My father left behind three illustrated diaries. The first one, drawn as a teenager at Art School, charted his convoluted courtship. Concerns are the choice of girlfriend, a seemingly hostile father-in-law and lack of privacy. It contains coded hieroglyphs and is charming and stylised in a naive way.
His two war diaries are more sophisticated artistically and graphically. His drawings, although sketched out in feint pencil first, have an immediacy and spontaneity about them. He invariably used fountain pen ink and coloured pencils, and the paper stock is very poor, no doubt reflecting what was available in war time.
A Day at Thorn'ick Bay
This first wartime diary, from 1941, tells of a day trip from Hull to Thornwick Bay, near Bridlington, on the North Sea coast. Obviously my father was on leave from his training as an RAF instructor. As a document it gives a wonderful flavour of life in wartime, the vicissitudes of transport, the observation of local detail, the importance of "grub". Interestingly the wedding that they see en route seems to be very significant considering they were married themselves about a year later.
This dairy starts with Bon returning to the Isle of Man after some leave. As he is married, he is returning to his post at Andreas on the north of the Island, and my mother is returning to working on a farm nearby. They are living in 'digs' and are friends with a Scots couple, Johnny and Mabel Ness, who feature in a delightful fantasy on the train. Other delights include, the mess dance, a beach picnic, and actual aircraft exercises. The drawings of the planes are particularly accurate and apposite as dad’s specialism was aircraft recognition. Important for an air gunner not to shoot down the wrong plane.
I have collated the two diaries as PDF files which are available to download. (See links on right sidebar)
Imperial War Museum, Genealogy and Road Trip !
We did a bit of research as to the identity of the marrying couple of page 11 of "Thorn'ick Bay" (See right). Firstly, we worked out that the only church on the bus route between Bridlington Station and Thornwick Bay was (is) St. Oswalds in Flamborough. Indeed, the tower shape and the fact that the church is sited on a road bend made it failry conclusive. Testament to my father's skill and observation that he recorded these details accurately (in his memory) before he set pen to paper.
Lucy and I, together with my cousin Kate and her husband Hugh decided to have a mini road trip and investigate. The Council records office in Beverley, East Yorkshire recorded only the one marriage for the 10th of July 1942. It was between Margaret Eileen Gilliam (20) and David John Edmunds (24). The vicar was one Edward Peters. The groom was a corporal in the RAF, and my father even drew in his blue uniform!
It transpired also that Margaret is still alive and living in care. The family printed out the page from Bon's diary and took it to show her. See photographs below. Also incuded an East Yorkshire bus (albeit at not such a rakish angle) near the church, and a view of Thornwick Bay itself.