Location: Penarth, Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom
Introduction by Malcolm Dawson (Grandson to Arthur)
This is a diary of local events as they occured during the 1939-1945 Second World War. The place is Penarth, Glamorgan a dormitory town of thirty thousand inhabitants, serving Cardiff, Glamorgan the regional capital an major industrial area.
Arthur, Justice of the Peace (JP), Imperial Service Order (ISO) Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) lived in Victoria Road, Penarth, Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom, Chairman of the Bristol Channel Ports, Lay Methodist Preacher, a Broadcaster, Prison Governor and an active Mason, would have been around eighty years old at the beginning of the war. He had the gift of spellbinding his audience and captivating his readers. His accounts are Pirates and smugglers of which he was a well known historian certainly kept his grandson Malcolm Dawson, captivated and on the edge of his seat while he recounted his yarns of happening of long ago, much of the material being extracted from the archive of the Customs and Excise of which he was the Chief Collector for the South Wales Ports.
(Unfortunately the first eleven pages of the diary are missing)
...It is evidence of the increasing calm with which they accept events. There is no panic, but many jeers at Jerry's untimely calls. There followed a quiet night. The preceding night (Tuesday) had four syrens - but we only heard of them in the morning as we slept through it all.
Today, Thursday 15 August, has been comparatively quiet. One visitation this morning when the shops were closed for about half an hour, and as I write (11pm) there is a raid on and the sound of a German plane can be distinctly heard. - but where or how it is being dealt with, in the absence of gunfire, we do not know. And - so to bed.
Sunday, 25 August 1940
If there has been no entry it is not that life is undisturbed. Two days last week we actually had peace - but the remainder! Sometime just after breakfast, or in the morning when away on the cliff with the dog, or - well anytime, the syren go, the shops shut, the people disappear into houses and shelters. But the moon has been full and beautiful and Jerry has taken advantage of it. Most nights he, or they, as the case may be, the case may be, has turned up soon after 10pm. Sometimes, As for instance both Thursday and last night, there were relays of syrens. No sooner had one all clear sounded than a warning began. This has gone on for several hours.
(a page is missing)
...Disturbed and the guns at Lavernock, Glamorgan (including it is said a big Swedish gun) were very active. One of the Raiders were shot down in flames on it and the doomed men perished in Whitmore Bay, Barry, Glamorgan.
Friday 5 September
The raids have continued daily and nightly with intensity. For several nights they have commenced between 9pm and 10pm and lasted for hours, not infrequently till 4am or 5am. One gets used to lying in bed listening to the drone of planes overhead, receding, returning the sharp loud explosions of heavy guns, the bursting of shells or maybe bombs, the falling of shrapnel outside the house and the talk of our wardens who apparently shelter in the arch of the opposite cinema. To say that there is a growing unconcern of the danger involved may be inaccurate, but everywhere it can be noticed that people have lost their nervousness somewhat, and without relaxing precaution sleep better either in bed or shelter. Still it is disconcerting to be aroused from sleep by the sudden roar of guns and bombs.
Swansea, Glamorgan has suffered badly, it is said, the railway station, part of Wind Street including the Hotel Metropole, the vestry of St Mary's Church shattered, with it is variously estimated fifty to eighty deaths. Albany Road, Cardiff, Glamorgan including Roath Park Church, has been severely damaged and some lives lost.
16 September 1940
If there is no particular incident to relate since my last entry it is not to be supposed that we have lived uneventful lives. Daily (frequently several times), nightly (sometimes lasting for five or six hours) the Germans have visited us. The drone of their machines is a recognised and constant feature whilst the burst of heavy gunfire may startle with its noise but does not quicken our heartbeats. Not merely have we all got used to this condition of life, taking every essential precaution, but the will of the people have greatly hardened. The continuous and glorious successes of our Air Force (one hundred and eighty five German machines down yesterday over London) creates confidence, whilst the change in the weather to rain, wind and choppy seas will prevent attempted invasion. May it blow with equinoctial fury. Yesterday's gathering at Trinity Church for war intercession was a solemn reunion of confidence in God.
23 September 1940
Not much to report this week. The syren is ever with us at all hours of day and night followed by the drone of planes, occasional musketry shooting in the cloud, loud gun bursts etc. But there has been no bomb damage and people go upon their lawful occasions without the perturbation evident at the commencement of these murderous outrages.
20 October 1940
A long time since the last entry. Nothing doing? That cannot be recorded. Everyday, every night the syrens are frequent, there is the throb of planes overhead, and intermittently the roar of big guns, the rattle of artillery and the sound of smaller aircraft guns. But there have been no bombs dropped although Cardiff, Glamorgan has received some damage Anna few people killed. It is said that they are passing over toward Liverpool, Lancashire, England. But really it is all guesswork on our part. By some wonderful methods they detect the oncoming of enemy aircraft and in a flash all the guns and protecting air planes are ready. Courage is ever on tap. So we have got used to it, so much that we ask each other "is there an air raid on?" - " has the all clear sounded?" life declines or ascends to the normal and our nerves are not disturbed. How many planes brought down locally? We never know but Air Craft Fighters at Lavernock, Glamorgan are having little red flushes on the arm of their uniforms indicating that they have secured an enemy loss. But this isn't war, it's murder, beastly revolting murder masquerading as genuine war under specific rules. Have the ethics of the world being a based since God has been exorcised from conduct and ambition.
9 November 1940
It seems ridiculous to keep a diary and make such infrequent entry it is but in reality there has been little of local interest to record. Perhaps not today, and frequently several times daily, the Syren (or Sirene with a final long e as more uneducated people call it) goes. It has now been altered in title to "Alert". But although the marauders have passed overhead there has been no local damage. They call them the Liverpool Express because of the damage on Merseyside, Lancashire. By this time we take little notice indoors, but are more careful outside in case of shrapnel falling. The guns frequently thunder and Lavernock Battery is credited with bringing down a German bomber over the sea. Today comes news of the death of Mr Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister until succeeded by Mr Churchill a few months ago. It is certain that he endeavoured very sincerely to continue peace and that he was a great Englishman.
8 December 1940
Continuing as before. Nothing different to report. Bristol, Somerset, Southampton, Hampshire, Coventry, Warwickshire and Merseyside have had it badly. Much devastation and many deaths. But - the tide is turning in our favour. There will always be in England but it is not so certain there will always be a Germany. Evil is not a perpetual factor.
22 December 1940
Nothing particular to enter since 8 inst. Plenty of enemy planes passing over and returning, no bombs here. On passage to Midlands or Liverpool, Lancashire where damage is done. Was awakened last night by heavy gunfire close at hand, but it lessened Anne in a few minutes we slept again.
