The Diary of Dora Mildred Gearing
28 Dorking Road, Epsom, Surrey
Dora Mildred Gearing
Started 10 June 1940
We are all sad at hearing the death of Cobber Kain, beloved hero of the Air War honours. Jolly, daring, died in an accident age 22 years.
Babe's birthday. Diddy White gave her a necklace and brooch. The war news is grave. Germans pushing hard for Paris. Our RAF bombing vital points, doing gallant things. God knows what we should do without them.
Yesterday, Sunday, we spent in blazing sunshine watching cricket at Ashtead, everything was quiet and lovely. But soon a storm came up, everything darkened and the thunder grumbled in the distance, coming nearer and nearer as the minutes flew by. How like the war situation, so quiet here and yet the guns of France grumble in the distance. How soon will it break upon us here. We wait with expectation but with confidence and knowing that like the boys in France we are going to be in the thick of it too. I think we are only afraid of being afraid. But being English thank God, we will be ready to line and fight as the boys are doing out there. Boys like Cobber make us ready to face anything. We shall see.
The brothers are soon to be called up. Jack I think this month. I'm glad he is ready and waiting to go. Not to kill and murder but to do duty and defend. Whatever that demands of him shall be done I know.
The weather is strange, overcast and dull but warm and weird as if that too is in keeping with the situation. But it will brighten I know.
We have had our good days and our bad too. The King of the Belgians surrendered and left our men in shocking danger. We never expected to see one home, but with the help of the Navy and the RAF we got off hundreds of thousands but lost 30 thousand. It was victory out of defeat. Many bitter things we said of that king. For myself, I say he judged his people's courage by his own, but he was wrong. The people of Belgium were brave and fine, many are still fighting for the government which has split with the king. These are sad days.
Our king and queen are working like slaves for us, visiting hospitals, factories and a thousand other things. The king made his finest speech the other week, he was wonderful. We love him, his bravery is worth much to us. He asked for a day of prayer. The response was grand. I loved the people for their response. How the king must have loved them for it. We went to help Evelene move from her house in Leatherhead to Nell's house in Epsom, so although we didn't go to church for our king, we did the other thing he asked us to do, join the help one another spirit and work well for victory. Yes, our king and queen we love and I know they love us too. With them and for them we shall win this evil war, for we are Democracy which stands for God and the right. We must fight the wrong to win for the right and we shall.
5 o'clock news says we are sending more troops to France and must not be too optimistic as the battle is terrific. Tanks are getting near Rouen. King of Norway landed in England today. American President speech tonight. Italy will not say whether they will fight or not.
6 o'clock news Musso's first words of his speech were "We declare war on France and England". Let him do his damnedest, he will have to.
The storm has broken, its raining here. Other storms have broken it seems. War was declared by the Emperor King of Italy - the toad. HMS Glorious and her escorts were hit was reported today. Duff Cooper made a nasty smack about the Italians being a bigger damn nuisance than they are worth as allies, they are such rotten fighters.
Edgar James Kain DFC (27 June 1918 – 7 June 1940)
was a New Zealand fighter pilot. Nicknamed "Cobber",
Flying Officer Kain was the first RAF air ace of the
Second World War, and also the first recipient of the
Distinguished Flying Cross in the Second World War.
During the Battle of France in 1940, he scored 17
confirmed kills. He was a household name in Britain
in early 1940
Well after the storms had broken things started to settle down again, the weather and the war. Many things have been said about Italy, Americans especially are very angry. Small demonstrations took place in London such as smashing windows in Italian restaurants, nothing serious. Miss Ellis had an offer from her brother to go to Canada, not accepted. Mum gone to Brighton for the day with Jack.
The Germans are pushing on in spots, losing thousands of men. I wonder when or if they will reach Paris. Poor Paris has been bombed already with many wounded and dead. What a day of reckoning there will be. The Poles will have their chance for all they have suffered surely. We have Polish airman in England, only too eager to bomb Berlin but there is a time for everything. Patience is going to be a great weapon in this war.
