1941: Russia joins war; rationing; friends; children

Jack used to tell us as children about this event in Suez:
Jack Donaldson in World War II
12/6/41    I’ve taken to bathing naked in the Suez Canal. It’s very nice — one swims across and sunbathes in Sinai. But to-day it cost me my gold watch and £3 stolen from my clothes.

Frankie continued:
Frances Donaldson in World War Two16/6/41   On Thursday I was weeding the garden when I heard Rose say to a friend of about her own age “You see that girl over there with the red jersey and the black dungarees — well, that’s my Mum”. Our garden is a triumph and presently when it has all grown up higher I am going to take a photograph and send it to you.

The next day I went to Mary’s via Moulton to drop my two pigs to be covered by their boar. At Mary’s were Philip, Joe his sister who I always thought I disliked but who turned out to be full of charm and is a ferry pilot which I think is 100% better even than being a farmer and provides the only beautiful uniform; a girl called Phil who lives with Mary and works on the land and is having an affair with a man called Andrew Wordsworth. He could, under no circumstances, be duller. Casper John came the second night and what he is really like I don’t know, but superficially he has a rugged and uncouth sort of charm.

I gave Carling £25 this morning. I don’t suppose we have made a profit but Mr Stewart told Miss Strang that this farm looked better than anyone else’s he had seen, and Dick said I ought to give him something. He was immensely sweet. He said he didn’t really want anything this year and he wished I would take it and buy something nice for myself instead. We all enjoyed ourselves a lot and I’m sure it was a good move.

Rose Donaldson
Rose aged 4

17/6/41   This time last year you had just arrived in England. I feel sad. Tho’ I shouldn’t because if we could have been sure that we would both survive this year we should have thought that was something.


Rose did something to annoy one of the village women to-day who said jokingly “I’ll give you something when I catch you”. R replied “If you come near me I’ll give you chicken pox next time I get it”. You can see why we say she always has an answer.



Approach to farming
Book cover of first edition





18/6/41   I got a lovely letter from Dick to-day congratulating me on my additions and alterations and saying he liked the book better the second even than the first time, and saying he thought it had an excellent chance. Also a draft contract between F.D. of The Wood House hereinafter called the AUTHOR. I never thought I would hereinafter be called the author.






Jack Donaldson in World War II16/6/41    The only topic of interest now is the Russian German situation, which is fascinating. Hard luck on the poor Boches, having fought so well, to find themselves lined up of the verge of Napoleon’s downfall. It must be very good practice in Movement Control, pushing round 175 divisions. We get quite a thrill over moving one.

Frankie: Russia joins war

Frances Donaldson in World War Two23/6/41   Well, since I last wrote Russia and Germany are at war and I have got a cable from you saying “Cheers for Uncle Joe etc” which was great fun and I loved it.  (codename Operation “Barbarossa,” Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941) No-one here is taking such a lovely straightforward whooping point of view but I shall now. No-one I have talked to gives the Russians credit for standing up to the Germans for more than about 2 weeks and they therefore feel that Hitler will get the wheat and oil without much trouble and then be able to sit back and stay out a long war. When Churchill said last night that Hitler had turned from us to a weaker opponent he was voicing the opinion of everyone I have met. By the time you get this it won’t matter as events will have proved one thing or the other. What will be fun is to see how we behave in relation to Russia. I bet we use every sort of evasion rather than call her an ally.

I have been sowing and singling mangolds. I managed 6 hours at it to-day which is good going for me. My back is nearly broken, but otherwise I am o.k.

24/6/41   More hoeing in extreme heat and so I’m tired again. I’m going to Birmingham to-morrow to fetch the new car so I will send you a cable from there. Our garden is a great sight and we already eat our own lettuces and mustard and cress and to-morrow our own spinach.

The London papers are quite objectively rather disparaging about Russian equipment. According to them their air force, tho’ large is entirely of either obsolete or bad machines, they haven’t much of a navy and their army is probably insufficiently armed. It is a bit depressing but I am cheered up by your cable and taking a bullish view.

Leonora Cazalet
Leonora Cazalet, step-daughter of PGW

21/6/41   I am going to enclose a cutting about Plummy’s broadcast to America which I think is very good and I am sure you will like to see. The man obviously knows Plummy and just what he is like. He says “I guess he doesn’t know. Perhaps he didn’t think.” The first is right. He doesn’t know, and he never will. You couldn’t explain it to him. And so it is rather sad and only brings tears to one’s eyes instead of making one cross. The sweet simple little man with his type-writer. That’s really all he is to life, as distinct from his books. I can hear him saying, as he did to me before the war…”I can’t see what difference it makes — if the Germans want to rule the world why not let them?” And, because in every situation he would broadcast to America, it wouldn’t make much all that difference to him. So he never will understand but will always think there are not many people in the world with much sense of humour or proportion. But I wonder what Leonora thinks? She might think a trifle like Plummy but for Peter. Peter wouldn’t like it any more than Mr Wooster.

See: http://theorwellprize.co.uk/george-orwell/by-orwell/essays-and-other-works/in-defence-of-p-g-wodehouse/
25/6/41   To-day Uncle Mag and Aunt Isy and a lot of vicars and people came over to picnic on the farm. I am quite a popular pet and my clothes cause much merriment. Aunt Isy said “My dear I must tell you that I have never seen anything quite so awful as your overalls except your shoes.” Vere is going to Abyssinia and Egypt and I should think he might pass right thro’ Ismailia. I do so wish you could see Thomas on his bike. He is like a boy of 12 or so; full of agility and stunts and really awfully good.

Jack on Russia:
Jack Donaldson in World War II23/6/41  Cable:    Cheers for Uncle Joe. How it will madden Victor and others. See you sooner.
Followed on same date by Letter:    I missed writing yesterday as everyone was so excited that Russia joins war. I think it’s a tremendous thing. They may or may not put up a good show, but I was so frightened they’d do a Munich and let him have everything he wanted without fighting. You can’t possibly beat Russia + America + England.

Frankie continues:
Frances Donaldson in World War Two
29/6/41   Russia has now been at war for one week. So far she seems to be holding them altho’ it is almost impossible to know what is happening. If she does succeed in keeping them out of Russia it will be the most sensational slap in the face for all and sundry. And will answer a lot of questions. For instance, does socialism work? Well, in one respect, yes. With no more pre-war display of aggression than that of the democracies it would have succeeded in building up a war machine that was ready when the war came.

1/7/41   War time food is so dull. Here it is July, and so far we haven’t seen a new potato, a pea or a strawberry. It just shows what a lot we used to import. Of course we are far better off than anyone who has not got a farm. How the ordinary person lives I don’t know.

Do you realise that the meat ration lasts only 2 days? There are no eggs, fish has been plentiful at 5/- a lb but now it is controlled I suppose it will disappear, no fruit, practically no cheese or jam, no cakes, rationed bacon, practically no chicken. The only thing which has remained plentiful up to date is green vegetables. Before they were controlled there were plenty of tomatoes at anything from 4/- to 16/- a lb (pre-war maximum price about 10p), but now they have also disappeared. Most pubs close 3 days a week for lack of beer and cigarettes are like gold. We do quite well for sweets from Mrs Wheeldon but in general they don’t exist. I’m told that yours is  a land of plenty, so think on all these things and bless the farm — that if our food is dull it is at least there — so far.

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A Woman's War