am train to London, although not feeling too good, my neuritis being distinctly painful. Walked from Cannon Street to Tottenham Court Road, where I managed to obtain a fair quantity of wool at Foster Porters. After lunch took the Underground from Googe Street to Highgate Archway. Then, as I had over an hour to spare, walked to Tottenham Lane. Saw Mr Brown, who informed me that Mr Barton (manager of the Faversham and Sheerness businesses of the company) would not receive exemption beyond the end of April, or at the very latest the end of July. He put forward the proposal that I should put in a half-week’s work each week until Mr Barton left. Then after Mr Barton left I should put in full time and take charge of both Faversham and Sheerness businesses. I agreed to this proposal, but suggested that it be given a trial to see how it worked and Mr Brown concurred. Caught the 5:46 home from Cannon Street and, when I walked in at home just after 7 found Evelyn home for another short leave, a pleasant finish to a good day’s work. Fire watching at 10pm

Friday 20 March

Managed to get a fair amount of sleep between 11pm and 5am despite Mr Burgess’s prodigious snores. It is just like sleeping in a pigsty. Home by 5:40 and did not feel like turning in, so pottered about until 6:30, when I aroused Mary and cooked breakfast for her and Mrs Harris, who had spent the night here.

Sunday 22 March

Ward called for me at 9:30am to go to Belmont. We picked up Jackman and Bruce Money,[5] the latter deputising for Philpott, who thought it too cold to turn out. And how right he was! A cold north-east wind and drizzle made playing golf a very miserable affair, and we were glad to pack up at the end of 9 holes. We thawed ourselves in the club house with two whiskies apiece and I remained indoor beside the fire for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday 24 March

Still cold and in the evening a thick mist covered the district, I decided to see Mr Settatree[6] in the evening and he gave me the address of the osteopath who calls at his home every other Sunday.

Sunday 29 March

Early-morning frost but a fine day. In spite of this my rheumatism was foul, so was my golf. In a 3 ball with Jackman and Ward, l toiled hopelessly in the rear, in spite of receiving 8 strokes. Went for a walk with Hilda in afternoon.

Thursday 2 April

Spent the afternoon on the allotment, preparing another seed bed and doing more digging. In the evening I had fire watching duty and the siren sounded at 12:30am, lasting for just over one hour. Heard later that Dover had had another sharp raid and that the Deal-Dover railway line had been damaged. Had a rather broken night as the girls talked and giggled a lot and Burgess snored incessantly.

Good Friday 3 April

Reached home from fire watching about 5:30am Went to golf at 9:30 and played with Ward and Philpott against Jackman and Joy, eventually winning by 2 up. Jackman had a nasty accident on the 2nd green: Townsin who was following behind with Harry Balls drove into us, and Jackman was struck on the knee by the ball. He fell to the ground in agony, and it looked for a minute as if he was going to faint. He recovered, however, and pluckily resumed the game. After a short nap in the afternoon, went up to the allotment with Hilda and we planted about 12lb of early potatoes. After tea spent about half-an-hour digging in the garden.

Saturday 4 April

Sittingbourne in morning, when we had our first ration of Wall’s ices for the season. The ices arrived about 11am and were all sold by 2pm.

Easter Day 5 April

To Parish Church in morning with Hilda and Mary. Enjoyed the service but wish the Vicar wouldn’t mumble away in his usual dreary manner. Went for a short walk with Hilda in afternoon and then visited an osteopath in the hope that he might be able to rid me of my rheumatics. He gave me a good pulling about for half-an-hour and said the trouble was all in the ligaments. He warned me that I should probably have a considerable amount of pain on the following day.

Easter Monday 6 April

After a rather uneasy night, due to pain from the rheumatism, I woke to find myself very stiff and sore. Crawled about all morning feeling very sorry for myself, but thankful that I had refused John’s invitation to play golf in the afternoon. Felt a little better after lunch.

Wednesday 8 April

Started work (?) at the News Office, my so-called work consisting of walking round and listening to Mr Barton’s occasional explanations.

Thursday 9 April

Spent the day at the Firm’s Printing Works at Sheerness, or rather, that part of the day when I was not travelling. And what a day! It blew and rained as it only can blow and rain on the Isle of Sheppey. Strolled on to the sea front at lunchtime and found it quite pleasant. It is the only seaside resort in Kent which l have seen without any disfiguring defences along the front, not even barbed wire.

Friday 10 April

Spent a half-hour or so at the Printing Works in the afternoon after a visit to Sittingbourne in the morning. Things very quiet in both shops.

