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 The Casualties Were Small

My Grandmother, May Hill, lived in Chapel St Leonards, a small seaside village to the north of Skegness in the county of Lincolnshire. Her Diaries are filled with anecdotes about family, village life, poems, recipes, her own childhood memories and comments on the war, politics and the policy makers of the time.

Wartime Poetry and Diaries* 

of a Lincolnshire Seaside Villager

May Hill

Chapel St Leonards, Near Skegness, 1940-1944

Edited by Tom Ambridge and Margaret Ambridge

May Hill began her Diary soon after the outbreak World War II. The strategically important East Coast area of Lincolnshire around Skegness  had been transformed from a bustling holiday centre into an armed encampment. Butlins became 'HMS Royal Arthur' a Royal Navy training centre, RAF air bases sprang up throughout 'Bomber County' and soldiers were billeted in surrounding villages, including Chapel St Leonards.

My father, May's son Ron,  volunteered for the RAF and May began to express her thoughts and prayers in verse. The poem "The Casualties Were Small" reveals her worst fears as his exposure to danger increased even before being posted abroad.

As the War continued, May maintained her eloquent record of family and village life as well as the events of the War itself - including the sad loss of three nephews and an early hint of victory with the 'D-Day' landings.

The selection of Diary entries in this compilation has been chosen to include those which reveal the specific experiences and events which inspired over twenty poems. May's own writing is supported by additional explanatory notes and illustrated by over thirty photographs from the collections of the family and others from the village.

Published: June 2009   UK PRICE 8.99 

 For further details and to order copies - please Click Here to go to the Ambridge Books Website  

May Hill's WWII Diaries - Seventy Years On' blog

The following extract  is from May's writing on D-Day:  

The people featured are: May Hill (widowed a few months earlier), Rene (married daughter), Jean (younger daughter), Ron (son, serving with RAF in Italy), Emmie (Ron's wife), Mrs Russell (Emmie's mother), Ciss (May's husband's niece), Percy (Ciss's husband), General Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, King George VI.  

Tues June 6 1944, D.Day 9.30 pm *


An Ordinary Day

So, at last the long-talked of Second Front has begun. I have not even given it a new page and that seems a fitting symbol of how it appears to me. What excitement there may be in towns or elsewhere, in the country does not seem to have touched us here. It is just an ordinary day, after nearly 5 years of war it takes a lot to make us demonstrative. I went on with my ordinary work and made my first toy for sale, a white duck with green wings and yellow beak and feet. It is for Mrs Russell to give to a baby friend. I must make the rabbit for Emmie next and try to send an extra one too. Ciss cleaned her pantry and Rene washed. Jean went to school, indeed she had gone before the announcement.


Listening to the Radio    

4000 ships and a great many smaller craft crossed the channel. Great air-liners took air-borne troops behind the German lines. Montgomery is speaking now, a message to the troops of which he is the head. Now a service. Almost 10 o' clock. The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken and now they are singing "Oh God, our help in ages past." At nine o'clock the King broadcast a call to prayer, not just one day but all the days of crisis. In the news afterwards we heard that all was still going well in France. I fear the "little people" like us would not just go on with this ordinary work. However pleased they may be at the thought of deliverance, at present it means danger and hardship and war. Many will have to leave their homes and many  I fear will lose their lives. The  service is over, a beautiful service, ending with the hymn, "Soldiers of Christ Arise."


At the End of the Day

We are in bed. A motor cycle has just gone by and a swiftly moving plane. Percy was with Home Guards last night. I am pleased he is at home next door tonight. God be with us all those whose sons or husbands or other dear ones have already fallen in this new front. Be with the wounded and comfort the dying and those who are afraid. We had 12 letters from Ron to-day - a record. I had 6, the others 3 each. In the most recent one, only a week since he wrote it, an air mail letter, he says his hopes of return are practically nil. I am almost pleased much as I long to see him but somehow he seems safer there at present. I must try to sleep now. The longed for D-Day has arrived. Deliverance Day, Jean says it means.  

 * All extracts taken from the book "The Casualties were Small" and reproduced  on this page are Copyright The Editors and Estate of May Hill 2009 - All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.


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Last updated 29 September 2021