The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 changed the situation dramatically. Lincolnshire, with much flat landscape near the East Coast, assumed great strategic importance as an ideal location for military airfields and soon became known as ‘bomber county’. Centres for training RAF and Army recruits were set up in the Skegness area and almost overnight Butlins was transformed to become ‘HMS Royal Arthur’, a huge Royal Navy training centre. Chapel St Leonards soon became home for several serving officers. Many Army recruits were billeted in houses near May’s home and the whole area took on the character of an armed encampment. May’s only son, Ron became a young volunteer in the RAF, her husband a Coastguard, and close family members early casualties.
May began to keep a Diary, recording and commenting on happenings both local and across the world. These eloquent comprehensive Diaries and her Poetry, which reflected her thoughts and prayers, have come to light at different times over a number of years and have been affectionately transcribed by her grandchildren. Whilst many episodes held most significance for the family and the village community, major wartime events such as the capitulation of Italy and the coming of the Second Front – ‘D-Day’ are featured, along with comments based on May’s own strong views.
The publication in 2009 of ‘The Casualties Were Small’, a compilation of May’s poetry with a related selection of diary extracts, attracted many enthusiastic responses from a wide readership, from junior school students to ninety-plus retired seniors, in Britain and worldwide:
… ‘Truly a living history, life of the times as it unfolded … a very emotional journey for me personally … a remarkable woman, very brave and sensitive … May’s poems are touching, nostalgic, angry at times … her deep faith shines through in all her writing … completely engrossing and I have to admit to shedding a tear when I came to the end’.
From November 2010 the whole sequence of May’s wartime diaries began to appear day by day in the Blog exactly ‘Seventy Years On’ commencing with the first preserved entry on 27th November 1940.
Now the first year’s uninterrupted Diary entries, following a short introduction to May and her immediate family, are conveniently presented as Volume One in this Kindle Edition. Poems are included and a reference section contains Blog headlines with Notes linked to each dated entry.
Volume One (November 1940 to December 1941) has been styled ‘Anticipation and Alarms’. As well as having wider implications in this wartime period this description alludes to the anxious waiting for likely news that Ron will be posted abroad to an active front, having meanwhile already been close to death in incidents on his home airfield.