Sunday 12 April

A perfect day, but rheumatism again spoiled my golf. True, Jackman and I beat Philpott and Ward after an exciting finish by 1 up, and I won 4 holes. It happened, however, to be my putting which saved us, for I took only one putt on each of 5 greens. The result of the game depended upon my putt at the 18th and I sank it. Went for a walk with Hilda in afternoon and sowed 5 rows of carrots in allotment in evening.

Monday 13 April

On arriving home at 4pm, found Evelyn had arrived for 48 hours leave.

Tuesday 14 April

Went up to London for second treatment by Mr Reay, an osteopath. He gave me a ‘reet guid do’ and I felt considerably freer in the muscles afterwards but the pains, although not quite so severe, had not disappeared.

Wednesday 15 April

Evelyn returned to duty at 4:30pm What a gap she leaves every time she goes away. I am very thankful that Mary has not had to leave home also. ‘Made up’ the first four pages of this week’s Faversham News, the first time for over 4 years. I wonder if I can hang on to this job after the War? I felt at home immediately and it seemed almost as if l had never left the old place.

Thursday 16 April

Fire watching this night, but there were no alarms – about the only night this week. We are getting many more alerts again now, but enemy planes seldom come far inland. On the other hand our night bombers are seriously upsetting the Ruhr industries, whilst our day fighters are out every day over France, sweeping German planes out of the sky. Is this a prelude to great event I wonder?

Monday 20 April

Spent the morning on my shop accounts for the past year. I am afraid they will make poor showing and am afraid my share of Income Tax to help finance the war will be very small.

Tuesday 21 April

Printing works in morning and for about an hour after lunch. Then to Sittingbourne where I had a complete change of occupation, viz: serving Wall’s ices! Truly one man in his time plays many parts.

Wednesday 22 April

Printing Works all day – making up pages and proof-reading (how like old times and how good to be back at the old place on the old familiar job).

Thursday 23 April

Paid a visit to my osteopath, Mr Reay, at his home in Kensington. Hilda accompanied me and we spent the morning in visiting the Kensington stores. We managed to get a vacuum flask at Barkers, but had to pay 12/6 for it. After visiting Mr Reay, we tried to get into the South Kensington Museum, but found it closed until further notice. Then we poked our noses into Brompton Oratory but were not frightfully impressed. On to Harrods and had tea at Woollands, finally catching the 6:23 from Cannon Street.

Sunday 26 April

Still fine and not quite so cold, but my rheumatics did not show much improvement in the morning. Three ball with Ward and Jackman. After a fairly good start I tailed off badly, my putting especially letting me down. Short walk round Davington in afternoon with Hilda, but the wind had increased unpleasantly. My rheumatism was decidedly better and by evening I had very little pain. How long will this happy state last I wonder? RAF at Rostock again last night as well as targets in Southern Germany and the Skoda Works in Czechoslovakia. Bath was rather badly knocked about last night. Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag in Berlin at 3pm, but the man seems to be getting madder every day.

Tuesday 28 April

A day at Sheerness, and was it cold! Came home at 6:30pm feeling thoroughly chilled and miserable and with an abscess forming in my mouth. Had a warm bath and by the time I went to bed my face was hugely swollen on the left side: but my rheumatism had nearly disappeared.

Wednesday 29 April

Felt ‘Iousy’ so remained in bed until 11am and stayed indoors for the whole day. Face like a plum pudding in the morning, but gradually subsiding.

Thursday 30 April

Siren sounded just after midnight and local pips also went,[7] but we heard no sound of firing or bombs.

Sunday 3 May

Warmer, thank goodness! John and I won the rubber at golf by 1 up. My game, although patchy, was distinctly better. Cycle ride in afternoon with Hilda and we had a lovely hour Iazing in a small copse along Newnham Bottoms. An alert was sounded while we were there and we heard four distinct sirens and a considerable number of planes.

Monday 4 May

Spent most of the day at No 23, where they are short-handed, the apprentice reporter having left the previous week[8].

Wednesday 6 May

A good dose of proof-reading which came quite easily after a lapse of over four years. Made up first pair of pages.

Saturday 9 May

Sittingbourne in morning. Weather still cold. Reported that we lost 19 bombers last night in raid on Baltic Ports. Had to water seeds and small plants in garden, as the drought continues. The ground is very dry and things are beginning to look serious.

Monday 11 May

Spent the day at Sheerness, weather quite good for a change. Home at 6:30 and working on allotment after tea. Violent thunderstorm late in evening, GilIett’s store beside the Creek being struck by lightning and set on fire. Drought broken with a vengeance.

Tuesday 12 May

Took a saw up to the allotment and cut down an unproductive pear tree to make room for more vegetables. Went to bed about 10:30pm and was woken up at 11:55 by Evelyn arriving home on 7 days’ leave.

