Thursday, October 6, 2011


Mother & baby, April 1946.
Photographed by Dan Findlay.
The letters end here, just before DF's leave to attend the birth of his child in Glasgow. The baby arrived, in Redlands Nursing Home, safely and fairly timeously at teatime on Sunday, 30th September, and was indeed the expected girl. As planned, she was named Christine Margaret, and is the collator of this blog. Apparently and unsurprisingly Margaret refused the offer of tripe for tea immediately after the birth. She used to recall seeing imaginary men on the rooftops opposite her room in Great Western Road as she recovered from the influence of whatever sedation they used at the time.

Dan Findlay had, of course, to return to Essex after the birth, and was demobbed when the baby was several weeks old. Legend always had it that when he finally arrived home to find the baby screaming in her mother's arms, he expressed a desire to return to the peace of the Western Desert. A second daughter was born in December 1948. The family lived at 66 Novar Drive until 1957, when they bought the long-desired house with its own garden, in Broomhill. Margaret Findlay lived there till within a year of her death at the age of 93.

Dan Findlay died suddenly in 1977 at the age of 69.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thursday 13 September 1945, Marks Hall

1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; War Medal 1939-45

                 A less trusting husband might well be suspicious at your belated warning of the possibility of red hair in our offspring! Wasn't there a fortune-teller many years ago who foretold romance for you with a reddish fair man? However, since I'm quite sure there was no blond gentleman in the vicinity during my disembarkation leave, I can accept your explanation in the spirit in which it was offered, and merely express my hope that the genes responsible for great-grandpa Crane's* red whiskers have now lost their potency.

                 Having the divan in your bedroom for me is an excellent idea although if, as Kate thinks, you are punctual in delivering the goods, you'll probably be in the nursing-home as soon as I arrive. What is the position? I'll probably stay on at 155 when you leave - that is if they'll have me.

Africa Star with North Africa 1942-42 clasp
                 I told you about ribbons in my last letter. I've got the '39-45, Africa Star and Italian ribbon but I can't lay my hands on the France and Germany ribbon. I believe it has all been sent over to the B.L.A. If I had known Cliff was coming over, I might have asked him to get me a piece. I don't, of course, qualify for the defence medal. As I tell my friends (who are all wearing it), I was never long enough in a non-operational area to win such a sedentary award.

               As you suggest, the possibility of attending a christening during my December leave never entered my innocent head. I suppose the family will be all in favour of a church ceremony. If so, I'm willing to participate. After all, as at a wedding, the man takes a very small and apologetic part and at some future time, the front pew will be occupied by a test-tube or hypodermic syringe.

             The idea of being 'welcomed home' by Broomhill Church is enough to make one volunteer for further service and I certainly will not attend any celebration for discharged heroes. And talking of further service, quite a surprising number of men are asking for postponement of release at the very last minute. The are all of course people with no jobs to go to, and the prospect of being thrown into a chaotic labour market frightens them.

              I had a letter from Griffiths yesterday. He is rather disgruntled at his environment and finds his former cronies, with their petty worried, narrow outlook and complete lack of interest in the past or future, extremely boring. He hopes to feel better once he starts working.

             It is true enough I think that Service people, who have seen some of the devastation in Europe, take a wider view of the present situation than some civilians for whom the war really ceased when bombs stopped dropping round their ears.

            Dearest, I'm delighted to hear that you are still feeling so astonishingly well and I'm sure it is a good omen both for your future and the child's. It won't be long now till I see you and I'm counting the days.

* The Crane family were cousins of MRF.               

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Monday 10th Sept. 1945, Marks Hall

Small, very folded note accompanying medals

My darling,
                   Your Thursday letter arrived on Saturday evening and filled me with remorse at the account of your financial difficulties. I am afraid I haven't been paying much attention to the various heavy demands on the joint account, and your description of how you live on charity, and make bootless journeys to the bank looking for remittances from your worthless husband, has wrung my heart. It's true that on the 'phone last night you assured me that you were once again solvent but I am enclosing a small cheque to get you our of your father's debt and when I come on leave I'll arrange to transfer a substantial sum from my Lloyd's account.

                I am delighted to hear that you are still satisfying Kate with your condition and I am looking forward to getting the full clinical details in your next letter. This last month must be rather a trying time for you, but if Kate's forecast is correct and the infant arrives on time, you won't have to bear your burden much longer.

                Thanks for the Penguins which came last Friday. I've enjoyed the Isherwood in spite of its decadent atmosphere, and the Times Fourth Leaders make very pleasant reading. They are essays in the old fashioned style and they maintain a very high average considering the fact that they appear every day. I've read them nearly without fail since coming to Marks Hall, but of course the selection you sent covers the period when I was in the wilderness. That irritating book Ask Me Another will be very useful when I get back to school. It's just the kind of thing that infuriatingly smart little boys delight in.
The box in which the medals arrived

                 I find myself unable to put up my new ribbons because I can't find anywhere a piece of "France and Germany Star" ribbon (that's the red white and blue one). If you family notice any in Glasgow they might please buy it for me. It looks like this ...

               Life continues to be rather dull. The weather is sunless and quite cold: the trees are rapidly yellowing, and altogether a deep autumnal tone is rather prevalent. I am doing a fair amount of history, and living only for my next leave.I'm sorry to hear about Jean's tooth and my sympathy is partly inspired by the fact that sooner or later, the vast mass of new wisdom tooth that is slowly coming out of my gum will have to be removed. It seems quite healthy so far and is growing quite straight but I don't think it will ever attain the stature of a useful member. 
 So far, I've heard of only one teacher in our Group (RAF Group I mean) getting out and he works in a private school. The conclusion some of us have reached is that if you work in a school run by a board of governors, and are asked for individually, you have a chance of getting out. But if one's name appears in the long list of people wanted by a local authority, the machinery of Class B release breaks down. Anyway, I've stopped thinking about it.

              Keep well darling and take great care of yourself. I'm glad to hear that everything is now ready though I should prefer you to perform exactly on time when I'm in the neighbourhood. Give my regards to everybody .....

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Friday 7th Sept. 1945, Marks Hall

My darling Margaret,
                                I've just finished a night in which I combined the responsibilities of Station Duty Officer and Duty Cypher Officer, but as nothing happened in either department I am feeling quite refreshed after a good night's sleep. If I get this letter away by the mid-day post, you ought to get it on Monday morning.

                              Your long-awaited letter arrived on Wednesday evening and as I had received nothing since Saturday, I was more than usually glad to get it. I'm glad to hear that you are still feeling well and are still walking with something of your customary grace and vigour. Bud's [school friend of M.R.F., real name Barbara] apprehensions about my being lonely while you are in Redlands aroused some spark of interest, as I thought for a moment that she was going to make some really constructive suggestions on how I might be comforted. But I am afraid she is not that kind of girl!

                              I had a letter from Mary two days ago thanking me for mine, and expressing polite regrets at my inability to visit them. She seems to have enjoyed Jean's visit very much and speaks of her usefulness as an egg-hunter, picker of apples, and taker-of-the-family-for-walks.