5 o'clock news: Italy has lost 24 merchant ships already and is scuttling them fast. We have blocked all seas with mines so this completes our blockade of Germany. Norway has laid down arms. Dutch princess and children arrive in Canada. RAF bombed Libya and what a surprise for the Italians. They were napping. They bombed Malta, not much damage. Still scuttling ships.
The Germans are marching through Paris. We expected it but we are all stunned and quiet - where will it end. We are sending thousands of our men out today again. Lets hope it will make a difference. Went swimming with Jack for the first time this year. The weather is still stormy and windy but very warm. Wish I didn't feel so - what? I don't quite know how I feel, just glum, not sad, not defeated, I don't know quite. The French minister has sent a last desperate appeal to America, no official answer has been given yet.
Saturday and glorious sunshine again. Well Paris has truly fallen - fierce fighting has taken place twenty miles past there. Our men are being landed every day now. It seems to me that a devil of a battle will take place soon. Old Musso is still getting what he asked for.
Well its a lovely day. Fighting is still increasing in intensity. God knows where we are going to coming to. Made Babe's green frock up at Nell's house.
A WW2 Public Information Poster
Sunday June 16th
Very cloudy and drizzly rain but trying to clear up. Babe and Nell think France will lay down arms. I don't know what to think. I've got beyond surprises. Nothing will astonish me anymore I am sure. Babe and I went to the cricket at Ashtead and watched the Army play. They won and were fine, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
9 o'clock news seems to suggest that we must expect the worst in France. I'm beginning to think after hearing the news, that France is slipping after a grand and gallant fight against God only knows what a force. Well we shall see.
Babe and I were talking - thanking God that we have been able to be grateful for all the years we spent as kids up at Linden Court, the years of freedom, the trees, grass, the fun and the wildness of it all. Even then as kids we loved and were grateful for our happiness and my age of 28 years I feel years younger I must say. I don't mind, I'm willing to fight, wait, watch or die. I'm happy we are strong enough not to feel depressed.
I'm tired after a perfect day. just heard some lovely records.
The French cabinet has resigned and has been taken over by an old man of 82 years. Lets see what he can do. Not much news, have a faint hope that this man will hold out.
1 o'clock news: France has laid down arms! God what news! Almost expected as it was, we are sad, deeply grieved that they have suffered so severely only to give in at the hour when we hoped for something in the shape of revenge.
Who are we to criticise them, they were brave and fought with us but who knows what Germany has done to them. When lovely Paris fell that was their soul. No body can fight without its soul I am sure. Well what a day. I am going to the pictures tonight. I hope I'm not being wicked for that. I grieve for France but the more things go on here naturally the better. So I'm going to see Jimmy Stewart in "The Shop around the Corner". I hope its good.
Well I must do my needlework now and God help France. They truly need him now. What would it be like if we were placed like this?
James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan in
18 June 1940
The Shop Around The Corner
We have waited all day for the terms Hitler is offering France, so far we have heard nothing. We wonder and above all hope that France will not give up her Navy. We have bombed Germany's vital spots again. I hope we will do more. This evening Churchill made a fine speech telling us of our hopes, also straight facts about what we are to expect in the way of air raids. It seems we must expect much too. Anyway his speech was an inspiration to us all, we felt better for it. He certainly makes us feel confident and ready. I feel a little nervous as to what to expect. I feel I wish I could get the first air raid over, so that I shall know in the future, that is if I'm still left after the first raid. The future holds some very gruesome things in store for us.
Am on Brighton beach now. Had a lovely coach journey down, everything looks fine. Read in the papers we had a large air raid last night on the South and East coast. So far 11 dead and 14 injured. We got down 7 German planes. I wonder if we lost any planes. I heard none of this myself. I slept too well, anyway it wasn't near enough for us to hear. Today is quite fine so far, I hope the news will be brighter anyway. We understand we shall hear the terms of Hitler tonight. We can only wait and see - as usual.
