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Parade Antiques Blog

Southgate’s Diary, Part 17 – 16th February – 7th March 1942

16th February 1942

Monday Morning: Just had a wonderful weekend with Pearl, or more exactly at Pearl’s. Her sister Doudon (Jacqueline) was on leave and in the afternoon, 2 young women (Czech) and 2 other English came round and joined us for tea. We had lots of fun and this was a welcome change considering the current climate. We have let 3 German ships take the piss out of us and we have lost Singapore.

Southgate, here, is referring to the Channel Dash, where German ships docked in Brest (Brittany) dodged the British blockade and successfully sailed through the English Channel to their home bases in Germany. This was the first time since the Anglo-Dutch War of the 1650s that ships belonging to an enemy of Great Britain had successfully traversed the English Channel.

This has been a really bad week, with Friday the 13th living up to its name. Without the wonderful year in Russia, I ask myself where we’d be at present and I am so sad thinking of you.

17th February 1942

Tuesday: There is a meeting at the moment in the office. There are over 10 people. No chance of working in peace and luckily not much to do. I’m homesick little lady and helpless to do anything about it.

7th March 1942

Saturday: I’ve just found this sheet in one of my draws and I’m using it to write to you.

This seems like an odd addition to a diary. But I remember reading an essay by George Orwell, around this date, mentioning the scarcity of paper in Britain at this point in the war. This paragraph for the “7th March” was written on a loose piece of paper, so presumably was placed in the diary at a later date, accounting for why the date doesn’t match.

From Sunday tomorrow, I am moving to London and won’t have to the trip that has thus far ruined me. From London to Slough and back, plus lunch, plus the money that I had to give my mother and all this on 3.2 daily, which wasn’t possible. I am now in a swish hotel, with a chambermaid, a servant and all that goes with it. The cost is at the expense of the princess, all is for the best. This morning it is extremely cold and again more snow yesterday. The heating hardly makes any difference. 15:30: had lunch today at the Popate – French menu, half English. Not a lot to do this afternoon. The typing pool has just asked me to lend them some tea. A charming young woman. Ho-hum!

Maurice Southgate’s words
Translated by Parade Antiques

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