Len: Our Ownest Darling Girl – The Background and Acknowledgments

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Len's handwriting on back of Luneburg Heath photo

Len’s handwriting on the back of the Luneburg Heath photo

T H E   B A C K G R O U N D

Pete Grafton writes:       In early 2007 I bid on ebay for a collection of 130 black and white photo prints and photo negatives.  I noticed that the seller had, in separate auctions, a large collection of letters, and a collection of memorabilia from the same period – the 1940s – and that all the material revolved around the same family.

Successful in bidding for the three auctions I contacted the seller who told me that he had bought the material at an auction in London.

Looking through the letters, together with the photos and memorabilia I quickly saw that the collection could form the basis of a remarkable book.  I was aware of other material, usually culled from the Mass Observation files in Sussex University, that had brought to life the wartime and the immediate post-war period through the diaries of those participating in Mass Observation. (Nella Last’s War and Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Post-War Britain are two well-known examples).  The difference, and strength, of this uninhibited correspondence between mother and daughter was that they were not written for a third party.

The core of the correspondence is the lively and intimate exchange of experiences and emotions between mother in Glasgow and her daughter – ‘Len’ – firstly in Cairo, working as a shorthand typist for the Ministry of Supply, then as a Personal Assistant at Porton Down, Britain’s Chemical and Biological Warfare research centre, and latterly in the Nazi-supporting Lord Londonderry’s Wynyard Hall in Co.Durham, on the post-war Emergency Teachers Training Scheme.

I made the assumption that there were two possibilities about how the material had entered the public domain.   Either that ‘Len’ was dead, or that she had dementia and was in care.

I worked on the material for four years, transcribing the letters, referencing, and contextualising, and starting on a rough layout to include the visual material.   Some of those four years were spent trying to trace surviving relatives and friends.  The letters ended abruptly in 1950 and I wanted to know what happened next.

I was also concerned about copyright issues.

Full page features in the weekly press and following up every possible contact, and Births, Deaths and Marriages – the latter partially successful – led, in the end, nowhere.   How could a family who had been so social in their lives disappear off the radar?

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Feature by Sukran Sahin, Barking & Dagenham Post,  17th  February, 2010

Another possible lead which I followed up was a distant Swedish relative, Bjorn Palmgren, mentioned in several of the letters, and whose picture was in the photo collection.

Bjorn, Varberg, 1945

Bjorn on the left, with his brother Paul.  Varberg, 1945

I keyed in Bjorn Palmgren on the Internet, and had many hits.   Bjorn Palmgren is a fairly common Swedish name, and I drew a blank.   The family connection was on Len’s Mum’s side of the family – the Mackays.   So I keyed in Bjorn Mackay Palmgren and there he was!

He was on a Family History Search site.  The snag was he hadn’t looked at it for 18 months.  I wrote to him, via the site in the late autumn of 2010. In January 2011 I got an email from him.  It turned out that he had last heard from Len at Christmas 2008, almost two years after I’d bought her letters.  She was having another operation for her hip. He hadn’t heard from her since.  He gave me her last known address.

This is the letter I sent to that address:

Dear Mrs Taylor,

I was given your address by Bjorn Palmgren.  I contacted Bjorn, through the Internet, because I had a photo of him and Paul playing mini golf at Varberg in the summer of 1945.  The background to this was that in 2007 I saw on the internet site ebay an auction for a collection of photographs from the 1930ʼs and 1940ʼs.  As a non professional photographer I have an interest in ʻamateurʼ photos.  I am also interested in political and social history and saw that the seller in two separate auctions was auctioning a collection of 140 letters, and a collection of memorabilia, also from the 1940ʼs.  I realised that all three auctions related to the same family – your family: yourself and your Mum and Dad.

I was successful in all three auctions and when I received the material I contacted the seller who told me he had bought them at a house clearance auction in London.

I also saw, very quickly, that the letters between you and your Mum, together with the photos and memorabilia (embarkation ticket, menu, hairdresserʼs slip etc on board the Franconia, for instance, when your Mum sailed out to visit you in Cairo) could be the basis of a remarkable book.  Firstly, to put you quickly in the picture: the correspondence between you and your Mum spans 1939 to 1950, covering mostly your time in Cairo with Stores Disposals, then Porton Down, and lastly Wynyard Hall.   There are gaps in the correspondence.  There are also a few letters from your Dad to you, and a few letters from Ena to your Mum.

The photographs cover the 1920ʼs – you with a toy bunny rabbit with very long ears taken on the Isle of Man – through to 1949, with a photograph of you on Luneburg Heath.  There are also some of your negatives: at York races, for instance.  I printed the latter ( I have my own dark room).

I would like to return your letters and the photos and memorabilia to you, and secondly, of course, I will not approach publishers with the almost completed book, but I would like to send a copy to you.

I am so sorry if this has come as a shock.   I would certainly be shocked if someone wrote to me saying they had acquired, in my case, my diaries from when I was a young man, and would-be writer.   I bought the correspondence in good faith, and made assumptions that were obviously wrong.

The remarkable book I refer to is the combination of your aspirations for yourself and for a better, decent world, set against a post war Britain, and the extraordinary fact that you were first in Egypt at a time of significant political upheaval, there and in the Middle East; that you were next at Porton Down (you mention in one of your letters back home when in Egypt that you had been reminiscing with a Major Wallace about Gruinard Bay, when perhaps unknown to you at the time Gruinard Island had been infected with anthrax by scientists from Porton); and then you were on the Emergency Teacherʼs Training scheme, at Wynyard Hall, the residence of Lord Londonderry, a prominent Nazi sympathizer in the 1930ʼs.  (Hitlerʼs biographer Ian Kershaw has written Making Friends with Hitler, 2004, about him).

In addition, of course, the letters between yourself and your Mum chart the difficulties of post war austerity Britain, and of your family life against this background.   And, over and above all this, you are a very modern woman in a Britain that was only slowly and reluctantly moving to concede equal rights to women.   Iʼve enclosed one of the Taitʼs Smiles cartoons that touches on women in a post-war Britain.   I attached a significance to the fact that you or your Mum cut it out, and shared it between you.

I am the author of You, You and You! The People Out of Step with World War Two, London 1981, a book that was based on 50 or so interviews I did with a selection of people whoʼs stories had not been heard up until that time: the West Indian volunteer, the Jewish émigré from Germany who along with other German jews had been interned by the British and then sent on the Dunera to Australia for the duration of the war (a film was made about this later), RAF mutineers on Gibraltar, women in munitions, in the docks, in the armed services, and so on.

The correspondence between you and your Mum ends abruptly in 1950, at a point when you are doing a teacher training placement in a school in the North East.  I was so enthralled at your life story that I wanted to know what happened next.  I knew there was a Swedish family connection, and that is how I was lucky enough to make contact with Bjorn who told me that he had last heard from you in 2008, and very kindly gave me your address.

I look  forward so much to hearing from you.


And then, a week later it came, a letter with handwriting I had last seen on an envelope from sixty one years before.

4 Len to me, pngNote:  The author no longer lives at the above address.

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She signed herself Helen, no longer ‘Len’.  She said she had wondered what had happened to the letters, and yes, would ‘love all my ancient memorabilia back’.

She had been living in Exmouth for twenty years with her second husband.  At the time that he had died in 2007 Helen had fallen and broken her hip; her children by her first marriage were busy, so a friend of her second husband cleared out the contents of a small flat that he had kept on in London.  And that is how the material came into the public domain.

I learnt this when I went to see her in Exmouth, in March 2011,  returning to her the correspondence, the photographs and the memorabilia. It was the most extraordinary week-end.  Helen was still that ‘Len’ of her youth: feisty and engaged.  Rona, one of her children, down from Manchester, for my visit, told me that her Mum had run a therapeutic workshop in her seventies with the title “Life is Too Short to be Sensible”.

To my surprise, because there is intimate and revealing material in the correspondence, both Helen and Rona were very positive about me continuing with the book: Rona because she felt it would be a memorial to her mother, and Helen because, as she put it ‘I am only interested in the present and the future’.

In addition, in a forgotten small duck egg blue 1950s weekend case, on top of a wardrobe, were a further collection of 85 letters covering the same period,  letters that filled some important and tantalising gaps in the correspondence.  

The author with Helen, in her home. Exmouth, March 2011. Photo: Rona Taylor

The author with Helen, in her home.  Exmouth, March, 2011.   Photo: Rona Taylor

Not all missing  biographical details could be filled in when I met Helen,  as Helen has significant memory loss, possibly caused by the relatively late onset of epilepsy and the medication to control it. However a few gaps and details in the narrative have been clarified, and her occasional commentary has been included.


Although the intention was to look for an interested publisher, the world of publishing has been turned upside down, since I started transcribing the correspondence in 2007, by the development of the internet.  Print publishing is in turmoil.   This has meant that few publishers in the UK, and anywhere else – they can be counted almost on one hand – will in 2014 look at ‘unsolicited’ material.  Reading unsolicited material – even an introductory letter and sample chapters from an author – requires paid readers, and this is a cost that is now balked at by publishers.   Likewise literary agents, who in the past may have introduced a new writer to a publishing house,  have also drawn up, with some exceptions, their drawbridges in regard to untested writers, or less known writers who have not published for a significant while.

In many ways, the internet has given an interesting democratic power to the writer, and sites like Word Press, which I use, means the writer and his or her readers can be involved in an interesting two way-process.  So I welcome comments, corrections and shared experiences arising from the online publication of Len: Our Ownest Darling Girl, and these could eventually be included in the body of the text as background material, or as footnotes.

The book is being published in Chapters every Friday, from 26 September, 2014.    It is organised into four sections:

Part One:  Growing Up in Britain 1925 – 1945.

Part Two:  Egypt 1945 – 1948.

Part Three: Porton Down 1949.

Part Four: Wynyard Hall Emergency Teacher Training 1949 – 1950.

Most sections are very much focused on the correspondence between Len and her Mother. The exception is Part One, which sketches in the background to Britain as Len is growing up: there were few letters in this period, but the memorabilia from this time is heavily drawn on.  Secondly, in Part Four,  and to a lesser extent Part Three, the regularity of letters within the week decreases as telephone conversations between Mother and Daughter increase.  Mum had a telephone installed in her rented home in 1949 – one of the first in her avenue, and a luxury  for someone of her social and economic background.

In this age of the internet – as telephones give way to mobiles –  personal letters are becoming extinct.  Therefore no record of the intimate lives that we live – through written exchanges – in the 21st century  will be left to future social historians and a future  digital  reading public.

E D I T I N G   T H E   L E T T E R S

Quite often there are gaps, during one week, or during a month,  in the letters between Len and her Mother.  Only where there are significant gaps is this indicated, or where a significant detail or question arising from a letter not in the collection is this indicated.

For the sake of narrative flow some paragraphs within a letter have been transposed.

Recurrent small details that do not advance the narrative or further deepen our understanding of the writer – whether Len, Mum, her Dad – have been omitted.



My very grateful thanks to Helen and her daughter Rona for providing me with a second batch of family correspondence in 2011, and for their support in my continuing to work on, and completing Len: Our Ownest Darling Girl.

Without Bjorn Mackay Palmgren this would have been a very different – and like most biography – speculative account.  I am very indebted to him for responding to my initial email,  for giving me Len’s (Helen’s) address and subsequently telling me about  some of the family connections,  and his memories of first staying with the Bryers in Yoker in 1949.

Thanks to Sukran Sahin for writing an insightful feature for the Barking and Dagenham Post, in February 2010.

Mrs Alison Coleman of Carnwath, South Lanarkshire, a commissioned officer in the ATS during the Second World War read some of the early transcribed letters for me, pointing out typing errors.  She also helped in explaining Scots expressions and words that cropped up in some letters, current in the 1930s and 1940s, but rarely heard now, or understood by younger Scots, and in some cases not listed in the AUP’s Pocket Scots Dictionary.

Mrs Joy Wight of Morpeth, Northumberland, in age an exact contemporary of Helen (‘Len’), was very helpful in identifying and explaining some  fashion phases and expressions of the 1940s, such as what a “Maria” hair style was.  She also helped to facilitate the distribution of exerpts of the transcriptions of the correspondence to members of her Morpeth U3A reading group, and arranged a meeting where I could discuss and listen to their responses to the material.

This was more than a year before I made contact with Helen.   The ages of the all women group were from their fifties through to those in their 80s.  The younger women in the group said they found reading the material helped them to understand the lives of their mothers as they grew up in the 1940s.  All commented that in the age of texting, and mobile calls, there would never be again a written record through letters of contemporary times.  A retired Primary School Headmistress, contemporary with Helen, had an interesting perspective on the Emergency Teacher Training Scheme, and how men who went through it often advanced their careers, leap frogging women teachers already in a teaching post.

My thanks, then to those Morpeth U3A reading group members for taking time to read the exerpts and for their stimulating discussion.

Liz Willis of Hanwell, London has been involved almost from the beginning, reading and proof-reading the transcribed letters as I worked through them.  She has also been very helpful and stimulating in spotting connections that I missed, and working in tandem with me, in trying to locate in online Births, Deaths and Marriages records the places and the years of family members of Helen, her mother, and her father.  Her knowledge of aspects of the work and history of the Porton Down Chemical and Biological Research Centre were also stimulating and helpful.  Lastly, she has proof-read Len: Our Ownest Darling Girl, for which I am extremely grateful.  Her proof-reading is eagle-eyed, and I am constantly amazed at the errors she has spotted.  If any remain, the fault lies with me.  So thank you, Liz.

Lastly, my thanks to Elspeth Wight of Carnwath, South Lanarkshire, for living with the book as it developed, for the discussions and for sharing my excitement when I went to visit Helen for the first time, and for her support thoughout the project.


lendarlinggirl.com is the online address of Len: Our Ownest Darling Girl.

For the restored and extended online version of  You, You & You!  The People Out of Step with World War 11   youyouandyourestored.wordpress.com

petegrafton.com takes the reader to the hub of all Pete Grafton online material.

petegraftonphotos.com has monthly selections of photos by Pete Grafton and from the Pete Grafton Collection of amateur photographs from the pre 1914 period through to the 1960s.

londontown54.com  is a remarkable collection of photos taken by Hans Richard Griebe whilst in London for 6 weeks studying Colloquial English.

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Part Four/2 What Happened Next

Part Four  Chapter Two

What Happened Next.


The original batch of letters, photos and memorabilia bought on ebay in 2007 ended with the letter from Ena to Mum written on 19 June, 1950, listing the injuries, and diseases that killed her beloved husband.

Amongst the second batch of letters, photos and memorabilia that the author was given by Helen and Rona – one of her daughters – in March 2011, were a few letters and items that took the story a little bit further from that June in 1950. It will be remembered from Part Four/1 Wynyard Hall that Len had plans to go to France in her summer holidays, and had hoped that her parents, or her Mum, could somehow manage to go with her.  She did go to France, with Shirley, a college friend.  Mum and Dad didn’t manage because of Mum’s back problem.  Whilst Len was in France in July, 1950, Mum sent her a letter.


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Mum letter image png_edited-1Thursday, 20 July 1950

“The Ark”  Seems like it, all the roads and paths are flooded.

Hello Dearest Sweetest Best (Not enough room in this letter for all our love),

How wonderful to hear you on the ‘phone this morn.  Dad & self were thrilled to bits and we pictured you spotting that ‘phone box or whatever it was & your saying “Ah!  I’ll ‘phone from here.”  Also pictured the colourful international crowd moving along to the ship with Shirley and yourself among them.

What’s it like in “La Belle” – Oh! if only all goes well I’ll be there next year – think I’ll start making my trousseau right now!  How does Shirley like being in France?  What is the food like – cheap and plentiful – and do you speak French all the time.

Daddy went out shopping for me this morn. – brought back fruit and a lovely chicken which I’m about to pop in ye pot now.  By dint of borrowing from Mrs. Hyslop I’ve got oatmeal & barley for soup & stuffing.  So strange to think I’ve not now got stores of those everyday things but will soon stock up when I get running around.

About champagne for me from France, if you meant to bring some over, darling, please don’t trouble as I’ll get some here if I want to.  I’d rather have the wee pinkie ring wot I spoke of to you, but if cash runs short, & I guess it will, just have the very best time & a good holiday – that will please us better than anything.

I cleaned out your beautiful handbag the other day – you’d have got a row if you’d been here – leaving rusty pins in it.  *!*!!!  I put a trace of oil on the frame & wrapped it carefully.

The weather hasn’t been dry enough to get the carpet out to air, it just rains and rains and rains!  I’ve only been out in the garden for a few minutes at a time.

I’m getting better every day, my darling, and thinking of you all the time.  The parcel of books came in this morn.  Longing to dip into “Great Short Stories.”  Bless you ever.  All our love across the sea to you.

Dad & Mum.

p.s. Looking forward to hearing of your journey from north to south of France, trying to think of the road you’ll be travelling.  Cheers and all love Mum. xxxxx


The following “Record of Work Done” written by Len is undated.  It seems that after her summer holidays the amount of teaching practice in  schools in the area increased


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Len pic for part 3 png smaller-1Record of Work Done 

Lesson I

Talk of own experiences in Egypt, including life on a houseboat on the Nile, Sudanese servants, being mistaken for Palestinian spies whilst hiking in the desert, the native market, etc.

Show Egyptian jewellery – old & new.  Nefertiti head in gamoose horn, leatherwork etc. to girls.  They are to present a picture of Egypt between them.  Suggest topics.e.g. journey there, shopping in Egypt, climate, situation, Egyptology, Egyptian cotton, current events, the Pyramids etc.  Girls make copy of this list.  Discussion as to choice of topic.

Lesson 2

Bring a classroom book containing information about Egypt, put in each book a slip stating where the relevant information is to be found in the book, which particular aspect it is about and asking questions about the important points.  Girls work on this, reading, writing out information in their own words and copying drawings.  Some girls write for further information to the British Museum and the Egyptian Embassy.

Lesson 3 

Girls continue with work from library books.  Some girls write to B.O.A.C. & P. & O for further information about the journey there, and to the Shaw Saville line.

Lesson 4

Library monitors to go to library & take books from shelves and arrange for class.  Review topics – as some people have changed them owing to lack of sufficient information, e.g. Egyptian jewellery.  Class work in the library.  Look at replies from Egyptian Embassy, British Museum and Shaw Saville Ltd.


On Ist November, 1950, Dad writes to Len at her college, sending a postcard from the seaside town North Berwick, down the East Lothian coast from Edinburgh.

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Dad letter png1 November, 1950.  North Berwick

Dear Len,

Having a real good time and the weather has been very good and both Mum & I have been out every day.  We can see the Bass rock from all points of the home and do think our visit here has done us both good. (1)

Love Dad.


1.  The use of the word ‘home’ may be revealing.  Have they been staying at a trade union or S.C.W.S (Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society) seaside guest or rest home?  The 1st November in 1950 was a Wednesday.  Besides Mum’s back problem, had Dad been having health problems?


A fortnight after Dad’s postcard above she is typing to her Mum and Dad from the Library of the college at Wynyard Hall saying “Still no news exactly when I’m going to London for interview…. Do hope they can bring it forward from the 7th of December.”

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As noted in Part Four Chapter One, the Emergency Teachers Training Course was a 13 month  course.  The end of December, into early January 1951 will see her finishing her training.  Going for an interview will be for a place at a school in London.


Len was successful in securing a post as a primary school teacher in London.

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26 January, 1951.

Wynyard Hall Training College, Wolviston, Billingham, Co.Durham.

Dear Old Student,

I trust you are now happily settled in your school.  Probably you have already written to your Advisory Tutor giving particulars of the name of the Authority and the name of the school to which you have been appointed, but as only three members of staff are back in College with me the information is not available for the office records, and is required by he Ministry of Education.

I would be grateful, therefore, if you would complete the slip and return it to Miss Burton immediately.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

E.BRIDEOAKE.    Principal.


In early March, 1951 Len is being put up by a teaching colleague whilst she looks for her own accommodation.  She is staying in Adelaide Road, off Finchley Road in Swiss Cottage, north London.

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Len pic for part 3 png smaller-18 March, 1951.

160 Adelaide Road, London N.W.3

Evening.  Soup on the hob.

My Charming Fair Ones,

Climaxes & convolutions.  Have been home to-day as I woke up in the night with cramp, my foot couldn’t bear my weight.  Have sprained a muscle in my calf through wearing high heels!  It’s much better already, but I think I’ll take tomorrow off to get it completely better & go acc. hunting.  C.S. (1)  give time off for that sort of thing, but though teachers have such wonderful holidays, odd half days for personal business are well nigh impossible to get…….


 1.  acc.: accommodation.  C.S.: Civil Service.


Len taught at the William Tyndale Infant School in Islington, north London.  In 1954, whilst leaving the folk song centre Cecil Sharp House in London, she met her future husband, an industrial chemist.  It turned out that they realised that they were both members of the Young Communist League, a section of the British Communist Party. (Membership was open to those up to the age of 30.)  They married in August 1954.

Harry, Len’s Dad, died of lung cancer, at his home in Coldingham Avenue in August 1955.  He was 66.  His death was registered on the day he died by Len.  That Len was up from London suggests his death was anticipated.

In the 26 August, 1955 edition of the Clydebank Press the following Intimation was placed:

“Bryers – At his home, 26 Coldingham Avenue, Glasgow W4 on 19 August, 1955, Harry Bryers (late of King Aircraft Corporation, Hillington) dearest beloved husband of Helen MacKay and father of Helen.  He lived to do good.”

Changing his job from the India Rubber Tyre Co to the King Aircraft Company, presumably around 1950 0r 1951 meant he longer had to cross the Clyde by ferry to go to his work.

A copy of Flight magazine from 1953 gives us a description of the work his firm were involved in.

“King Aircraft Celebrate

As briefly recorded last week, King Aircraft Corporation recently held their twelfth anniversary celebration in Glasgow. Some 60 people from all branches of the aircraft industry were guests of the Corporation.

Before a dinner and dance on the Saturday evening, the guests were taken for a tour of the works at Hillington, where, in addition to seeing the ramjet helicopter which we described last week, they were able to inspect a variety of work. Items included the well- known King toggle fastener, of which there are now over 20,000 on order, welded-tube chairs for B.E.A., pipe valves for atomic work at Harwell, flexible couplings for fuel lines, a new crash- release harness (utilizing the Sturge Whiting coupling described in our issue of June 27th, 1952) and a new automatic-locking inspection plate which lies flush with the surface but can easily be released, even by a gloved hand, no screwdriver being required.”

Len’s Mum moved down to England in late 1959 to be near her daughter, who earlier in the year had had her second child.  Len – no longer teaching – her husband and by now their four children eventually lived in Guildford, Surrey.  “Granny Bryers” lived close by.

Over the week-end of 12 & 13 March, 2011 when the author first met Helen, and Rona,  he made notes and taped, with their permission,  some of the discussion about Len’s (Helen’s) life.  Some of the conversation was taped whilst Rona looked at the collection of new material discovered in Helen’s Exmouth home.  As has been noted in the Introduction, Helen has significant memory loss, so details are fragmentary.  The short tape has been re-arranged in a chronological order.

Helen: My Father had two brothers and a sister. The two brothers and the sister emigrated to the States. There was so much emigration going on…My Father taught me all the physical things. He taught me to skate, he taught me to dance. In those days, long ago, girls went to the dances with their parents, and my girlfriends would much rather dance with my father than with the boys. He was such a superb dancer. He was a beautiful singer. He was a tenor….. Anything to do with language I get from my mother….   I went to Ireland when I was about four.

Rona: So the boat that you went on to go to Cork, you were on it long enough to have sheets on the beds

Helen:  Yes.   When we lived in London I was dying to join the Labour League of Youth…. It’s funny, I can see Canonsleigh Road where we lived and Goresbrook Road where Joan lived, and then there was the green belt and the Ship and Shovel Pub, and that’s where the buses came. We played on the green belt… (Moving from Dagenham to Glasgow)  I can remember leaving Euston in the train. It was so dark, because of the black out. You couldn’t have lights on……

Rona:  When you were first going out to Egypt someone said to you “You’re very young” but you said, “Yes, but I’m very sensible”.

Helen:   In Cairo I was a shorthand typist and also superintendent of the typing pool. When I came back they wanted to put me in a typing pool in Glasgow.  I made a fuss about this so they made me a PA.

Ernst:PS copy

“Ernst, Jamil Beach, 1947.”

Rona:  Oh there’s an amazing photograph here, Mum. (Reading) ‘Ernst, Jamil Beach 1947’ – look at that Mum.

Helen:  He had a gorgeous body….   When my mother arrived in Egypt he got down on his knees in Cairo and asked her if he could marry me.

 Rona: Ten men asked Mum to marry her.

Helen:   Sunbathing on the boat from Alexandria going to Naples, that’s when I was on leave, I had to go into a cabin because the sun was burning, and the captain visited me and –

Rona: Came onto you.

Helen:  Yes. So I had to dissuade him…. When I went from Glasgow to London a lorry driver –

Rona: When you were a teenager –

Helen: – tried to put his arm around me…  I was down in Suez and this Squadron Leader wanted me to go in his car back to Cairo. He gave me a gun, in case I was attacked. What I was supposed to do with a gun I don’t know.

Rona: (Rona is reading a wedding congratulations card from the staff)  Oh, this is where Mum taught, and it is William Tyndale Infant School, Sebbon Street, Islington.

Helen:  I liked the drama in the teaching most…

Rona: You got married when you were 28, in 1954, but you weren’t 29 until November.

Helen: We were all left wing.  My father gave me a row because we put our engagement notice, saying we were in the Young Communist League in the Daily Worker.

Rona: So why did your Dad – ?

Helen:  I don’t know. I still don’t know why he gave me a row. Perhaps it was because it was proclaimed in the Daily Worker.  Perhaps he would have been worried about his work.

Rona: Get victimised? (1)

Helen:   Yes.  My Father was not as left wing as my Mother.

Rona: Grandma was always having operations, wasn’t she Mum.  She didn’t have any money.  She didn’t have any property.  Aunt Kitty had problems with her eyes. I remember she came down to Moorfield Eye Clinic….She stayed with us. She was a night owl, like me.

Helen:   I’m a planner and we wanted our children to be two years apart.

Rona:   I was born in Hythe, which is part of, near Southampton.  My Dad, at the time, worked at Fawley which is the oil refinery at Southampton…  I suppose I found Guildford quite, quite – conservative and I suppose because our parents were both left-wing I thought about it as – well, you talked about as being like the Bible Belt didn’t you Mum – it was conservative with a big ‘C’…  Mum’s always been very involved in canvassing, in campaigns and one of the things she got involved with when we were children was how important it was to have smear tests for women. And there was this story, which I think you told me Mum, was the headmaster of our school said to my Dad “We have to keep our women quiet”, or keep them contained, or held back. In other words it wasn’t OK that my Mum was going around to get people to sign a petition, to get women, or to get them aware of smear tests.  So he tried to get Dad to haul Mum back in. That would have been in the sixties. That’s when we were in primary school.


1.  As noted in the above Flight magazine article about the King Aircraft Company, the company manufactured pipe valves for the Atomic Energy Establishment at Harwell.  It is reasonable to assume that Dad would be uncharacteristically angry with his daughter because less than four years before, the atomic scientist Klaus Fuchs had been supplying important information of the American and then the British development of atomic weapons to the U.S.S.R.  Fuchs was sentenced by a British court to a 14 year prison sentence.  Immediately prior to his confession Fuchs had been working at Harwell.


In an email from Björn to the author in 2011 Björn wrote “She had a very active life.  While raising a family of four she did her MSc in Educational Psychology and worked in that field for many years.”

Len started studying, already with the aim of being an Educational Psychologist,  initially doing night classes for her A levels. She was doing her A levels when her first child was doing her O levels.  Rona  was embarrassed at the time, she says, that her Mum was a mature student. Rona’s friends’ Mums didn’t go out to work.

Rona says – and Helen concurs – that her Mum started studying because she was becoming unhappy with her marriage.


Rona:  All four of us, that is me and my sister and brothers, and Mum went up to stay with the Findlays in Glasgow for a holiday, and on the way up there we said ‘Where are we going to sleep?’, and Mum said, ‘I don’t mind where, as long as I’m horizontal’. And Joan Findlay showed us the beds and Mum said ‘I’ll have the double bed’.  They took us out to Loch Lomond.  I remember swimming there, and we had a picnic there. I was about late primary or early teens

Joan B& D story crop

From a feature in the Barking & Dagenham Post, 2011.

Helen:  (Re. Joan Brandley)  No, I don’t know what happened to her.

Rona:  Yes, I don’t remember you talking about her when we were young,  Aunty Shirley, yes, but  I never heard of Aunty Joan.  That Shirley that Mum met at Wynyard Hall was in our lives.

Rona:  When Mum was in her sixties she used to run up the stairs at Clapham Junction with a rucksack on her back, and overtook people younger than her, and she said she felt sad when she got to a stage where she was not able to do that any more. Mum’s always been very energetic.

 Helen:  Although I used to walk 15 miles on Dartmoor I’m a very slow walker now.


Helen’s Mum, still living in Guilford, died in her 80s.  Ena died in 1990 at the age of 86.  Her death was registered in Swansea.  Despite a follow up feature in the Barking and Dagenham Post in 2011 we have no knowledge of what happened to Joan Brandley, or how successful Betty Baxter’s course of treatment for her TB was.

Helen lived with her second husband in Ham, Richmond Surrey, and latterly in Exmouth.  Björn in the same email mentioned above, wrote: “I last saw her (Helen) in 2001 at her home in Exmouth, Devon.  She had a lovely house backing on the Exe Estuary – at high tide you could go for a swim from the back garden.”

Helen changed her political support from the Communist Party to the Labour Party.  It is speculated this was over the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 when many members left the British Communist Party in bewilderment or disgust.  She has remained a supporter, and member, of the Labour Party since.  Her second husband was a Liberal Democrat supporter, and in their small bay front window at times of local council elections and General Elections, they would have opposite Labour Party and Liberal Democrat posters in the window.  In Exmouth they shared an enthusiastic enjoyment of walking and canoeing.  She also ran therapeutic  workshops with the title “Life is Too Short to be Serious”.

Her second husband died in 2007.  At the time of writing (January, 2015) her first husband still lives in Guildford.

As she said to the author when he met her first in March, 2011:  “I am only interested in the present and the future.”


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Helen (“Len”) outside her home in Exmouth, August, 2012.     Photo: Pete Grafton.

Helen died in Exmouth on 28, August, 2017.  She was 91.


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Part Four/1: Wynyard Hall

Part Four Chapter One    Wynyard Hall

“I shall hate to leave college.”



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Wynyard Hall is four miles north of Stockton, Co.Durham.


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Wynyard Hall at the time Len was there.


Wynyard Hall and the 7th Lord Londonderry 

Wynyard Hall near Stockton in Co. Durham in the north east of England was one of three properties that belonged to the “immensely rich” 7th Lord Londonderry.  The other two were Mount Pleasant in Northern Ireland and Londonderry House in London.  Wynyard Hall was his least favourite property and he had thought of having it demolished.

The inherited wealth of the Londonderrys came from land ownership, but particularly from ownership of coal mines.  He was described as “the sort of grandee who makes you wonder why there was no British revolution”.

The 7th Lord Londonderry, like his father, was well connected with other British aristocracy and with the British Royal Family.  Guests, including “Commoners” at Wynyard Hall during the 1930s and 1940s included Mr and Mrs Winston Churchill,  Mr Harold and Lady Dorothy Macmillan, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII,  the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  The present Queen stayed at Wynyard Hall when she was Princess Elizabeth in 1947.

In the 1920s rumours emerged that Londonderry’s wife had had an affair with the Irish nationalist Michael Collins, and the Labour Leader, and sometimes Prime Minister,  Ramsay MacDonald seems to have been a touch besotted about her, grovelingly  describing himself  as her “attendant ghillie”.  He could have offered his services when the German National Socialist Foreign Minister Herr Ribbentrop stayed at Wynyard Hall, an honoured guest of Lord Londonderry, attending a shooting party in November, 1936.

Because of his sympathy with the cause of German National Socialism, and its leader Adolf Hitler, the 7th Lord Londonderry was  nicknamed by some fellow aristocrats as the “Londonderry Herr”.  But his sympathies were not out of place amongst a few other members of the British aristocracy.  American journalist William L. Shirer (The Rise of the Third Reich), based at the time in Berlin, in his diary of 7 March 1936 lumped him with the Astors, Lord Lothian and Lord Rothermere (1),  and King Edward VII had been sympathetically interested in the achievements of Herr Hitler’s regime.   On 25 February, 1936, a month before, Shirer had written,  “Learn that Lord Londonderry was here around the first of the month, saw Hitler, Göring, and most of the others.  He is an all-out pro-Nazi.  Fear he has not been up to any good.”  Londonderry was for peace, and appeasement with the National Socialists.  His influence within the Conservative Government of the time was no more significant than other “appeasers”.

The 7th Lord Londonderry died in a gliding accident on 10 February, 1949, nine months before Len started her teacher training at Wynyard Hall.  The Lord in occasional residence when she was there was his successor, the 8th Lord Londonderry.  An alcoholic, he died of liver failure at the age of 52 in 1955.  His son sold  Wynyard Hall in 1987 to the property developer and  later chair of Newcastle United football club, John Hall.

Wynyard Hall  now trades as a Country House Hotel.


Main sources:  Berlin Diary 1934 – 1941, William L. Shirer, 1941; Marquis of Londonderry Obituary, Daily Telegraph, 20 June, 2012; Making Friends With Hitler, Ian Kershaw, 2004.

1.  Lord Rothermere with his brother Harold owned the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, and in Scotland the Daily Record and the Sunday Mail.


Wynyard Hall Teachers Training College and the Emergency Training Scheme

 As has been footnoted before:  “Towards the end of the last war, it became apparent that the schools of this country faced a crisis unparalleled in the history of the British education system. The reason for this were the war casualties… the greatly diminished number of teachers trained during the war, and the huge task of embodying in actual achievement the reforms of the Education Act, 1944.” – from Into the Breach: The Emergency Training Scheme for Teachers, London, Turnstile, 1949.

One of the reforms of the 1944 Education Act was raising the minimum school leaving age from 14 to 15.  It seems that the centres where the Emergency Teacher Training Scheme took place were often not in existing teacher training colleges, but in post-war surplus facilities, such as  the ex-USAAF 231st Station Hospital at Wymondham, Norfolk.  It seems that the Second World War code-breaking Bletchley Park was also used as a women’s ETS college   Most closed after the scheme finished in 1952.    Wynyard Hall continued as a women’s teaching training college until 1956

As far as is known there were no co-education colleges, with men and women tutored in separate colleges, or, as at Wymondham, a separate men’s college and women’s college on the site with different tutors. (Sleeping facilities were the nissen huts.)

There have been suggestions that men who went through the Emergency Training Scheme leap-frogged women teachers of some years experience into Headships.  The attitude that women teachers should work for less money than male equivalents, or that they should be at home as a wife and mother was still prevalent, as has been footnoted in Part Three.  In addition the snide”Old Spinster” appellation aimed at some middle aged woman teachers (a term still heard in the early 1960s) was an unfair and ignorant term.  Ignorant because a younger generation did not realise that women in teaching had, until the early 1940s, to decide between continuing their career as a teacher, or to resign to get married.  The Marriage Bar in the Civil Service also applied in the teaching profession.