"He nothing common did, or mean, upon that memorable scene" - from Churchill's speech June 15th 1940.
Diddy's birthday. Big bombing raids over our coasts from Wales down. About 200 planes in all. Yesterday we had big raids over Yorkshire, some say one fell in Addiscombe. We have completed our shelter. They have proven to be good and useful. About 24 people killed yesterday and 6 today and 60 injured, I suppose these are mild figures when we come to think of it. I wonder how long it will be before we get a warning. I'm for the shelter if we do get one.
The weather was grand today but tonight its one of those lovely nights when the wind blows rather gustily and the trees rustle and sway. The clouds are in large black rolls with a grey horizon and blotchy black and bluey grey patches everywhere. Just a wild night its going to be and maybe at about 12 o'clock we shall hear the patter of rain on the panes of glass and the wind getting stronger as the night wears off. I love these wild lovely nights, the mornings following them are sweet and fresh.
I hope we shall not get the pitter patter of something else on a wild night in other respects. Well I'm going to bed.
Monday today and since I last wrote France has surrendered unconditionally to the Germans - airforce, navy men and materials. Also waiting for Italy's conditions in which strong colonial demands are expected. When this goes through six hours will go by and then war with them will cease.
France will be totally disarmed and an army of occupation will be kept by the French. These demands are shocking for them.
Last night at l o'clock approx, an air raid was sounded. We all came downstairs, didn't go into the shelter and no bombs dropped round here. 3 people killed in west of England,. Not much damage reported.
We had no alarm last night thank Heaven. France has given up all her colonies to the Germans. What darlings our airforce boys are. I wonder time and time again what we should do without them. One thing is certain to me, what we want done we shall have to do ourselves. Well it WILL be done too and we won't have any traitors to let us down. We do know where we stand anyway.
Air raids last night over most of the coast again. Not much damage. 1 injured. Reports say we brought down 11 planes today, that's Italian as well. Romania and Bulgaria aren't very friendly now. Japan seems to be bullying everybody. Still fighting China too.
Well our invasion starts tomorrow we understand. We say we are well ready for them. I hope we are. Weather still grand. Spent Saturday and Sunday watching cricket. Babe had her hair permed Saturday.
The invasion starts tonight between 1 and 4 a.m. when the tide is high.
No invasion has taken place yet - we have shot down many German planes on our coast, so far we have been told of no very bad damage although people have been killed and more injured.
We had a sad day yesterday when we heard that the British fleet had to fight the French fleet at Arras because they would not promise to be interned in America or join us against the Germans. We destroyed many battleships, destroyers and many other ships. It was sad that we had to do it. Hitler's word that they would not use the French navy against us could not be accepted.
We have many ships in port with the Free French navy on them including the world's largest submarine. They are willing to fight on with us.
Jack signs up tomorrow. Digging up front garden. Got toothache. Brothers saw German bomber yesterday with Spitfires after it. Heard later it crashed after dropping bombs.
Haven't written much lately but just had to because Babe has become engaged to Diddy White today.
Babe (Marguerite Gearing) and Diddy (Sidney White) taken in 1940
Image Courtesy of Daphne Constantine © 2010
No Trevone* holiday for me - today is the day Hitler is coming to London. No sign of him yet except his aeroplanes and we have so far shot down 100.
Tonight Babe and I saw our first dogfight from Epsom Common over Croydon. The airport was hit a bit but a scent factory was hit badly. Miss Frazer works there - says the people went in with sacks to put the bits of human flesh in.
The total of yesterday's airfight was 144 planes down, the biggest so far. Many raids were carried out by the enemy last night. The warnings are often sounded now. One at 12.20 as I was coming home from work. Yesterday's fight over Croydon was grand yet awful to watch. The anti aircraft fire was very near.
