The Impact of WWII on Daily Life in Meldreth
The following items are extracts from the personal diary of Herbert Edward Winter written between October 3rd 1938 and May 9th 1945.
Herbert was born on the 9th June 1910 and lived in the Station Yard Cottage (now part of Go-Cold). During the war Herbert worked first as a shunt horse driver in the Meldreth station goods yard and later as a signalman in the signal box. Herbert transferred to Shepreth just before the end of the war and the final entry was made whilst he was in the Shepreth signal box.
(Only those entries associated with the war are shown)
Monday 3rd October 1938
Mr. Chamberlain made his statement on the Munich peace talks in the House of Commons today. Mr. Duff Cooper resigned from his position as First Lord of the Admiralty as a protest against the Prime Ministers foreign policy.
The past week has been a very eventful time, gas masks have been issued to every person in the country and trenches have been dug in all the big towns and cities in preparation for a war. Mr. Chamberlain has made two more visits to Hitler, on his second visit when he took with him the Czech government’s acceptance of Hitler’s plan for the ceding to Germany of Sudeten territory, he was confronted with a further set of proposals much more drastic than before. Mr. Chamberlain was unable to agree to these proposals and the position seemed very serious. Hitler threatened to march his troops into Czechoslovakia on Oct 1st and take the Sudeten land. The Czechs were mobilized and Britain, France and Russia prepared for war with Germany. War seems inevitable, Roosevelt sent cables to Hitler and President Benes and Mr. Chamberlain wrote to Hitler and Mussolini. On Wed. Sept 18th Hitler invited Chamberlain, Deladier and Mussolini to Munich for a conference and on Fri. Sept 30th a statement was issued to the effect that an agreement had been reached.
Sunday 3rd September 1939
Britain declared war on Germany at 11am today. France followed suit at 5pm.
Two of London’s evacuated children arrived here Friday evening. Their names are Eileen & Teresa O’ Sullivan.
Monday 4th September 1939
Air raid warning was issued about 3am this morning but it proved a false alarm.
Wednesday 25th October 1939
Our two girl evacuees were fetched away by Mrs Thurley on 16th Oct. & Stanley came here on 17th Oct.
Thursday 30th November 1939
Russia invaded Finland today.
1940– A year of crises, wars & rumours of wars.
Saturday 6th January 1940
Mr. Leslie Hore-Belisha resigned from his position as Minister for War yesterday, due, it is said, to differences of opinion with the Generals. He was offered a post as Minister to the Board of Trade but refused it. Mr. Oliver Stanley takes his place at the War Office.
Sir J Reith takes over the Ministry of Information in place of Lord Macmillan.
Tuesday 23rd January 1940
A Bavington received calling up papers from Admiralty. He is to report on Feb 14th.
Monday 11th March 1940
The Allies have offered aid to Finland in her war against Russia (or rather in defending herself against Russian aggression).
Thursday 14th March 1940
Received a letter from S Crouch. He doesn’t seem to like army life so far.
Sunday 21st April 1940
S Crouch on duty today. He has been released from the army & has been back at Meldreth since a week last Thurs.
Friday 10th May 1940
German invasion of Holland & Belgium reported on wireless this morning. All Whitsun holidays cancelled.
Mr. Chamberlain resigns his office as Premier & Mr. Churchill takes his place.
Wednesday 22nd May 1940
The Germans have advanced in about 12 days to within about 50 miles of French coast. They have taken Amiens & also claim the capture of Abbeville. Arras which was also in German hands has been recaptured by the French.
The British Government have passed an emergency bill placing everything under government control.
Wednesday 29th May 1940
Received a letter from A Bavington yesterday. He is in Wales & seems to be getting on alright.
King Leopold of the Belgians capitulated to the Germans yesterday. The B.E.F is in a very critical position.
Bombs were dropped near the aerodrome at Bassingbourne about 2am yesterday morning. It is very difficult to obtain the real facts about this.
Monday 10th June 1940
Italy declared war on France & Britain today.
Tuesday 11th June 1940
Went to Church House this evening to hear a lecture on incendiary & explosive bombs given by Sergeant Barratt.