Thursday 14 May

Spent two hours working in back garden in afternoon. Fire watching at night. A quiet night overhead, but not on ground level, old Burgess snoring all night in his most blasting manner.

Friday 15 May

While I was serving “Faversham News”, Evernden[9] asked if I was interested in a merger. Arranged that I should see him the following afternoon.

Saturday 16 May

Had a visit from Jimmie and Eva Jordan[10] in the afternoon. After they left, went and had a short talk with Evernden and it was decided that I should write to the Drapers’ Chamber of Trade, asking if they would give any help or guidance. Was disappointed that John failed to put in his usual appearance during the evening to arrange for golf. Five minutes after writing this, John came along. He had been working all afternoon and evening on the preparation of the new ration books.

Sunday 17 May

Golf – but what a display. I have seldom played worse, but we finished all square. Paid a visit to Mr Reay at 3 St Ann’s Road in afternoon and had another dose of osteopathy. Mr Reay said there was definite improvement in my muscular condition, but I still have a considerable amount of pain.

Wednesday 20 May

The war drags wearily on and we seem to be making no headway. Our forces in Burma have retreated to the Indian frontier and Japanese forces are pushing up into Southern China. Elsewhere in the Pacific area there appears to be a period of feverish preparations on both sides, little in the way of hostilities occurring except aerial activity. The Germans seem to have pushed the Russians almost entirely out of the Kerch peninsula of the Crimea. From various documents which are sent out from time to time, it would seem that the authorities still consider the invasion of Britain to be a possibility. I wonder whether the situation in Russia is as good as it is made out to be, or whether things are not going too well there. Another point which crosses my mind is the fact that there have been no raids by our SS [Special Service] troops since that on St Nazaire[11]. What does this portend I wonder?

Saturday 23 May

Went to Sittingbourne in morning for the first time for a week. Found the sale of tobacco and cigarettes, especially the former, considerably reduced owing to the huge jump in prices. A working man in this district cannot afford to by 1/10 for 1oz of tobacco or 1/6 for 20 Woodbines.

Tuesday 26 to Thursday 28 May

On Thursday afternoon I paid an unexpected visit to Sittingbourne and caught Miss Hawkins on the hop. She did not arrive back from lunch to re-open the shop until 3:10pm Went to a grand concert at the Lecture Hall in the evening when four Polish artistes gave a concert in aid of the Polish Red Cross Fund. The pianist and violinist were superb, the bass soloist excellent and the lady dancer quite good. Unfortunately had to leave at 10:10 to go on Fire Guard duty.

Monday 1 June

We were awakened about 1am by the siren and local pips and soon heard the noise of planes. Poor old Canterbury caught a packet, about 25 German bombers concentrating on it and doing considerable damage. We could see the red glow of the fires and the stabbing white flashes as the HEs [high explosive bombs] dropped. The flak was bursting in little patches of twinkling stars and sometimes we caught the sound of the shells as they exploded. Once we saw the tail-light of one our night-fighters as he streaked over the red glow in search of the Huns. The all-clear did not go until about 2:30am. All day I have been unable to obtain any definite information of the extent of the damage, but it is evidently considerable. The Town Clerk was among the killed. Various reports have it that the Westgate Police Station, Lefevre’s, Martin’s, the Regal Cinema and about 40 EK buses are among the casualties. I spent the day at Sheerness and heard one lady in the shop there declare that the Cathedral was right down! I believe that it has suffered some further damage, but that the main structure still stands. It was a lovely sunny day and I had my lunch on Sheerness beach. The tide was coming in and it was very pleasant lying in the sun and watching a convoy bringing food, munitions or whatever it is convoys bring, up river.

Wednesday 3 June

Jerry paid a second visit to Canterbury between 1 and 3am and we saw another vivid display of fireworks. The barrage was so hot, however, that the planes could not get through and scattered their bombs all over the place, fortunately doing little damage. I phoned to Canterbury in the morning, but could not contact my accountants, so decided to go down in the afternoon. Went by train and found that a large part of the shopping centre was in ruins. I could not get to Larkings’ office, as there was an unexploded bomb outside and enquiry at the Post Office revealed that they had left no fresh address. Called at Bells, the bookbinder, and found his place intact. Most of the windows in the Cathedral are out and a lot of the tracery damaged and the Chapter House has been demolished by a direct hit. King’s School also is in ruins, although the old Norman Porch still stands. The main damage extends from St George’s Place to Butchery Lane, between which places the city has been practically laid flat. St Augustine’s Abbey, alas, has been badly knocked about and Broad Street shops have suffered severely.

