British face up to more bad war news

Ground staff prepare a No 233 Squadron Hudson for flight in freezing conditions at Thorney Island, 19 January 1942. The 'hot air van' has been brought in to warm up the engines and de-ice the cockpit windscreen.

In London Vere Hodgson was keeping a diary of her experiences in London. Her record of the Blitz is particularly useful but she continued to provide many insights into the outlook of the general public for the remainder of the war. Although the entry of the United States into the war was widely recognised as being hugely significant, there was little immediate impact on the life of people in Britain.

On the wider war front things were becoming even worse. British forces were suffering reverses in the Far East and Africa, and Australian forces were being withdrawn home to defend Australia itself. In Parliament Churchill was facing a vote of ‘No Confidence’ for his handling of the war.

Her diary entry for the day provides a particular perspective on the current situation:

Tuesday, 27th

The latest is that Mr De Valera [the Prime Minister of Eire, independent southern Ireland which remained resolutely neutral] is annoyed because he did not know the American soldiers were coming to N. Ireland [part of the United Kingdom], and he had not been consulted. Who does he think he is? Not lifting a finger to help in the fight for freedom, and thinks he should be consulted about defence! If the Germans come here, does he imagine the R.C. Church would continue to wield the power it has done for centuries.

The Australians are saying things they do not mean. Instead of regretting the sending of their men to fight, they ought to be kicking themselves that they have not a second army ready. The Russians have been training second and third lines of defence all the time – but the English expect to win wars from armchairs.

Mr Churchill spoke in the H. of C. this afternoon, and we were not allowed to hear it! Why don’t they pass a law for a few months, and then repeal it as they liked. [None of Winston Churchill’s speeches were broadcast live from Parliament but he sometimes repeated them in separate broadcasts] But I do feel his speeches are of an order of oratory we do not often get – and they should be recorded. We hear of Burke and Sheridan, but have no idea what they were like. We have had it on the radio in short paragraphs, and some of the power and might came through – but not the emotional appeal of the vibrant pungent phrases.[The British people had recently seen cinema newsreel of Churchill addressing the Canadian Parliament ]

It seems we were not sure that Japan would attack. Personally, I think the people of Malaya could have done more. They have everything to lose. If they had got together an efficient Home Guard, they might have given the japs a little more trouble. Hong Kong fell sooner than expected. We have had bad luck over the loss of the Battleships, and it looks as if we shall lose Singapore, and many of the islands. But Mr Churchill doubted if they would attack Australia. Equipment is being sent there, and the boys can go back and fight for their homes.

So the Speech went on – he took full responsibility for everything. He said that when he became PM. there were not many candidates for the job! Now the market had improved. Then he had offered us nothing but blood and sweat – now he could see a light on the horizon gradually illumining our path. But the war was to go on through 1943 . . and then our strength would be at its full height.

Another blizzard today. Got caught in it. Had to do shopping, spend my points, buy sprats for the cat, and so on – getting more and more snow covered. Mighty glad to get in.

See Vere Hodgson: Few Eggs and No Oranges

For another Home Front diary for this day see May Hill.

In this context you may also be interested in The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England, Ireland etc Explained.

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