Winding up the war and preparing for peace

15/05/45   My darling – I’m supposed to be doing my books because our year is up in 2 days.  So I am writing to you.  You always get more letters when I have a really long and unpleasant duty and only about 2 hours to do it in.

One thing is I have really become a pretty good farmer.  I understand things just by seeing them now and I don’t feel that backed by Pat that I used to have. 2 years ago I hesitated to move the cows from one field to another without asking him. Now I am lazy and I don’t go round the farm nearly enough but when I do go I know exactly what has to be done – not only today, but what will need to be done in 2 or 3 days or a week.  I think if we ever wanted to we could manage quite well on our own.

I wish I hadn’t got into this gutless frame of mind.  In a different mood I could even take a pride in running the farm and having a baby at the same time and not being frightened to be alone.  As I explained yesterday it’s really bad temper that’s done it.  That plus being alone.

I don’t believe I’m really sick of work or got down by over work.  I’m just sick of being alone.  I always knew I should lose my temper about it.  I’ve got many more of the same sorts of thing to say but it’s of no importance and I’d better do my book.

20/05/45   Peter said they had consulted all the tops about what could be done about Plummy and there isn’t anything that can be done.  The government absolutely refuse to allow him into England at the moment or to do any more about it.  So that’s that.  Peter has I think some method of getting things to him and to do all he can.  Peter himself is in good form and back to real life – that is taking farmhouse and the children seriously and not out to live the gay life as on leave.  I think he’s all right and will behave exactly as one would expect him to now it’s real life and not an interlude.  I’m not sure whether he’s happy or rather unhappy but he’s tough and later he’ll marry again and settle somehow.  He was very good about Four Years Harvest.  He said “Well I’ll tell you.  I found myself liking you more while I read it.  I said to myself ‘This won’t do’ but there it was.”  And I said I thought Frank Sykes hadn’t liked it and Peter said “Well all I can tell you is he said to me, ‘O God what I’d give to write like that.’  So I felt pretty smug.  Because Peter’s a pretty tough one.

27/05/45   I’m being awfully lazy at the moment.  I work at something or other all the morning then I pack up and sleep all the afternoon and do nothing after tea.  The farm seems to run all right but I feel bad things must be creeping in which I don’t even notice.  Still it will be your job to straighten it out.

p.s. I forgot to tell you Mary and Robin are coming to live in the cottage for 6-8 weeks on June 11th.  They’re coming here first but I’ll eventually push them out into the cottage.  It’s really rather good because after all the fuss I’ve made I really shan’t be entirely alone here at all and from a purely physical point of view Mary will more than replace me on the farm – though I’ll have to spend a lot of time standing out against her desire to get hay before it is fit, etc.

22/06/45    Come as soon as you can now.  It’s all getting a bit much.  You see one probably has to look at hay 3 times in a day and some of it is half a mile away.  When I go to bed at night I have cramp in my legs really badly and that’s something you don’t usually start till about 7 months.

30/06/45   I am enormous already and look like anyone else at 6 months.  I wear smocks or a smock-like farm coat and manage to disguise most of it under that.  But that’s another thing.  I really cannot go looming about the fields ticking off the men and I really can’t go into all the suppliers, etc., where there are always farmers hanging about, looking as though I was going to drop twins at any moment.

I know one oughtn’t to mind but if you’ve heard them talk as I have about other people you can’t help it because you know as you go in exactly what will be said when you come out.  And if one is sensitive at all it means the whole of life is a misery.  So do come soon.  I really don’t want to have to be someone quite different from what I am.  If you’re placid and complacent about babies like Katta, you don’t know what’s going on but if you’re thin skinned and have ever heard Pat on neighbouring farmers wives who are not even pretending to mix with men or do a man’s job, you can’t help being humiliated beyond enjoyment.  And I really can’t see why I should have to be.

I want you most frightfully.  I’m not particularly proud of the mood I’ve got into without you but I have tried to get out of it and I can’t.  You are the only person whoever makes me feel that nothing matters so much as being gutless about what matters and who does that in such a way as makes me feel good again instead of worse.  And I feel when you come I may even think washing up is quite fun and part of a biologically sound environment.  Though I rather doubt that one.  Mary and Robin are both good cooks with ideas about food and I’m learning quite a lot from them.

My mother, when alone in the wartime, always had a boiled egg for supper as it was the only thing she knew how to cook. We had disgusting food for a year or two after the war but then one day she took up cooking and excelled in that as in everything else she turned her hand to.

03/07/45   The farm profit, after you have paid me a salary of £90, is £1,814 which means that if you had been farming the place yourself and not paying this salary it would have been £1,900.  This is on the usual basis of low valuations and everything possible charged against profit and only £50 counted for anything had in the house.