Thursday 4 June

After opening shop and putting in an hour at office, caught the 11:30am bus to Sittingbourne. Found business there very quiet still, the sale of tobacco and cigarettes showing no sign of recovery. Spent another hour at office in afternoon and two more on the allotment after tea. Weather absolutely perfect, fine and warm, with a gentle breeze to temper the heat; but we could do with a few showers, as the ground is parched.

Friday 5 June

Went over to Mrs Ward’s with Hilda in evening to pay for tomato plants. They cost me 3/- per dozen which was cheap as things go this year. I saw some advertised a week ago in the Daily Mail at 10/6 a dozen.

Thursday 11 June

Fire watching. Found a new order had been issued; now we have to sign on at 10pm and off at 6am We have been arriving about 10:00 and leaving before 5:30 – quite enough too these short nights.

Saturday 13 June

Finished the week by taking over £64, must be a June record.

Tuesday 16 June

Evelyn arrived home at midday on 48 hours’ leave. Their ‘drome is now on ‘Ops’ and they supplied 21 of the bombers which carried out the recent raid on Cologne. All 21 returned safely. We all went to the Odeon to celebrate.

Wednesday 17 June

Mary’s 25th birthday, now time scuttles along. I begin to feel really old at times.

Thursday 18 June

Had a half-day off. Evelyn returned to duty at 4:20 and Mary took a day off. They went to Canterbury in the morning to see the damage. Business has slumped this week, the town being practically deserted all the week. The contrast between this week and last is amazing.

Sunday 21 June

A three-ball only, as Fred was on duty, taking part in the Invasion Exercise. Early in the morning a mock battle was staged, two of our aeroplanes ‘dive-bombed’ the town, ‘bombs’ were exploded and there were several ‘casualties’. We were stopped on the way to Belmont by military, who asked if we had any ‘Home Guard’ with us!

Friday 26 June

What a day! Mrs Wise informed me that she had to register on the 8th August’ Patching told me had had to report for the RAF on Tuesday week, and then Barton came over from Sheerness and put the lid on everything by saying he had to report for the Army at Winchester next Thursday. Added to this, Burrows had a day or so early, told me that Dr Porter had told him he ought to give up work entirely, or, failing that, to do only light work of a supervisory character.

Saturday 27 June

Went to Sittingbourne and we had sold all our ices, about 54/-, by 4:30pm.

Sunday 28 June

Went to see Mr Reay, my osteopath, in the afternoon. He said my muscles were much freer and gave me another treatment. He told me definitely that I was suffering from arthritis, and it was fortunate I had not let it go any further. Went for walk with Hilda in evening.

Tuesday 30 June

Went to Sheerness and met Mr Kenneth Brown who offered me [amount crossed out]. I think the job is honestly worth that considering the responsibility. I decided to accept the offer. Home at 6:30. Very warm today.

Friday 3 July

Another day at 23, where Miss Gulvin, the clerk, commenced a few days’ holiday until Wednesday morning. This will tie me up rather next week and I do not see how I can get to Sittingbourne until the Saturday. The new manageress will be on her own on Monday, as Mrs Bushrod goes into the Mills to work at making shell cases.

Saturday 4 July

Mrs Packham (my new manageress) seems to be conscientious and has volunteered to scrub the shop floor, clean windows and dress them. She also informed me that Mrs Bushrod had been selling wool to her friends without taking coupons and I told her not to do that. Home to lunch. Went to 45 Court Street about 4:30 and got home just before 6:00.

Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 July

Tied up at 23 Court Street both days, and in fact all the week. Had the siren several times during the week in daylight, but they appear to be German reconnaissance raids.

Saturday 11 July

First visit to Sittingbourne for a week. Found things very much improved at Sittingbourne, the shop looking much cleaner and tidier already. Remained there until 5 o’clock, to square up matters, arriving home just in time to close Faversham shop, where Mrs Wise had had a fairly busy day.

Sunday 12 July

Four ball today, Ward motoring us up. We were all four out of form, weather being very heavy and tiring and we finished all square. This may be our last game of golf together, owing to the petrol restrictions.

Wednesday 15 July

St Swithin’s day – and not a drop of rain in our locality. An evening on the allotment, where I picked sufficient raspberries for Hilda to make some jam. She has also made 5Ib of blackcurrant jam from our fruit on the allotment.

Saturday 18 July to Saturday 1 August

A whole fortnight since I last made an entry in my diary. I have been so busy that I have little time to spare for writing. We have had to produce a newspaper, a church magazine, 2,000 four-page sports programmes and one or two small jobs in one week with a staff of 3. The foreman of the Court Street Works is on the sick list for a fortnight. I should not be at all surprised if he doesn’t return to work at all. I am sure, in any case, he will not do much more work. As Link, the Linotype operator, is on deferment only until 20 August, I cannot see how we can possibly carry on unless he is given a further period. Miss Gulvin commenced another week-end holiday on Friday 31 July. This means that I cannot go to Sheerness until Wednesday 5 August. It is an almost impossible job to do so much work at Faversham and look after the Sheerness business as well. Every Saturday I go up to my Sittingbourne business and am very pleased with the new manageress.