One of the rare recollections of the Wynyard Hall Emergency Training Scheme is from Irene Simpson, online at the Craxford Family website.  She had started her teaching training there about ten months before Len arrived at Wynyard Hall.  As they were both involved at different levels and at different times with the college magazine, their paths may have briefly crossed.

“Our principal was Miss Sophie Bertie. She was born in 1896…

It was a live-in college. They had converted various parts of the hall into bedrooms….

The people who were teaching us had been seconded from universities and colleges around the country. There were a number of courses that were taught and I took English. There were also extra courses laid on if anyone was discovered to have a weakness in one area. You also had to undertake a special project….

The training course led to a Teachers Training Certificate and lasted for thirteen months. It was different to today’s courses because we had to start our first teaching practice after six weeks of study. Each attachment lasted for one month, and if you were unable to keep discipline or if the tutors thought that you were unsuitable then you were out.”

The full and informative recollection is here.  (Grateful thanks to Alan Craxford)



List of articles to be brought by students

Identity Card.
Ration Book (Pages which have been deposited with tradesmen must be collected and inserted).
National Insurance Card.
Travelling rug (or eiderdown)
Scrap bag containing odds and ends of material, embroidery cotton, tape, cotton-reels, bits of felt or leather.
Stout cardboard and boxes approx. 4″ x 3″ and approx. 9″ x 6″.
Pots for gum, water etc.  Rags for cleaning.
Hussif (with needles, thread etc.)  Haversack or small Rucksack
Scissors (general, embroidery, cutting out)
Pen, pencil, ruler etc.
Clock and/or watch.  Ashtray.
Napkin Ring and two Table Napkins.
Shoe-cleaning Outfit.  Dusters, Soiled Linen Bag.
Overall, Sweater or Cardigan.
Bedroom Slippers, Overshoes or Wellingtons, Mackintosh.
Cup, Saucer, Plate (small) Teacloth, Tin (for biscuits etc.)
Small teapot, Knife, Fork, Dessert Spoon, Teaspoon.
Two 1 lb  jars or tins with lids for Tea and Sugar.

Dictionary (Oxford, Chambers etc.)

Complete Shakespeare (any edition)

Atlas (Modern School Atlas of Comparative Geography, Philip
or    ”        ”       ”        ”        ”        ”      Foyle
or Advanced Modern School Atlas, Johnston
or Practical Atlas of Modern Geog. Elsa & Dudley Stamp.  Gill
An Anthology of Verse e.g. Come Hither
Book of Verse, Golden Treasury.
Songs of Praise  –  Oxford University Press.
Three or four Children’s Classics e.g.
Grahame – Wind in the Willows, Reluctant Dragon
De Brunhof  Tales of Babar
Maeterlinck  Blue Bird
Hsiung  Lady Precious Stream
Hans Andersen  Fairy Tales
Grimm  Household Tales
Spyri  Heidi
Carroll  Alice in Wonderland
Kingsley  Heroes
Kipling  Just So Stories, Jungle Book
+ Bicycle (with Padlock and Basket or Carrier)
+Gym Shoes (Plimsolls)
+Navy Blue Shorts
+Hockey Stick
+Tennis Racquet
+Musical Instrument e.g. Violin, Recorder etc.
+Pocket Lenses
+Pocket Levels
+Compass (prismatic)
+Small Gardening Tools
+Art Materials
+Books on Toymaking etc.
+Fretsaw & Blade
+Any small Woodwork Tools.
Items marked + should not be purchased specially, but it would be of great advantage if students who possess these articles would bring them to College.


N.B.  Loose-leaf notebooks may be purchased in College.


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Len’s first letter home, from Wynyard Hall, November, 1949.


This is the first letter in the collection from Len to her parents, since the one sent to them from Salisbury on 30 October.   She is a few weeks  off from being 24.

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8 November, 1949.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Nr. Stockton-on-Tees.

Bedroom – Tuesday morning – 8ish.

Very dearest People,

Here I am, after yesterday’s journey. Met a girl en route – in carriage with whom I got talking and discovered we were both college bound and Wynyard college. She was a cross between Milly and Jean Findlay. A Scot from Turriff near Aberdeen and 28. Apart from the fact that a woman tried to run off with my trunk at Newcastle, the journey was uneventful

On arrival I tea-d at cafe in Stockton with this girl, then returned and our bags were taken from the left luggage to one of the three waiting busses.   As yet haven’t seen the arrival of my trunk – it was left to be brought on to-day.

On arrival at the Hall – there’s a mile and three-tenths drive, we immediately went into tea and cakes, then the principal – Miss Bertie – talked a little and we were taken to our various houses by our house mistresses. We’re five in a room – being the younger ones I s’pose. It’s a lovely room and my corner’s like this:

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The view is wonderful, as we look out on a stream – we’re first floor at the back and a hill topped by coppery trees. At the moment I’m sitting on a chair as in plan, with my feet up on the window sill – the radiators heating them underneath and the sun’s streaming in on them. It takes about 5 – 10 mins fast walking to get from our room to the main entrance – there’s a positive labyrinth of corridors. It’s like Carbisdale – only bigger, yet from the front it doesn’t look so large.

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Wynyard Hall, front entrance, 1940s.

Hence the fact that though we’re floors lower than the main entrance we’re still first floor. After my room at “No. 7” this is palatial. A girl woke me at 6.45 with her portable radio, but says she won’t do it again – I hope. The radiators are wonderful for drying clothes, tea towels and stockings and also for airing one’s nightdresses before one retires.

The rest of the last night was spent in going up to the main floor and back for food and in going for a short walk. Lord Londonderry’s in residence at the moment.  This morning I wanted to rinse my teapot and rather than come all the way back here, went into a room marked ‘Stillroom’ and asked a white coated woman if I could – “No”, she replied “This is Londonderry’s”!  Not, “The Marquess” or ‘The Master’s” but just “Londonderry’s”!

The girls in my room are Alice, Liverpudlian (half Indian) , Iona, Campbeltonian,(1) Jean, (formerly Knightswood)(2) Whitley Bay and Gay (formerly Vienna) Newcastle.

Your letter with the 10/- I received this morning – thank you no end. I must send the money back to you (£1 enclosed) – £2 owed and more should you buy the black material.  You see last night our grant’s came through. My first instalment’s £20-16-8d – more to come in Jan, she said,, so I’ll have to nurse it carefully. The 10/- might have been a great help otherwise, though I did get £3 from the PO in Stockton yesterday.

Various conflicting reports as to our New Year or rather Christmas holidays. As soon as I hear I’ll let you know. We’re terrifically cut off, but it’s not at all an unpleasant feeling.

I loved being at home and miss it in all its aspects.  Firstly, you two of course, then all the other things, large and small.

Unfortunately one can’t have men here Daddy (by the way, it’s an all girl college) but one can have women friends to stay if there’s an empty bed in ones room – 5/6 b&b and very little for the other meals. So I hope you’ll have a sojourn here before the year’s out Mum and I’m here all being well.

To-day we’d morning assembly with prayers and hymns, plus announcements – we’re to write an essay and hand it in to-morrow morning – ‘our experiences’ – so must start on that shortly.

There’s masses of hot water so I’d a lovely hot bath last night, stepped into my warmed nightdress and into a warm bed for a good sleep – 10 pm onwards.

Your letter – talking of leisurely breakfasts etc, makes me really homesick.

What would I like in parcel – washed pants, etc (those that were ‘in sock’) bra from bed, mac (yes, left it behind) and pen from Daddy with instructions on how to re-fill – please register parcel. (3)    Will phone sunday night all being well. My number’s Wolviston 269, ask for Miss Bryers of Mount Stewart House. (4)

All love from Teeside. xxxx


1.  Campbeltown, Kintyre, Scotland.

2.  Knightswood is a few miles from the family home in Yoker.

3.  ‘How to refill’.  Dad’s factory made refillable biro seems a curious concept.  As will be seen from reproduction of some future letters, the ink was certainly ball pen ink: greasy and smudgeable.

4.  Mount Stewart was the name of the Londonderrys’ Northern Ireland house.  It seems as if the names of the Houses that the college women are divided up in borrow from Lord Londonderry’s properties.


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Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.
(Note address)   Friday, 4pm.

Dearest People Always With Me,

Your number 66 with its two enclosures came in to-day. Firstly let me say thanks for it and everything else and secondly that this letter will be immensely disjointed as I’m writing it in our dorm as it’s at least ¼ mile to the library and quietness and to the dining hall and everything else.


You see what I mean about disjointedness, for it’s now about noon on Saturday and we’ve to lunch, bath, catch taxi to bus stop and embus by 1.20 – it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.

We’ve had intelligence tests, English and arithmetic dittoes, walks with maps, gardening – making a compost heap and an (one day’s notice) impromptu concert given on Thursday night. Our house did a skit on 10 green bottles in the form of 10 green students and a Czech dance. All this plus being 5 in a room and the ¼mile walk thrown in every half hour or so is exhausting and doesn’t leave time to think, let alone act on other things.

Your 67 came in this morning with cash for last ½ week’s work from Civil Service.

It’s been and is warm here – so sorry to hear it’s cold with you. The journey down was very lovely – I never knew it was like that.  Daddy, you could come too, Mum could stay with me in coll. for a night or two then you could both stay nearbye – it is a super place, just wish I’d a room to myself, but it’s a case of having to get acclimatised.  Yes, ours are little low radiators and one can sit on them and warm ones bot, sit on the window sill too, for that matter, for it also is low. My trunk came all right and I’m fairly well organised, much, much better than I was at “No.7”.

Miss Bertie – principal and vice president NUT told one of the girls she wants a Burns supper, so must offer to contribute as I love Burns and they like you to be ‘in things’ here.

I’ll wire you 30s. to-day, that’s £1 I owe you in actual cash lent me, + 10s. for odd bits & pieces and taxi fares. Hope to send money for black material soon.- can you manage to get it and me pay later, or is it better for me to send the cash now?

Letters in 66 were from Allan, Was-I-all-right and why-hadn’t-he-heard etc. and from Germany met matron of girls’ home in N.I. (1)

Stockton GPO

Sorry for the mess, but the rain got at this letter on the way to Stockton – it’s now 2.25 and I’ve sent off your money – just hope it gets you, leaving you time to go into town and cash it before the GPO closes.

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Yes please white silk slip the same length as the other. Actually I left the blue suede shoes to be re-heeled for myself as I thought you didn’t like wearing court shoes. However, if you can wear ‘em, I’d be more than pleased for you to have ‘em as they’re very loose – much too loose on my feet and I only wear ‘em in the ‘waste not, want not’ spirit: I plan to send up the shoes for mending at the Co-op to you, then they can be ready for me to take back after Hogmanay. Haven’t any brown paper just now but hope to send ‘em to you after I receive parcels from you and Val from which I can get paper.

Thanks for posting my letters.

I’ve changed my mind about a portable typewriter and now – unless you’ve got something already – would like a watch at some birthday or Christmas – you see I really need one at Wynyard as we so definitely work by the clock and even my alarm’s gone a bit funny with it’s last bit of travelling. (2)   Otherwise, sometime I’d like a smallish cheap man’s watch. I know the kind I really want, real gold case and four Roman figures in gold on black – other figures gold dots, but as they cost at least £30 in Egypt, they’d cost the earth here with 100% purchase tax, so I’ll just hope to get one like that someday and whilst waiting want something serviceable at the other end of the scale.

The Christmas holidays are to be 22nd December to 4th January pretty definitely. Now have you any plans for Christmas?  Would you like to come to England?, for there’s a Holiday Fellowship Association where one receives £2 or more for a week’s work and one’s keep and one works in lovely surroundings. What d’you think?  In Scotland everyone works at Christmas and nothing happens, or d’you think those 6 days quietness before Joan arrives are necessary? Write and tell me what you think please. (3)

There’s lots more to say I know, but at the moment, my mind’s gone blank. Writing again shortly. All love from ‘the ‘all’.

Len. xxxxx


1.  N.I.  Northern Ireland.

2.  This alarm clock will be the American one she bought in Cairo in 1947.

3.  Joan:  Joan Brandley.  As we know, Len has been sending out invitations to several friends for a big gathering at Coldingham Avenue at Hogmanay.


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Wynyard Hall Training College, Wolviston, Billingham, Co.Durham. Telephone: Wolviston 269

Tuesday Evening in our room.

Dearest Own Loved Ones,

Your 68 came in by the 4 p.m. post this afternoon, but I’m afraid this letter won’t be posted till to-morrow morning, as there’s no collection till then, unlike Salisbury where one could get it collected from the Sorting Office till at least midnight. As always it was lovely to hear from you,  but dreadful to hear you weren’t well – I can’t help worrying, even though you say “don’t”. See you’re really keen on my not worrying so will attempt not to.

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Yes, I found it a horrid line on Sunday night – hope it’s not like that again. If the watch could be repaired it would be a blessing, but from what I hear, it’ll have to be taken in soon if it’s to be ready by New Year.

About ye black suit. Please don’t buy a wee bit or a remnant for the back of the waistcoat. I’d like it all made up from the same stuff. That black gaberdine in Lewis’s was good, or if you think of something else that’s better, get that. Please get it though, as I should hate then to get sold out of winter materials ‘fore one got anything. D’you want the money first?  If so, say so and I’ll send you some insh’Allah. Then you can keep the material till I come. Hope to hitch straight north as soon as we break up on the 22nd.  If I’m with you, all being well from then until 3rd Jan, it might give you a chance to get the jacket finished.

Burns’ suppers are in Jan, so I’ve plenty of time to think about it.

Have you yet written asking Ernst and his fiancee (or wife) for Hogmanay, or have you thought better of it? (1)

Breakfast is at 8.15 second sitting (which we’re on at the moment, we change settings every fortnight) and 7.45 first sitting. As I said the girl in my room had on her portable radio which awoke me a few times, but it hasn’t been so bad lately. This morning (now Wednesday) we got up earlier as we’d to get clean linen from the linen room.  1 pillow slip, 1 towel, 1 sheet for most people, but no slip for me as I prefer to sleep without a pillow, as you know.  Lunch is at 12.45 or 1.15, and supper 5.45 or 6.15. Apart from these cooked meals (yes, thank goodness, breakfast’s cooked and two courses), there’s morning tea with a bun or cake at 10.50 and afternoon tea without anything to eat, then at 9, we make our own tea with electric kettle in each house and tea given us. There’s also a tray for each house and on it is bread and buns or biscuits – quite good really. We’d roast beef, Yorkshire pud. and greens on Sunday and Tuesday – not bad going.

Were you thinking of indulging in any of the liquor mentioned in the advertisement now returned to you. How would they pack it?  I reminded Val to nag this old Lt.Col about the bottle of Drambuie when I wrote her.

Must tell you, that one of the Scots in my room heard that after one had done one’s two probationary years of teaching in England, one can teach in Scotland, so hope eventually to be really and truly back with you.

The encl. letter was from Betty Baxter who’s expecting her two ops. shortly – just hope she gets through them all right – she’s really a brick the way she takes it. (2)

At the moment I’m listening to a compulsory recital. Never known anything as hectic as being here. Have knife etc. with me so I don’t have long trek back, as I’ve some typing to do for the Library Committee before lunch. The Secy. of the L. Cmtee Inez and I have palled up and hope to go on a hosteling w/e in the vicinity ‘fore Hogmanay. We’re given 2 free w/es ‘fore end of term, but for one, I hope to have a quiet time here and hain my ackers.(3)

Hope so much your cold and tummy are better. Take care of yourselves. All love from the ‘all

Len xxxxx

1.  Ernst and his fiancee had married on 8 October, 1949, five weeks before Len wrote this letter.

2.  This letter has not survived in this collection.

3.  Hain – Scots.  ‘Save, or hoard’.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-119 November, 1949.

Wynyard Hall.

My room, Saturday afternoon.

Hail Dearest Cupboard Makers,

Up to your 69 received and the parcel – it was a wonderful one – came in yesterday. As you can see I’m using the pen.  The mac’s proved invaluable already in the wet fog. Last night and to-day I wore it with my little stocking hat. Yes, we were rash, walked about 9 miles all in yesterday. About 3 in the morning with Olive and at night 3 to Wolviston and 3 back.  We had a shandy and fish and chips. To-day I did my business in Stockton –  sent registered parcel to you, collected film and put in photos for extra copies.  I also got a new bulb and battery for the wee torch, so it’s now going well. We were rash and had ham and tomatoes and cake and coffee in Stockton. The only solution to not spending money is to stay in coll. all the time. However we have to do a hot plate duty – dishing out the food – for a day every so often. Somebody’s done mine as it fell the day I wanted to go to Stockton to see Allan. I was going to do theirs but now I’m to do Inez’s next Sat. and she’ll do theirs. This will enable her to be free for our proposed w/e at a hostel in Yorkshire and stop me going into Stockton next Saturday and spending cash. Olive and I hitched and bussed tremendously quickly both going and coming ½ hour from bedroom door to bank and about the same amount of time coming back.

Thank you so much for everything else in the parcel.  As usual it was so evidently packed with loving care and you may rest assured I really appreciated it all. Oh and I knocked back all the sweets in the library yesterday afternoon.

In the letter from the MoS, they’ve agreed to grant me an extra day’s FSA  (1) – about 16/- I think but it’s all grist for the mill!  I meant the MO (2) to arrive in time for you to cash it on the Saturday, but if it’s being a little late didn’t leave you short, that’s O.K.

Lens ist biro letter png

“As you can see I’m using the pen”   This is the biro pen made by Dad.

Haven’t had a word from Allan since I saw him last Sat, so I wouldn’t worry about him being all hearts and flowers. Thanks for the glove. I’ll manage O.K. about shoes, the boots are too good. The pants are a joy.

Since coming back I’ve done my washing – mostly in Stergene – it’s wonderful – the dirt absolutely runs out.

Yes, do tell all the people where I am and that I haven’t been so happily busy for years. Pants not finished yet but will endeavour to do them this w/e or send off pattern on Monday. Definitely think the new place for the sideboard would be better for ye planned festivities. Do NOT go all out at it – please.

Longer letter Monday. All love from ‘all.

Len. xxxxxx


1.  FSA  Foreign Service Allowance, from when she was in Egypt.

2.  MO:  Money Order.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-121 November, 1949.

Pre-Tea at the ‘All. Monday.

People I love so Well,

This place is hectic as this week we’re an ‘early shift’ for meals and one seems to be running from this to that all the time and trying to get all mail in by 4 p.m. is hectic – how I miss Salisbury’s midnight collection, but at least I know this should get you by the next day.

You’ll be pleased to learn that my name was on the notice board (27 names out of 110-120 students) for commendation on the recent English paper we did.

Last night’s call was good, wasn’t it?  Don’t know if my barrage puts you off for sometimes you sound slightly bewildered.

Honestly, I do hope to help and really do complete jobs for you as the festive season comes up, but please can we do something gay or silly or entertaining on the 25th?  I’ll write and buck Joan up – am writing or have written to others saying to write me with confirmation of 30th as date of arrival.  Your voice sounded O.K. last night Mummy – hope you feel as good as you sounded. How’s your tummy, Daddy?  Hope it’s behaving well. Look after each other for your own sakes and for me.

We’re divided into ‘houses’ – don’t tell anyone, but we believe we’re in the servants quarters – shall I say Head Housekeeper’s room?  There’s a wonderful story of haunting and masses of ramifications but I’d like to save it for telling all being well.

Inez is English – must ask if she’s got some foreign blood somewhere.

If you can make waistcoat and skirt it would be wonderful, or rather, if you could cut them out and instruct me, or would you rather sew and let me really go to it on household tasks. Please get material enough for back of w/coat, skirt and jacket at once. Gaberdine or whatever you think best, but please get it – you know I dislike shopping – especially having looked over blacks already. Shall I send £5 to cover material? If so, please say so in your next letter. Think you’d better have it now rather than be paid at Xmas. Couldn’t bear a bought suit – would rather make it myself. What I actually mean is couldn’t bear parting with £30 – 40 any approach to Mme Bryers couture would call for.

Whilst on cash as I said on grant-app-form £2 per week for people out of term, I hope to give you £5 for Hogmanay. Would it suit you better to have £10 now?

Longing to see you both and loving you a lot.

Your very own,



There is now a five month gap in the correspondence in this collection, so unfortunately we will never know how the Hogmanay party at 26 Coldingham Avenue went, and whether they were any ‘prostrate bodies’ lying around afterwards.  The letters re-start at Easter time, 1950, in Sweden.


Swedish Envelope png

12 April, 1950

Stockholm, Wednesday.

Dearest & Best,

Very worried at having no word from you since a week before leaving England. If there’s anything wrong you won’t have time to contact me here, but do wire the boat – “Suecia” scheduled to arrive Tilbury 7 am. Monday morning.

Have changed my mind about Sweden & feel it’s a place that could get you after sometime. Marie’s still moaning, but admitting it & they were wonderful to me. Bjorn imitates your saying “Mammy’s wee girlie” (and/or cuddles), Mummy. Bob & Bjorn plan to come over this year – I like all the Falun Palmgrens now that I know them, but Lisa’s a bit hard. (1)   Freddie (met in Italy) is taking me to dinner then to Ibsen’s “Brand” to-night, all being well.

Hope everything’s all right, will ‘phone Monday evening – insh ‘Allah.

All love from Sweden to Scotland.
Len. x

p.s. Your 99 just received from Falun – Glad to hear.


1.  Bjorn’s parents were Marie and Robert. Bjorn was born on 26 March, 1934. His elder sister and brothers were Lisa, Robert (called ‘Bob’) and Paul.  Falun is approximately 215 kilometres north west of Stockholm.  Len seems to be meaning Bjorn and his sister and brothers when she talks of the Falun Palmgrens.  We know that in Stockholm Len stayed on a floating youth hostel.  So when she writes ‘Marie’s still moaning’ she may be referring to when she last saw her in Falun, perhaps some days before.  Len arrived by boat at Gothenburg on the west coast and presumably trained to Stockholm and Falun.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-119 April, 1950.
Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

In bed, 7am. Wednesday

Most Precious People,

Before I forget, could you please post on my ration book as I need it to pass on here. Must now thank you a little less hurriedly for the parcels which arrived before my departure. The re-modelled coat was the envy of all eyes, but I just hadn’t the space to take it with me – keeping it fresh for next winter. The yellow chunky was as young as ever & received favourable comments overseas. The paper hankies were especially useful, especially as much nose blowing is needed going from the central heating to out of doors and vice versa in Sweden.

There’s a shocking noise in my chimney. Haven’t had the fire on for weeks & left a clean empty grate. Before I went away a few twigs had fallen down, but now you’d think I’d set the twigs all ready to receive coal on top. A nest’s been built in the chimney & I’m constantly hearing fluttering of wings and I s’pose this almost human voice just heard was the mother admonishing the little ones. Am almost frightened to look in the hearth – trunk partially hides it – in case a fully grown bird or baby may  have fallen amongst the twigs.

Can’t think what else to tell you about Sweden, just hope to do it verbally when I see you insh’ Allah.

The food was good, but over-rated & they eat very little green stuff. The housing of the population in flats I didn’t like at all. The central heating’s good, but there’s too much of it and one’s apt to feel one’s almost suffocating at times to begin with. They’ve got gorgeous kitchen units of stainless steel sinks, (two) & a draining board all in one, electric cooker and fridge.

Aunt Marie’s really crippled with rheumatism & has to lie down several times a day. She does talk about it a lot, but it’s understandable as the men don’t seem to realise the climate’s killing her & that something positive should be done about it now, before it’s too late & she becomes a permanent invalid as well as having her years of life probably shortened.

Uncle Robert’s short & has a real corporation.  He is however good-tempered & is a wit & does not stand on his dignity.  The boys are clever & unworldly except for the youngest Bjorn, who’s clever and worldly, but sensitive too. Realise he’s apt to be lazy – he’s got to be jollied into doing things.  Bob’s coming over – hope to arrange for him to lecture at coll. – & Bjorn started looking at the list of addresses I gave him (Bob), and asking if he could B & B too. Told him he must be charming and communicative as his shy silence would be construed as “rudeness” – he finished the sentence for me. “Yes” I answered. Got on famously with them all, jitterbugged with Bjorn, country danced with Paul – who’s interested in emigrating to Australia, and laughed a lot with Bob.

Ask me questions, know there’s lots I haven’t told you, but can’t think what it is.

About coming down, Whit Monday’s the 18th June.  Can you come down for the preceding week, arriving on Friday 8th? And stay the week over Whit. Hol? School practice starts on the Tuesday after and there will no chance to see you. This area isn’t as fruitful to a tourist as Salisbury, but has its own good points notwithstanding.

This is the timetable:-
17th April Main Course 9 weeks
19th June Teaching Prac. 4 weeks. (Impossible to see anyone)
17th July Exhibition & Discussions of Teaching Prac 2 days
19th July Vacation till 10th August

For the holiday I want to go to the Continent, would like you two to come too. Now before I get thoroughly embroiled in college work I want to try & find work in France or Italy for the period. Outdoors preferably for girl friend and myself from coll., but thought you’d like to p’raps work in a confectioner’s shop or something similar, or have people coming to you later in the year in exchange for keeping whilst you’re there. When are your holidays Daddy? Write & let me know.

Longing to see you,

All the morning love,

Len. xxx xx
p.s. Re. ration book, be sure to use all rations poss. from book before sending it on.

p.p.s In parcel runner & ashtray from Aunt Marie to you two – rest from me.


Swan Hunter png

Swan Hunter letter, 21 April, 1950.


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Len pic for part 3 png smaller-123 April, 1950.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

The ‘All. Midday, Sunday.

Dearest Delights,

How are you both? Not phoning tonight in pursuance of economy measure, will keep on every Sunday – hate to feel the pinching of the grant like this, but it’s only for another six months, though I must say I shall hate to leave college.

Len, group Wynyard png

Wynyard Hall students and staff, late 1949/1950. Len is third row from the front, 2nd on left (in blouses).

Len, group Wynyard, CU png copy

Close up of Len from Wynyard Hall college students and staff photo, 1949/1950.

Are you both going to start French? Think about it in view of what I’ve to say later.

Want to go to the Edinburgh festival all three w/es, hitching up and back two w/es and the last one, bussing door to door on coll. scheme. Have invitation to stay with last year’s drama type. See there are late trains to be run to Glasgow, so perhaps I could get home a bit and you could get over for a performance or two. Is there anything you particularly want to see?

Could you please get me another one of those 1/- (wonderful value) pictorial maps of Glasgow, as I want one for St. Mungo and one to illustrate the situation of shipyards visited in my shipyard study. Failing this, another St. Mungo, or rather Glasgow Coat of Arms if possible (1)

Please what about the two circulars, have you sent them? And where are the S.Y.H.A bulletins, I’d like to keep abreast of events, particularly with reference to foreign exchange etc.

Any news of Miss Sansom and her sister’s definite date of arrival. (2)

Had a lovely letter from Joan B., who can’t go to Italy or France this year as her holiday’s at a different time – was a lovely letter though.

People looking in my wardrobe with envy at my gorgeous yellow evening dress and brown coat and say how lucky I am to have someone who can do up and dressmake like that.

With Shirley Easton (3) I’m conducting a very wide campaign to find out about exchange hospitality and work abroad. At your end explore every possibility. It is good of you to be willing to have people back to Glasgow. Might even write to Peter Scott again.

Have received £11.4s. in cheque from Income Tax, and this I’d like to give you, to help you to come across, both if poss., but if not then for you Mum. You can only have it to come across the Channel with me, because I want so much to spend time with you, if you can’t, then I’ll buy a National Defence Bond with £10 of it, so that I can’t touch it. You must have it and must come to the Continent. Shirley Easton and I want to go and would like to work on vineyards and have you two stay at a nearby Pension. If I can’t get work of some kind or other it means hitching about and would make it more difficult for seeing you, but it could be managed for a week even then, probably at the beginning of the holiday. Do hope to find work though, would char or anything to speak French.

One of the other girls parents are coming down from Scotland and she’s having them put up at Durham. It’s 15 miles away, as opposed to Stockton’s 8, but it would be a joy to be on holiday there, for it’s really lovely there and at this time of year well nigh perfect – university atmosphere, narrow main street, castle, cathedral, walks looking down on river and bridges far below and plenty of entertainment and gorgeous pubs too.

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Durham Cathedral, north west.

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Durham, Elvet Bridge.

That would be if you both couldn’t manage France. Does Daddy have to take his holidays at a specific time?

Spoke to the operator as I did in case you’d hear. Yes, I did feel tired when I ‘phoned as I’d been travelling for such a long time – Saturday embarked and after weak coffee with Lilian hitched right on up after disembarkation. Now feel blithe and gay once more.

The gifts for you I bought in Sweden I left in a box with Lillian, who was going to put brown paper round and despatching by registered post. I said to her “Don’t worry about sending it today, there’s no hurry”, so she may have delayed sending it for a day or two. I couldn’t hang about, hence non-despatch by self.

Am off to see a bee man about a nature study I’m doing. Have wangled Wednesday afternoon off, to go and take photos at a Newcastle shipyard, just hope it doesn’t rain. (4)

Tore out tea coupon, but don’t know where I’ve put it. Tea you’re to thank Mrs. Hemmons for, was in parcel I sent ages ago with sugar and butter – the s & b from me.

Yes, Whit Monday is 29 May, sorry for mistake – can both or one come down? It really is essential to get summer plans in order.

Sky threatening, but taking camera. Haven’t been out since I arrived on Monday – looking forward to fresh air.

All, all love,
Your very own Len. xxxxx

rearenv Len's 85 png

Back of envelope of 23 April, 1949 letter.


1.  St. Mungo is alleged to have preached a sermon containing the words “Lord, let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word”.  “Let Glasgow Flourish” and St.Mungo are incorporated into the Glasgow coat of arms.

2.  Miss Sansom was Mum’s B&B lady in Salisbury, August the previous year, 1948.

3.  Shirley, a college friend.

4.  These photos are not in this collection.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-126 April, 1950.

The ‘All.

Wednesday –  Assembly – (outside late) waiting to go in for announcements.

Nearest and dearest people,

No letter from you, so just hope parcel has arrived all right. I’ve some requests, but in meeting them, please send me no more than what I ask for, as I sometimes want to scream when trying to find a place for something in my room. If you’ve any old socks of mine, or a spare little pair of scissors – lost mine on school prac. and though I intend to buy a cutting pair, need a little pair too – don’t do anything about getting socks and scissors if they’re not spare.

Am at the moment waiting avidly to hear the West Dumbarton result – just hope it’s alright.(1)   Also wanted a stiff clothes brush. Have one soft one which is U.S. for most things. Feel one of the old unused hairbrushes we got in Selfridges pre-war would be good Mummy – again, don’t buy if you haven’t got. If you eventually come to despatch a parcel and must put in something extra, let it be small, space or rather lack of it is a terrific bugbear.

Aunt Marie wants a length of Mackay tartan  for a skirt, must see if I can send her some if and when I start earning money again. They told me the Londonderry crest on our blazers is just like the Mackay clan sign – so it is and I’d never noticed.  A Swedish girl and her fiancee are coming across in June and I’d like her to bring a decanter over – giving her the cash for it in sterling here. I adore cut glass – they cost about £3 and are really works of art.

Gave our add. at Coldingham to two Australian women, met on the Af Chapman – the Swedish Y.H. ship in Stockholm.   Thought I’d tell you in case they call.

Swdish schoonerpng

The af Chapman, Stockholm,  1940s postcard in Len’s memorabilia.

Has ye parcel arrived yet?

One of the girls tells me her mother has luxuriant growth of hair and keeps it dark – all with Potassium Permanganate. It seems it only costs her 3d., every two years. They found out about it by accident. 3 crystals are used at a time. It darkens the hair and encourages abundant growth – she says it’s phenomenal.

Please, how’s my suit getting on ? I’d like it very much for the Edinburgh festival – or earlier if convenient.

It’s now Thursday and am most surprised at not receiving any mail from you.  Just hope you’re both all right.

About Whit. You will both be coming down, won’t you?  Surely you can get a day off from work Daddy?  It would of course be possible for me to hitch up, but as I couldn’t start till 4 on the Friday I would have to start back early – 7 – 8 on the Monday morning, it would mean I’d only have Saturday and Sunday with you, whereas if you come down (and you haven’t been here yet and I was up home last) you could arrive by 4 on the Friday and we’d have all that time together as you could leave on the Tuesday.  And in that time we could do a great deal of sight-seeing and get the summer hols sorted out – I hope.

Please write soon and tell me what you think, but anyway I’ll be ‘phoning on Sunday. Hope you’re both all right.

April showers of love to you.

Len. xxxxx


1.  West Dumbarton by-election: The Labour candidate beat the  Conservative and Unionist Party candidate by a whisper of 293 votes, out of 40,441 cast.  Labour hung onto the seat in the 1950 General Election by a margin of 613 votes.   Source: Daily Mail Year Book 1951.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-17 May, 1950.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

The ‘All.   My room 11.30 am. Sunday.

Nearest & Dearest,

Has more sugar arrived from Marie? She bought some to send you when I was there.

So thrilled that the London parcel eventually arrived.  So glad you like the tulip egg cups. They had them in blue and green, but felt yellow was right. Yes, it’s the pin of the Swedish youth hostel ship – clever of you to guess. Lillian’s address is 28 Royal Crescent, Kensington, London W.11.

Isn’t it a shocking summer compared with last year. Remember sunny Salisbury & us meeting at Salisbury station in March last year?  I think S. has something.

Will be writing a letter to you Daddy in reply to your ‘home and away’ one shortly. (1)
Visited Cairo people a week yesterday & they were sweet. Drove me all the way back here. They were on their way to Newcastle from Stockton – & came out of their way. We can visit them at Whit if you like, Mum.

Got an afternoon off to go to a shipyard in Newcastle. Hitched up & back in the soaking rain – having tea at Marjorie’s before coming back. After this & many other adventures eventually got my study in. Can’t believe it yet. Now have to start on village survey. Did not include map in shipyard survey, so can use it for St.Mungo & no other needed – thanks.

Vera Summers, whom you’ll probably meet, Mum, came in on Friday & asked me to go out dancing, so off I went. We went to Stockton & I met a one ring MN engineer officer – am meeting him in Wolviston to-night all being well. (2)   Not thrilled, but being closeted with girls all the time makes you enjoy talking to a man.

When I see and hear how some girls behave it makes me realise that it’s directly to you I can trace the cause of my behaving in “an old fashioned way” if you like to call it that, but the best way. Yes, going to Egypt & everything at 19. There must be something funny about the home life of some girls. Thank goodness I’ve got you two.

When has Bjorn’s passage been booked for? Lisa isn’t nutty about the theatre. She’s a bit hard, not awfully pretty, but very fascinating.

No reply from foreign exchange people yet. Must write to more and more.

Have you fixed up your own accommodation at Ayr yet?

I have a ship book, all pictures, perfect for a child. Was going to cut it up for my survey but didn’t. Shall I send it to you, to give Roderick for his birthday in October? (3)

Will expect you on Friday 26th Mum. Think I’d better meet you in Newcastle. Can meet you there any time from 6pm. I presume you’re taking the bus all the way, its route is Glasgow, Carlisle, Newcastle? Then you can return on the 30th – Tuesday. Do book up now! I’ll look after all expenses at this end – you need only spend your return fare to Newcastle.