Friday 14th June 1940
Germans took Paris today. The French evacuated the city to prevent it being devastated. Reynaud, the French Premier made an appeal to the U.S.A for help.
Monday 17th June 1940
The French Army ceased hostilities against Germany today. This leaves the British Empire alone to fight against Nazism.
Friday 28th June 1940
Joined L.D.V & went to Mr. V Harts for rifle practice.
Monday 1st July 1940
Went to Bassingbourne aerodrome for rifle practice. Done pretty well.
Monday 8th July 1940
Went on L.D.V duty at top of Meldreth church for first time tonight. C Whisken was with me at the top & F Andrews with rifle at the bottom. Nothing exciting happened but the lights inside would not act when it was time to come down & I had to keep lighting matches to find the way down & then go back with a torch & fetch Charlie who was very nervous. Phone No 211 in emergency.
Tuesday 16th July 1940
Starting digging an air raid shelter.
Went on L.D.V duty 9.30pm with A Walbey & F Andrews. Rained hard all the evening.
Friday 9th August 1940
L.D.V duty at church tonight with Mr. Howard & Vic. This should be the last time at the church as we are now to patrol railway.
Tuesday 20th August 1940
Heard today that Arthur Bavington has been killed in action.
Wednesday 28th August 1940
Bomb fell near railway line between Shepreth & Foxton last night & did not explode. Single line working put in until Saturday.
Sunday 1st September 1940
Walked down the line this afternoon to see where the bombs dropped yesterday morning about 8-30am. They made a lot of noise but no damage was done & no-one was injured.
The bombs dropped in the fields around the Cam. Cement Wks & a lot of incendiary bombs were dropped in Shepreth.
The air raid siren was sounded 4 times yesterday. None today so far.
Sunday 8th September 1940
Air raids over London yesterday on a large scale. Estimated 400 killed & 1300 injured & extensive damage to docks. 99 German planes destroyed. We had 2 warnings today.
Home Guard were called out during night.
Wednesday 18th September 1940
Mrs. Andrews has been round this evening about accommodation for evacuees from London. We are willing to have one child.
Anti-aircraft shells can be seen in the sky towards London & also big flashes that may be bombs.
Home Guard duty this evening & tomorrow morning. Tried new boots.
Sunday 22nd September 1940
Bombs were dropped on the railway just this side of Royston this afternoon. I saw the aeroplane & heard the machine gun fire & bombs. No trains were run between here & Royston for about 3 hours.
Friday 27th September 1940
Trains have been considerably delayed today from London owing to bomb on line between Wood Green & Kings Cross. 9-02pm train arrived about 10-35pm.
We heard several heavy bombs dropped around here last night. We didn’t get up as Kenneth & Kathleen both kept asleep & it seems a pity to wake them.
Tuesday 8th October 1940
Bert Bonfield came back here today from the army to take over his position as Ptr Signalman after a day or two to refresh. He has been in the army nearly 12 months.
Donald Medlock, an evacuee came to live with us today. He is 11 years old & his address is 16 Greenwood Avenue, Enfield.
Air raid siren sounded about 10-30pm.
Wednesday 9th October 1940
Bombs were dropped during last night and early this morning somewhere round this district. I was on Home Guard duty & went out about 5:30am.
Saw some bright lights in the sky this evening in the direction of London but not so far away by the look of them. Siren sounded about 8:15pm. All clear 11pm.
Wednesday 16th October 1940
Bombs were dropped close here this evening.
Last Sunday night they were dropped very close & one fell on railway near down distant. Both roads were blocked for a time & then single line working was put into operation.
Saturday 2nd November 1940
All communications between here and Shepreth were broken down by a barrage balloon during Thursday evening.
All trains were forwarded by the time interval system until about 8.20am when the telephone was put in order. The trains were then signalled by speaking instrument until 9.20am when all the block instruments were put in order.
This was my first experience in the signal box of block failure working.
