Sunday, June 16, 2019

Many little matters

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of David Elisha Davy, an antiquarian who spent the most part of his life travelling around the English county of Suffolk in order to collect detailed information on the county’s history. Although he never wrote that history, the collection of his manuscripts in the British Library today constitute a unique resource of materials for modern Suffolk historians. More than a century after his death, a pocket diary he kept while on his travels was found in a second hand bookshop. In it, Davy wrote about how his little book should be a ‘Companion in my Excursions’ so that ‘many little matters will then be preserved’.

Davy was born on 16 June 1769 the son of a farmer in Suffolk. His uncle, Eleazar Davy of Yoxford, sheriff of the county in 1770, who had no children of his own, paid for his education. He was schooled at Bungay grammar, and then at Yoxford under Samuel Forster. He matriculated from Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1785, graduated in 1790, and was ordained deacon in 1792. Although he worked for a while as a curate, he abandoned the church; in 1803, on the death of his uncle, he took over his estates, based at Yoxford, borrowing money to hold onto the debt-laden properties. He served as a local magistrate and as deputy lieutenant.

However, around 1805, Davy took up what would become his life’s work, gathering an immense collection of antiquarian and genealogical details for a history of Suffolk. Together with his friend Henry Jermyn, he painstakingly toured the country, taking notes and issuing questionnaires. Mounting debts led him to place his estate in the hands of a bank, thereafter he decamped from Yoxford to a friend’s house at Ufford, near Woodbridge. When Jermyn died in 1820, Davy took up with the Revd John Wareyn Darby as companion.

Although Davy published a few historical works anonymously, he never actually published a history of Suffolk. Nevertheless, it is the large collection (131 manuscript volumes) of information he amassed that remains his abiding legacy. He died in 1851, not having married; almost all of his manuscripts (and much correspondence) were soon to find their way to the British Museum (along with those written by Jermyn which had been given to the museum in 1830). There is not much further information about Davy online, other than at Wikipedia and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Davy also left behind a diary. This was found in 1979 by John Blatchly, headmaster of Ipswich School and a noted Suffolk historian, in a secondhand bookshop. He published an article on the diary in the Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Arcaeology and History in 1981 (which can be read online). The following year the diary was published, as edited by Blatchly for the Suffolk Records Society, with the title A Journal of Excursions Through the County of Suffolk, 1823–1844 (The Boydell Press). In his introduction, Blatchly explains more about the diary:

‘My discovery of Davy’s Journal on a North Norfolk bookseller’s shelves in October 1979 was, I like to think, providential. Its beginning coincides with that of its author’s exile from his inherited estate and home, The Grove, Yoxford. He had not kept a diary during the years of his travels with Henry Jermyn of Sibton, and the preface written in 1823 tells of a conscious decision that this little book should be ‘Companion in my Excursions’ so that ‘many little matters will then be preserved’ which would not otherwise find a place in his Collections. And so it accompanied him for more than 4,000 miles. Davy was not one to allow a personal preference or opinion to intruded into his formal work but the Journal is quite different; private feelings are not excluded and we are permitted more than a glimpse of a man who, after his resignation from public office, lived very privately. In reading the Journal we are far from feeling that we are trespassing, but we do gain a revealing insight into his methods of work and travel, his family and friendship, and the reception he enjoyed from acquaintances. We learn much, too, about the temperament and madders of this gentleman antiquary whose work should and may still earn him greater fame than hitherto; his reticence only is to blame for any neglect hitherto.’

And here is a sample of the kind of daily entries Davy made into his pocket diary.

29 March 1823
‘Barlee sent me in his gig to Pakefield Church, 6 Miles. I there took some additional Notes both in the church, & churchyard, copying the Verses in the latter, & rubbing off the two brasses still remaining in the former. I had not time to examine the Registers; but compleated the church notes for this Parish.’

8 April 1823
‘Went from Wrentham by the Mail Coach to Kirkley, where I took full church notes, not forgetting to examine the church chest, which I found the key of. Did not meet with the Registers, & had not time to enquire after them.

Went again into Pakefield Church to compleat rubbing off the brass of J. Bowff, which I had before left incompleat: So that I shall not have occasion to visit this church again.

Walked back to Wrentham. 7 Miles.’

10 April 1823
‘Walked from Wrentham to Brampton Church 4 Miles. Went into the church, took some few notes, before omitted, & from the head stones in the churchyard:

Returned by Uggeshall 1 1/2 Mile, to look again at the inscription on the Steeple, & to see whether I had copied it correctly. To Wrentham 3 Miles.’

17 April 1823
‘Went from Wrentham by the Mail Coach to Kirkley, 6 Miles; walked from thence by Mutford Bridge to Oulton Church, 3 Miles; Took full notes there, both inside & out, & rubbed off the three brasses in the Chancel, in completing which I was near 5 hours employed. Had not time to enquire after the Registers & Terrier. In my way through the Village of Oulton, I observed on a low building on the left hand side of the way a shield of Arms cut in stone, but they seem to have been lately coloured over with black & white, & I took no account of them. These must be examined & enquired into, when I go after the Registers & Terrier. They probably belong to some School or

Walked back to Wrentham, 8 Miles.’

18 April 1823
‘Went in Barlee’s gig with my sister to Southwold, & took the opportunity of being there, to copy the Inscriptions on the Head stones in the churchyard. I had intended to go into the church to take some further notes there, & to rub off again the brass there, that which I now have, been very imperfect, but I had not time.’

17 May 1823
‘Having occasion to see Mr. Robinson, I walked to his new House on the Heath, which he has lately built in a most singular situation. It stands in Dunwich, on the bare heath, about a quarter of a Mile from the Sea, & on so bad a Soil & so bleak a spot, that none of the trees, of which he had planted many, have hitherto grown. From thence I went to Dunwich, & took a few notes, all that were necessary, of the remains of All Sts. Church there. Distance there & back 8 Miles.’

22 September 1827
‘At the Parsonage at Hoxne. Walked to Syleham Church, to get the brasses there, & to pick up any other small matters I might have left at my former visit, & what might have been placed there since.

From Syleham Church walked to Brockdish Church, to see whether there was any thing in the churchyard which might be useful. I did not go into the church. From Brockdish, I walked on to Thorp Abbot’s; went into the church there, but found not a single memorial within, nor anything in my way without the church. Returned to Hoxne by the Water Mill.’

24 September 1827
‘Doughty drove me to Wingfield Church, where I found a great treat; & having the whole morning to myself, I employed it in the church, from I obtained full notes.

I afterwards walked to the Castle, which I had not seen years for more than 30 years; but had only time to reconnoitre the outsid

The Incumbent of Wingfield resides at Hoxne & has the Registers with him there. I was therefore obliged to postpone the examination of them.’

24 September 1827
‘Went, with Doughty to Denham, where I got some few further notes from the church there. I afterwards borrowed my friend’s gig, & went to Horham & Redlingfield Churches, to reexamine & pick up what I could there. I was rather surprized to find all the by roads in that neighbourhood so good.’

14 July 1831
‘I went by the Mail this morning to Little Glemham, having agreed to meet Darby there to proceed with him on to Iken & Snape. Arriving at Glemham before 7 o’clock, I had a good opportunity of visiting the church, which I had not seen for more than 20 years: besides I was very anxious to get impressions of the 3 brasses, in the Dormitory, upon the Glemhams. These I obtained, together with such other notes as I found, beyond my former ones. I was more than 2 hours in doing all this, & had then to wait half an hour for my companion, who at last arrived, when we proceeded on thro’ Blaxhall, where we stopped opposite to the Ship Public house there to look at a coat of arms carved on Oak, & fixed to the front of a cottage: these were formerly in Sudborn Hall; it was bought by the present owner abt. 30 years ago at an auction in the parish; & contains the arms & quarterings of Sr. Michael Stanhope Knt. a former owner of the Hall. We found the road from hence to Iken very heavy & bad, & were obliged to walk a good part of the way, & when we got to Iken, had some distance to go to obtain the key of the church, for which we were ill repaid, for the church contains not a single inscription, or monumental memorial of any kind: we found a few inscriptions in the churchyard: the building stands in a singular situation; on an elevated bank by the side of the river, far away from any house, & in the most inconvenient position for the population, which fortunately is but small.’

7 July 1833
‘Being resident for a few days at Aldeburgh, I of course paid a visit to the church, where I found several new monuments &c. as well within as without. In the churchyard I found considerable gleanings: the names on the head stones I had not before taken.’

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Prayed & wept & hope

’But I heard that Robert was missing for several days before the surrender & might be killed or wounded &c. I felt so shocked - as I dwelt upon the idea of my only & faithful love meeting such a fate & never returning to me - whilst others will come back to their loved ones. I couldn’t endure the thought. Prayed & wept & hope all may yet be well with us, for I can’t believe all this.’ This is Emmala Reed, born 180 years ago today, confiding, to her diary, hopes concerning her childhood sweetheart. The diary, published only recently, is considered of historic importance because of the insight it gives into the early postwar life of a Southern woman.