Well we are not on our knees yet. I wonder what this will do for us. It can't possibly be an easy or an early war. I still say that if the last was 4 years God knows what this will be. We are still ready for anything or anybody and with our wonderful RAF we feel grand and still waiting for what may come our way.
On Sunday last a Hurricane came down in the RAC Epsom. Jack was first there and pilot not hurt thank Heaven.
On Tuesday Churchill made a fine speech on the war. We shall carry on till victory be it 1940-41-42. We shall grow. He also said referring to the RAF "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".
We also heard him say that 96,000 people were dead, injured and prisoners as a result of one year of war. Less than last one thank God. Our people of course. Jack still not called up - nor Bert. Went to dentist for stoppings. Poor Croydon was bombed again on Sunday. Some damage to aerodrome. Not so many civilians. Great numbers of unexploded bombs go off after so many hours.
London bombed for the first time. Many air raid warnings here. Incendiary bomb fell on Epsom Common.
Lovely day. Cricket. Flares dropped over London. Bentalls of Kingston hit.
Air raid warnings last night twice. Reigate badly bombed. Shelling from France. We shell back.
Went to Cheam pictures to see Dark Victory last night - air raid warning in the middle. Stopped to see the finish, came out into a blaze of searchlights. Taken by warden to shelter. This was 9.30 p.m. We came out at 3.15 a.m. Bombs fell in Craddocks Avenue at end of Dorking Road, also Ashtead Park, soldier killed. Lovely day today no raids here but suppose they are waiting for tonight.
Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart
in Dark Victory
Air raids one after the other. Many on Ashtead not much damage. London bombed often, Berlin more often still - our planes are wonderful. Many brave and fine pilots doing their damnedest to win this war.
Machine gun just fired off in Dorking Road just outside our house. Made us jump. Waiting for all clear to go. Want to go to pictures at Cheam. Saw a parachutist yesterday. Had a lovely time at cricket at Ashtead. lovely game. Fine fielding. warning at breakfast this morning, Stopped to finish my work here. Then went to Ewell after all clear.
I wonder how the people are who have been bombed, I mean their houses gone. I can't imagine how sad I should feel, so lonely without this house and all it stands for. Perhaps what it stands for counts for more than what it is or what its value is. Shall we ever get back to previous times I wonder. The opera, days in town, the green line coaches - I haven't gone without yet, and even if I were without I've had such a grand time that thought alone with all its pleasant memories would serve me for many years. The tennis at Wimbledon, the excitement, the crowds, The Derby, the cars, horses, people's frocks, table tennis, cricket commentaries on the wireless, all have been great and delicious moments in my life and the memory of these will always be very fresh in my mind.
Well this all clear hasn't gone yet. I wish it would.
Yesterday I was sacked at work because I would not go into the air raid shelter the instant the warning went. I wanted to wait until planes and anti aircraft guns were going. The instant I suggested this Miss Ellis demanded I go in at once. I refused. She said "Either you go in at once or take your notice". I took it. But Diana tells me I was given notice because I was rude. I have never been rude to Miss Ellis in all the 7 years I have worked for her. Her temper and nerves got the better of her. I was most emphatic and stuck to what I had first said "I will work on but look out"
Well I expect I shall leave Tuesday. I did have some times, good and bad.
September 8th 1940
King Carol of Rumania gets the sack too. A large raid today. German bombers came down in Ewell. Raids all night. Eric home on leave, Diddy expected tonight. Vickers bombed yesterday. Heard many bombs today.
Last night a huge fire was seen blazing over London. It was the docks - was burning from 5-6 hours to under control at 4 a.m. Went up to Castle Road to watch with some Army officers. Went to cricket. Cricketers very nice - not very brave. Looks like rain at last. Diddy came. Going up to London with Babe and Diddy. Hope we don't get an air raid. Saw one of our planes crash yesterday while we were at cricket. First official report on wireless about the London bombing and fires says London docks, oil refineries, store houses all fired. 400 dead, between 13-14 hundred seriously injured, Railways and communications badly damaged.