An enemy aircraft flew over here Thurs & dropped bombs at Bassingbourne about 1pm. We saw it fly over & it was fired at by AA guns but did not appear to be hit. It was rumoured to have been brought down at Newmarket.
Wednesday 6th November 1940
Greece seem to be holding their own against Italy so far in their fight for liberty against Italian aggression.
Monday 20th January 1941
I went to my 5th lecture on Lewis machine guns tonight.
There is only one more when we have to pass an exam.
Tuesday 28th January 1941
There have been very few air raids over this country during the last few days. It may be due to bad weather.
Mr. Wilkie, Roosevelt’s opponent for the Presidency of the U.S.A is on a visit to this country to see things for himself.
The British are now attacking the Italians in all parts of Africa & are meeting with much success. General Wavell is in command of the British forces.
Wednesday 29th January 1941
General Metaxas, Prime Minister of Greece died today according to the BBC news bulletin. His death is a blow to the nations fighting dictatorship as he was considered a great military strategist.
Monday 3rd February 1941
There is a lot of talk about invasion of this country again. Hitler is said to be only waiting for favourable weather to make an attempt.
General Wavells forces in Africa are doing well & the Italians are being driven back everywhere.
The Greeks are also still maintaining the upper hand in Albania.
Tuesday 11th February 1941
C. Whisken refuses to come to Meldreth to do Home Guard duty & has been told by S.M. that he must work late turn always in consequence.
Sunday 2nd March 1941
German troops are reported to be have occupied Bulgaria who have joined the Axis.
Air raid siren is just sounding at 9.15pm.
Mr. J Priestley is now talking on wireless. He usually gives a postscript after the 9 o’clock news on Sun evening. He is very good.
Tuesday 4th March 1941
Inspector Redpath came here today to enquire about C Whisken being put regular late duty. He does not see any reason for this.
Wednesday 27th March 1941
Jugo-Slavia signed a pact to join the Axis powers yesterday. This is causing a good deal of rioting as most of the people are against signing any pact with Germany.
I have been on Home Guard duty this evening.
Friday 28th March 1941
The Jugo-Slav people have turned out their government & Regent, Prince Paul for signing the agreement with Germany. King Peter is now head of the state & General Simovitch is Premier.
Keren in Eritrea & Harar in Abyssinia were both captured from Italians by British forces yesterday.
Home Guard duty tonight.
Monday 31st March 1941
The Italian fleet has suffered severe losses during weekend in a battle with British Navy.
7 Italian ships are reported to have been sunk.
Tuesday 1st April 1941
Asmara, capital of Eritrea has been captured by the British according to the news this evening.
Friday 4th April 1941
Benghazi has been captured by the Germans from the British.
Wednesday 9th April 1941
Germany declared war on Jugoslavia & Greece last Sunday morning. The British Government then announced that they had an expeditionary force in Greece. The Germans seem to have broken through on several fronts & have reached Salonika.
The British forces are withdrawing in Libya & together with our heavy sea losses things don’t look any too bright. The average weekly shipping losses for March was 98,000 tons.
Thursday 1st May 1941
British forces have evacuated Greece. It is said that 48,000 out of a force of 60,000 sent to Greece have been evacuated.
Wednesday 14th May 1941
The most sensational bit of news for some time, if not for the whole of the war, is the arrival of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy. He arrived in Scotland, having flown from Germany in a Messershmidt 110 & landed by parachute breaking his ankle when landing. It is suggested that he came here to escape from Hitler after a disagreement.
German propaganda is putting forward the statement that he is insane, but the Ministry of Information state that he has been examined & found both mentally & physically fit.
A statement on the matter will be issued within a few days.
Thursday 15th May 1941
No further statement has yet been issued about the arrival of Rudolf Hess in this country. Various rumours are being circulated, but no definite news.
Sunday 18th May 1941
The Home Guard were out in full force today with steel helmets & gas masks at ready. They were taking part in manoeuvres.
Monday 26th May 1941
The British battleship Hood was sunk last Saturday by a shell from the Bismark. The sea battle is said to be still in progress but no further news has been received.
A terrific struggle is going on for the island of Crete. The Germans have landed thousands of troops by parachute & gliders.