Emmala was born in Anderson, South Carolina, on 11 Jun 1839. Her father, Jacob Pinckney Reed, had been elected to the South Carolina state legislature, and he was soon to launch a local newspaper. However, he was an ambitious man, and studied to become a lawyer, later serving as a judge. One of his most significant contributions was to found the Johnson Female Seminary, and it was from here that Emmala graduated aged 16. Hers was a comfortable, social life - fancy carriages, music, parties. When the Civil War came, the town of Anderson strongly supported the Confederate cause; despite the tragedy of those years, the Reeds came through them relatively unscathed.

Having been disappointed by her childhood sweetheart, Robert, on his return from the war, Emmala married George William Miller, a teacher, in 1867 and they had seven children. The couple moved to a farm in Rock Mills Township, a few miles from Anderson. The Millers and the entire Reed clan prospered as they grew more cotton than ever before, or founded and financed railroads, cotton mills, banks, mercantiles, and drug stores. Emmala died in 1893. There is very little further information about her readily available online. She is remembered today mostly because of a diary she kept for two years. This was edited by Robert T. Oliver and published in 2004 by the University of South Carolina Press as A Faithful Heart - The Journals of Emma Read, 1865 and 1866. Some parts of this can be previewed freely online at Amazon and Googlebooks. The book comes with a long preface, many detailed footnotes and a host of appendices.

In his preface, Oliver provides further information about his source manuscripts:

‘Emmala Reed’s three journals chronicle her life in Anderson from the age of twenty-five through twenty-seven. The journal written in 1865 covered March 27 through June 26, 1865 and portrayed life in Anderson, South Carolina, as the Civil War ended. With paper and money both in short supply, Emmala was forced to write across an old school workbook in a crosshatch style. As she said, “having filled up every blank book that I could with my silly journalizing I will have to resort to crossing some of the old ones - for I feel that I can scarcely live without giving some such expression to my feelings.” Emmala’s penmanship, best characterized as a minuscule scrawl made worse by the necessity of crosshatching, added considerable difficulty to the transcription process.
Many Southern women abruptly stopped writing in their journals and diaries when the war ended, but Emmala wrote on, a part of her nightly routine and she rarely wavered. Determined to maintain a constant record of her life, Emmala wrote for personal pleasure and inadvertently left behind an excellent portrayal of postwar life in Anderson. [. . .]

The journals of Emmala Reed are significant because she presents a much more detailed account of the crisis of change in the early years of Reconstruction than those of many of her fellow chroniclers who stopped writing at the wars end. And though Anderson was a small town in the northwestern hills of upstate South Carolina, a steady procession of historically noteworthy people and events are described in her journals and add importance to the contents. Emmala relied on the largesse of a resourceful and loving father to provide for her and her siblings and to give her the leisure to keep these most interesting journals.

Indeed, these journals possess a faint scent of magnolia: the indignation of rejection by a suitor, the triumph of love, and a wide assortment of potential romantic fictionalizations. Yet their true significance lies in the scope of information gained through her descriptions of people, events, food, and literature as Emmala gave life and depth to her words. Such works as this have always been valuable resources for the social historian, and the journals of Emmala Thompson Reed are no exception. They provide the reader with a wealth of information about everyday life in a small town and an opportunity to gain insight into the early postwar life of a Southern woman whose whole world had been circumscribed by a series of historical changes beyond her control.’

Here are several extracts from Emmala’s diary, as found in Oliver’s book, complete with spelling inconsistencies (although I have omitted the many footnotes and word underlinings).

29 March 1865
‘A dreamy day - misty - peach trees & gardens glowing with beautiful bloom - sunny &c, but Wm. Walters came in & disturbed my equanimity. Wanted me to go in the country with him to Mrs. Skelton’s. I felt it would be funny to go alone with him. Too dull &c not decided yet. Aunt Anna here - had letters & gone home. My many excuses rather provoked Mr. Walters I guess for he didn’t return to me. I couldn’t decide whether to go or not. I was much worried but releived when he had gone. Not vexed I hope, yet he was kind in calling for me & I may have no other opportunity of going there. But my want of decision is a great trial to me and a serious fault leads me into many unforeseen difficulties & I can’t have more, it seems, or discretion. Busy all evg.’

31 March 1865
‘Delightful day. Made a soldiers shirt in the morning, at noon was suprized by the coming of Fannie Smith to pay me a long promised visit. Dressed in deep elegant mourning, her tall, beautiful form, so queenlike. Such fine dark eyes & brownish golden hair & very fair and graceful ways and gentle voice. So smart, no wonder she has been so beloved by noble Harry, who is gone forever. She has lamented & loved him truly I think.

Says she can never love so again, but she is beginning to get over it, with her gay nature rather subdued but often excited to mirth and sarcasm often too, but she is much changed for the better from the wicked, scornful girl she has been. She will yet be blest and happy I hope. Is much petted by all the Millers. Comes now to see her friends, she is a warm friend of mine too. Hope it may remain so.

We sat charring &c all evg. Mrs. Carter and Miss Gibbes called on us. Nice ladies; the last told us her peculiar fancy for pet snakes, little green grass snakes which she twines in her hair, so strange! Fannie & I walked round to Hattie Brissey’s - nice girl, but cool to me. I think they had a children’s party there - a houseful.

At night Theodore came to see his lovely niece & I. They seemed quite congenial & fond of each other, but Eleanor carried on too much nonsense with him. [H]e talked to me very pleasantly, enjoyed my songs as usual.’

23 April 1865
‘A cold, clear day - but too windy for frost we hope. I didn’t feel well, half frozen all day as we could get no fires. Went late to S.S. Heard children & sung, but was thinking sadly of our momentous conditions now & of Robere - his fate. Mr. Murray gave us a very good sermon on “Search the Scriptures.”

Reading &c all evg - Lula Broyles came up here from Belton where she has been sick - a tall, fair, amiable, smart, lovely girl - I am much attracted to her. We were all so excited about the news - reported that Abe Lincoln was killed & Seward wounded by assassins in Washington & Andy Johnson to be inaugurated Pres, of U.S. and a general cessation of hostilities & terms of peace &c. How much is true & how it will all end, who can tell! But these are momentous - stirring times & we have reached a crisis. God deliver & help us!

But I heard that Robert was missing for several days before the surrender & might be killed or wounded &c. I felt so shocked - as I dwelt upon the idea of my only & faithful love meeting such a fate & never returning to me - whilst others will come back to their loved ones. I couldn’t endure the thought. Prayed & wept & hope all may yet be well with us, for I can’t believe all this. Read over his last dear letters - both unsatisfied, yet so much to explain - surely this is not all - ‘though it may be best! I have ever feared that some such fate would be his - yet still hope for the best!

Hear that Dr. Jimmie Brown & Bob __ were captured at Richmond. What will become of the last? Many other rumours. Negro choir singing here tonight. I had no heart to sing. Long for R. Eleanor seemed to be made happy by a letter & gift from Ben & hopes soon to see him - ‘though flirting now with Dick Tupper - a nice little red headed youth. Andrew Moreland back here - sent out my letters, but will they ever be rec’d. George & Milton Brown have come back - didn’t get on to the army nor letters to P & R I guess, but may I hear from them soon.’

29 April 1965
‘A variable pleasant day of smiles & tears - busy at home. Becky Webb & Eleanor ready with baskets of lunch to go to a picnic, but all parties backed out - boys & girls couldn’t agree. We ate lunch at home.

Mrs. Pinkind here - we sang duetts, then to our surpize a soldier friend entered - Cousin Tom Carter. One of the captured army of Va., yet wouldn’t surrender - escaped & hopeful still & brave. Had a hard time wandering about there. He looked right handsome - delicate form - wavy black hair, bright eyes & rosy face. Good & moral & so lively & blunt. Had a cold & could scarcely talk, but he & I sat chatting all day of the times &c. He said Tom & Jim Hamilton & one Charlie Jones of Abb. were all anxious to learn if I was single - wanted to visit me &c. In evg he walked down to Grandpa’s - where they will be glad to see him. He reminded me of Alfred today - his voice & ways. Fear he may go the same way - with consumption - hope not.

Guests comes from Pendleton on the cars too. Helen Smith & Fannie Adams - dined here & sat some time talking Fan is fine looking - smart & stiff - talks much. I sang for them some. She went to see the Wilkinsons - spoke of their brother Joe coming home soon - having my likeness. She would send him to see me &c.

Helen stayed with Eleanor - ‘though nobody was much pleased, only cares to collect beaux around her. Gus Van Wyck came along. Keys McCulley with them in aft. Called this morn & at night again. A good looking merry chap! Frazier Wilson & Nick Whaley - two Charleston gents, called on them too, so they are highly entertained tonight whilst I was deploring my false or constrained lover - so near - so far! He & C went to their brother Ed’s today - have so many kin to see. I can’t see much of him, wonder if he is not thinking of me &c and what will be the result! All here wondering why he comes not - they will tell him tales of me I guess.