So glad they let us know and didn't pretend no such bombing took place. We can take it. 88 enemy planes down during raid. Now know 107 planes down.
Came back from London all right yesterday, saw some damage to power station.
Just seen huge V formation of enemy planes. Wonderful sight. I think we broke them up quickly - saw three come down, pilots bale out.
Friday 13 September 1940
A bomb fell in Old School Lane near Ellis's house, broke window. June at Ewell Station shop had house wrecked by bomb. Next door here there are many people from London staying. Still very thrilled over yesterday's air raid. A wonderful formation with our little planes flitting in and out like moths and how that formation scattered.
London was badly bombed again last night - hospitals, children and maternity. I bet we pay them for it. The king visited some of the poor people, they cheered him and were grand. Trust the English people to take what's coming to them.
Hundreds killed, a good thousand seriously injured. Sudden death is very near to us all at the moment.
On Wednesday we put up our biggest anti aircraft barrage of the war. It certainly kept the planes from London. Babe and I were at the Rembrandt seeing "The Night train to Munich". The noise outside was certainly in keeping with the picture. When the programme was over we started to walk home with shells bursting all over the place. We reached Mongers Lane and a bus took us to Epsom. We walked up from there. Quite the noisiest night ever. But music to the ear of the British people. Buckingham Palace was bombed, a time bomb exploded and shattered nearly all the windows.
King and Queen caught in a raid, went into public shelter. Queen in tears at people's sorrows and bravery.
ARP and Firemen too wonderful and brave for words ever to express. Tussauds waxworks hit. Burlington Arcade ruined. Bomb near Babe's garage. Still waiting for the invasion which seems really on top of us at last. Churchill warned us to be ready on Wednesday evening in a good, solemn, sound speech. Air raid warning on still. One at 8.15 then all clear, another one now at 9.45. Sound of bombs heard in Ashtead direction.
Palace deliberately bombed today. 5 dropped. King and queen in there. Not hurt. Chapel wrecked. Man on near building saw plane drop them. Stood horrified. the plane was shot down in West London.
Rex Harrison, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne
Tuesday 17th September
in Night Train To Munich
Palace bombed again over the weekend. Went to cricket again Sat and Sunday. Sirens all the time. Started my new job on Monday, love it.
All very thrilled at hearing 187 planes down on Sunday, also that a Lt Davies with aid of his men removed bomb from St Paul's. London is wild with praise for them. It was an 8 feet long one and weighed a ton. It would have wrecked the building.
On Sunday night we had a good fight at 2.30 in the morning, a salvo of bombs fell in the farm field around the RAC way. The noise was terrible. Old Mrs White and family had to move out owing to timebombs being dropped on Guest House opposite them. The road and railway to Sutton barred against people and traffic for part of day. At 9.30 last night bombs fell over the common way, I think in the mental hospital grounds. The swish and crash plainly heard.
Tuesday today, going to pictures. Kit has a week off. Sirens already today. Hitler's invasion draws nearer. Reports say thousands of German bodies lying in French bays and beaches, an attempted invasion I think, bombed and shelled back. Weather is windy and fine, very cloudy though.
Many heavy raids today. I think many planes are down. These last days have been hectic. The Germans torpedoed a ship carrying children to Canada. Many drowned and died of cold. 600 miles from shore, but today news came through that a flying boat had spotted another lifeboat full of people and 6 more of the children, very weak and hungry. A terrible crime in the eyes of the world. The king spoke this week, a fine speech and a brave one. The grandstand at Epsom was dive bombed yesterday. I saw the bomber. Not a lot of damage.
Many timebombs on the common and round the RAC way. AA guns firing like mad all night and day times now.
Berlin has been bombed night after night so has London also and German boats and Italian it was reported yesterday on the wireless. Am getting on fine with my two Mrs Clarks, they are nice people. Went to tennis with Josie yesterday. Good fun. Getting frost now in the mornings, still lovely weather. Bert has been called up. It is on the Armour mechanic corps, enjoying it very much.