This week is Meldreth’s War Weapons week & there are various entertainments taking place during the week.
Tuesday 27th May 1941
The German battleship ” Bismark ” was sunk today after a chase of 1750 miles. Aircraft from the Ark Royal played prominent part in sinking this ship. Several British warships took part in the chase including the two latest King George & Prince of Wales, also the Renown.
Monday 9th June 1941
Free French troops & British troops have entered Syria to forestall the Germans who are said to be trying to gain a footing there
I went to Barton yesterday with the Home Guard for firing practice but there was such a downpour of rain that it was cancelled.
Monday 23rd June 1941
Germany declared war on Russia yesterday morning & began marching on them. Rumania, Finland & Italy also did the same. Mr. Churchill in a broadcast last night declared that Britain would give Russia all the help she could.
Wednesday 2nd July 1941
After about ten days of very heavy fighting between Russia & Germany the Germans seem to have penetrated a considerable distance into Russia. The losses on both sides have been terrific in tanks & aeroplanes. The Russians have been fighting well & claim to be holding the Germans in most sectors, although the communiqués from the opposing sides are so conflicting that it is difficult to understand the true position at present.
General Wavell has been moved from his post as Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East & his position has been taken by General Auchinlech.
Sunday 20th July 1941
After a month of fighting in Russia the Germans have advanced some distance into Russia but are meeting with tremendous opposition. The Germans claim to have captured Smolensk. The Russians are fighting magnificently & are burning everything before they withdraw, leaving nothing behind for the Germans.
The R.A.F is carrying out heavy bombing raids over western Germany & occupied France both by day & night.
Tuesday 22nd July 1941
Went to Ashwell this afternoon & saw pieces of the aeroplanes that crashed there last night. One was German & the other British. They are thought to have collided.
I am Home Guard duty tonight.
Tuesday 5th August 1941
The Russians are still holding up the Germans, although the Germans claim to be advancing towards Kiev. Fighting is still continuing around Smolensk.
Friday 8th August 1941
Went to a Home Guard film show at Melbourn School this evening. There were films of different kinds of aircraft & also pictures showing the dangers of careless talk.
Wednesday 13th August 1941
There was a good deal of air activity round this district during last night & it is said that bombs were dropped on Bassingbourne Aerodrome. Several were killed & injured.
Sunday 17th August 1941
During the past week Mr. Roosevelt, President of the U.S.A & Mr. Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain had a meeting somewhere in the Atlantic to discuss all points of the war & how America can best assist Britain & Russia to defeat Germany. They issued the following 8 points as agreed upon as their war aims:
1. Great Britain & America seek no aggrandisement territorial or other
2. They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.
3. They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of Govt. under which they will live, & they wish to see sovereign rights & self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.
4. They will endeavour with due respect for their existing obligations to further enjoyment of all nations, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access on equal terms to the trade & to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.
5. They desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing for all improved labour standards economic advancement & social security.
6. After final destruction of Nazi tyranny they hope to see established a peace which will afford to nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries & which will afford assurance that all men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear & want.
7. Such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas & oceans without hindrance.
8. They believe all of the nations of the world for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending establishment of a wide & permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid & encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace loving peoples the crushing burden of armament.
Friday 5th September 1941
The fighting in Russia continues very fiercely. The Germans are launching big attacks against Leningrad but the Russians are fighting back strongly. The losses on both sides are very heavy.
Tuesday 14th October 1941
I was on Home Guard duty last night with F Harper. It was the first time we had been on all night. We laid on some straw beds & blankets in the Guard Room but couldn’t sleep very well.
The Germans are pressing on towards Moscow & things seem pretty serious for Russia but they are fighting back strongly & still seem confident
Friday 21st November 1941
The British have started an offensive in Libya & have advanced about 90 miles. The offensive was started last Tuesday although it was not made public until yesterday.
The Germans are still trying to penetrate the Moscow defences & are also attacking Rostov & in the Crimea.