In the soft - hazy - dewy moonlight - the fragrant flowers & myriad roses - dripping with pearly drops - I sat in the piazza - knitting & dreaming so sadly. For every step I thought was his and my heart would bound, but sink back more depressed - as I found he would not come! And always before when he came from trips he called on me the second day or night &c and now when most interested - he comes not & I get no message even and what does he think &c feel? Direct us for the best oh God! He is weary & worn - no clothes - has to stay home with all the collected family. He would cause too much excitement were he to seek me already. He fears all of us down here & some of my letters - or tales he hears may offend. Still he will surely came ere long - or I can’t stand it [. . .].’

Saturday, June 8, 2019

At war with every difficulty

‘I am, I believe, thirty-five years old this month, just nine years at the bar, near five years in Parliament, about four years King’s Counsel. To-morrow, being Friday, Trinity Term sits. I therefore resolve to enter upon my profession, as upon a five years’ campaign, at war with every difficulty, and determined to conquer them.’ This is John Scott, soon to be 1st Earl of Clonmell, a successful Irish politician born 280 years ago today. He was a man whose success seemed to be fed by ambition, arrogance and avarice. He kept a diary, a few extracts of which were published in a history of Ireland before its union with Great Britain.

Scott was born on 8 June 1739 in Scottsborough, County Tipperary. He studied at Kilkenny College where, it is said, he protected Hugh Carleton, later Lord Viscount Carleton, from bullies. Subsequently, Carleton’s father financed Scott’s education along with his own son’s, first at Trinity College, Dublin, and then at the Middle Temple. (Later, when his friend went bankrupt, Scott settled £300 a year on him.). He was called to the Irish bar in 1765, and his legal skills soon attracted the attention of the lord chancellor, Lord Lifford, who recommended him for office. In 1768, he married the widow Mrs Catherine Anna Maria Roe, and they had one son. He got wed again, in 1779, to Margaret Lawless, eventual heiress of Patrick Lawless, a Dublin banker, and they had one daughter.

In 1769, Scott became MP for Mullingar (until 1783). He rose rapidly in the Irish administration: in 1772 he was Counsel to the Board of Revenue, in 1774 he was appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland; and from 1774 to 1782 he was Attorney-General as well as a Privy Councillor. Not a great speaker, he was consider arrogant, and aggressive in argument. His character and his bronzed skin tone earned him the nicknamed ‘Copper-faced Jack’. Although dismissed as Attorney-General in 1782, he was soon back in favour being appointed Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. He was elected Member of Parliament for Portarlington in 1783. He was created 1st Baron Earlsfort of Lisson-Earl, then, in 1789, 1st Viscount Clonmell, and in 1793 1st Earl of Clonmell. By the 1790s, Scott was a very wealthy man, but he was also drinking and eating so heavily that he became grossly overweight.

Rosemary Richey, in History Ireland, provides this cautionary tale of Scott’s last years. ‘It is said that the root of his demise originated in 1789, when John Magee, proprietor of the Dublin Evening Post, was accused of libelling Scott’s friend Francis Higgins. In revenge, Scott attempted to ruin Magee by fining him £7,800. Unable to pay, Magee was sent to prison. In March 1790 the case was brought before parliament, which found in Magee’s favour, and an act was passed to prevent such large fines in the future. Scott became a figure of public ridicule, and Magee rented a field opposite his demesne and advertised each month that he was going to hold a pig hunt. Hundreds and thousands of people assembled and ruined Scott’s property. The distress of this ordeal appears to have broken his health.’ He died in May 1798.

Sir Jonah Barrington, most notable for his amusing and popular memoirs of life in late 18th-century Ireland, and who lived next door to Scott in Dublin, described him as follows: ‘Courageous, vulgar, humorous, artificial, he knew the world well, and he profited by that knowledge: he cultivated the powerful, he bullied the timid, he fought the brave, he flattered the vain, he duped the credulous, and he amused the convivial. Half-liked, half-reprobated, he was too high to be despised, and too low to be respected. His language was coarse, and his principles arbitrary; but his passions were his slaves, and his cunning was his instrument. He recollected favours received in his obscurity and had gratitude to requite the obligation; but his avarice and his ostentation contended for the ascendancy; the strife was perpetual; and their victories alternate.’ Further information is available online at Wikipedia, Myles Dungan’s blog, Ireland in History, and Library Ireland.

Scott left behind a diary, parts of which found their way into William John Fitzpatrick’s 1867 book Ireland Before the Union with revelations from the unpublished diary of Lord Clonmell (freely available online at Internet Archive). In his first chapter, Fitzpatrick gives some information about the diary:

‘We now approach a most important historic document, the private diary of Lord Clonmell. That this singular record should have been spared from the flames seems strange, when we know the fate of the bulk of his papers. Mr. Henry Grattan, in the Life of his father, describes, on the authority of Lord Clonmell’s nephew, Dean Scott, a curious scene in the old Chief’s bedchamber, on the first alarm of death’s warning knock at his door.

Lord Clonmell had, as the excerpts we are about to give from his Diary prove, a contempt for ecclesiastics, and especially for bishops, whom he tells us were all hypocrites; his first desire, therefore, on the approach of death, was not spiritual aid, but the destruction of all inconvenient papers. These, no doubt, included the correspondence which marked the successive gradations of his uprise, and which, if published, would have compromised many persons, himself, no doubt, not excepted. How the diary should have been spared is not the least curious feature of the transaction. It is no credit to his memory, on the whole; but in the following passages we have selected those most indicative of his shrewdness, and of those good resolutions with which, as Guevara tells us, a certain region is paved. [. . .]

Lord Clonmell survived but a few weeks after the last entry in his Diary. He died as he lived - unreformed. It was lucky that he did not live to witness the Rebellion, as his death occurred on the eve of its outburst - namely, May the 23rd, 1798.’

And here are several extracts from Scott’s diary as found in Fitzpatrick’s book.

2 June 1774
‘I am, I believe, thirty-five years old this month, just nine years at the bar, near five years in Parliament, about four years King’s Counsel. To-morrow, being Friday, Trinity Term sits. I therefore resolve to enter upon my profession, as upon a five years’ campaign, at war with every difficulty, and determined to conquer them. I have given up wine. I will strive to contract my sleep to four, or, at most, six hours in twenty-four; give up every pursuit but Parliamentary and legal ones. If I continue a bachelor until I am forty years old, and can realize two thousand pounds per annum, I will give up business as a lawyer, or confine it merely to the duty of any office which I may fill. I will exert my industry to the utmost in law and constitutional learning for these five years, so far as temperance, diligence, perseverance, and watchfulness can operate, and then hey for a holyday.’

23 June 1784
‘Five years married this day - forty-five years old. Five years reading, at twelve hours a day, would establish my reputation on the Bench, and make the rest of my life easy. Cromwell would have done it, and did a thousand times more.’

25 October 1789
‘The king; accession to the thirtieth year of his reign.

If I live for ten years, and continue in the King’s Bench, I may become very considerable in property and public esteem by an uniform rigid discipline and prudent exertion. I must become a man of superlative diligence, of abstemious temperance, a more dignified and guarded actor, of avaricious economy in my time, of perpetual application to the law, to the business of the King’s Bench, and to Parliament.’

14 September 1790
‘I have had a picture painted by Stewart, and lost a fourth front tooth - it is time I should learn to keep my mouth shut, and learn gravity and discretion of speech, which I hitherto never yet practised; temperance, and eyes ever watchful, would be of use.’

4 November 1790
‘King William’s birth-day. Saturday is the first sitting of term. This day Lord Fitzgibbon exhibited the most superb carriage that ever appeared in Ireland; he seems to have got the summit of his vanity, chancellor, minister, and mummer.’

16 July 1793
‘Died Lord Mountgarrett, as wicked a malignant selfish monster, as I ever knew; a victim to his brutal appetites and thirst for blood; a lesson to vice and a caution to be civil to all, obliging to many, to serve few, and offend none, as the safest, wisest, pleasantest mode of going through life.’

Extracts of Scott’s diary have also been published in Diaries of Ireland edited by Melosina Lenox-Conyngham (Lilliput Press, 1998)

At work on Ophelia

‘Finished flowers after breakfast, after which went out to bottom of garden and commenced brick wall. Received letter from James Michael - complimentary, as containing a prediction that I shall be the greatest painter England ever produced. Felt languid all day. Finished work about five and went out to see Charley. Walked on afterwards to meet Hunt, and waited for him.’ This is from a one-off and very short diary kept by the great pre-Raphaelite painter, John Everett Millais, while working on Ophelia, one of the most important art works of the mid-nineteenth century. Today marks the 190th anniversary of his birth.