On Sunday night we had bombs dropped all over the place, some fell in Shippam's garden and broke the White Horse windows and lots of other all around, then some on the town breaking all the High Street windows and smashing a shed behind Waghams. 6 people were injured when one fell in a garden opposite G Garrett's shop in the house up the drive.
Ashtead had a land mine on their street causing shocking damage and deaths. Many fell on Downs, RAC.
Last night a large house in Cheam Road burnt out, saw blaze plainly. Had to duck for bombs which fell near. First George Medal given. St Paul's man honoured.
Still many terrible raids. London getting plenty. Westminster Abbey has been damaged. People sleeping in the underground railways. More bombs dropped on RAC and around us. Still not hurt or damaged thank Heaven. Most fell in open fields.
Still bombing channel ports, Berlins and German towns. Grand job too. Knitting vests.
Monday October 28th
Very much bombed last night. Yew Tree Gardens wrecked, had narrow escape.
Babe, me, Nell there in the dining room. All ceilings fell in upstairs. Two people dead on road side. One injured. 3 people killed in shelter in Sunnybank. Mrs Clarke's house wrecked. Woodcote Hurst 2 houses.
The infants' school was bombed Wednesday. Naval successes, terrible London bombing.
Italy and Greece at war!! Started at 6 o'clock this morning. Tom leaves on Wednesday for Lancashire for Army duties.
We get siren after siren all day long and raids nearly non stop all night. Often hear bombs which fall in Ewell, Ashtead or Hook Road. The little Infants' school was destroyed and the alms houses along the Epsom Road the other week. Nell is trying to let house. Eric on leave Saturday last. Think he is going abroad. Empress of Britain sunk.
Hear that Diddy is going abroad. Very sad about it. 5 night raiders down. Bombed Naples. Tom gone to Lancashire, no word yet. Bill's work bombed. £30 worth of damage. Fairly quiet around here lately. Touch wood. Jack gets his calling up papers for November 14th. Eric is also on embarkation leave today. Things are moving fast.
Last night bombs dropped in Links Road killed 6-7 people. Carters Road where Tom Edwards lives. Stew pond, and talk about noise!!! Old Mrs Walker went to hospital. Diddy going back today, Eric tomorrow, Nell coming to live with us.
Large attacks on us by air today.
Chamberlain died last night, a good and fine soul. I think he died of a broken heart after his fight for peace, I wonder if any of us realise how much he did for us when he went to Hitler to put off the war for a year. What a lot we owe that good soul. I hope he enjoys the peace and happiness of the next world if there is one. I suppose there is one for those who believe. He has surely earned a place.
Eric has just left. I wonder when we shall see him again. Nell coming to stay with us here. Mrs Woods had a baby girl yesterday so glad it was all over quickly.
Ground attack on Italian fleet. Battleships, cruisers, supply ships etc. Churchill told news in House, loudly cheered. Italian planes shot down over here 15 first time.
News of Jervis Bay, a ship in a 98 ship convoy was attacked by German battleship. JB sailed towards it to keep off battleship from rest of convoy. 6 ships were sunk including JB. Captain not seen after fight.
Terrible raids on Coventry. Many hundreds killed. Last night was almost worst raid on London.
The first VC was given to the dead Captain Warburton Lee who died in action at Narvik when he was told by the Admiralty to please himself whether he attacked or not. He attacked and was successful but died for his country with greatest honour.
The Gearing sisters - Babe, Kit, Nell, and Dora in 1936
Image Courtesy of Daphne Constantine © 2010
NOTE: The diaries end here. Dora and her 8 brothers and sisters all survived the war as did their partners. Her brother Jack was taken prisoner Babe went on to marry Diddy White when the war ended.
* Trevone (Cornish: Treavon) is a seaside village near Padstow in Cornwall
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