Despair as the war drags on. Amor vincit omnia

Jack wrote:

Jack Donaldson in World War II23/9/44    Forgive a card, but I’ve been rushed off  my feet for a week in a series of flaps. I got four long letters feeling gloomy about the farm accounts. I hope it’s not too bad. I hope Peter has rung you. He was slightly wounded in the arm and flew home to-day.  I saw him for two seconds in the street. (This letter will have taken a week or more to arrive)

Frankie wrote:

Frances Donaldson in World War Two29/09/44   Something nice has happened for the first time for months.  Peter’s in hospital in Birmingham.   I got a letter from him but obviously not realising how near he was.  I rang up and spoke to a fearful sister who said I couldn’t possibly speak to him because it was her private office line and no business of the patients at all.  So I just said “Could you possibly send a message to say it’s Mrs Donaldson and shall I come and see him?”  In about 2 seconds Peter was on the line which was what I expected.  He is absolutely whooping with joy and we exchanged congratulations for about 5 minutes and then fixed for me to go and spend the afternoon with him on Sunday.

02/10/44   I really have had enough.  It may be that I simply haven’t got enough guts.  But you’ve no idea what it’s like here.  The really frightful thing is that we can’t get through it all whatever we do and since each thing is about equally important one can’t make up one’s mind just to sacrifice something and get on with the rest.  The men are overworked and from time to time they get a bit fed up.    Price is the worst.  He just gets bolshie every now and then and I should like to give into him but I can’t because then I should have to do the same for the others and then we should never get anything done.  And honestly darling it may be frightfully wrong and I know it’s the exact opposite of all I said to you when you were here, but I’ve had enough.  I won’t ever do this any more.  So either you’ve got to be back – back enough to cope – by this time next year or we’re going to sell the farm and be out of it by then.


Bristol Hotel Paris
Bristol Hotel Paris in the 30s

I saw Peter on Sunday.  Did you know that Plummy and Ethel had been found at the Bristol Hotel in Paris and had been there all the time.  Apparently it was in the papers but I never saw it.  Peter said there is going to be an enquiry into his conduct but he thought if they didn’t try to come to England and they generally laid low for a bit it would all blow over at any rate from an official point of view.

I wish you could come home if even for a few days.  I should feel better if I could talk it over with you.  But everybody is pretty gloomy about the failure of the Arnheim thing and I think most people are beginning to think of 1945 now.

The battle of Arnhem, WWII, Prisoners of war
Prisoners of war after Arnhem

The Battle of Arnhem was  fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze, Driel and the surrounding countryside from 17–26 September 1944. After sweeping through France and Belgium in the summer of 1944, the Allies were poised to enter the Netherlands but the Battle of Arnhem resulted in a German victory.

03/10/44   The accounts: Now I don’t propose to go on about this so I want to say once what I feel about it.  Outside emotional matters it’s the biggest knock I’ve ever had.  For the last 2 years I’ve had a view of myself as a person who was successful in a quite difficult undertaking.  My book was written from that point of view, everything I’ve done or said was from that point of view.  And now it simply isn’t true.  You know even when I’m unreasonably impatient with one of the landgirls and feeling repentant I think “O well it’s a great pity but you can’t do all I do without being short tempered sometimes.”  And that’s founded on conceit – unjustified.  And so on.

One thing – there seems to be a job for you if only in preventing me frittering an £800 profit into £200 loss every year.  What I resent is there was no reason to expect it.  The first 2 years I was surprised to make a profit and could have understood a loss.  But that particular year absolutely everything seemed to be on the up and up and I still can’t quite understand it.  I think there are only about 2 ameliorating things to be said.  One is I’m glad the production is all right.  Two, of course I was brought up wrong.  Except that I take this so much more seriously it isn’t really any different from the fact that we always overspent our income by about £500 and never could see where or how it was possible to cut.

The thing I didn’t realise was that it wasn’t enough to earn as much as another farmer, I’d also got to have the same outlook on expenditure as another farmer.

The truth is that I’m suffering a blow to my inordinate pride.  And of course it may be a very good thing.  Still, I don’t like it.  Anyway there you are.  It comes on top of the worst harvest I’ve yet had.  And this afternoon I spent on the tractor only to come in and find that Highman had had the whole of the rest of the gang on threshing and simply from absolutely fatuous organisation had threshed 8 sacks where he ought to have threshed 30.  In my present mood it was the last straw and I cried.