Millais was born 
in Southampton on 8 June 1829 into a prominent family based on Jersey in the Channel Islands. Though most of his early childhood was spent on Jersey, he also lived in Dinan, northern France, for a while. An artistic talent, nurtured by his mother, led to him being sent to Sass’s Art School, in London, and then, still only aged 11, to the Royal Academy Schools (their youngest ever student). While there, he met William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti with whom he formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the first avant-garde group in the history of British art. His first Pre-Raphaelite painting, Isabella, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849.

In 1850, Millais exhibited Christ in the House of his Parents, but this was met with strong criticism, not least from Charles Dickens who warned his readers that the painting depicted ‘the lowest depths of what is mean, odious, repulsive, and revolting’. However, by 1952, Millais’ reputation had been restored with paintings such as Ophelia. Subsequently, in 1853, he was elected as an associate of the Royal Academy. That same year Millais fell in love with Euphemia (Effie) Gray, the wife of his friend and supporter, art critic John Ruskin. When Ruskin’s marriage was annulled, Millais married Gray, in 1855. The newly-weds set up home in Perth, Scotland, and stayed six years before returning to London in 1861. They had eight children in all.

In the 1860s, Millais abandoned his earlier meticulous techniques, instead developing a more fluent style, often painting directly onto the canvas with impressionistic freedom. His subjects became more traditional, with many a society portrait, and, from the 1870s, he showed an increasing interest in the old masters such as Joshua Reynolds and Diego Velazquez. This change was condemned by many, including Ruskin and William Morris, who accused him of selling out, to achieve popularity and wealth. Millais was also successful as a book illustrator, notably for the works of Anthony Trollope and the poems of Tennyson. In 1885, Queen Victoria created him a baronet, making him the first artist to be honoured with a hereditary title. In 1896 he was elected president of the Royal Academy; however, he died six months later. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Royal Academy, National Museums Liverpool, The Victorian Web or Spartacus Educational.

Millais was not a diarist. However, for a short period in late 1851, 
he did keep a diary while staying in a cottage near Kingston. This was in order that he might paint a scene on the river Ewell (now the Hogsmill which goes on to flow into the Thames) for his painting, Ophelia. His friend Hunt stayed with him, while his brother William and another friend, Charlie Collins, stayed nearby. Millais’ son John Guille Millais included extracts from this diary in his 1899 publication The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais published in two volumes by Methuen (freely available online at Internet Archive).

According to John Guille Millais, it was ‘a jolly bachelor party’ that assembled near the Ewell, all determined to work in earnest. From ten in the morning till dark the artists saw little of each other, but in the evenings gathered to talk deeply on ‘art, drink strong tea, and discuss and criticise each other’s pictures’. ‘Fortunately,’ he goes on to write, ‘a record of these interesting days is preserved to us in Millais’ letters to Mr. and Mrs. Combe, and his diary - the only one he ever kept - which was written at this time, and retained by my uncle William, who has kindly placed it at my disposal.’

The published diary extracts, which start in mid-October and continue through until 5 December (the day before he returned to London), take up no more than 20 pages of the two volume life-and-letters biography. Here are several of those extracts, including the first.

16 October 1851
‘I am advised by Coventry Patmore (a poet friend) to keep a diary. Commence one forthwith. Today, worked on my picture [‘The Huguenot’]; painted nasturtiums; saw a stoat run into a hole in the garden wall; went up to it and endeavoured to lure the little beast out by mimicking a rat’s or mouse’s squeak - not particular which. Succeeded, to my astonishment. He came half out of the hole and looked in my face, within easy reach.

Lavinia (little daughter of landlady) I allowed to sit behind me on the box border and watch me paint, on promise of keeping excessively quiet; she complained that her seat struck very cold. In the adjoining orchard, boy and family knocking down apples; youngest sister but one screaming. Mother remarked, “I wish you were in Heaven, my child; you are always crying”; and a little voice behind me chimed in, “Heaven! where God lives?” and (turning to me) “You can’t see God.” Eldest sister, Fanny, came and looked on too. Told me her mother says, about a quarter to six, “There’s Long-limbs (J. E. M.) whistling for his dinner; be quick and get it ready.” Played with children en masse in the parlour before their bedtime. Hunt just come in. . . . Sat up till past twelve and discovered first-rate story for my present picture.’

20 October 1851
‘Finished flowers after breakfast, after which went out to bottom of garden and commenced brick wall. Received letter from James Michael - complimentary, as containing a prediction that I shall be the greatest painter England ever produced. Felt languid all day. Finished work about five and went out to see Charley. Walked on afterwards to meet Hunt, and waited for him. In opening the gate entering the farm, met the two girls. Spoke further with one on the matter of sitting.’

23 October 1851
‘Our landlady’s marriage anniversary. Was asked by her some days back for the loan of our apartments to celebrate the event. “If we were not too high they would be glad to see us.” ’

Painted on the wall; the day very dull. A few trees shedding leaves behind me, spiders determinedly spinning webs between my nose and chin. . . . Joined the farmers and their wives. Two of them spoke about cattle and the new reaping-machine, complaining, between times, about the state of affairs. Supped with them; derived some knowledge of carving a chicken from watching one do so. Went to bed rather late, and read In Memoriam, which produced a refining melancholy. Landlady pleased with painting on cupboard.’

24 October 1851
‘Another day, exactly similar to the previous. Felt disinclined to work. Walked with Hunt to his place, returned home about eleven, and commenced work myself, but did very little. Read Tennyson and Patmore. The spot very damp. Walked to see Charlie about four, and part of the way to meet Hunt, feeling very depressed. After dinner had a good nap, after which read Coleridge - some horrible sonnets. In his Life they speak ironically of ‘Christabel,’ and highly of rubbish, calling it Pantomime.

25 October 1851
‘Much like the preceding day. All went to Town after dinner; called at Rossetti’s and saw Madox Brown’s picture‘ Pretty Baa-lambs,’ which is very beautiful. Rossetti low-spirited; sat with him.’

26 October 1851
‘Walked out with Hunt. Called upon Woolner and upon Mrs. Collins to get her to come and dine with us; unwell, so unsuccessful. Felt very cross and disputable. Charlie called in the evening; took tea, and then all three off to the country seat.’

27 October 1851
‘Dry day. Rose later than the others, and had breakfast by myself. Painted on the wall, but not so well; felt uncomfortable all day. . .’

28 October 1851
‘My man, Young, brought me a rat after breakfast. Began painting it swimming, when the governor made his appearance, bringing money, and sat with me whilst at work. After four hours rat looked exactly like a drowned kitten. Felt discontented. Walked with parent out to see Collins painting on the hill, and on, afterwards, to Young’s house. He had just shot another rat and brought it up to the house. Again painted upon the head, and much improved. . . My father and myself walked on to see Hunt, whose picture looks sweet beyond mention.’

4 November 1851
‘Frightfully cold morning; snowing. Determined to build up some kind of protection against the weather wherein to paint. After breakfast superintended in person the construction of my hut - made of four hurdles, like a sentry-box, covered outside with straw. Felt a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ inside it, and delightfully sheltered from the wind, though rather inconvenienced at first by the straw, dust, and husks flying about my picture. Landlady came down to see me, and brought some hot wine. Hunt painting obstinate sheep within call. . . This evening walked out in the orchard (beautiful moonlight night, but fearfully cold) with a lantern for Hunt to see effect before finishing background, which he intends doing by moonlight.’

17 November 1851
‘Small stray cat found by one of the men, starved and almost frozen to death. Saw Mrs. Barnes nursing it and a consumptive chicken; feeding the cat with milk. Painted at the ivy. Evening same as usual.’

19 November 1851
‘Fearfully cold. Landscape trees upon my window-panes. After breakfast chopped wood, and after that painted ivy. . . See symptoms of a speedy finish to my background. After lunch pelted down some remaining apples in the orchard. Read Tennyson and the Thirty-nine Articles. Discoursed on religion.’

22 November 1851
‘All four began work early. William left at five, promising to come again on Monday. . . After dinner Hunt and Collins left for London, the former about some inquiries respecting an appointment to draw for Layard, the Nineveh discoverer. After they were gone, I wrote a very long letter to Mrs. Combe.’

24 November 1851
‘Painted on brick wall. Mr. Taylor and his son (an old acquaintance of mine at Ewell), in the army, and six feet, came to see me. Both he and his father got double barrels; pheasant in son’s pocket. They saw my pictures, expressed pleasure, and in leaving presented me with cock bird. Lemprières came. The parents and Miss thought my pictures beautiful. I walked with them to the gate at the bottom of the park, and there met Emma and Mrs. B_ out of breath. They had driven after the captain, also to see my landscape. Offered to show them again, but the father would not permit the trouble. Parted, promising to spend Christmas with them. Tried to resume painting. All then took usual walk. Hunt, during day, had a letter containing offer for his picture of ‘Proteus.’ He wrote accepting it. . .’

