McLeod, Sheelagh [Katherine Sheila] [Mrs. Captain James Coverley Stopford R.N.]
Large 8vo. Ruled notebook, black cloth spine over green boards, damage to lower third of spine, with cosmetic loss nevertheless strong and durable. 222pp. The diary of a distinctly upper class member of British society, two years in to the Second World War. Educated, brisk, aggressively social (in that scheduled, deeply organised ‘safety network’ kind of way that often rears its head during times of trouble), a woman of firmly held views and notable independence, giving a vivid insight into life at home when all of one’s menfolk are away at war. It’s also rather interesting to note, that as someone quite well connected both socially and militarily, Sheelagh’s information is frequently rather more specific than other contemporary accounts gleaned just from newspapers and wireless. Her military knowledge is well informed, she speaks at least three languages, and thinks from a rather global perspective rather than the distinctly Anglocentric viewpopint one can become used to when one reads enough wartime diairies. She’s a very smart lady indeed, one can’t help but think she would have made a worthy contribution to the S.O.E.:
“Lady R’s [Lady Rawle] cousin, who has now taken his mother’s name of Oglander is in the RAF at Lympne + a good week before Rudolf Hess materialised they were all told to be on the lookout for an airman and to be very careful not to shoot him, but after he arrived the order lapsed, so he was clearly expected, although I didn’t gather if all aerodromes were given the same instructions...”
Hess’s appearance is still something of a mystery, although this particular shrouded in secrecy instruction may not have specifically regarded Hess, as Lympne was at one point intended to be the landing point for a clandestine kidnap attempt on non other than Adolf Hitler. Nevertheless, Sheelagh is clearly on the inside curve of a lot of intelligence gossip at the time. There’s a fair amount of “For God’s Sake America, get in the fight” going on, very prevalent at the time as Britain, standing virtually alone against the Nazis, was getting what might be termed a bit of a kicking whilst carrying a significant chunk of the weight:
“A very strong article in yesterday’s Sunday Times on America’s share in the war which show’s up the comfortable idea that she can win it without firing a shot + and with the sole concession of giving us a few silk stockings and motor cars.”
The situation regarding corruption in the military is also openly discussed:
“Talked about the hidden hand in high places + Mrs. Erskine instanced Brigadier Drake Brockman, tank expert who was cashiered for striking (she says he merely pushed) a German prisoner who spat at him; he has been refused any second hearing + was forbidden to take up a job offered him in South Africa. And Mrs. Ridley said her husband lost his first job because the General said quite frankly that he wanted it for his son in law, but now has one he likes much better...”
A frank, well informed, and impassioned account of the early, lonely years of World War 2.