Must get this in the post & on with some work.
All my love,

Len xxxxx


1.  This letter of Dad’s is not in this collection.

2.  MN:  Merchant Navy.

2.  Roderick, Len’s young cousin, with his parents in Abadan, Iran.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-110 May, 1950

Wynyard Hall, Billingham, Durham.

My sunlit room. Wednesday afternoon.

Own Darlings,

It’s glorious here to-day and I’m battling forward with work. Never saw the MN type on Friday, but enjoyed the borrowed bike ride.

We very rarely get dance invitations – wish they were more frequent, but we’ve been invited to a British Legion do on friday, so it does a little leavening.

Am running an auction sale to raise funds to cover the college mag. Charging 3d. auctioning fee and 25% proceeds to Mag. committee. You should see my poster, complete with white elephant.

For my history thesis I’m going to do Trade Unions insh’ Allah, starting with medieval guilds. D’you remember anything, or can you recommend any books, or even people to whom I could refer from John Parker lecture days Mum. (1)

Produced – with scripts – in a day – a scene from Sean O’ Casey’s “Red Roses For Me” – Drama tutor shook my hand in congratulation – it was all in the drama lesson.

My English is improving – or at least my writing is. We’re roped in for gardening morning, night & noon these days. To-night am being taken to feed the college bees.

School practice has been put forward a week, so that we’ve 10, instead of 3 days here after it finishes.

What’s your news? Longing to see you at N-o-T a fortnight on Friday Mum – still no chance of your coming Daddy? P’raps later you’ll both come all being well.

All love from Tees to Clyde.

Len. xxxxx


(1)  Possibly either a WEA  or Communist Party lecturer in Glasgow.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-114 May, 1950

Wynyard Hall, Billingham, Durham.

Dull Sunday, Brightened with Thoughts of You.

Lights of my heart,

How’s life in Glasgow? Here it’s going along as usual and as usual I’m – like most others – doing dribbles of work till the night before it’s wanted, then staying up half the night to finish it. S’pose it’s just the way students are made.

Don’t understand about the ‘phone bill – you say the bill is £6.14.7 and the rent is £2.7.2 and that you’ve got the money saved for outside calls. Well, are ‘outside calls’ those made by other people who pay you on the spot?  Is so, are these amounts inc. in the £6.14.7? If so, what is our bill without ‘em, as I don’t want to pay ²/³’s of £6.14.7, if part of it is made up of calls made by people other than us. Please let me know, so that I may take the necessary sum from my little P.O. account. Then I can give it to you at Whit, Mum, or send it earlier if it would help.

Trust that by now you’ve booked up for the 26th Mum. Thinking of what we can do together.

Yesterday went with Miss Robinson our English lit. tutor to Richmond. Picked up Grace Fordyce (last year’s Wynyard, type who’s keen on drama) en route.  We’d a picnic lunch between Darlington and Richmond and on arrival Miss R. insisted on us listening to a talk on the archives of the town. The gathering was that of the Teesdale branch of the International Federation of University Women. If you or any friend of yours goes to or has any connection with a university, never let her join the IFUW, I never knew that blue stockings like that existed – so horsey. Craning necks when there was nothing at which to crane. One had short skirts and knee length white stockings, with a bit of elastic from the knee garter jutting out. The archive talk was jolly good – it was given by the Town Clerk who wore a green corduroy jacket with an enormous mauve pansy in it.

Afterwards Grace and I went over the castle. Richmond’s like Bath, but not so good. Then we tea’d, watched some cricket, met Miss R. and were driven back. She’s a shocking driver. Having spent so much time in lorries driven by men who’ve fallen out of their cradle onto the wheel it irks me no end to shoot backwards and forwards in a car and hear gears grinding. It was a glorious day and most enjoyable.

Friday we went to a British legion dance and I met a man. He wasn’t ordinary – that wouldn’t happen to me to meet and be thrilled by someone with a normal background – at least I wonder if it will. He’s Irish – from Kilkenny, with a degree from Dublin University, is in love with a married woman and is an open cast mining engineer. We talked Irish playwrights to each other, danced and went on talking – he was full of Irish blarney and an exact younger edition of Mr Childs of Porton.  I thought “This is hopeless” and tore myself away from the Irish charm with “Good-bye”.  I was ages in the cloakroom, complimenting myself the while on my virtuous strength in saying farewell and came out to find him waiting. He said couldn’t I ask his pals and himself to a ‘do’ of ours. I havered, but he went blarneying on and I said “O.K.” – he then told me his address verbally, but I said my memory was hopeless, so he grabbed my shoes from me and wrote it on the brown paper in which they were wrapped.

Why do I always meet and like people who need to be saved from someone or something? Course I want to see him and if there’s no dance for ages shall ask if he wants to have tea beside the lake. You needn’t bother to lament, encourage or berate me – this sort of thing just seems to keep on happening to me. However, despite all the ramifications, I’ve felt considerably brighter since Friday, so a little light has been brought in to my Maytime.

Have been doing quite well on going out lately – dancing a week last Friday and the ballet before that, dancing this Friday just past and to Richmond yesterday, with the prospect of “The Beggars Opera” in Durham this coming week. No boy friend means it all has to be paid for unfortunately and I must watch the shekels. (1)

It’s so lovely when I wear my yellow chunky to discover that both pockets are whole and one not half missing as it was before your renovation of it Mrs.B.

You seem very thrilled with your Toni,  Mum. Have you tried the p.p at all?  (2)

The lilac’s lovely and I’ve got it pressed in my Shakespeare besides John O’ Gaunt’s “This England” – etc. speech – seems appropriate.

Can’t get over the bargain of the fire – looking forward to seeing it and getting some heat from it (!) later in the year.   Where will you be going for the interior spring mattress? It would be good if you found one in the same way you found the fire – what a bargain.

You’ll being having hordes of visitors. Just hope you can cope.   Be sure to charge them lots. (3)

Of course my English is improving – I mean look at Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Dostoievsky and the other authors who can really write. That’s the way I’d like to be able to write and it’s not something magical that just happens. Naturally there has to be a certain amount of magic – if you want to call their natural creative gift that, but those people worked darned hard to produce those books. All the time I try to improve my style and as for the matter, that is formed by the kind of person you are and your own personal experiences. When I came home from the M.E. after 3 years of fiffle faffle at cocktail parties and the like, I was searching for words. But now, well all my old argumentative ability is coming back and I use words in speech I didn’t even know in Cairo.  But I do feel simplicity is the keynote.

Paid 6/3 for a pair of cutting out scissors at the Co-op, then had to use them on cutting out pictures and similar for my survey. However, Muriel (next door neighbour) came back from being sick the other day and gave me a German pair I use for my odd jobs, so you see I’ve a cutting and other pair now, so just hold onto yours – but thanks for the thought.

Have loads of letters to write, English theme to do – “the child in C19 novels” – and then gardening – it’s all enjoyable – to a degree and the whole is most pleasant – yes, feel chirpy, only the arrival of the phone bill has shocked me back into ‘phoning every fortnight instead of once a week.

All my love – outside my window is a maple and it with me sends love,

Len. xxxxxx.


1.  Allan, her admirer from the potato picking,  seems to have fallen by the wayside.

2. Toni is a hair product. “p.p” is perhaps permanent perm.

3.  Hordes of visitors.  Mum is possibly letting out the spare room again, as she did at the time of the Glasgow Industrial Exhibition.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-119 May 1950.

The ‘All.

My room, lunchtime. Friday

Nearest and Dearest,

Your 108 in this morning and thrilled with the thought of seeing you Mrs. B – how I wish you were coming Daddy. Ran an auction for magazine funds (it cost £74 last year) on Monday night. It was patronised by students, tutors and domestic staff. Made over 15 guineas and have been congratulated formally from the main hall platform by the principal and Vice-P. as well as having enjoyed many informal congrats – can’t see myself stopping doing things like that to look feminine – need someone like Harris who’s organisation’s better (said she modestly).

If it’s at all possible, could you bring me my 3-piece black and tartan suit in the making Mum – if not the jacket, then the waistcoat and skirt – if you fit ‘em on I can always finish them off myself. Could you also bring shoes put in the Co-op for mending at Christmas? Thanks.

Will give you cash for ‘phone when I see you insh’Allah.

Would you like to go to Marjories’s on arrival in N-o-T – or hate it?  Thought I could pick you up there, rather than you wait at some cafe or restaurant in town till my arrival about 6.  Know your antipathy t’ards visiting, so of it’s “No”, no protests from me.  Thought – it would be more convenient – will ‘phone on Sunday anyway and find out your answer.  It would be grand of course if we got away earlier from coll. on the Friday, but no word of that yet.

They’ve O.K’ed Bob coming to lecture here, must write and find out his dates – do hope he’s booked up and everything.

Have not yet written to the “broth of a bhoy”, but remember, it’s the Ulstermen I don’t like, not those from Eire and he’s from Kilkenny.

Longer letter later and writing you shortly Daddy dear.

All love from me and Wynyard.

Len. xxx


Lizars card to mum, address sidepng_edited-1

Lizars card to Mum png

Mum’s glasses are ready. May 1950. From Len’s memorabilia.


Mum has been down with Len for the Whitsun weekend.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-11 June, 1950

My comparatively Cool Room Friday – 4.30.

My Nearest and Dearest Ones,

To think that the weather’s almost Egyptian leaves me gasping, but I love the heat – what’s it like in Glasgow? You must have had a lovely journey back if everything else was as good as the weather Mum. How are you and how was Newcastle? How are you Daddy having held the well populated castle for a time?

News from here? Well, we’ve been issued with a pot of lemon curd and are sunbathing in the briefest of swimsuits and even these we’re pulling down. To-day half the college has been off to the Farne Islands, but those of us who’ve remained have been sadly disillusioned to find far less free periods than we imagined, but it’s been a lovely day.

We all had appointments to get last school prac’s notes back and Miss Gunson was quite complimentary to me – had criticisms of course, but was more cheering than otherwise.

I’ve had only one letter since your departure – from one of the little girls I taught last time. We’re now full of this school prac. of course, but I’m hoping to work hard and enjoy it. Have been gardening, typing, reading and sewing like mad. The garden path is almost done and I’ve done some planting. Have finished two novels and the blouse only needs a tiny bit of sewing under one arm – the tiers came out well – it looks good and fits me beautifully. Have a garden appointment for 7.30 to-morrow morning with one of the girls.

Longing for news of you – take care of yourselves.

Love from the Sunny Tees.

Len. xxxxx


Because of Len’s letter numbering we know that there are now two of her letters missing.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-18 June, 1950.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

Thursday.   Heatwave Broken.

Dearest Person,

Received your letter on my return from Durham last night and was so upset to think that you should have left here so well and then a thing like that happening. You say don’t worry, well I’m glad to say the School Practice flap will keep my mind off you a little, but when its not on that I won’t worry, but will think of you all the time. The important thing is not to put any more bits of you out of position, so on no account get up to answer the door or the telephone and as for the lavatory, incorporate as much of it as possible in your room. (1)

My back hasn’t bothered me at all since your rubbing and massage. Hope you feel full of confidence with regard to Dr. Gilston – if however you have any doubts don’t worry about etiquette in changing to someone else. I think you would be better in hospital. Know how you’ll hate leaving 26, but think how expert the people in hosps. are, confronted as they are all the time by many cases of each type of ailment. I wish so I was in Scotland, be sure to send for me if you want me up there. Isn’t it a blessing that Mrs.W’s in the house? (2)   As always Daddy will shine in this sort of circumstance.

The college dance date is fixed for 14th July now. Thank you for Noel’s address.

To-day have been busy preparing for school prac – this evening we’ve an English lecture.

Into the mail with this now, so take care of yourself and get well soon.

Beside you in thought and loving you always,

Len. xxxxx


1.  It sounds as if Mum has pulled her back.

2.  Mrs W.  Mum may have taken on a  lodger, as she and Harry did with Jack, the Norwegian.


school curriculum, with letter no.132 png

Len pic for part 3 png smaller-1June, 1950.

Wynyard Hall Training College, Wolviston, Billingham, Co.Durham.

Dear Mr. Horricks,

Thank you very much for all the help you gave me when I visited the school.

As requested I append my forecast of what I propose to teach in English for the coming week all being well.

June 12th  Monday  Static  Observe.

June 13th  Tuesday  Day 6  3A  (Double Period)  Poetry, “Jack” T.V.Lucas and “The Bailiff’s Daughter of Islington”.  Anon.

June 14th  Wednesday  Day 1  3A  Literature – “The Midnight Folk” by John Masefield or a Kipling or a R.S.Stevenson.

June 15th  Thursday  Day 2  3A  Comprehension work on passage from book in Literaature.

June 16th  Friday  Day 3  2C  Continuation of “The Family from One-End Street”.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-1

12 June, 1950.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

Redcar in the Morning. (1)  Monday.

Dearest Wee One,

Wept all over the ‘phone box on Friday with relief on learning that you had had your ‘op’ and were comfortable – poor Daddy.  It was grand to learn you’d opened the butter or ‘chocolates’ parcel as Daddy thought it.  Hope you get the parcel with dressing gown.

To-day I’m observing all the time and to-morrow teaching – wish me luck.

Think it better if I come up at the end of June – 29th June, a Thursday for a w/e.  You see there’s a school trip and if I can get permission from Miss Brideoake (prin.at coll.) and the headmaster here, it means I can nip off on the Thursday instead of going on the trip on friday in pursuance of the joining -in-all-activities-of-the-school programme or policy. (2)

Hope you’ll be out of the Western then and I’ll be able to ‘do’ for you.  (3)   Want to discuss summer plans, as your busy summer of visitors will be altered now.

Take care of yourself and stay in hosp. as long as you can. If you’re still in when I come up all being well, I’ll persuade them to take me on as a nurse for two days, or at least somehow get more than the normal half hour a day with you. Will write to Daddy during the w/e all being well.  Just send messages via him as writing will tire you. All the love to the best mother from daughter in Yorkshire.

Len. xxxxx


1.  Len is on teaching practice.

2.  Miss Brideoake has replaced Miss Bertie.  It is assumed Miss Bertie has either taken early retirement, or gone to another appointment.

3.  The Western:  the Western Infirmary, near Partick, in Glasgow’s West End.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-115 June, 1950.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

My school – Thursday Afternoon – Unsettled weather. (1)

My own dearest Daddy,

At the moment I’m sitting listening to a ghastly man telling the children about St. Francis – in what I think is a most unpleasant way. However, I’m enjoying this school practice, by and large.

Thank you for your letter. Heard from Mummy too yesterday – it’s wonderful to realise that the operation has been successful so far.

Letter to Daddy, 1950 png

I hope to come on Thursday 29th June – Miss Brideoake has given me permission, provided I hand in all my lessons fully prepared for the following week beforehand.

About the summer holiday – I must at least try to come up for a few days. Think though it’s more important that you have no visitors.  Am worried about Bjorn’s arrival.  The Palmgren’s won’t know Mummy’s been ill.  Bjorn sails by the ‘Kangen’ – or some name like that to-morrow (Saturday) and arrives on Monday.  Am enclosing Aunt Marie’s letter so that you’ll know the position.  You can’t have him if Mummy’s just returned from the Western and only if he does for himself completely I s’pose if she’s still in.  Thought I’d warn you as you may have forgotten about it in the stress of the moment. You have been wonderful to Mummy, Daddy – yours is a really great love

What happened about my shoes please? Mummy was supposed to bring them down, but didn’t as they were too much for her to carry. They’ve been in the Co-op since Christmas and I’m rather worried about them. If you can possibly have them sent down – Mummy said Mrs Wakeling (2)) was getting them out of the Co-op – I’d appreciate it, as there are some amongst them I’d like to wear to look smart on school prac.

I’ll ‘phone on Sunday about 5.30 all being well.  Tore up Aunt Marie’s letter by mistake – hope you can decipher it. Surrounded by people talking, so had better wait till Sunday to talk more to you.

All love and take care of yourself.

Your very own, Len. xxxxx.


1.  The postmark on the envelope that she sent her Dad, the following day, is Redcar.

2.  This is the Mrs “W”, who seems to be a lodger at 26 Coldingham Avenue.


Len’s next letter to her Mum is address to Mrs H.Bryers, Ward 13, Western Infirmary, Glasgow, Scotland.


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-117 June, 1950.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

Happy first week of School prac. finished.  Saturday.


Just had lunch with Shirley in Stockton. Off shopping to Middlesbrough for s.prac. stuff.  Enc. neg of Whitby harbour for you.

whitby photo png

Whitby, 1950. Photo printed from the negative that Len sent Mum.

Awful about Uncle Bill. Wish I could help wee Marie Rose especially.  Poor Dad – he’s holding the rudder magnificently.  It must have hit our finances – time off work for him and the fare – still maybe I can help sometime.

Looking forward so, so much to seeing you a week on Thursday night, insh’Allah.

Thanks for your letter – haven’t it by me at the moment, but will write shortly, all being well.

Love you so much – stay in hosp. – and bed as long as poss. like a good Mummy, but get well and strong.  Working very hard, but enjoying it.

Len. xxxxx


Len pic for part 3 png smaller-119 June, 1950.

Wynyard Hall, Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

The Women’s Staff Room. Monday – lunchtime. (1)

My very dearest Daddy,

May I repeat, I think you’re wonderful. I don’t how you’ve managed to cope – however do take care of yourself – hope you’re feeling O.K.  Do hope I get through college O.K. and manage to get a secretarial or temporary teaching job in Glasgow for two months or so.

Dying to hear the rest of the gen about Aunt Ena.

Heard from Mummy this morning, she says I shouldn’t bother to come up, but I want to, so still hope to see you a week on Thursday.  Wonder if she’ll be out of hosp. then? Feel she should stay in as long as poss., but if she’s out, I could ‘do’ in the house.

I’m enclosing the add. to which Bjorn should go in Edinburgh – they’ll welcome him with open arms to stay there.   Alice is sister of Grace (drama type from last year’s course at coll.) and is engaged to a Dane and loves talking to Scandinavians.  Sent a telegram to Bjorn this morning, but in case he doesn’t get it or goes struggling on to Glasgow, ship him off to Edin. (2)

All love to you.

Len. xxxxx


1.  Len is still doing her teaching practice in Redcar.

2.  Of this trip Bjorn recalled in an email to the author in 2011 “I was back in 1950, this time with my bike, staying in Youth Hostels or with relatives, including of course Dornoch.  I think I spent about two months touring Scotland.  I also saw Len at her college in Durham.”


This carbon copy of a letter, amongst the memorabilia, was typed after her School Practice at Redcar.

school curriculum, with letter no.132png


Enas death envelope png

19 June, 1950.

2, Hilders Road, Western Park, Leicester.

Dear Nellie,

Many thanks for your nice wee letter but more thanks for the use of your nice big husband.

We do hope you are feeling nearly back to your old self again. Whatever you do see and take great care of yourself when you get out. You will require to take it very easy for a long time.

Yes Bill is gone. We do not feel sad. He was so gay how could we feel sad at him getting out of his pain. I went to the hospital with him for treatment at 10 a.m. and he was dead at 11.a.m.

He had

Bill's death, letter png

A Fractured skull (hit by a German rifle)
Mustard Gas in his lungs
One kidney and the other infected
Something wrong with his bladder
Shell in his ankle bone
Duodenal ulcers
Diverticulosis (a bowel complaint)
A slow haemorrhage of the brain
A lot of other fancy names of things I didn’t understand.

Then the pathologist at the Inquest finished up with some other fancy names and when I asked what it was he said “Cancer in the stomach.”

Don’t be sorry for Marie Rose or I. We are gay and happy to know he is out of his pain. Our years of strain are over. Bill was so gay. We must continue to be the same.

We thought it very sporty of Harry to come,  with you in hospital. I said “Nellie would make him come.”

We heard all about Len and hope to see you all when we have our holiday in Scotland soon. So hurry up and get well. Again thanks to Harry for all the help.

Don’t know what more to say. So just send our love.

from Marie Rose and Ena.


This is the end of the  main collection of letters acquired in 2007.  The second batch of letters from 2011 do not significantly take the narrative forward after Ena’s letter to her sister Helen (Nellie) of 19 June 1950.  However, a few letters do survive, after Ena’s letter, into 1951 and extracts will be in the next,  and final chapter of Len: Our Ownest Darling Girl, “What Happened Next


Next       Part Four  Chapter Two:  What Happened Next.

Posted in Britain Austerity 1940s, Feminism, Gender Studies, Letters, Social and Political History, Teachers Emergency Training Scheme 1040s, Womens History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part Three 4 Imagine me a School-Maam

Part Three  Chapter Four   Imagine Me a School-Maam

“I always feel so sorry for kids and adults with disinterested and indifferent parents”


 Mum has been down in Salisbury for a fortnight, and has just returned by train to Scotland

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png5 September, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Public Library.

Monday evening.

North of the Border Beauties,

How are you two, reunited at 26 once more?  Hope you had a good journey back Mum and arrived home feeling you’ve had a good if rather hectic holiday.  Yes Daddy, I bet you’re amazed by the tales of all we managed to fit in.

A dozen and one things to say – first as my funds are low, won’t be despatching your parcel till Friday, Mrs B.   Secondly, am ready for parcel of cabbage, lettuce and any other spare produce from your kitchen garden whenever you have time to send it – but please don’t rush to post the goods.

Re. education people.  I received my birth cert. back last night with a note saying my name was on list for colleges.

What I’d like you to do Mum is to see the Chief Education Office for Glasgow, or some deputy of his and say that your daughter is an accepted candidate for training under the Emergency Training Scheme and as per the advice of the Ed. auths. in their letter to her, would like to work whilst awaiting entry to college as a temporary supplementary, unqualified teacher.  I could come to Glasgow for interview and could start anytime, but preferably from mid – Nov. onwards.

I heard from Nolly (1).  Yes, I’d a p.c. of the Empire State Building and he says he’s going on to Canada and will write from there and hopes I’m O.K.  I picked up the p.c. from my tray eagerly thinking it was from Malcolm. (2)    On seeing the writing I felt ‘all weak’ after thinking I’d weathered the storm and my inside went skiddely bom, bom, bom.

Val’s trying to lure me to the pictures to-night.  I’ve already been weak enough to say ‘Yes’ about dancing at the Cadena on Thursday on finances borrowed from her.  Really shouldn’t go as I can’t afford it from a long term angle.  Hope to join League of H/ & Beauty in a fortnight – but even keeping fit seems a costly business at 6/- for enrolment and 1/- – 2/6 a lesson, but it sounds fun.(3)

How are you Daddy – didn’t tell you before but Mr. Baxter says riding a bike doesn’t hurt at all with your complaint ‘cos he knows someone who has it and does. (4) (Clearly Len and Mum did visit Dagenham whilst Mum was down from Scotland)

Wish I was in Sconnie Botland.

All love in the world,

Len. xxxxx


1.  Nolly, yet another of Len’s variations for ‘Noel’

2.  Malcolm '48 pngThis is perhaps Malcolm that she briefly saw in Cairo, and who had returned to the U.K. and been demobbed, like Peter, who she also briefly saw.

3.  The League of Health and Beauty was founded by Mary Bagot Stack, a First World War widow who suffered from rheumatic fever.  The League still continues but is now known as the Fitness League. 

3.  Len and Mum stayed with the Baxters in Dagenham.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png9 September, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Stuffy Restroom, lunchtime. Friday.

Precious people of the North,

It was lovely to get your letter Mum and learn of your safe return.  So sorry about the scarab ring – not at all on my own behalf, but merely that you haven’t got it any more. Still, you may get another from Cairo via Trudi or someone. (1)  You never gave me back the thing for Woman’s Hour’s Joan Griffiths. (2)   Could you return it corrected please.

As there’s a terrific flap on at the moment with these Americans and Canadians being here this will have to be brief, but in accordance with instructions – better brevity than nothing at all.  (3)

Last night I worked late – till 7.40, then went to a dance at the Cadena. The bloke who drove me home from work – one of the scientists insisted on coming too with Val and I.  He took me in for sandwiches and afterwards drove us both home, all of which was rather nice, but help,  he’s married and both he and his wife after 2 years residence there have only been out of a mental home 6 months!  So nae mair o’ that – why can’t I meet somebody ordinary.

Working late again to-night and may even have to come in tomorrow. Since writing that I’ve worked till 8.30 and am now coffee-ing and finishing this off before going to meet Joan. (4)   And I am working to-morrow, so as you can see there’s plenty of work around.

All love,

Len. xxx


1.  Mum has presumably lost the scarab ring that Len sent to her on her birthday when she was in Cairo.

2.  Len is writing an item “How It Feels to Be Back Home” on spec,  for the BBC Women’s Hour radio programme.  Jane Griffiths was the then presenter of Women’s Hour.

3.  Terrific flap.  As mentioned earlier, there was a high degree of cooperation in biological and chemical warfare development between the U.K., the U.S.A and Canada.  There is a possibility that this particular’ ‘flap’ was to do with combined sea trials in the dispersal of biological weapons.

4.  Joan. Joan Brandley who is coming down for the week-end.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png13 September, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

September Sunshine.  Tuesday morning.

My Own Well Beloved Ones,

How are you – don’t feel like going bats with my digs so much, in fact they’re quite bearable, but I’m still quietly determined to do all I can to get to Glasgow.

Thank you so much for the wonderful parcel, I’m making hay while the sun shines with all the goodies – having resplendent meals of roast lamb and cabbage.  I ate the two enormous pears for my breakfast this morning and found them delicious.  All being well when you send my cord trousers could you please send my little checked shorts and boots as well.  Don’t want to ruin shoes tattie howking in a muddy field – thanks. (1)

You also have my only copy Mum of the thing for Joan Griffiths, so if you could send it fairly soon together with your suggested amendments, I’d be very pleased.

You’ll be able to write back to Marie with the news of Paul’s family which she asks for. Your letters certainly seem to thrill her Mum – wonder what the very cheapest fare is to Sweden.

Your 46 was so full of everything don’t quite know where I start replying. What’s been the outcome of queries from lodgers?  If they’re bed and breakfast or preferably just ‘bed’ it wouldn’t be so much work but I don’t think you should take on anything else. And, if you do take ‘em be sure to charge ‘em like mad for anything they get.

Thank you so much for the face powder left behind.  It’ll help replenish my rapidly diminishing stock. Thanks too for the apples. They made two delightful meals when stewed with lots and lots of sugar.

– Just after lunchtime and your 47 has just come in so I’ve masses of replying to do now.

Just to say, I’m going to be rushed, as I hope to take French, German, Dressmaking and maybe one or two WEA subjects too, as well as joining the League of Health and Beauty here in Salisbury.

Had no chance to get much sleep between you going and Joan coming.  So am thankful at the thought of an early night to-night. Hope to swim with Val, but she plans to get the 8.45 bus back to Winterbourne Gunner so plan to hit the hay after seeing her off.  To-morrow it’s the WEA social 7 – 8.30, so I hope to be fairly early then too.

Told you over the phone about working till 7.30 Thurs., 8.30 Fri and 9 – 1 Sat.  Well I took tea in to Mr. Childs and two Americans and said to one (having heard they all didn’t earlier) “You don’t take milk in your tea?” “Gee, she’s got a dossier on you Albert,” the younger Am. said to the elder and to me “Whaaat else d’you know about him?” “Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell you” I replied.   The elder one said yes, he liked his clear, and the younger with just a spaht of cream.  After I’d dispensed the three cups the younger turned to the CS (P) and said “D’you aaalways get this kin’ of service?”  The CS (P) answered “Well it’s a bit phoney when we have visitors” but I felt he was pleased nevertheless.

Any news yet of the ‘India’  ball pen or tennis raquet press, Daddy?  Are you a corsetiere yet Mum?

Joan was telling me how the Bxs recited Betty’s illness to them with no encouragement – I think actually Mrs. B must be so worried that Betty’s not as well as she says she is in these recitations that it makes her talk all the time.

It was brilliant sunshine at Bournemouth and the water when we swam was really warm – so difficult to think of the storminess in Glasgow.  Whilst at Bournemouth we went a 6d. bus ride to Hengistbury Head and it was like going 600 miles, the two places are so different.  Firstly the air wasn’t the heavy Bournemouth stuff, but really bracing. There were lots of sand dunes and sea grass and beach far below – in fact it was lovely. Reminded me of Dornoch a bit.

How d’you two feel about the ‘country’ versus ‘industrial’ atmosphere, now that you’re both back north of the border?

My hair’s a bit long so I hope to have it cut again to-morrow night – washing it ‘sevening after swimming.   Went with Joan to M/borough yesterday a/noon (time off in lieu of Sat.) and she took a photo of me so hope to let Daddy see what I’m like with short hair.

Len at M'brough png

Len in Marlborough, September, 1949.  Note her short hair.  Photo taken by Joan Brandley.

I want a dead straight swagger with cuffs on wide sleeves and a big collar in Mackay tartan – what colour is the ‘ancient M.’ Aunt E. talks of?  Could you make it Mum?

Must away. All the love there is.

Len. xxxxx


1.  Tattie howking, Scots.  ‘Potato picking’.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png16 September, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Blue sky and sunshine but lovely sharpness in the air Friday 16.9.49

My own Heart Warmers,

How are you.   My new Canadian boss is due to arrive to-day, but I don’t s’pose he’ll be in till Monday.

Joan Brandley suggests the Watson boys for Hogmanay, for she says they’d be good to have anyway, plus which the younger one would be an excellent pianist for her. Wonder if they’ll still be in Nigeria and Haifa or if they’ll be home for Xmas/New Year leave?  Should I ask Harris – he does lend colour? (1)

Met a chap from Alderman Road, Knightswood at the WEA. The whole organisation’s full of non-Sal-ites. (2)

Love you both very much,

Len. xxxxx


1.  The Watson boys were possibly part of the  wartime Glasgow hiking and hosteling crowd.   Harris, is Harris, now at Drama School in London, who Len knew from Egypt.

2.  Knightswood is in the western suburbs of Glasgow and a short distance from Yoker and the family home.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png20 September, 1949.

Public Library, 6 ish Tuesday evening.

Dearest People O’ Mine,

How are you? According to your lovely newsy letters, O.K. – do take care of yourselves especially now that winter’s coming on.

At the WEA last night, Val and I thought what an unattractive lot of people were there – it was just a sample to us and we don’t intend going on with that class – “Clear Thinking” etc.   Joined and enjoyed the League of Health and Beauty. Why is the WEA full of such unattractive people here?   Dressmaking’s full up so I’m going to cookery to-night.   Have lots of d/making I want to do though – have you any old blackout cloth you could spare, with which I could make my H&B tights?

Lt.Col.Kent one of the people in the Admin. Block at Porton has promised to get a bottle of Drambuie reserved for me in the Officer’s Mess – won’t it be super if he keeps his word, how are you off for whisky?

Getting ready for a shock with the imminence – yes? – of learning what ²/³rd’s ‘phone bill is, but hope to manage it.

Fancy Mark being in Europe and not coming to Britain!  I must owe him about £50 now after the devaluation, but if he takes re-payment here, £30 sterling should do. You don’t think I should write to him and say I’m worried about re-paying him? (1)

Thank you for all you did in regard to the teaching business Mum.  Although it seemed pretty decisive I thought I’d ask you to try again, but at the w/e Miss Davies was telling me supp.unq.temp. teachers get less than £3 a week (or about that)! (2)  Well – that would be US, as I should hate to come home a pauper.  Apart from the cash angle it seems definitely imposs. to do “before-qualifying work” in Scotland, so I’ll just try to hoard as many ackers as I can just now, hoping to teach in Scotland later.  The E.M.T. Scheme only has colleges in England, so Jordanhill’s out – yes, I remember that’s where Henry trained.

The boots I mean are the ones I bought ‘fore I left in ‘45 (black) and the ones I hiked in last year.   Please don’t forget the corduroy slacks as well as the shorts and boots – nothing else though please as I want to keep my luggage down – my room at ‘No.7’ is much smaller than my old one at Coldingham Avenue.

Must write to Peter Scott – sounds like the answer to a maiden’s prayer – if he’d say “Yes” – or rather an 11 year old’s for that’s when I first started to long for the Yukon Trails in Alaska. (3)

Never met an American socially which was rather annoying as the high-ups had at least a dozen cocktail parties.

Daddy, my raquet will be like an S in shape unless ye promised press comes soon! Hope you now have a perfect bite and can chew everything inc. gum! (4)

All love, Len.


1.  On 19 September, 1949 the British pound was devalued from 4 dollars to 2.80 dollars. The Egyptian pound was devalued by the Egyptian government within 24 hours of the U.K’s government’s announcement. 

2. Supplementary Unqualified Temporary teacher.

3.  Peter Scott, ornithologist, conservationist, painter and sportsman, son of Scott of Antarctica.  She is going to approach him to see if he needs a secretary for an Alaskan trip.

4.  Dad has had new dentures, which have needed adjusting.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png24 September, 1949.

Living room of ‘No.7’

10.05 pm. Saturday .

The Ones I Love,

How are you?  Lovely to get a letter from you this morning, but oh, I wanted to speak to you tonight, but no you. Hope both of you are all right – ‘phoned 3 times ‘tween 9 and 9.30 – the last time the operator tried for me at 9.30 on the dot, but “no reply from Clydebank 2138”?

I’ve had a letter from the Min. of Ed. saying I’d been provisionally allocated to a college in the North of England which starts in November!  I’m madly trying to be calm – have managed not to pay for me WEA Class – Experiments in Theatre yet.  Wondering if notice will come when I’m harvesting, wondering if, or when it comes it’ll be a month’s notice, in fact wondering lots and lots.

In view of this letter I plan to put in for my 3rd return Warrant to Glasgow shortly after my return from Yorks., insh’Allah. (1) if I’ve received notice by that time, the w/e following my return.  If not, about three w/es later.  The idea is that if I resigned from the C.S. without getting this warrant, I’d have to pay the single fare to Glasgow to take up my trunks, but I hope to put in for 3rd warrant before putting in resignation, then, to take trunks up to Glasgow – staying an extra day and a half – remainder of leave, then finish of time at Porton and then hitch up again spending as much time as poss with you ‘fore going off to Coll. (What a rush, but thrilled at the thought of perhaps seeing you fore New Year).

Can’t see the latter being long as the Min.of Ed. say they’ll try to give at least a month’s notice. and the C.S. are pretty mingy about people leaving I’m told and might try to get some money back from me for taking leave till March next and all warrants, but I feel I ought to ask for what I can ‘the noo’ and hope for the best.

Went along to the station last night for ticket to Yorks, saying could I have it dated 30th as I was travelling to London on the Fri. all being well and on to Thirkleby on the Sat.   Everything went fine till he handed over the ticket saying “£2.16.1.” – “Oh”, said I, “but Oct. and Nov. people get their fares paid.”  But he replied that I’d only a voucher for the return journey at the single fare.  Argument made no difference, so this morn after ‘phoning from ‘No.7’ I went along to the Min of Ag and Fish here. They’re different from the War Ag. Camps people (why “War” still I don’t know) and a man there was quite nice, but after years on the ‘phone causing me to miss the Food Office – it being closed – all I got was the number of a place up north – they were closed by this time too,  so no answer to ringing I sent off an SOS letter, so am hoping for a warrant or something equally effective very quickly. (2)    Otherwise it means borrowing to pay that £2.16.1. then probably fighting to reclaim it from the Ag. people afterwards. Just hope it comes through as I wanted to make on this hol., you see only pay H’s 5/- if I’m away for week and Oct. rate of board at Ag. Camps is only 15/- a week – wait with anxiety for a reply from Manchester – the HQ of the North West area.