30 November 1851
‘All rose early to get in time for train at Ewell, to spend the day at Waddon. Were too late, so walked into Epsom, expecting there to meet a train. Found nothing before past one. Walked towards the downs, and to church at eleven, where heard very good sermon. Collins so pious in actions that he was watched by kind-looking man opposite. Very wealthy congregation. . . Walked afterwards to Mrs. Hodgkinson’s, but found she was too unwell to sit with us, so dined with her husband; capital dinner. Sat with Mrs. H_ in her bedroom, leaving them smoking downstairs, and took leave about half-past nine, Mr. Hodgkinson walking with us to station.’

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Operation Neptune

Today marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the name given to Operation Neptune, on 6 June 1944, for the Allied invasion of Normandy, the largest seaborne invasion in history. The invasion led to the restoration of the French Republic, and significanlty contributed to an Allied victory; indeed D-Day is considered to have been a turning point in the Second World War. The following is a random selection of diary entries written on, or close to, 6 June 1944, each one with its internet source (except for the last - ‘waiting for Winston’ in the House - which I have transcribed from Harold Nicolson’s published diaries).

Winifred Basham [Ipswich]
6 June 1944
‘Once more the balloon has gone up, only this time it’s our balloon. D-day, H-hour and all the rest of it has come at last and our troops have landed in France again after four weary years. They seem to be mainly in Normandy and are fighting in Caen. Mr Churchill says all is going well. We have done nothing but switch the wirelesses on and off all day as the news has filtered in. It all seems a bit of an anti-climax Climax in a way for we expected them to bomb us to glory as soon as we started, but so far not a plane has crossed the coast. All the same I am not looking forward to tonight which is Percy’s night on.’

WW2 People’s War


Arthur Ward [A Battery 11th (HAC) Regt. R.H.A.]
6 June 1944
‘We heard on the wireless that the Invasion of Europe had started on the Normandy beaches and it would be called D Day, the same day we heard that Rome had fallen to the Allied 5th army. We had a lecture by the C.O. that we were to have more extensive training, then join the 5th Corps in the 8th army. 5th Corps includes 1st Armd. Division, 1st British Infantry Division and 4th Indian Division.

We saw a film at Gravina, “Keeper of the Flame” with Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, it was very good. Later we heard that on the OP shoot a shell had accidentally fallen near the OP and the C.O. Lt. Col. Goodbody was wounded and his driver killed.’

WW2 People’s War


Andrew John Broodbank [Radar Operator (Navigator) with 488 (NZ) Squadron, RAF]
6 June 1944
DH Mosquito XIII HK534 (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
The first “D day” patrol covering airborne landings in Normandy. Patrolling in R/T silence, listening out on Hope Cove (Type 16). Completely uneventful - total observations: 4-6 yellow flares; the same boat twice; & slight A/A activity near Guernsey. 5 patrols completed before returning home.

Crossing contacts with hard evasive by target.

Broody’s War blog


Chick Bruns (7th Army, 3rd Division, 10th Combat Engineers)
June 6, 1944
‘We left for Rome and the Company early this morning. While in convoy a British fellow told us that France was invaded this morning. Everyone went wild. We tried cutting in on the convoy and a tank hit us. Little damage was done. When we got to Rome we didn’t care whether we saw the company or not. We went all over the city and stopped at every tavern or bar. We finally ran into one of the officers so we went out to camp. I took off after dinner and went to town. Cushman and I was all over the city. Went to see St. Peters, but it was closed. Bought quite a few presents and started home about 10 pm. We got lost in the park and wandered all night. We went to a nice hotel but it was full so we just flopped down in a chair and went to steep. We got out to the company about 7 am.’

70 Years Ago


Alwyne Garling [Colchester]
6 June 1944
‘THE INVASION HAS STARTED. THIS IS D-DAY. Allied troops have landed on North Coast of France between Havre and Cherbourg. Big airborne forces have been launched. Churchill says operations are going in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Our losses have been much lighter than expected. Fighting is going on in Caen 10 miles inland. We were woke up in night about 2.30 by endless planes going over. We could see them with their lights on and they kept on all night. Thought something special was on. It’s been dull and cold and windy all day, and now it’s raining hard. Does not seem very good weather for them. Listened to King broadcast. R.A.F. dropped over 5,000 tons on the coastal batteries during night.’

Heather Johnson’s blog


William Henry Smith [Private in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders]
7 June 1944
 ‘As we approached the beaches yesterday, all I could think of was one specific line in the speech General Eisenhower wrote us before we left England, “The free men of the world are marching to victory!” I felt reassured as we left in the L.C.I.’s (Landing Craft Infantry) even though I could not hear myself think because everything was exploding around me. I knew that I would fight with all my heart for my country. I would fight with pride. But now, words are jumping out at me. I still can’t describe the horror I saw yesterday as I got out of the L.C.I. and got in the water, some guys were really scared, I could see it in their eyes. Hell, we were all scared. The water was freezing. As I approached the beach, I saw my own friends a few feet away from me, have their arms shot off or even worse die instantly in front of me. Everything has a different meaning once you live through it. Right now a third of my company, a third of us are hiding out in a pit until darkness sets in so we can start looking for the others. I don’t even know where the hell we are!’

Michael WW2 blog


Eugen Herzog [Luftwaffe)
6 June 1944
‘When it became cooler in the evening, I went out and took a wonderful walk around the town. At home now, it must be pretty during this time of the blooming lilacs.’

WWII Diary of a German Soldier by Helga Herzog Godfrey


Edward Francis Wightman [Royal Navy Seaman/Gunner on board HMS Ramillies]
7 June 1944
Had neither the energy nor the time to write yesterday so I’ll try and give a record of the events in chronological order.

We were at our bombardment position about 5am after passing through the minefields in the Channel, swept and Dan-buoyed by the sweepers. As we approached the French coast numerous air raids were seen and we watched pretty fireworks displays for quite a while. About 5.10am, just five minutes before schedule, we opened fire with 15” on a 6” battery on a high ridge. This battery had six guns and they were in armoured casemates, so it was no walkover. After about one to two hours firing, enemy shells landed uncomfortably close without doing damage. This went on intermittently all day. About 6.30am two enemy destroyers attacked with torpedoes. Five were fired and three came perilously close. No more than 50 yards away the nearest. A pack of E-boats was observed and the 4” and 6” armament were blazing away and were very effective, causing the enemy to retire. They attacked again later on and were again driven off. By this time we had ranged the enemy battery and put four of the six guns out of action The remaining two were quite a nuisance and some of their shells landed no more than 20 yards away.

In the meantime one of the tinfish fired at us, and hit the destroyer Svenna, a Norwegian escort of ours. She sank almost immediately and I don't think any survivors were picked up. Bodies and wreckage, rafts, timber etc floated past and we observed the bow and stern of the wreck showing above water. Must be pretty shallow here. Apparently she broke her back. Poor chaps - leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

Aircraft were now thumping the hell out of German positions ashore and at 6.30am the first wave of troops landed. Later in the day we heard they had succeeded at all points and our Royal Marine Commando battalion had taken a coastal defence battery intact! The day wore on with numerous alarms for aircraft but we saw none. One dropped a stick of bombs between a destroyer and cruiser. JU88 I believe. We carried out several bombardments in the afternoon and evening and eventually completed the obliteration of the last 6" gun of the battery. We then had orders to proceed to Portsmouth to re-ammunition. Fired 220 15” shells and goodness knows how many 6” and 4”. Not one AA gun opened fire! What a difference to 1940.

Just as we were preparing to leave, hundreds and hundreds of gliders came in, in great masses. Each one had a towing plane and they came over for an hour, solid. We estimated over a thousand, so they probably landed at least one complete division. What a sight! Just like a Wellsian dream of the future. I forgot to mention before, that as we went into battle, the captain donned the Maori skirt so how could we come to any harm? Battle ensign was flying from the gaff. Lots of fireworks displays as we left. RAF again giving Germans a bad night.

Time 6.30am: arrived Portsmouth and re-ammunitioned all day. Were we worn out! Sailed again 8.30pm and we still had our deck full of cordite to be stowed. Wonder where we are bound now.

Time 11pm: Too dark now. Write again tomorrow.’

WW2 People’s War


J. J. McAndrews [Petty Officer 3rd Class]
6 June 1944
‘We heard the French invasion started. We missed the first wave, but are on our way to be in on the 3rd wave.’

Coast Guard Great Lakes blog


May Hill [Lincolnshire Seaside Village]
6 June 1944
‘So, at last the long-talked of Second Front has begun. I have not even given it a new page and that seems a fitting symbol of how it appears to me. What excitement there may be in towns or elsewhere, in the country does not seem to have touched us here. It is just an ordinary day, after nearly 5 years of war it takes a lot to make us demonstrative. I went on with my ordinary work and made my first toy for sale, a white duck with green wings and yellow beak and feet. It is for Mrs Russell to give to a baby friend. I must make the rabbit for Emmie next and try to send an extra one too. Ciss cleaned her pantry and Rene washed. Jean went to school, indeed she had gone before the announcement.