                             I don't know how often or at what times I'll be allowed to visit you in Redlands but when I'm not there and not eating at Hyndland Rd., I'll find plenty to keep me busy in our house. I feel much more energetic than I did on my last leave and I should be able to make a determined attack on our two full cupboards. The more I can do now, the more time I'll have free on my release leave to photograph you and the infant.

                           Eddie Weeple [another English teacher who lived in the next close] is a lucky blighter getting out so soon. As for the disadvantages which Education officers are now discovering in their position such as lack of gratuity, they rouse no sympathy at all. They went into the work with eyes open and most of them thought they had found a good thing at the time. And if ever they had felt like taking ordinary commissions, I'm sure the RAF would have opened its welcoming arms to them.

                           As you suggest, I'm missing Griffiths somewhat. Of course I know scores of others in the Mess, but they don't drink my way and none of them has a large and comfortable car to hand. However, I'm filling in the time with reading and I'll be glad to receive the Penguins which you propose to send me. Fisher and Myers get rather indigestible at times*.

                           Give my regards to the family. today you should be seeing Kate again if my memory is accurate, and I hope she once again gives you an excellent report. Three weeks tonight I hope to be in Glasgow. Till then sweetheart take care ...

* I can't find out what exactly he refers to here, but this is perhaps the Fisher he means.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wednesday (morning) 5th Sept. 1945, Marks Hall

My darling,
                 It's a beastly morning and our little tin hut is damp and miserable. The weather has been really abominable fro the past three days and unfortunately we are denied the comfort of a fire in our hut until some quite arbitrary date in mid-October - by which time we shall doubtless be experiencing a belated heat-wave. Meanwhile the rain is pouring down and a fierce wind is trying to uproot our hut. Lucky Griffiths, sitting by his own fireside on a day like this.

                 The little blighter departed early on Monday morning after a colossal final party on Sunday night. He had a full car, with his wife, two boys, all their luggage, and a beautiful large golden retriever which he bought from a game-keeper on a pub some weeks ago. I maintain that he does not remember making the purchase. He was certainly wondering the following day how he was going to feed the animal which has so far been nourished on a diet of goat's milk and rabbits. But his boys were crazy about it, so by this time, the pup will be in Barry and barking in Welsh.

                  Meanwhile I've settled down once more to a life either studious or somnolent according to my mood. Child, another of the cypher officers, has presented me with a large loose-leaf notebook which he doesn't want, and my passion for virgin paper has led me to make quite a lot of history notes in the last few days.

                I suppose you listened to Mr Attlee's speech. It was a dreary performance and gave me no consolation whatever. Of course the Minister of Labour may issue some more encouraging figures soon. Meanwhile a big acceleration in Class B release seems to be the chief aim. The so-called improvement in the conditions of these special releases really amounts to nothing at all, as a class B release still loses 35 days pay and allowances, which always has been the rub. Still, if the offer came along in the next few weeks, I might be tempted to accept, considering the slowness with which normal release is proceeding.

               I've had nothing from you since last Saturday and am quite determined that there shall be a letter awaiting me at lunch-time today. Meanwhile, I hope you are still keeping extremely well. My health is excellent and in spite of the rather gloomy opening paragraph, my spirits are reasonably high. They'll keep mounting during the next three weeks as my leave draws closer. It will be a full three months since I saw you last and I'm hoping that we won't have as long an interval again. I intend to take my next leave rather early in the period - say about the beginning of December - so that I can be sure of getting it in before I'm demobbed.

              Dear, other men whose wives are in your interesting condition seem to be worried out of their wits by tantrums, vapours, threatened nervous breakdowns and God knows what. Once again, as when I was overseas, I realise how lucky I am in having a wife with such a beautifully calm sough - whatever that may be. So far you have carried the affair off with quite primitive aplomb and I'm sure you'll continue to do so. Keep well, pamper yourself shamelessly, spare yourself nothing and, if you can still project your thoughts beyond your wame, remember I love you dearly.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Capt. D.R. Stewart, 390Coy. R.A.S.C., Paiforce*, 3 Sept.45

A letter from Margaret Findlay's younger brother, stationed in Persia

My dear Margaret,
                            I was so pleased to get your letter of the 25th yesterday. I think it's the longest letter I've ever had from you; thank you very much for it.

                           What I liked most about the letter was the news that you're keeping so well, and that the doctor is satisfied with you. In a month or so I'll be looking most anxiously for the first communiqué. Please look after yourself, Margaret. I'm sure the rest of the family will be keeping a very strict eye on you to see you don't do anything you didn't oughter.

                          I hope my Beirut purchases will arrive safely. I sent them off on Thursday in two small packages. I registered them to ensure safe passage, and so couldn't put duty free labels on them. I hope you won't have to pay much, if any, duty. I wonder if the sandal things I sent have arrived. Would you like a wee white Persian cap? They're what a lot of the men wear perched on top of their heads, and are quite amusing.

                       You all seem to have enjoyed your holiday at Bearsden. It must have been a very nice break for you, especially with the weather being so kind to you. I suppose Roy went just about mad with so much open space about him. How fat is he now? I suppose he's enormous.

                      It is a blow about the release continuing to be so slow even after the victory over Japan. Is your Socialist government not going to do something about it? If only they'd reduce overseas service it wouldn't be so bad; I'm just longing to see you all again. Do you remember the first night I was home on embarkation leave in Apr. 42 and you asked me if it was emb. leave, and I had to admit it?

                      No, I'm not a very good swimmer yet. I'm still convinced I'm not buoyant enough! I could do about 100 yds. in the sea at Beirut, and then it was weakness of the limbs through lack of use fo the necessary muscles that made me give up. Out of my depth all the time, but don't tell Ma! I make sure I'm convoyed. I can do a few strokes on my back, but can't float. Gwyn [his girlfriend, a nurse, later his wife] tried to teach me to do the crawl in the river here, but I was a very difficult pupil and it became too hot for swimming before I got any distance with my lessons. This long para. was initiated by your remarks about Brodick [village on Arran where the family holidayed] in '39. It was a wonderful holiday, wasn't it? I don't think I ever enjoyed one as well. It was a good job Dan had his compass on Ben Nuis that day.

                   It's ages since I wrote to Ene and Jean [his other sisters]. Will you tell them I'll write any day now? As this is my 3rd letter to 155 this afternoon/evening I'd only repeat myself if I wrote now. Please give my regards to Dan; I hope his rheumatics aren't giving him too much trouble.

With much love,

*"Paiforce" is explained here. David Stewart was Margaret Findlay's younger brother, and this letter was in the same box as the letters from Daniel Findlay. It gives the interest of another slant on the aftermath of the war and the frustrations of the demobilisation process.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sunday September 2nd 1945, Marks Hall

Desert Convoy

My darling,
                I've just laid down the telephone and I must apologise for raising any false hopes that I was coming home on leave. As I said, this is Griff's last night, and though we have been celebrating almost continuously for a week, I want to take him and his wife out tonight to have a few drinks at my expense. I've had lots of good meals in their hotel and I want to make the only return I can.

