Frank Kendon letter to wife Celia Kendon describing VE Day 1945

Mark Stephens

Tuesday [8th May 1945]. Beechcroft, Harston, Cambs.

Dear darling,

I wrote to you yesterday and didn’t post the letter for it is still in my bicycle basket and it was no good posting it in Harston. It is about 2:30, and I’m free and at home, and there’s nobody in our home left but me. Margaret and I hastily put up an arch of flags (Adam’s, Alice’s, and two Union Jack’s which you had stored away) over the gate. It is the end of the war. I don’t know what it means, do you? I think it could mean that none of our children need ever take part in another, but how to help to bend the world to that end none of us knows.

I’m sitting in the garden, in a deckchair, without coat or waistcoat; the Mackenzie’s wireless is making boxy musical noises over the fallen fence, a big brass band I think. Margaret has gone to Cambridge, under promise to be back safely by half past nine. Alice and Adam told me they were to have a bonfire and a treasure hunt and an extra day added to the holidays.

I have walked up the village as far as the Old English, but the flags are small and haphazard, not so well planned as on the Coronation Day. People have got a little tired of waiting for the permission to hang them out. Mr Barker, however, has a wonderful display – his connection with Eaden Lilly may have helped. Our real decoration appears to be the beech tree.

To sit in the garden and write to you (rather pathetic!) was the best thing I could think of doing, for I should really like to have you here, just you for a little while and then we’ll walk out somewhere and fetch our four lovely children home and begin the years of peace. The garden looks like peace, no need of flags for the irises and poppies and buttercup tulips and peonies are all out, and there are two rose buds ready for you.

I have just been down the village to get a loaf and survey the other decorations and to post the letter I wrote yesterday. The decorations are few and modest, but of course the Londoners next to the butcher’s shop have far more than anyone else. Nothing at Ayres, nothing at Harston House; nothing at Harrisons; nothing at Hays. Mrs Swan (I think) has painted in horrid green paint on a whole sheet – Victory thanks to our boys – and stuck a little Union Jack in one corner. I hope the paint is washable.

The wireless voice goes on and on and on interminably next door, gabbling what I can’t understand a word of. A lazy white butterfly is looking over the shrubs down by your rockery. It is too hot for birds to do more than cheep now and then. This morning I happened to read over the last chapter of Martin Makesure, and the book is now on the grass beside me in case I might go on with it. Or shall I do some more enlargements? Or shall I paint a picture out of doors?

Northrop is coming up later to put in some carrot seed. I need hardly say that Mrs Northrop hasn’t come today – not that it makes much difference. I don’t see any distemper left anywhere. I better ring up Mr Wedd about that. I rode home with Mrs Bissiker yesterday evening. She said she had intended to ring and ask me to come into the Old House for meals but that Mr Bisseker had dissuaded her “He won’t want to come,” he said, “and he won’t like to refuse”. I explained that you had left a programme and that Margaret was with me. As we came towards Beechcroft she was bemoaning that she could get no help in her garden; no one to cut her lawns. And there was Northrop leaning over a gate waiting for me. “Oh, there is your faithful Mr Northrop” says Mrs B. It was rather as if she said, “you’ve taken him away from me”, so I said goodnight. Northrop didn’t know what the time was – no one here to give him his cup of tea. However, he is here now, today, sowing the carrot seed, and I shall invite him to tea on the lawn with me. In fact I must go and boil the kettle and butter the bread.

I wonder what you were doing. I think it likely that you are also out in the garden, talking to Mummy, Andrew perhaps swinging. Are you getting brown? Have you been able to get into the woods with Andrew? I discovered that Norkey is really badly missing Andrew. I cut off the rhubarb flowers and said: “a good job Adam isn’t here to see me do this; he likes these things to be allowed to grow” “does he?” said Norky, then, ” ah, areckon we don’t miss Adam like we do that other one.” At this point I went in to get tea, while Norky got out the summer seat, mended its slats, and put it near the deck chairs ready as a table. But it thundered and then began to spit a few spots – very few. So we hurriedly brought in the tray and the bread and butter and finished tea in the kitchen and sat (as men will eh!) and sat and smoked and talked till nearly six. So this letter got more interrupted.

Margaret (good girl) came in from Cambridge at seven, and you rang up, and reminded me of stuff in tins, so as it was my turn to get supper I made the most delicious salad and opened a small tin of salmon and made some tea, (it made me think of Gracie Fields – some nice am and lettuce and we’re alright). After supper, much prolonged with Norfolk talk and washing up, the honeysuckle turned on it’s scent, and I went on trimming, spotting, and mounting my photographs.

Then about dusk or a little later, as it was a mild nightingale evening and we’d heard a good many goodfun bangs (or so we assumed) we thought to view the village. We left our own light streaming across the lawn and high up on the beech tree and went down under the arbours of leaves and light to the gate. There we saw a red glow, it appeared to be down the Drift. As we got nearer we saw it was an enormous bonfire at the far end of Park Field. So we went to it. All the boys and girls of Harston were there – it was an amazing picture, for by now the night was very dark and the fire was all a flame and red heat. It lit up their faces. Shoals of sparks were rising and swimming madly in the near sky, Newton was letting off rockets behind the trees. I longed to have you there, and then I thought how we should probably have wakened Andrew and brought him out to see it and how he would have remembered it forever. Then I turned round, my back to the bonfire, and saw such a sight as one couldn’t have imagined. The field was full of buttercups, of course, and the long level light of the bonfire was skimming along the grass tops. It was a broken cloudy sky above, very firmly mottled with clouds darkish against the remaining light in the sky to West and North; and the unevenness of the field, accentuated by the levelness of the bonfire night, was cut up in the same way into cloudy forms of light and dark so that the illuminated meadow grass and the high sky over it seemed to be nearly the same. It was as though we stood with our feet in clouds. The green of the grass haulms made the bonfire light lose its warm colour on them, but all the buttercups were brilliant red; red not yellow, and danced away through the skyey meadow like stars one minute, and another minute like minute poppies. We were wading our way through this phenomenon when a deep but feminine voice called “Hallo Mr Kendon” and Mr and Mrs Arthur, twined like new lovers, came out of the fire light and disappeared into the Drift.

There have been bangs galore. Cambridge had some guns, and it is still (nearly 1 oclock) having some searchlights. About 11:30 Margaret said “Listen! there’s the all clear!” and so it was. I hurried to the door. But the all clear was doing an odd thing; it was coming nearer and nearer, and NEARER, and lights were screaming down the road. Someone (I guess Americans) had fixed a siren onto a car, and came tearing full blast through the village, leaving a trail of barking dogs…. I have done some more photo mounting since then.

I haven’t got to get up tomorrow till I’m ready to, and though it has just struck one o’clock I’m not sleepy so I’ll go on with this letter, though it is is only just chattering to my darling wife – princess and in the kind of letter that never ENDS I’m afraid. I haven’t drawn the study curtains, and moths are fluttering at the window. The honeysuckle scent is at it’s most holy and delicious, and the night is still and warm and must be a nightingale’s ideal. If they sing, I don’t hear them.
Another spell retouching a mounted photograph.
Well dearest heart it is time for bed and I’ll copy out a little poem from De la Mare for ee.

My little pretty one
My pretty honey one
She is a jolly one
And gentle as can be.
With a beck she comes anon
With a wink she will be gone
No doubt she is alone
Of all that I ever see.

I will do the dress and the sandals tomorrow if I can find em. Kisses for tonight, though on paper sweet heart. Frank.

This page was added on 06/06/2020.

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