4000 ships and a great many smaller craft crossed the channel. Great air-liners took air-borne troops behind the German lines. Montgomery is speaking now, a message to the troops of which he is the head. Now a service. Almost 10 o’ clock. The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken and now they are singing “Oh God, our help in ages past.” At nine o’clock the King broadcast a call to prayer, not just one day but all the days of crisis. In the news afterwards we heard that all was still going well in France. I fear the “little people” like us would not just go on with this ordinary work. However pleased they may be at the thought of deliverance, at present it means danger and hardship and war. Many will have to leave their homes and many I fear will lose their lives. The service is over, a beautiful service, ending with the hymn, “Soldiers of Christ Arise.”

We are in bed. A motor cycle has just gone by and a swiftly moving plane. Percy was with Home Guards last night. I am pleased he is at home next door tonight. God be with us all those whose sons or husbands or other dear ones have already fallen in this new front. Be with the wounded and comfort the dying and those who are afraid. We had 12 letters from Ron to-day - a record. I had 6, the others 3 each. In the most recent one, only a week since he wrote it, an air mail letter, he says his hopes of return are practically nil. I am almost pleased much as I long to see him but somehow he seems safer there at present. I must try to sleep now. The longed for D-Day has arrived. Deliverance Day, Jean says it means.’

Brian Hill’s website


Joe Haworth [Sergeant in the Royal Engineers[
6 June 1944,
‘D-Day, it being 07.25 hours this morning. Rose and went for a walk on deck. Feeling pretty rough. Ship rolling pretty bad. Couldn’t face any food. Arrived at our location ‘somewhere in France’ 13.30hours. Began to load on to Rhinos. Assault troops broke through beach head and advancing rapidly. No Sleep.’

Daily Mail


Sidney J. Montz [lieutenant in Co. D, 8th Regiment, of the 4th Infantry Division, US Army]
6 June 1944
‘2400 - Eating a good meal, may be the last boat team. Sea very rough. Started loading one, went down to compartment with my men about 0230, went over side, down net + it was really tough. Took off to rendezvous area, had a tough time finding it, made it o.k. Started circling, finally the other boats came in. Planes lit up the beaches, AA fire starting, flares dropping, beautiful sight but it scares the hell out of you. All hell broke loose from the beach, some boats hit by 88. We are near beach + 88 opened up on the boat on our right + almost hit us. Some boats hit land mines, lucky we landed because much more we would have sunk - water still rough. Jumped out in waist deep water, about 500 or 600 yds from seawall, the longest I have ever seen in my life. M.G., mortar, + artillery fire around us.

Finally in shallow water + able to run, had to miss all types of obstacles in + out the water. Picked up six rounds of 81mm ammo on the way, it seemed as though we would never reach the seawall. Men being blown up and hit all around me, you could hear them scream, it was horrible. Finally hit seawall, stopped to get a blow and bearing, Gen. Roosevelt walking around telling everyone to clear the beach or they would get killed. Rockets hit the third section [. . .] Time to move or they will kill us all. Gen. Roosevelt gave me lots of courage. Under small arms + artillery fire. Navy left us 1000 yds. too far left, the left outfit caught hell. Moved in very fast, every house + tree loaded with men, they fire at you from all directions, very hard to see them as they use smokeless powder. Will get on to them soon then they will catch hell.’

National WWII Museum, New Orleans


Walter E. Marchand [Surgeon with the 4th Infantry Division, US Army]
6 June 1944
‘D day is here! - D day has begun, how will it end? We are now close to the German held coast of France - all is unbelievably quiet, but it isn’t for long. At about 1 A.M. I hear a low sounding drone - I go on deck and here I see plane upon plane flying over our ship toward the hostile shore, towing gliders - these are the Paratroopers and Airborne Infantry - I wish them God’s speed and wish them well, for as I am watching the first planes are over the Atlantic Wall I see tremendous flares go up and great quantity of anti-aircraft fire and flak. God what great numbers of planes there are, and all ours. To our right - toward the Barfleur Peninsula area our Bombers are wreaking havoc on some coastal installations, we can hear the detonations clearly. In the midst of this, the little Cavalry C.T. is preparing to debark and to take St. Marcouf island - this is at H minus 4 hours. At this time also, the C47s are returning from France - flying home after letting go of their gliders or human cargo.

Had very early breakfast - then lay on my bunk for a while - I couldn’t sleep and I can’t sleep - I keep thinking of my wife and my family - I love you my Corinne.

At 0400 the first wave of our Assault Battalion is called to stand-by to load into the boats - there is a great hum of activity throughout the ship. The Captain speaks - our LCM3’s haven’t come yet, but there is still plenty of time. We wait for 20, 40, 55 minutes. Then they come out of the dawn alongside - still enough time to make the H hour landing, for H hour has been upped because of the heavy seas. The LCM3’s are having great difficulty tieing up to the boat - they toss around like corks - but the landing nets are overside and the troops make their way down - but with great difficulty. Often large hausers, 2 inch thick, would snap like a thread and often the man climbing down would be thrown into the small boats. It was especially difficult to get the vehicles overboard into the small boats. “Man overboard” was heard once - a British sailor was knocked overboard but rescued.

First wave - Away, then the second, then the third, then it was my turn to get into my boat with 5 of my men and part of the Battalion Command section - it took long, the boat crashed against the ship time and time again, bending the ramp, and tearing loose, snapping the hausers. Finally we are all in our boat with our equipment, and the men are getting seasick, and they huddle together toward the rear of the boat. I stay near the front of the boat, getting sprayed continuously and I look about me and see hundreds upon hundreds of boats, from the little LCVP’s, LCM’s, LCT’s and LCI’s, to the huge battleships and cruisers, and smoke is billowing from their deck guns, for this is H-40 min. and the Naval barrage starts then, the fire directed against enemy shore installations. Our wave has now formed and we are heading toward shore 7 miles away through rough waters, while on the way in our Dive bombers get to work, pouring tons of bombs against the enemy fortresses.

We are getting close to shore and the boats of our wave go from a line in file to a line abreast formation and speed for shore. I can now hear cannon fire clearly as well as machine gun fire. We all pray that our boat will not strike a mine or an underwater obstacle or get hit by a shell from a coastal battery. All sounds become closer, when about 50 yds. From shore I see 2 splashes on our port bow - enemy fire. The boats streak for shore and hit the beach and we almost make a dry landing - we only have to wade knee deep thru about 20 yds. of water. As we hit, the ramp goes down and we debark - wade in the water, then on hitting dry land start to run. I see dead Americans floating in the water - a ghastly sight. I get my men together and we run up across the beach to a concrete wall, faced with barbed wire and bearing signs.

There are many wounded lying about and we start to care for them, and carry some to the Naval Beach Party Aid Station which just landed after us. I try to orient myself, but we landed at a different place than was originally planned. Enemy fire is increasing, landing just to our left, from our right there is machinegun fire. I have only 1 choice I lead the men thru a break in the barbed wire into the Mine Field and we go in about 50 yds. - enemy fire increases, we dig in hurriedly to rest - we are all exhausted from the fear which we all know as shells come whistling overhead and landing close by. But we must get out of the Mine Field! - I find a path to the right and we start along it, seeing mines all around us - and then the path disappears and we turn back to our former spot - from there we find a small path to the left and we follow it - we see wounded about us and we care for them, carrying some along with us on litters, and the small path leads us to a road and we follow it to the first right turn and we follow it.

Troops and vehicles are now storming ashore in great quantities - some vehicles are hit and burst into flames. We pass burning houses and many dead German and American soldiers. It is now noon - God the 5 hours passed like lightning. At 1300 we come to the “Old French Fort”, now we are close to where originally we were supposed to land. I scout ahead and find my Battalion just 300 yds. up the road, so I and Capt. Scott set up our Aid Station off the side of the road in a large hole and crater made by a 14 inch Naval shell - 12 feet by 5 feet and about 6 feet deep. By this time one of our Jeep ambulances has reached us and we are ready to function as an Aid station. We send out litter bearer groups into the mine fields to pick up casualties. This is ticklish work, but the boys are excellent soldiers and go bravely although they have no paths to follow.

Our ambulance Jeep works up forward and brings back casualties - some are Paratroopers that are pretty well beaten up, having been wounded shortly after landing. We work from this spot for 2 hours and then we move forward to the Command Post which is along the side of a road near Fortress 74 which is still holding out. Shortly after arriving here, machine gun fire becomes active and we have to duck low - pinned down here for 5 hours, could watch the attack on the fortress and the surrender of the Germans. Our boys are doing a splendid job and very few casualties so far. As the sun is setting we note hundreds of C47’s again - more Airborne Infantry landing - They swoop inland and let go of their gliders, to come swooping back. Liason Sgt., from Co. C shot in the leg while lying on the road beside Capt. Scott.