2 January 1941
Now there is a real event to record outdistancing all that has preceded. Last night was very cold, abitare NE wind and snow lay likely on the ground. The latter with a waxing moon, clear sky and brilliant stars, an opportunity Jerry seized upon to give us a real A1 Blitz, such as he has delivered to London, Southampton, Birmingham, Warwickshire, Coventry, Manchester, Lancashire, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England and other cities. It commenced at 6.30pm lasting until 1.30am, but there was occasional enemy action until daylight. To describe it would be impossible. Agnes Dawson and I sat by the fire, the maid Gertrude Brake having gone to the pictures. At first a plane or two were heard, then came the continuous rushing of wings. The guns commenced at once with increasing violence and the occasional sound of a bursting bomb. Apparently the enemy was attacking Cardiff, Glamorgan although stray bombs fell elsewhere. The sound was terrific, windows rattled and as we sat the sudden outside noises prevented us hearing each other speak. We went to the top storey to look out in the darkness. Search lights swayed through the skies, the reddened lower sky over Cardiff, Glamorgan indicated that fires had been started. Hell with its devils of destruction were let loose, and overall were the quiet stars.
So we sat this evening, I reading or holding wool for Agnes Dawson, who is consant in knitting scarves, socks or pullovers for men in the Forces. Were we frightened? I think we can truthfully say that we were not. But we were awed by the forces being used and we realised that within short distances men, women and children might be maimed and murdered, and carefully built properties be suddenly demolished. A great anger arose within me that ever human nature could sink to such depravity and divorce itself from the restraint of rightful impulses. For once I wanted to fight, for the promoters of such devilment were not fit to live and pollute the world. Hitler says he desires to introduce a new order into Europe. He has done so - the OD - Order of the Devil. And my heart, and I think Agnes Dawson's also, hardened. There can only be one enter this, such evil must be conquered and excised forever from the world.
Gertrude Brake, the maid, came in with a married sister somewhere near 11pm. They had been waiting in the Washington Cinema (five minutes away) since 8.30pm unable to risk the shrapnel and other dangers of the streets. The sister slept on a couch until about 3am, whence her husband, wo is in the Air Raid Precaution (ARP), came and took her home.
Arthur's son Ralph Dawson, his wife Hilda Dawson and Arthur's grandson Malcolm Dawson had much experience of the Blitz, not unaccompanied with danger. In the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cardiff, Glamorgan the crash of dropping bombs could be heard. The audience retained their seats, the actors calmly went on with the play and even introduced quips concerning the outside explosions. Part of the ornamentation of the roof was displaced. Nothing affected actors or audience who cheered each other at the end. But when Ralph Dawson emerged into the street the first sight was a blazing building opposite, the enemy was active and danger was around. They found buses to Penarth, Glamorgan had ceased and trains thereto stopped running, no taxis to be had. So they remained in the station shelter for a time helping an Airman, his wife and several small children who had been landed there. Ralph Dawson cross the open space to obtain tea and eatables for these stranded people. He says no words can appreciate the courage of the ladies in the YMCA canteen, working in a gimcrack exposed building, the Blitz in full intensity and bombs falling close, they undisturbedly carried on serving the Forces men as calmly as if they were in a tent at a horse show.
No vehicle being available, Ralph Dawson, Hilda Dawson and Malcolm Dawson had to walk to Penarth, Glamorgan (four miles) along a road that had been peppered with bombs, had shell holes and adjacent unexploded bombs, with the enemy at work and our guns going. They got home safely about 2am.
None can say yet what the damage is. Certain shops have disappeared. The venerable Cathedral at Llandaff, Glamorgan has been sadly mauled, a few people were killed, many injured. At Llandough Hospital, Glamorgan, near here, the Nurses' Block was either badly damaged or destroyed, but the nurses had no quivers as they attended the injured brought by the Ambulances and laid down for the time being in the corridors. Through all this period of horror young women drove Ambulances, firemen, ARP and all manner of people worked to quench incendiary bombs, cope with fire rescue wounded - and all without a murmur. If Cardiff, Glamorgan detested Hiler and his crowd the day before the night's raid, when the morning came their resolution to see him destroyed had hardened. Not by instruments of terror is this race to be subdued.
Of thousands of incendiary bombs, one went through the roof of our factory (Econoil), but fortunately died out without igniting our very inflammable stocks.
This morning at Penarth, Glamorgan we found that we were without water, gas or rail services. These factors were due to bombs dropping on the connecting rail and roads. But the railway company have put on buses and we have seen the strange sight of tanks full of water on lorries parading our streets, and everyone, including ourselves, bringing out our cans, jugs and kettles to be filled. Evidently, both rail and water companies had made provision in advance. And as I write tonight the guns are going again and the enemy planes droning overhead. The only apparent damage I have seen in Penarth, Glamorgan was three Barrage Balloons in the sea yesterday, but they had been recovered by today.
|Air Raid Casualties Notice - Western Mail 5 January 1941.|
6 January 1941
(Agnes Dawson's sixty seventh birthday). Both water and gas services are restored and as the trains were running again I went into Cardiff, Glamorgan. The rail track had been bombed near Leckwith Woods, Glamorgan, the late Mr Spencer's house being demolished. Of the four large gas reservoirs on the flats only one remains and the artisan dwellings from there to Cardiff, Glamorgan Station were a pitiable sight. In some cases houses had been completely demolished and had become heaps of rubble, in others roofs had disappeared or remained without a sound slate. It was a horrible sight of wanton destruction. In St Mary Street, Cardiff, Glamorgan there was little evidence of destruction exceptone unroofed shop gutted with fire. At the University College I was informed that Canton, Glamorgan and Llandaff, Glamorgan, had suffered severely and that the houses of the Principal (Mr F J Rees and of Mr Wood) had been so injured as to render them homeless. Perhaps the most revealing and pathetic information is the attached advertisement cut from today's issue of the Wester Mail Newspaper.
20 January 1941
In normal times one could write a screed on the coming and going of enemy planes, being awakened by thunder of guns, or three steamers being mined in the near channel. But the times are not normal and we have become used to the abnormal. Every day, with rare exceptions, there have been 'alerts', guns and all clears. But we have got used to it and as our town, our homes, our lives are unchanged, therre is nothing special to record. Large drafts of Air Force have arrived in the town, taking possession of public halls, church and schoolrooms and empty houses whilst a large number have been billeted upon house builders.
23 February 1941
Not that the lapse of a month in this diary means that there has been no evidence of wwar. True, this immediate area has not been bombed excepting a diminution for about a fortnight enemy planes have been passing frequently overhead and the guns have been firing. They were enroute for other places and Swansea, Glamorgan was severely damaged on three successive nights 19, 20 and 21 February. Wat damage has been done or how many persons killed or injured is as yet unknown. The telephone there is confined to Government messages but doctors, nurses, blood for transfusions, YMCA canteen, all went there Friday night.
Penarth, Glamorgan roads have received many German mines delivered from aeroplanes. These are the new type - acoustic - and becoming submerged explode by the vibration of passing steamers. There are several injured vessels on Whitmore Sands, Barry, Glamorgan.
The town is full of RAF men and women billeted here. The butter ration is increased to 4oz each person, meat still remains 1s 2d worth per head per week.
Sand in bags has been distributted to householders to deal with incendiary bombs; a lecture was given by Mr Hayes (arranged by Air Warden Llewellyn) on how to deal with such bombs, whilst householders become Fire Watchers for a certain section. Agnes Dawson is Fire Watcher dring the day of Thursdays and I take each Thursday night.