Mrs.H. gave me a ¼lb Typhoo tea for you to-day Mum, which I hope to send off with some other foodlings on Tuesday or Wednesday.  She wouldn’t take any cash and said to thank you for all your letters which she has appreciated, but that she hasn’t replied because when she starts to write a letter all the words run into each other – as she sees it – and says she wouldn’t like anyone to get anything like that from her.

 Yes, I’ve written to Peter Scott, starting my letter “Do you, would you, could you want a secretary to go with you to Alaska” – see what happens.

Do you know where one of the encl. letters came from this morn? (2)   From Ken Cook.  As you may guess when I saw his writing I nearly died with delight.  His letter’s the same as of old.  He’s still going to night school, works with ICI and seems to be a draughtsman. If you’ve any advice on a reply please tell me. I want to see him a fortnight this w/e in Newcastle, for we plan to go up there on finishing at Thirkleby for the Sat. and Sun. We hope to stay with Val’s (girl going with) relations. It’s easy for him to get in from Tynemouth from a distance point of view, or should I pop out there d’you think?  I thought I’d write from Thirkleby  saying I’d be in at the w/e and giving the add. of Val’s relations, nothing more, what d’you think?  I also thought of mentioning that I hope to go to a coll. in the north – again advice.  You may have gathered from the foregoing that my mottoe’s ‘gang warily’. No wonder with Heartthrob No.1 since ‘45 turning up in ‘49,  in the background though he may have been.

Timmy the H’s cat is stretched full length along my legs – well he goes to just beyond my legs – my feet are up on another chair.  11 pm and no sign of the H’s – wonder if they’re staying at her Mum’s.  She lives in a village outside Salisbury.

Did you go to the Scottish Inds. Exhibition?   Imagine all the people in Beirut wearing Fair Isle jumpers as per your enc. (3)

I’ve written to Harris.  New boss hasn’t been in yet.  Met young EMT  girl at Miss Davies house at Newbury and they/she and h/keeper left me alone to talk with her. (4)  Told Val of Schiaparelli one sleeve, she says she’s seen it and it’s super smart.(5)

 Can’t get over having relatives in Vancouver!

Glad there’s an improvement in your leg, Dad.

Do write soon.

All my love waking and dreaming,

Len. xxxxx


1.  Len is buying tickets for her Lend a Hand on the Land potato picking which she will be doing at Thirkleby in Yorkshire.  Thirkleby is near Thirsk,  north Yorkshire.

2.  War Ags: War Agriculutral Committees. They were created during the war to increase food production on the land.  Each county had a War Agricultural Committee.

3.  The enclosure does not survive in this collection.   The Scottish Industries Exhibition opened on 1 September, 1949 at the Kelvin Hall, Glasgow.  It ran for three weeks and it is claimed it attracted 500,000 visitors. The population of Glasgow at the time was approx 1.2 million.  

4.  EMT: Emergency Training Scheme.

5.  Elsa Schiaparelli was an influential Italian fashion designer.  Along with Coco Chanel she dominated fashion between the two World Wars. Her designs were heavily influenced by the Surrealists.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png 27 September, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

‘No.7’, kitchen. Evening, Tuesday.

Far Away, but nearest and Dearest,

This is going to be a short note as Mrs.H is talking to me and it’s rather difficult to collect my thoughts, boil hankies and drink coffee at the same time, having to nip off to night school very shortly. Please could you send me a sleeping bag – sheet one, if you haven’t got one never mind – to Thirkleby, Volunteer Ag. Camp, near Thirsk, North Riding of Yorks.  Please address c/o Warden there.

Malcolm’s coming down home on Thursday now and going up with me on Friday.  Val and I rang Manchester – HQ Ag Camp North West and discovered we get our fare refunded on arrival.  Will try to ‘phone as usual on Sat. from Thirkleby, but if I don’t, don’t worry.

All Autumnal love during this lovely month of Sept. and all love always,

Len. xxxxxxx

p.s. Please don’t think I’m leaving myself short by rations sent to-day. Only bought them to-day and couldn’t have used ‘em ‘fore leaving on Friday. L.


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len on Luneberg heath crop pic png29 September, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Half-hearted blue sky seen from Office Window

Dearest and Best,

Can’t thank you enough for the wonderful parcel which came in to-day – I said only cords, boots and shorts, but the way you’ve done the parcel Mum seems to include 101 other things without adding any extra bulk – you know I’m haunted by the thought of getting down the amount of stuff I’ve got in my room now. It’s like a treasure hunt that parcel. Half the stuff, or rather almost half of it, I must confess I hope to take away with me – the grips, the cream (thank you so much) and those dee-vine sacs – yes tried ‘em to-day and they were the goods. The wheat bag is a stunner and would be grand for the field – you know for putting sandwich tin, flask and scarf and things in. See you’ve mended the cords – thanks so much, for that would have been another little job ‘fore I left or on the train as per my ‘grim’ planning, as I know you think it.

Joan Brandley wants me to work as a secy/s/typist in Glasgow and study for my elocution letters – is against coll. – she talks of sisterly advice – she is almost like a sister to me.

If you were shocked at my rushing before, I hesitate to tell you what I’ve on hand, but s’pose I’d better.  Malcolm – this entirely off his own bat – is coming from his Aunt’s at Bristol to-night, meeting me off the bus, then we’ve tea and I go off to night school. Come out, meet Val and Mike and we all have a drink – p’raps at the Rose and Crown. Go home and pack, then to-morrow – insh’Allah – get 5.23 from Idmiston Halt with Mike (he either getting on at Sal or I Halt) and once in London go and see Lilian and friends of Mike. (1)   Catch (this’ll shake you) 4 a.m. train to York, meet Jack Greaves (not seen since VJ day) at 9.30 a.m. (train’s due in at 9.25), ‘do’ York Minster and the town, then meet Gohrde-met Margaret Stamper for lunch at I p.m.  Val’s due in about 4 p.m. and we catch the train on to Thirkleby about half an hour’s ride away.

Ken’s in digs all week at West Hartlepool and works in ICI, a ‘Geordie’ here says the ICI place is at Billingham, near Stockton-on-Tees and S-on-T is only about 20 odd miles from Thirkleby so I’m hopeful of phoning him. Thanks for all the gen given in your letter.

Don’t understand why you’re so anti-harvesting. It’s over and above ordinary leave you know,  and only given for specific purpose of going on the land. And too one gets one’s pay from CDEE and Val and I are hopeful of earning a wee bit at Thirkleby and the surrounding district as well.

Yes, I wrote to Ken, first time since ‘47 if I remember rightly. (2)   He says he stays in Tynemouth from ‘Friday evening till Sunday evening’.   If I don’t get through on the ‘phone to Ken, I’ll write.  Am keen too on looking nice, plan to take duck egg blue woolen check, green dress (Cairo bought) for dancing and navy rembrandt. Skirts – navy and tartan dirndl  with blouse and jumpers.

 Not staying with Val’s people.  Marjorie Scott insists on putting me up.   You remember M.S? – met at Glencoe and again at Glasgow last year when I was on leave.

Fancy Aunt Betty getting married – isn’t it grand. Wonder if he’s got cash and they’ll ‘come across the water’?  Must say I’d like to meet her a lot.

Last night had tea and a tomato sandwich with a CDEE scientist on anti-locust research. He goes to my German class and we’d tea after it, no glam though, but it was pleasant.(3)

All the love from the potato-picking and tattie hookin’ wurrld,

Len. xxxxxxx

1.  We have no idea who Salisbury based Mike is. 

2. The last time Len saw Ken was October 1947 aboard the ss.Patrician with Esme where he was 5th engineer, and she had discovered the night before that Ernst was two-timing her.

3.  Although Porton Down was a chemical and biological warfare research camp it seems the claim of the CDEE scientist to be on anti-locust research was true and not a smokescreen to cover chemical and biological warfare.   The following  is from from the Public Records Office at Kew:  “TNA file AVIA 44/182 Insecticides: review of work… 1949.”  Sourced and summarised by Liz Willis. (see Acknowledgements).

 “This contains a review of work carried out at the Chemical Defence Experimental Station, Porton on the properties of DDT and other chemical insecticides when dispersed in various ways, and on the use of and adaptation of biological warfare (BW) techniques for their employment, particularly for the control of the insect vectors of militarily important diseases such as typhus and malaria…

The Controller of Chem Defence Development (MoS) assumed responsibility for research and development covering all applications of insecticides for service purposes in July 1944; more recently, it says, the scope of the work was extended to certain others, and methods of using them for less specifically military purposes, in particular the control of locusts…They had a request from the Colonial Office and had done field tests in Kenya”

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Any Old Gloves?   Len’s handwriting on back of the envelope used to send the above letter.


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len on Luneberg heath crop pic png3 October, 1949.

Dorm, Thirkleby.  VAW Camp, Nr. Thirsk, North Riding of Yorks. Sunday – 3.30 ish

Hullo Own Ones,

Thank you so much for the sleeping bag in which I slept last night and in which, with the blankets I was as warm as a bug in a rug. The gorgeous shortbread – first layer – was our breakfast, as we slept in.  Sandwiches of Val’s supplemented tea last night. However we’d an excellent lunch to-day, so you do see we’re O.K. as far as food goes and require nae mair from outside sources. The extra we had tided us over and we’re looking forward to finishing the s/bread throughout the week.

Firstly request from Miss Ranscombe, Supt. typist at Porton for some white heather – so could you send a wee spray in a letter soon please.

Nextly I must tell you what the novelist would call ‘a little cameo’.  Feel you’ll be furious it finishes where it does Mum, but nevertheless, here it is.

Val came into my office one day last week to tell me that the night before she’d been out for a long walk with her dog when she thought she heard the sound of bagpipes, but, said to herself ”I’m imagining things”,  but she wasn’t, for a little later she saw a piper far below her playing away and though in flannels walking as if he was wearing a kilt. She’d sat high on the downs and listened and told me what a pleasant evening it had been.

Thursday night I came off the bus to meet Malcolm, but he wasn’t there, so I went to the PO to send off the parcel and was in the middle of humming ‘Nut Brown Maiden’ when a soldier sat opposite me.  That’s a nice private I thought, then as he sat saw his Major’s crown.  He seemed to be conscious of what I was humming so I went on to Westering Home and he looked up at me as if he’d known me for years and said “Dont, you make me homesick.”  I murmured “Sorry” and he continued “D’you like those songs, or d’you just come from the place”.  “Both”, I answered and we talked a little, and he told me he even had his pipes with him and of course I told him how Val had heard him, for it was him.  He was about 6’ 4”, has a good – not handsome, but of the mountains – face, is about 30 and his voice, well it’s not the tiniest bit ya, ya, but is terribly pukka.  I was too enamoured to pull myself together and say “I’d love to hear the pipes again”, or better still “I wish you’d come up and play for us at Hogmanay”. However am going to send a p.c. to Major Bagpipes, R.E.(Royal Engineers) to what Val surmises is his address.

It was all so much like a fairy story and I really felt an electric atmosphere in Sal. Post Office – awful, like the island scenes from “I Know where I’m Going” (1)

However, out I came of the PO and met Malcolm who’d arrived mistaking the time of arrival.  We’d dinner in the Gaumont – he treating, then I went to French, coming out I got my rail ticket, we met Val and had a drink in the “Haunch” then we saw her off, had coffee and he walked me home having missed the last bus.

The next day he met me on the train at Idmiston Halt – as per our arrangement which didn’t come off Mum and we went on to town.

At Kings X dumped ye rucksacks and then he took me to dinner at a super place called “The Good Intent” in Chelsea. First we’d super sherry in the bar, went into the restaurant and had hors d’oeuvres, followed by Madras Curry – curried meat and rice – with which we’d a half bottle of Sauterne wine. Sweet was pear melba and we finished off with coffee and Drambuie. We felt it was a bit late to go out to Malcolm’s friends at Queens Park so went to Lilian’s where we talked till 2.30 over tea, cakes and whisky. Then we walked and bussed to Kings X and I got the 4 am to York as per schedule.

Got in at 9.10 a.m., had a wash and brush up – savouring the while the friendliness of the North – and by 9.30 stepped out of the ‘Ladies First Class’ – sweet and neat as a nursery, I hope, straight into Jack Greaves. We first had coffee and I’d a super meat sandwich and we’d both cake, then round York Minster and after lunch to meet Mgy Stamper, but either she wasn’t there or we missed her, so we walked round the whole of Yorks city wall and took photos and went to the Museum – inside which a whole street is reproduced. Tea, then met Val off the London train, she’d tea and off we went to the Thinkleby train.  Jack Greaves is nice and I like him.

It’s Sunday after tea now and we’re off for a walk – in Coxwold direction – Thirkleby lies between Coxwold and Thirsk, so will reply to your recent lovely letters shortly.

Am enjoying holiday so far – and I do – though it’s the stock phrase – wish you were here.

All my love own ones,
Len. xxxxxx


1.   Directed by Michael Powell, with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey in the leads.  “A determined girl travels to the Hebrides to marry a wealthy old man, but is stranded on Mull and marries a young naval officer instead” – Halliwell’s Film Guide.  The main Salisbury Post Office, corner of Chipper Lane and Castle Street is (2014) still there, but with its lowered 1980’s ceiling and cluttered card stands it takes a powerful imagination to recreate its 1940’s interior.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png8 October, 1949.

 At Marjories, Newcastle, early Saturday Evening.

My own People, How are you? As you may guess at the moment I’m so thrilled.  Yes, I’ve been allocated a place at Wynyard Hall Training College, Wolviston, nr. Stockton on Tees and it`s less than 200 miles from Glasgow!

Met a very nice type at Thirkleby. He’s got a Spanish grandmother but is otherwise English, is a fortnight older than I and lived in China till ‘46. His Father’s dead and his Mother’s married to a Dutchman and lives in Japan.  He – Allan – was in a Japanese internment camp for 3 years in and out of Shanghai. Wot, no ordinary people!  Val met a Frenchman called Guy Lerendu. She wasn’t mad about him but the camp proved a eye opener to her and she’s all set to do great things.

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The farms Val and I were on were Govt. ones where you don’t have to work as hard as you do for private farmers. They were called Eastmoor and Deerpark and both looked just as they sound.

The Wheat bag accompanied us each day on our harvesting, carrying – comb, make up, sandwiches, flask and sometimes camera – it was a real boon.  Somebody worked out that we picked up 35,000 to 40,000 potatoes a day!  I haven’t enjoyed so much for a very long time. It was like hosteling plus.

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Len at Thirkleby, Yorkshire. October, 1949.

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Len, possibly with Val.

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Len, with possibly Allan, centre.

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Group of farm workers with a ‘Lend a Hand on the Land’ volunteer.

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A cosy farm workers’ nest . Note the dog at the top.

Can’t write more just now for though Marjorie’s supplied me with this paper I feel I can’t go on writing ad lib without talking to her.

Love you and look forward to seeing you in a fortnight – insh Allah.

Always your own loving Len. xxxxxxx

p.s. You may be able to use this excerpt from my new ration book – lost other – if you go early Monday morning.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png11 October, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Public Libe  Tuesday 6.30 ish.

My Own Ones of the North,

How are you?  As you may guess, being so much nearer last week made me long to be with you in Scotland more than ever.  I received both gloves all right and left them with Allan for use as he goes on hookin’!

I sincerely hope New Year will be very much on with all of us at 26.  Yes, Zaki says he’ll be there with the bottle, and I’ve had a letter from Harris accepting gladly and saying he’s saving up his ‘pennis’.

 I’ve now applied for warrant and handed in resignation, so am hoping everything goes all right  about ye trip to ‘26’ on the warrant.

Have you sampled the henna yet Mum – hope the results aren’t too lurid.

Did I tell you I had the most wonderful letter from Peter Scott, no secy wanted, but it is a wonderful letter, must either send of bring it up, but I want it back for my scrapbook, so you can tell how good it is. (1)

Val and I think the office is hideous after Thirkleby and everyone looks so peely-wally. (2)

At the w/e I went to a King’s Coll. Newcastle dance with Marjorie on the Saturday night and to Whitley Bay on the Sunday.  So entranced with Allan, I didn’t bother to write to Ken till the last minute, so maybe he never heard in time.  ‘Phoned Peter who didn’t seem to understand – despite 6 mins – worth that I was up north at all.  (3)

The cupboard does sound a joy – but it would cost the earth to buy.  Looking forward to ‘reviewing’ my room and clearing out some stuff.

 Longing to see you.

Love all the time,

Len. xxxxxxx


1.  The letter has not survived in this collection.

2.  Scots. ‘Sickly, ill looking,’ etc.

3.  Ken, her  1945 ‘heart-throb’ is taking second place to Allan.  Peter, as noted before, she had met briefly in Egypt, when she had described him as nice, but hard work.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png13 October, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

At my office desk – Thursday Misty Morning.

Dearest 26ers,

Don’t think I’ll ‘phone this w/e, as I’ve no particular news.

Did I tell you that Allan and I went to York Races on the Wednesday.  We hitched there and back. Lorry all the way there, then morning coffee as we studied ‘form’ in the Sporting Chronicle.   Then station for enquiries about Vals and my train to Newcastle, then the Public Library for Allan to get inf. to settle an argument about the Opium Wars in China.

Then bus to races. I’d never been in England before – only once in Egypt – and was tickled by the tipsters and the bookies and stands. We lost all our money. At least, I lost about 10/-, but it was more than worth it. We’d our sandwiches on the course and hitched back – two cars and a lorry. The second car was inhabited by a pukka-voiced Scot and we nattered about the Summer Isles.

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York Races, October 1949, Captain Frankie.  Photo taken by Len.

Val and I saw the most wonderful raincoats in Fenwick’s (of Bond Street) in Newcastle. They were woolly like coats and cost 89/6. Thought p’raps I ought to get one of them, then it would be like a mac and coat in one – they were terrifically smart.

 Monday, or rather Sunday evening onwards I intend to start packing my trunk hoping the warrant arrives all right.  Just hope it does come straight and O.K. as I’m hardly in a position to stalk around saying “Where’s my Warrant?” – Then they’d say “Warrant? But you can’t have one, you’ve just resigned.” All being well and it arrives O.K.  I’ll ‘phone you that evening with gen on train I propose catching etc.  Hope to come up on the Fri/Sat. train, spend Sat. Sun and as much as poss. of Mon. at home ‘fore training back.

Made up to-day, but didn’t have time to despatch, a wee parcel containing minute bits of tea and sugar we were given every day from the camp for the farm, but didn’t use as we’d flasks and an urn on the field. Allan says it’s awful tea, but it is tea.

No mail from you to-day – hope to have some on Monday.  Smudging caused by non-drying ink after Parker superink.

Love from South-West to North West, look after yourselves,

Len xxxxx


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png17 October, 1949.

My room at ‘No.7’  after missing 8 am bus. Monday.

Own Beloved People,

It suddenly struck me as I lay in bed last night that a railway ticket lasts for a month. Accordingly, if I get my warrant all right and get it changed for a ticket I think I should use that ticket for actually coming up to you before going to college insh’Allah.

After my last letter and my having planned to come up this w/e for a long time, I hope it doesn’t upset your plans too much, but I don’t know why this using-it-later (as was done with the tickets I got for you two) didn’t strike us before. It’ll mean I won’t have to hitch all being well and as I only intended to hitch during the day it would probably have taken three or four days – now, all being well I should have that extra time with you, for this w/e would have been a rushed visit.  It also obviates my sending lots of registered parcels to leave myself with a rucksack.

The two ‘cons’ are (a) that I would only use the return half to Stockton-on-Tees, but does that really matter? and (b) the ticket’s only valid for a month. But should there be a delay, I could always come up on it ‘fore it went out of date.

Originally I’d meant to spend this w/e with Olga Rundall, then cancelled to come north, but if you think there’s no flaw in the reasons I’ve just given I’d like to go to her as originally planned. (1)    Otherwise would have visited her as I hitched north, but if I’m training (I mean in the using a train sense above) wouldn’t be stopping off.

Plan to ring you to-morrow evening then about 6, maybe later if I can’t get through then, but if so it’ll be from the house of a girl at which we have rehearsals and I’ll have to ‘not reveal’ anything at my end, as she’s connected with Porton. (2)   If there’s a flaw somewhere you can tell me and according to what you say I can either make arrangements to go to you two in Glasgow or to Olga for this w/e.

Love and writing fully and newsily later.

My love goes to you with the morning Western sun.

Len. xxxxx


1.  Len met Olga Rundall when they both travelled out to Egypt by boat in November, 1945.

2.  It seems, from a later reference, that Len was part of an amateur dramatic group within Porton Camp.  As has been noted before, many bits of Len’s news are missing from the letters because they have been mentioned in  ‘phone conversations between Len and Mum.


On the week-end of 22-23 October Len visited Olga Rundall in Bedford


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png24 October, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Indeterminate Day Monday – 24.10.49.

Nicest People, Ever Known,

Answering your 61 and 62 and simply longing to be with you in Scotland.

After lectures from you and from Val, Mum and reading lots of articles of late, I’ve become really interested in clothes for the bod.  Yes please I’d love the dress in lavender violet with a velvet collar.

You talk of going to my rehearsals, well the date of departure was not at all fixed when I took them on and it does mean a free evening dress do and they’re rare enough. Yes, I do mean to wear my Golden Dress all being well – it seems a long time since I wore it. How can I make dresses in ‘No.7’ in that tiny room? After all, I’ve only got a ‘feel’ for sewing.  I’m not a seamstress who could sew in her sleep – I need fairly good conditions, but I feel it might be better at college, insh’Allah.

You ask do I plan to specialise, well as you know I’m to take Art and English Lit. at coll.  Must say I would like to teach commercial stuff too, but will see as time goes by. Hope to be able to go to classes for my letters in elocution at night in Stockton. Well, I sincerely hope to meet people at College – to begin with there will be tutors and hundreds of other students.  Mgt. Crampin rooms with another girl but says the younger ones are sometimes 3 or more in a room. She’s coming up to Sal this w/e/, so I hope to hear verbally all the bits that are interesting about coll.

It’s wonderful to feel you’re interested.  I always feel so sorry for kids or adults with disinterested and indifferent parents. You can imagine it must be like the cut of a knife to realise the people who matter most ‘don’t care’?

Fancy me a school-maam, well, fancy me a student first please.

Saying ‘Good-bye’ to people ought to provide me with a number of free meals – to view that material angle – apart from the fact that I think one should say ‘Good-bye’ ‘fore leaving a place.

Feel it’s better to take my trunk with me. Only with a rucksack and my small brown pre-Cairo grip could I manage without a porter and I don’t fancy leaving my trunk, home-made Bergen and Cairo grip to lie on Stockton station, no matter how good BR may be.  Therefore I propose to take all to Glasgow and there re-pack and attempt if poss. to cut down on luggage. Let me say though now, one of the joys of being home for me will be to pull everything out of everywhere – half in an attempt to find lost junk and half ‘cos I just enjoy it.

You talk of gadgets. At Olga’s they’ve an Ascot for summer and an Ideal boiler (as per Porters Ave), (1)   for winter to give hot water.  She’s also got a steel kitchen cabinet, gas poker, pressure cooker and a washing machine. (2)  She’s not keen on housework and is all for every labour saving device there is.  Appreciate your point about the lino square instead of old carpet. Olga’s got Persians – little ones – everywhere. Must try and get someone to bring us a Persian rug from the M.E.  – the wee ones are super for bedrooms.

 Allan’s very, very nice. I never said I didn’t like odd types – it’s just that I don’t like the penchant I have for falling for them, but fall for them I do – Liz Barrett always said I’d marry a broken down writer. (3)   Anyway Allen came hundreds of miles to see me for two hours on Sat and about 5 or 6 on the Sun and stayed and paid for two nights b&b in Bedford. (He was going to hitch north again first thing Monday, to-day). He also gave me ½ lb box Cadbury’s Milk Tray!

Salisbury’s fair’s been. My experience of it included crossing the Market Square to and from the Health and Beauty and as that was the seat of the gaiety crossed at the same time through the fair.  Resisted all temptation and bought fruit from a stall instead of ‘going-on’ something.  2lb of lovely eating pears for 6d! – As the song says …”And that’s what a’ lark about the south.”.

Am keeping your letter re. wool and salt and pepper pots to refer to on sat – my last in Sal this sojourn all being well.

I have decided to grow my hair, so now have it sleek and flat against my head – all very French. Feel myself it looks a bit like a drowned rat, but others say “no’ and an unknown soldier told me he liked it in the train last night.

All being well if I get away next Wednesday I plan to take my stuff across to Euston, then go down to Brandley’s for the night, getting the first train to Glasgow in the morning (Thurs) – OK., I’ll admit it – I really prefer travelling by day and am completely fed up with travelling at night.

Adieu – Joyfulness is the mother of all virtues, but must now away.

Love round the clock.

Len xxxxxxx

p.s. ‘Case I forget and case they ask for it as I leave could you send me the little wooden handled knife I gave you from the office?  If they don’t ask for it, you’ll have it back straight away.


1. Where Len and her family lived in Dagenham in the 1930s.

2.  Because of their expense electric washing machines were not common in the post war 1940s Britain.  From the early 1960s onwards the affordable Twin Tub washing machine revolutionised Monday wash days.

3.  Len knew a Liz when she was in Cairo.


Although not mentioned in the correspondence, Len received an acknowledgement from the BBC’s Woman’s Hour re. “How It Feels to Be Back Home”

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len on Luneberg heath crop pic png30 October, 1949.

‘No.7’ etc.

11.30 am. Sunday.

Dearest Own Ones,

Well, I went all round the market yesterday, but could discover no non-metal salt and pepper pots or sugar sifters and no fish knives.   Got myself a press for my raquet at last – a raquet is one of the things you’re to bring with you.

All being well I’ll pay the 2/3rds of the telephone bill when I see you.

Isn’t it wonderful about my grant being through – and if that £125 is for the year, then that’s £2 – .9s a week – I think it’s wonderful.

In the corsetiere business – which I’m longing to discuss, I s’pose you’d make a handsome commission on every sale if it’s that much to train – I’d do it for learning is never wasted and to have a job in ones own home would be pretty good.

On FridayI went to a Porton dance  – the dance wasn’t so wonderful, though.

I didn’t say I could manage without a porter – said ‘I couldn’t anyway, so might as well take trunk’.

Olga’s got a boiler ‘stead of an immerser – some people like them better as they warm the place as well.

As I said in yesterday’s letter, ‘phoning Tuesday with all the Gen.

All love in and out of trunks,

Len. xxxxx


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Amateur Dramatics, Porton Camp, October 1949.


15 Thorneydown Rd, Winterbourne Gunner, near Salisbury, Wilts.  2nd November ‘49

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My dear Helen,

This is such a very hurried note, as I seem to have such a lot to do, and what with Bill and Frankie and Guy on my mind!! and you with Bill, Allan, Peter, Jack, Jimmy and everyone else on your mind besides a new job.

But seriously Helen, I do wish you every success and happiness in your new position and I do hope you like it, and that you make good, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t, for you’re pretty good at most things!!

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I am very grateful indeed to you for the happy moments you have given me (and we really have had some fine times together haven’t we?) – I hope we have lots more, especially at New Year.

I’ll write and give you all my news and any developments which may occur, if any? and you must do the same? please! I’ll be keeping in close contact too re your wardrobe, I do hope you’ll take lots more pride in your appearance, for you really have got everything else that goes with nice clothes.

Please give my regards to your mother and father, and I will be writing to them.

You’ll never know how grateful I am to you, I hope we always will be friends.

Looking back, this letter doesn’t sound as I wanted it too but I feel sure you’ll know what I have been trying to say. I haven’t much time to think.

I must fly now, as you’ll soon be going. Don’t lose any of your luggage (1,2,3,4,5), take care of yourself in London, have a good time in Glen Coe and make good at college.

Much love from someone who is very, very grateful to you, and who is going to miss you very much indeed.

Sincerely, Valerie. xx


Next Friday     Part Four    Chapter One:    Wynyard Hall

“I shall hate to leave college.”

Posted in Britain Austerity 1940s, Feminism, Gender Studies, Letters, Porton Chemical and Biolgical Warfare Centre, Social and Political History, Womens History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Part Three 3: Good-bye Noel, Hello Teaching

Part Three   Chapter 3

Good-bye Noel, Hello Teaching.


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 Len began writing the following letter on Thursday at work, but she sent it on the Saturday from Leicester Square, London.

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png9 June, 1949.

The Office, Thinking Thursday

Hail, Hello and How are you my own Finest, Best and Well loved People,

Shan’t post this letter to you to-day, but want to start it as I keep on remembering and forgetting things to say to you.

First, confirming again that the stocking letter arrived O.K. with contents intact.  To-day the skirt, books and a new jacket arrived.  It fits really perfectly, and seems to me like a completely new jacket – you must summon me by psychic rays for a fitting Mum, to make things fit like that.

Also, having difficulty about acc. for you.  Mr.Hemmon’s never said another word about it (by the way he said I’m to pay 5/- a week for the fortnight in Germany – isn’t that super – ?).  Have heard no word from the woman  in the “Haunch of Venison” that I asked about. (1)    Also went twice last night to the abode of the woman I met in the train coming back from Aunt Ena’s, but no reply either time.   Was told by a neighbour she might be in the pub ‘she uses’.  The train woman’s house was a little cottage affair.

On the way back from not finding her in I saw a b & b advertisement so enquired.  The girl who spoke to me on behalf of her mother was most pleasant and the place seemed bright and clean. They’re writing direct to you, as I’m going away for the fortnight to Germany.  It’s 2 guineas a week each for b & b, this sounds a lot, but is less than 9/- a night as at C&H. (2)   Your fares would be £14, then £8 (roughly) for b & b, makes £22 and if you allowed £10 for meals, that’s £32.  (I’ll treat you if I may, all being well in London).  Say £8 for entertainment and running about bus fares is £40 – £20 in all each.  If you feel b & b at 2 guineas is a bit much, let me pay some of it, as I don’t like to think of the two of you staying in a broken down place.  This place really is good, so please fire ahead to make arrangements.

Turning out my cupboard at work to leave it tidy and with as few personal possessions as poss. when I go on leave.  What should my eyes light on first of all but my Dental Hospital card, just hope they’re open on August Bank Holiday! (3)


Herewith letter from Aunt Ena forwarded with parcel of jumper and slip left behind She sounds sweet in it – maybe realised she was a bit cheeky.

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Dear Len,

Just discovered these things in drawer and hasten to post them in case you want them for next week end. Hope you arrived home safely, and not too tired. It was grand seeing you again but all too short. There were so many things we could have done had I been feeling OK.  I wasn’t too well yesterday but feel much better today. I have made an appointment for M.R. to have her hair cut a week on Sat.  I had a letter from your mummy this morning and she says it was a very cold wet week end in Glasgow.

We do hope you have a good holiday and in spite of all your big words you’re just the same wee sweet Len – no you haven’t grown up yet – but that’s your charm.

With love from all,

Aunt Ena.


Before I forget, could you please pack and despatch by hook or by crook, some white heather to Noel. Now thereby hangs a tale, but before I begin it here’s his address:- Mr A.D.KING, ‘SANDACRE’, WARREN ROAD, HAYES, KENT (not Middlesex!) to reach him sometime during the week after next i.e. the second week of my holiday.  You see I probably won’t get my railway ticket (Sal – Glas return) before I leave, so have to claim for the cash as a re-imbursment afterwards. Things may go wrong but the chap who’s been seeing to it’s been most helpful and I said lightly “ Thanks for the trouble you’ve taken I’ll bring you back some white heather”!  He took me up seriously and to lend credence to my story that I returned from Germany on the Thursday and went to Glasgow for the rest of my leave, I’d like to be able to pick up the White Heather from Noel to give it to him on my return.  If I don’t get the warrant, I’ll send you the cash for the ticket before you come down.  Sorry for the trouble about the WH, but you can see it’s rather necessary.  (4)

‘Case I forget later on, will write to you, soon as I arrive in G.    My rucksack’s on the floor at my right all packed – in the office.

Had a telegram from Noel – “See you to-night 8 pm. All love, Noel”  He’s not usually so warm in messages.

Restaurant in Charing Cross Road.  Sat.

Noel nattering in my ear – nonsensically but funnily and impossible to think or write more, but hope you like the contents of this letter – explanations over phone tonight.

All love from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and back again.

Len. xxxxx


1.  The Haunch of Venison is a very old coaching inn in the centre of Salisbury.

2.  The Coach & Horses.

3.  The Dental Hospital in Glasgow.  As will be seen, she did not go up to Glasgow at the English August Bank holiday.

4.  Len is working a fiddle: getting cash for a return rail ticket to Glasgow that she isn’t going to use.  From future references, it seems it is connected with  her parents coming down on holiday from Glasgow.  She is  paying for one of their tickets,  a non dated open return ticket which she is sending to them.   The cost will be reimbursed by the MoS.  In a future letter she mentions that she gets three tickets a year to travel to her Glasgow home. 


There is now a gap of 17 days between Len’s letter above, and the one that follows.  The numbering is consecutive.  If she did send a postcard or postcards home, none have survived in this collection.  She seems to have brought home to the U.K. quite a stash of Gezira Sporting Club envelopes.


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len on Luneberg heath crop pic pngP.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

27 June, 2014.

The Sunny South, Monday.

My Gladsome, Glamourous (and so precious) Glaswegians

How are you?  My head’s in a whirl. I’m trying to stay in a protective daze in order not to realise I’m back at work till to-morrow and events are certainly helping.

Thanks for the ration book, it’s saved my bacon!

About the holiday, I shall miss you no end Mum and, if at the last moment you could come it would be wonderful, but now I’ve reconciled myself to seeing Daddy toute seule (1)   In fact I’m looking forward to seeing you a lot Daddy, as we haven’t really seen a lot of each other for so long and we could natter together and get closer to one another.

I suggest you travel down this Saturday, or during Sat/Sun night.  Everything of course always happens at once and as you know Noel is due to sail for Canada on 21st July.  As I missed him yesterday, I haven’t seen him for a fortnight making it three weeks this week-end, so would like to see him during Fri. evening and Sat. during the day.  Their (Lyn’s and Noel’s) Father’s leave’s been cut short, he’s returning to India almost at once  and N’s giving up his job to get things in order before he (the Father) leaves – including the buying of a cottage 20 mins. from London. (2)

I will speak to Mr. H. about getting you fixed up at ‘No.7’ Dad,  saying Mum’s staying in Glasgow, cos relations home from abroad are visiting her at ‘26’ .   When you come down, you’ll see from all the circs. (3)  finance, finish of strike etc. whether to make your stay  a fortnight or a week, though I hope you decide on the former.

All the time too, I’m trying to remember everything that has to fit in with my story of having been in Glasgow for the week-end.  As someone from here saw me buying a ticket for Sal. last night and I was ‘sposed to have one already (the one sent to you) I’m thinking “Oh what a tangled web we … ” – etc. (4)   Hope it fades from the minds of people and that I’m not questioned too closely about everything.