               Yesterday Griff went up to Uxbridge and in two hours was converted into Mr Griffiths, complete with a very neat blue suit, new shoes, sox, shirt, tie, hat and a very good quality raincoat. I arranged for several of our sergeants and WAAFs to meet Mr & Mrs G at one of the locals last night and Griff threw quite a party. The new civilian was the object of a great deal of hilarity and some envy. I would be delighted to stand in his new shoes but strangely enough, Griff is viewing his departure  with a certain amount of regret. He is a very sociable type, a born clubman and probably the most popular man in the mess. But I know just how miserable he can be outside the social round, and his wife confesses to some apprehension about his settling down to the life of a country town solicitor. Their home is in Barry and they say it is quite a nice place. Ask Jean if she knows it.

               Your Thursday letter arrived yesterday as you intended. Please convey my warmest congratulations to Cliff on his promotion. As you say, the extra money will be very useful to them in the unenviable task of setting up house.

              I am delighted to hear that you are better than you have ever been and that the heartburn is diminishing. Since you occasionally enquire about my health, I may state that I am perfectly fit and still carrying out my exercises conscientiously. This has been rather a hectic month with V.J. celebrations and Griff's departure but I have acquitted myself with credit and tonight sees the end of our junketings. Sober steadfast and demure from now on.

            Even your description of Mary's cellar does not tempt me. I am doing no travelling till that blessed Thursday three and a half weeks hence, when I travel to London to catch the mid-day train. Roll on the time. I'm longing to see you again.

              I am reading Desert Conquest by Russell Hill, an American correspondent. I find it extremely interesting because it covers the period I spent in the desert - from the time before the retreat right up to the fall of Tunis. Have you read it?

              From now on, dearest, don't hesitate to use taxis for all your journeys - for example your next visit to Kate. And let me know how the joint account is looking. If it's at all shaky, I'll transfer another credit to it. Don't spare the cost for anything that will add to your comfort or convenience.

             My morning cup of chai is awaiting me so cheerio for the present.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thursday 30th August 1945, Marks Hall

Margaret darling,
                        The Griffiths pre-release celebrations which arouse so much apprehension in you are pursuing quite an orderly course. Yesterday we all went to a Colchester cinema in the afternoon, had dinner in his hotel at halstead afterwards and then spent the remainder of the night in a pub near Braintree. The presence of Mrs Griffiths prevented any excessive alcoholism.

                       The picture was To Have & Have Not with Humphrey Bogart and the Bacall woman. This lady is very skinny and her face is really extremely ugly but she certainly puts across the rather limited range of emotions demanded of a Hemingway heroine. She moves with a kind of slouching grace, contrives to look very smouldering and suggestive, and sings in a rather fetching low voice. Humphrey Bogart gave as usual a very good representation of H. Bogart.

                     It has just been announced that cypher officers in groups 21 and 22 are to be released during October so the RAF is still a little bit ahead of the Govt. schedule. Unfortunately the Groups get much larger above 22, and even if they manage to release one group per month in our trade, I won't be out till February. It is all very tiresome as you say: it would be so nice to start off together right from the beginning of our new life.

                     I got your Tuesday letter last night. It's strange you should be re-reading John Macnab as I aslo found it in the library here and decided to have another go at it. I find that Buchan seems more and more dated every time I read him nowadays. His five representatives of the ruling and officer class and his intelligent, humorous and yet extremely respectful members of the lower orders all belong to a vanished age. I like him best now in these novels like Salute to Adventurers where he gets away from modern times.

                  With regard to your exhortations to use my coupons, I won't be in London before I go on leave but when I am in Glasgow I'll buy whatever you suggest. I need some more light underwear but apart from that I seem to be quite well stocked. This winter is going to be rather grim in many ways - chiefly in the matter of fuel - and I hope we don't get much frost and snow. I still think that before the end of autumn we should fill our green box with coal. When I'm on leave I'll pack it with lumps from the bunker which can then be refilled.

                  I'm glad to hear that you are still feeling so fit. Four weeks today I hope to be travelling north and I'm looking forward very much to seeing you again. I'll be very pleased to stay at 155* if it is convenient. Give my regards to the family. ......

*155 Hyndland Road; home of his in-laws.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tuesday 28th August 1945, Marks Hall

Finchingfield. (Watercolour borrowed from linked page.)

My darling,
                I ought to have written yesterday but it was such a glorious day that I was persuaded to go touring with the Griffiths family. We have been doing quite a bit of exploring recently and have discovered some very interesting and pretty villages miles away from main roads. Essex is intersected by hundreds of miles of narrow lanes and it is interesting, if a trifle baffling, to nose along them in a car. Yesterday we got completely lost and made three circuits of a kind of rural maze, passing and repassing the same group of rustics, before we managed to find the way out. Later in the day we discovered that the Americans, who used to infest this area, had uprooted all the signposts and pointed them the wrong way; and, since it evidently delights the local folk to watch the frantic efforts of tourists to get away from the neighbourhood, the signposts have been allowed to remain in their mendacious condition.

            We had tea at a village called Finchingfield which is so perfectly picturesque with its duck pond, village green, thatched houses and old windmill that it just didn't look real. But what an awful existence to live in such a village! No wonder such hamlets are full of pubs. The merciful anaesthesia of booze must be the only alternative to complete insanity.

            Your Friday's letter came yesterday morning and I was delighted to read that Kate is still thoroughly satisfied with your condition. If I remember my baby lore, it should bring considerable relief to you wen the infant finally decides to take up its position opposite the exit and I expect you'll know when that takes place without needing Kate to tell you. I'm sure everything will go swimmingly.

             I don't suppose that there has been a pregnant woman so interested in theology as you are since the Virgin Mary, but I don't propose to continue our discussion by letter. It can be done orally and at a more propitious time. After all, think of pre-natal influences. Wouldn't it be awful if our offspring decided to be a parson!

            I think Christine Margaret is a very nice name indeed and we'll just close for that if sex should permit.

            If the hot weather has returned to Scotland as it has here, you have had a remarkably fine month at your country residence. I am sure it must have done you good, and your mother will be delighted to be away from the town in hot weather. As you will be leaving at the end of the week, I'll send my next letter to Hyndland Road and I'm eagerly looking forward to the time, four weeks hence, when I'll be there myself.

           Take care of yourself darling and keep well ...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Friday 24th August 1945, Marks Hall

Margaret darling,
                         This morning's newspapers have thrown a great gloom over Marks Hall and I should think over all service establishments. After all the encouraging 'semi-official' forecasts of last week, we are now told that there is to be no acceleration in release and the scheme in fact will work at the same rate as was originally planned months ago.

                          I can see the Govt's policy: they intend to resettle all the munition workers before releasing large numbers of of servicemen and from the point of view of avoiding unemployment, it is probably a wise plan. But this alternate raising and shattering of hopes is having rather a wearing effect on men's nerves.

                          The RAF have been putting on quite a spurt in the last few weeks and Griffiths, who is group 19, has been ordered to report at the demob-centre on Sept. 1st. I'll be very surprised if they release only three or four groups in the C.& C. branch between Sept. and the end of the year, and yet that is what is implied in today's Ministry of Labour announcement. We can only await the event, and for myself I am not going to worry about it. I'll fill in my time as well as I can with reading and study and I know that very soon you'll have plenty to keep you fully occupied.