26 March 1941
we had a severe bombing. Soon after 7pm, it's being a fair a clear night, enemy planes came over to be followed by successive waves of them until past 10pm. The attack was upon Cardiff, Glamorgan. The Thunder of nearby guns was terrific. Evidently we had an increased number. We sat by the fire occasionally going to the top of the house to see the sky over Cardiff, Glamorgan. The red glow denotes fires. We were joined by Mr and Mrs Lowis sheltering, for although they live near, falling shrapnel made it dangerous to proceed. About 10pm silence was resumed. The damage done was limited by the action of Fire Watchers and ARP. The Students Union had a bomb through the Refectory roof and is unusable. A bomb fell just outside the University College, breaking very many of the east windows. Here a student Fire Watcher was killed and in all Cardiff about 8 persons were killed. Saint Marcus Church and some other buildings were destroyed, but actually this severe attack found us better prepared and the damage was relatively small. Since the above including today 2 March, they have been but occasional enemy planes and the people take but little notice of them.
3 March 1941
Last night, clear with moon, about 7pm commence the severest raid that Cardiff, Glamorgan has known. It lasted till passed 11pm, loud and then broke out again. Swarms of enemy planes appeared to be passing overhead, the noise of heavy and light gun firing with terrific and continuous. We sat reading or playing crib but always with an ear open for any unusual noise, and although having experienced so much we were not nervous yet aware of the possibility that at any moment our home might be wrecked and we become casualties for stop and also aware that nature was in Cardiff, Glamorgan, there was wanton destruction, injury to persons an murder. We went to the top rooms to see the sky glow from fires but only this morning did we hear and see some of the damage effected. Rumour embraced almost every part of the town but it was not so bad as that. Still, the streets of Cardiff, Glamorgan, this morning were pitiable: St Mary and Queen Street and the land adjoining the Great Western Railway (GWR) station roped off, consequences upon unexploded timebombs; ships, public buildings bombed; all business practically suspended. Crowds looking at windowless stores (Howells, Co-Operative, E. Roberts etc. etc.). Heaps of broken glass swept to curb stones. Roath Road Wesleyan Church a gutted ruin, the Infirmary bombed; Howard Gardens school, the Blind Institute either demolished or badly damaged. What else, I do not know, as the Hayes could not be entered, the Free Library is set to be wrecked. The usual method: incendiary bombs to start fires, the light from these guiding the explosive bombs. No details of damage is published nor numbers of dead and wounded. One enemy plane was brought down on fire by gun fire. And as I write this 8.30pm Tuesday 4 March, the syren has gone, the guns have commenced again and they have come for another evening's slaughter.
6 March 1941
And who can describe the Blitz that fell on Penarth, Glamorgan, last night, commencing as I closed my last note. Planes droned over successively for hours. Guns of all dimensions opened fire, small pom poms to great artilleries that rattled all windows and almost rocked the house. Add thousands of inflammable bombs an occasional explosive bombs and hell seemed let loose, and was. And it looked and smelt like it when an incendiary fell into the back garden. At the moment I rushed out four ARP men were scaling the walls and a sandbag thrown upon it smothered it when issuing thousands of sparks. Five people came for shelter (Mr and Mrs Lowis, Mrs and two Miss Williams). We sat by the fire, listening, then the electric light went out and candles appeared. A lull and the planes were heading home with renewed uproar of guns and bombs. And so until 1am. To suddenly here the all clear was to emerge from the noise of a factory.
Damage? Very severe. All Saints Church (burnt down one hundred and forty seven years ago) is a gutted ruin; Holy Nativity Church has gone; the damage in the adjoining residential area is more than considerable. Almost every house bears battle marks. Part of some roads e.g. Stanwell, Archer, Penarth, Glamorgan have successions of broken windows with here and their houses with their fronts torn away. Ralph Dawson (18, Cwrt-y-vil Road, Penarth, Glamorgan) had three incendiary bombs through his roof, ceiling damage, some windows broken but grappled with his task under the roof effectively and bagging the bombs. This morning an unsuspected one was found on the settee, fortunately died or it would have set the room ablaze.
At the end of this: one enemy bomber shot down with dead crew (possibly another) at Barry, Glamorgan, and on our side several dead and many wounded. And through this hell the ARP men and Fire Watchers move unperturbedly rendering aid and giving cheer, whilst girls drove canteen's or took the Ambulance patients to hospital. Say our youth is decadent - pink nails and rouged lips enshrine the highest courage. And one thing more on our side - no quaking or quivering, only a hardened will to purge the earth from this incursion of the Devil.
25 March 1941
Life has gone tranquilly since my last entry. When I write tranquilly I would not imply the conditions of peacetime. Planes have been frequent, guns have roared at any moment, time bombs previously dropped have exploded arousing the neighbourhood. The period has not been one of fear or dread but watchfulness. Boy Scouts under Capt. Bartlett bring you small sacks of sand. In the roof and on each floor some of these are placed so as to be immediately available if incendiaries need prompt action. The bath is filled at night; a valise with essential clothes is ready if sudden exit is necessary. All these things arise from precaution not panic. Life is undisturbed, people come and go on their lawful occasions, the voluntary services are rendered ungrudgingly with cheer; occupations and amusements are normal; the will against the evil genie in the world is more determined.
And people unobtrusively are praying. Last Sunday at the request of the King special prayer was offered with Thanksgiving in every church. I held my Sunday morning (10.30am - 10.50am) meeting for intercession. Its sincerity and intensity were uplifting. Very representative of men and women of all degrees and standing.
25 May 1941
A long time since my last entry. So far as enemy action in and around Penarth, Glamorgan, is concerned there is little exceptional to report. The syrens wailed daily and nightly. Gunfire is frequent, bombs have been dropped at Dinas Powys, Glamorgan, Sully, Glamorgan, but in the immediate neighbourhood we have been fairly free. At any rate it has not become a condition of life which cause for exchange of opinions but not for change of habits. Cardiff, Glamorgan, had a nasty night during which the County Hall was somewhat damaged, bombs fell near the College. Apparently they were trying to bomb the Taff railway which runs nearby, but on the other side of it some houses in Llanbleddian Gardens, Cardiff, Glamorgan, were utterly demolished. In one a Mrs. Jones (sister of my friend A.L. Galsworthy) were killed. Identification was possible from parts of clothing only. In an adjoining house a Mrs Hughes aged over eighty lived alone. Her roof was greatly damaged but she refused to either go to her daughters at Penarth, Glamorgan, to leave, or to have anyone in. During the last week syrens have been only occasional and we have slept undisturbed. That may be due to enemy aircraft being sent to share in the battle for Crete which is now entering upon its severest struggle. 'Rations' are the chief feminine talk. Women go marketing early lest limited supplies should be exhausted. Sometime there is the excitement of finding the unexpected, or the disappointment of denial. Sweet shops have few goods, of tobacco one must take what can be got, but the result of it all is that although necessarily there is limitation there is no hardship. We have plenty to eat and drink and if we cannot exercise a choice at will as we did before the war we take what offers and have nothing to grouse about in quality, quantity or price. Perhaps sugar and meat shortage are most felt. Sugar, because wives want reserves for making marmalade, jams or to use with rhubarb and similar dishes.
