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Parade Antiques Blog

Southgate’s Diary, Part 8 – 13-28th August 1941

13th August 1941

Still very busy at work. Still raining. Had rabbit last night, which was very nice and I hope to have it again tonight. The Germans are attacking still and I fear for Odessa. But even if the Huns take the town, it will be the first of any importance in 8 weeks of very hard fighting. Last night we bombed 6 German towns including Berlin.

Odessa was of strategic importance because it was/is one of the largest commercial and naval ports in the Black Sea. Including a large Oil handling terminal, which could be used to receive supplies from the Middle-East. Also the neutrality of Turkey meant supplies could pass through the straights of Istanbul relatively unscathed.

15th August 1941

This morning it is pouring. What a strange August. I remember the 15th of August in France, when the heat was stifling. Things are still mad at work. The newspapers are reporting this morning the meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt in mid-ocean. The Russians are still retreating.

At this point the war in Russia was highly favouring the Axis forces, but as it neared 1942, Soviet fortunes were changing. The Autumn rains and the extreme cold of a Russian winter meant that the Nazi advance would be slow and the conflict would be mired in stalemate.

Last night I went to a small do, organised by the Firewatchers of our sector. Today I’ve got a sore head. Good fun though. Had lunch as usual with Pearl, Jean and Willie. In ten minutes I’ll pop out to get some Players for W/Comm. Biles. Until later.

16th August 1941

Busy today as usual. Had lunch, as usual in the Kingsway Tavern with Bramwell and Stark. Later Mayor Green is in talks with Lt. Co de Bersombes, Bramwell’s boss.

19th August 1941

W/Co Wells back from holiday

Blenheim over Cologne, 1941

21th August 1941

Yesterday, darling, I took a day off and went for a long walk in the Port of London. The docks and warehouses are in a sorry site, the huge buildings on both banks of the Thames with their cranes, like huge arms, are dead. Everywhere is desolation and ruin, which feels eerie in the greatest harbour in the world.

London before the War had the largest commercial port in the world. German bombing during the Second World War caused massive damage to the docks, with 380,000 tons of timber destroyed in the Surrey Docklands in a single night. The 1950’s saw London’s Dockland enjoy a brief resurgence in prosperity, but by the 1980’s it was completely unused.

After this funeral march, I returned to Oxford Circus for Tea and the Theatre. The news from Russia is getting worse; the Germans keep advancing. But Russia is such a vast country, that I’m hoping before the Germans are able win, winter will arrive.

22th August 1941

Happy Anniversary my dear: god willing we may be together soon.

Unfortunately the news is still bleak, the Russians are still being pushed back by the German assault. I have your photo on my desk. It’s a blown up version of the one taken when we went to Rheims – got a call to meet George Starr whose parents and brother Jack are coming to London to visit. Could not refuse. His parents are very nice. Jack is still the same, not very big and funny when his wife isn’t there. Here is a happy man on earth. He was able to get his wife and little girl to England before the fall of France and lives with them in Oxford, where he is based.

28th August 1941

Just got back from Whitehall, had lunch with Pearl and a Miss Ashdown of the Czech section. Main news last night was hearing of the assassination attempt on Laval. Pity the animal is still alive. But patience, his time will come.

Laval was twice head of the Vichy Government. After the war he was tried for treason and executed.

Maurice Southgate’s words
Translated by Parade Antiques

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