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Bullocks, dairy cows and war news

5/10/43  The new cowman, who is not a grand chap and could conceivably be some good, arrived. In another week or so, when I’m quite sure he’s doing what he should, I shall stay in bed in the morning and live the life of a lady and perhaps even find time to write proper letters to you.

Darling, don’t your socks ever shrink? If so, do please send them home to me, I haven’t any socks to wear under gumboots and I can’t endure the idea of using coupons to buy some because they wear out so quickly. I have managed for two winters on your old shrunken socks, but now they are

 6/10/43   Two Rose stories:

Bullocks can be quite large and heavy

I got up at 6 this morning not to milk but to load up 20 bullocks which we have failed to fatten owing to prolonged drought and are sending to a sale at Tenbury. I came into the house at 7 and found Rose up and dressed. This is against the law, so I said she was very naughty but as she was there she could come and help get the bullocks in. I made her stand at the entrance of a road down which I didn’t want the bullocks to go, and told her to jump about and yell at them when they came. This she did and that’s about all there is to that story except that the sight of 25 bullocks all stopping with their heads down to look at Rose (aged just 6) hopping up and down, and them turning away and going down the proper road is one of those things I shall never forget.

The other story is that Lucy at lunch was talking about demobilization when Rose suddenly said “When I go out to meet my Daddy I shall take a photograph”. Someone asked why and Rose said “So that I shall recognise him of course”. Aren’t you entranced by the picture of Rose anxiously comparing you with a photograph?

8/10/43   People are beginning to get home. It’s a pity none of them is you. I haven’t heard for a while. Perhaps you are on the move.

9/10/43   The Duke of Wellington story is extraordinary, especially as it turned out to be true.

Jack had written

Jack Donaldson in World War II26/9/43   I was dining with Gerry Wellesley, who’s the chief Amgot (Civil Affairs) officer here, and I took Humphrey along. Humphrey asked him if he’s seen his nephew the duke, whom H. knows. I piped up that Phil Dunne had told me he was killed at Salerno, thinking of course that Gerry would know. His eyes opened very wide, and he said “What “ very slowly three time, and I thought “Oh, God, I’ve dropped a frightful brick he must have worshipped him and this is the first he’s heard of it.” But it soon became apparent that the paralyzing effect was produced by the fact that, if true, Gerry would succeed to the title! Quite an effective little scene, and rather an unusual one. I think it is true as he was in a commando, and Phil told me as a fact, so I was the first to create a duke, as it were! I like old Gerry. He’s fun and independent and goes his own way, fairly left wing in an aristocratic way, and intelligent and cultured. Fun to find running East Sicily, anyway, and fun to make a duke out of.

Frankie continued:

Frances Donaldson in World War Two12/12/43   I’ve told the Times to send you a copy of “Scum of the Earth” by Arthur Koestler which I am just reading. I think you liked “Darkness at Noon” which I sent you and this is just as good. It recalls things which one ought to recall — how the war really began on the day Stalin signed the non-aggression pact with Hitler, and how the democracies had nothing to fight for but only things to fight against. It recalls to me how I felt about a lot of things before I got too bored with the world to have much feeling about it.

I think I’ve at last got an adequate farm staff. The two new men are both good, and the work of the farm could be quite pleasant now if only I could get rid of this mastitis which spoils everything. We’ve got an exceptionally good crop of potatoes.

Thomas is a problem. He kicked up hell about going back to school this morning and had to be lifted on to the bus by Highman, who had taken him as I was in bed with my cold. He’s so thin and got no teeth, and I don’t know whether he’s unhappy or just tiresome and I don’t know what the hell to do with him. I feel so strongly he needs you. He and the mastitis are about equal sources of discouragement. I’m going to Peggy’s for one night to-night.

veterinary surgeon, visiting dairy cows
The vet, an important visitor on a farm


15/10/43   I’m waiting for the vet, who is bringing with him the president of the Veterinary Research Council. Such are the proportions and interest of our outbreak of mastitis that this gentleman has come all the way from London to have a look at it.


Quite interesting. I always enjoy giving very exact information on case histories to research workers and occasionally pointing out to them logical conclusions which they hadn’t noticed themselves. They both agreed that nothing but superlative management of the bail would get us out of the mess we’re in, so my winter is well mapped out as I shall have to spend most of the time making sure of the superlative management.

19/10/43   I have had further thoughts on the farm. Philip said, and I thought he was right, that the one thing we must keep was the independence represented by private money, and advanced that as a reason for selling the farm. But I think it might be a reason for not selling it. If we sold we should have about £15,000 more or less which invested at 3 1/2% would yield about £450, ie. 2 1/2d for people brought up as we have been. But the farm is a house and cars and food and telephone and dogs and ponies and a lot of work and thundering great overdraft but still a very independent and grand way of life compared with £450.

I believe, in spite of mastitis and all that, we are going to make pretty good profits now. Now we only need the independence for the first year or two till things and you have settled down and decide what you are going to do. So it seems to me that, even if we sold rather badly after the first year or two, we should still have had independence during the period we needed it most. Also, I am now getting the benefit of the cottages and of having been strong-minded with employees I didn’t like. The new cowman is good and nice and so is the new tractor driver. With Highman they form an almost perfect team. That’s taken 3 ½ years — it seems a pity to throw it all away.

Jack, left, Frankie, right with Johnnie and Madeline Miller at Serge Chermayev's house
Jack, left, Frankie, right with Johnnie and Madeline Miller at Serge Chermayev’s house

On Sunday Johnnie Miller rang up. He was in London for two or three days on his way to India. He was sick as muck that he would have to stay and fight the Japs and therefore everyone else would get home before him and get all the good jobs. Again, the farm preserves us from all that. So I think I shan’t sell even if it’s stupid not to.

26/10/43   I went to London to see Johnnie. It was rather depressing. He was taking it well but simply hating it. Barbara Kenyon told me that once he got really down and just sat the whole of one evening saying “Jesus Christ, think of me in the Indian army!” He told me Geoffrey is there. Now, Jack, you’ve got to avoid it at any price. It’s no good your thinking that, if you go to India, I’ll be waiting for you when you get back because I won’t. There’s a limit to everything and India’s my limit. I stayed in Barbara Kenyon’s flat with him on his last night, and all his luggage had gone and at 7.30 in the morning he got up and went — walked away down the road like the end of a Charlie Chaplin film. It was horrid. Let me repeat, don’t on any account get into that. Far better to be in prison in England.

A Woman's War