Entertaining friends, especially hospitality to Serving Men, becomes difficult, but between ordinary friends the rule of meeting between and not for meals is largely observed. Meet rations of one shilling a head cause laughter at the size of the Sunday joint due to last the week. But then it doesn't, and wonderful little meals appear appetising and satisfying. Our women should learn much in resource and frugality.
On 13 May I ended my eightieth year (13 May 1861 - May 1941). It seems absurd for I am in robust health except a slight weakness in the right eye. My numerous public offices are regularly discharged. I can play bowls for hours, plant cabbages or perform similar garden work, preach, lecture etc. without fatigue. And - there is still adventures around the next corner of the road. My birthday was a period of peaceful joy environed by love. Many telephones, telegrams and messages of goodwill but beyond these the love touches of my own. At dinner at night Lieutenant Commander Spencer, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) (an old shipmate of Ralph Dawson) joined as he was passing through Cardiff, Glamorgan. This day I was thankful to realise that in a world of menace and hatred the God-inspired qualities with the most permanent factors of the universe, and the greatest of these is love.
1 June 1941
Mention should be made of Friday/Saturday 30/31 May - far apart from the Blitz night in March... A clear and not Dark Knight, N.E. wind, fine. We had been fairly free from visits for several nights and went to bed to sleep about 11pm. Gradually after midnight planes commenced. They appeared by sound to come in waves and the throbbing engines showed that they were flying low. The guns commenced from everywhere. It was 1am. The noise was so great and the firing so continuous that we doubted the wisdom of remaining in bed, as at any moment a nearby bomb might make it necessary to leave the house. We put on the sundry clothes and laid on the bed, the room occasionally lit up by flares and the noise continuing. As we lay on our elbows there was a blinding flash lighting the room, the deafening explosion of a bomb making the house shake. We jumped from bed, hastily and partly dressed and with Gertrude Brake, the Maid and the dog went down under the stairs by the kitchen door. Presently I donned my helmet and went out. Nielson and Sadler shops the other side of the road had only the frames of plate glass windows - glass was strewn everywhere. At that we were ignorant of what had happened. There were no local signs of incendiaries or bombs. I returned but was too sleepy to sit in the chair so I laid on the lounge couch and went so fast asleep that when at nearly 4am, the noise of planes and guns have lessened, Agnes Dawson and Gertrude Brake, the Maid return to bed, I remained until something after 4am I heard the 'all clear'. Next day - we were tired and sleepy all day - we heard that a large bomb had been dropped in the sea mud off Penarth head, Glamorgan that houses in Kymin Terrace, Penarth, Glamorgan and other parts of the higher town had all windows shattered, that the blast had swept in a line to our area breaking many windows and that great daubs of mud had been carried by the blast to the nearby Station Approach, Penarth, Glamorgan. The devil must be very active in this world, but like Luther we defy him.
20 July 1941
Along refrain from entering my diary. So far as this locality and England generally are concerned the period has been quiet. Gradually the alerts sounded less frequently, these days and nights passed without disturbance. Possibly, very probably this was due to Germany's commitments in the East, her massing on the Russian border prior to ruthlessly entering that country. That occured a month ago today (22 June) and apparently they have found a far stiffer proposition than was anticipated. Authentic news is UN obtainable but the slaughter appears to be enormous on both sides, the Germans advancing slowly with exhaustion. Where this will end is unknown. But apart from the temporary (for we only view it as that) lull here our Force with greater numbers and higher type is raiding France and Germany by day and night doing incredible damage to factories and destroying enemy planes and ships wholesale. So our times are quiet but no precaution is relaxed. More things are being rationed, including clothing, eggs etc. But all accepted without grumbling as a necessity towards the victory that is coming. When? That no one can prophesy but the French have been cleared out of Syria the e the east becomes safer and the few enemies left in abyssinia are hardly now mentioned in the news.East becomes safer and the few enemies left in Abysinnia are hardly now mentioned in the news. We took advantage of the lull to go away for nine days to Llangynidr, Brecknockshire... where by the kindness of Mr S G Gibbs Justice of the Peace (JP) we stayed at Worcester Cottage, formerly a fishing place for the Duke of Beaufort. An ideal spot of perfect peace - no war - no papers - no motors - only lovely piece of God and of man. No syren - no sand bags - no stirrup pumps - no air wardens. We slept and slept and then - slept.
Sunday 24 August 1941
There is nothing to record locally. Only once I believe has a syren sounded. But the attack upon Russia has shifted German armies and airplanes to the East. All that is not for local record but for the time being it brings us relief. Of course this relief results in reactions. Many wishful thinkers state that the war will soon end, precautions are not so urgently taken, one result being that persons who ignore the 'black out' are again appearing in Court. Of course this is all short thinking. The war is still there and the whole world remains in peril.
|Ralph Leslie Dawson|
The first crossed the period valuable for commencing a career, the second may possibly ruin the business he has painfully got together. He would like to take active service and is no shirker, but domestic and business matters perplex. My heart is heavy for him. Most things are now rationed, including clothes. But there is no shortage. The skill of Agnes Dawson (as doubtless of thousands of other women) in devising dishes is remarkable. Our menu is being more varied but it is succulent, satisfying, healthy, and we are very fit. There are now an increasing number of airwomen and decreasing number of air men in the town. Communal feeding in the Plymouth Rooms, Penarth, Glamorgan, has replaced feeding in billets. Notably a wise provision to ensure varied and well cooked food. Tobacco is a problem. Almost every shop puts up 'No Cigarettes', yet everyone is smoking them, and tobacco depends on capricious supplies. Probably retailers retain supplies for their own customers. At any rate I have not gone short yet. Tonight at 9pm the commanding voice of Mr Winston Churchill will be heard speaking upon the 'Atlantic Agreement' with President Roosevelt and all the world will listen with respect. He has the Empire with him.
Sunday 12 October 1941
There is little to record of local events since the last entry. I've got used to long undisturbed nights. The great fight was transferred to Russia and as it receded from Great Britain certain people exhibited complacency. 'The war will soon be over', Their air force is insufficient for both fronts'. 'We shall have no invasion now', etc. I have even heard such persons challenging Government decisions to call up more men and women as totally unnecessary. Poor deluded people who knowing nothing think that they know everything. Fortunately all Government and other public speakers continually insist on the imminence of peril and the necessity for continued productions. With all this complacency the renewed sound of syren warnings caused a feeling of revulsion. Perhaps it was good to have an occasional syren although the sound of roaring guns seemed strange. But there was no local damage. Although mines have been dropped in the Channel causing the port to be closed for several days and at Rogerstone, Monmouthshire in the Western Valley some houses were bombed and several lives lost. Our food supplies (the best by far in Europe it is said) are adequate and meat, sugar and other articles are to be increased. This is a wonderful tribute to Government and our rule of the Seas. Young men and women are continually arriving in Penarth, Glamorgan, for training in the Air Force from an apparently inexhaustible supply. All our youth appears to have gone into the Force or compulsory Civil work. The height of the age groups called up increases. The last was for men of forty three. This included my son Ralph Dawson who served for five years in the Great War as Sub Lieutenant RNVR. He was interviewed at the Admiralty, accepted as Lieutenant, instructed to report to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Middlese for a Refresher Course on Sunday 28 October. There he is an will soon receive his appointments. He went loyally and unflinchingly, but to surrender ones home and take ones hand off the business he has found it are unwelcome factors. But to the elimination of the evil of the world each unit has to contribute.
