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Desperately Seeking S

A while back on this journal, I mentioned that the Entling had offered me a project.

Years before, he had been given parts of the diary of a man ('S') who lived right next to the wood during the Blitz. The diary was the property of the man's relatives, who wanted to keep copyright. However, they sent a digital copy of part of the diary to the Entling for specific non-profit making use. They also sent a disc (now lost) and a letter. The digital copy also has photos of newspaper clippings cut out by the diarist himself. This is the material on which I am working.

It's a tooth-grinder. First of all, I tried to cross refer S's accounts of bomb drops with those on bomb sight, but his accounts are from August 1940, while their records are from October 1940 onwards.

I don't have his surname. I don't have his address, though the Entling thinks he remembers the relative telling him that the diarist lived at the end of the road just outside the wood. 'Lord Haw-Haw lived down there too,' Mused the Entling. 'Probably ought to have told you that,' he added, while I attempted not to facepalm in front of him. He gave me the number of a local expert, whom I phoned.

The local expert confirmed that William Joyce had indeed lived where the Entling suspected; Indeed, the Joyce family residence down in Dulwich was one of the Luftwaffe's earliest bombing successes, proving once again that, despite not being an Englishman, God lacks no sense of irony. Meanwhile, I tried to discuss whereabouts exactly S might have lived, and there was one massive clue. Next door was a refugee house.

'I've never heard of that,' said the expert. 'Why would there be a refugee house right next to a wood with an internment camp in it? Are you sure he didn't just pop into the wood to visit the refugees?'

I was sure. S referred to the neighbours as refugees and spoke about going into their house repeatedly. I could almost hear the local expert shaking his head at the other end. 'Never heard of anything like that,' he said. 'What were their nationalities?' I told him the surnames. 'No, no, the internees were mainly French, Belgian and Dutch...'

Turned out there was a lot going on in Crystal Palace Wood at the time; John Logie Baird was set up there doing experiments with colour TV and 3-D images, M15 was all over it, and there was some palaver about Churchill and French sailors. But nothing about a refugee house.

Here's what I want; I want the manuscript in my hands with all the original information and damn straight I want the diarist's surname and address! Then I would like to start digging and see if I can get some sense out of the Southwark archives and the London Metropolitan archives, and maybe even the Imperial War Museum.

As it stands, I must shrink my efforts. It will be a chunky little booklet, and I will try to annotate if it can be done unobtrusively, which I doubt. Still, even if this becomes a neglected little tome in a portacabin in a wood, at least his account will live somewhere close to where it all happened. It is history, his life, his war, his world. It shouldn't be lost.

But if someone told me today that the wood had been host to experiments in cloning Churchill, or training flying winged monkeys to lift parachutists to safety, or that Rudolf Hess and Enid Blyton carried on a secret romance under the ancient beeches...

I wouldn't be at all surprised.

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