Toward dark a few serious casualties encountered - difficulty of evacuating great - Plasma given right in open. Difficulty in finding path thru mine field to farm house where we will stay for the night - had to cross tank traps filled with water and lined with mines - ticklish business in the dark.

Finally we got all of Aid station together - we were all exhausted - and were so tired that we just fell down and fell asleep - with artillery, mainly enemy, going overhead, most of it, fortunately for us being directed toward the beach.

This is the end of D day - it was hectic from the start - but we had few casualties, and those mainly from mines, which were numerous. Heavy machinegun fire heard all night.’

To War with the 4th


Anne Frank [Amsterdam]
6 June 1944
‘The invasion has begun! According to the German news, British parachute troops have landed on the French coast. British landing craft are in battle with the German Navy, says the BBC. Great commotion in the Secret Annexe! Would the long-awaited liberation that has been talked of so much but which still seems too wonderful, too much like a fairy-tale, ever come true? Could we be granted victory this year, 1944? We don't know yet, but hope is revived within us; it gives us fresh courage, and makes us strong again.’

Spartacus Educational

Harold Nicolson [London, Sissinghurst]
6 June 1944
‘I can now say (having passed through the censorship ban) that at Hatston aerodrome yesterday, about an hour before I left, a tremor passed through ward-room. ‘Panic stations order’, was the word passed around. A sense of imminence affected the whole place.

I typed this diary in my sleeper and then went to bed. I did not sleep well as I was cold. The train arrived at 7.35 and I drove straight to [King’s Bench Walk, his chambers in the Temple], missing the 8am news owing to a sudden short-circuit of the light. This was at once put right. I then turned on the 9am news in the General Forces Programme, and heard to my excitement the following announcement: ‘The German Overseas News has just put out the following flash: “Early this morning, the expected Anglo-American invasion began when airborne forces were landed in the Seine estuary.” ’ I then wait till a later flash which says, ‘The combined landing operations comprised the whole area between Havre and Cherbourg, the main centre of attack being the Caen area.’ [. . .]

I go down to the House, arriving there about ten to twelve. When I enter the Chamber, I find a buzz of conversation going on. Questions has ended unexpectedly early and people were just sitting there chatting, waiting for Winston. It was an unusual scene. He entered the Chamber at three minutes to twelve. He looked as white as a sheet. The House notice this at once, and we feared that he was about to announce some terrible disaster. He is called immediately, and places two separate fids of typescript on the table. He begins with the first, [. . .] He then picks up the other fid of notes and begins, ‘I have also to announce to the House that during the night and early hours of this morning, the first of a series of landings in force upon the Continent of Europe has taken place . . .’ The House listens in hushed awe. He speaks for only seven minutes. [. . .]

I lunch at the Beefsteak and then go down to Sissinghurst. There is a an elaborate B.B.C. news programme and Howard Marshall gives a good account of the landings on the coast. The general  impression is the ferrying across the Channel was marvellously successful; that the beach obstacles were not as severe as foreseen and that the Germans were not as numerous; that we have played the first trick better than could have been hoped. But people know very well that the hard test is still to come and that no jubilation of any kind can be permitted for several days.

During the night aeroplanes roar over the house carrying lights. They never stop. Neither Viti nor Mrs Staples nor Jo sleep a wink.’

Transcribed from Diaries and Letters 1939-45 by Harold Nicolson, edited by Nigel Nicolson (Collins, 1967)

This collection of diary entries was first published in The Diary Review on 6 June 2014.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Diary briefs

Diary of a ‘Monuments Man’ - National Archives (press release, blog)

Kafka papers to be released - The Guardian, The Telegraph

A. K. Ramanujan’s diaries -, The Weekend Leader

Diary of Livingstone’s attendant digitised - Livingstone Online, Smithsonian, The Guardian

Maid planned murder of employer - The Independent Singapore, Today Online

Diary of Dutch founding father - Museum Flehite, The Guardian

The diaries of Esther Lilly Hundley - Gales Creek Journal

Piccolo player’s tour of China - The Inquirer

Israeli defence chief’s diary released - The Jerusalem Post

Monday, May 20, 2019

Wondering how I should live

‘I went on reading novels, poetry and biography as voraciously as ever but I also devoured the floods of pamphlets and booklets the feminist presses turned out, devoting many pages of my diary to reflecting on all these new ideas, to wondering how I should live. Sometimes rather pompously and priggishly, I am afraid.’ This is from a memoir by the British feminist writer Michèle Roberts, 70 years old today. Happy Birthday. In the memoir - Paper Houses - Roberts occasionally writes about her diaries, and how she used them (as in this extract); but she also quotes from them now and then.

Roberts was born on 20 May 1949, minutes after her twin sister Marguerite, to a French mother and an English father. She grew up in a suburb of northwest London, attending convent schools and spending summer holidays in Normandy with grandparents. She read English at Somerville, Oxford, and then studied to become a librarian. She spent a year working for the British Council in Southeast Asia. Back in London, she became very involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement, and was poetry editor for Spare Rib, and then for City Limits. Her first novel, A Piece of the Night, was published in 1978. Further novels followed every year or two, but she continued to do various part-time jobs to earn money. Only after 1992, when her novel Daughters of the House was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, was she able to focus exclusively on writing.

Roberts has married twice, and has two step-sons. She has lived in Italy and North America, but bought her first house in France. She now alternates between France (Mayenne) and London, and spends time at the University of East Anglia where she is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing. Apart from novels, she has also published collections of short stories and poetry. She is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, awarded by the French government, but has turned down an OBE because of her republican views. Further biographical information is available at Roberts’ own website, Wikipedia, the British Council, or Aesthetica.

In 2007, Virago published Roberts’ Paper Houses: A memoir of the ’70s and beyond. The publisher states: ‘Michèle Roberts, one of Britain’s most talented and highly acclaimed novelists, now considers her own life, in this vibrant, powerful portrait of a time and place: alternative London of the 1970s and beyond. A fledgling writer taking a leap into radical politics, Roberts finds alternative homes, new families and lifelong friendships in the streets and houses of Holloway, Peckham, Regent’s Park and Notting Hill Gate. From Spare Rib to publishing her first book, Paper Houses is Roberts’ story of finding a space in which to live, love and write – and learning to share it.’ A few pages can be sampled at Amazon or Googlelooks, and a review can be found at The Guardian.

Here is Roberts concluding her introduction to the memoir: ‘This memoir draws on the diaries I kept, on those written records scrawled in notebooks specially bought for the purpose, each notebook different and distinctive. When I spread them out on the floor of the room where I write they look like the multicoloured pavement of a piazza. This memoir is like fiction, in as much as I have shaped and edited it, but it is as truthful as I can make it, honouring both facts and the way I saw them at the time. On the other hand I know that memory, under pressure from the unconscious mind, is unreliable; and I have forgotten a lot. Out of consideration for others’ privacy, I’ve been obliged to censor some episodes. I have left out some characters, some lovers and love affairs, and I have changed some names. I don’t want to bore you, and I don’t want to hurt people, either. I have tried to be honest.’

And here are several extracts from the book in which she mentions or quotes from her diaries (the first is from the very start of chapter one).

‘I prepared for my new life, post university, in London, by buying a new notebook, a midi-skirt (after years of minis it felt daring to conceal one’s legs) and a fake-snakeskin nightdress, and by borrowing from the library a clutch of books chosen “for the first time in ages purely for pleasure” as I noted in my diary, novels by Mauriac, Gide, Sartre and Lawrence. Having chosen the medieval option for my degree, I had stopped at Shakespeare. I had some catching up to do but could do it at my own pace, my own speed. Bliss.’


‘On Sunday 13 September, 1970, I moved into my attic bedsit in a house on the northern edge of Regent’s Park, a classy, genteel district just east of Lord’s Cricket Ground and just south of St John’s Wood, the latter synonymous with discreetly shaded villas in which Victorian gents, in Victorian novels at least, kept their mistresses. The week before I had had lunch with Ernestine, my prospective landlady, whom I had met through her godson Joss, one of my Oxford acquaintances. I had first seen the house, all understated Regency elegance, the previous February, when Ernestine threw a party for Joss’s twenty-first. “A tall thin slice of wedding-cake” I called it in my diary: “on different tiers one drank champagne, ate salmon, danced, and right at the top, talked to a sexy 60-year-old Frenchman who eventually introduced me to his wife and sat and laughed as we talked about Simone de Beauvoir.” ’


‘Who was that ‘I’, that young woman of twenty-one? I reconstruct her. I invent a new ‘me’ composed of the girl I was, according to my diaries, my memories (and the gaps between them), and the self remembering her. She stands in between the two. A third term. She’s a character in my story and she tells it too. She’s like a daughter. Looking back at her, thinking about her, I mother myself. I listen hard to her silences, the gaps between her words, the cries battened down underneath the surface of her sentences. I sympathise with her ardour, her desperation to read, to learn how to think, to contribute something to the world. How tender, amused and exasperated I feel towards her snobbery, shyness, self-consciousness, priggishness, guilt. She writes her diary so self-critically, suffers so much, berates herself so harshly for suffering and then for writing about it. When she’s not rhapsodising about books and nature she’s fierce, intolerant of adults’ intolerance of youth, enraged when she feels patronised. She wants adventures. She has come to London, in the time-honoured way, to have them. Not to make her fortune, though. She scorns that. She intends to become a writer, is determined to publish a novel before she is thirty, and she expects to be poor.’


