The family of Lorna Lloyd offered Malvern Museum a diary written by Lorna while living in Malvern, detailing the early progress of the Second World.
Lorna was born in 1914 in Bristol. Her father was a wealthy iron and steel merchant who had retired to Malvern in the late 1930s. Her brother Theo was also serving in the armed forces as she was writing her diary.
Lorna studied English Literature at Girton College, Cambridge, and her diary is full of quotes from Shakespeare, other illustrious literary figures and classical scholars. She peppered her reviews of the daily progress of war with sayings like these: ‘Our Government like Br’er Rabbit are lying low and ain’t sayin nuthin. Hitler’s attitude is like that of Claudius in “Hamlet” – “May one be pardoned and retain the offence?”’ Lorna loved classical music too and would listen to radio concerts or hear them on her gramophone. The many references to God point to her Christian upbringing and was another source of strength. Although Lorna had poor health, we learn that she joined the Women’s Voluntary Service in order to serve and do her duty. She was involved in preparing ration cards and her team managed to complete 18,000 books, filled in and docketed, in less than four days.
Lorna wrote her diary while she lived with her parents in Somers Road. Not every day has an entry but some contain references to Malvern’s response to wartime conditions, squeezed between descriptions of the alarming descent into global warfare. Lorna must have listened carefully to radio broadcasts and read daily newspapers to be so well informed.
The diary begins on 1st September 1939 with this entry: ‘The Government scheme for evacuation of school children from danger zones was put into force. Thirteen trains were expected in our area. The first came in whilst I was there. All the children were cheery and bright, looking forward to a “holiday” in new surroundings. One small child told Mother that his parents had spent fifteen shillings on a new outfit for him!” A little later she includes a story about one of the local evacuees: “Someone asked the little refugee if she wasn’t frightened at being taken away from home and friends. To which the cherub replied, “Oh no, it’s alright. The King Knows”. I think he does.’
Progress of War
Lorna writes with a passion and bemoans each disaster as it is reported, the first being the torpedoing of the liner ‘Athenia’ off the Hebrides just hours after Britain declared war. She regularly referred to how quickly people become desensitised to appalling news: ‘I do not think any of us are functioning normally – one feels quite detached as though one is seeing this frightful war like a phantasmagoria, from a long way off’. Elsewhere Lorna wondered, ‘if Damocles got so used to the sword suspended over his head that he ceased to fear it. I think we are getting like that.’
Lorna was full of admiration for those who faced the nightmare of war and contemptuous of all that Hitler intended, calling his regime the Nazi Buffoon factory. There are references to the wholesale slaughter of Jews and concentration camps in an entry for 29th January 1940. Of the Dunkirk rescue she had this to say: ‘The “Great Deliverance”, the incredible feat of arms which no one dared to hope possible is nearly over, and, with the help of God, four fifths of our army, which seemed doomed, has been brought off, and more are still being rescued.’
The diary is beautifully written and captures the helplessness of so many caught up in such a major conflict, with no benefit of hindsight to know how it would all finish. Sadly Lorna died from cancer in early 1942. She was 28.
The diary will be on display in the museum this year but members of the public can access its contents much more easily in two other formats. Back in September 2019, 80 years after the outbreak of war, Lorna’s family began publishing each diary entry on a social media platform called Blipfoto. An image of the extract with a transcript and background information appeared daily for the next 16 months and can still be viewed at: https://www.blipfoto.com/entry/2614509852868739975 or search for Blipfoto Lorna Lloyd
This year the diary will be available in a series of podcasts via Malvern Museum’s website. A group of students from Edinburgh Napier University has recorded all the diary entries, along with sound effects and contemporary news broadcasts. These were launched on May 24th in Great Malvern Priory. For more updates on how this project develops, please follow this link: https://hazelhall.org/2022/06/18/lorna-lloyds-diary-of-the-war-podcast-series-launch-event-review-and-resources/