Daphne’s birthday. Phyllis out to a board meeting in the afternoon and I had my usual afternoon with my Father in Law. In the evening we sat in our blacked out house. Very stuffy, inconvenient and depressing.
Saturday 2nd September 1939.
War now imminent. Chamberlain being pushed on by Opposition and others.
Sunday 3rd September 1939.
War declared by England and France on Germany at 11a.m……………………
So begins the Diaries of Colonel Rodney Foster. He continued to write them, almost daily, throughout the 2nd World War. His last entry in this book is dated 29th September 1945. He wrote them at a time when to write a diary would have been considered totally illegal. Thank goodness that he did though.
Rodney Foster, soldier, surveyor, Home Guard officer, ARP warden, family man and obsessive diary keeper, was born in India in 1882. Commissioned into the British Army in1901 he went to serve back in India for the next 5 years. He left the Indian Army for a while, rejoining during the 1st World War.
In 1932 he retired from the Survey of India and came to live in the UK.
His account of the life and times during the 2nd WW are down to earth, at times repetitious, but never boring. He describes the day to day activities that surround him, his wife and daughter.
As one reads these, almost daily, outpourings one cannot help but get involved in them. Those of us who have first hand memories of these difficult years will have a memory reinvigorated. Those who have watched Dad’s Army may like to see how close to the truth that wonderful programme was. Colonel Foster wasn’t quite Captain Mainwaring, more like Sgt Wilson when he got his commission, maybe a mixture of both. In the nicest possible way, of course.
He lived and served in the area known as ‘Hellfire Corner’, that portion of Kent that went from Hythe up to Folkestone and Dover that was the closest part of England to the French coast, and as a result, was the first point of contact the Luftwaffe had with the UK. Also an area that was within range of the large guns on the French coast.
As I read on, through 1939 into the 40’s I was struck by the amount of days, practically every one, when some sort of air activity took place. It became almost a monotony of repetition as day after day the bombs and shells landed along this coast. Then my eyes opened , and I thought to myself ‘these people who stayed in this area the whole of the war were in fact heroes.’ How did they have the nerve to carry on what, for them, became a ’normal’ life.
Colonel Foster was an Officer of the ’old school’, and some of his comments regarding the conduct of the war, the people involved, like Winston Churchill and General Montgomery were a delight to read. All the way through his diary he makes his comments, though some are rather uncomplimentary they are all little insights into the day to day running of the Home Guard that he served as well as his observations when he eventually resigned from the Home Guard and joined the ARP. The way he characterises his contemporaries in the Home Guard, and the ARP, is worthy of being in a Dad’s Army script.
As the war progresses the reader will begin to understand the fortitude of the British people, the things that annoyed them, that made them laugh, the sheer stubbornness that kept them going day by day.
Saturday 26th October 1940...
‘A very cold morning. …….we heard the whistle of two bombs as we dived beneath the table, Phyllis taking her cup of tea with her, without spilling it……’
It is amazing that these diaries were ever discovered, to be for sale on E bay, and someone realising the historic value of them Thank goodness Shaun Sewell did.
Here we have an insight into life as it really was in those dark days of WW2. This is a book that can be read at any time, on holiday, in the bath ,it can be put down and taken up again. No matter how you like to read this is a book worth special attention. Well done Colonel Rodney Foster. They don’t make them like you any more.
Review by granny