23rd March 1945

Up in the dark.  Caught the 7.23, Cambridge just after 9.  Got the 9.30 to Bletchley, arriving at 11.22.  Slept in the train, tired, having got up at 4am to patch clothes before coming on this trip.

At Cambridge, standing on the platform, was attracted by the activities of some Americans just over the wall, in the sidings.  Peeped over, and saw six men and two sergeants unloading coffins from a railway van into three closed motor-trucks.  There seemed to be about a dozen coffins, all very new and shiny varnish, glittering brass handles.  As each was dragged out of the railway-van it was covered for an instant with a Stars-and-Stripes, which was whipped off again as they were slid into the motors.  All this took place in bright sunlight, under the eyes of a few inquisitive travellers.  No doubt it was the crew of a bomber.

On the journey, saw huge dumps and camps near Woburn, which must annoy the good Duke of Bedford.  At Fenny Stratford passed under Watling Street with memories of the journey down it in Rose’s little car.

Got the cycle out at Bletchley, and found the tyre flat.  Very pleasant country, well farmed.  Hardly any traffic, fine, smooth roads.  Through Newton Longville – a few little houses, a church, a red brick inn, clean and inviting, a cross-roads, a group waiting for a bus, and children coming out of school.

Noticed I was only 7 miles from Winslow, and much regretted no time to go to see it.  Glorious country, rolling, sweeping hills, and a lot of arable land.  Farm buildings need repair.  At Stewkley, stopped at a garage and mended the punctured tyre myself, as there was nobody there to do it.  Had a cider at the King’s Arms, listening to loud excited talk in the passage way outside, from which I gathered that some woman had just been telephoned to go to a dying relative – “Won’t last more than a few hours, they said.”

Stewkley is a long straggling village, with a magnificent Norman church, the W. end very fine, with bold arch and pretty arcading and a well built squat central tower.  Much regretted no time to go in.  Left Stewkley at 1.15.  On to Wing, past a huge lonely aerodrome, ‘planes parked on the dispersal points, and some farmer’s horse and tumbril proceeding slowly along a wide concrete runway.  The village itself is up a hill, a pleasant street, in which stands the Cock Inn, with a big cock crowing over the roadway.

Got onto the main Leighton Buzzard road, and rushed along gaily through Rowsham, with a pretty looking ancient inn, and not far from there a little old brick-built brewery, a faded board inscribed “Thomas Gurney Licensed Brewer”.  Perhaps related to the Gurneys.

Crossed the Thame, and got to Bierton at half past 2.  Hurried on into the town, through a confusing maze of “one-way” streets.  Got to the Museum in time for the end of the business meeting.  Mrs. Bond [Secretary of the Museums Association] was there, looking very charming, and about a dozen assorted curators looking very bedraggled.  Clarke from Letchworth, Dr Wallis of Bristol, and Miss Baker of Aylesbury were the only ones I knew.

A man named Prince gave a talk on town planning, although difficult to see how this concerns a Museums Federation.  He talked the usual rubbish, but made one interesting point – under the 1944 Act the Minister can order towns to protect their ancient houses, and can forbid any alterations to the structures.  The onus for making such an order is upon the Minister.  This is most important, but when, at question time, I asked if any such orders had ever been made? he was vague and evasive.

At tea, Mrs. Bond said she had seen Maitland Underhill [Eric's cousin], a few days ago, and had expected him here today, but he had sent a note to say he was unable to get away.  He has been having trouble with Lord Hambledon over the Hambledon Museum, which his Lordship wishes to use as a village hall.  An official report on this outrageous proposal was before us today, and it was agreed to ask the Museums Association to protest. 

After tea, (which was very nice, with homemade cakes) we looked over the Museum, which is very good indeed and beautifully kept.  The Curator lives on the premises.  The main building is a nice 18c house, with a well-built modern extension at the back.  There is a nice lot of bygones, including, oddly enough, a few things from an old lady who lived at Wisbech St Mary and afterwards moved to Aylesbury.  Miss Baker offered me these, as they included a nice “Pope Joan” board, so I took them.

There is Roman pottery from as far afield as Oxfordshire, and a beautiful gold coin of Cunobeline, found in September 1925 at Great Kimble, about five miles South of Aylesbury, where, I am astonished to learn, there is a tumulus called “Kymbelin’s Grave”.  Obviously the chance similarity of the name Kimble to the old English rendering of Cunobeline has given rise to this, but it will be amusing to spring this suddenly on Colchester, and to watch their reaction.  It is further curious that quite a number of Cunobeline’s coins have been found in Gt. Kimble, indicating that at any rate these parts were within the territory of “Rex Brittanorum”.  The name of the tumulus may of course be of ancient origin, and perhaps represents a faint memory of the great king.  This should be investigated.

The Aylesbury museum is very pleasant and the labels are very good.  I regretted there was so little time to see details.

Went out about 5.30, into the quiet sunny street, with the fine Georgian houses, and the ancient church at the end of it, so quiet and remote.  No aircraft in the sky.

Cycled down a long cobbled alley to the station, and caught a train to High Wycombe at 5 minutes to 6.  Travelled with a handsome, dark haired woman who was going back to London.  Talked about conditions there.  She obviously was very worried about the rockets.  (Mrs. Bond has also been having a terrible time and has stuck to the Museums Association Office, through thick and thin).

On the way saw “Hughenden”.  Every hillcrest is now crowned with “villas” and the valleys are becoming filled with cheap ugly factories.

Went through High Wycombe and down the valley to Maidenhead.  Suddenly saw a narrow street, a railway gate, a high brick wall, and a little house with a window against the line.  Recognised it at once – it was Bourne End, where Uncle Underhill was organist, and the little house was where we went to tea, more than 30 years ago.  I have never seen it from that day to this.  Can't even remember who lived in the house.

Saw a glorious sunset over Winter Hill, and rushed down the deep cuttings, past Furze Platt, under the high bridge at Castle Hill, and out into the broad valley, the old causeway where we ran our scooters below, Cox’s Woodyards on the right.  Went up to Grenfell Road and saw Aunt for a few minutes before going to Shurlock Row.  She was very well, but Uncle is no better.  Aunt very pessimistic about the war.  Says a rocket fell near Henley the other night.

Left for Shurlock Row under the crescent moon.  Sinister crowds around the aerodrome at Waltham, lights glittering and flashing.

Got to Shurlock Row soon after 8.  Marjorie made me a bed on the couch in the front parlour, and there I slept in the room where a long time ago, I saw Frankie [Marjorie's brother] come in wearing white flannels, and felt afraid of him, and where I teased poor Dick the dog.  Lay a long time listening to the church clock striking and the aircraft passing over.

The 9 o’clock news warned that air-attacks are likely to get worse – but fire-guards are now being abandoned.

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