Thursday 6 August

Sheerness 9:30am. Home again 4:30pm, printing works 5:45 to 8:30pm.

Friday 7 August

Another strenuous day. Works at 7:30am till 12:30pm. Afternoon up to 5:30pm spent between works and shop. Fire watching 10pm.

Saturday 12 August

Visited shop and works and caught 10am bus to Sittingbourne. Nearly went to sleep on bus. Left again at 2:42pm, had a cup of tea on arriving home and served in Faversham shop from 3:45 to 5:30pm. The shop had been closed until Friday, as Mrs Wise was having a week’s holiday. Hilda served on the Friday and Saturday, both fairly busy days, thanks to the arrival of August ration of 35lbs. Went to allotment in evening to get some raspberries and potatoes and arrived home dead beat.

Wednesday 12 August

Told Miss Gulvin not to pay the errand boy until Friday as I felt certain he meant to work a swift one on me. Sure enough, at 5 o’clock he came to me and asked for his money and insurance cards. I pointed out that the week ended at 5pm on Friday and told him he could have both his wages and cards then. He tried to bluff by saying that his father wanted him to start work on the farm next day (Thursday), but I called his bluff by telling him to ask his father to call and see me.

Friday 14 August

Evelyn came home for 7 days’ leave. Although we had only two men at the works this week, we managed to get the newspaper out earlier than ever and had finished machining just before 7am.

Sunday 16 August

A wretched morning with dull skies and heavy rain until 10:30am. Went to church with Hilda, but there were barely 100 people there, apart from the choir.

Friday 21 August

Evelyn returned to duty. How short a period 7 days’ leave seems!

Sunday 23 August

Golf in morning. Visited my osteopath (Mr Reay) in afternoon and he told me I was making progressive improvement. I hope he’s right for sometimes, despite the greater freedom of action in my legs, I suffer a good deal of pain, especially in the shoulders.

Monday 24 to 29 August

A really hot week at last, the hottest I should imagine this summer. At last the tomatoes are beginning to change colour and I picked 3 or 4 ripe ones on Friday.

Sunday 6 September

Golf (?) with Jackman against Ward and Kerrison. Everyone played badly, but J and I were slightly worse than the others and, after being 2 down at the turn, lost 5 and 3. We managed 4 bogeys among the lot of us – and I claimed two of them! Went for a walk with Hilda round Bysing Wood in the afternoon and picked enough blackberries for a pie.

Tuesday 8 to Saturday 12 September

A quiet week at the office, where there is comparatively little work for me to do. My one busy day each week is Thursday, and even then, I usually take an hour or two off in the afternoon and go back for a couple of hours after tea. This happy state of affairs will not last, as Barton informed me on Friday that he had had a fresh lot of papers, ordering him to report at the Rifle Depot, Winchester, on 30 September or 1 October, I am not sure which date. He seemed to think there is no chance of any more extension of exemption for him, and if he does go this time I shall be in charge of the Sheerness business as well and shall have to make the journey to that delectable (?) place about twice a week. I do not relish this through the winter months, especially as I shall have to travel by bus – but I shall try to stick it because it may possibly lead to other things after the war.

Tuesday 15 September

Had a young Canadian soldier of the Canadian Black Watch come to us for his leave. name of Bert Sangster. He had been in England for only 4 or 5 weeks and is only 18 years of age. He soon made himself at home and seems to enjoy life thoroughly.

Saturday 19 September

Had an afternoon off as Hilda went down to the Court Street shop for me, so I spent 1 ½ hours on the allotment. Had a visit from Mrs Geoff Milgate, who asked if there was any vacancy in the Works to learn the linotype machine. This was a lucky break, as I have been waiting to hear from Barton what are the wages for female trainees, prior to endeavouring to obtain someone from the Labour Bureau.

Sunday 20 September.

Weather looked rather threatening, and the glass had been dropping steadily for 3 days. However, I took Bert Sangster up to Belmont. We cycled and played a 5-ball, the others being Jackman, Ward and Joy. I have never seen the latter play a worse game. On the other hand my golf was a vast improvement on anything I have played for months past, and at least two of my drives were well past the 200 yard mark, that at the 8th being the longest I have ever had at that hole. The weather broke soon after we started play and we got thoroughly wet by the time we finished the 11th hole. We cycled home in the rain and had change all our clothes.