Sunday 2 November 1941
Since my last entry syrens have gone more frequently, e.g. At least three evenings last week accompanied by gunfire and a vast noise from a bomb dropped in the channel, believed between western, Somerset and Clevedon, Somerset. There has been no local damage. 'Black out' is again rigid and we refrain from going out at nights as without St lights it is dangerous especially at crossings. Wonderful how you can lose the sense of direction in the dark and blunder into walls and trees. I have to tap walls with my stick although I knew every inch of the way. Food supply is excellent in quality and sufficient in variety and quality. Eggs are scarce - three per person per month - when you can get them. Everyone has to carry his own purchases - nothing sent. Yesterday I brought the weeks joint in a basket. Shopkeepers having a worrying time, most things sold by production of coupon and youth of both sexes withdrawn for war service. It is the day of the old and very young- and all are doing well.
Friday 28 November 1941
I was just thinking how exempt we had been of late not only from damage but from visits of enemy planes overhead when the melancholy but familiar notes of the 'wail' sounded. Somewhere overhead are these devonish instruments carrying random death to someone. Its usual we go on with undisturbed duties by the fire always amazing that it is someone else who will suffer.
Curious these dark nights with unlighted streets and very difficult to traverse them. All sense of direction is lost in the dark and the most familiar roads are negotiated with difficulty. To cross a road is an adventure. You stand, listen intently for traffic and then plunge across some time to stumble over the unseen curb and fall on the pavement. Or you blunder into a wall or find yourself against a street tree despite the fact that they are all painted white to the height of several feet. Better it is, unless leaving home is imperative, that you stay put. And by 'staying put' one is finding a joy often neglected, of the home with ones loved persons and books and thoughts of the far away ones. And tonight comes news of the fall of Gondar, Abyssinia, where the Italian bubble has burst, and also of the amazing progress of our cause in Libya. Someday peace will return an justice rule.
19 January 1942
There is little to record. Days and nights perfectly quiet. Russians excellent subject of modifications according to existing stock. Every news hour everyone listens to the war news from the far off war centres, noting the gradual elimination of Libya, the magnificent return of the Russians, and with growing concern the swift and treacherous attack of the Japs in the East. The invasion of Malaya concerns us in this home as tin bearing companies in which we are considerably interested have been overrun. Doubtless we have insufficient air and military forces and supplies to equally equipped each of the great fronts and Hitler had to be first destroyed, and doubtless too, we shall soon be better equipped in Malaya. Ralph Dawson, (my son) now Lieutenant RNVR returned home on 27 December from Haslar Hospital, Gosport, Hampshire, where is appendix has been removed on 12 December. Slowly he has gathered strength and returns on 22 December.
15 February 1942
There is nothing to add of local significance. The air has been undisturbed, no unfriendly visitors. But in this quiet all have been intent upon the struggle in Malay. Will the Japs win through or not, and tonight at 6pm the radio announces that Singapore has surrendered. A terrible disaster and blow to our prestige in the East. Wealstun Dan cannot assess its significance. Tonight at 9pm the Prime Minister Mr Churchill speaks. Pops after hearing him we shall be clearer minded. All that we know now is that the assured ultimate victory is delayd. Perhaps the Prime Minister may also have something to say respecting the further tragic incident of the week, the escape from Brest, France, of three German warships (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen) who navigated the English Channel in daylight to safety in German waters. An act of skill and courage on their part but where were we that we could not intercept or sink? We must await all facts, but neither of these events move us.
Ralph Dawson took up a new appointment on the Tees, East of Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England, last Tuesday. From the little news to hand it is not an exacting one and may therefore favour his full recovery after his operation.
15 March 1942
The war goes on but it is far off to the East. Perhaps distance causes it to lose its significance to many minds. Yet it is a very disquieting situation with Singapore and Java gone and Rangoon evacuated. Of course the persons are numerous who ask 'why didn't we do this, that or the other. So easy it is to question or seek scapegoats. But we are all aware now of two things.
1. That we cannot spread our ships and planes all over the world without danger of defeat everywhere and
2. That past years are speaking to us of the folly of reducing the Navy and economising in necessities.
If we had not entered into the Treaty of London 1931 and tied our hands, how different today. But there is no grousing, no reduced determination. Locally, no event. A startling noise occured the other morning. It appears it was the explosion of a bomb nearLlandough Hospital, Glamorgan, dropped in a field a year ago. No new possible from niece Hilda Pierson in Holland. One can only conjecture the shortages and suffering. Our second War Ship Week ended yesterday, A year ago we made £140,000, this time £170,000. Pretty good going, overt £10 per head, man, woman and child. I spoke at meetings and works. The way girls are working is wonderful. At Price's Factory they were experts in boxmaking. Food excellent, rations good. Newspapers reduced in size. Iron railing being removed from enclosures, houses, churches etc. Great day today - had an egg for breakfast! Allowed three each per month.
Easter Sunday 5 April 1942
No local information to record. Our long quiet was broken by a 'syren' or 'alert' twice during the latter end of last week and again this afternoon. It was quite interesting to hear the sound after such a long interval and to mark its effect in immediately being followed by our planes overhead and the reappearance of the Fire Wardens. Each occasion lasted only a few minutes, but was a reminder to reject complacency. My son Ralph Dawson, Lieutenant RNVR, now on Tees, is home for the weekend looking fit.
|Arthur Malcolm Dawson Home Guard|
Food rations are good, at least quite sufficient provided that you do not extend hospitality unduly. But gradually other items are being restricted. These you can buy anywhere in exchange for 'point' ration vouchers. A good and ingenious system especially as they may suddenly announce after shops are closed that items will come under 'ponts' the next day. This prevents people buying in advance. For example, breakfast cereals and condensed milk are available for points' when shops are open.
Sunday 26 July 1942
It appears absurd to say that there has been no incident to record since my last entry. The great war has been raging with unabated fury but its striving have been on sea, in the air over Europe, gallant Malta and the East. whilst we have watched with daily anxiety the issues in Russia, North Africa and the Far East. But this is a local diary, of dreary it can be called. And there has been no local incident of note. Visiting enemy planes have been very rare, no local damage except a little near Tumble Down Dick Hill, St Nicholas, Glamorgan.
Except that on 27 June large damage was done by a wanton bombing of Weston, Somerset, and my friend Lord Glandy was killed by a direct hit on the house he had hired. I knew him as a Chartering Clerk (Bill Tatem) and after my return to Cardiff, Glamorgan in 1918 we became acquainted again. He introduced me to the University College office and we frequently met. Probably as new social conditions will arise he will be the last person to rise from cabin boy to the House of Lords.