12/10/44   Tomorrow is the T.T. sale and we’ve got 8 cows and heifers going so it’s rather exciting.  We sent 88 gallons from 28 cows this morning.  This time last year we sent about 35-40.

On the new economy campaign I’ve sold the Ford and also the Fordson tractor.  It is a saving but it will make my life even more unpleasant and hazardous.  No other news except it’s now pouring with rain which will bitch us some more.  I’ll write and tell you about the sale which I’m much looking forward to.

G M Trevelyan
G M Trevelyan

14/10/44   I have such an immense longing to read.  I’ve collected about 6 books I want to read and one of them, Social History of England by Trevelyan, which I am reading at right now is hotting me up with all sorts of ideas for future reading.  I’m not really enjoying it as much as I might because I find it impossible to settle to anything as long as the potatoes are still rotting in the ground.

The reason I hate it all so is that I worry so much.  I spend the whole time doing calculations about how many days’ work there are and making allowances for rain, etc.  None of it does any good and it just makes me miserable.  On the other hand, if one hadn’t a nervous conscientious temperament one would never make the effort to get through it at all.  Anyway as a result I spend the whole day longing to get to the fire and my book and then the evening with half my mind on the wheat, sugar beet or potatoes.  I think it’s simply hateful and I wish I was born a writer or something else that was leisurely.  You must be getting very sick of my letters.  Anyway you’ll have to put up with it for about 6 more weeks and then I shall suddenly get very enthusiastic again and begin writing to you to tell you farming is the most wonderful thing in the world.  You must be getting used to me by now.


28/10/44   My Darling – I haven’t written for a day or two and this morning I got a letter from you in which you said that you loved me but you were sick of saying so.  That’s the whole thing about writing at the moment and I think we’ll have that one right out because I am just as bad as you are about it.  The thing is I love you as much as ever I did and I want you to be here as much.  But somehow since you came back then went away again and then the war seemed to be going to end and then seemed not to be, the whole thing has become too much.

I can’t go on for ever and ever writing to you about everything that happens when nothing at all ever happens and I can’t go on writing to tell you I love you when you already know it and I can’t go on thinking in living terms of something I’ve been waiting for five years and isn’t here yet.  I don’t think it alters a thing and I don’t worry about it because you so obviously feel the same.  Nor does it mean that I am any the less glad to receive your letters or disappointed when I don’t but it’s just that when it comes to writing to you I feel I’ve said everything there is to be said more often than is good for me and I just have that little tired feeling that one simply can’t go on and on for ever just writing letters.  However, that’s the feeling and I do still think it’s fairly important not to be too much swayed by it because though it’s become intolerable to write letters it still is a great joy to receive them and as I have said a continual disappointment when one doesn’t.

So, as I expect you feel exactly the same about that, I will go on writing whenever I have the time and whenever there is anything to say and, even if there isn’t either, I will still write pretty often and you must do the same.  And that’s all there is to be said except that you mustn’t worry about finding it rather boring writing to me because we are always pretty mutual and reach the same stage at about the same time and I understand exactly how you feel.  And nor do I think it denotes anything basic at all.

I feel we have reached a stage where, because we are so absolutely sure of each other, we can afford to admit that superficially it is impossible to keep up the same exclusive interest in each other’s lives when they are not joined and have not been for five years.  You see one reason I know this is true is that if I had the faintest feeling that there was the smallest thing wrong between us that would give me the necessary stimulus to want to write – I should be writing alternate stinkers and apologies at least once a day.  I feel now so very definitely what we’ve always felt a little, that nothing is any good but the end.  I should love to see you on a hurried and unsatisfactory visit of a day or two and I should be very excited and glad and then a little sad when you left, but it isn’t what I want.

What I want is for you to be here altogether and to share my life and I’m really not particularly interested in anything else.  So until then, because I can’t really bear it any more, I’ve gone into a sort of black out about the whole thing.  The other thing I feel is that no one understands anything about us but us.  And I feel now that we should always understand each other.  So if you aren’t mad keen to write to me I’m not the least upset by the knowledge that, in theory, you ought to be, because we’ve gone through five years and we know a hell of a lot which most people will never know but what emerges most strongly from that for me is the belief that, not only because of our love but also because of your rather peculiar character, nothing could ever go wrong between us now.  That last statement is the final analysis of my present feelings which I think are all right and even rather good in a new and slightly tired way.  So I may as well leave it at that and not say any more.

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A Woman's War