Mummy please do not write to Ernst shooting a line about the Col’s son.  His letter is so like him, a lot of the bla – to put it bluntly & I don’t want the person I love ever mentioned to him.

Mummy, please do not etc

You can say I had a wonderful holiday, but otherwise be vague with a capital V.   Aunt Ena proved a valuable lesson to me. There’s another point too, London has at least 8 million inhabitants, yet Ernst’s staying only 4 doors away from Lynda!  Yes, he’s 108 Holland Road and she lives at 100!

My holiday was really wonderful in Gohrde and I may honestly say, I’ve never met so many super people in such a short space of time.

Saw Harris yesterday and my sickly and ailing thoughts of acting died a complete death – couldn’t bear to be surrounded by people like that. The contrast was all the more striking coming as it did a little time after parting from the Gohrde crowd.  At one of the socials one of the tutors turned to me and asked – completely out of the blue – had I thought of the Emergency Training Scheme.  I said ‘Yes’ and later we talked of it.  He’s most keen to give me a favourable testimonial and as he’s Senior Tutor Organiser at Cardiff University, raised my hopes considerably.  So I’ve applied for training as a teacher under the Emergency Training Scheme and must confess this is what I really want.  (5)

In case that doesn’t come to anything, apart from the job in N.Rhodesia I mentioned,  I’ve also applied for a job afloat as a stenographer with P&O – they say nothing in the near future, but they’d like my name.

It’s interesting to read all your ‘House News’ , which makes me want to come up again and see ‘26’ quite apart from seeing your dear selves, for you know I always want to do that.  Think the b&b for tourists to Ex. in Sept. a great thing and am sure it would mean new firm friends for you both. (6)

Mrs. Hemmon’s address is Eye Ward, Salisbury Infirmary.

Still haven’t had some of my claims paid, but will try to send you a little cash soon to ease the ‘strike strain’ and a lot if my claims come through.

All the love from country to shipbuilders shores town,

Len. xxxxx

p.s.  Again, please don’t say a word to Ernst about Noel or me.

p.s. ‘Phoning Wednesday evg. L.


1.  It is difficult to work out why Mum isn’t coming.  The reason may be financial.  The strike is still continuing, and they may be strapped for cash.  Although it seemed it was going to be a problem the two of them staying at ‘No.7’ (and therefore  have to incur expenses for B & B), it was possible that just one of them could stay at ‘No.7’ and therefore save cash.

2.  It is possible that Noel’s dad, a colonel,  has some role, as part of a British Military Mission in a liaison or advisor capacity with the new, independent Indian Army.

3.  Circs: circumstances.

4.  “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive” – Sir Walter Scott. 

5.   The Emergency Training Scheme for Teachers:  “Towards the end of the last war, it became apparent that the schools of this country faced a crisis unparalleled in the history of the British education system. The reason for this were the war casualties… the greatly diminished number of teachers trained during the war, and the huge task of embodying in actual achievement the reforms of the Education Act, 1944.”  – from Into the Breach: The Emergency Training Scheme for Teachers, London, Turnstile, 1949.   One of the reforms of the 1944  Education Act was raising the minimum school leaving age from 14 to 15.

6.  Scottish Industries Exhibition, Kelvin Hall, Glasgow, in September, 1949.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png30 June, 1949.

British restaurant, Salisbury. Thursday teatime.

My own darling Mum,

Just looking at my Germany snaps – just printed and enjoying them a lot.  Because he’d his wife and I’d Noel was only distantly friendly with a Cambridge Univ. tutor with our party at Gohrde.  He was in the desert for 4 years, never kissed any one else – wasn’t that wonderful !  Very surprised to get a letter today – very ordinary, polite, but still a letter from him.  Yes, I’m going to London to-morrow night all being well for the reunion of the Gohrde crowd.  Seeing Noel too. He’s passed the reg. commission people at the War Office, but has to go to a country house for the once over this week-end.  See?  I see him Friday, then he’s off.  (1)

I will be at Euston at 7.35 am on Sat. morning. (2)   I certainly want to stay in L. on Sat. night – hope to paint the town red with Daddy.

Received your 30 and 31 to-day, so when you get this  you should find yourself on your ownsome.

Have no intention of remaining in the Civil Service for longer than a year anyway so bang goes the dowry.  In the C.S. you get a dowry after 7 years perm. service and then only to leave directly to get hitched.   Mummy I hate the Civil Service.   I don’t allow myself to think about it much ‘cos hate’s a bad emotion, but hate it I do – ‘nuff said.

Did you put ‘phone number of ‘26’ in letter to Mark?  – You were good to write to him.   Yes, Noel’s dad is back in London.  Will ask – insh’allah why he didn’t look you up.  Could you please send me summer dressing gown, two white skirts and dirndle skirt – thanks.

Noel got your letter. All love my precious Mum – and have a holiday at 26!

Always your own,

Len xxx


1.  Noel has given up the idea of going to agricultural college in Canada.  We know from a future reference that he is going to the U.S.A, and it seems he is going to be attached to a British Army military mission, like his Father.

2.  Len will be meeting Dad off the overnight train from Glasgow Central.


The  letter above was written on the Thursday.  This is her now writing on the Monday, after the weekend in London.  Dad is staying at “No.7”.  Mrs Hemmons is still in hospital.

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png4 July, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Hot office and sickly grass outside. (1)

Wall Honey Chile,

D’you shure realise it’s Amurrican Innepennence Day – today?   Well anyway, Daddy and I eventually found each other so no post mortems, we’ve agreed it was through arrangements being made hurriedly by ‘phone – you always said they were mixey -maxey things – no-body’s fault.  I do miss you, and Daddy seems a bit lost too, but last night we’d dinner in the H of V which was rather cheering

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Haunch of Venison, Salisbury.   2008.

As I’ve got three tickets a year and coming up at the August holiday would be a heck of a rush, I suggest I apply for it for the August hol. and you come down sometime during the time it’s valid?  I’ll get the station people to date it later all being well.

The Baxters were super to me and said to come back as often and soon as I wanted and to bring Noel too – what a contrast from Aunt Ena’s – they’re so intelligent and have broad horizons – the kids have grown to look much better than they promised years ago. They were pitifully grateful for my going to see Betty.  Nellie Baxter started work last week –  extras for B in hosp. must be a drain on their resources.  (2)

 I was thinking of suggesting to Daddy that he spend Friday night there. (3)

I gave 200 cigs. to Noel and had someone bring in 60 for me (200 is the quota) for Daddy. (4)    Noel’s were State Express. Daddy’s 60 are Churchman’s.   Thought I’d give Noel the carton of 200 rather than Daddy, as I don’t think a lot are good for Daddy.  Brought something for you, which Daddy will bring up to you – it’s very wee.   Will write another letter during the week insh’Allah with news of our doings.  Love from your two poppets, little northern delight.

Len. xxx


1.  Whilst Len had been in Germany, Britain had had a heat wave.  The Scottish Sunday Mail on June 19, reported that Glasgow was the hottest spot in Britain.  “Thousands of holiday-makers took advantage of the sun, swarming on to buses and trains for coast and country.”   The hot weather continued, in England and in Scotland.  The day before Len wrote this letter, the same paper’s headline read “Scotland Faces Drought. Water Off in Villages”.

2.  Hospital treatment was free since the introduction of the National Health Service the previous year.  Betty’s Mum working was presumably  because of  the loss of Betty’s earnings going into the family pot.

3.  Dad was staying for a week.  It will be seen, in the following letter, that he didn’t stay overnight with the Baxters in Dagenham.

4.  Duty free cigarettes brought back from Len’s German trip.


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6 July, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

 Overcast Sky over Office Wednesday.

My dearest Mama,

Daddy’s taking the 8 pm. train from here on Friday all being well, hoping to get the 11.40 pm from London to Glasgow – presume he will be ‘graphing you with confirmation of this, but if he doesn’t, that’s the gen.

Items of Interest

Noel’s stopped biting his nails – yes, it’s true.

Friday on television at 8.45 they’re giving “Flight to Cairo” – would love to see it – the “Radio Times” say the Mousky, Auberge des Pyramides etc, are all being depicted. (1)

Aunt Ena’s had a relapse and still feels a bit shaky and MR’s had her op for rupture – this inf. contained in letter from Aunt E. last night.

Yesterday Daddy walked from Amesbury to Stonehenge. 2 miles isn’t that wonderful! He got a hitch back which was good, as it meant he didn’t overstrain himself.

We’d dinner in the John Halle Cafe of the Gaumont – 3 courses and good, only 2/9 and went to the pictures inside.  (2)

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The Odeon Cinema  (formerly the Gaumont Cinema),  Salisbury.     2008.

They were “Dear Octopus” which I’d seen years ago but still had me in stitches and “Marry Me” which is about the funniest film I’ve ever seen.  Your favourite David Tomlinson has a leading role; the way he makes his jaw drop as if there are no bones in it at all is priceless. You must go and see it. Needless to say the evening was voted a great success and we’d coffee afterwards.

I suggest a Houseparty at Hogmanay – how’s about it?  Please say yes.  Know masses of people I’d like to come who’d love to come.  Which of your friends would you like to have?

I hope to go harvesting – special leave granted for that purpose – in October – coming? (3)

No mail from you – boo-hoo.  Signing off with every good wish from Wilts and all love from your very own,

Len. xxxxx


1.  Television set ownership was still very, very small in the U.K.   Sales would get a boost due to the televised Coronation of Princess Elizabeth in 1953, and in 1955 with the first broadcasts of ‘Commercial’ television in London and  the Home Counties.  Central Scotland (including the Glasgow area) was receiving ‘commercial’ television by 1957.

2.  The Gaumont cinema in Salisbury’s New Canal Street, (now the Odeon), is rightly described as the most remarkable cinema in Britain.  It is housed in a fifteenth century merchant’s house.  The cafe – the John Halle – took its name after its original owner, a wealthy Middle Ages wool merchant. There is now no cafe.   Seventy years after the GIs left Salisbury,  for D Day, popcorn and cola are on sale instead.

3.  Part of the post-war “Lend a Hand on the Land” scheme run by the Ministry of Agriculture.


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Ilford Selo film wallet, September 1949.

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png12 July, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Tuesday.   Morning before tea and consequently feeling rather lethargic.

Dearest and Best,

Hello and glad to hear you arrived safely Daddy and have been enjoying being back.   I can just picture you two jawing away.  Yes, how could Aunt Ena have been seriously ill and make a hat at the same time?   The jug is not German. I bought it at the Hook of Holland so it’s tres Dutch.

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Part of the 1949 Gohrde WEA Summer School group.   They are in front of the Skandanavian Express: Kobenhavn – Hoek van Holland.   For Luneberg and Gohrde they would have alighted and boarded at Hamburg Altona, visible on the destination board above.


To be very practical, if you haven’t already sent it, please don’t send summer housecoat, as I wear that little button-up thing I have and it’s quite adequate. What I really want – and rather desperately too are my summer skirts.  At the moment I’ve only got my Cairo summer skirt and have just washed and starched it to wear at the week-end.  I’ve really no frocks as my Zephyr and Navy Rembrandt are too good for the office.  In other words, I’ve masses of blouses, but only one skirt.

Secondly my 45 – 46 letters to you, where are they? for I need them to construct my connecting narrative for my scrapbook. (1)

 I’m stony at the moment and just have enough to eke out my food, two swims (6d x 2 = 1/-) and postage on three necessary letters till Friday.   If only that Littlewood’s would come in.   Guess we must be thankful that we’re in ‘26’ – I was asking Daddy about it – not another word from the Macintosh side?  It preys on my mind that it’s not really ours. (2)

The reason for my stoniness is that I paid a guinea! for reprints of my Germany snaps. Don’t mind as my holiday was comparatively cheap and everyone wanted copies of various snaps.

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Len’s handwriting on the back of the Lüneburg Heath photo.  The correct German spelling is Lüneburg Heide.

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“Looking Across the Elbe.” Len’s writing. (3)


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“German farmhouse.”   Len’s writing.

 Jimmy Shanks brought me  two pairs nylons, something in the sweetie line to be posted on to you later, and five 118 films.( I insisted on paying him £1 for the films but he said the rest were a present.)   I was really beastly to him, well I didn’t try to be a pleasing person as I do with almost everyone, I mean trying to fit in with them – yet still he wants to see me in London at the end of his leave – end of August.  He’s had that, as he tries to take my arm a bit and anyway because I said I was hungry about 1.30 on the Sun., only having had breakfast, he said: “I wouldn’t like to keep you for a week”!  Wasn’t that impudence.

We’d dinner in the Red Lion on the Sat and he didn’t tip the waitress!  He’s as mean as sin.  We also went swimming.  You should see the bath Daddy when it’s open for ordinary swimming, such a friendly atmosphere, quite different from the swimsuits with high heels and pearls which graced Gezira, Mum.

Mummy, would you like to bring Bjorn down here with you and send him off to Newcastle from here, you staying on a bit longer to have time alone with me, or would you rather come down after he’s gone? (4)

I’d a letter from Noely this morning saying he’s sailing at the end of the month – so you won’t be “Noel-led” out of existence in August.  Poor Daddy had a sample of what I was like in May/July ‘47 with you were in Egypt when he was down here. (5)

Have not heard from the girl I met whose pal is Mary Findlay married to Eric someone down here. (6)    Can you by any chance remember her name? She was on the houseboat and I think it’s Betty something, want to write to her at Shell Mex Ho. and need her surname. (7)

From what you say I can see that Coldingham should change its name to Tourist Avenue in September!  (8)

The other day my boss who has a M.A. amongst his other degrees, wouldn’t alter some of his dictation I criticised then later came to my room and altered the part I’d spoken of!

What Canadian and New York adds. have you for Noel?  (9)

You’ll see the rest of the snaps all being well when you come down Mum.

All the love in this south country to you my Northern Delights,

Len xxx


1.  These letters do not survive in this collection, apart from the one of 6 April 1946, included in Part One, Chapter One  Fresh and Innocent.

2.  “Macintosh side” – referred by Mum in her letters as “Mrs. Mac”.   They never did buy the house.

3.  This photo shows the Russian occupied German side, across the Elbe.   The sailing boat is certainly  manned by a senior Soviet.  Note the large canvas tent to the right.

view across the Elbe crop pngThe DDR, the East German one party state,  was created some months after this photo was taken, on 11 October, 1949.  The Soviet NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) continued, in the new DDR,  to control two “Special Camps” (Concentration camps) on the sites of former Nazi concentration camps, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.  In January 1950 the Russians handed the camps over to the East German Ministry of Internal Affairs.    Over 7000 died in the Buchenwald “Special Camp” and over 12,000 in the Sachsenhausen “Special Camp”.   These figures were arrived at by a mixture of Soviet book-keeping records of the time and excavations of shallow graves, following the collapse of the DDR in 1989.  The exhumation of the graves revealed that children were amongst those who had died in in the NKVD run camps.

4.  Bjorn Mackay Palmgren.  Len’s Mother was Bjorn’s mother’s cousin. As in many families, a person would be called an Aunt or an Uncle, when they weren’t.

5.  Not quite.  Mum could sun lounge at the Gezira Club and enjoy the facilities.

6.  Mary Findlay is presumed to be John Findlay’s sister.

7.  See  below:  Shell, B.P. & The British Government and Iran.

8.  Len is referring to bookings for the spare bedroom in Coldingham Avenue during the Scottish Industrial Exhibition.

9.  Adds.  Addresses.


Shell, B.P. & The British Government and Iran

Shell Mex House was used by the Ministry of Supply as their wartime HQ.  The building reverted to Shell-Mex and BP Ltd on I July, 1948 with a number of  floors remaining occupied by the Ministry of Aviation.

British Petroleum,  originally called the Anglo-Persian Oil Co, was registered in 1909 to exploit oil in Persia (Iran).    It was the first oil company in the world to exploit Middle Eastern oil.

The British Government, at the impetus of the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, partly nationalised the company in 1913 in order to secure British controlled oil supplies for its Merchant Navy and its Royal Navy, still “Ruling the Waves” around the world.

As mentioned  in Part Two Chapter Two,  the intimate relationship between the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, its directors and the British State was underlined when Sir Frederick Black, Director of British Navy Contracts resigned his position in June 1919 to become managing director of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. (Daily Mirror June 16, 1919).

It was renamed the Anglo Iranian Oil Co in 1935.

In 1950 Abadan was the world’s largest refinery.

'Abadan 1946.   Rod.  19 months.  Taken in the baby pool.  It was just filling up.'  Aunt Phem's writing.  With Dennis.

‘Abadan 1946. Rod. 19 months. Taken in the baby pool. It was just filling up.’ Aunt Phem’s writing. With Dennis.

In 1951 the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was nationalised by democratically elected members of the Iranian parliament.   There followed demonstrations of popular support within Iran for the nationalisation of the British company.  Attempts by the Labour government  to mitigate the nationalisation came to nothing.  In August, 1951 it was reported that “staff at the Abadan refinery will remain for the time being to show, in the words of Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister, ‘that the British oil industry is not deserting Iran.’  But there is virtually no prospect of resolving the crisis so long as Dr. Mossadegh remains Prime Minister.” the news report concluded.

The U.S. and U.K. reacted by imposing various sanctions on Iran.

In Britain in 1951 Shell Mex/B.P took out a full page ad opposite the frontispiece in the South Bank Exhibition Guide 1951.

Fest frontpng


shell-bp png

South Bank Ex inner png

In 1953  Shell Mex and B.P. loyally produced  Royal Progress: presented by Shell-Mex and B.P. Limited in Coronation Year 1953.   The Royal Progress spanned Henry V to the then 4½ year old Prince Charles.

In the same year, 1953, under the codename Operation Ajax, the American CIA, at the  initial request of the British MI6, organised a coup d’etat, overthrowing the democratically elected government  of Dr. Mossadegh and re-instating a pro-Western dictatorship under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – The Shah of Iran.  As a result of the coup the Iranian oilfields were taken back by a consortium of international oil companies, including Shell and B.P.   Within the U.K. Royal Dutch Shell and B.P. merged their U.K. marketing.  This arrangement lasted until 1975.

The coup has been described as a “critical event in post-war world history”.   In America, the coup was seen as a triumph of covert action.  The ‘”triumph’” had  consequences not foreseen.

In 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini led a revolution that deposed the Shah and created the Islamic Republic.  The Iranian revolution has been described as “the third great revolution in history” following the French and Bolshevik revolutions, and an event that “made Islamic fundamentalism a political force…  from Morocco to Malaysia”.

The mutual interests of Shell Mex/British Petroleum and the British State dovetailed in the combined use of Shell Mex House, 80 The Strand, London.



len on Luneberg heath crop pic png16 July, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Funny (peculiar) Saturday.

Sugar and Spice and All that’s Nice People,

Hail and how are you?

Today’s been a funny Saturday because I haven’t been rushing so far, and because the weather’s been sunny, dull, sunny, dull, until one doesn’t know where one is. Hasn’t warranted me and my Jantzen in the garden, so having faced ‘no-tan’ I plump for dullness, for that means less people at the pool and more prospects of Mr. Searle being able to give me my lesson. (1)   It’s a real family concern – last night he shouted to the other end after time was up to a little toddler “come out down there, come out Miss Searle”.  Yes, I went Sun, Tues. Wed. and Friday and hope to toddle off again shortly.

My plea at the moment is for late nights – I’m getting too much sleep and have to get up at some unearthly hour to unearth some reading material to use for ½ hour or so before dropping off to sleep again.  Did this last night.

As I’m writing, the wee bit of unbuilt ‘down’ in front of ‘No.7’ has a fat cloud sitting on it and wee boys silhouetted against it – just like one of those pictures published to give one nostalgia when far away.

Just had a telegram from Noel to say he’s arriving at 12.57 to-morrow. Well, as I hadn’t heard before I’ve not got ample provisions in, so that means more meals out – on my money lent him, so more paying back (I hope) of nylons from the States. Anyway hate the atmosphere at ‘No.7’ for guests.  Doubt if even you could charm Mr. Hemmons,  Mum.  Ask Daddy to describe him flapping about.  Can’t get over your telepathy Mum. The Cairo ‘silky one’ I’m wearing for the dance to-night, but it’s not right for an office, my bank balance worries me too much to go gay on buying frocks. (2)

Spoke for you at S & G this morning Mum, but as I thought they only use alteration hands. They’ve a vacancy for a girl of about 18, but don’t take part-timers. The Scottish window dresser was most interested about it and said to see her after I’d seen the under-manager as the manager proper was away and he’d the last word.  She’d disappeared though. You must meet her when you come down – insh’Allah Mum. She said though and I agree,  it’s better for you to do it personally.  I think you should go to one of the excloo- seef shops when you come down and offer your services.  People who’ve a clue in that line nowadays are so hard to get I’m sure they’d jump at your offer and you’d be in – probably be able to keep the family in style – (not Gerrish!).  (3)

The parcel came in yesterday and I’m thrilled to bits with my gift – just looking forward to wearing it. Was entranced with the skirt.  Haven’t had time to look at the housecoat yet, but I’m sure it’s the goods too.

len on Luneberg heath hand crop pngI think the hand in the photograph is Griff’s, the Cambridge married tutor with whom I was platonic despite lovely woods and walks on the boat deck – can’t say I would have been if the school had gone on for another fortnight though. He’s super, wrote me a friendly letter on the Monday after returning on the Sunday. He was in the ME and we talked Arabic together.

Will write to you Daddy with a full reply to your letter during the ensuing week all being well.

I’ll apply for the ticket on Monday all being well, pretending it’s for August Bank Holiday.  Will you be coming down directly after Bjorn goes – 22 – 25th Aug say, or later?  Please let me know so that I can get ticket dated accordingly when I exchange voucher for it.

Thanks for suggestion but Esme will know the name of that ‘Betty girl’.

The other day on my way to work with my bus mate – Mr Ponting (you met him Mum, nervous Newcastle type who told us of mosaics in St. Francis’ Church) a squirrel crossed our path at the foot of St. Francis road. It was lovely.

Must away. Everything from Wilts to will-on-the wisp in Wiltshire carries my love to you.

Your very own Len. xxxxx


1.  Len is having swimming lessons in the Salisbury baths.

2.  Len is going to a dance at the Porton camp that evening.  Noel will be arriving by train on Sunday.

3.  Mum, it seems is looking for ‘outwork’.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png20 July, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Wed.  9.30 am. Under half-hearted blue sky.

Gladsome Glasgow Girls and Boys,

You are wonderful.  I never thanked you for the soap in my last letter – it seems so much, are you sure you can spare it?  Then to-day for another tablet to come in with that too too marvellous tin of dried milk.  Honestly I think you’re super.  Yesterday and to-day I’ve been wearing my dirndl with lattice edging (sounds a nice description anyway though coined) and my originally white, now blue American blouse to which I’ve rendered first aid and washed and starched beautifully.  They look really good together and Val says to tell you how effective the lattice work looks round the bottom of the skirt, for when it’s on she can see it better than I.

Sent a little contribution myself this morning which I hope gets to you safely – ½ lb tea, 3 lb sugar and the ½ Cadbury’s Milk Tray which Jimmie S. brought me from Australia – hope the chocs are still in good condition.

I’d a super time at the dance on Saturday night – met a bloke who’d been a barman in Paris for 9 months and talked ‘France’ all night.  At the end the driver of the bus detailed to take us back was put in clink for being drunk,  and by the time we’d driven round miles of countryside to pick up the relief driver, who we learnt by phone had gone in, in his own car, the bus had gone and so the little military p.u. had to take Val and I home – got in finally about 2.30 am. (1)

Along I went to the station on Sunday, in response to wire on Saturday and I met a very nice bod on the way who’d have asked me out I know, had I not said I was going to meet a boy friend.  He’s working down in S. for his firm.  His father’s an executive in the firm and he (the boy’s) been to Hungary, the Sudan and all over in it.

Imagine my fury after leaving this nice boy to find no Noel and to have to go and cancel his booking, but waiting till 8 to do so in case he turned up.   Yesterday I’d just decided that such behaviour was impossible and that he must be in hospital with peritonitis when I got a letter saying he’d had to go to the American Embassy and thought it better to come down on the Wed. if that was all right with me and stay for this week-end rather than come last Sunday and leave on the Tues.  That’s all right but he should have let me know.  I’ve written back to say O.K., ‘cos I want him to see how well I get on with everyone on the station at the dance to-night, but if he doesn’t come to-night he needn’t come near me again.

Mrs. Hemmons came  home on the Sunday – so address her at “No.7” – and brought me (I’d send choc. for her with Mr.H), red earrings of three flowers each.

Since swimming I’ve been wearing my hair differently.  No waves, just caught flat back at either side with combs then fluffing out – it exposes my ears a bit but is not too bare. I like to look nice when out in Sal. and anyway needed cheering up on Sunday when I was going out to cancel the booking so wore:- (funny you should suggest the combination of the two garments Mum) my navy skirt, Hungarian blouse and the red earrings – although I sez it wot shouldn’t, I looked terrific – everything blended so well, including the hairstyle.

Noel’s not sailing till early Aug now, which means we can have the August week-end to-gether – I hope.

The dried milk is super and so exactly what I wanted – will now be able to say to guests apropos of tea – with lemon or milk?  For I bought lemons on Saturday.  Hope you didn’t pay much more than 10½ d. for the dried milk on the Black M.,( 2), for that’s what it is according to the wee slip inside.

It’s afternoon now and I’ve had a telegram from Noel saying – Positively arriving 6 pm. All my Love Noel!

I’ve plenty of hooks and eyes of black and white, so am O.K. for poplin skirt.

The point is S & G have ready made clothes therefore only need alteration hands, but I was thinking of the other shops  in Salisbury which make and sell stuff and therefore would need fitters.  On reading of your left eye being strained though I really feel bad, with thoughts of Mrs. Hemmons so please, you think of the prevention angle too and do no more sewing.

Can’t you come on the 19th and have the people on your return.  I’d prefer 19th August actually – but that’s purely my own point of view and would mean things would be more spaced out for me.

I suggest you stay at Mrs Snells, the S&G woman, as it about gives me hysterics when I’ve a guest for a meal here.


About “No.7”, there would be no room now anyway that Mrs H’s back and shortly they propose to move me back to my room and I’d only have a single bed.  Will ask the woman at S & G as you’d be nearer me with her.

Idmiston Halt station png

Idmiston Halt station, near Salisbury, looking up the line to London.

Was trying to write this in the office yesterday and before Noel’s arrival by train at Idmiston Halt (the station for the camp), but the train came in and from then on there was no time. (3)   The dance was grand – I wore my ballerina – it went on till 1 a.m. (4)

Noel’s now sailing on 5th August.  I’m taking to-day as sick leave and am just on my way downtown to meet him. (5)

Ballrooms filled with love for you two – writing you soon Dad.

Very much Asta la vista, your most own,

Len, xxxx


1.  “p.u.”   Pick up truck.

2.  “Black M.”   Black Market.  Dried  ‘National Milk’ was issued by the Government for mothers with babies.  Len may have preferred its convenience, besides its  taste.  Fresh bottled milk went off quickly in the days before refridgerators were commonplace and the alternative, bottled sterilised milk, had a distinct flavour that was not to everyone’s liking.

3.  Idmiston Halt railway station, on the  Salisbury to London Waterloo main railway line, was the station for the Porton camp.  The station closed down many years ago.  The Porton facility runs along the edge of the railway, on the right hand side of the photo.

4.  This was a dance the following week-end at Porton which Noel went to with Len.

5.  She is going to meet  Noel in the centre of Salisbury.  Presumably she is not planning on bumping into anyone from her work.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png26 July, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Evening in the front room of  ‘No.7”.   Tuesday.

Best People I know,

Well, I won’t skirt the subject topmost in my mind i.e. that all is oevair ‘tween Noel and I.  Hope I didn’t sound hysterical on the phone on Sunday night, but I was desperate to talk to you.  Monday I woke up to think first of all how the bottom had fallen from my world, but to-day I was half way through the morning before I remembered that I was ‘lonely and unloved’, so knew that the recovery process has begun.

Noel’s so right that he hasn’t known many people, that we’ve wildly divergent views on certain subjects etc.etc., but it’s obvious to anyone those things don’t matter 2d and the crux of the matter is that he finds me an admiral companion but doesn’t love me. It hurts, I won’t pretend it doesn’t and I can still hardly credit it as I’ve never been hurt before.  However, pride to the rescue, I ain’t got much about little things but about things that matter I gotta lot and Noel on Saturday night killed irreparably much that I felt for him.  Can’t really blame him though – or rather can’t blame him entirely, s’pose it’s part of my penchant for odd kinds of blokes.  Should I meet someone ordinary and pleasant one day who says “Come home and meet the folks”, I’d probably faint as I’ve never known such a normal set-up.

Thanks for your ‘talk’, the boast about the ‘attractive girl’ helps and stops the ‘nobody loves me’ feeling.  At the dance N. never gave me a chance to dance with anyone else – he can be beastly and possessive, don’t know why when he couldn’t care less from a long term angle.

Saw Mary Mabbs (nee Findlay),  tonight and husband Eric, they’re so very happy and I must confess I’m a little envious.  May see her to swim sometime, but if she doesn’t ring me won’t worry as we’re not really soulmates.

Esme wants me to go to town the week-end after this to meet Joan – home on leave from Germany and I think I will – just hope we manage a theatre for I really do feel stage starved. (1)   Must do one together with you when you come, Mum.   P’raps we could go out of Sal. to some of the many people I have lined up for week-ends – we’ll see how finance and other things fit in. Will have to ask the woman at S & G about acc. for you, as the Mabbs only have two rooms in a house.  Perhaps the Hemmon’s mother next door will have acc. I’ll ask.

N’s place is no use, as after quoting 7/6 they charged N. 10/6 – and only chamber music, no inside lavatory.(2)    N. by the way sends his love, says he’s sorry he hasn’t written too. When he said he would ‘fore he went, I said he’d never manage it now – think of the 101 things one has to do on leaving a country anyway let alone emigrating – so he’s going to send you a p.c. of the Statue of Liberty.

I gave him £6 for this last visit to Sal., (as all his cash was sent on, then his sailing was delayed) so he’s going to send me Nylons and cottons, also want devil sunglasses, you know, which I haven’t seen in this country.

Len, devil eyes glasses png

The pullover “Like your Father’s” to quote N., is still on order.  Oh yes, we’re good pals it’s just that it’s not for ever and ever anymore. Wonder if I look too palsy-walsy – p’raps I don’t appear helpless enough?

So glad you got the parcel. All being well I hope to stay at the Baxters and am taking them this week’s grocer rations, plus two weeks butcher meat all being well. Please Mum leave your rations with Daddy when you come insh’Allah as have plenty for you here

Please find out if you’re having any tourists and when they’re arriving at ‘26’, before leaving Glasgow, as I’m liable to kidnap you, Mum and keep you down here – hidden in a chalk cave in the Downs.

The trouble is that now I’m getting swimming pals and people like ye bod who escorted me to the ‘no Noel’ train, I’m wanting to stay in Sal. for week-ends, even when very attractive things are offered elsewhere.  Think it’s a good thing though.

Thanks for the hair style tip – must practise it before having my hair cut.  Yes, at last I hope to treat myself to a ‘Maria’. (3)  – am thinking of popping in to Raymonds in Mayfair – they charge and how, but do give good value – p’raps we could go in together Mum? (4)

Anytime you get a chance of more of that National Dried Full Cream Milk here’s a ready customer – it’s terrific. Went to the swimming gala with Val last night – we saw the Water Ballet again Dad. It was all great fun – somebody absently mindedly walked (!) into the pool fully dressed. Sal. beat Southampton 3 – 0 in the polo and we’d an American Olympic diver doing his stuff.

I’ve joined the public library to madly cram with Dickens before my interview, as Mr. Evans, who said he’d give me a testimonial in Germany said they question you about what you’ve been reading and generally like Dickens.  So think of me please a week on Thursday (Aug 4th) at 2 pm. at Winchester. (5)

On this Sat. and Sunday, I hope to see Freddie from Sweden, Betty and masses of other friends, but on the Friday Noel’s meeting me off the train all being well, we carry on with our own devices Sat and Sun – his include going to say ‘Good-bye’ to his mother then Monday I see him for the last time though he’s not sailing till the 6/7th. (6)

If you’ve any important dos or dont’s, please phone me here Thursday night, for I’ll be in all evening. Am so dopey when I’m with Noel that I feel some stiffening. Anyway I’ll phone you Sat, all being well.

All the love in the Western World for you two. Len. xxxx.


1.  Joan is Esme’s sister, mentioned in Len’s letter of 24 December, 1948.  Joan had been working for the British Control Commission in Germany.

2.   A common expression in the days when there was a chamber pot (potty) under the bed.

Len pic for part 3 png smaller-1

Len with a ‘Maria’.

3.    ‘A Maria’ was a hair fashion style stemming from – for the day – the tom boyish cut of Ingrid Bergman’s hair in For Whom the Bell Tolls, the film set in the Spanish Civil War, based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel.    The film was made and released in America in 1943, and then the U.K.  The style didn’t catch on in a big way then in the U.S.A or the U.K., although some copied it.  An informant recalls that she had a “Maria’ during the war and when she came home her mother was horrified.  However, when the film was re-released in the UK in 1949, the style became more popular.  For the Whom the Bell Tolls was released for the first time in France in 1947, and Denmark in 1949.  The ‘Maria’ style of cut continued well into the 1950’s.

4.   This is  Raymond of Mayfair, “Mr Teasy-Weasey”, who trained a young Vidal Sassoon in the art of cutting.

5.  Len had described Mr Evans in an earlier letter as a senior tutor at Cardiff University.

6.  This confirms that Noel’s parents are separated at the least, or divorced.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png9 August, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Deceiving Sunshine Tuesday.

Dearest Dears,

I bow my head in shame for not having written for such a time.  It wasn’t such a time on Saturday and I meant to phone all my news then, but although I was thinking of you all the time and talking of you to my friends I forgot to phone – it dawned with horror that I hadn’t on Sunday night too late for the cheap rate – determined to phone 5.30 on the dot yesterday and then you phoned Mum.  Well, I was in the midst of handing in letters I’d done and packing away all my stuff in the office and locking up same when the ‘phone rang.  How I’d love to have talked, but at that time – about 5 to 4, I’d to sign off, then rush down the road for the 4 bus to Sal. for my 4.30 appointment at the infirmary.  Isn’t it wonderful to be getting what I feel is effective treatment for my foot and that I’ll be able to see you in Town an hour earlier 3 times a week Mum! – insh’Allah.

Well August w/e I saw people I hadn’t seen for about 3 years and stayed with the Baxters. (1)   I saw quite a lot of Freddie too and he’s looking forward to showing me Stockholm. Tuesday I was at the Inf. most of the day, not getting to Porton till 4.10. Wednesday was busy at work then into the Inf., and in the evening I was so het up about the next day’s interview that I couldn’t have written a letter.