                          Your letter of Wednesday came by yesterday evening's post. I pass over in offended silence your remarks about my shaky writing and pass on to the important matter of my leave. What do you think of making my leave period from 29th Sept. to 9th Oct? And of course as usual, I would try to travel north two days before the official start of my leave. I'd be in Glasgow for the 28th and as you're more likely to be late than early*, I think that is the best arrangement. Please confirm, or make alternative suggestions.

                          Five weeks today I should be on leave - and may be pacing the floor of Redlands, an object of sympathy or derision to all around. Actually I am quite confident that you will cope with the situation in your usual competent manner and though you may fittingly retort that I am being amazingly philosophic about your strenuous exertions, I can't help feeling that you have everything in your favour including a remarkably good set of  nerves. And dear heart, you'll be supported by most intense prayers to my own particular God, who is none the less potent because he is impersonal.

                         From the tone of your letters, you don't seem to be at all bored by your curtailed activity and I hope you are still keeping well and free from heartburn. It will soon be Sunday night again, and another week will be shoved into the Limbo. Till then, sweetheart, cheerio, and all my love ...

*The baby was in fact born on Sunday 30th September.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wednesday 22nd August 1945, Marks Hall

My dear,
              I am sorry to have my fears confirmed about the slowness of my letters to you. But things seem to be back to normal now as your letter of Sunday evening arrived here yesterday. One is grateful for the telephone as it helps to bridge these awkward gaps.

              Your theological outburst has my full sympathy and I am very pleased that we have been spared any official thanksgiving in this unit. Your various question are answered very cleverly by Prof. Whitehead in his 'Adventures of Ideas'. If I understand correctly his rather difficult arguments, the fault with Christian theology is that while the world needs God, God does not need the world since he is conceived as being aloof and omnipotent. Logically it follows from this concept that God is completely responsible for all that happens in the world and, with the world as we see it now, that does not give us any high opinion of God. Whitehead obviously favours a very different notion of a Deity which needs the world for self expression and who is represented as the persuasive force behind all great ideals. Whitehead maintains that such an idea has been completely set out by Plato for whom he has an enormous respect. God for Plato was manifest in Ideas which were continually struggling for expression in the material world - "torturing the unwilling dross" as Shelley puts it. And Whitehead thinks that this notion of God as a persuasive force only and not as an omnipotent compulsion is the only one feasible from a philosophical viewpoint.  Such a theory of course gives man full liberty to destroy himself if he is sufficiently pig-headed, and that is obviously the way Man is tending.

                 So there you are. It's not as exhilarating as escaping from fowler's snares and not as comforting as the thought that God is always on the side of the Anglo-Saxons, but it seems more likely to be nearer the truth.

                The above reminds me of the stuff I used to write to you from Lochranza in our strenuously intellectual days. Our life has been strangely divided into different periods but I am certain that the period which we shall be entering on soon will be the happiest and most carefree of them all. I am longing for it to begin.

                 Griffiths has just called to invite me to go with him and his wife and family to Colchester for the afternoon. So that will pass another few hours. The Griffiths family are established at an inn in Halstead for a few weeks and Griff is travelling to and from duty in his car.

              It's grand to hear that you are feeling so well and less troubled by heartburn. As you say, you should be well for, thanks to your fortunate position with your family, you are enjoying every advantage. It must be rather a dismal business for a woman to have to live alone at this trying time and I'm glad to hear you are having so much to keep you interested. I only wish I was there also to do my share in looking after you.

             In a few weeks now I'll be getting ready for leave. And after that I hope I'll soon be taking  a single railway warrant to Glasgow. And then to a delightful saturnalia of moving furniture, throwing out rubbish, whitewashing, rubbing down walls, washing nappies and walking the floor at nights. Fie on this quiet life, I want work!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunday 19th August 1945, Marks Hall

My own darling,
                  Griffiths and I have just returned from a melancholy afternoon walk round the camp. Every weekend now there is a 'stand-down' for all but a few personnel, and an Sat. and Sunday this place looks like a dead city. Today has been completely overcast and one has the feeling that autumn is just around the corner.

               To my great delight I got a letter from you yesterday after having had nothing since Thursday. I expect that my letters to you will have been similarly delayed by VJ holidays. You threw me into some confusion by dating it "Wed. 13th Aug" but according to all the almanacks I have consulted, last Wednesday was really the 15th.

                To answer your query first of all, I can hardly imagine a name I detest more than 'Victoria'. Apart from its horrible associations and domineering sound, to bestow such a name on a female child is like branding a birth certificate on its brow. The name is going to be Christine Emma or Margaret, so you had better make a decision soon.

               Congratulations on attaining the weight of 11/4 cwt. [12 stones or 76.2 kilos] I am sure you carry it all with great dignity and composure. I am sorry to hear that the infant chooses to be so active in the middle of the night but I don't suppose you can begin to subject it to disciplinary measures just yet! Relief is not so very far away now.

               I am afraid you are rather optimistic in hoping I'll get out in October. Groups 20-27 are the largest in number as far as the RAF is concerned and I can't reasonably hope that they'll be able to release six groups of cypher officers in the next batch. November is a safer bet and at the worst, I should assuredly be released by Christmas.

             Your proposed orgy of domestic activity suits me admirably. I ask for nothing better. I'd like to get you away from that beastly set of stairs as soon as possible, and if the new Govt's energetic approach to the housing problem should bring down prices, we may manage to pick up the kind of place we want at a reasonable figure.* The problem is not nearly as acute in Glasgow as it is in the South and I think our district should be the first to feel any improvement.

             Dearest, you don't mention your old enemy, heartburn, in you last letter and I hope that means it is less troublesome. I'll hear from you this evening. I hope you are still diligently coddling yourself and being unnaturally selfish. Please be very careful ...

*In fact it was 1955 before they left the top flat in Novar Drive for the terrace house in Broomhill where Margaret still lived at the age of 92.            

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thursday 16 August 1945, Marks Hall

My darling Margaret,
                             If my writing is a little wobbly, it's because the pad is resting on my knee and not on a table. It is such a marvellous morning that I am sitting outside the shack and have been enjoying the prospect. I don't think I ever saw a countryside looking so rich: all the grain is cut now and the stooks are very pleasant in form and colour, even to one who odes not usually indulge in rural rhapsodies.

                             Your letter of Sunday/Monday reached me on Tuesday morning. I am very sorry to hear that your heartburn is increasing. Have you mentioned it again to Kate or do you think it is the natural result of the ever-increasing demands on your internal accommodation? Anyway, as you say, the time of your relief is not too far away now but I'm sorry you have had this affliction for so long. I had it one day last week after a particularly devastating dinner of roast pork and stuffing, and the pain made me realise just what you have endured.