Wednesday 26th November 1941
Yesterday Mildred & I went to London & had a look round. We went by tube from Kings X to London Bridge & we saw a great deal of bomb damage round that district. We saw St Pauls cathedral which did not appear to be very much damaged although all the buildings round it were bombed flat.
We then went from St Pauls underground station to Oxford Circus. We walked along Oxford Street & went in Littlewoods, Marks & Spencers & Woolworths. We also had a look round Selfridges Stores & then walked as far as Marble Arch & caught a tube back to Kings X. Apart from John Lewis’s store, there didn’t appear to be a great deal of damage from air raids in Oxford Street.
Tuesday 9th December 1941
Japan declared war on Britain & America last Sunday Dec 7th. They were attacking American bases before the declaration was made.
The Meldreth Home Guard took part in the military exercises from 2pm Sat 6th until 5pm Sun 7th Dec. I was on duty from about 4.30pm Sat until it finished. The weather was very bad.
Wednesday 10th December 1941
We have had bad news from the East today. The battleships Prince of Wales & Repulse have been sunk & also a considerable number of American ships. The ” Prince of Wales ” was Britain’s newest battleship. It was the ship that took Churchill across the Atlantic for his meeting with President Roosevelt when they formulated the Atlantic Charter.
The Russians are driving the Germans back from Moscow & other fronts.
Thursday 11th December 1941
Germany & Italy declared war on the U.S.A today & the U.S.A replied by declaring war on Germany & Italy a few hours later.
A very eventful year for the whole world. The outlook seems somewhat brighter than at the beginning of the year although the situation is still serious.
The Germans have failed in their attempt to smash the Russians & occupy Moscow & are now being driven back.
Thursday 1st January 1942
We begin the year of 1942 with the hope that it may take us if not to victory well on the road towards it.
The worst feature of the war at present appears to be in the far east where the Japanese are pushing on towards Singapore & appear to be gaining the upper hand in the Phillipines.
The Germans are retreating in Russia & our forces in Libya are overcoming the Axis forces there.
Tuesday 13th January 1942
I was on Home guard duty last night with F Harper & A Butler (ARP). FH & I go on duty every fortnight – Mondays.
The war seems to be progressing favourably for us in Russia where the Russians still claim to be advancing along the whole front. It is also going well in Libya, but in the far east the Japs are gaining a good deal of ground in Malaya & making fresh landings in the Dutch East Indies.
Tuesday 20th January 1942
Mr. Churchill returned to this country from a visit to the U.S.A. He arrived here by plane a day or so ago.
Monday 2nd February 1942
Had a busy week with the Home Guard last week. I was on all night last Monday. Tuesday I went to a first aid lecture at Melbourn & Wednesday a meeting in the Guard room about conscription. Yesterday I went down the Guardroom & heard a talk by Paterson on patrols.
Mr. Howard has resigned from the Home guard.
The war doesn’t seem to be going very favourably for us at present. Singapore is cut off & the Japanese are attacking in many places in the Pacific. Rommel the German general is attacking in Libya & making progress. The Russians are still advancing.
Wednesday 18th February 1942
Singapore surrendered to the Japanese last Sunday 15th Feb.
The last week or so has been an unfavourable period for the British besides the loss of Singapore the 3 German battleships that have been in Brest for a considerable time came out & passed through the Channel to Germany. They were bombed by about 600 aircraft of which 42 were lost but they were not sunk.
Thursday 12th March 1942
The war is going very unfavourably for the United Nations in the far east. Java has fallen after about 9 days fighting & Rangoon has also been taken by the Japs.
British & other prisoners in Hong Kong are reported to have been very badly treated by the Japanese troops.
Stafford Cripps is going to India to place the Cabinets new plans for a settlement before the Indian leaders.
Tuesday 17th March 1942
General Macarthur has arrived in Australia to take over command of all the Allied forces in the Pacific area. He has been in command of the American forces in the Phillipine islands, which are still holding out against the Japanese.
Monday 23rd March 1942
The ” Daily Mirror ” was threatened with suppression by the Home Secretary last week.
