by Margaret Taylor, age 25 years
June 23rd 1940
There's only one entry this year, but quite a long one.
Thoughts about war and morality.
A lot of health issues in the family to worry about.
- Sunday, June 23rd, 1940 Musing about war and politics
- (same entry) Exam results disappoint
- (same entry) Worried about Jim and Dad
Sunday, June 23rd, 1940
Nine months or so since I wrote last, but the situation is unchanged as far as the apparent imminence of air raids is concerned. Those we dreaded at the beginning of the war never materialised, for Hitler has been busy in other directions. Now, however, with nearly all Europe in desolation and miserable subjection to him, he is almost certain to start his long anticipated invasion of Great Britain by air, sea or land. We are prepared now and not downhearted, for the series of catastrophes which have so far represented the Allied side of the war have not been due to our failures, but to those fighting with us, and amazing they have been. The evacuation of Dunkirk was so incredible and magnificent that it converted a defeat into a moral victory, and gave us all fresh heart to strive ever harder in the face of disaster.
Now the French have signed the Peace Treaty with Germany, and are negotiating one with the Italians. That which all swore would never be - the separation of England and France, and the capitulation of the French people - has happened. And with this undreamt-of desertion fresh upon us, we are already enumerating the advantages of fighting all together in our own territory, and almost persuading ourselves that perhaps the clouds have all got the proverbial silver lining. If any people ever deserved to win a life or death struggle I think we British are those people. No nation can be completely good or completely bad, and certainly nobody can judge his own people justly, but, all allowances made, I feel more proud of being English and more determined to resist as far as I can Nazi conquest and influences than ever before.
The old question of the unforgivable crime of killing human beings, whatever may be the quarrel with them I have recently given up, as being beyond my power of reasoning at present. Logically, there is nothing under heaven which will absolve a man of killing another, if the standard of values accepted in true civilisation is used as the basis of argument. But in politics, and especially in power politics, the arguments used are certainly not based on the tenets of true civilisation, and to cope with the actions of those following power politics it seems that civilisation must drop back to the lower standard. It is really perhaps that we cannot take a long enough view. Civilised thought and values are based on ultimate right and wrong, and the rewards it brings are immediate only immaterially, in harmony of mind, whilst the material rewards are often long-delayed though just as sure. Jesus only triumphed mentally over the Romans at the time of his death. Then they seemed to have the material victory. Later it became obvious who had really won, for might can never conquer right, only obstruct its development.
At present men cannot be content with the knowledge that however great the forces of degraded blood-spillers and power-graspers may seem, if they maintain their own spirit uncorrupted and free, expressing their individuality fearlessly, the victory of the enemy will be temporary only. Man is a short-lived creature, and can see only glimpses of the infinite age of spiritual things, and to him subjection, even though material only, to evil seems a betrayal of civilisation. Yet a material victory over evil means war, killing, and employment of the very methods which civilisation has condemned.
Truly, it is a tough nut to crack!
About my personal history there is quite a lot to say, for once again I have reached a ‘jumping off place’ in the pilgrimage. I took London Finals in May, and failed in both parts of B.S. and passed in M.B. I found it a very bitter thing to accept, that I had actually failed Finals. For so long I have worked hard, and told myself I must know enough to be certain of passing, for failure was unthinkable. Yet now I know that there were bits I shirked because they didn’t interest me - and behold they ploughed me straight away! There was some bad luck in it too, and that helped me towards resignation, but even now, after about three weeks, I am only just above pitying myself. One of the most difficult lessons to learn is that whatever label and grade the others give you, whether they look up or look down on you, you are just the same and of just the same value as before.
If you are honest you are never satisfied with yourself, and it should be this striving to satisfy your own standards for yourself, and not desire for the acclamation of others, that prompts progress and learning.
So now I am at home, reading surgery and gynae in the evenings, and helping Mums in the servantless abode in the mornings. There is really too much for her to do alone, though without me there would be only three people, so I don’t like to skoot off back to London, though I should be attending all O.P.s etc possible.
In October last year No. 9 was sold, and Staynes and I migrated into the hospital to live in Mary Scharlieb under the emergency scheme. I have been ‘living in’ in hospital ever since then, in the ward until a month or two ago, and then in Sister’s room of Queen Mary Ward, and a very comfortable little room it has been. After being alone a great deal in my room at No. 9 the communal way of living in hospital was cheerful and enjoyable, and we have become real friends, some of necessity, some of inclination!
Family news has been plentiful also since I wrote last. About January Jim got influenzal meningitis and was in hospital in Exeter. Dad was ill with ‘flu and stayed with Pat while Mum and Alan went down to see him. Jim, after a desperate two or three days during which our lives consisted of telegrams and waiting for telegrams, was pronounced out of danger and recovered completely at record speed. Mum returned to find Daddy very pulled down by ‘flu, and far from well. His chest troubles increased and he got pleurisy and then hypostatic pneumonia with failing heart, on top of an attack of asthma. He became dangerously ill and they phoned for me to come home at once, and bewildered, feeling in an unreal and nightmarish world, I arrived and was met by Alan somewhere around 8 a.m. The week which followed I can’t describe, and there would be little point in doing it. Mum and I took turns in sitting in the bedroom and often my legs and body were shivering so violently I could not keep them still for more than a minute or two. I didn’t take in a word of the book I sat with, and I never even turned the pages. Daddy was cheerful and never complained of pain or anything else though he had bilateral pleurisy part of the time, and had to change his position every five or ten minutes. His attacks of coughing literally exhausted me, and I dreaded the beginning of each one. Mum and I knew several hours before Dr. Alexander told us that he was getting better. We stood and looked at him and whispered excitedly that his cheeks and ears were pinker, and so they were!
Alan left for naval training at Skegness about a week ago, and is enjoying himself immensely: they seem very decent to their men in the Navy, and the contrast between Alan’s converted holiday camp, and Jim’s strenuous drudgery is very great.
Mums is really the heroine of the piece, but there is nothing else one can say about her without getting sentimental.