Category Archives: 1942 January-June

World War II: first half of 1942

Help and advice

Frankie felt optimistic about the war at this time. It is hard to see why, looking at the timeline, although sometime soon after this Montgomery came into the picture and the Americans started to be useful.
Timeline: May 8, 1942 – German summer offensive begins in the Crimea.
May 26, 1942 – Rommel begins an offensive against the Gazala Line.
May 27, 1942 – SS Leader Heydrich attacked in Prague.
May 30, 1942 – First thousand-bomber British air raid (against Cologne)

Frances Donaldson in World War Two4/6/42 The war news is really rather good — Russian offensive followed by two 1,000 bomber raids, followed by a definite stand in Libya. Very different from any other spring. The feeling here has undergone considerable change. Instead of thinking the war against Germany is going to take years, people now think there is a real good chance that it will be over by this time next year. But as against that, they think the war against Japan will take at least four years, unless Russia gives us the only possible jumping off ground, by declaring war against her, and everyone is convinced Russia will not do that.
Advice from Pattison. He came here last night. I am a little excited. I discussed with him my project for having an adviser and said I would rather have him than anyone else. I think he would be the ideal person. He knows his stuff and I get on with him.
He thought there was quite a chance of getting permission for cottages and as he shares an office with the supplies officer he is going to find out what are the best grounds on which to apply. So I believe if I take it slowly enough I may finally find a basis on which it is possible to do without Carling without taking too big a risk. And all this will make it worth having waited. But in spite of this I am a little sorry I didn’t take the plunge when Clyde Higgs suggested it. I was so certain and full of faith then.
5/6/42 Pattison rang up this morning to say that I must write to the Ministry of Works and Buildings asking permission for the cottages; they would then check with the War Committee and (privately) the War Committee would back my application. I shall apply at once, without feeling it absolutely leads to any particular decision about Carling. I don’t think it can be wrong on any count.

hayricks WWII
Topping up the hayrick before thatching

6/6/42 To-day we have suffered a severe loss and a grave setback. Joe Newlands has given notice. He is the only man on the farm who understands stacking and thatching, he is the carter and the shepherd and he was my favourite man. Both Carling and I are very gravely shaken. Haymaking begins next week and harvest is not far off. We are completely hamstrung by having no cottage in which to put a man and a complete shortage of local labour. It is not worth trying to get the cottage Joe will vacate for two reasons. Two or three months ago his landlord gave him notice. This was pure bluff as he hadn’t the slightest chance of getting him out. I explained this carefully to Joe at the time but I knew then that he didn’t believe me and I recognised that I was up against all the pathetic insecurity and ignorance of the past. This proved to be true, and the little man has been looking for a job with a cottage ever since. He has done it very badly and given a week’s notice at the beginning of haymaking but I can forgive him because I realise that he could not know that, if he had told me two months ago he was looking for a job I shouldn’t have said “Well, take a week’s notice then”.

lesson in thatching a hayrick - landgirls
Landgirls being trained how to thatch a rick in World War 2.

It sends a wave of insecurity over the farm. People look at each other gravely and say they wouldn’t be surprised if Highman wouldn’t soon like a change and so on. The most serious thing for me is that it does away any chance of my being able to do without Carling until two cottages are actually built on the farm. I could never weather a crisis like this without Carling and without a cottage in which to put a new man. Supposing Highman left with Carling here — well. Carling can plough …….Only if I had cottages in which to put a new man could I face these supposings. I must go now, because Hall is away and Carling out, and I have to milk and then feed the pigs.

Pattison went into my figures the other day, and said immediately that the reason the farm didn’t pay better was the cows. Not only are they not good enough (which I know), but too big an acreage is given to them. You see, until he pointed it out, I never realised that, if you add the arable acreage given up to food for them to the grassland, they are using about two thirds of the farm and they are not converting it into nearly enough cash. There are two things wrong. One is that too much oats and beans are grown. The other is there is still too much old pasture not pulling its weight. A third and probably the greatest reason is that Carling neither manages his grassland well nor is willing to make the colossal effort necessary to get the most out of it. I am rather ashamed that it needed Pattison to point the facts out to me. But it is odd, because I have always shown my cropping programme to Mr Stewart and he has always taken the line that I was rather short of grass. But there is one thing. As from when Clyde Higgs gave me that piece of advice I have taken on a new lease of life and I am not only learning all the time but also getting a firmer grip on Carling. So if I do have to keep him for a long time I shall at least be getting somewhere which I wasn’t before. I am now going to have a cold bath because there is no hot water. You see how tough I have become.

7/6/42 Yesterday the children got into trouble with me because in the company of John Highman they threw a brick at a nesting bird and according to first accounts broke its wing. Ever since, they have been trying to belittle the incident. To-day at lunch Rose said “Well, ‘e only threw a nose-bleeder!” I said “What on earth is that?” Both children looked amazed and Thomas said “Well, a stone that would make your nose bleed”.
I am depressed a bit. I always knew that the idea of running G.H. without Carling was nearly too dangerous as it well could be and that, with a run of bad luck, it could turn into a terrifying situation. The incident with Joe has convinced me that it is as near as nothing damn well impossible. I shall go ahead with the building of the two cottages because I think it might be difficult to sell the farm without them. Even two is not enough, you really need one per 100 acres. That’s four in this case. I’m sure it’s right about the cottages. But for the rest I feel right back where I started from.

Landgirls hoeing potatoes in WWII
Landgirls hoeing potatoes

8/6/42 I did six hours hoeing to-day, which, coupled with the fact that I milked and fed the pigs before breakfast, makes a damn good 8 ½ hour day. I’m tired but there are two things I thought of to-day which I want to tell you. One is that, tho’ I had a very bad period just before Clyde Higgs started me off on my present wild goose chase, since then I have been both busy and definitely after something. It gives me a great zest for life, which practically nothing else does. It is quite different from happiness, which is more basking. I can’t describe it exactly, but I definitely want to go on and complete the pattern.
I decided I’d stick it out whatever happened until the cottages were built and things more plain sailing, and then if necessary I’d sack the lot, but I would farm it myself sooner or later. I think this is the reason. If we are to farm together we’ve got to start with a fairly big unit because we can’t waste both our reasonably good brains on anything too small. Therefore it must be G.H. So I think I shall stay here, boredom and irritation and all, until I can improve it.

Farming is not difficult to learn

Frankie was a tremendous perfectionist and this side of her character contributed to her emotional swings. When facing a challenge or succeeding in meeting it she was always elated. Delays or failure to succeed cast her into the depths of despair. Jack understood her and had an extraordinary tolerance and acceptance of everything, so he… Continue Reading

Beginning to Take Control of the Farm

14/3/42   Rather an exciting post — a letter from Jesper from Suez. It is an absolutely charming letter written as if he knew me and really sweet about you and saying you were going to Tobruk because Hewer said you were the only officer who could fill the bill and he knew Hewer was right… Continue Reading

A Woman's War