                            I was on duty when the P.M. announced the surrender of Japan so I saw the beginning of the celebrations which have been going on in this place ever since. People have gone mad here, chiefly I suppose because the threat of an overseas posting is now removed from most of them. Griffiths and I had rather a strenuous night of celebrations which took us from the Officers' Mess to the Sergeants', and thence to the Airmen's Dining Hall where a kind of mass dance was in progress. It was 3am when I got to bed and I think most people are feeling rather glad this morning that a was does not finish every day.

                           I don't think I told you in my last letter how much I enjoyed Blithe Spirit. I'm afraid the brilliant dialogue was wasted on the audience who seemed to be concentrating almost entirely on the beauty of the technicolour. Some of the interiors were excellent in this respect and Constance Cummings photographs better in colour than anyone I've seen on the screen. Kay Hammond was brilliant as the ghostly Elvira: I don't know if she could act in anything else but Coward's female parts are simply made for her. But as I said before, many of her most beautiful remarks simply did not register. Cinema audiences are so accustomed to putting their rapt souls into their eyes that they can spare little attention for any dialogue more complicated than the normal American stuff.

                        The part of the medium was played with terrific bravura by Margt. Rutherford who was in the original play but has never been in films before. In her spasmodic and quite irrelevant intensity she reminded me of that old infant mistress you had in Wellfield.

                       I'll be able to get the VJ days added to my next leave which will bring it up to almost a fortnight. Roughly what dates do you think I should try for? If you intend to be punctual I should like to be present for the event and walk up and down outside the door in the recognised fashion. I might even faint if your nurses are sufficiently attractive!

                      Sweetheart, I'm longing to be with you for always and it shouldn't be too long now before we are finished with this business of separation. Our life together fills all my thoughts of the future, even though I'll no longer be able to claim all your attention!


Note: Some of these links are fascinating: there's a trailer for Blithe Spirit on YouTube and photos of schools in the north of Glasgow at various times in their history.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Monday 13 August 1945, Marks Hall

My darling,
                I must apologise more fully for being so late with my phone call last night. I had gone out with Griffiths intending to be back before ten o'clock but the car broke down and I had to do a great deal of pushing before we managed to get back at 10.40. On top of that, I had some difficulty in getting my call through, and was told twice that there was no reply from Bearsden 0909. I refused to accept this and after another few minutes I heard what I think was your father's voice saying "Hallo". He was immediately cut off, and another few minutes passed before I heard you. I'm sorry I got you out of bed darling, but with my normal luck I would have completed my call before eleven o'clock.

             Your Thursday's letter arrived on Saturday evening and I was pleased to hear that you had bought a satisfactory pram. Are you sure our joint account will stand the strain of such a purchase? If it seems to be getting rather low, please let me know and I'll transfer some money to it.

            The Japanese armistice seems to be pursuing the same uncertain course as the German one and everyone is irritated by the delay and exhausted by abortive or premature rejoicings. As I said before, I don't expect any announcement on general demobilisation for a month or two. The whole situation is bound to be chaotic. But meanwhile, the old scheme has been accelerated and as you can see from today's papers, they intend demobbing up to group 20 in our trade by the end of September. Griffiths, who is group 19, hopes to be out in a few weeks time. I'm not entertaining any extravagant hopes but even at the worst, I should be out by the end of the year.

              I'm very pleased that you are still enjoying marvellous weather and hope that the fresh air and sunshine have done you good. It's a great pity that your distressing heartburn still bothers you: does Milk of Mag. continue to relieve it or have you changed to some other alkali?

Defence Medal
            I have just finished completing a form of application for my ribbons, and though I don't relish the idea of such a garish display on my breast I am quite glad to have more than the humble Defence Medal to put up. I can't qualify for the latter at all since I never spent any length of time in a non-operational area. This is the 'line' I use on Griffiths who gets the Defence Medal because he was more than a year in Egypt after all operations had ceased there.

              I am glad I did not consider the idea of visiting Mary when I hear that her parents are there just now. She'll have her hands full and, for my own part, I would have found Mr. G. rather trying company.

              My darling, I must apologise for a most disjointed letter. I've been writing in the office while on nominal duty and have been subjected to innumerable unusual interruptions and phone calls. This is a better place for correspondence than our dull hut with its unsteady table, and normally we get a quiet spell in the afternoon. But not today.

             Sweetheart, I wish I was beside you these days - not to cheer you up (for I don't suppose you need that for one minute), but to gratify myself by dancing attendance on you both. However I hope to get plenty of opportunity of doing that very soon after you two are leading a separate existence. Meanwhile, all my love ....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Friday 10 August 1945, Marks Hall

Darling Margaret,
                         I normally would not write till this afternoon when I might have another letter of yours to acknowledge. But after lunch today, if Griffiths can persuade his car to start, we are intending to go to Colchester for pictures and dinner. I am told that Blithe Spirit is showing just now and I should like to see it.

                     We are still having wild weather here with frequent showers and strong, cold winds. It is in fact the kind of weather we ought to have had last April when instead we had an unseasonable heat-wave. Jean's pilgrimage with Monty around London should be much less exhausting this week than it would have been before.

                   Russia's entry into the Far East war, coming on top of the new bomb, has raised hopes that Japan may give in any day. Such an event would be welcomed by the general public but it would confront the Government with a nasty problem. Instead of having to deal only with the clamour raised by men of the lower demob. groups, the Ministry of Labour will be faced with the task of demobilising most of the armed forces as quickly as possible. The threat of the Far East has been a powerful incentive towards the exercise of patience and its sudden removal will have disquieting effects.

                  In fact, I find the attitude of many people awaiting demobilisation slightly ridiculous. God knows, I am as keen as anyone to get out, but to count the days and at the same time to fret at the routine jobs which after all help to make the time pass, seem to me a bit childish. It is pitiful to see the eagerness with which some of the younger men with no jobs to go to are awaiting the beginning of a new and much more difficult life. If the last war is anything to go by, in five years time most men will be looking back to their Service life with nostalgic affection.

                Don't let the above remarks give you wrong ideas. I loathe service life as much as anyone but I learned overseas that the technique of passing time is not to think of it, and I've been bored recently by the moans of men who will be out in a few months at the most.

               Demobilisation is beginning to make a noticeable difference here and practically every night some officer is to be found at the bar celebrating his last night in uniform. Most of them turn maudlin before they have finished and are heartbroken at leaving the pals whose faces have been boring them to distraction for months past. Alcohol produces a spurt of goodwill and toleration which is almost Christian in its effects.

              your letter of last Monday arrived on Wednesday just after I had posted one to you. I am sorry to hear of the unavailing pram-hunt and hope that Pettigrews* can supply one soon. At any rate I don't think you should do any more shopping expeditions to town. It is fine to hear of your continued good health and I hope you are coddling yourself in a suitable way. ....  I'm looking forward to hearing you on Sunday and to getting a letter today or tomorrow.....

*This link is to a fascinating site looking at the history of Sauchiehall Street through old postcards, several of which show Pettigrews department store.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wednesday morning 8 August 1945, Marks Hall

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, 6 August, 1945

Darling Margaret,
                           Your extremely exuberant letter arrived on Monday, to gladden me with its tidings of new dressing gowns, sweetly functioning kidneys, superannuation cheques and vacated coal cellars. I am very glad indeed to hear that Kate is so pleased with you: you seem to be in every way a model of expectant motherhood. I suppose that on your next visit she'll be giving you a thorough examination and I'm sure she will find everything quite satisfactory.

