War and Farm news. Jack working with Russians.

11/11/42   I’ve had a lot of letters from you worrying about my health and overworking. Well, I’m not any more. I was for a short period but now things are settling down and going more smoothly and I’m not milking any more, and I very often take a morning in bed till about 8 o’clock. Then Metcalfe, the super cowman, is due next week and he’ll take a lot off me.

Now about the children. Before we moved up here to live in the farmhouse I used to be fairly careful about them getting in the men’s way. So they never had much fun on the farm, and didn’t get many tractor rides etc. Now I never bother about them and in spite of the bog of mud they are having a splendid time. They have bought a rabbit which they feed and clean out without being prompted, which is unusual in children, and they go everywhere with the men and the girls. They always go out into the fields when there is a job like mangold pulling. To-day the men were threshing. Thomas was there all afternoon. The first time I saw him he had got Highman’s penknife and was cutting string to tie round the sacks. Later I saw Highman pushing a sack round to the granary on a sack lifter. Thomas was following. On the way back Highman walked in front and Thomas pushed the sacklifter — terrific straining to get it thro’ the mud. Then at 4 o’clock Rose came to ask Nanny if it was tea-time. Nan said “Not quite” — Rose said “Well, I’m going to the haystack — that one in the corner by the cows. You’ll know where to find me ‘cos you’ll see a ladder”. All very good, don’t you think?

Exciting War News

13/11/42   The news is awfully exciting. It’s just beginning really to sink in to people in England. It took a long time to percolate thro’ the crust of cynicism and disbelief which had formed as a result of the last two years. People in the streets are whooping with joy, and when one stops to speak to anyone they all say it’s the beginning of the end, and it will be over this time next year. I don’t allow myself to dwell on all these possibilities because as you know I am always a mental toucher of wood. I had such a bad time after the fall of Greece and Crete that I don’t suppose I shall ever believe too much in anything again until peace is actually declared. But even I believe it really is the beginning of the end.

November 1, 1942  Operation Supercharge (Allies break Axis lines at El Alamein).

November 8, 1942  Operation Torch begins (U.S. invasion of North Africa).


Jack Donaldson and Russian soldier. War news
Jack with Russian military

I had a terrific post this morning —one seven page airgraph and one fourteen. All about your work and the compliments from the Russian general and the American. I am interested in all the details and all about the horrible Hayward and all that. It’s rather fun your being such friends with some of the Russians and your description of yourself as a “stores for Russia maniac”. You are quite right to be because God knows they’ve won the war for us.

Jack Donaldson with Russians WW2
Jack in a planning meeting with Russian and British military personnel. He is 2nd left, just visible, with glasses

Pat and I went to Reading yesterday, expecting to come back empty-handed. As far as pedigree stock is concerned we did. But we actually bought 3 cows. Pat is a really good judge of stock and he will always spot a cheap cow like the plain one yesterday. Without him I shouldn’t have the slightest chance of getting out of the rather nasty position I am in at the moment.

14/11/42   William Davis was here yesterday and said that the wheat on the front field was better than any he had seen on the clays which are all being very funny this year. He was also pleased with the leys. He said the one in the field where the mangolds were grown last year was better than anything they’ve got at Dodwell. It’s much more fun when things are admired now than it used to be. One feels entitled to the compliments instead of inadvertently in a fraudulent position. As we can’t buy cows except slowly we shall have to buy some lambs and bullocks to fatten. If they do well, they will go out gradually between now and the spring and so the money will turnover and can be used again to buy cows if we see any.

The news remains wonderful.

16/11/42   War news – What do you think about Darlan and all that?

Francois Darlan. War News
Francois Darlan

(wiki: Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan (7 August 1881 – 24 December 1942) was a French Admiral and political figure. He was Admiral of the Fleet and commander in chief of the French Navy in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. After France capitulated to Nazi Germany in 1940, Darlan served in the pro-German Vichy regime, becoming its deputy leader for a time. When the Allies invaded French North Africa in 1942, Darlan happened to be there. The Allies recognized him as head of French North Africa, and he ordered French forces to cease resisting and cooperate with the Allies. Less than two months later he was assassinated.)


