Writing a book, Childcare, War news

Frankie is irritated by the style of public announcements by the Minister of Information – patrnising and misleading..

She had decided to write a book about her experiences. Her father was a successful playwright but had always repressed any thought that his daughters might have had of following him. She found that it came quite easily to her. She naturally went to her brother-in-law, Dick de la Mare, who was at the time a director of Faber and Faber and later its chairman. It seems that she may have been right in thinking that he would not like the book, but Geoffrey Faber liked it and so it went forward. She seems to have written it in a very short time and it was quickly published, under the title “Approach to Farming”. Katta was Jack’s sister.

14/4/41   I went to Dick and Katta  for the weekend. While there I met Mrs Mark Norman who had had a letter from her husband saying you had given him dinner in Cairo and you were one of the vital links in the chain to victory!

I forgot to tell you about the bomb. It exploded after all at 10 pm last night so the field is ours again, even if spoiled by 3 enormous craters. They are big ones apparently. Everyone who knows about craters says so.

Map of Tobruk with sheltered harbour
Map of Tobruk showing harbour



(10 April: Siege of Tobruk begins with Australian, British and Indian forces defending)

See also: http://ww2today.com/11th-april-1941-the-siege-of-tobruk-begins



The news about Libya and Egypt is terrible. Only people hardened by having heard of the fall of Amiens and Arras on the same day could stand up to it. It does seem to me there must have been some pretty bad miscalculations on our part for this to happen. The way news is presented is so vile and puts one into such a temper. To-day they announced that we had “inflicted casualties on the enemy during the course of a successful withdrawal”. Sometimes I would like to rub Duff Cooper’s poppycock nose in the dust (Minister of Information). Who is he or anyone else to go on thinking they can announce news by saying on the 6 o’clock that the Germans are claiming a certain fact but of course it is all nonsense and on the 9 o’clock that it isn’t all nonsense at all but has in fact happened.

Craven A cigarettes
The cigarettes that Frankie smoked

I am in a vile temple to-day because I have cut out cigarettes altogether. On top of this, gloomy news and no cable from you and Jan, who is staying here, must of course have the bath which means I won’t get one. I don’t really like having guests here. I would far rather have the bath. If only you were here I should burst my rage on your innocent head and in 10 minutes it would be over. As it is I have to bottle it up and I get crosser and crosser.

17/4/41   The news is very worrying. We seem to have under-rated the Germans again and this seems to me unforgivable.

20/4/41   I was so pleased to get your cable. When anything horrid is going on send plenty and don’t forget because you know you are not in danger doesn’t mean I know it too.

28/4/41   I walked round the farm this morning and I must say I’m very proud of this part of our war effort. We have nearly 50 more acres of plough than when you were here last summer and, on the whole of this, crops are either going strong or, having been planted during last month, just beginning to show their heads. Thomas comes every day to feed the pigs and really loves it.

I have just heard that the troops have begun to embark from Greece. Oh Dear! I do hate it. Not so much the defeat as all the deaths and all the sad women who will be left.

29/4/41   I have been wanting for some time to tell you about Rose. She is, for 3 ½, really extraordinary, I think. To-day she spilled some food off her plate. Molly said “That’s what piggies do, spill food from their trough”. Rose said “This isn’t a trough — see!” If she had said “I am not a piggy”, we should have said “Yes you are” or something like that. But “this is not a trough” left us all speechless with surprise as it is not the answer we expected. There is nothing much to it but it is absolutely typical and goes on all day and every day.

Rose and Thomas Donaldson, children of Frances Donaldson
Rose and Thomas with Nora in 1943

P.S. Have just been up to say goodnight to the children, who are what Nora calls “wound up” i.e. very giggly. The joke was to call everyone by a wrong name — thus Nora Donaldson, Frankie Higley. I  said “Thomas Pigley” and provoked those very refreshing peals of laughter which is the sweetest thing about all children. Then Rose said “Let me tell you both something. Frankie Glasses and Nora Teeth.” This is her idea of real humour and it seems to me at 3 it might be so….

Jack Donaldson in World War IIJack wrote: “24/4/41   Poor old Greece looks like a pretty first-class disaster. (April 27, 1941  Greece surrenders to the Nazis.)

Frances Donaldson in World War TwoFrankie wrote: “1/5/41   The news to-day is that at least 48 out of 60 thousand of the BEF in Greece have been got away and this seems to me the best news for ages. I expect Lomer will have got back alright. Let me know.

3/5/41   In your letter you say you bet I will not finish digging the lawn as I have started farm work. You are quite wrong because we have dug not only the whole lawn but half the garden at the farm as well. I am going to Peggy’s to-morrow and John and Nancy (Hare) will be there so I expect I will have some news for you.

Frankie at Chadshunt
Frankie at her friend Peggy’s house, Chadshunt

4/5/41   I really feel I need and deserve a rest, — which is a very satisfactory feeling. I am looking forward to to-day. I haven’t seen any people for years and John will be the first MAN I have seen for many months. I am taking the children, who love going there and are already quite conscious of how pleasant it is to have lemon barley and cream and all the things you get for lunch at Chadshunt and  don’t get here.

4/5/41   The news is rather frightening. They seem to be holding out well at Tobruk, but the news from Iraq is rather serious — or isn’t it? Peggy says John Fox-Strangways is missing, believed to be a prisoner — how awful.

By the way, Dick has now had my book 3 weeks and I have heard nothing. On thinking it over I think there is a lot in it which he will find provocative and won’t like. The last chapter he would hate.

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A Woman's War