                         After our Sunday evening storm the weather turned distinctly cool here and in fact yesterday was rather a bleak day. I hope your good weather is continuing so that you may continue to enjoy the garden rather than be cooped up with your 'wally dugs' and highland cattle.

                        When you mentioned on Sunday the name of the teacher who is expected back to school, I am afraid I was very dumb not to recognise it. When I was visiting H.Q. Middle East in Feb. of last year, I found Alec Keith sustaining the dignity of a Squadron Leader in Signals and from him I got several whiskies and the information that our wing was on its way to Corsica. He is a very pleasant fellow. I don't quite understand why he is going back to Albert, as he had left us before the war to go to Jordanhill college.

                       Some of the papers this morning are forecasting a big acceleration in demobilisation. If this turns out to be true, I'll begin to have some doubts about the wisdom of coming out under Class B. If I received an offer within the next few weeks, I would accept. But the longer they delay, and the nearer my ordinary release comes, the more do I think on the financial advantages of coming out in the normal way. In fact I should not be surprised to see the Govt. scrubbing the whole class "B" scheme, as it has not been a great success.

                       The Bomb has thrown everyone into a Wellsian frenzy and the "Express" today obliges its readers with a diagram showing the "probable construction of the new bomb" - the last word in journalistic fatuousness. I find the discovery extremely depressing, even though it will undoubtedly shorten the Japanese War. If mankind can't avoid future wars, the only survivors will be a few Arabs in the centre of the desert or a happy dweller near the north pole.

                       Such a diabolical discovery will I think be another sad blow to conventional religion. The old "God moves in a mysterious way" gag has already been stretched to breaking point and I don't see how the doctrine of an external, omniscient, guiding presence can be made to include a man-made weapon of destruction which promises to make earthquakes, fires, floods and other "acts of God" look simply childish. The parsons will have to go back to Plato to learn how to see God in the recesses of Matter. Whitehead is very good on the necessity for a new theology and I think you should recommend his book to Jack Shelly.

                    Time is passing quite quickly these days and it will soon be a month since I left you. And in less than two months I should be seeing you and the offspring. You have always been a reasonably punctual person and I am expecting you to deliver the goods right on time. I suppose that the child gets increasingly active as the days pass, and by 27th Sept. it will probably be shouting at the pitch of its infant voice "Don't Fence me In".

                  My regards to the family ...

This blog has several fascinating entries on the demobilisation process and the bombing of Japan.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sunday 5 August 1945, Marks Hall

My own,
              I have been rather longer in writing than usual since I discovered that there was no postal lift here on Saturday or today. The reason is Bank Holiday, which has half-emptied the unit of all those lucky enough to be fairly near home. I expect that this weekend, the frenzy at the railway stations will rise to a climax.

1948 Rover - gives an idea ...
              The last few days have been extremely warm but as I write (evening), a terrific thunderstorm is in progress which my bring some relief. I only hope it does not damage telephonic communication before I put through my call. Our tin huts have been most unpleasant during the heat. Fortunately, I have been able to escape most afternoons and go for a run with Griffiths in his car. It's a fine large Rover and suits my taste for expensive motoring. Yesterday we visited western Suffolk passing through Sudbury and having tea at a pretty little place called Bures. The whole landscape is rather burnt-looking after the great heat, and there are numerous indications of a very good harvest. This rich landscape dotted with villages, market towns, picturesque old churches, and timbered pubs, is attractive in a sleepy complacent way which is well matched by the characteristics of the easy-going natives. But it does not appeal greatly to me and most of the time I am travelling mainly to keep cool.

             One laudable fact is that casual meals are cheap and good at the countless cafes, small restaurants and pubs which seem to exist for no clear reason, since very little tourist traffic ever ventures into the network of narrow twisting lanes which provide the communications in these parts. Yesterday three of us had an excellent meal with eggs and unlimited tea, bread, butter and home-made jam for four shillings.

           I received your letter last Wednesday on Friday evening. Your description of the house is rather surprising: one does not expect to find a museum of Victorian internal decoration housed in a modern bungalow. However I am glad the garden is satisfactory and if your heatwave has continued, you'll have found it very useful. I wish I could join you in a pilgrimage to Boclair Road. We had some very pleasant walks and serious conversations there, and we also consumed a good deal of Barker and Dobson's grapefruit chocolate which we used to get in a shop opposite the station.

           The station library has been revivified by some new books, among them Long Range Desert Group, which I am now enjoying. I wonder if the flood of painstaking historical books about Desert Warfare will militate against the appearance of an imaginative work on the same subject? I expect it will, because people are now tiresomely familiar with the whole story. But one can't help feeling that in the completeness of the various actions and in the psychological intensity which men develop there, the Desert offers plenty of material for a great story.

          I wrote to Mary yesterday thanking her for the invitations transmitted via you but saying that I want to look after my interests here at present. I also touched gracefully on the things that she has sent you.

        I am hoping to hear you tonight and to get a letter from you some time tomorrow. I am glad to hear you are keeping well and looking after yourself. Continue to do so ...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wednesday 1 August 1945, Marks Hall

My darling girl,
                        Your plethora of corn plasters arrived today to my great and immediate relief. I had forgotten about the medicated variety which should enable me to get rid of the painful excrescence in a few days. Thanks very much for your promptness in actioning my request.

                         Your Sunday's letter, written after the phone call, got here yesterday morning which is quite speedy work. I am puzzled to know what you mean exactly by dismissing a brand of religion as being "too full of sweetness and light". Am I to understand that you dote on Calvinistic gloom or the wrathful mutterings of an Old Testament Jehovah? Or was the Welsh professor simply regarding the world through the usual ecclesiastical blinkers?

                       Yesterday I spent an afternoon at the coast - at Clacton and at a little place to the North of it called Holland-on-Sea. Our intention had been to bathe but though my two companions braved it, the leaden grey sea and the cold wind daunted me completely. For the past three years, bathing has been a pleasure that required no Spartan initiation and I just can't face the prospect of the icy paralysis and chattering teeth which are associated with the pastime in this country. I'll wait till I have you to shame me into it.

              What a dismal coast it is. Prestwick, Troon, Helensburgh and all our less esteemed resorts are queenly in comparison: of course the relics of coastal fortifications, the dilapidated entertainment buildings and the large gap in Clacton pier don't increase the impression of jollity. It was a real East coast day with very feeble sunshine and altogether I never saw a more miserable collection of holidaymakers. And it was for this that they stood in all night queues in London stations and paid the exorbitant boarding house charges.

              On our way back we stopped at a tearoom run by an old dame with sentimental leanings to the R.A.F. who gave three of us a magnificent tea in the garden at an all-in charge of 4/2d. It was a pleasant outing and I take any opportunity that's going of getting out of Marks Hall for a few hours.

             I am filling my days with routine work at my own job, occasional dull E.V.T*. lectures, reading history, and summarising bits of Whitehead's book Adventures of Ideas. This is very heavy going but it has some very useful stuff in it. And of course we all do daily speculation drill on the probable date of our release.