19/11/42   The farm goes reasonably well, but the peas put us behind with the mangolds and the mangolds  put us behind with the muck-carting and God knows when we shall catch up. Metcalfe the new cowman is obviously a very good stockman and nice and reliable, but he isn’t used to this type of machine yet and I am not tremendously impressed yet with his powers of organisation. But it is too early to judge.

I was going thro’ a drawer yesterday and found some letters of mine during the last weeks you were in France (after Dunkirk). They were all incredible and I wouldn’t have believed them except they were in my own handwriting, but there was one which was without exception the most awful letter I have ever read. Sweat poured down my back and even tho’ it was your property and not mine I burnt it. I would have liked to  have burnt them all but I thought you might be cross. I think I must have altered. I can’t imagine, under any stress of emotion, writing those letters to-day. But I suppose it was the most awful time of my life.

prize dairy cow
Not Jane, but Ethel, with the best bag of them all

20/11/42   Yesterday Thomas was sitting on a stool in the milking shed and a cow called Jane came in and stood in front of him. She is actually the only really first class cow we’ve got. T said “Mummy, is that one of your best cows?” He didn’t know her name so I asked him what made him think she was one of our best cows. He said “O, I was going by her bag!” How about that for a 6 year old budding farmer?

I’ve taken to wearing my battle-dress. It is dark green and the trousers don’t fit too well owing to men’s waists being so different. But I love it. I can get two jerseys under the coat and it is a perfect outfit for farm work. I’m going to apply for a permit to have another so that this can sometimes be cleaned and if I can get one I shall wear nothing else all the winter.

Metcalfe is not going to be a success I fear. He is doing that business of veiled hints that he isn’t going to like the job on account of things which he knew about before he even took it —- such as the bail. I am being patient up to now, but next time he starts it I’m going to say “Now make up your mind whether you want the job or not because, if you don’t, there are plenty who will with the house and the money you’re getting.” Then he will either leave or shut up. But either way I don’t care. I have quite made up my mind that Carling is the last man who is going to bully me.

I got a very sweet letter card to-day — the one which said you were beginning to feel the war badly as you can no longer get fresh caviare. I wonder how great a change you would find in England?

Jack wrote:

Jack Donaldson in World War II2/11/42     We’re beginning to feel the pinch of war sharply here now. It’s practically impossible to get caviare, and even beer is getting scarce. Luckily there’s plenty of wine, so we manage.

Frankie continued:

Frances Donaldson in World War Two25/11/42   I saw in the paper that Thomas Beecham was getting a divorce. Now I hear that Emerald has come back to London. I don’t know whether the two things are connected.

 29/11/42   As I write this the news is unbelievably good. The Russians have encircled the Germans at Stalingrad and according to Nora’s interpretation of the 7 o’clock news are on the offensive somewhere else. (November 19, 1942  Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad begins.) And the French have sunk the fleet at Toulon. It would have been better if they had sailed it away. But one can’t grumble. And what is so wonderful is the way that when you get some power everything begins to tumble in without a fight. It happened for the Germans and it happened for the Japs and now it seems to have begun to happen for us.

So maybe you will be home for Christmas 1943. Darling, I do hope so. I miss you as much as ever, if in a different way. I no longer think of you all the time and in every circumstance with an ache because I have now lost the habit of expecting you to be here. But I always think “Jack would like that” or “I wonder what Jack would think.” That is a bore. I am no longer always absolutely sure what you would think. It is time we got together again. But, whenever it is, it will be all right when we do. I shall soon find out what you think and I am sure I will like it. That is the great thing about us.

Have a happy Christmas my darling love and get tight with the Russians or Christopher Sykes, but think of us. I am staying here this year and Jan and Dave are coming to stay and Anni and Haschi for the day so if you get this letter you will be able to imagine us.

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A Woman's War