Off I went the next day – Winchester’s a lovely town and has the most wonderful Brit. R.- you’d think it was a first class hotel from the white cloths and sparkling glasses – the food’s good too.  (2)

Then the interview before a man and a woman with me as nervous as a kitten, then the medical and then away to tea with one of the other candidates.  She’s a very nice type – as far as I know the only other one from Sal.  We came back to-gether after looking at the Cathedral, and had a drink in the H of V, then she had me up to her room and we nattered.  Then I came back to see if I’d got one or two things ready for London.

Friday, pretended I was going to the Inf. and caught the 4.50 to London in order to get in,  in time. and see ‘Annie’ with the Lawlers. (3)

Saturday. I saw Pat, then met Jimmie S. – just back from Paris, then we met Val, took her to her place, then had lunch in Hyde Park then walked along the Serpentine and right along to Piccadilly and the O/Seas League.   We found they weren’t running dances till September, so had a conference about where else to go.  Then I went right out to Leyton to the Lawlers and changed and had tea, then visited Betty at Bethnal Green, then met the others at Charing X. (4)    We danced at the Lyceum and it was NTB.    Sunday I saw Pat in the morning, having morning tea with her in the flat then going to church – where Keats went in Hampstead.

Then I saw Val and walked along Oxford Street with her window shopping en route. We met Jimmie S., had tea and left him, as he’s so mean it’s grim, but he did give me 4 bars toilet soap ‘fore we left.  We found Bernard in Paris and Lilian out, so we parted then, Val on her way back to Sal. and me on to the Lawlers party. (4)   Joan’s engaged and had been buying some of her trousseau which I saw. (5)

 Left there for the 12.30 to Sal., but as some of the Tube was closed missed it but caught the 1 am., by training from Charing X to Waterloo.

Yesterday I went to bed early and to-day – believe it or not, started my scrapbook.

About arranging things for you Mum, I know how you feel, about arranging things as the occasion warrants and not in advance, so if you want me to cancel Oxford, please say so. (6)  It was to be the middle week-end. What about the Baxters?

Thought we’d go up on the Friday and stay till you left for Glasgow on the Sunday.  If you want to cancel that too and stay in Sal., do let me know, but please say so quickly as Esme’s booking up a hotel in Oxford, or rather Abingdon (where she is 6 miles from Oxford).   Also I must write and cancel the tickets I’ve booked for “Worm’s Eye View” and tell the Baxters we’re not coming if necessary. (7)   On Saturday all being well you can tell me when I ‘phone. You know which w/e is which, according to how I planned, don’t you?  Sal – 19/21 Aug, Oxford 27/28 Aug and London 2/4 Sept. Don’t for a minute though hold up on cancelling anything I’ve arranged, or half-arranged. It’s your holiday to do with as you want, all I want to do is see you for as much of it as I can.

Noely sent his regards to you in yesterday’s letter.

Immediately after putting the receiver down after our talk yesterday, I phoned Mr. Boytt – the WEA man here re acc.  He’s going to make enquiries and I’m to ring him again to-night – just hope it’s fruitful.

This week-end, Margot (met in Germany) is coming down from London to see me and I want to make an appointment to have me photo ‘took’ on Saturday.  You see amongst the things I’ve applied for is floating stenog. with the P&0 and they want a photo.

Love your phraseology Mum in describing Bjorn and his escapades, particularly the bit about him “grinning most horribly”.

If I’m not to delay this letter any more, I’d better despatch it right now.

All the love I have to you two.

Len xxxxxxx


1.  English August Bank Holiday week-end.

2.  Brit. R.  British Restaurant.

3.  It is possible,  from other references,  that the Lawlers are Esme and Joan.    ‘Annie’ was Annie Get Your Gun, which had been running in London’s West End since 1947.

4.  Betty Baxter was still in hospital.  The ‘Bernard’ referred to is probably Bernard Rice, the artist she had met in Cairo the same time she met Mark. We know from online biographical details that he was in London at this time.

5.  This is most likely Joan, Esme’s sister, and not Joan Garnett or Joan Brandley.

6.  This is the visit to Oxford, that Len had suggested in an earlier letter.

7.  Worm’s Eye View at the Whitehall Theatre. Written by R.D.Delderfield, one of the longest running plays in London in the 1940’s, and turned into a film in 1951. “Five WW2 RAF fighter pilots billeted on resentful woman who takes her annoyance out on her family. Mild comedy” – Halliwell’s Film Guide.

8.  “My first visit to Scotland was in 1949.  Then I met Helen Bryers, or “Aunty Nell” as I knew her,  for the first time.  She was a very likeable person – she gave me a a real Scottish welcome and we got on well together.”  Bjorn, in an email to the author, March 2011.



len on Luneberg heath crop pic png11 August, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts

Reflective Afternoon.  Thursday.

My darling gay Glaswegians,

First enclosures.  They are, one of the Conservative Assoc. leaflet given me at Marlborough – “even a child can laugh at them”,  two,  a receipt for the cash for the carpet. (1)

Well you know what the third is, it’s my coupons for sweets – please use them up you two – and don’t bring any sweets from it down here with you Mum, as I have goodies for you – no details now – surprise, surprise. 

You’ve made no mention of the September tourists, are they still coming as far as you know?

I went to this woman recommended me last night Mum and booked you up there. She’s O.K. – plump spinster with grey hair.  The room’s got a pleasant outlook and there’s a bathroom and loo upstairs. It’s not what I’d like you to have, but couldn’t find anything else – it’s all right you know, just not top notch.  It’s 7/6 b & b which is really robbery, but again the cheapest I could find. Hope this is all O.K. with you?

That’s all at the moment Honey’s, here’s to hearing you Saturday – how about you picking up the receiver this time Dad?

All the love in England. xxxx

p.s. I wish I was living with you two at ‘26’. L. xxx


1.  The enclosures are not in this collection. Val and Len had gone for a day trip to Marlborough.  In a few weeks Len would return with Joan Brandley,  for a day trip.   Marlborough was a safe Conservative seat.   The Conservative leaflet could have commented on several things that were happening at the time. In the summer of 1949 the Labour Government had proclaimed a State of Emergency because of a dock strike in the then very busy port of London. Dockers were out for 24 days. Conscripted troops were sent in to unload the ships.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stafford Cripps,  announced that the weekly sugar ration was being cut back to 8 oz a week, and sweet rationing, which had been scrapped, was unexpectedly reintroduced to 4 oz per person. There was also to be a cut in tobacco supplies.  Newspaper leader writers expressed concern at the reported increase in Juvenile delinquency in Britain, and sugar refiners Tate and Lyle announced an all out war on Labour’s plans, announced for the forthcoming General Election in 1950, to nationalise the sugar industry.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png15 August, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts

On bus just before it starts at 8 am. Monday

Dearest Mr. and Mrs. B.

How are you getting on?  I hope you’re having a second heat wave in Glasgow too.

I enquired about excursions when seeing Margot off last night. (1)    One at 12/- ret. goes on Tues, Weds and Thurs. from Sal at 7.50 am. getting to Ryde, I o W at 11.5 – you return at 6.20 pm.  One also goes on Sundays at 8.50 am, returning same time. I’m enclosing the leaflet about the holiday runabout – you could even get further afield economically by taking a bus from where your ticket stopped.

Must say Marie’s invitation does make me want to go to Sweden, especially with Freddie in Stockholm to take one around too. (2)   He flew – but not at the £40 etc. touch of BEA – it’s a smaller airline he came by and much cheaper.

I’ve written to Esme cancelling our trip to Oxford.

Please tell me when you’re due to arrive Fri. as soon as poss., as I’ve to go up and tell Miss Sansom on Thursday.

Also birth certificate, if you’ve not despatched it, please remember to bring it, please.

Will send a longer letter either to-night, or to-morrow morning.

All the love in Porton to you two poppets.


Paul and Bjorn1.  Margot, who Len met at the WEA Summer School in Germany. 

2.  Marie is Bjorn and Paul’s Mum.


This is the letter Len said she would write later in the day.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png15 August, 1949.

My room – cold despite terrific heatwave.  Monday.

Apart from the lovely positive things about teaching I shall be so glad to get away from:-  the Civil Service, secretarial work, the 1¾ hour’s travelling a day and these digs.  Just hope things go all right.  Margot only came on Sunday as her father had had a heart and asthma attack, but she said I must find out all the in and outs to try to get as much as possible in the way of tuition and possible grants, so propose to write to Mr.Evans, Senior Tutor at Cardiff Uni. – Germany met and one of my referees – did I tell you he suggested giving me a testimonial for this scheme and I’d not so much as mentioned the word teaching to him!

Please Mum, can you beg, borrow or steal another tin of that national dried milk, it’s wonderful.

Margot says it would be expensive to go to college in London – wonder where I’ll be sent – am keeping my fingers crossed that it all comes off all right – please do so for me too.

Herewith comprehensive W/loo Sal. timetable – I can get another from the station.   Noely gave me the enclosed timetable.   Despite how long you say I’ll be at work, I’ll really only be there Fri. morning and I hope, unless they have a fit at my wanting time off to have my eyes done as well as foot.  The administrative officer – sal. about £12 a week and a good pension, won £6,000 on the f/pools a year or so ago and he’s niggley – imagine with all that cash. Still I’ve got my appointment card from the eye man.

Know you will probably be sewing something half of Thursday night anyway and that you like travelling by day, so if you like it that way, O.K., but have a lager on the train with your lunch and think of me – I always think of lager in connection with train meals – reminds me of going up to Uncle D’s wedding. (1)   There’s a military dance on Saturday night, so don’t get too tired.

I. of W. is a closed book to me – just hope on opening it if it doesn’t prove too expensive – I’ll make enquiries about places there and elsewhere. We could bus about halfway on the Friday (mid week-end) as I finish with the hosp. at 5 pm., and stay at some Y.H., then continue to I of W on the Sat.  We could go straight there on the Fri. as it only takes 4 hours from here.  Bring Y.H. card anyway.

Yes, I’m afraid it is a matinee though you don’t like ‘em. The evening price for a decent seat would have really rooked me and it’s hideous getting back from London on a Sat. late.  Yes, let’s go and see Joan B. and her people on the Sunday. (2)

Yes, I have seen the Sunday-met guy.(3)   Had a lovely day last Thursday – came home to find acceptance letter, went out and had lovely call with you, found 2/6 and came out to bump into him.  I was half-weepy (homesick) and half thrilled, so had to tell him, saying not to tell a soul as everyone in Sal. knows everyone else. He was looking for a girl he was ½ hour late for and was going dancing.  He walked me round to the library and inquired what I was doing afterwards. (4)   I said going to bed, upon which he said – here was he dog-tired and going dancing and me bursting with energy and going to bed – p’raps I’ll bump into him again without a girl in the offing.

Must write and find out what’s happened to Mark.  Keep on having ‘little last extravagances’ before saving, so if he doesn’t come soon don’t know if I’ll even have his £30 left in bank, let alone any ‘ain cash’.

Must – but definitely close now – don’t think I’ll be sending any more mail for you both at 26 before Mum’s departure, but hope to write to you shortly, Dad.

All the heatwave love hotted up even more and sent up to you, from me,

Len xxxxx


1.   Uncle D : Uncle Dennis.  The wedding would probably have been about 1943.   In the 1946 Abadan photo Rod is 18 months old.  Len would have been 18 at the time of the wedding.

2.   Joan Brandley,  in Dagenham.  The play is, as mentioned earlier, Worm’s Eye View at the Whitehall Theatre.  It is not clear if Len is a little confused: talking of returning to Salisbury on Saturday evening, and yet visiting Joan and her parents in Dagenham on Sunday.

3.  Sunday-met guy.  This is the nice ‘bod’ she met when she went to meet Noel off the train, 17 July, 1949.  “Imagine my fury… to find no Noel”.

Sal. PO png4.  The Library in Chipper Lane is half way down.  The Cadena dance hall was at the bottom, with the main entrance around the corner.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png17 August, 1949.

7, Barton Road Road, Salisbury, Wilts.


My Dearest Daddy,

Here at last is a reply to your July letter but I won’t post it till Thursday night or Friday morning, so that you get it just after Mummy’s left for the south.

I wish you could come this time too, but I suppose we must just be glad you were able to manage earlier.

You mentioned two things you’d get for me before you left and I wondered if you’d got them yet.  One was the Dunlop spring press for my raquet and the other that you’d make a ball point pen for me from some old pen at work – how goes it? (1)

At the moment I’m very thrilled about the teaching business.  In my letter of acceptance, it says that an accepted candidate is eligible to work as a teacher whilst awaiting entry to a training college.  Now there aren’t any t.c’s in Scotland so that means I won’t be home for my period of training,  but wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could get a teaching job in Glasgow till I entered college and thus get a few months at home with you two.  Don’t you think it’s a good idea? (2)

Please though, don’t tell a soul about any of this, as I never like to talk about anything like this till it gets into its stride.

Must away now Daddy, but look after yourself in Scotland – Mummy’s address is –

c/o Miss Sansom,
9 Ashley Road,

All the love in the south for you, from,

Len. xxxxx


1.  It seems that Dad and others at his India Rubber Company works were developing their own version of a biro on the quiet.  Biros were the rage of the age.  Invented by Ladislas Biro in 1935, high altitude USAAF crew were impressed with the way it worked, and didn’t need constant refilling.  It went on sale to the American public in October 1945, advertised as a pen that “lasted up to two years”.  Despite it costing $12.50 the stock of 10,000 sold out in one day at a New York department store.  George Orwell, footnoted earlier as being in Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, with T.B., relatively close to the Bryers family home, was writing to a friend in London in March 1948 for a further biro, which he found easier to use than his fountain pen which was “on its last legs and you can’t use ink in bed.” (Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Volume 3).  Orwell was slowly finishing Nineteen Eight Four in 1948.   As will be seen in future reproductions of letters, Len started using a biro too.

2.  Len’s comments are confusing.  There were teacher training colleges in Scotland.  She would probably remember, when she was in Cairo, her Mum’s letter relating the visit of Henry Lindsay, striding up and down their hall, telling them about Jordan Hill Teachers Training College.  She might have meant to say that none of the teacher’s training colleges were participating in the Emergency Teachers Training scheme.  It is not clear whether this was because teachers associations in Scotland were opposed to the scheme.  There were certainly some very rigid and reactionary attitudes amongst many teaching staff in Scotland.  For instance, reported in the Scottish Sunday Mail (sister paper of the Scottish Daily Record) on 19 June, 1949:

“Equal Pay for Women is Wicked, Says Headmaster.”

Equal pay for women? – ‘Wicked and selfish’

Mr. R . J. Walker of Edinburgh speaking on equal pay in the teaching professions said in his presidential address to the Scottish Schoolmasters Association in Edinburgh.

‘It cannot be emphasised too much that there is no equal work in teaching.  The man’s contribution is manifestly different from the woman’s’.

To attract men to the profession there must be entirely separate conditions of salaries and conditions of service.

Equal pay was selfish because it struck not only at the headmaster, but at his wife and children.

Mrs. M.Y.Wakeheld,  president of the National Council of Women in Great Britain also agreed that equal pay was unfair to men, and was quoted, in the same Sunday Mail story,  that it could cause grievance among men.  Her comments were made at a luncheon in London to the National Association of Women Launderers.


Next         Part Three 4:  Fancy me a School-Maam.

“I always feel so sorry for kids and adults with disinterested and indifferent parents”.

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Part Three 2: Mean Mum and Mean Noel

Part Three Chapter Two    Mean Mum and Mean Noel

Whit Monday  “I think it was mean of Noel and you to desert me”

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png2 May, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E, Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.


Dearest Chookie-Burrdies,

Thank you so much for the two lovely parcels Mum – honestly, you do spoil me, but must say I enjoy it.

After this week-end my tiredness is right up in my brain, so I’ll just confine this letter to my doings at the week-end and answer your 11 tomorrow, all being well. (1)

As Noel hadn’t got my address I didn’t hear from him till Wednesday and nastily (I must admit) didn’t write back till the Thursday evening.  Nevertheless, not only he, but Lynda too, were waiting to meet me at Waterloo at 8 p.m. on the Friday.  We went straight out to L’s flat and she gave us a lovely salad, then we just sat and talked. Noel, went about 11,  but Lynda and I sat up talking till about 2.30 a.m.   I managed to drag myself from bed next morning and give her her breakfast in bed, before going out to meet Esme.

As I was going along the Strand, I bumped into a bloke I knew who was an announcer on Forces Broadcasting in Cairo –  wasn’t it a coincidence – can’t get over the way I meet people  in London I know.  He’s now Assistant Director of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was in a hurry to his work as I was in a hurry for E, being late, so we didn’t have time for a long chat. (2)

I was almost up to Esme when I saw her greeting another girl we’d known in Cairo. We walked along with this girl and suddenly bumped into Joan Mathews who is a pal of this girl, so we all stood and talked ten to the dozen, then I went shopping with Esme and first visited the Civil Service Stores, but their moygashel was too fine.  I got the one I wanted eventually in John Lewis’s for 7/6 a yard as it’s utility.  It’s lovely, half rayon, half wool.  E. bought buttons – cheapest suitable at 1/11½d. each – the ones she liked were 3/3d. each!   Then I went back to the flat by innumerable changes and through the cup tie crowd. (3)    Honestly though, that cup tie crowd –   Daddy, you were once an active player, so can understand your moderate interest in the game, but why do people who’ve never even played spend time and money on rail fares, fancy clothes and rattly things to see their favourite team – and why do they adopt it as their favourite team?  Really I’d like to know.

Anyway, when I got back to the flat Lynda opened the door and went out to meet Noel – we were both s’posed to go, but I wanted to wash and change and finish re-modelling my peasant dress.  At last it was done and I was just about to depart to meet them when Lyn and Noel came back.  So we ate there and though Lyn went out in the afternoon, Noel and I stayed in all the time. It’s so wonderful not to have to rush from A to B all the time in London.  As Lyn’s two flatmates were away, there were only the three of us and Noel stayed overnight.

On Sunday after lazing about for a while, we eventually really got cracking and Lyn cleaned out the living and bedroom, whilst Noel went all handy and did the kitchen, cooker, floor, dishes and window.  In the meantime I’d a bath and put on my pink blouse and Cairene skirt.  Then the three of us sallied forth to the British Museum – it was wonderful.  I’d like to go nearly every time I go to London. We saw the object of Keat’s ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’, the Portland Vase and the Magna Carta. For both Noel and I, it was the first time visited and a sheer joy.  But oh, all the Egyptian stuff, including Mummies – must admit it’s not so splendid as the Cairo one, in this respect,  but is pretty good nevertheless.  Feel I’d like to have valued that necklace I gave you Mummy, the two little tablets I meant to have mounted and a genuine scarab I had in my Oxo box of grips!  It isn’t there now, believe I left it in Scotland.  If you could bring some or all of these south with you when you come it would be fun to have them valued.

After the Museum, we returned and I made curried rice, though unfortunately we’d nothing else to go with it like meat or vegetables. The bread was finished so I made bread too and also a pudding of rice and raisons and a binding batter.

Lynda really is super and the three of us really get on like a house on fire.  Lynda’s a bit too thin I must admit, but really has lovely lines and as her arms and legs are not thin at all, when she wears jumpers and skirts she looks really good.  She lives on fruit juices and salads.

Noel’s coming down here this week-end, unless his father’s arrived, in which case I’ll go up to London (insh’Allah) as he wants me to meet him.  Apart from this interim arrangement, we’ve decided for me to go twice to London for Noel once down here, as he can only come on the Saturday and has to leave early in order to get his Hayes train at the other end, whilst I can be in London at 8 on a Friday, stay with Lyn and not leave till 9.30 or 12.30 on the Sunday night (it’s only 2/- in a taxi from Sal. station).

Noel’s complaining about having to go to Aunt Ena’s, but I’m sure it’s just because he feels he oughter , so please write to her Mum, saying we’d like to come at Whit.

I’m sorry  but I can’t phone till Friday, for the simple reason that I haven’t the money.  At the moment I’m too tired to work out where , or how it’s gone, but it’s 22/9 every time I go to London for fares. (4)   Then I spent 22/6 on the moygashel to make ye skirt- had to have it for dressmaking class to-morrow.  Anyway I’ve just enough and no more to get me some food through the week, won’t make it Saturday for the call though, as Noel s’posed to be coming down and I don’t seem to be able to think when he’s around, so shall ‘phone on Friday all being well between 6.30 and 7 – O.K.?

All my love pets,

Len. xxxx


1.  “Your 11”.  Mum is also  re-numbering her U.K. letters.

2. He would be one of several Assistant Directors. There were Festival of Britain Directors – and Assistant Directors –  covering different specialities.  For instance the architect Hugh Casson, then in his thirties, was Director for Architecture. The overall Director and Chairman of the Festival of Britain was Gerald Barry.

3.  Leicester City 1 – Wolves 3.  Len would be visiting the defeated team’s home town at Whitsun.

4.  Britain’s railways had been nationalised in January,1948, whilst Len had been in Cairo.  Some saw nationalisation of industries and services as the new dawn.   One idealistic letter writer to the popular Picture Post magazine, J.V.Cook from Laindon, Essex, on March 1948, suggested that tickets for the railways should be abolished, and that the railways could be financed by an extra 6d on a packet of twenty cigarettes.  Pipe smokers in the Labour cabinet like Chancellor Stafford Cripps and Board of Trade President Harold Wilson might have raised a dry smile at this novel suggestion, but the New Britain they were implementing didn’t usually correspond to the pockets of idealism that were still around in the post-war period, and that had contributed to putting their party into Government in 1945.   As it was, railway men were not too enthusiastic about the railways’ new owner, the State.   On September 14, 1948 they were discussing ‘go slow’ tactics to support wage demands.


We know from the numbering on the back of the envelopes that Len did write  the following day, as she had promised, but it is not in this collection.  The one following is.


UK12 P&0 png



len on Luneberg heath crop pic png4 May, 1949.

PA to CSP, CDEE Porton, Nr.Salisbury.
Office.      Afternoon of Wednesday.

Most Precious People,

How are you, hope you’ve forgiven me for not ‘phoning last night or Monday, but lack of cash is, lack of cash. You’ll be happy to learn, that last night at the dress-making class I cut out my skirt – from your diagram.  I sailed up to ye cutting out table with it  in my hand and the teacher just took it from me, said “Ah” and started showing me exactly how,  according to your diagram.  She said your drawing was very good.  Have ‘phoned S&G but it’s their half day, so left instructions for Miss Gale to ring me tomorrow, so that I can find out how your hat’s progressing.

The woman said to me last night, “This won’t take you long, what d’you want to make next?”. Honestly, being ‘in on’ (as it were) dressmaking does make you think of ‘what next’ so I replied at once that I wanted to make a copy of my duck egg blue check zipping up the back in black. Can see me making nothing but blues and greens in clothes, for I know you won’t tackle things for me in those colours.  Just took home my green dress from the office last night, thanks for the mending of it – it was folded for aeons and aeons, but on my shaking it out and hanging up last night it looked as fresh as can be – you must have ironed it well – and thanks again for mending the hated colour.  Noel really liked it – and commented upon my Cairene skirt, so thanks so much for being so prompt in sending it on.  It is funny that parcels take a negligible amount of time compared with Cairo-bound ones, yet letters take only two days less time.

Please could you send on the sling back skin shoes I gave you which you don’t want Mum, and also my white high heeled sandals. Is my French dictionary there please? Chunky pink-red wee book?

Do wish Glasgow was just a wee bit nearer – and cheaper to get at.  It’s tantalising being so near, yet so far. Simply must have Hogmanay with you insh’Allah, I’ve felt most homesick at those times of year and when your letters came through with the news of your doings for the 45/46, 46/47, 47/48 Hogmanays.   Just hope we’re gay and together this time.  Oh, it does make me angry that I’ve not more money to do so many things, especially with my boss getting over £40 a week and innumerable perquisites besides.  (1)

The Overseas letter was merely saying why hadn’t I taken up membership, but was dated way back, before I went to O’seas House, the other was from Lilian Swan whom I must look up if I can elude Noel for 2 secs. in London, or persuade him to come along too. (2)    It seems ridiculous, that I’ve seen Esme for 2½ hours since I came home, Pat for a little longer, ditto Joan Brandley  but haven’t been near any of my other friends.   Believe I might persuade Noel in about another three week-ends to come with me to JBs though.  The trouble is almost all my friends are in London and work Sat. mornings when I’m not with Noel.

Wooing the Adjutant like mad to get permission to register with the NAAFI, as I’m in Sal so little at week-ends, I’d never get near the co-op to collect my rations or see their odd almost-delicacies like gorgonzola on points.  Whereas as soon as Mr.C. pops away – and he usually does for at least an afternoon each week I could take a shopping bag and off to the NAAFI – seems they’ve everything under the sun. (3)

Are any of the Ayr snaps ready yet?

Len at Ayr? png

Len at Ayr,  Easter 1949.


mum at Ayr ? png

Mum at Ayr,  Easter 1949.


Have heard I’ve been accepted for the school in Germany, June 11-25th.  Was getting all ready to turn it down as I thought it was July, but all being well I should now have plenty of news of travels when we unite in London.  Noel doesn’t know yet – only heard when I returned Sun. night – so expect he will moan solidly.   It’s so difficult to get into Germany, I’m really thrilled, but dread Noel’s opposition. Wish Lynda and he could come too.  But what am I talking about, are you two interested?  For you’d be most eligible, being alive about Trade Unions and active in them or similar orgs., for that’s a condition of going.  It’s only £16 inc. and if nec. one even receives assistance over the amount!  If you fancy it at all, please enquire at W.E.A. Headquarters in Glasgow.  I brought out all about being a member of the CSCA,  ex-Unity Theatre, productions in the ME and other odd lines, anyway, they’ve accepted me.

Haven’t tried on the yellow pants as yet, but any time now.  By the way, what was the “New Look’ scarf enclosed?  Thanks for the fork, knife and spoon holder Daddy. The pears were the bees knees and how, with my – at present – unsatisfied cry for fruit and vegetables they were the answer to an unspoken wish – couldn’t have been better. (4)

I’m enclosing some odd photos of Noel which I pinched from Lyn, don’t particularly like the one of him at Richmond but pinched it because he looks so American – he’s wearing Olive Drab – colour of the Burma Boys.

Noel, army drab 2 png

Noel at Richmond.

Noel drag 2 pngThink the one of him as one of the ‘ladies’ of the chorus is priceless.  The plane is one from which he used to drop supplies in Burma.   They’re only for a shooft, could you please return – thanks. (5)

Suggest you ask me in about three letters time about staying at ‘No.7’  in July.  You see at the moment, whenever I ask him the wee-est thing, Mr.H. puts his hand to his head, as with his new job – vansman to get open air for his ulcers (yes, didn’t you know) and Mrs, H. just having gone into hosp. he’s in no welcoming mood, though I did get him to say yes, about Noel coming down this week-end and will now probably have to rescind the whole thing, or at least postpone it.  Mrs H. received your letter when I was away at the week-end and Mr H. tells me it brightened her up considerably.  Thanks for the advice of the amount to pay for self-catering, I’ve read, marked and inwardly digested.

About Whit, about this week-end, in fact about quite a lot, everything may be changed for I’d a telegram from Noel to-day and for once he’s got a cast iron excuse for not writing on Monday or yesterday, for it read – “Father arrived Monday. Writing to-day. Noel”.  I’m thrilled at the thought of meeting my darling’s father. Almost feel like phoning you on tick, but am so excited, guess it’d only make me worse.

Will drop a note on hearing from N. to-morrow all being well, giving gen and also if I’m still phoning Friday or Sat from Lundorn

All my love,

Len. xxx


1.  It is surprisingly difficult to get an accurate figure for a Shorthand Typist working for the Ministry of Supply, with a PA’s allowance, for this time, but it is assumed that Len would be earning  around £5 – £6 a week.

2.  ‘The Overseas letter…’   Correspondence for Len sent to Coldingham Avenue, and forwarded by Mum.

3.  ‘Mr C’.   Mr Childs, her boss.

4.   These are some of the contents of the ‘two lovely parcels’ she received, and mentioned in her letter on the Monday.

5.  The photo of the plane is not in this collection.  That the others are shows that Mum forgot to return them to Len, and that Len never returned them to Lynda.


Len has been to London over the week-end and met Noel’s father.  She has returned to Salisbury from Waterloo on a train after Sunday midnight.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png9 May, 1949.

PA to CSP, CDEE, Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.

2.30ish, Monday

My Darlings,

Thanks for your letter.

So listen, what about Whit – does Aunt Ena’s invitation to you two alter your decision not to go? I mean is it possible you’ll both go now, or might you Mummy? – as you don’t get the holiday, do you Daddy?   Isn’t it a nuisance, ‘we don’t know where we’re going till we’re there’ as the song says.  Wrote to Noel today saying is Whit still O.K. at Aunt Ena’s if I’m going to Germany the week after without him. He’s keen to go, but don’t know yet if we’ll get him in.  Will phone you on Friday night and bring you up to-date on my news.

Noel and I were at a  party of people on Sunday night, with his Father.  He’s a very nice man – sweet, but determined.  I won’t say any more, but you’ll see him for yourselves soon, all being well.  I asked Noel to get his Father alone as I didn’t want to ask him in front of the other people.  N. did this, so I asked his Father if he would like to stay with you when he was up in Glasgow.   He said he’d be delighted to call in, but didn’t know if he could stay, as he’s got a very old pal up there who got a house fairly recently and keeps a bedroom vacant which he calls “King’s Bedroom’ and Noel’s Father said he’d never have any peace if he didn’t go there.  And guess where the pal stays – Scotstoun! (1)   Isn’t that good, with Glasgow being so big, for as he’s so handy even if he doesn’t actually stay with you – he wasn’t quite decisive – he should pop in quite a lot.

The week-ends in London are really soul-destroying though, as at least half one’s time always seems to be spent in the tube.  Glad beyond all measure that I’m staying in Salisbury this week-end.  It was so lovely for Noel and I with you two in Glasgow, if we wanted to bustle we could, but we were able to laze as much as we liked – beginning to really appreciate it.   Don’t know if the way I feel has come through in my letters at all, but despite the fact that I feel more settled now, I’d be giving anything to be going to Canada with Noel, and I hate the thought of him going away for two long years.

Haven’t your letters by me to reply to at the moment, but will write a really long screed on Wednesday, then again on Saturday, after our Friday night phone call.

They told me my transfer grant’s through so all being well when I get it in hard cash I’ll send you the £10 (for it’s roughly that) which I’m indebted to you for in a lump sum, for the grant should cover it all right.  (2)   Will that suit?  Hope you’re not offended at my waiting to re-pay, but you’re not croesus (3), so don’t really see why I should use your wee bit of cash – you’re not offended?

Caught the 12.20 again last night and thought little sleep hadn’t affected me, but I feel a bit weepy which I s’pose is the result of not enough shut eye.

Sorry for the comparative brevity, but want to catch tonight’s post  Before I forget, saw a bloke I knew in Cairo on Sat. in Soho – was on Forces Broadcasting, now BBC, also Adam Hunter and two Unity girls, now filming “The Gorbals Story”, felt very far away from them. (4)

The stars shine full of love, from me to you,

Len. xxxxx


1.  Scotstoun is about a mile from Yoker and Coldingham Avenue.  It is also where “Wee Maggie”  lives.

2.  Assumed to be a MoS/Civil Service grant for her transfer from Cairo to the U.K.

3.  Made of money.

4.  “The Gorbals Story.  GB.  1949.  75m.  Well meaning, low budget proletarian melodrama, featuring actors from the Glasgow Unity Theatre.  Set mainly in a couple of tenement rooms…”  – Halliwell’s Film Guide.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png11 May, 1949

PA to CS(P), CDEE Porton, nr Salisbury, Wilts.

Wed. 5ish.

Northern Delights,

Don’t know why I never seem to get a decent length letter written to you nowadays. This too will have to be comparatively short, for it’s almost time to go and once I’m home, it’s a long way to the post and back – 40 – 50 mins walking, so I like to post it en route back to ‘No.7’, but will write a really long letter on Saturday – insh’Allah.

How I wish you were coming to Germany, heard from them last night to say a £5 scholarship’s been granted me, making it only £11 London there and back; schooling and maintenance – isn’t it terrific?  Just wish I knew some German.  I s’pose there’s no chance of you coming is there?

D’you know at Noel’s Aunts’ on Sunday and in fact generally in the south I’ve noticed real antagonism to Scotland.  Isn’t it odd, for abroad, Scots are far and away more popular than the English.  It’s funny too, the way they divide up the country.  I said to the Aunt (this was in Surrey)  “You belong here?” and she replied, Oh no, that they were Cambridge.  Personally, I lump everything together.  Can’t get over the antagonism to the Scots, for being abroad, I imagined everyone just adored them everywhere.

Please, stockings from Macdonalds.(1)   And if I can’t collect them from you at Aunt Ena’s I’d like – white sandals, toeless skin, browny skin (being ‘rubbered’) and navy court shoes. No hurry though.

No time to get gossipy, for I want you to have this before I ring on Friday – 6.30 – 7, probably.

All the love in the southern command.

Len xxxxx


1.  Macdonalds in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street.  No longer in business.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png17 May, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E., Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.

Dearest Western Wonders (of that little grey home),

This letter is going to be disjointed to say the least.  Various items popping up here and there.  Firstly, please bring Egyptian tablets and necklaces for valuing at Brit. Mus. in first week-end of hol. in July.

Must tell you of Saturday, after breakfasting and washing ‘medly’ and then ironing a few of the earlier washed things, I went into town.  It was all county and market and sunny and super.  Got all my rations including sugar for week.  The butcher gave me two chops and offered (!) me two kidneys – this, I’ve since been told is most unusual.  I got Vogue’s Smart Book of Dressmaking – like a thick mag. – 2/6 and also a Vogue pants pattern, not so much for the pattern, as that I really feel I ought to get used to working to a pattern.

Vogue patterns book cover png

Vogue’s Book of Smart Dressmaking.

Want to make a jacket for my skirt the same as that one we saw Mum, with a roll collar to waist, faced with velvet, also straight split skirt, so that I can wear either with the jacket. If you see a pattern for either please send  it to me, please.

But my dee-yah, enquired for your hat – having phoned and knew it was in earlier in the week – and they said yes and a girl fetched another woman, who said Miss Gale was away sick with heart trouble. Was sorry about this, but the girl I spoke to started to natter to me and didn’t stop.  She said looking at the label on ye hat – “Ah, which part of Scotland?”   Well I told her.  She’s Edinburgh, or somewhere near and is down here with husband – a Scot too.  He’s an Army Officer and they’ve just bought a house and she used to be a window dresser for Jenner’s in Edinburgh, and S & G’s manager met her at a cocktail party and as her husband’s away a lot, she said “Yes”, when they asked her to take charge of window dressing there.  People kept interrupting, but she seemed sorry as I went, and can quite see me getting an invite to her house if I go in again.  Should ‘No.7’ fail us, wouldn’t it be super if you got part of her house for the hol?  I shall have to speak re. your staying at ‘No.7’ soon, so unless there is any reason to delay a reply, p’raps you could thrash it out between you and give me your decision on Thursday night.  You see if you don’t make a move soon you’ll fall between two stools and might find diff. in getting a place at that busy period.

Your hat is super Mum and I only hope you come to Leicester to take delivery.  I tried on the hat of Val to-day which she brought in for me to see. (1)    It’s cloche, dove grey with an enormously long feather and a veil – it really does things to my face and really has made me wonder if I should join the hat brigade.   Wonder if Aunt E. would like to make one for me?