Wednesday 23 September

Our garden railings have disappeared and the low wall around the front garden looks very dilapidated. I shall now be able to cut the front hedge more easily, when I can find the time to do it. At present I am busy carting carrots, beetroot, potatoes and beans from the allotment.

Friday 25 September

Have received a notice to attend a lecture to Fire Guards at the Main Fire Station at 9:30 on Sunday morning. This war’s getting serious when it interferes with a man`s golf!

Sunday 26 September

Mr Stuteley, who rents my rooms at Sittingbourne, said he had heard I was contemplating selling the business there and if I did so would I give him first offer. I don’t really want to pant, as I should make a handsome profit by hanging on until normal times return. On the other hand, business is so involved with the various forms of control that I feel I cannot continue to run this and the Faversham business as well as manage the Faversham and Sheerness businesses of F Austin and Sons throughout the coming winter.

Sunday 27 September

Attended the first of the instruction classes for Fire Guards at 9:30am, and was given a lecture on the stirrup-pump and a demonstration of how to tie various knots.

Friday 2 October

A gloriously fine day, with freshness in the air and heavy dews night and morning. Dug about half a sack of potatoes at the allotment after tea and went on fire watching duty at the Odeon at 10pm (more of less).

Sunday 4 October

Another fire-guard drill, a demonstration of extinguishing incendiary bombs with aid of stirrup pump. A rather feeble effort and only 5 other fireguards showed up. Had a 3-ball at Belmont in afternoon, Ward being absent.

Sunday 11 October

Went to Ospringe Parish Church Harvest Festival with Hilda in morning. The church was practically full and I enjoyed the service. Enjoyed the luxury of a taxi ride to Belmont on Saturday and had a four ball with Joy and Drs Gange and Cannon.

Tuesday 13 October

Paton’s monthly ration arrived, quite an event in these days. Total amount only 65Ib and not a single jumper colour in the lot.

Thursday 15 October

Went to Sheerness at 9:30am and got home at 6:30pm. Letter from Eve yesterday saying she had applied for 7 days’ leave on 28 October and also that she was now a full blown LACW[12].

Monday 19 October

Went to Sheerness and as I was changing buses at Sittingbourne the siren sounded. Learned when I got to Sheerness that a Jerry had dived from the clouds and machine-gunned the Dockyard, loosening a few slates but causing no casualties.·

Saturday 24 October

Reported that our bombers were again over Northern Italy the previous night, and that our 8th Army in Egypt has struck, and that heavy fighting was in progress. It is not yet clear whether this is a ‘grand push’ or only a limited offensive.

Sunday 25 October

Rough winds and heavy showers. It cleared a little in the afternoon and John, Ward and I braved the elements and played 10 holes. We found that the bar had been closed and that Jock, the pro, was the only one left to hold the fort. It looks like the end.

Tuesday 27 October

Spent the day at Sheerness, arriving home at 6:30. Found that Evelyn had come for 7 days’ leave, but did not see her until 9pm, as she and Mary had gone to the pictures.

Friday 30 October

Printing works at 8am. Caught the 9:30 bus to Sheerness, where I found Mr Barton home on 2 or 3 days’ leave. Caught the 4:20 train to Sittingbourne and there boarded the 4:48 bus, arriving home about 5:30. Heard that the Germans had tried to bomb Sheerness Dockyard on Wednesday, but that the bombs feel in the sea. Also, that they had been to Chatham on the same day and had dropped one bomb within 20 yards of the Ajax, plastering the famous cruiser with mud! They did quite a lot of damage at Ashford on Monday, hitting a factory. Fortunately, the work people were at lunch, but as it was there were 7 killed and nearly 20 injured. Fire watching at 10pm

Saturday 31 October

Went to Sittingbourne in afternoon and returned about 5pm. Just as the bus was coming down the Mall, the siren went. I got home and started to get tea, as Hilda, Mary and Evelyn had gone to Canterbury for the afternoon. When I heard a plane swoop over very low down, followed a minute later by the sound of bombs in the distance. Hilda and Mary reached home about 5:45 and said there had been a raid in Canterbury. Their bus had been bombed at the foot of Gate Hill. Mary saw the bomb leave the plane, but fortunately it fell wide and exploded in a field behind two cottages. The only damage to the bus was one window cracked. We felt very anxious about Evelyn who had remained at Canterbury with Barbara Peters. We were much relieved when she arrived at 6:30. They were having tea in Lefevre’s Restaurant when the bombs fell. Everyone dived under the tables as the windows were all blown out and a lump of plaster fell from the ceiling. They made their way to the bus depot, but found it so crowded that they went to the railway station and managed to catch a train about 6pm. Much damage was done in this raid which was carried out by about 50 Focke-Wulfs and the casualties were about 50 killed and over 100 injured. There was another small raid about 8pm and a fairly heavy one over the SE area. Canterbury again caught it, and among other buildings hit was the Regal cinema.