There are continuous small changes in rationing, but we are well fed. National requirements are conscripting more and more men and women and the tramp of Air recruits in the street is unabated. Ralph Dawson who is now at a dangerous spot at the mouth of the Tees has had a second medical survey after his operation in December last, is to continue duty and be resurveyed in six months. Agnes Dawson has become a member of the Tribunal for examining women required for National Service. There is no actual news of Hilda but it is evident that the position in Holland is increasingly serious.
Sunday 25 October 1942
Over three months without an entry. During that time we havce sampled the wireless news several times daily, alternating between hope and anxiety. The heroic struggle at Stalingrad, Russia has rivetted all attention and our hearts go out in prayer and praise for the courage, resource and tenacity of the magnificent Russians. Still theu resist, still we cheer. But this diary is for local events and they are very few. Guns of all dimensions are frequent and very loud disturbers. But they are our own, mostly stationed at Lavernock, Glamorgan. For the first time the new type exercised many on the Windsor Bowling Green, Penarth, Glamorgan for cover. Now we are quite used to them and even, as today, my dog, Duke, who was walking with me only turned his head as if to enquire 'whats all the noise about'? Last night as we were getting into bed a syren went. We have not herd one for a long time and it seemed very unusual. There were some planes overhead, presumably ours, no guns or bombs, and within about half an hour the 'all clear' went. The town seems as full as ever f Air Force men and girls. But amongst the youth older types are coming, men of middle age evidently uprooted from home and even women who are beyond their early years. Many of these are very lonely. When I spoke tp a large canteen audience of troops a few Sundays ago and touched on lonliness one lad turned to Agnes Dawson saying 'that is true, I am so lonely'.
Food excellent. Lord Woolten knows his work. He varies the 'points' required for a while so as to release or conserve articles. Even sweets are rationed. But I know little of these complexities and do not envy women who deal with them.
Ralph Dawson's Naval Station on the Tees being small was absorbed by another Force. He secured a transfer to Swansea, Glamorgan where he is afloat in a trawler based in the Mumbles. Not the duty for a man who is unused to little sharp vessels that buck nastily in disturbed waters and always bow politely to every wave. But he survives it all with unturned stomach and likes his duty.
Sunday 27 December 1942
The last entry for the year. There is no local incident to record. We are well fed and by luck we had a turkey for Christmas. The supply is very limited, it is understood that the Forces had first claim. Ralph Dawson, Hilda Dawson and Malcolm Dawson are in Swansea, Glamorgan, where Ralph Dawson is serving at the Naval Base. Letters from America state that there is no further news of our niece Hilda Pierson and her family in Holland. She is apparently having a very anxious period with great shortages of food, clothing and fuel. Even their cycle which they relied upon to shop in the neighbouring town has been confiscated. There is no despondency. Everywhere is the same note of optimism. The unforeseen victory in the Battle of Egypt, the continued retreat of Rommel, the landing of the Americans in North Africa have dissipated any gloom. But the magnificent actions of the Russians in and about Stalingrad with four vigorous offensives and the continuous defeat of the Germans and the taking of large numbers of prisoners and huge quantities of material have astonished and encoiuraged. Every wireless item adds further progress. Beyond this another tendency is apparent from the speeches of prominent men and the casual conversations of life, that it is being realised that this is a war challenge of the evil forces of the world and the things of God and that the ultimate conquest by God is not in doubt. Strange how frequently, recurrently, the name God is mentioned from the most unexpected persons. Even Lord Woolton (Food Controller) asked people to stop in their Christmas meal and give thanks to God for the miracles and courage that ensured them. If I gauge right this nation is more convinced than ever that its cause is just, that victory is certain, and I believe is praying as it never did before. Large arrangements are being planned for the future when the war ceases - and the certainty of victory is undoubted. Such arrangements are not confined to our nation but cover feeding and reconstruction of the subjugated nations of Europe and the bringing to justice of those who have wantonly inflicted cruelty and death. The deliberate systematic massacre of nearly a million Jews in Poland alone has aroused horror even at a time when we have become used to the totals of thousands killed in a single battle. So we enter New Year with firm confidence that whilst each does what is possible to him there is an unseen Power at work. We cannot doubt that with the history of the last three years open to us. There is something active in this world besides the material forces.
Friday 22 January 1943
Came North Africa news of the capture of Tripoli, Libya by Montgomery (son-in-law of Dean Farrar). It is said to be the finest and most rapid military march of history. With Tripoli captured ends Musseloni's dream of an African Empire. He stole it about 1912, went on stealing, 'pacified' it by the basest cruelties throwing Arabs from aeroplanes, poison, gas etc., conquered Abysinnia and projected to complete his Empire by the conquest of Egypt. And then God, who rules, acted using our armies for their defeat. Back from the Egyptian border, back, back Rommel was pushed, until in the rapid march cited, he stood at the gate of surrendered Tripoli. Tunis remains to be conquered and then the Axis will be ousted from Africa. But the awful slaughter of youth, never mind its nationality, youth. They are being destroyed by the hundreds of thousands, it is race suicide.
Good food and plenty of it, nothing really short, except say a yard of elastic! This is 'comfortable' war for the ordinary citizen, except those who suffer at heart.
Sunday 24 January 1943
There is still no local incident to record. The new type of gun at Lavernock, Glamorgan, which scatters wide areas of the ether is frequently heard but only in practice, explosions so fierce that people are startled and windows rattle, followed ater by one arial explosion after another. But there has been no enemy craft and vessels safely track the Bristol Channel forming convoys at Barry, Glamorgan. Nor is there much of local record. Penarth, Glamorgan is having another (the third) week to raise loans for the Excheque. This time it is in aid of the Air Force (nominally) and the target is £200,000. We are arranging to get busy over it. The chief items come by wireless and papers and fill us with astonishment and gratitude. Russia has both military and organising genius. Before its well directted masses of troops the Axis Powers are being pressed back at all points. Leningrad siege raised. Stalingrad unconquered, the Causcasus being freed. We marvel at the unexpected.
17 March 1943
No real incident since the last entry. Very occasional alerts to be shortly followed by 'all clear'. Now everybody takes them as a matter of course and there is no unrest or nervousness apparent. Our dining room is occupied most nights by Airmen studying for their Accounts Examination. They also have baths, for the accommodation provided in empty houses without fires or hot water is said to be unthinkable. They are glad of a quiet warm retreat. Also I came across an Airman with Pilot's badge but no stripes. Stated he had been over Germany many times until his nerves failed. Then hospital, then return to Air Force to find he was derated from Sergeant to Aircraftsman (AC2) with reduced pay! Others told mer this was the usual reward to men who had given all and risked their lives. The Air Force is a new force but it has apparently no tradition of humanity. Through Sir Leighton Seager this was passed to Leslie Burgess, Member of Parliament (MP) who promised to see Air Secretary. No, or little consideration is given in requisitioning houses. If they want one they are prepared to boot any occupant out. Mrs Morel (widow of a former High Sheriff) who occupies a delightfully appointed home has today been given a month notice to quit and hand over to the Air.