Saw Mrs.H. on Sat. and she seemed cheerful and could see quite well – they don’t know now, it seems,  how her eyes are going to react to treatment but told her it will be a long job.

Cash – as I owed you say £10 and hat was 45/- say, £2, that’s £8 now coming up as quickly as I can manage it.  Also, please d’you mind if I reverse the charges, but Mr.H. was worried about my p’raps going on beyond the pips and the ‘phone being his mother’s, so feel it’s better this way and I’ll send you the dough, for calls.  Extra 2d. I pay them each time will be obviated too.

I have masses of spare marg. and lard and a wee bit of sugar – could you use it?  As I hate making up parcels – and don’t do it too well, p’raps you could collect it at Whit all being well Mum – you see how necessary that trip is for you – don’t you agree Dad?

I wore my navy skirt for the first time on Sunday and got it really soaked at the bottom in a cloudburst, but it did look good, with Nylon blouse and multi-coloured beads.

I’ve started on Noel’s socks and as I’ve got into quite a rhythm, don’t feel self-conscious doing them in the bus in front of people.

Also, what should I ask Mark (who hasn’t offered but who’d be most willing) and Jack (who offered in his last letter) to bring back from Cairo?    So what do you think from each, paying of course (or at least really offering).  Please say soon, as I want to write before I leave for Germany  and Mark I especially ought to write soon as he might be here by the time I’m back.

Please, prickers for primus, the ones I took with the primus are all rusty and I can’t use it till I get some more and so far my hunt’s been unsuccessful – so if you come across any in Glasgow – thanks.

Do you want anything dry cleaned?  For on the station in one of the sections, we’ve a cleaning service which is just as good and much cheaper than the shops as well as being more speedy.

Stockings from MacD’s sometime please.

Funny your mentioning that “Personality Unlimited” Mum, but only last night when waiting to register at a doctors, I picked up a “News Review” and read a crit. about it. (2)  The doc. saw me and I told him about my met. arch, but he said it hadn’t really dropped, that heat wasn’t necessary and merely bound it up with elastic and said exercise, not just standing, was good for it, mentioning “Pranella Stock” stuff?  (3).  I’d like to be able to wear high heels, but that’s the only way I’m inconvenienced now, I must admit.

One of those letters is a redirection of the elec. bill paid in Cairo and another is an income tax rebate so can’t complain on the score of cash, whilst yet another is from Harris saying he’d sent two others, but no reply and it’s very warm, so must give him a ring for I’d like the news of how he and the rest of the Old Vic gang are getting on.

Daddy, don’t you remember going into Kodak’s with me and asking them to notify us when they’d 118 films in?  (4)   And of course we gave your name, knowing I wouldn’t be in Glasgow. This evidentially means two 118 films are being sent you and keep them for my camera please to take snaps of you in July – insh’Allah.  If there’s any difficulty ‘phone Kodaks.

That’s all for now, all the love in the world to two Super Types.

Len xxxxx


1.  Val is a fellow MoS shorthand typist, possibly a PA too, based at the nearby Winterbourne Gunner facility, where, amongst other activities, soldiers took part in gas warfare exercises.  Len has, it is assumed, already told Mum about meeting Val in one of their telephone conversations.

2.  Personality Unlimited was an American book, published in the UK by Faber & Faber in 1949.  It was a guide to health and beauty: “Diet, exercise, cosmetics, clothing and grooming”.

3.  Pranella was a brand of ladies’ boots and shoes. 

4.  Presumably at some point when she was up over the Easter week-end.  118 roll film was quarter plate size film: 3¼ inches by 4 ¼ inches.  Kodak Autograph No. 3 camera took it, plus some British manufactured Ensign cameras.  Many of Len’s negatives and photos in this collection are quarter plate   Kodak discontinued 118 roll film in 1961.

len, noel and camera

Street photographer snap of Len and Noel, probably London, 1949.   Note the canvas case of her camera she is holding.  This is a quarter plate size camera.

Salisbury cathedral png

Salisbury Cathedral, 1949.     Quarter plate photo by Len.




 len on Luneberg heath crop pic png20 May, 1949.

 Address as always.


Lights of my Life,

Hail and how are you?  Yes, spoke to Mr. H. about ‘No 7’ and he was very vague, saying “A lot can happen in 7 weeks”.  Must see the woman at S & G and suggest your staying with her,  if he’s not more clear by next week-end as to what he thinks you can do, as you don’t want time to go on and not get fixed up anywhere.

This week-end all being well I’m staying with the Brandleys and am taking up ¾ lb Marg. and some cooking fat to Mrs. B., as that should please them.  Please Mum, what ply or kind of wool did you use for Daddy’s famous maroon pullover and how much, for it’s not terribly easy to get and I should be on the look out for it.

My boss  offered to take me up to town to-day by his M.G. Coupe, but I said ‘No’ as it meant taking half a day’s leave.  Miss Wells in London told me that he sent away the last girl he had, so feel quite pleased I seem to get on all right with him. (1).

As I hope to leave on the 11th June for Germany, if you propose writing to Ernst could you do so soon Mum please.  Sure he’s still in Tel el Kebir.

Got some nail polish on the tip of my Parker inadvertantly and its’ gone a bit funny, which is putting me off my stroke.

There doesn’t seem to be any more news at the moment.  Let me know all queries re. holiday (twould be a prohibitive price with b&b 9/- a night!).

In the meantime, all love,

Len. xxxxx

Daddy, thanks for your letter, will reply soon.

Love, Len.


1.  Miss Wells is assumed to be a Civil Service appointments officer at the Adelphi head-quarters.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png23 May, 1949.

‘No.7’, Monday evening.

Dearest Sweethearts,

Now to answer your letters and tell you how I enjoyed the week-end.  Firstly though, that £15 grant has just disappeared between, my Germany money, the hat, food, wool for Noel’s socks, etc, so I can’t see myself giving you the other £7 (8 enclosed) plus my telephone call money, till July. (1)   I can easily take some out of the bank, so if you need it before July, tell me, after me leading you up the garden about giving it to you now.  May have some after Whit, but I don’t want to indulge in my pet habit of going around with the cash I need minus 2d when up at the Reids.

Asked all over London for “Personality Unlimited”, but just couldn’t get it, think I’d better order it down here.

Got in last night to find a letter from Steena my Swedish girl friend awaiting me and also one from Aunt Ena – very welcoming and warm.  “Marie Rose” says she’d like me to bring a tennis racket, well she’s had that, much as I’d like to please her – on a train here, off in London, all over in the tube, dumping my bag wherever I’m staying and the next morning repeating the process to the Leicester train is bad enough without a racket as well.

Must tell you something funny, had £1, a ten shilling note and 1/6d odd, when I went into the chemists to-night to dump the roll of film taken at the week-end and to see if the extra copies were ready for you and Noel of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge png

Stonehenge, 1949. Photo by Len.

As they weren’t I thought “Oh, now I can send the 10/- to Dad and Mum in the letter after this as it’s unbroken”.  Then thinking I’d have no more expenses till Friday and pay day, I thought I’d blow 1/6d. odd on some hair oil, as I do want to look good for the Reids.   I remembered what macassar oil had done for your hair Mum and ordered a bottle, thinking it would be cheap old fashioned stuff. (2)   It’s old fashioned all right, but the price – ooooh – it’s 6/11, I paid without a murmur, but shall cherish that bottle as one of 1949s luxuries.

I heard from Esme during the week the news that Lyn had just had a letter from the Pop asking them down to Ely at the week-end.  They insisted I went too, so I spent the Friday night with the Brandleys, the morning shopping with Esme (saw someone in town, yet again, I’d known in Cairo, isn’t it amazing?) and in the afternoon was Eastward bound with L & N.

The Pop met us at Ely (doesn’t know when he’s Glasgow bound).  Met the Aunt there who’s nicer than the Oxshott, Surrey Aunt and Lyn and I had a double and Noel a single room at “The Bell”.

We all went to the fair and Noel won an orange and a glass dish which he gave to me and we went on the dodgems and everything.  Saw Lyn and Noel’s old school and N & I between us took masses of photos of Ely Cathedral on the Sunday and also went to see Ely playing cricket on the green and I helped the Aunt do the teas for the cricket X1 – so English and so wonderful.

Len, Lyn, Noel's Dad png

“Noel’s Uncle, Father, cousin and Lyn and I.  Though-I-says it-though-I-shouldn’t – L& I look the goods.”


Ely cathedral png

Ely Cathedral, 1949.   Photo by Len.

That’s all for tonight. How’s the hol. preparations going?

All my love in the world. Len. xxxxx.


1.  Her transfer grant.

2.  “Macassar oil is a compounded oil used primarily by men in Victorian and Edwardian times as a hair conditioner to groom and style the hair.

Macassar oil was so named because it was reputed to have been manufactured from ingredients purchased in the port of Makassar in Indonesia.  The poet Byron called it ‘thine incomparable oil, Macassar’ in the first canto of Don Juan, and Lewis Carroll also mentions ‘Rowland’s Macassar Oil’ in the poem ‘Haddocks’ Eyes’ from Through the Looking-Glass.

Due to the tendency for the oil to transfer from a gentleman’s hair to the back of his chair, the antimacassar was developed. This is a small cloth (crocheted, embroidered or mass-produced), placed over the back of a chair to protect the upholstery.”  – Abridged entry from Wikipedia, with grateful acknowledgement.

It was thus, very unusual to be used by women, and Liz Willis (see Acknowledgements) originally from Scotland had never heard of its use amongst Scottish women of Len’s mother’s generation.  Neither has Mrs Alison Coleman of Carnwath, (see Acknowledgements),  who was an ATS officer during the Second World War.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png26 May, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E., Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.


North Stars of Mine,

Your 20 came in yesterday and some other mail to-day.   I’d a lovely letter from Noel and other mail, so really can’t complain.

The Kings are so vague and though I asked Lynda if they were giving up the flat in July and she said yes, don’t know exactly when they are going, but felt it was better to book at Highgate, didn’t have time to phone before Ely, so wrote on Monday.  Pop King has almost got a flat landed and as he’s less vague than Lyn or Noel (though actually all three know just where they’re going) think the subject of you two staying there in London (his flat) might be introduced when he comes to you.

Don’t know why you worry about my sleep, for I’m getting more than I’ve had for years – always in bed between 9.30 and 11 pm, apart from the occasional Sunday when I’m late in from London.

– Since writing that I’ve had a 6 min. call from Zaki – Glencoe Aug ‘48 – from Lancashire! (1)    He must be nuts. He’s nice though, but the only person I’m interested in is Noel.   The last thing I want to do is rush him with getting officially engaged, but otherwise how can I keep other people away?  Should I speak, or keep quiet or not bother to keep the other people away?  Don’t know what to do – this sounds like something from the back page of “Woman”- but I do need advice.  (2)

Course I remember the Oykell and only wish I could go up there again now, but living as far south as this makes you realise how difficult it is to get to Scotland from the time and cash angle – you’ll think of it the other way round spending your holiday here – it certainly is some effort and how I hope you enjoy it.  Saturday must have been super – did you take snaps as planned? I’m longing to see them.  Noel tells me in his letter he had a p.c. from you too – mine made me homesick. (3)

The enclosed is a bit of a letter from Jimmie Shanks. (4)     He asked me why I seemed to have such inward calm and knew where I was going and his p.s. is a comment on my reply – thought you’d like to see it.

jimmy shanks letter May 49 png_edited-1

“P.S May I be facetious (or do I mean fatuous?) for a moment but remark about being ‘very much with parents’ when literally you almost never are, struck me as an odd choice of phrase. However I know just what you mean and rather envy you for it. – J.”

I plan to write to Mark to-morrow insh’Allah, so it’s too late for your requests from him, but still waiting to know about what Jack’s to bring – not writing to him till next week, so please reply by letter.  Suggest you write to M. giving him personal invite to W.4. – wouldn’t say this to anyone but you,  and you’d better burn this letter afterwards for containing such a sentiment – but apart from Mark being a real poppet, I know him and it would pay you in the long run, for he’s very generous and appreciates little acts of kindness.

Daddy, did you get those 118 films as per invoice returned to you?

Don’t know why on earth, ‘cept she evokes my sympathy and is pleasant and kind, I asked Esme if she was interested in coming to Scotland at Hogmanay and of course she’s said yes – hope you don’t mind.

I took marg. and lard to the Brandleys as I never eat my marg, and my suet from the kidneys is enough for my cooking for a long time. – Hate their (Brandley’s) breakfasts of tea and toast – really strongly hate, would rather starve rest of day and have an honest to goodness meal at Breakfast time.  Intend to take some to Aunt E. too, but will have marge and lard, and tea and sugar for your use in July and to take back with you.

Esme’s due at 8.23 p.m at the bus station to-morrow night, seems it’s less than 10/- return to Oxford from here – July trip?  (5)

Hope your visit to the Infirmary is a cheering and successful one next month Daddy.

I said to Noel at Ely I was a wee bit tired of Lyn and he being made a fuss of by relatives,  and was looking forward to being made much of at Leicester.  He said his Aunt liked me, in fact told him she approved of his choice – as you can guess this cheered me more than somewhat.

Will give measurements for Zephyr over phone Sat – left inch tape at night school – can you get it to me for Whit?

All love from south to north,

Len. xxxxx


1.  When she was on home leave from Cairo.

2.   Woman, owned by Odhams Press, had the largest weekly sales of British women’s magazines.  According to the magazine’s editor, Glaswegian Mary Grieve, in her book Millions Made My Story,  there was a huge post-war post bag of worried letters that she says were all answered.  They published what were most representative. “Doubt and despair may be averted by a word of friendly advice.  If you are worried let Evelyn Home help you – write to her c/o WOMAN, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope for her reply’”.

In the December 4, 1948 issue, for instance, Evelyn Home answered letters amongst which were one reader asking where she could get information about the ‘facts of life’ as she didn’t know anything about them; another was being pressurised by her boyfriend to have intercourse before they were engaged; another suggested that parents worried too much if their daughter had a friendship with a married man and another, saying she was 24 and bored with being a popular girl and would rather get married and have children – friends were telling her she’d better watch out as she was getting too old, and was too choosy about who she got married to.

In a regular Woman column Frank Mansfield gave the “man’s” view, and in the same issue reminded the reader, male or female, that a man’s greatest asset was his wife, and how much men owe to them “Every man’s mother makes a man of him and his girl takes on from there and tries to make him a success”.

The ‘Facts of Life’ were not that easily available in 1948, and Evelyn Home suggested the enquirer wrote to the Central Council for Health education at Tavistock House in London, enclosing a self addressed stamped envelope for the answer.  There had been a continuing hostility  (backed up by court cases and fines)  to sex education and family planning.  Some Labour controlled councils mindful of their Roman Catholic support had been part of the opposition to a more enlightened approach.  However, the hostility was inter-denominational and cross-political party.  In 1948 Salisbury Council had banned the screening of Birth of a Baby in Salisbury cinemas.  It was shown in nearby Amesbury, however, and the Salisibury Times noted the strong interest and numbers visiting the cinema in Amesbury.   Letters were published in the paper in support of the film and critical of the Salisbury Council on 10 September, 1948.

Mum had sent Len when in Cairo a cutting from the Glasgow Evening Citizen in October 1947  featuring an advertisement for Birth of a Baby.

Birth of a Baby png crop

Birth of a Baby and the Plaza, Eglinton Toll.

3.  Strath Oykell in the  north of Scotland is approximately half way between Ullapool on the west coast and Dornoch on the east coast, to the north.  It seems Mum and Dad were away for slightly more than a weekend as it is not in striking distance from Glasgow using public transport.  As will seen in a future letter, there was another strike on, at Dad’s works, so this may explain how they got away for a few days.

4.  Jimmie Shanks was possibly part of the hiking and hosteling fraternity that Len and parents were part of during the war.

5.  The Oxford – Salisbury bus.  Didcot, where Esme worked is 15 miles from Oxford.  _____

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png30 May 1949.

7 Barton Road, Salisbury, Wilts.

Monday – 6.30ish

Dearest People,

So much to say I just don’t know where to start – hope the enclosed cheque will lessen my debt to you a little more.  I have hopes of more than completely paying you back in kind as it were, but will ‘say nae mair’ in this letter, merely hoping it comes off.  The next week’s emergency card may help you out a little, but honestly at the moment my lard and marg are piling up as well as my tea and this week I’m not in the house after Thursday morning and won’t be back till Monday night, and am off at the week-end for Germany, so don’t want any rations lying around.

Should my R.B. (1) ) not be taken from me at the Customs (shades of Nov ‘45 and Aug ‘48) I’ll post it back to you to collect an e.card for each of the two weeks I’m to be in Germany.  That should help you a bit more.  Will take Aunt Ena all my marg. and lard as it’s difficult to send through the post, but will send on my tea and sugar to you. Even so, should be able to supply you completely from my current ration when you come down in July.

Will I see you at Whit Mum?  I’ve got Personality Unlimited and it seems terrific, but I fear it will have to be your Xmas present as it was 18/-  – you can collect it in July if you like though.

Also taking to Aunt E. all rendered down fat, seem to do nothing but render down, what with kidneys a fortnight ago and this week’s  3/9 worth of meat!  Yes, Esme and I had it stewed and fried on Sat. for a late lunch and stewed some more (‘twas a bit tough) and roasted for Sunday dinner and I had the rest cold with cabbage for my lunch – ‘loin of lamb’ or something like that the butcher said – chop shape with a flabby bit at the end.

Had a letter today from Betty Baxter – she’s in hospital – the London Chest Hospital near Victoria Park,with TB, but she sounds cheerful in her letter – as if she’s only got it a wee bit – and wants me to go and see her.

The woman in S&G will be half moved at the date of the your hol. with the painters in her new abode.  I got the impression however that I can send her an SOS if the woist comes to the woist. However she gave me an address just near me which I’m off to see to-night.  As you can see I’ve got my scouts out.  Suddenly struck me I’ve only got a bit of this week, a bit of next and the few days after my return from Germany (insh’Allah) in Salisbury myself before you two are due down here!

Is it possible Mum, for you to take in – a lot – my navy checked jacket and get it down here by Thurs. or Fri. of next week?  It’s the only thing I can visualise wearing as a top thing to Germany, carrying a rucksack on my back as I propose to do.

Pinched your idea Mummy and in a parcel to Noel to-day put rhymes in each article – the new socks, a darned khaki sock of his, tie he pointed out in a window, green socks of JF’s,(2)  cigs. returned to me by Esme as not delivered, old chamois glove of mine – shrank after many washings to clean his camera lens and a tablet of Cusson’s Imperial Leather.  I’d another letter from him this morning incorporating a drawing of the Taj Mahal.

Are you sporting your beret down here Daddy?  I’ve always liked it and it does look super in that photo where you hit the headlines. (3)

Apart from my French Dictionary, I’d like my Oxford Book of English Verse.

They showed me some awful quicknit in a shop on Saturday, must hunt a wee bit in Leicester for Double Knitting.  They said I’d need 20 ozs. of Quicknit – cost £1.1.  Like the wool for Daddy’s pullover and looking forward to seeing him in it.

Hoping to see you a lot on Friday Mum, but otherwise – or if you’re there we can both ring Daddy – will ‘phone on Saturday from the Reids all being well.

Blue skies of love to you this May day.

As always your own, Len xxxx


1.  R.B.  Ration Book.

2.  J.F’s:  John Findlay’s

3.  Dad “hitting the headlines”.  Despite looking in the archives of the local Clydebank weekly newspaper, the Glasgow Evening Citizen and the Scottish Daily Record of the time, nothing has been found.  With evening papers, such as the Evening Citizen, they had a noon edition and a later edition – and some stories in the Noon edition would be dropped for newer stories in the Late edition. Only one of those editions would be  archived.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png2 June, 1949.

P.A. to C.S. (P), C.D.E.E., Porton, Nr. Salisbury, Wilts.

Thursday afternoon.

Hearts Delight’s,

How are you?  At the moment I’m trying to recover from the blow of not borrowing a hat. This may seem very trivial, but the girl offered to lend the hat to me about a month ago. It seems she told her Mother last night, who said the girl would want it for Church on Sunday.  She never told me this till this afternoon, pretending this morning she’d forgotten it and that she’d bring it after lunch. (1)   I’d never have asked if she hadn’t been captivated with it on me, and I built up my week-end wardrobe with it in mind.  Can’t stand a person who’d break their word though, even over a little thing, it shows such a defective character.

Thank you very much for everything.  As yet I haven’t had time to try on the Zephyr which arrived with other dress and shoes yesterday but I’m enchanted with it and have such faith in your ‘remote control’ dressmaking Mum.  I can’t visualise it doing other than fitting perfectly.  To-day I’m wearing the navy skirt I made myself and my old navy Morley jumper – the effect is to make me look quite a wraith – or as wraithish as I can look.

Yesterday – or was it the day before?  Sent off little food parcel to you, hope you like the stuff and it helps.

Writing a longer letter fairly shortly.  As always every bit of my love,

Len. xxxxx


1.  It sounds as if she is a Porton office girl.


Len’s letter was written on the Thursday leading up to the Whit week-end.  What follows is the next letter in the collection.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png6 June, 1949.

In front of the electric fire at Aunt Ena’s.

Whit Monday.

North of the Border Precious Ones,

Said and thought I must write, and here goes.

I think it was mean of Noel and you to desert me, for my nerves are being attacked by being here. The chief cause is Marie Rose, I can’t bear inefficiency and she is inefficient and has no charm to offset this failing.  She’s a bundle of nerves and can’t think properly after she’s had a fit of the giggles. The three of them seem devoid of a sense of humour and don’t seem close knit at all.  Uncle Bill goes out for a drink alone on a Sat. always (inc. last Sat.) which I think is shocking.  To crown all this, I’ve been cooking for the whole family up to now with Aunt E. being ill.  I like them notwithstanding, but for the sake of my nerves shall be glad to leave.  More than ever I’m looking forward to Germany  as a period of peace and being cut off.  Whitsun has certainly not been a relaxation.

D’you want me to phone about 9 pm. on Thursday or between 6.30 and 7.30 on Sat?  That’s the latest I can phone before boarding the train for Germany.  Thought you might think of something else to say between Thursday and Saturday and also ‘twould be nice to hear your voices before leaving.  Those are the pros.  The cons are, that it would be inconvenient for both of us,  your usual Sat. of pictures and Sat. night theatre (1)  being mucked up and me looking for a ‘phone box just before leaving with Noel moaning in my ear.  These are the pros and cons, just hope this letter gets to you tomorrow, so that you can make up your mind on the spot and let your reply reach me at Porton by Thursday.

All your mail has come in, but this house doesn’t provide the bright relaxed atmosphere for writing.  Can’t go into it all just now, but will give you the little titbits when I see you next, in London in July all being well.  Replying to your letter very shortly insh’Allah.

All the love in the Leicester zone,

Love Len xxxxx


1.  The Home Service Saturday Night Theatre was going to be “An English Summer”, between 9.20 p.m. and 10.45 p.m. followed by 15 minutes of “Family Prayers”.    – source, Glasgow Evening Citizen, 11 June, 1949.


Len was taking pen to paper the following evening, back in Salisbury.


Len June 49 Ena png

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png7 June, 1949.

Front room of ”No.7”.  Tuesday night after ye ‘phone call.

Dearest Hearts,

Just back from the ‘phone, remembering we didn’t arrange whether I should ring again Thursday or Sat.  Still, p’raps I’d better make it Saturday now and will do so, unless I hear from you to the contrary.

Just what’s made Aunt Ena like that?  Besides being utter snobs, all three of them are completely devoid of a sense of humour.  For your inf. – she told me so I’ll pass it on – Uncle Bill gets £1,500 a year, which is £30 a week and they don’t save at all!  Of Daddy, she said sweetly and rather sadly, wasn’t it a shame about his leg?  By that time I must have been geared to her almost insane jealousy, for I said “Yes, but didn’t he look fit in his newspaper picture and must have been pretty fit too to handle all those people all day long”  Course she said “Yes” – didn’t realise till just now my remark in all innocence must have taken the wind out of her sails.

Furious at the waste of my lovely long Whit, but I can’t complain at giving them one week-end in nine years.

By the way in answer to one of their innumerable questions I told them Noel’s Mother was dead.  Thought I’d better brief you both (1)    Brought up your lovely carpet, but she showed complete disinterest.

The hurt’s going away now, but I’m furious she knows about Noel.  About Noel, she said “What does your Mother say?” I replied you thought it was very wrong to give advice Mum,  with suitable trimmings.  I don’t like the thought of any of the Reids being near or knowing anything or anybody I care for.  Will have the effect of staying out of their sight from now on.   I wouldn’t take a cent of their cash – Aunt E. telling me that most of Aunt Jean’s £40,000 will come to MR  someday. (2)   They seem to envy Denny and Phemie, ‘cos they’ve more money than they have.

Aunt E. says she thinks her husband, home and children are enough for any woman, well it’s certainly all she can talk about.  Why all the talk of men and marriage?  I think it’s shocking.  It’s the natural and loveliest thing to get married but many other things in life are important too and she never talks of them.  And who wants to hear not one, but countless anecdotes of the boys she went around with?  I almost have difficulty in getting you to tell me the various anecdotes you have to recount Mum and I’m anxious to hear them!  I think it makes her seem awfully old,  living in the past like that. She may be slimmer, but looks devoid of energy and is horribly round shouldered.

I longed for Noel’s Aunt at Ely, with her small house and sincere friendliness.

They adored my Zephyr, Aunt E saying immediately on seeing it said how grand it was.   She gave me 7 eggs and a lovely cake to bring back with me, but oh, how I’d rather have kind words than material gifts.

Must say I looked carelessly (carefully!) good all the time I was there.  Marie Rose kept raving about my hair, personally I can’t see anything in it, but for weeks before I went, was shampooing, oiling and brushing with more method than the makers of Rolls Royce engines.

I hope Daddy the strike isn’t getting you down. (3)   Uncle Bill thinks Unions are the cause of all the trouble (little voice “What trouble?”) can I say strongly “Gertcha?”  I think you’re so right Daddy.  Don’t want to get mixd up in politics again, but my sympathies could never be anything else but left.

They (MR, E & B) shan’t point a finger at me from a political angle – will write a brief sweet ‘thank you’ note to-night and send them some Danish Blue cheese and milk chocs. from the Naafi tomorrow insh’Allah. They won’t poor relation me. (4)

Sorry to waste so much paper on this, but I can’t get over it.  Her parting shot was – as the train drew out “I’ll write and tell your Mother all your bad points”.

Thought I could be extravagant with ‘phone calls this week as then I shan’t be making any for a fortnight all being well.

Thanks so much for all the stockings.  Haven’t you slipped in some of your own by mistake?

I’ve applied for a job in Rhodesia – Crown Agents for the Colonies and they’ve sent me an application form to fill in which I’ve now had over a week.  Minimum age is 25, but even if I was accepted I wouldn’t go, for I don’t want to be separated for a long period from you two again.  Am just doing it to feel I’m keeping my hand in.  England too, apart from Aunt E. is pretty good.  Also, from Noel’s point of view, I think he should have a picture of me sitting demurely with hands clasped in England as he toils in Canada and me not going gay under tropic nights.

Plan to take my Zephyr with me to Germany – feel it’s kind of “Fraulein-straight from- Dior-in-Paris”.  Gailly talking of G. but haven’t got my passport back yet with permit to enter G. (5)

Len, Lyn, Noel's Dad pngRe. photos I will get a reprint made for you of  super one of Noel’s Uncle, Father, cousin and Lyn and I.  Though-I-says it-though-shouldn’t  – L & I look the goods.

Jimmie Shanks arrives back 4th July with films (118s – Daddy did you get the ones from Kodak’s? – they’re worth their weight in gold) and nylons for me – I wish Noel would do something. (6)

Thanks for the notes of Radio ME (Middle East) Memories talk.

A gain’ fits’ aye gettin’ , so I’ll ask Jack for a small but nice hearthrug – preferably Persian, but not at all if it’s any trouble, hoping he’ll trouble a lot and bring something super.

I mixed the facepowder samples, making a super shade and I keep it in a wee box in the office and use it there – thanks a million.

 Longing to see you in your pullover Daddy, or will it be too warm in July in it?

After Aunt E. telling me a straight skirt would suit me better she had me draw a pattern of my navy one so that she can make one for MR!

I’ll rely on you fixing up the London acc. Mum.  Me for Friday Ist July and the three of us for Sat. 2nd July.

If you’re at all short of cash, let me know, as I’ve had an income tax rebate of £12!

You’re wonderful to get my navy jacket ready like that Mum – just wish you two were coming as well – the crossing is Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight.

Do hope you’re both feeling good. Hope too the strike soon passes, for it must be a depressing thing.  How does the garden grow?  And how’s Hutch?  Have encountered lots of cats lately and am getting to like them more and more, but I still think Hutch is the ‘nicest cat I know’.

Won’t start to reply to your 25, received to-day, or I’d need a cloth envelope.  Will try to write another long letter before I leave.

The sun takes my love north west to you.

Len. xxxxx


1.  From a future reference, it seems that Noel’s parents were divorced.  At the time there was  a strong stigma about divorce.

2.  £40,ooo was a huge sum of money: in 2014 it is the equivalent of just under one million British pounds.  We have no indication on which side of the family Aunt Jean is.

3.    “India Tyre Works Still Idle:  Production was still at a standstill today at the Inchinnan works of the India Tyre and Rubber Co., Ltd., where the maintenance and production staffs have been on strike since Friday.

Tonight, production workers hold a mass meeting in Central Halls, Paisley, and another meeting of all the men involved, will take place tomorrow afternoon.

About 1,400 workers, including engineers, electricians, plumbers and members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union are involved in the dispute.

The trouble had its origin in the dismissal of several maintenance men on redundancy grounds, and spread to the works when foremen made other arrangements to operate the essential services in the factory.”  – Evening Citizen, Monday 6 June 1949.

4.  Len’s wooing of the Adjutant at Porton to be able to use the Naafi has paid off.

5.  Two weeks earlier, on May 23, 1949,  the Federal Republic of Germany  (the former West Germany) came into existence when the constitution was signed by members of the German Parliamentary Council in the presence of the Allied Military governors.

6.  This suggests that Jimmie Shanks is in the Merchant Navy.



Next:     Part Three Chapter 3    Goodbye Noel, Hello Teaching

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Part Three 1: Sht.Hand Typist, Porton. Transferred from Overseas Duty.

Part Three   One:   Sht.Hand Typist, Porton.  Transferred from Overseas Duty. 

“It’s funny, but I feel at home in Scotland and definitely a stranger here among foreigners…”


Salisbury map png

Salisbury, Wiltshire.


Porton entrancepng

Sign at one entrance to Porton Down Chemical and Biological Warfare Research Station, 2008.  The site is now known as the Defence Science and Technical Laboratory and operates within the successor to the MosS, the Ministry of Defence.  One source describes it as “one of the U.K.’s most sensitive and secretive government facilities for military research”.


Len arrived home in the U.K. at some point in early to mid February, 1949.   At the interview at the administrative headquarters of the Ministry of Supply at the Adelphi, London, she discovered that she was going to be assigned to a straight-forward typing post.  She recalls kicking up a ‘stink’ about this.

Kicking up a ‘stink’ had results.  Still within the Ministry of Supply she was appointed to the post of Personal Assistant to the Chief Superintendent of what was then known as the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment, Porton, Salisbury.  It is not clear whether it was suggested she applied for the post, with others, or whether she was appointed directly.  Her temporary stint PAing in Cairo whilst Iris recovered from her horse fall, plus being appointed a Typing Supervisor at a young age presumably helped her in getting the post. She was twenty three.  However, it is not known whether she got an additional allowance for being a PA, as her official grade was still Shorthand Typist.

Her plan to get out of typing, hatched in Cairo, to get health certificates from the family G.P., Dr Gilston  came to nothing.  It is not clear that she went to see him.   Nor did she head off for the Scottish Highlands.   Despite her close attachment to her parents, it seems that she did not look for a job in the Glasgow area.  Noel’s plan was still to go to Canada.  She spent some days with Mum and Dad in Coldingham Avenue before Noel travelled up from London.  We have no idea what he made of her parents, or what they made of him.   He would have brought the legs of the Cairo bought coffee table with him.  And Len, somehow, would have bought the carpet.

Arriving back in the UK from Egypt she was due some additional leave.  She took up the post on 17 March, 1949,  so it is unclear if she worked at all at ROF Dalmuir, before travelling down to Wiltshire.

Porton Down, New staff

Porton.  Movement of Staff.  “Bryers, H.A.C. Miss     Sht.Hand Typist    Transferred from Overseas Duty   17.3.49.   H.Q.”

On the whole she settled reasonably well back into a bleakly austere Britain, that, apart from her short home leave in 1948, she hadn’t seen or experienced for almost three and a half years.  Within a month of her starting at Porton rationing of clothes ended.  The Board of Trade President,  Harold Wilson, advised that clothing coupons could be assigned “to the appropriate salvage channel.”   In Europe the Cold War was hotting up.  Although there was no reference to the Berlin Blockade in the surviving correspondence between Mother and Daughter, the Allies had been flying in food, medical and fuel supplies since June of the previous summer.  This was a response to the USSR blockading land routes to Berlin.  The airlift would continue into the late Spring of 1949, when, defeated, the USSR lifted the blockade.

Although the gassing of civilians had not happened during the Second World War, the Allies and Axis countries had continued with their research and development of chemical, and also biological warfare systems, and in the years after the war the former allies, now adversaries, continued this work.

The British research and development had started in 1916 at  what was known as the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment in the hamlet of Idmiston, near the village of Porton.  At first it was a British Army Royal Engineers Experimental Station – a few nissen huts by the side of the main railway line between Salisbury and London. The experiments were in developing the use of gas as a form of warfare, which had already been used  by the Germans and then British and French the year before, at the Battle of Loos, for instance.

Porton grew in size and importance and work that had also been developed in the London area was transferred down to the rolling countryside of Wiltshire.  The research was into offensive and defensive ways of dealing with chemical warfare attacks.

During the late 1930’s all belligerents believed the other side would use gas on a mass scale, and against a civilian population, besides military targets.  Gas had been used against civilian populations in the 1920’s and 1930’s.   The USSR used gas in 1921 against a peasant uprising in the Tambov area, 300 miles south east of Moscow.

A year before, Churchill, as First Secretary at the British War Office, had argued for gas to be used in Mesopotaia (modern Iraq) against Arabs and Kurds who were rebelling against the British occupation of their land.  It was to be used as a last resort if the British were unable to surppress the challenge to their occupation. The use of conventional bombing and the burning of ‘rebel’ villages achieved the British objectives and gas was not used.  (There are still those who claim it was.)

In 1926 sixteen countries,  including the UK, Germany and Italy signed a Geneva Convention committing themselves to not using gas as a weapon of warfare.
However, research and development continued by all countries, with the lead being taken by Germany.

Despite signing the Geneva Convention, Mussolini’s fascist army used gas against native Ethiopians in 1936, and the German Luftwaffe and Italian airforce specifically bombed civilian targets, the Germans for instance at Guernica, using conventional bombs, during the Spanish Civil War.

