War was declared on September 3rd 1939; for Donald Elsden his life was put on hold as he had been called up and would spend the next seven years serving his country. He must have often thought of home, and remembered the happy life he had led in his parents’ pub, the Portland Arms, in Cambridge. No doubt he thought back to times spent by the River Cam, fishing, rowing, and cruising on the M. C. Belle with his best friend Gordon ‘Sammy’ Samuels.
For Monica Matthews and her family, living in the small village of Harston, just south of Cambridge, her life too would change because of the conflict. Monica lived with her two sisters, Audrey and Beryl, brother Alan and their parents Reg and Ida Matthews at a large and attractive property on the edge of the village, Newton View.
Alan had joined the RAF before the war and now was serving abroad. Reg, who had served in the first World war, had volunteered again; he was a great patriot and if called upon, would have given his life for King and country.
In 1939, Alan was nearly 21, Audrey 19, Beryl 15 and Monica 14; Audrey too would join up but Beryl and Monica were school girls until they went to work when they were 18.
Between June 6th 1940, and November 16th 1942, the Matthews girls kept a diary of the servicemen they met and welcomed into their home to share their meagre rations.
Their mother Ida was a warm, kindly woman whose life had been difficult for many reasons and yet she opened the door to these young men who were far away from their homes with no idea of what lay ahead, only their duty.