Although by August 1918 the prospect of peace had become a tantalising possibility, the war was by no means over. On 3 August, the British ambulance transport vessel Warilda was torpedoed by a German submarine while taking wounded soldiers from Le Havre to Southampton. Of the 801 people on board, 123 were killed, most of whom were walking patients in the lowest ward in the ship. Two days later, a Zeppelin raid targeted the Norfolk coast but was successfully averted when the command airship was shot down by the Royal Air Force, killing the entire crew of 24. The other four airships hurriedly dropped their bombs, none of which fell on land, and made their way back to Germany. Domestic grievances also threatened the prospect of military victory at a crucial time in the war. The ongoing conflict had resulted in a scarcity of skilled labour in munition firms, and to overcome the problem the Ministry of Munitions issued restrictions on the number of skilled men any one munition firm was entitled to engage. Although the restrictions affected just 100 businesses, they caused outrage among labourers who felt that the stipulation threatened their right to accept whatever work and wages were offered to them. On 24 July, tens of thousands of munition workers across the country downed tools and remained on strike until the Ministry of Munitions withdrew its threatened action six days later.
Tuesday 30 July
Muz came over to meet us, & then Mike went back on his bike, & Muz & I walked across the fields. Mine & Mike’s noses bled this morning. It was dreadfully hot all day. I made a nightcap for Ione, & did some mending & washing, & Muz wrote letters. Ione stayed in bed all day. In the afternoon Tom & Mike rode into Malvern. Then we wrote letters after tea. Went to bed at about ten, but it was too hot to sleep.
“Only me and Dunlops left”
Thursday 1 August
Muz came over for us, & Mike went back on his bike, & Muz drove back & I rode with Mike behind the trap. We brought his luggage back from Baylises1 when we were coming, & then went on in to Malvern, & shopped, & got back at about 2-30. It was nice and cool all day. After lunch Muz & I went for a walk, to look for rooms for Mike, but couldn’t find any, but met a woman who said she would take us – Mrs Painter. – It was awfully close in the afternoon, & rained a bit. I went over at about 9-30, & then talked to Mrs Bayliss & Ivy for a bit. Mike came over late.
Friday 2 August
Muz came over to us, but went to see Mrs Painter first, & settled about our rooms for tonight. It rained nearly all day. Muz & Ione wrote letters, I sewed & Tom talked to Mike & we all sat up in our room. After lunch I covered a shoe for Ione, as a bedroom slipper, then I packed Mike’s things for him. I went over to Mrs Painter’s early, it is a dear wee cottage; & Mike came over at about 10-30.
Saturday 3 August
Muz came over to meet us, & Mike went back on his bike, & she & I walked across the fields. Then we got things ready for Nitter, & she came for lunch. She came by train this time, & walked out from Malvern, but is going to walk home. She & Muz went & sat out all afternoon & I got tea ready, then we brought tea down to them in the cowslip field; then Muz & Ione walked a bit of the way with Nitter. I went back to bed at about 9-30, & Mike came over later.
Sunday 4 August
We all went to church, & then stayed for second Service, but Mike went back. It was a lovely hot day, & crowds of people down here, for the holiday. I mended nearly all afternoon, & Muz wrote letters & Ione lay down. I finished making Ione’s second shoes. Mike & I went over together, & he sat on my bed talking, till after eleven.
Monday 5 August
Mike & I came over early, & I went by the fields & Mike rode, so we caught Muz before she started. Muz wrote letters, & I mended nearly all morning. In the afternoon Lady Ripley came, & stayed for tea, when she left Mrs Bridges & her sister came in to see Ione’s wedding presents & some of her trousseaux etc. I went back fairly early after Muz & I had been for a little walk. Mike didn’t come till later. It was a nice day, but rained a bit late in the evening.
A field gun in action
Tuesday 6 August
Mike & I got over early, so stopped Muz coming. Then Muz & I took the dogs for a walk across the common. After lunch Tom took my bike to be mended then wrote letters, Ione & Mike walked to the dressmaker. Muz wrote letters; & I went on with the wedding invitation list, & then Muz came & helped me; & Tom & Mike went out. I went over early & read for a bit. Mike came over at about 10-30. Noel Wyndham’s engagement was in yesterday’s paper.
Wednesday 7 August
Mike & I came over rather early. I did some mending. In the afternoon Mike, Ione & Tom rode their bikes in to Malvern, & then had a picnic on the road. Muz & I took the dogs for a walk, & then went to tea with the Cranstouns. The youngest one2 sang to us. We didn’t come away till nearly seven. We asked them to come with us to the Flower Show tomorrow. I went over to bed at about nine, & Mike wasn’t long after me.
Thursday 8 August
Mike & I came over early. We couldn’t get any trap, so Roxborough let us have his, & we had lunch early, & all drove over to St James’s, for the flower show. The Miss Cranstouns3 said they wouldn’t come as it looked like rain! But it was really a lovely day. All the Bairds4 were there, & Lady Olga Osborne, & Amy & Aubrey Maude were there too. There was a children’s play, & then we all wandered about, it was great fun. Then we came back to Malvern in the bus, & walked down to the station, & came to the midland, & then Bayliss’s trap met us there. When we got back, Muz, Mike & I went for a walk, & went down to see Mrs Roxborough,5 & she showed us her rabbits. I went over to bed at about 9-30, & Mike came over later.
A children’s play
Saturday 10 August
Mike & I came over early. It was an awfully hot day. We got a wire from Nitter asking us to meet her in Malvern today, so we went by the two train, Tom & I rode our bikes there; & the others walked, & Mike & Tom rode back, Ione went back earlier, by the bus. We couldn’t find Nitter anywhere (she had really wired “Monday” instead of “today!”) We went to the Library for a bit, & then did some shopping. Our train was an hour late, so we didn’t get back till nine. I went over at about ten. There were huge crowds at the station, all the people going back to the Munitions.
Sunday 11 August
Mike & I came over at about ten, & then he & Tom went to church, & I read for a bit, & finished “Pip” by Ian Hay.6 Then I did some mending. After tea Muz & I went for a walk, & went to Upper Willard, & found a very nice little cottage there. When I went over to bed I packed my things, & then Mike came over, & sat on my bed & we talked till after eleven.
Josephine Roxburgh née Sanders (1865-1962), wife of David Roxburgh (1867-1949), a farmer at Danemoor Farm, Welland ⇑
Pip (1907), a schoolboy romance by Major General John Hay Beith (1876-1952), who wrote under the pseudonym Ian Hay. Pip was Beith’s first novel and, in spite of being rejected by a number of publishing firms, was a critical and commercial success which enabled Beith to give up teaching and become a full-time writer. ⇑