‘My early writing experiments contained many caricatures. Mocking a left-wing family let me stay away from involvement. Yet that overnight stay in Stoke Newington, after Joss’s party, had given me rapturous glimpses of a London I did not yet know and longed to explore. I sketched it in my diary: “We went to the Rodin exhibition at the Hayward. Driving through London on Sunday morning - empty streets, an old man comes out of a corner shop with a bottle of Corona, a line of hoardings gives way to a fence made of brightly painted blue wooden doors, mountains of earth have been dumped until Monday, drizzle over the Thames from the top of all the concrete at the Festival Hall. Beautiful place in this weather: lucky people who can wander there in the empty silence every Sunday, pass across the far horizon in Hyde Park, look at paintings as far as Notting Hill, walk round the deserted City, find a cafe for lunch.”


‘I met Alison, my sexual mentor, at the second Women’s Liberation Conference at Ruskin, Oxford, on 9 January 1971. [. . .] After a morning of workshops on different topics, over lunch we talked collectively, vociferously, about our demands for equal pay and opportunities and good childcare. I wondered about the women canteen workers: serving us, they were not able to take part in the conference. I wrote “four grim Maoists, so narrow and ultra-serious and closed-off they made one despair”. We had discussed the forthcoming first-ever women’s liberation demonstration; its form, its tactics.’


‘So ultra-idealistic had I become, politically, that Spare Rib seemed quite tame and middle-of-the-road to me. One of its editors, Rosie Parker, was actually married. Heavens above! My disapproval masked envy: I imagined she had a man to help her, whereas I struggled alone and was very hard up. But Spare Rib sold well and was popular, reaching women who wouldn’t have dreamed of reading Red Rag, let alone all the small magazines rolled off duplicating machines (a long-winded, messy procedure) and distributed at meetings and in pubs. For my part I refused to read the Morning Star, the Communist paper, because I thought it merely reformist, and I wouldn’t touch the Socialist Worker newspaper because Tony Cliff had refused to allow women in his party to organise independently. I went on reading novels, poetry and biography as voraciously as ever but I also devoured the floods of pamphlets and booklets the feminist presses turned out, devoting many pages of my diary to reflecting on all these new ideas, to wondering how I should live. Sometimes rather pompously and priggishly, I am afraid. That seems to have been my way of smoothing over the contradictions between theory and practice. They were supposed to be dialectically related. I didn’t always see how that worked. I would fall back on idealism, and when that failed me, on earnestness. I squirm, now, reading some of those diary entries, and I smile, too. Good for me! At least I was committing myself to something and having a go.’ 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Czech Kindertransport man

Sir Nicholas Winton, famous for organising the so-called Czech Kindertransport which evacuated over 600 children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War, was born 110 years ago today. He died recently - aged 106! - and only a year earlier, his daughter had published a biography of her father, partly based on some youthful diaries of his.

Winton was born in Hampstead on 19 May 1909 to a German couple who had recently immigrated to London. In doing so they had also changed their name from Wertheim and converted from the Jewish faith to Christianity to help with their assimilation into British life. Aged 14, he started at Stowe School, which had just opened, excelling in maths, rugby and fencing. He was apprenticed to a London bank, but then worked at different banks in Hamburg, Berlin and Paris before returning to London in 1931, fluent in French and German. There, he joined the London Stock Exchange as a broker. Despite his profession, he was a committed socialist, and became close to various members of the Labour Party, and to those on the Left concerned about Nazism and opposed to appeasement.  

Shortly before the end of 1938, Winton journeyed to Prague where his friend Martin Blake was working with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, helping refugees to flee from German occupation. Winton immediately established a Children’s Section of the committee, initially without authorisation, and began taking applications from parents, first at his hotel in Prague, and than at an office he opened. Thousands of parents lined up seeking a safe haven for their children. In London, Winton lobbied the Home Office for entry visas, but it responded slowly so he resorted to faking them. He raised money to fund transport and for the financial guarantee demanded by the British government (£50 per child). He also had to persuade The Netherlands to allow the children to transit, and to find British families willing to care for them on arrival. By day, Winton worked at his regular job, but devoted late afternoons and evenings to his rescue efforts. He is credited with saving 669 children, though he claimed many more could have been saved if other countries had followed the UK’s example.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Winton applied successfully for registration as a conscientious objector, and later he served with the Red Cross. In 1940, he rescinded his objections and joined the Royal Air Force, at the lowest level, rising to the rank of war substantive flying officer by early 1945. After the war, Winton worked for the International Refugee Organization and then for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Paris. There he met Grete Gjelstrup, a Danish secretary who he married in 1948. The couple settled in Maidenhead, where they brought up three children (though one died very young). In the 1983 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Winton was awarded an MBE for his work in establishing the Abbeyfield homes for the elderly in Britain.

Winton’s war rescue efforts went unnoticed for 40 years, until 1988, in fact, when Grete found a detailed scrapbook with lists of the children he’d saved. She gave the scrapbook to Elisabeth Maxwell, a Holocaust researcher (wife of media magnate Robert Maxwell), who then contacted some of the rescued children. Radio and TV exposure followed. In 2003, he was knighted in recognition of his work on the Czech Kindertransport. Winton lived until the age 106, and died in 2015. Further information is available at Wikipedia, BBC,, the National Holocaust Centre, The New York Times or The Guardian.

In the year before Winton’s death, Matador published a biography written by his daughter, Barbara Winton: If it’s Not Impossible - The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton  (a few pages can be previewed at Amazon.) Winton, himself, provided a short preface: ‘I have discovered things from reading this book that I never knew about my own family, as well as rediscovering episodes long forgotten. I had questions myself about certain incidents in my past and I have found the answers here. It’s strange to realise that Barbara knows more about my life now than I do. Having a daughter write my biography may mean that it is not unbiased, but you would have to read it to find out!’

One of Barbara Winton’s sources was a diary her father kept while at school and for a short time after. It provides, she says, ‘a fascinating glimpse’ of his school life. She refers to the diaries intermittently in the early chapters, and occasionally quotes from them. The diaries provide information, she says, on his interest in rugby and fencing, but his dislike for cricket. At the back of the diaries, he made lists of letters he had received and sent, and of books he had read. He recorded his position in class on an almost weekly basis (maths was his best subject). All the boys
, Barbara states, had to attend Officer Training Corps with a lot of marching about in uniform. Her father recorded before he started: ‘I don’t know what it will be like, I am dreading it.’ Later on, though, he described a tank demonstration as ‘ripping’ and commented, ‘I don’t think camp is so bad as I thought.’

Further diary snippets occur in Barbara Winton’s text as follows:

March 1929
‘We all went to a talkie film with the Hetheringtons. It has wonderful possibilities but I am not at all sure if it will catch on. The Americans are however making a large market by only producing these films and ceasing to produce a great number of the ordinary kind!’


Winton was involved with the setting up of the Stowe Club for Boys, also nicknamed the Pineapple Club after the pub, then defunct, where it was housed. On 28 January 1929, he noted: ‘Went to the Pineapple Club which is getting on very well. They have just had a boxing ring erected which they hope will stimulate interest in this sport! . . . At the club all went as usual. In other words both Leon and I went there with good intentions but found very little we could do especially as we have no experience of how a club should be run.’


Aged 19, Winton formed a relationship with a girl called Elizabeth. ‘Went to lunch and tea at Mr Sala’s. I danced with Elizabeth to their gramophone & Miss Anderson (her governess) did a few spiritualistic stunts in which she seems to believe.’

‘Out for tea with Eliz - I think she is pretty & certainly interesting.’

‘I went to Eliz for supper after which we went to the Empire to see one of the new talkie films. I shall be sorry to leave E as we have got very friendly in a very short time & 3 years of correspondence well - perhaps I can?’


Winton started work in a bank on 1 February 1927, and wrote in his diary, ‘BUSINESS!!’ The next day, ‘I worked very hard and feel that I am getting on well. I am beginning to understand the work. It is tedious sitting in a chair for 8 hours but work is work. Father explains all I do not understand in the evening.’


‘I had a 1/3½ lunch at Lyons. It is a cheap but dirty place and although you get served fast, one is uncomfortable.’


It is safe to say, Barbara Winton writes, looking at his diaries of 1929 and 1930 (the latter only filled in until May, and no further diaries written), ‘that he threw himself into life in Hamburg, mixing with a wide group of friends rather than a particular one or two’.