A church parade by the Home Guard, the Pioneer Corp, Red Cross Nurses & schoolchildren etc. was held in Meldreth yesterday. I was present with the H.G.
In the afternoon we went to firing practice at the Cam pit. I got a bullseye with my first shot but didn’t do so well with the other four. I didn’t get a shot with the Lewis gun.
Friday 27th March 1942
This week has been Meldreth’s Warship Week.
I have been to a Home Guard drill this evening. We had exercises on passing verbal messages from one to another.
We are:- No 21 Platoon, C. Company, 4th Batt., Cambs.
Sunday 29th March 1942
I have had a busy day with the Home Guard today. This morning we were testing the camouflage sacking. Shiny pieces of brass & buttons were the most prominent in the sun.
In the afternoon we went to Shepreth to hear a lecture but the lecturer didn’t arrive so we joined in with Shepreth & had another field exercise.
Tuesday 14th April 1942
I have been putting in a good deal of time in the last few weeks with the Home Guard. Last Friday night we went on patrol from 11pm to about 12.30. The patrols are to be done during the summer instead of the night guards at the guardroom.
We were doing field exercises about all day last Sunday.
Sunday 19th April 1942
I have been to Barton range today with the Home Guard for firing practice. We left Meldreth at 11.45am & got back about 5pm. We had ten rounds each & then went marking for the others. I went in Mr. Dunn’s car.
Monday 27th April 1942
I went to a Home Guard course at Longstowe for the weekend. E.Andrews, J.Winter & R.Course were there too. There were Home Guards there from all the platoons round this district making a total of about 50.
We were taken there by lorry. When we arrived we were addressed by the officer in charge of the training. He explained to us the value of guerilla warfare in the event of invasion. He also gave us instructions on camping & rules of the camp.
We were told to keep to the same track & walk in single file when going from one part of the grounds to another so as to avoid making a number of tracks all going to the same spot.
We pitched our bivvies in a wood. They were composed of two ground sheets & two more on the ground. They were to accommodate 2 persons for sleeping. We lit a fire & had our tea & then went out to do a few exercises. The weather was very cold during Sat night & I was unable to sleep at all. I shared my bivvy with J.Winter. On the Sunday morning we did some more exercises & talked them over.
On the whole it was an instructive course & good training. It is to be continued next weekend but I shan’t be able to go as I shall be working.
Wednesday 13th May 1942
The Home Guard are having an extensive exercise this weekend starting Sat evening & continuing all night until Sunday evening. I’m afraid I shan’t be able to get there until late Sat night as I am late turn this week.
Mr. Churchill made a speech last Sunday evening at 9pm which was broadcast. He seemed confident that the United Nations would be victorious & warned the Germans that if they used gas against the Russians, the British would consider it in the same light as an attack upon themselves & would take reprisals against the Germans.
Monday 18th May 1942
I went with the Home Guard during the weekend on a large scale exercise. We started Sat evening about 8.30 at the Congregational chapel.
We left there in lorries about 10pm & went to Whittlesford where we spent some time in a big barn. We were on guard in small parties for short periods & trying to get a little sleep the rest of the time. We left the barn about 2am & for the rest of the night until about 9am we were walking. I was with the Lewis gun with C. Adams. We walked about 10 miles & then made an attack on the waterworks which we were supposed to have captured & put out of action. After waiting on the roadside until about 11am we were brought home again in lorries.
The Russians are making a big attack on Kharkov & according to the 9 o’clock news tonight they seem to have gained up to nearly 40 miles in places. The Germans are attacking Kerch in the Crimea.
Monday 1st June 1942
The largest force of bombers ever concentrated in any single air raid was sent over Germany by the R.A.F on Sat night. About 1500 planes took part & 3000 tons of bombs were dropped on Cologne.
The fighting has started again in Libya. It has been going on for several days but so far it is difficult to see which way it is going.
Monday 22nd June 1942
The battle in Libya has gone in favour of the Germans so far & they captured Tobruk yesterday & claimed to have taken 25,000 prisoners.
Churchill is in America again having talks with Roosevelt.