18 May 1943
There has been little of local importance of late, an occasional alert but little following. Our attention has been mainly given to events in the other war theatres especially the stupendous and overwhelming victory in North Africa where Bizerta and Tunis surrendered on the same day and the whole enemy armies submitted to unconditional surrender, nearly two hundred thousand prisoners and tremendous quantities of supplies captured. God has again inspired great and hitherto unknown generals - Alexander and Montgomery - with his bible in his kitbag.
But locally our long period of quiet was broken in the early hours of this morning. We were asleep in bed at about 2.30am. I do not remember the 'Alert' but we became conscious of the movement in the skies of what seemed to be endless number of planes. Whether ours or the enemies we could not then know. But the guns commenced and with increased violence. Evidently there was no slackness in our vigilance, the familiar sounds of guns and the wardens. The guns became so riotous and the noise of bombs so pronounced that we thought we had better get up, a thing we have rarely done. Putting on clothes in the dark for no torch could be used, we groped downstairs. Gertrude Brake, the Maid and Duke. the dog, with us. Under the stairs we sat in chairs and the next hour was spent uneventfully by us listening to guns of every kind, hearing some bombs not far away and occasionally seeing the vivid light of dropped flares. What a travesty of ethics to be in shelter whilst men indulge in promiscuous murder. The sounds decreased and at about 4am the 'All Clear' went. I then went out in the garden, a heavenly night with lovely full moon. And so to bed again and at once to sleep. This morning we had partial knowledge of damage. Three of the raiders down and sporadic damage over Penarth, Glamorgan and Cardiff, Glamorgan, with a few persons killed and injured. A house (Falconhurst) with Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) girls was damaged and one girl said to have been blinded and to have lost her sight. Unexploded bomb in garden of Gibb's Home. Several damages in Cardiff, Glamorgan near the GWR, Trevillian Hotel to have been flattened. This morning I took a train to Cardiff, Glamorgan intending to visit the Prison where the entrance gate and Governor's House was damaged, but no lives lost. I entrered train at Penarth, Glamorgan at 9.45am and at 11.15am the train was at Penarth Dock, Glamorgan Station, say one and a half mile, with small hope of proceeding as there was an unexploded bomb near the bridge crossing the river. So I took the bus home and this afternoon dropped asleep at 2pm when instead of the intended ten minutes I woke at 5pm, three hours solid sleep. Well, is it going to be quiet tonight or will it be hell again? And so to bed. But this day fuller news of the bombing of three German Dams and the flooding of the Ruhr Valley with immense industrial loss. Another shackle on Hitler's feet, which are moving more slowly and will soon stop. In the early hours of Tuesday 17 May 1943, we had a wild night as stated on prior page. Damage in the upper part of the town was severe, especially 'Falconhurst' and windows everywhere and some unexploded bombs. One girl of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), vwey severely injured, leg amputated and sight of both eytes gone. Even today,28 May, the train to Cardiff, Glamorgan creeps slowly over Ely River Bridge. Last night there was gun disturbance but we had heard neither alert or bombs and therefore turned over and went to sleep. Easter SUnday Church Bells were allowed to ring, now comes permissionto ring them, presumably for all services including marriages, which we understand to mean that the threat of invasion is not so severe. Coast raids are still dangerous. Bournemouth, Dorset, England, which is a sea resort and not in any sense military has been severely mauled. This is not war but murder. But the bombing and bursting of the great dams in the Ruhr has made tyhem somewhat revengeful. By the bye aquadron Leader Gibson who led the attack on the dams and is gazetted Victoria Cross (VC) is not unknown in Penarth, Glamorgan having married the daughter of Mr Moore, Quantity Surveyor, Archer Road.
1 August 1943
Long silence. Our attention has been riveted upon the vast drama enacted in Russia, Africa, Sicily and the East. Of these prodigious acts of generalship, courage and suffering it is not for a local diary to detail. Locally we have been very quiet for a long time and without exceptional incident. During the last three nights there has been air activity., heavy gun firing for one hour or two in the early morning. Evidently the enemy was over and was driven off but there is no reliable word of bombs dropped or damage done. Evidently too we are keenly alive and challenge intrustion. There are still considerable Air Force both men and women in the town, but their numbers seems to be less and we have been unable to make contacts for baths or study in our home. No word of Hilda and her family in Holland. Poor souls under the nailed heel. We can only pray for them. This week we go to The Cottage, Llangynidr, Brecknockshire, thanks to Mrs S G Gibbs, where we anticipate perfect peace in heavenly surroundings. There are definite signs that we are gaining superiority on all fronts and if the end is still far away it appears certain. Meanwhile we are wll fed, happy and resolved but the heart aches when splendid young men e.g. Harold Woodhouse and Graham Hosegood are reported 'missing'.
7 February 1944
So quiet has this area become that in case there is no alert sound in consequence of enemies being in the vicinity, the 'alert' and 'all clear' machines are sounded at 11am of the first Monday of each month to keep them free from dust. Just before the first Monday of February the alert went off at about 3am. We stirred in bed at this unusual event of former days but I went to sleep again without hearing the 'all clear'. The noise of guns is so frequent night or day that we take no notice. They are practising at Lavernock, Glamorgan with Rocket Guns or firing elsewhere. We are in the fifth winter of the war and streets by night are dark and difficult. It is quite easy to become almost lost in the most familiar neighbourhood. But we stay at home and read by the fire.
|Able Seaman Arthur Malcolm Dawson 1944|
27 April 1944
Apart from such thrills as the bombing of the Terpitz and the almost nightly Moscow guns announcing the Russian's stupendous victories there has been little of merely local character. Twice lately the alert woke us followed by intense gun fire. The first time we remained in bed until matters seemed to be coming to close so we dived for partial clothing and sat on chairs under the stairs. Not that such a place is safe, nor much used. The second event were the usual ones but they did not seem too near although there were constant planes moving close and whilst we were debating matters we fell asleep and later the noise changed to the shrill of 'all clear'. The town is full of American soldiers and sailors and the Air Force seems to have departed. Probably the States men (a fine and well behaved lot) are to join the Invasion (Second Front) Force. Today we saw several of the invasion barges, it being high water and they were practising including running ashore on the beach. Queer looking craft, long and broad, neither own machinery, nor rig, with great bows and breadths of beam. They look like roomy ships of the mid centuries. I have heard, but cannot say with certainty that each can carry and sleep (in hammocks) three/four hundred besides bearing tank guns etc. etc.