Saturday 7 November

Went to see The First of the Few, the tale of R J Mitchell, the man who built the Spitfire, with Leslie Howard and David Niven. A grand film.

Sunday 8 November

Following the great victory of our Eighth Army over Rommel in Egypt[13], comes the news of an American force landing at various places in French North Africa. Great news. Hilda and I went for a walk around Bysing Wood in the morning and for a cycle ride round Seasalter in the afternoon. A glorious day, fresh, bright and sunny.

Week commencing 9 November

Did not go to Sheerness on Monday, as I was expecting the accountant to come and audit the accounts at the Printing Works. He did not arrive until Tuesday, so I did not go to Sheerness until Wednesday. Met the accountant and Mr Kenneth Brown there and the latter asked me to go to Sheerness three days each week as the firm was so busy, and there was so much more to do there. I agreed, but I doubt whether I can keep it up for long. Went over again on Friday, but left at 3 o’clock in order to catch Burrows (the foreman of the Faversham Works) before he knocked off work. Found however on arrival at Faversham at 4:30 that he had not been at work all day. He is a very sick man and I am afraid he will do very little more work at all. This is going to be awkward as there will be no one left to run the cylinder machines if he gives up. Was kept busy at the works all Saturday morning and went to Sittingbourne for 1 ½ hours in the afternoon. Arrived home about 5:15pm feeling very tired. Found Hilda and Mrs Wise had had a hectic time in the wool shop, Paton’s monthly ration having arrived.

Sunday 15 November

Went to church in morning. Bells all over the country were rung for the first time for many months to celebrate the 8th Army’s great victory over Rommel in Egypt[14] Reported today that 8th Army were now some 60 miles beyond Tobruk, pursuing the beaten Germans and that the Anglo-American force from the West had penetrated the Tunisian border at several points.

Monday 16 to Saturday 21 November

A busy week at Faversham. Fortunately, Mr Barton arrived at Sheerness on Wednesday for leave until Sunday, so I did not have to go over there until Saturday morning and returned to Sittingbourne in afternoon. The amazing Red Army has staged a sensational offensive against the Germans, south-west and north-west of Stalingrad and has captured many prisoners and much booty in the Don Bend. If they can only push this offensive home, they may trap many German divisions and win a decisive victory. Winston Churchill visited military camps in this area on Friday and had lunch in a railway carriage at Faversham station.

Monday 23 to Friday 27 November

We are very busy at Court Street with the Co-op balance sheet, auction sale particulars posters etc and it is putting a big strain on our very limited resources. Sheerness on Thursday when I found Mr Barton had had the doctor and had been really ill with an influenza cold. I let Miss Gulvin go over on Tuesday and Friday to help with the books.

Saturday 28 November

Did not go to Sittingbourne in afternoon, as I was feeling very tired, and Hilda went for me. For the third week in succession, I missed winning a prize in the football pools by one incorrect result! During this week the Germans occupied Toulon[15]    and demanded the surrender of the French fleet anchored there. French sailors, however, gallantly scuttled every vessel rather than surrender them, many of the sailors went down with their ships.

Monday 30 November to Saturday 5 December

A somewhat hectic week. Spent a good part of Monday and Tuesday on guillotine, trimming 2,000 Co-op balance sheets, particulars and conditions of sale, etc, and went to Sheerness on Wednesday. Was informed on the morning of that day by Mr Rousell of the NFS that some unauthorised person had been selling 5/- tickets printed for their dance at 1/- each. As the NFS. tickets were all numbered, the seller must have obtained his from the works of my firm and I promised to investigate. I taxed the errand boy, but he denied all knowledge of it. However, the police took a hand and obtained a full confession from the silly youth, and he was let off with a good dressing down.

Evelyn came home on 48 hours’ leave, arriving 10:30pm on Wednesday, returning at 4:30pm on Friday. There was an unfortunate mistake made at the Printing Works on Friday, the “Diocesan Notes” which should have been included in the Hernhill Parish Church magazine being included in those for the Brents Church. Knowing a little of the Hernhill Vicar, I am prepared for a real good row.

Sunday 6 December

Attended a firewatchers’ meeting at Royal William in evening. I now have to do duty for Newton Road one night each week in addition to my usual one night a fortnight in the business premises area.

Monday 7 December

Busy day at Court Street, but I found time to be measured for a new suit at Hipps (21 coupons price £7/2/6 – and no waistcoat and have my hair cut at Thomas’s (10d and a tip to the barber!)

