31st December 1944 - New Year's Eve
Last day. Up late. Bright, clear, cold morning. ‘Planes going out very early. Glass still high. Wondered whether or not to take the 6 train tonight or to go first thing tomorrow. Decided on tomorrow, as not yet packed. Rushed around all morning, and then cycled in to say goodbye to father. He was alone, Miss Payne having gone to church. Had tea with him, and lots of pleasant chat. He did not seem very depressed at my going, in fact if anything rather pleased at my “success”. Had a shock to receive another form of enquiry from the Ministry of Labour, delivered second post yesterday – when did I leave my job? and what am I doing now? Should there be trouble, am wondering whether Spivy [of the Labour Exchange] would back me up – I have nothing from him in writing.
Miss Payne came back, talking nineteen to the dozen. Went over to Rallings’, ‘phoned to Lawford, to Penry Rowland, to Watts about the stable, to Lyons at Ardleigh about Bob, and so forth. Suggested to Mary Ralling that if Miss Payne went on holiday, perhaps Father could go to Winnock Lodge for a week, and she, dear good woman, willingly agreed.
Had a look at the Sunday papers, full of gloom. The Germans, long ago “beaten” and “routed”, are striding into Belgium and probably France, while the British Government concerns itself entirely with the destruction of the Greek Socialists. Gloom and depression everywhere, a quarter of a million more men to go into the army and the enemy preparing devastating attacks on all parts of this country. Then, as a final bit of nonsense, it is reported that part of the famous Wren ceiling at Windsor Market Hall has collapsed, and “experts” (“experts”! Great God!) are to see “whether the building should be demolished as it is unsafe.!
Said a final goodbye at home, and cycled slowly up the town. Every now and again there were quick showers of sleet and snow, and the streets were full of ghosts. Holly Trees and the Castle in deep darkness.
Decided to go out to Little Rivers, to say goodbye to the Roses, but found deep depression there too, as the baby is again desperately ill. Dodo said that early this evening she collapsed completely, and she thought it was all over. The doctor does not seem to know what the matter is, but it seems like severe gastro-enteritis. Had the same sort of thing in the last war when I was 5.
Dodo is terribly worried but seemed disposed to chat, so stayed until nearly 10. They both kept going up every few minutes to see the child, but she was now sleeping gently and seemed a good deal better. We talked of everything and everybody. Poor Mrs. Penton, dreadfully ill with cancer, is still alive, but there is no hope for her at all, yet no doubt every effort will be made to keep her alive as long as possible.
During the evening, rockets fell occasionally. Dodo hates them, and was visibly affected. Got back to Woodside at 10.30, in brilliant moonlight. Very cold. Settled up with Miss Bentley for everything. She has been very kind to me, and seems as sorry that I am leaving as I am to go. Am very grateful indeed for all she has done for me.
She went off to bed, and I went outside a minute or 2 before 12. Faintly and far off came the sound of singing and cheering in the town, and the noise of a train going towards Ipswich, then a lot of shouting and a fusillade of shots at the aerodrome, where the Yankees were “making whoopee”. Then all was silent, and 1944 ended, and with it the “Colchester Journal”. How strange never again to begin a clean book with those familiar words. Now must begin the “Wisbech Journal”.
And so closes another year of war and sorrow, with the prospect of yet another (and God knows how many more) before us. The war, far from being over, seems to have begun again from the beginning.