29 June 1944
All great deeds of the war have been enacted far away from here. We listen to the good news of the advance in Italy, the great conquest of the invincible Russians and the heroism of the landing of the Allies in Normandy, culminating with the fall of Cherbourg this week. Locally there is no event, not even an 'alert'. There are fewer troops in the town. The Royal Air Force (RAF) are disappearing, surrendering the houses they commandeered. But we have had personal links with the Normandy invasion through grandson Malcolm Dawson who, an Able Seaman (AB) was on a minesweeper to the west of Bristol Channel. One day he and his boat disappeared and we were left guessing. But we guessed correctly, on convoy duty from South Coast (Plymouth, Devon) and mine sweeping. He passed through Cardiff, Glamorgan on Monday 26 and we saw him for a few minutes. Looking well, thrilled with his experience 'wouldn't have missed them for anything', going to the East Coast. Another invasion? Who knows? Life for him at nineteen years (and others) is a crowded adventure. It awakens my blood and I could wish I were nineteen again and sharing it. The pilotless bombs, which are sheer murder, do not get as far as this but they area menace in London. The Haggars (Chief Shipwright, Board of Trade) who used to live here, turned up a few days ago very weary. Clothes on for ten nights, glad to have the luxury of putting on night clothes and getting onto bed. Also a pilotless bomb fell on the Guard Chapel (a beuatiful church), London, wrecking, killing and injuring many. Amongst the killed Pauline Gye of Cwrt-y-vil Road, Penarth, Glamorgan and injured the daughter of Dr Shepperd Jones of this road. Ursula Levens (daughter of Professor Levens) has returned from London this week, slightly injured as one of the pests hit the building.
4 November 1944
The war goes on. Germany being gradually invaded on the South and West by the Allies and on the East by Russia. These great events which are closely followed are distant and the Flying Bombs over Kent, London and the South East of England are being fairly well collared. But of local history there is little to record. Many evacuees, children from danger areas are in this town, including a school of boys (St Dunstans, Catford, Kent) who are quartered in homes. The responsible Official called and asked whether we had room for some. The reply was that certainly there were rooms but that our united ages exceeded one hundred and fifty years (self eighty three, Agnes Dawson seventy). He smiled and was of the opinion that we were too old to take boys. There are gradual changes as the war and possibility of invasion or serious air raids, recede. The house blackout has been reduced, fire guard and other protective services moderated, the Ambulance posts where there was constant attendance (amongst others by our maid Gertrude Brake and others) disbanded and street lighting is allowed on a moderate scale. The latter is greatly welcomed for in absolute darkness it is difficult and dangerous to traverse or cross roads. More than once we have almost lost our way where we knew every stone. Once with another man who was 'quite certain' I found that we were going in the opposite direction. Good and unexpected news has come from Holland where our niece lives, Hilda Pierson, youngest daughter of my brother Dr Rev William James Dawson, married to a Dutch Banker, Nicholas Pierson. Few words have arrived since America came into the war, just a few words by a nurse via Switzerland and British Columbia where two nephews live. They werehaving a very thin time in a cottage on their estate at Nymegweg. Thelatter place became prominent in the news when the British Allied Paratroops landed in Holland. An Ambulance man in K A M C W Urquhart, Private 1632921 213 Field Ambulance, wrote that he had contacted them, that the whole family were well, and he added 'weren't they glad when we arrived'. I know they must have been thankful for their deliverance. As yet there is no official post to Holland. Nymegweg is a very few miles from the German border and the Germans possess their house. All food is short, a licence has to be obtained to repair shoes, and they ave about one tonof coal for the ehole winter to cover heating and cooking. The other item of importance is that Grandson Malcolm Dawson, aged nineteen last June, officially disappeared after being present at the Normandy Landing on 5 May. (The latter thrilled him). We suspected he had gone to the Mediterranean, this Ralph Dawson has confirmed by receiving a letter from Malta. He is enjoying the climate, and swimming, having swum across the harbour and back, but is now in hospital with sand fly fever. Apparently this is an irritating but not dangerous complaint probably induced by mosquitoes or other insects in the sand. Hid father, Ralph Dawson, was in hospital at Malta about twenty five years ago when he was hunting submarines in the Adriatic.
25 January 1945
There has been nothing of local importance to record concerning the which drifts further away from us. Here we live, more lights are exhibited to lighten the roads, the stamp of Air Wardens feet is unheard at night, the syrens are silent, our food is good, but the papers are eagerly read and the wireless several times daily is listened to unfolding the great stories of the Allies work in the west and of the Russians gigantic armies in the east of Germany, as well as the continuous advancement of the unamed forgotten army in Burma and the marvellous acts of the American and Australian forces against Japan. All of which is imperial not local action. In the home life there is brief news via Muriel in Newark, United States of America, that Hilda and her family in Holland are well but supplies there must be meagre and it is evident that sporadic relief is now far from them. A letter from Malcolm Dawson states that he is Malta but has volunteered to go to the Far East, so we are expecting he will be joining the Pacific Fleet. Much to be desired for a youth to see far lands, a great education, but we in the home land could wish him to continue his life's career in Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) steel works as soon as possible. But youth is ever adventurous and we would not that it were otherwise. Today there is the record of the blizzard of snow. Perhaps blizzard is wrongly used for although the wind has been keen North East for a long time it has not been too bitter. Two days ago there was a layer of snow, but this morning we woke to a workd fairly deeply covered. I have necer known its equal during twent eight years in Penarth, Glamorgan. It lays deep everywhere. To cross to the letter box ne was knee deep everywhere and few persons plunged along. The world was strangely silent, no buses from or to Cardiff, Glamorgan, no trains and consequently no newspapers, no milk and no bread for delivery could not be made. Yet with dried milk and home made bread we shut the door and retired to home tastes happily, The trains ran from Cogan, Glamorgan to Cardiff, Glamorgan but how to get to or from Cogan was an enormous difficulty. Lets hope it won't snow again tomorrow or we may have to be rescued! And cleaning away snow is an arduous job. All day the Flat Holme (light house horn) has been sounding, reminding us in the comfort of the home of the terrible conditions for sailors. Gertrude Brake, the Maid having been in bed for a week with a chill is about again to our joint relief.
23 March 1945
This night the wireless announced that after the long silent years it is possible to be in touch again with Holland. We wrote at once and included two letters waiting here for from Muriel. That they are hard put to it, no food and heat and overcrowded...Knowing that the sunhas commenced to shine again. There is no local news but all eyes and ears are strained to know what is happening on the Rhine. We have been breathless whilst Montgomery has been forcing the Rhine and invading the red Nazi Germany. The end of Germany is very near. That all the obstacles have beenovercome is a great tribute to the Generals and staff and to the heroic courage of the men. A letter hass come from Malcolm Dawson but not a word about Egypt-Ceylon sea passage or life on board.
Here the diary ended. The hand writing had detiorated significantly. You can only guess that writing had become too difficult for Arthur. He lived another six years.
Now there is a twist to this tale. For Malcolm Dawson married some years after Arthur's death to none other than a German girl, Dorothea Dawson (and a catholic to boot).
Dorothea Dawson, was only eight years old when visiting relatives in Nurnberg, the city was bombed by the allied forces which resulted in ninety per cent of the city centre being destroyed. Even at the tender age she remembers the fire storm and intense heat which engulfed the city. She spent most of the wwar in Burghausen on the border with Austria whilst her father erved in France in the German army.
In August 1994, Dorothea Dawson, at the request of Malcolm Dawson transcribed, Arthur's diary into type. Malcolm Dawson died on 29 July 1998, however seven years later, in December 2005, Arthur's great grandson Michael Dawson, converted Dorothea Dawson's work into a MS Word Document which is the above result.
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