117th Anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s Birthday

On this 117th anniversary of Waugh’s birthday, we look back 80 years to see how he celebrated the occasion on 28 October 1940. This was nearly a year after he had joined the Royal Marines. He had arrived back from the aborted mission to West Africa on 27 October 1940 and was granted leave after docking in Kilmarnock, Scotland. This was general leave for his unit and was apparently unrelated to his birthday. Waugh writes in his diary (p. 485):

Next day, my [37th] birthday, difficulties over special train held up general leave, but I got off on representing that I might at any moment be called up for the Commando. The army PO has given us no letters later than September 15th. The journey to Taunton took just twenty-four hours. Long waits outside all junctions, no attempt to run connections.

I arrived very happy to forget the war for a week. Got into civilian clothes, caught a sharp cold, but had a highly enjoyable week. Laura and I visited Stinkers and found the house full to capacity ; the chaplain sleeping in the wine cellar, the garden breast-high with weeds, all the young hedges looking very unwell, many young plants completely lost. I got twenty gallons of petrol out of the Bristol control. Talk is all of air raids. Evacuation is very much better at Pixton as family life has now been separated from children and helpers. Laura lets the numerous rows pass over her. We drove to Chagford for luncheon. Bad accident on railway; over thirty killed at Norton Fitzwarren. Sunday papers full of Hitler’s attempts to conciliate the Catholics. Greek war beginning as Norway and Finland began. Good news seems so improbable that people seem rather to resent it. There are no signs of any shortage of supplies but great disorganization of communications. Three of our officers went on leave not knowing where to find their wives. Countless troops in the same position. Leave expires tomorrow. [Diary entry dated Pixton Park, Tuesday 5 November 1940]

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