Monday 29th June 1942
2 aeroplanes crashed at Ashwell during the weekend. One of them fell on S Bryant’s house & the one next door & they were burned out.
The position in Egypt appears very serious. The Germans claim to have captured Mersa Matruk & 6000 prisoners.
Mr. Churchill is back from America.
Monday 3rd August 1942
We had a warning about 6pm today & a plane came over while the 6.18pm train was in the station & machine gun fire was heard. We thought it was a German for a moment but it is said that it was an American plane. It had a star on the side.
Monday 17th August 1942
According to the BBC news bulletin this evening Winston Churchill has been to Moscow. During the last few weeks the Germans have made a great deal of progress in their offensive into the Caucasus & they are now making big efforts to capture Stalingrad.
Wednesday 19th August 1942
British forces have made a big raid on the French coast today. People are wondering if it is the long-awaited offensive, but the official news says it is not. I haven’t heard the BBC news today so must wait for papers tomorrow.
Tuesday 1st September 1942
The Germans have started another attack in Egypt according to today’s news.
The Russians are still holding out in the Stalingrad area & attacking round Ryhev.
Sunday 13th September 1942
The Germans are still battering at the Russian defences around Stalingrad. They keep gaining a little ground but are losing a tremendous amount of men & material.
A German plane was brought down at Orwell one night last week. We saw it come down as we were looking from bedroom window
Monday 12th October 1942
The Russians are still holding Stalingrad & it is reported that the German attack is slacking.
Thursday 22nd October 1942
Gen Smuts made a speech in the House of Commons yesterday. It was broadcast in the evening.
Monday 26th October 1942
A big attack by the 8th Army in Egypt under General Alexander was launched on Sat. against the German & Italian armies in Libya under General Rommel. The RAF are carrying on a terrific bombardment of the enemy but it is too early yet to see what the result of the attack will be.
The Russians are still holding their positions in Stalingrad although the town is a blazing ruin.
Monday 9th November 1942
The war in Africa has taken a turn in our favour during the last week or so. The Eighth Army under General Montgomery has smashed Rommel’s army & has captured a great deal of material & prisoners. They have driven the Axis forces out of Egypt & are advancing in Libya.
Yesterday the news was given out that large American forces had landed in French North Africa at Algiers, Oran & other points.
Monday 23rd November 1942
The Russians report successful attacks against the Germans in the Caucasus & round Stalingrad. The position in N Africa continues to improve.
Tuesday 13th April 1943
The Axis forces in Tunisia appear to be getting in a bad plight with the Eighth Army, the First Army & the Americans & French all drawing forward & pushing them into the tip of Tunisia.
Wednesday 12th May 1943
The fighting in Tunisia is practically over & the Allies claim to have taken about 100,000 prisoners so far. The combined Air Forces of the United Nations appear to have gained the upper hand in all sections of the war now & it appears as if a landing by Allied Forces will soon be attempted in Europe.
Mr. Churchill is in USA conferring with Roosevelt.
There is a Home Guard social at the school next Friday. Mildred & I will probably go if I can get done work in time.
Next week is ‘ Wings for Victory ’ week in Meldreth. There will be a fancy dress parade Sat & Mildred has been making Ken & Kath some fancy dresses. They are going as a king & queen. There are various other items during the week & childrens sports the following Sat.
Tuesday 20th July 1943
Rome was bombed yesterday for the first time. 500 aircraft took part & 700 tons of bombs were dropped on the city.
The Allied Forces are making good progress in Sicily.
Monday 26th July 1943
This mornings’ papers report the resignation of Mussolini after 21 years as dictator of Italy. King Victor has taken over the High Command & Marshall Bagdolio is Prime Minister. They are continuing the war.
Thursday 9th September 1943
The surrender of Italy was announced on the radio yesterday. The British Eighth Army landed in Italy several days previous & met very little opposition as the Armistice had been signed but not announced until it was favourable to the Allies
Saturday 6th November 1943
The Russians are making great progress against the Germans. During the last few weeks they have advanced over 100 miles. The last big town they have captured is Kiev.