            I had a composite dream last night in which some sequences showed me back at school again and other featured you dandling a very respectable infant (a boy as far as I could see!), so future time seems to be pressing heavily on my spacio-temporal subconsciousness. Let us hope such bliss is just around the next fourth-dimensional corner.

            It is to be hoped the weather at HIllfoot is warmer than we are having now or you won't do much lounging out of doors. Judging by your list of intending visitors you are not going to be lonely at all events. I wish I was one of them, but I am better to wait until I can see what you have been hiding sub-smock. As a result of my dream, I think you had better sound the family on their reactions to the use of Stewart as a Christian name! [Stewart was M.F.'s maiden name]

          Look after yourself darling and take a big hug from me - with no unkindly emphasis on the big ...

* The only explanation that I can find of the acronym E.V.T. is that it stands for the Finnish phrase meaning "How am I supposed to know...?"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Monday 30 July 1945, Marks Hall

My darling,
                 Your letter of last Friday arrived as expected, this morning. I am extremely sorry to have missed the political shindy in which Uncle Doad took on the rest. The silly talk you mention has even been paralleled here and, I suppose, everywhere that people are talking politics. Of course in a month or two all these scares will die down, but they are illuminating in showing just where fascists would find their support in Britain. It was the bitter prejudice against movement to the Left exhibited by the uninformed middle class wage-earner that gave Hitler his first general support and later caused the paralysis of France. It is a hopeful sign that political power is passing away from the class typified by Hyndland because their ignorance is woeful. Next time I am home I may be staying at Hyndland Road for a little (if you are still in Redlands) and I must do my best to convert your mother to Labour.

Map shows Hillfoot today
                You sounded very spry on the 'phone last night and your letter is very lively in its tone. The future can't be bothering you much when you are absent-mindedly making plans to go to the pictures just about the time you should be "brought to bed of a fine child" as they used to say. A restful period at Hillfoot* should put you in fine battle form for what you  quaintly call D-day.

               From now on I'll telephone from the office, always at the weekend and whenever possible on a  Sunday evening. I don't suppose you'll be out late any night nowadays. Under a new arrangement we can use the office phones for private calls after 5.30pm and the cost is added to your Mess Bill. If you should ever urgently need to get a message to me, the office number is Colchester 4249, Extension 61. The odds are four to one against my being on duty at the time but there is always someone there who could take a message for me - even if the message was only to telephone you as soon as possible.

               I see in today's newspaper the comforting assurance that teachers released under Class B are allowed to go back to their old jobs. But this item is still of only theoretic interest since since I have not yet heard of any lucky pedagogues being set free.

              Bottling your surplus plums is a very good idea as they seem to retain the virtues of fresh fruit in this way. Also, I believe you can make small quantities of jam with bottled plums later, if we manage to scrape together a few grains of sugar.

             I have been back here for a fortnight now so time is going past fairly well. I'll soon be anticipating my next leave even though it will plunge me headlong into paternity. I hope C.M. will have the good sense to grow up exactly like her mother. I'm sure that when she finds out that the exterior is as charming as the interior was comfortable, she'll love you almost as much as I do.

            Look after yourself, my love ....

*This quiet village to the NW of Glasgow was presumably much less built-up than it is now. I don't know what family connection let MF go there for a 'holiday'.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Friday 27 July 1945, Marks Hall

Margaret dearest,
                         I am fortunate enough to have two letters to acknowledge, written last Monday and Wednesday. Both record very high spirits, with heartburn diminuendo which pleases me greatly. Your account of a pleasant walk in the dusk with Irene [MF's sister] made me think for a moment that you could no longer face the open eye of day but I was reassured to hear of Grace's [a friend, already referred to in an earlier letter]  expression of wonder at your continued trimness!

                      The weather here broke last night with a rattling thunderstorm and today is much cooler. I hope you get some decent weather at Hillfoot so that you can find some benefit in the garden. You'll be able to have pleasant walks at the cooler periods of the day and laze about outside when it is warm. If there are any garden chairs, beware of the beastly things and see that they don't deposit you on the ground or nip off your fingers as they collapse.

                     The election result has I think astonished most people and the new P.M. more than anyone. The result will I think be popular in the Forces especially among the ranks. People holding numerous stocks and shares are very gloomy over the falling prices and I'm glad I have no money in coal mines or railways. The Labour Party has a great chance now to make its long-promised onslaught on monopolies and reactionary elements in heavy industry. I expect that the monied interests will try to engineer a financial crisis to discredit the new Govt. and a lot will depend on the speed with which it can get going.

                     The very heavy defeat of the Tories was I think due to Churchill's ridiculously vulgar election tactics and the antics of Beaverbrook. The Daily Express today makes amusing reading and I expect the Mail and other Tory rags are equally lugubrious.

                      For the consolation of your mother, your sisters, Mr Goodall and any other bereaved Tories, you can point out that the Labour members contain a much higher proposition of professional men and minor landed gentry than ever before so I don't suppose the tumbrils will be too busy just yet. Though Jean [another sister], with her ability to knit, talk and watch at the same time would spend many enjoyable hours at the guillotine.

                      Your family's intention of buying the pram is kindly but ridiculous and please don't entertain the idea.

                      I am suffering at the moment from an unpleasant corn due to tramping about in the heat. Do you think you could send me a box of these little oval gummed rings which we used to find rather relieving?

                     David is having an unpleasant time with woolly bears and Welsh nurses prowling about his underwear. I know which will be the most difficult to eradicate. The Stewarts seem to have a weakness for the Principality. How does your mother fancy a daughter-in-law from the Dowlahs? [sic: probably miss-spelling of Dowlais

                    I'm going to tea now so cheerio for the present. I'll try to phone on Sunday and hope I'm successful.


P.S. I enclose a cheque for telephone bill and cornpads. It may also pay for your taxi.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tuesday 24th July 1945, Mark's Hall

Darling Margaret,
                          As I said last night, something appears to have happened to the telephone system in these parts. On Sunday night when I tried to 'phone at the usual time, I was told that there would be two hours' delay, and last night I had to book my call and wait nearly an hour for it to mature. I believe that trouble was caused by a violent electrical storm which they had down here just before I returned. It put several main lines out of action and may still be causing delays.

                         So on future Sundays, don't be disappointed if I can't call you, and don't on any account sit up past eleven o'clock. I'll always try to get my call through before that hour.

                         I'm sorry to hear my letters are taking such a long time to reach you. Yours aren't so bad and your Friday edition arrived here yesterday morning. I'm sorry to hear that your weakness for pickled herring has again mastered you, and sorrier still to see you emasculating Shakespeare in your description of their after-effects. Can you imagine Sir Toby Belch saying 'Fie on those pickled herrings'? Anyone would think you had been brought up on Bowdler.

                       I am sure you can safely leave to your family the buying of a super-sprung, ball-born perambulator. It will save you any more exhausting visits to town. Thanks for fixing Mr Meikle; he is really very obliging and has been extremely useful to us, or rather to me, for I don't suppose you'll dote on the "Social History".