Pat300Now about bonuses.  I discussed it with Pat once after you told me to and he said that he wouldn’t expect 20% which was once the arrangement on a big profit but he would expect something in the nature of a couple of hundred quid.  Now I think this is fair enough.  He hasn’t had anything at all for two years and the point, from our point of view, is not the work he has done, which has been bloody little, but the work he has enabled me to do.  Pat is always on the end of a telephone and willing to come over at a pinch.  He is a lazy bugger and he hasn’t done much work and so on but I have a very great deal of farming knowledge these days and I owe it all to him.  This farm really runs extremely smoothly and it’s me that runs it and not Pat but it’s Pat that gives me the confidence to run it smoothly.  I don’t think we should continue the arrangement or pay him any more after this but I think it won’t hurt us to give him at least 10% i.e. £180 and even a little more if he wants it.

Then as to the men.  I propose to split 5%.

For the rest of course it’s all bunk – not necessarily the profit this year but the profit this year taken in conjunction with the loss last year.  For the rest of my life I shall be able to say “The last year I made £1800″ and that’s good enough for me.  In the meantime I hope you’re pleased.  Of course, it would be nicer still if I hadn’t spent it all in advance but on the other hand it does mean that you needn’t spend it now and as we shall need it once your salary stops perhaps it will all work out for the best.

There’s one other thing.  The wages are only a quarter of the total takings and Mr. Sykes has only managed that on one farm so what with that and the survey of the tractor work I sent you, don’t let me ever hear it suggested that I’m not the soul of efficiency.  At least not for the moment.  I hope you’re pleased.  I’m busting with pride.  Because it really is genuine in the sense that nothing is over-valued and practically everything is undervalued.

12/07/45    I do write to you occasionally but I usually tear the letters up.  Mary and Robin are away for a fortnight and I’m entirely alone here and that makes me gloomy.  However, this morning I had a letter from Peter which I think you might find interesting.  “I have been sweating away in East Islington trying to get Thelma (his sister Thelma Cazalet-Keir, later a conservative MP) a few votes and as far as I could tell failing miserably.  As you say the election has been bloody.  Thelma has been absolutely first class and managed her meetings really well particularly when invaded by the ‘booing gang’.  But much as everybody likes her they won’t vote for her while she is a Tory.  ‘If only you were Labour’ is the cry.  I think she will be defeated by about 4-500…  Personally I am not a bit frightened of Labour getting in as there are no real differences in the changes they will and can carry out to what I would do myself.”

I think the calmness with which he views the prospect that Labour may get in is almost more indicative of the change that has come over people (any way good people) even than the attitude of the East Islington voters.  I’m sure he would have thought it a ‘frightful thing’ before the war.

Diana de la Warr who had also been fighting a hopeless seat for Bill told me the general view was that Winston was in but with an enormously reduced majority and that the army had voted Labour to a man.  Of course, this doesn’t mean as much as it might as most of the army were unable to vote.  You had 2 votes one here and one at Cambridge which don’t seem to have done Labour much good.  As a matter of fact I think it may be the best thing if Winston is in with a reduced majority because I think the next few years will be exceedingly difficult and, with foul means used against them, Labour might fail which would shake the world until we have another war.  But if Winston only squeaks in he and his pals will have to pay attention to the feeling of all those people who have voted against them and we shall get a very large measure of social reform which is ultimately what we are out for.

For once Labour seems to have had the better publicist with these cartoons by Philip Zec:

Poster by Philip Zec general election 1945
Poster by Philip Zec





Poster by Philip Zec general election 1945
Poster by Philip Zec


Conservative poster general election 1945
Conservative poster
Poster by Philip Zec general election 1945
Poster by Philip Zec












The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was held on 5 July 1945 – before this letter was written. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, owing in part to the time it took to transport the votes of those serving overseas.

The result was an unexpected landslide victory for Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, over Winston Churchill’s Conservatives, giving Labour its first majority government, and a mandate to implement its postwar reforms. The 12.0% national swing from the Conservative Party to the Labour Party remains the largest ever achieved in a British general election. (Wikipedia)

In 1997 there was a 10.2% swing from the Conservatives to Labour.

Peter suggests I go to Fairlawne for the weekend July 21st if you’re not going to be here by then and if he will let me take Rose too I shall do so as T. comes on 26th and after that my last chance of a change or a rest will be gone.  But of course I shan’t fix anything definite until I hear from you.  And of course I hope I won’t be able to go.  But let me know as soon as you can because I don’t want to stay here alone if you’re not coming.

p.s. It still rains every day and if you’re here by the 21st you will have the hay as well as the harvest to cope with.


Last letter. We assume that Jack came home in time for harvest at the end of July

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A Woman's War