Tuesday 8 to 21 Monday December

A whole fortnight and nothing recorded in my diary. Why? There has been very little to report, and I have been very busy, Actually there are big events occurring in several theatres of war. The Russians have advanced in the Don ‘eIbow’, the British 8th Army is well on the way to Tripoli, treading on the heels of Rommel’s retreating army, the 1st Army is concentrating for an offensive in Tunisia; General WaveII’s forces have re-entered Burma and the Japs have been driven from Buna and Goona in New Guinea. Locally the situation in my two shops gets steadily worse owing to shortage of supplies and now women up to 45 are liable to be called up for national service from all retail trades except food and coal. If Mrs Wise and Mrs Packham both have to go I shall be compelled to review my position and decide whether to keep the shops on and chuck my job at the Printing Works, or whether to hang on to that and close the shops.

Tuesday 22 December

I celebrated (?) my 54th birthday and Hilda her 51st. Time races by as one gets older and on looking back one wonders what has happened to the years. Of course, 8 years of war is a big slice of one’s life[16].

Thursday 24 December

The strangest Christmas Eve I have ever experienced. There was no display of Christmas gifts in the shops. All day there was no more life in the streets than on any ordinary shopping day, not so much, in fact, as on many Saturdays. Even the food shops had little to offer in the way of extras, nearly all the goods displayed being either rationed or on ‘points’. Stationery shops were the busiest, and that seems to have been the experience in other towns aIso.

Friday 25 December

The quietest and most un-Christmas like Christmas I have experienced since that of 1917. Hilda, Mary and I went to church in the morning and listened to the wireless for most of the remainder of the day. The King delivered an excellent broadcast speech at 3pm, and I have never heard more carols in one day than I did on this day. Everyone seemed to be determined to include some in their programme, no matter what its character might be.

Monday 28 December

Went to Sheerness in morning and saw Barton whom was home on leave. Explained to him that I might be soon compelled to give up my job if my two shop assistants were called up.

Tuesday 29 December

Sheerness again at 11am as I had promised to be over there for the afternoon, Mr & Mrs Barton having gone up to Town. Mr B returns to camp near York tomorrow on expiration of his leave and Mrs B is staying on in Hornsey for the remainder of the week. Caught 4:20 train from Sheerness and 4:52 bus from Sittingbourne. Came home with W H Kendrick, who told me that his daughter is getting married on the 11 January, and that the Faversham police had told him relatives could attend but not mere friends, owing to this being a restricted area. Sounds a bit daft to me. Found Hilda and Stanley Owen at home when I arrived, but they left soon after 7:30pm We had also been expecting an American serving in the Canadian Army to spend his seven days leave with us, but for some reason at present unknown he failed to materialise.


[1] Butcher on the corner of Court Street and Partridge Lane.

[2] Singapore’s defences were all seawards, the Japanese approached from the landward side.

[3] The official record only mentions 6 Swordfish torpedo-carriers and 4 Hampden bombers. The Scharnhorst was finally sunk in December 1993!!!!, attacking a convoy to Russia. The other two never left port again.

[4] 23 Court Street the then premises of the Faversham News.

[5] Philpott’s son-in-law.

[6] Manager of Faversham Water Works.

[7] Danger imminent signal.

[8] Sydney Garbutt, who joined the RAF and was killed during the war. The Heritage Centre has a volume of his poetry.

[9] Owner of a wool shop and newspaper agency in West Street.

[10] Daughter of Mr & Mrs. Wood who were killed with their other daughter Pearl when their house at the foot of Newton Road was destroyed by a bomb.

[11] On March 28th British Naval units and Special Service troops raided the dry docks at St Nazaire. 400 Germans were killed, and the dry dock remained unusable until the end of the war.

[12] Leading Aircraft woman.

[13] El Alamein.

[14] Until this point Church bells were only to be rung to signal an invasion.

[15] Having marched into until then unoccupied Vichy France. On orders from Admiral Jeant de Laborde, Commander of the French Fleet, French sailors scuttled their ships in the harbour rather than allow them to fall into German hands.

[16] He served in the Royal Navy as a ‘writer’ in the first World War.

Opening Times

VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE
12 Market Place
10am to 4pm - Monday to Saturday
10am to 1pm - Sunday (opening hours may vary)

FLEUR MUSEUM - FREE ENTRY
OPEN EVERY SATURDAY FROM 11 TO 3 WITH A SPECIAL LITERARY EXHIBITION AND CRAFT ACTIVITIES FOR THE KIDS

SECOND-HAND BOOKSHOP
10am to 3.30pm - Monday to Saturday

CHART MILLS
Closed until Spring 2023

Registered Charity  Number 1135262 - Company No 07112241
The Faversham Society - Registered Address: 10-13 Preston Street, Faversham, Kent ME13 8NS
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