                      I'd like to visit Mary Goodall [school friend of MF] for a few days but I'm rather unwilling to leave the unit just now. There are all sorts of rumours of moves and moreover if anything did happen about Class B, I want to be here to look after my interests. I'll write her a letter explaining my difficulties.

Clement Attlee, the P.M.
                          As you remark, the newspapers are quite unhelpful about demobilisation and it is obvious that they know nothing about it. I should not be surprised if the new Govt. attempted to popularise itself by accelerating releases but meanwhile I am reconciling myself to another six months at least of service life.

                          I have not heard from Annie Jutson [a former pupil who excelled in English] for a long time. A very probable explanation is that I did not reply to her last letter. As a correspondent I get lazier every day and soon I'll have to reply to all my outstanding letters by an announcement in the personal column of the Times. I've nothing to say to anyone but you and that's the God's truth.

                          The demands of personal hygiene compel me now to go for a bath. It is grand to hear that you are keeping so well and I hope you have a very restful time at your Hillfoot residence. You have better take some of the classic with you so that you and your mother don't run out of reading matter. Look after yourself ....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Saturday 21st July 1945, Marks Hall

My darling,
                  It is now ten o'clock at night and in a short time I shall be going off duty. However I hope to have an uninterrupted hour for writing to you before my relief comes.

                  I had some hopes of a letter from you today but none came. Of course I'm now back in the rural wilderness and letters take longer to come than they did when I was in hospital. I can console myself with the prospect of hearing your fruity voice tomorrow evening and with the certainty of getting a letter on Monday.

                  The weather continues fine and I am forcing myself to take a walk every day though I am not sufficiently Wordsworthian to enjoy these solitary wanderings in Essex lanes. My friends marvel at me for tramping around in the heat, but they wisely stay in camp, or go around in cars. This morning I talked with, or rather listened to, a local farmer whose Ayrshire accent was as thick as ever in spite of fifteen years in Essex. I had to listen to a long tirade on the general poverty of farmers and the iniquity of the middlemen who apparently make all the money without any work. From what he says, farmers are extremely pessimistic about the future, when fixed prices and subsidies are removed.

                  To return to the perennial subject of demobilisation I suppose you would notice in today's paper that the Navy hopes to reach Group 25 by the end of the year. This is rather an encouraging portent in the branch of the services which everyone thinks will be the slowest to release its victims. Let's hope the RAF makes an even more hopeful announcement soon.

                  I've just finished reading one of Aldous Huxley's earlier books - Antic Hay. It is ridiculously extravagant and quite crazy. I wonder if there will be a recognisable post-war mentality in literature this time? I don't think there will: there were not many illusions at the beginning of the war so there is no reason for any fantastic reaction after it. My other reading is Lady Hester Stanhope, which is very good indeed. She rather puts to shame the modern intrepid female explorer.

                                                                                                                                        Sunday morning
                   I am continuing in the holy Sabbath calm which is practically indistinguishable from the lay calm of weekdays in this sluggish backwater. It is a beautiful morning with a fresh breeze and I was out before eight o'clock on a very pleasant walk, unmarred by the jangle of church bells or the sight of the godly in their black jackets and striped trousers. I'm all in favour of M. Mitchell's favourite pastor Dr Greenfields and one of the most admirable features of this unit is the unobtrusiveness of the Godly in their weekly exercises and the complete absence of professional God-Botherers.

                   Going off at a tangent, do you think you'll manage to keep your giggles under control when I promise Bloody Mac* to bring our infant up "in the nurture and admonition of the faith", whatever that means? Whoever is carrying the wean will probably drop it in alarm when thunderbolts and forked lightning obliterate me before the congregation's astonished gaze. What are your views on this public ceremony? Whom are you going to nominate as porter and, most important, what are you going to wear? My part in the spectacle is fortunately unobtrusive and no doubt I'll manage  to assume the proper shamefaced expression.

                  My darling I am hoping to hear a good report of your health when I speak to you tonight. Please do everything you should be doing and don't hesitate to let other people do things that are verboten to you. You have a duty to be completely selfish from now on.

                    Give my regards to the family. ....      

*Apparently what DF called the minister who performed the baptism - which he did indeed carry out, on the Sunday next before Christmas, if lore is to be believed.     

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thursday 19th July 1945, Marks Hall

My sweetheart,
                       Your welcome letter of last Tuesday arrived by this evening's post and I hope that by this time you have received my last letter. I'm glad to hear of your freedom from heartburn: it really does look as if my gluttony is indirectly the cause of your sufferings.

                       The weather has been extremely hot since I returned, with none of the relieving showers which the rest of the country seems to be getting. This afternoon I spent a drowsy hour sitting, with a few others equally somnolent, in the shade of the trees while an officer droned on about the history of trade unionism. This is part of the E.V.T. scheme which is now in operation. It is difficult to see the value of this kind of desultory education and the meetings seem to be popular with the airmen only because they are held during working hours. I learned nothing but a new sympathy for the numerous classes that I have bored with the same subject on many a hot summer afternoon.

                        As you remark, the newspapers are once again on the rampage about demobilisation but today's statement today's statement by the Ministry of Labour seems as vague and as complacent as ever. I'm afraid the whole business is a colossal muddle. After 2½ months of peace in Europe the only man who seems to have been demobbed in this place is one old fellow who would probably have died anyway if they hadn't got him out in time. Class B seems to be particularly chaotic and the official unwillingness to reveal the numbers released under this category seems to indicate that they were very few. Of course for a man like a bricklayer who is liable to be sent anywhere in the country, Class B release has nothing to recommend it. I presume that if teachers are taken out they can go back to their old employers: if not, they can put the scheme where the monkey put the nuts as far as I'm concerned. But with superannuation and other difficulties I don't see how the Ministry of Labour could 'direct' teachers to anything but their former jobs.

                        Meanwhile no-one knows anything about it and I'm hoping Mr Barclay can find some information for me.

                        I've got my new issue of service clothing coupons but there is nothing I want to buy at present. A propos of a dressing gown, I doubt if I could buy one even with the "special" coupons; such an article is certainly not listed with the non-military attire for which the special coupons are to be used.

                      Your injunction not to work too hard is funnier than you could possibly imagine. I have plenty of leisure and when the weather is less oppressive I hope to do quite a lot of serious reading. Very few people are busy these days in the services and it is the dreary prospect of lengthy inactivity that dismays most people.

                      Thanks for writing to Mr Meikle about Trevelyan: I am informed by one History teacher that there is doing to be a fairly large reprinting in the autumn, so perhaps I'll get a copy then. Everyone who has seen it says it is very well worth having.

                      I have had one night at Coggeshall and a very temperate one at that. The beer is undrinkable these days since none of the pubs has the means of keeping it down to the proper temperature. So you'll be gratified to know that most of my drinks are of the S.D.I. variety these sweltering days.

                      I am looking forward to hearing you on Sunday evening. Till then, my own darling, I hope you continue to enjoy our placid life. You are certainly looking well on it and I was greatly reassured by your radiant appearance. Take care of your self.