1943 begins. Will it see the end of World War II?

Frances Donaldson in World War Two3/1/43   Whether as a result of a cable saying “Together this year”, I don’t know, but I am feeling rather better. I feel for the first time for years that it is possible that I will one day see you again. I never actually doubted this but it always seemed something that was so far away in the future as to be unimaginable. Now, as 1943 begins, I feel it is somewhere near, and I think about it quite a lot. I hope the feeling isn’t too spurious. (Jack’s first home leave was in April 1944, having left England in November 1940)

Thomas is endlessly spinning out a slight temperature, and Rose, tho’ apparently getting on well, no longer looks well. Apparently she did cry a lot after I left last Thursday and it is difficult to know whether to go and see her or not. I think it upsets her if one does, but she is old enough to know about the visiting days and to expect one. O dear, I wish it was over.


This house gives me real pleasure. I think one of the reasons I am feeling good is that, in pursuit of my rest cure, I have been sitting for the last few days in the larger of my two sitting-rooms, the first one with the telephone in it. The other is furnished as an office. This room is really beautiful, I think the most beautiful we have ever had. Tho’ it may not strike you so at first sight as it owes some of its beauty to a sort of pleasant graciousness which grows on you. It makes me happy. I thought I’d tell you as I have spent money on this house, which is so to speak down the drain because a) we shan’t live here forever, and b) I doubt if it really adds anything to the commercial value of the  farm. But if one buys happiness with money, it is probably worth spending it, don’t you think? When you come back you must do something about the garden.

12/1/43  Pat is over here to-day. He is down the fields with Highman. He really is good and useful. I find that, after a week, too many things have accumulated which are in a mess and which I don’t know how to deal with. Then he comes over and spends a day straightening them out and everything goes on again for a week. I could manage without him, but I shouldn’t manage well.

Anni and I sat up all night talking about the children and decided they ought to go to a boarding school but come home at week-ends. Nora is developing more and more strongly  that desire to get them down which so many grown-ups have in their attitude to children. It doesn’t matter what they do, it’s wrong for her. Then Thomas is so eager to make aeroplanes etc and I’m no good at it. He wants more opportunity that he is getting here. So I am going to see Mr Perkins, the Director of Education we went to see together, and, if I can find the right school, I shall send them. Nanny writes asking if Rose could go to her in Brighton when she is better. I have a damn good mind to send her. It is just that they do still get raids. But after all Nanny is still there after 3 ½ years and the air is so good and she ought to go somewhere. What do you think?

building a hay rick
Building a rick

20/1/43   Goodness only knows when I last wrote to you. There are several reasons. First of all I had a fit of depression. And if I am depressed enough I get in a mood where I can’t do anything. I don’t eat at night or write letters or do anything. That lasted about two days I think. Then since then I have been really hard worked again. We were threshing. Most of the jobs are hard, pitching and moving bales of straw and making a rick and weighing and moving the sacks etc., hard beastly jobs which tear the guts out of you.

One man throws the sheaves, another feeds into drum

Then there are two supposedly fairly skilled jobs, cutting the bands off the sheaves and chucking them on to the opening of the drum (the skill here is simply a question of intelligent timing), and the actual feeding of the drum, which is thinning the sheaves out a little and pushing them into the drum.

These two jobs are fairly hard in the sense that you can never take a rest, as you can on the other jobs, but they are infinitely less heavy and slightly more amusing. Carling always had two men doing this, and when he worked himself he fed the drum. All the girls sweated round on the rick. I got on to the fact that the cutting of the bands was probably dead easy and directly Carling went I put a girl on to it.

Conkers, the deaf and dumb, has always done it and does if fearfully badly in fits and starts, but it is his only claim to fame so he sulks and flies into a passion if anyone else does it. The other day I had the idea that I’d do it myself, so when Pat came over I made him come up and teach me how.

As usual it turned out there was practically no skill in it at all, but I don’t do it as well as a really good man —or even a reasonably good man — because it does need slightly stronger wrists. But I do it better than Conk. So I did it triumphantly all day, feeling very much like the boss. And with three girls on the box it releases two men for the tough jobs. So that was quite fun but hard work.

Frankie was so absorbed in farming that she hardly noticed the war as 1943 begins.

Jack wrote:

Jack Donaldson in World War II19/1/43     Just heard the early morning news — colossal! Relief of Leningrad, massacre at Stalingrad, 40 miles advance against Rommel, 600 bombers over Berlin. I’m full of optimism.

Frankie continued:

Frances Donaldson in World War Two26/1/43   I got no letters for three weeks and then thirty airgraphs, about four long letters with unfortunately some pages missing.

Next, Rose is home. She is in bed as she still has kidney trouble. When she first got here she was very quiet and flat and I thought she was really rather ill. Jan, however, maintained she was playing the heavy invalid. She hardly spoke all day. That night when she and Thomas were in bed, we stood outside the door and listened while, in a completely different tone of voice, she gave T the lowdown on the hospital. She was exactly like an old village woman. She said things like “She was a greedy pig. She took our sweets and apples and hid them under her bedclothes. And after all, apples aren’t rationed”. I couldn’t take it, I giggled too much, but Jan listened for hours. She is full of technical expressions. Jan sent her a paper doll and asked if she had brought it home. “Of course not. You can’t stove paper.” Stove = sterile. Then I asked if she liked Dr Fife. “‘e was alright, ‘e was the one that signed me off” “What do you mean?” “You know, signed me chart”.

But the children aren’t quite right. They are being neglected. Thomas can’t read and Rose is too common. It’s not only her accent, it’s her whole attitude to life and the sort of things she says. You see, I’m too busy. I can’t help it. Having started on this, I have to do it properly and it doesn’t leave enough time for the children. I think they will have to go to boarding school if only for a short time, to get them started. Thomas badly needs more opportunity.

Frederick LOnsdale. 1943 begins
Frankie’s father, playwright Frederick Lonsdale

10/2/43    I had a letter from Daddy this morning. I sent him my book by hand of Mary Grigg. He says “ Mary Grigg brought me your book. When I had finished reading it I was convinced that your mother had one night gone for a walk with a man of letters. You appear to be on terms of assurance with words I never heard of, Mr Webster helped me very much. Your talk on the radio pleased a great many people. You even convinced one lady that the English were not all superior. She was a friend of Willie Wiseman. Of course Else Maxwell talks about it and in the course of the next few weeks she will be telling them stories of how she found you starving, realized your gifts, had you educated and introduced to Jack. But your book was excellent, charmingly written and very sympathetic. I enjoyed it very much and I congratulate you.”

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A Woman's War