The British & Americans are also making progress in Italy & very heavy air raids have been made on Germany during the last few days.
Sunday 5th March 1944
Very heavy air raids have been made over Germany & German occupied countries during the last few weeks. The Germans have also raided London rather heavily several nights recently.
There is much talk now of a second front being started very shortly somewhere on the Western front.
The Allies are making very little progress in Italy at present but the Russians continue to push the Germans back on the Eastern front.
Finland are negotiating for peace & the Russians have stated their terms.
Tuesday 6th June 1944
The invasion of Europe by Allied forces including British, US & Canadian troops began between 6am & 8.15am today. Landings have been made at several points on the coast of France, both by sea & air.
The capture of Rome was announced yesterday.
Friday 9th June 1944
Railway officials have been at this station today, first about the fruit season & then about using the siding for a hospital train.
The invasion of France seems to be progressing favourably so far.
Tuesday 18th July 1944
The invasion of France is going ahead slowly & the Allies are still advancing in Italy. Russia are making great progress & are now on the borders of East Prussia.
Monday 31st July 1944
The Allies are pushing forward on all fronts against Germany. Russia have been making tremendous headway in the east. They are within a few miles of Warsaw, also East Prussia.
The British & American forces are advancing slowly in France & have been making good progress in Italy where they are nearly to Florence.
An attempt to kill Hitler with a bomb was made in Germany a few days ago.
Wednesday 16th August 1944
A big landing on the French south coast was started yesterday. There was very little opposition from the Germans.
People are beginning to talk of the war ending this year & things are certainly looking more hopeful but I doubt whether it will be finished this year. I should guess about next June but anything may happen yet. This of course refers to the European war as the Japs have still to be beaten when Germany gives in.
Wednesday 23rd August 1944
Paris has been recaptured after 4 years under German rule. The French forces have themselves liberated the city after several days fighting.
The Allied forces are making great headway & have crossed the river Seine in places. The invasion of southern France is also going well.
Sunday 22nd April 1945
It is 10.30pm & I have been on duty half an hour. The signal box is to remain open until further notice, so we are working 12 hours. The reason for this is that the Royal Train has gone to Sandringham or somewhere on the G.E. & may have to return at any moment to allow the king to be in London, should it be necessary due to any sudden change in the war situation.
It certainly seems as if the war with Germany must soon come to an end as the Russians are entering Berlin & the Americans are linking up with them in the centre of Germany. The Nazis evidently intend fighting it out until the whole country is devastated & this may cause it to hang on for some time yet. Some terrible stories & pictures of the atrocities that have been committed by the Nazis in the prison camps of Germany are now being revealed by the Allied advance into the country. The awful misery & cruelties that have been inflicted on the slave workers & prisoners in these camps makes one almost lose faith in the human race.
Tuesday May 8th 1945
This is V.E. day. Mr. Churchill announced on the radio at 3pm that all German forces in Europe had surrendered unconditionally.
Today and tomorrow are proclaimed Public holidays to celebrate victory. The railways are running a normal service today and Sunday service tomorrow.
Everything seems fairly quiet about here. There are a few flags hung from windows etc. and most people are on holiday. In London the people are crowding the streets singing and cheering.
Wednesday May 9th 1945
Today is another public holiday to celebrate victory in Europe and most people are spending the day in pubs or churches and taking walks in the country, for which latter occupation the weather is ideal. As I sit here in the signal box with a south westerly breeze blowing through the open window and the birds singing in the trees, the world certainly seems to be at peace. I can hear the cuckoo calling across the fields and a blackbird sitting on the very top twig of a very large elm tree, with his bill pointing to the sky, has been trying to tell the world how happy he feels. The grass field opposite the window is yellow with buttercups surrounded by white hemlock with a background of trees which are various shades of green from the dark green pines to the light green of the elms just breaking into leaf. A thatch cottage and several barns of various shapes and sizes with a straw stack close by, makes a truly rural scene.
A very different scene would meet our eyes, I suppose, if we were in London streets where the crowds are still celebrating the victory. (This entry was made whilst ‘Bert was working in the signal box at Shepreth).