The expectation of canisters and bombs of gas raining down from overhead on a civilian population was thus reasonable, and both Germany and Britain distributed millions of gas masks to their populations, along with leaflets on how to make at least one room in their habitation ‘gas-proof’.

Curiously, there has been little discussion about why the threat of mass civilian gassing never happened during the Second World War.

After the First World War there was a revulsion about using gas, and not just amongst civilians.     In his advocacy of using gas in Iraq, Churchill said that he couldn’t understand why there was a ‘squeamishness’ about its us.   He was opposed by many in Political and Military administrations in British occupied countries  who felt the use of gas would “have a serious implication, both moral and political”, and was seen as a last resort, to be used only if they were first attacked with chemical weapons.

Mass gassing of civilians didn’t happen during the Second War World because, it would seem, all sides had no hard intelligence about their opponents capabilities, either in types of gas or other poisons, or in their ability to deliver them. The Germans had developed some particularly lethal nerve agents, such as tabun and sarin, but believed the British chemists had also done so. But they hadn’t.

The Germans would be fearful of Soviet chemical warfare capabilities too, their Military being aware that there had been active (and very secret) cooperation in the development of chemical warfare between the German Army and the Soviet Army before 1933 during the pre-Nazi Weimar period.

All sides assumed the other side were as ready as them to launch gas warfare, and therefore both sides, it seems, backed off.  In Britain the reality was that half way during the war Churchill was sending frustrated memos about the lack of shells for gas warfare, and demanding that greater effort was required to produce them.

When Len took up her post – although still called the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment  – means of biological warfare, and its containment,  had been developed on the site,  at least from 1939.   The development of a particularly lethal strain of anthrax had already been developed, and tested, as footnoted earlier, on sheep on Gruinard in Scotland.  Photos taken at Porton in 1942 (not released at the time) show the assembly of cattle cake impregnated with anthrax. Those on the small production line seem to be locally recruited women from Salisbury and surrounding area.

Although Britain was developing its atomic weapons in relative autonomy from the American administration, (and in secrecy from the British people) in the area of chemical and biological warfare, post 1945, there was a high degree of pooling of knowledge and experience between the British, the Americans and the Canadians.

The development of biological  warfare research near Salisbury was no secret – locally, anyway – by 1948.  The Salisbury Times (now defunct), on 10 September, 1948, ran a short news story on an inside page:


Porton Research Station Expansion

Under Government sanction there will be a big expansion of the research department responsible for defence against germ warfare. Doctors, bacteriologists, vetinary surgeons and bio-chemists are being recruited in large numbers to work at Porton Experimental Station in what will be known as the Microbiological Research Department……

…… Dr D.W.Henderson, a prominent bacteriologist, will direct the work for which bacteriologists are needed to test the virulence of new strains of germs which may be used by an enemy; bio-chemists will try to develop antidotes for them; vetinary surgeons will make the first experiments on animals with the antidotes; and doctors will finally test them on human volunteers.

The Germ Warfare story would have been based on a Porton Research Station press release, cleared or originated by the Ministry of Supply in  London.  Its publication caused no interest or concern in the ensuing weeks amongst Salisbury and district readers: no reaction, no comment in the Letters Columns of the newspaper.  The other Salisbury weekly paper – still in existence – the Salisbury Journal, didn’t even bother to run the story.  It was only when Daily Express journalist Chapman Pincher picked up on the Salisbury Times story, and re-vamped it a year later for the Express,  that the Porton establishment gained some notoriety.

There are few further references to Porton in the local press at the time, although one story  of interest was in the 5 November 1948 (Gunpowder Plot night!) edition of the Salisbury Times.


Silverstar buses, a local company, was reported as having carried 70,000 passengers to the Chemical Defence Establishment over the last 12 month period.  A competing bus company – The Wilts and Dorset –  didn’t see why it shouldn’t have some of this lucrative trade and was objecting to Silverstar’s continued monopoly.  It seems that Silverstar continued to have exclusive rights to the Porton route, despite the Wilts and Dorset complaint.   A few months later Len would be taking the Silverstar bus at eight every morning, from the stance in Endless Street, by the Salisbury bus station.


Bus, Sal png

Silver Star bus, Salisbury.


It is believed that Len had never been to Salisbury before or  to the nearby Stonehenge Stone Circle at Amesbury. Her friend Betty, from Dagenham, it will be remembered,  had sent Len a postcard from Salisbury in the summer of 1944, a few weeks after the first D Day landings.

Salisbury Cathedral, '44 png

She and her family were staying in the town, she said, taking a rest from the Doodlebugs that were raining down on London.  She thought that, with Len’s admiration of scenery and of antiques, she would love Salisbury.  Betty also noted that Salisbury was crowded with Canadian and U.S. troops.

Salisbury Plain and the area around Porton was then, and still, is the largest military training area in the U.K., with the Ministry of Defence owning a substantial part of the Plain.  During the war inhabitants of the village of Imber were forcibly cleared from their homes to facilitate house to house and street fighting exercises for American and British infantary, in preparation for the Allied advance through the Normandy villages. Despite a promise that they would be able to return after the war, the MOD has never allowed the villagers and their descendents to return, and the village and nearby hamlet of Par Hinton are still Prohibited Areas, ‘within the meaning of the Official Secrets Act’.

It is reported that the MOD land on Salisbury Plain is a haven of wild life, flora and fauna. Two National Nature Reserves are within its boundaries. Live artillery shells are fired on the Plain, the MOD reports, on 340 days of the year, which doesn’t seem to leave much of the rest of the year to enjoy the song of the skylark overhead.

In a strange coincidence two villages within shelling range of this area have place names associated with British military activity: Palestine to the north east, and Nomansland to the south east.

Although some military facilities have, over the years, been and gone, present installations still include Larkhill, Bulford, Tidworth and Warminister.  Boscombe Down (hard by Porton and close to Stonehenge) is a RAF base, used by all three services as a Military Aircraft test and evaluation unit.

Army personal have over the years been ordered to take part in gas and germ warfare scenarios, conducted particularly at the Joint School of Chemical Nuclear and Biological Warfare Defence, at Winterbourne Gunner, a short distance from the Porton facility. Conventional gas (mustard, tear and phosgene) and a gas substitue for nerve gas were used on service personel.  Most, prior to 1960 were conscripts.  A ex-conscript soldier has observed  on an online site  battle hardened men ‘spewing their guts up’ after these exercises. (Key in JSCW Winterbourne Gunner on your browser to search for over-lapping sites)

Other servicemen in the area were exposed to chemical and biological warfare experiments under the guise of research into the Common Cold.  Lawyers representing the servicemen,  stated that the servicemen were tricked into taking what they believed were cold remedy tests, when in fact nerve gases such as sarin were tried out on these ‘volunteers’.

In response, the British press reported on 1 February, 2008 that the Ministry of Defence had finally made a one-off compensation payment of £3 million to ‘‘Cold War veterans who were subject to chemical warfare tests’’.  A Defence Minister in the then Labour Government, a Derek Twigg said that 369 victims would each receive £8,300. This was, stated Twigg, a full and final settlement, and it was further stated that the Ministry of Defence would not admit liability, saying that mistakes unfortunately were made.

Although not a barracks town itself, Salisbury had its usual problems associated with concentrations of army personnel.  Local papers of the time had a running theme of soldiers from the various barracks and bases around Salisbury in for a beer or two at the weekend beating up locals after the hops went to their head. Magistrate Court reports in the Salisbury Times repeated familiar scenarios, with familiar headlines:


‘Soldiers used belts and boots when….’

With some exceptions,the traditional inter-Regimental and inter-Service punch-ups within the town were dealt with by the Military Police, and punishment meted out by their own Military.

Forces welcomed png

Salisbury club, 2008.        ” Armed Forces Personnel Welcome.    This door is monitored by close circuit television.”


This then is the background to Porton, and Salisbury and the Plain when Len arrived in February, 1949.

Salisbury post card png



When Len arrived in Salisbury to start work at Porton she stayed at first in the YWCA in Shady Bower, just up the hill to the east of the Market Square in Salisbury.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png17  March, 1949.
Forncett House, (1)
Shady Bower,
6.45 – after dinner.

Dearest Ones,
How are you two darlings and the wee Hutch?  Don’t think I’m unhappy here – I’m not, but I do realise in a way I never have before exactly what you two and home mean.  You see in Cairo although I had various dig’s and adventures we were comparatively wrapped in cotton wool.  It’s funny, but I feel at home in Scotland and definitely a stranger here among foreigners, though I enjoy being here.  I’ll write again on Monday my very own ones.

As you can see the above was written before to-day’s phone call – it was lovely to hear both your voices.  Happy birthday Dad – I said it over the phone, but my next letter may not get to you before it, so I’m saying it again in this.

Before I forget Mum, there’s a sewing machine in the Y.W. here, which we’re allowed to use and could be used for altering the dress. (2)

D’you think it’s a good idea Dad, Mum coming down?  She’ll be able to see how I’m making out away from home and it will be help from the dress angle.

How on earth are you going to manage for cash Mum?  I mean,  to pay your fare to Salisbury and buy the dress? Of course I’ll refund it all to you, but how are you going to manage to fork out the cash just now?  I’d send £3 a day, but the lack of my bank-book at present prevents that. They took it at Waterloo P.O., because the page was finished and each time that happens it has to be sent to HQ Savings Bank who’re sending it to Glasgow (c/o 26 Ave.).

From what you say Mum, to buy the dress you saw rather than make one seems to be the solution and wouldn’t rush you so , then too, when you’re down, you could look around and see which place you fancy for Daddy and yourself to stay at later in the year.   The Coach and Horses where I propose booking you is picturesque, rather than big and modern, or even big and old like the more expensive hotels.  The woman there though seems to be a pet and said “It’s 9/6 a day though I generally charge 10/6” and I believe her from what I enquired and found at other hotels and inns.

You could eat at all the different super-duper places Mum and meet people at them. Saw the name ‘El Hakim, Iraqi Embassy’ in the Cathedral Hotel’s register. Salisbury’s a terrific centre – there seem to be a number of visitors here even now and there are no end of super places to which one can go from here.

I’m enclosing my sweet coupons as I never bother to buy sweets myself, also the Red Lion brochure and also the timetable from which you will see that you could catch the 10.00 from Glasgow, get into Euston at 6.30 and take the 7.30 from Waterloo which gets into Salisbury at 10.00. It’s a heck of a lot of traveling to do in one day, so perhaps you’d like to travel on Wed. stay with the Brandleys (3) and come on the Thursday at a time to suit you, though as I don’t finish till 5.18. I couldn’t meet a train getting in before 6.00.   I’ll book you up at the C & Hs for Thurs. 24th, Fri. 25th, Sat.26th and Sun. 27th.  If you want to stay longer or come later and stay longer that’ll easily be arranged.  Noel will probably be coming down on the 28th to stay for two days, us both going up to town to the dance together and you may like to stay and see him.

I’ve already sent in 7 replys to adverts re. digs, but now that I’ve got over the first shock, this place isn’t so bad. (4)

Went to see ‘Paleface’ with Noel when we got in to London  and it’s a joy, but not a scream from beginning to end. (5)   Got to the Brandleys all right and nattered away to Joan. Then the following day, delivered Pat’s (6) tennis racket to her, bought a Jaeger non-utility slip which was expensive – £1-7-6, but is gorgeous and saw Joan for lunch, catching the 1.30 to here by the skin of my teeth. (7)

Today Daddy and I nattered after the second pips had gone, so I s’pose that means you’ll have to pay 6 mins of reversed charges – first three minutes I paid for – I’d exactly 3/11 in change which was lucky as that’s the charge.  Must make my regular weekly call on the cheap rate, in case we have more 9 mins. worth.  Don’t know how on earth I’m ever going to save in this country on my salary. (8)

Won’t go into details about the ‘Y’ now, as I’d better get down to the Coach and Hosses and anyway, would rather tell you when you come and you can relate it to Daddy when you get back.  Will finish this letter now.

All the love in the Southern Command.
Len xxxxx


1.  Forncett House is a late Georgian/early Victorian building in a residential area. It is now, it seems, converted to private flats.

2.  Len has an invitation, through Noel’s sister, to the Annual Ball of RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in London, and Mum is buying her a gown and bringing it down to Salisbury.

3.  Joan Brandley, and her Mum and Dad’s, in Dagenham.

4.  The Salisbury YWCA and its warden has been a shock for Len. Presumably it was more spartan and not as comfortable, and had more restrictions and less of the free and easy atmosphere compared  to the YWCA hostels she was used to in the Suez Canal Zone.

5. “We got into London”.  It is likely that this was Len travelling down, with Noel,  after her leave in Glasgow, about to take up her post at Porton.  She stayed a night  with Joan Brandley and family in Dagenham.  Paleface, starred Bob Hope and Jane Russell.

6.  Pat from Cairo, now living in London.

7.  Utility clothing was introduced during the war and, although well made, styles did not vary very often.  Utility clothing continued after clothes rationing was scrapped.   Joan is probably working in an office in Central London and presumably able to pop out to see Len in her lunch break.

8.  “My salary”.   Even if Len was getting a PA’s allowance on top of her shorthand typist pay, her total pay is obviously less now that she is not getting the generous Foreign Service Allowance  she had in Cairo.


Besides that Len and Mum, and Dad, talk to each other once a week on the newly installed telephone, Part Three is also shaped by the fact that Mum’s letters to Len have not survived.


len UK2 envelope png

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png21 March, 1949.
My half of the room, Forncett House, Shady Bower, Salisbury, Wilts.

My own loved ones of the West,

I’ve been thinking about you all day to-day Daddy – was it a good birthday?  Down here the weather’s been wonderful and I hope Scotland proved just as kind on your own very first day of Spring.

This has got to be brief, because one of the girls is coming to take me to some club – my first night out in Salisbury and she’ll be angry if I keep her waiting.

My phone number at work is Salisbury 2471, Ext.8. – 8.30 – 12.40  &  1.45 – 5.15.   You can ‘phone if there’s anything urgent to say, but otherwise I’ll expect you Thursday night Mum – wire me when you’re due.

If possible could you please get a receipt from the taxi people who took me to town that last day in Glasgow – if you can’t bring it down, it doesn’t matter.  I can get it sometime.  Could you please bring a cup too?  It’s for tea in the office.

What of Easter?  I’ve realised it’s very close and I just can’t manage the fare to Glasgow – how about my writing to the Reids? (1)   If I contributed, could you manage down there for a bit of a holiday Daddy, for I didn’t see much of you on leave. (2)

My boss is a pet. (3)      Hear my name being called, so had better go.

All the love on the south to north line,

Len xxxxx


1.  Easter Monday was on 18 April in 1949,  just four weeks from Len writing this letter.

2.  Meaning, that he was out at work, during the day. 

3.  Her boss was Mr A.E.Childs, Chief Superintendent, Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment, Porton.  He was the first civilian superintendent at Porton.  By the end of 1950 he had become Director of the Chemical Defence Experimental department in the Ministry of Supply (which was responsible for the Porton establishment).


 len on Luneberg heath crop pic png22 March, 1949

Forncett House, Shady Bower, Salisbury, WILTS.

Dearest Own People,

What a life.  Here’s £2.10s. – just hope it gets to you all right unregistered.

Please try and be here Friday night or Saturday morning, as I’m off all Saturday. I should have cash soon with bank book brought by you, Friday’s pay and P.O. made out for here.

More to say, but must get this in the post.

Every bit of my love,

Len. xxxxx


Helen’s next letter (she was now numbering her letters UK I, UK 2, and so on) was written 12 days later, and in that time Mum has been down to see her daughter in Salisbury, bringing the ball gown.  She stayed at the Coach and Horses.

Mum, coach and horses-small

Coach and Horses, Salisbury.   Mum leaning out of her upper room, March 1949.


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Coach and Horses, Salisbury. The same window, 2008.

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The Coach and Horses, Winchester Street, Salisbury.  2008.


Mum left for London and Glasgow on the Monday, the 28th of March.  Although Len had written that Noel was coming down to Salisbury on the 28th, he delayed it until the following day.


Noel t'gram, 29.3.49 png


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png4 April, 1949.

Forncett House. Shady Bower, Salisbury, Wilts.

Darlings of the North,

Have your ‘4’ and ‘5’ by me and don’t know where to start answering.  Firstly, thanks for forwarding everything on – I’m hoping to hold on to my ration book till I go and thus have an extra week’s rations. The old so and so who runs the place is making me pay 10/- extra on the 35/- for not giving a full week’s notice – couldn’t; I didn’t as I was in London, sure she’s only doing it to be nasty, but I don’t mind as long as I can shake the dust of this place off my feet. (1)  Popping down to Mrs.Hemmons  after I finish this. (2)

Can’t get over all Aunt Ena’s assumptions about Noel and I, however, it’s just like her and she is kind. (3)   It’s so wonderful to be in this country, for apart from our immediate family circle, there’s the thought of the rest of our family like the Reids also being on these shores.

 We did have a wonderful time in London – saw Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Paul Robeson, Getrude Lawrence, the ‘Jolly D’ man from Much Binding and little Julie Andrews the new singing discovery in the cabaret and giving out prizes. The dress – it was a perfect hit – at a do like that unless you feel good in what you’re wearing you feel miserable – I felt terrific and Noel said I looked wonderful. Didn’t see another dress there cut so superbly as mine – “Model by Madame Bryers – Glasgow and Salisbury” – can’t say thanks enough. (4)

London I liked much better than on last years leave and earlier this year, the only drawback was staying in three different places over 4 nights.  Lynda’s (she’s a pet, not the least bit wild as Noel painted her – is bringing me a present back from Belgium), Overseas House and Pat’s. (5)   Pat even brought me my breakfast in bed – it’s a pretty good flat by the general London standard. 25 mins. to Charing X, ‘phone, 4 rooms and kitchen – good eh?  The only trouble was she and Mac – her Scots vet friend a super type – (she’s been in the States but doesn’t like it) would talk to me and I kept Noel waiting 70 mins. at Hayes – Oh.

However apart from the Rada Ball we saw “The Laughing Cavalier” – NTB (6)  “Whispering Smith” – grim;  visited a cartoon series picture place and saw “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” – Good, or at least much better than the slamming crits.  We also went to a dance at Overseas House on Saturday night which was most enjoyable.

Any more details of my really super trip I’ll tell you at Easter.  By the way is it O.K. if I phone Saturday about 7 – or say 9 rather, thus you’ll be in from the pictures and waiting for the S.N.Theatre. (7)   If some other time is better write and say so. By then I should know my exact movements at Easter.

You’ll never guess but Noel’s given me the most superb “Parker 51” – with which I’m writing this, as a keepsake. Isn’t he a pet?  Noel will enjoy hearing from you Mummy. (8)

Parker 51 png

Have some superb hankies which I’m bringing up as your birthday present Daddy – insh ‘Allah.

Please get taxi receipt.

All the love off the Downs,

Len. xxxxx


1.  “Dust of this place”: the Salisbury YWCA.

2.  Mrs Hemmons, her new landlady.  Mrs Hemmons is not her real name.

3.  Presumably Aunt Ena has assumed that Len and Noel are to get married, though, equally presumably, nothing has been said by Mum or Len to her. 

4.  “Cut so superbly”.  It is still assumed that Mum bought the dress and then made alterations when fitted to Len.

5.  Lynda, Noel’s sister studying at RADA.  Overseas House, where Len spent one night and went to a dance  was a membership organisation that in 1949 was for those from the British Empire.  It is now known as the Royal Over-Seas League, membership open to those from the British Commonwealth.  Its ethos is to “Support international understanding and friendship through social, musical, artistic and welfare activities”.

6.  NTB: Not too bad.

7.  SN:  Saturday Night Theatre on the BBC Home radio service.

8.  Mum writing to Noel, presumably in the way she used to write to Ernst.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png5 April, 1949.

Please write to:   7 Barton Road, Salisbury from now on.  ‘Phone Salisbury 8003. (1)

Sit’n’ by the boiler in the ‘Y’ for peace and warmth.

Northern Delights,

Now, sitting at peace, I can say all the things I didn’t put in last nights’ hectically rushed letter – anyway as I raced down to the Market Place and started to cross it, the church began to strike the hour, so though I dropped it in the box only about a minute earlier, p’raps your letter wasn’t collected with the 8 pm (and the last) post despite all my rushing.

Mum, have you made any enquiries at the SYHA offices about working parties in Norway or Sweden.  But also there are some wonderful and incredibly cheap WEA classes abroad this year – might switch to one of them. (2)  Are you two interested?

Please could you book me a sleeper from Glasgow for the night of Sunday 17th April – thanks. Thought to get to London about 3.30 – 4 (we stop at 12.45 here) on the Thursday,  spend the rest of the day with Noel, catch the Thursday night train and have Friday, Saturday and Sunday with you at home, spending the Monday in London with Noel and catching a very early train to here on Tuesday morning.  That’s if Noel can’t come up North too. (3)

Gave Mrs. H. my ration book, so that she’ll get this week’s rations, so (unless they withhold my butter and sugar to-morrow) that means I get two rations this week – though only consuming one myself and similarly last week with my r.b. and emergency card – the latter was given me by Mrs. Blatchford – the warden here, just as I was leaving the ‘Y’ for London.  As an institution, she can issue them. (4)

Have you seen Tabriz – source of ye Tabrizi carpet of ‘26’ on the map of Iran? (5)

Yes, I plan to take up your case at Easter – insh ‘Allah.  Glad you enjoyed the pictures with Mrs. Bovey – how much per day did they eventually charge you with teas etc. thrown in?  (6)


Forgot to tell you, Noel wants me to knit him a pullover – maroon, polo necked. Daddy’s is so exactly what he wants, but can’t visualise myself knitting anything as super as that.  Is it 4 ply, quicknit or double knitting?  Feel I’ll have to warm up first on a pair of gloves.

I’m enclosing one of the two receipts for the carpet.   Believe this is the one saying it’s Egyptian and bought in ‘46 for the benefit of the customs authorities, however you may like to have it.  Sorry for the shorthand on the back. (7)

P.C. Beavan rang me at work full of enquiries about Ernst, so if you have occasion to write to E, p’raps you could mention this bod and say he’s most anxious to get in touch with Ernst.  (8)

Noel’s phoned and I’ve missed the post.  Says he’ll have to miss out Easter and come down this week-end (to-morrow – Friday), seems he’s got a job in the offing and wants to know what I think of it – and if he starts work, would probably be working over Easter.  Anyhow, you may have my phone call before you get this letter and I should know most of our ‘ mov. control’ by then. (9)   Have just realised, Noel should be with me when I call you, so you’ll be able to have a word with him too – nice, eh.    Just off to post this and book him at the Coach and Horses.

It’s been snowing, but now the sky’s blue.

Love my own ones, Len. xxxxx


1.  This is the (fictional) address and telephone number of her new digs in Salisbury.

2.  WEA:  Workers’ Educational Association.

3.   These are Len’s plans for the Easter week-end.

4.  “Mrs H.” – her new landlady.  An Emergency Card, also known as an “E” card, was an emergency food rationing card for when the recipient was away from their usual suppliers i.e. on holiday, on honeymoon, and so on.

5.  Tabriz, Iran.  The carpet seems to be a genuine Persian that she bought in Cairo.

6.  “Taking up your case”.  Mum, whilst in Salisbury, ordered a hat for herself. (Shades of Maud’s hat.)   Mrs Bovey is the landlady of the Coach and Horses.  It is assumed she and Mum went to a matinee film performance one day when Len was at work.

7.   The receipt is not in this collection.

8.  These enquiries are assumed to be in connection with  his application for British Naturalisation, which was to be successful,  and was issued on 4 November, 1949.

9.  ‘Mov.control’ – using the military term and name of the camp in the Suez Canal Zone.


 len on Luneberg heath crop pic png11 April, 1949.

At my office desk.  Monday,

Dearest Pets in Glasgow,

To begin with, if I sound mopey in this letter, take no notice, for its just that I suddenly feel awfully alone in Salisbury. You see Noel came down and stayed Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, so I don’t feel at all bright and gay now that he’s gone, but propose to go to bed early tonight, so as not to have to think.

It’s nice at ‘No.7’,  but the way I feel here makes me wonder how I managed without loved ones around me all that time in Cairo. Think I’ll stay here a year  then ask for a transfer to Glasgow and home – s’pose I’m contrary, being thrilled at first at the thought of coming south.  I know I felt shocking at first in Cairo, but can’t imagine this feeling wearing off and if I go away week-ends comparatively often, it’ll be U.S. for establishing myself with people and organisations in Salisbury – yer pays yer money, yer tikes yer choice.

I’m still, all being well sticking to my plan of spending Thursday afternoon with Noel, night train to Glasgow, then Fri, Sat and Sun. with you and night train back to spend Monday with him.  Yes, I’m still sticking to my original plan, despite the fact that Noel’s suddenly woken up to the fact that he won’t be seeing much of me at Easter, but he says he doesn’t have the ackers to come north. (1)

Thanks so much for writing for the taxi receipt I’m hoping gradually to get my personal business affairs straightened out.  I’ve sent the cash owed to Jack Owen so feel better now about that. (2)

Mark’s address is:-

c/o Speco, Ltd.,
32 Sharia Malika Farida,
Cairo.  (3)

Mrs. Bovey says thanks a lot for the card.

Despite Noel’s moans at trailing him around the shops, I went to the Food Office on Sat. – Mrs H. couldn’t get my book changed as they needed my date of birth, then went to the Co-op self service and got my rations – but no ‘divi’,  for you have to quote the letters representing the Soc. to which you belong.  By the way have ¼ of tea for you and 1 sugar ration, having given the rest to Mrs. H.   Also got gorgonzola on points which I ate on the way to Stonehenge – I love cheeses.  Noel doesn’t, so I happily ate the ¼ of gorgonzola neat!   Before getting the bus to Amesbury and walking on to Stonehenge, I dragged Noel into Style and Gerrish  where I found from that charming Mrs.Gale, that your straw hat is in the making, but they have their doubts as to whether it will be ready by Wed – as I’ll be going straight from work on to the train on Thursday – insh ‘Allah.

Have you yet booked me up for a sleeper for this Sunday night – please do, otherwise I’ll be going about London in a daze – I’m relying on Noel to do likewise for me so that I’ll arrive full of joie de vivre in Glasgow all being well.

Hope to catch 11.35 getting in at 9.35 Friday morning, then want to go shopping, but in any case will wire you on Thursday.  All love speeding to you.

Len xxxx


1.  She is writing on the Monday – the Friday of that week is Easter Good Friday.

2.  Jack, in charge of security at the British Embassy in Cairo.

3.  This is Mark, the Swiss architect

Enclosed with the letter, but not mentioned by Len, are details of the WEA courses that she has sent for.

wea letter png

WEA 1949 National Summer School Enquires letter


Note that Len has ticked the Anglo-German School in Gohrde.  As can be seen in the prospectus below, Item 1,  the summer school in Gohrde is about Adult Education, and how to develop it in Germany, tentatively basing it on the Folk High School idea.

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WEA Prospectus of National Summer Schools 1949


Len’s next letter to her Mum and Dad is written on the Thursday of the same week as the Easter Monday.  She has been to, and returned from staying in Coldingham Avenue.  It seems that on the Easter Saturday Mum and Len went down to Ayr for the day.  It is assumed that her Dad had to work the Saturday morning at the factory.




len on Luneberg heath crop pic png21 April, 1949.

The Office, 9.20.   Thursday morning

Well Loved Ones,

 Sorry I didn’t get this off last night, but by the time I’d done my washing, nipped up to the YW to make arrangements for going to see the ‘Desert Song’ with Collie – one of the girls,  next Monday, then came back and had cocoa with the Hemmons – just in, it was late – for England – and I did want to get to bed.

I ached all over on Tuesday with coughing so much I went straight to bed after phoning you.  Yesterday the aching had gone but I had an awful headache, however, having gone to bed shortly after ten last night, the aching and headache’s gone and I’m only coughing a little.

Having tea (high) at the Cadena with Pamela Lennard (the flat girl) to-night. (1)

Sal. PO png

Salisbury, Chipper Lane.  The Cadena was at the bottom of Chiipper Lane, on the left underneath the sandstone coloured building.   Around the corner of it, to the left, was and still is the bus stop in Endless Street for Porton.   In the foreground is the entrance to the main Salisbury Post Office.  Half way down, also on the left, is the entrance to the library than Len used.

Picked up the phone this morning with my usual “PA & CSP” and lo and behold it was Esme on the other end sounding completely lost.  She was phoning from her office – Atomic Energy, Didcot, Berks. (2)   A good job I’ve fixed up to go up to town to see Noel the week-end after this, as she was trying to get me to fix something up, so it’ll have to be after that.

As I’m going away on Friday (to-morrow) insh ‘Allah and then on Monday am at ‘Desert Song’ with Collie one of the girls from the ‘Y’ and Tuesday hope to start Dressmaking at night school, I’ll phone you Wednesday, for Thursday I’ve French and then on Friday am away to London again.   As Noel’s working Sat. it’s better for me to go up.   After this we might meet halfway, or he’ll come down here again as he’s probably stopping work when his father comes home and I can’t pay 22/9 return to London as gayly as I would have done on a Cairo salary. (3)

Received my account with interest slip last night on that £1 banked in ‘38 – it’s now £1-5-5d – good going, eh?  Hope to put it in present account.  By the way, you know ‘me and money’ and I’ve completely forgot how much I owe you two. There’s the dough I borrowed from you for material Mum, then there’ll be the shoes when they come out of the Co-op, and the sleeper and the £5 you lent me when I left here for London. (4)   Feel sure I’ve missed out something, but you put in anything else you remember and bring it up in the next letter, then I’ll attempt to pay back some of it between now and your holidays and the balance when you’re down in the sunny (we hope) south.

Mr Bovey was standing in the doorway of the C and Hs. as I went up to the ‘Y’ last night, so I showed him the photos and he thought they were good. (5)   Are you two staying there for the hols, or would you like Mrs.H’s front room –  haven’t said a word to her.  On thinking more of it, the Bovey’s or somewhere in the centre of Salisbury would be best, as I’ve a season bus ticket and could come in and out from ‘No.7’ on HMG, (6) whereas you’d have to pay two fares all the time, besides which it wouldn’t be so easy for you to make your way to the surrounding countryside. (7)   Should Lynda’s fail as the ‘opening week-end’ resort, we could go to Central London YH in Gt Ormond St., or to the Highgate YH – the latter’s like being in a village in the centre of London and you can see St.Pauls and lots of London spread out before you from the dorm windows. (8)  Write and say what you think.

Look, I’m not living out of tins and during the summer I intend  to eat masses of green stuff.  (9)  I do eat my fats and will ask Mrs. H. for a chop occasionally for breakfast, but remember each time I go to the canteen or British Restaurant I get meat. (10)

As a concession, let me take sacs.  for six months?  (11)   Here again, I get sugar in my tea or cawfie  at the canteen, but though I’m not a pudding or almost any kind of dessert fan, will probably buy sweets now that they’re coming off the ration. (12)

 I feel very unsettled, I’d love to have a husband (only Noel), home of my own, kids and dogs, but as it is, I shouldn’t like to cook in Mrs. H’s kitchen. I don’t mind about washing and ironing, but otherwise, I’ve got an all or nothing feeling.

Why not let the front bedroom with advt. as following ”Spacious, light room available May and June in W.4 district. No attendance. ‘Phone. 25/- (or 30) per week.”  That would be about £10 for two months.

Love your story of your aga-day and am looking forward to hearing full details of your great coincidental meeting – you should write to ‘Woman’ about that – a guinea a letter. Don’t worry, I’m thinking hard how I can earn one for myself and to think once I would have scorned a guinea prize! (13)

‘Bout the dress, told you over ‘phone Noel was worrying me to go out and wouldn’t let me sew.  So I wore the Rembrandt – which he liked a lot and the Zephry will be coming back to you très vite (being quickly – had to say it in French to suit its nationality).

 Sorry for the brevity, I feel gracious inside, but as always am rushing to catch the mail.

Will phone S. and G. re. your hat to-morrow, Mum.

All my love south of the border to my Northern Delights, Len. xxxxxx

p.s. Never said over the ‘phone – thank you for all you did and for giving me such a lovely Easter.

p.p.s. We went to see Disney’s latest “Melody Time” which was lovely.


1. “Pamela Lennard, the flat girl”.  Not clear whether this is a YWCA met acquaintance.  With the weekly telephone calls some things mentioned in the letters will be relating to information already given in a previous ‘phone call.  The Cadena, now a bingo hall, was in Chipper Lane, as was the main Post Office and the Library. Endless Street and the bus stop to Porton Down was at the bottom of Chipper Lane. On September 10th 1948, in the same edition of the Salisbury Times that had the news item “Germ Warfare: Porton Research Station Expansion” the advertised band at the Cadena was the Merry Macs Dance Orchestra.

2.  One of those extraordinary coincidences that whilst Len was working at the Chemical and Biological Warfare Research station at Porton, her Cairo colleague Esme was working for the AWE predecessor of the secret development of the British atom bomb at Harwell, Didcot.  The work was transferred on 1 April, 1950 to the newly opened Atomic Weapons Establishment on the site of a RAF airfield at Aldermaston, Berkshire.

3.  22/9 = £1.13p

4.  It’s assumed she took a pair of shoes into the Clydebank Coop store for repair.

5.  Apart from the one of Mum leaning out the window, the rest have not survived in this collection.

6.  HMG : His Majesty’s Government.

7.  Where Len was in digs was a 20 to 25 minute walk into the town centre.

8.  “Should Lynda’s fail”  i.e. staying in Lynda’s flat in London.

9.  “Living out of tins”.  Len has either had a discussion with Mum on the ‘phone, or when she was staying with them at Easter that has concerned Mum about her daughter’s eating habits.

10.  British Restaurants were introduced by the British Wartime Coalition Government in the autumn of 1940. Because approximately 70% of Britain’s foodstuffs were imported, and because the Nazi U boats targeted vessels bringing in food, food rationing had been introduced that  year.  Restaurants were exempt from rationing.  They offered a decent meal at a budget price.   Because food rationing became ever more severe in the post-war 1940’s British Restaurants continued.

 11.  Saccharine.

12.  Three days after she wrote this, on April 24, 1949, chocolate and sweet rationing, in place since July 1942, ended.  It was a brief honeymoon, though.   Because of the continuing financial crisis in Britain Stafford Cripps reintroduced sweet rationing, at 4 ounces (93 grams) per person per week 3 months later. Chocolate and sweets did not become freely available until 1953.

13.   In 1949  Woman was the best selling women’s interest magazine in Britain.   It was edited by Mary Grieve, who was brought up in Hyndland, Glasgow, where Jack the Norwegian’s grand-mother lived.  Hyndland is just a few miles from where Mum and Dad lived in Yoker.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png26 April, 1949.

The Office Tuesday lunch hour

Nicest People, Hello,

At last I’m getting down to the epistle I meant to write yesterday, though at the moment I feel uncomfortably full, but that will pass off.  Thanks so much for your lovely and long Sunday epistle received this morning.  Thanks for your enquiries, but my cold and ‘hacking corf’ have completely gone now.

Don’t make me envious by describing your food.  I just can’t get near the shops to get anything green, but I’ve a free morning in London this week-end all being well, when I hope to buy a lot including masses and masses of lettuce.  It is difficult finishing work, or rather being back in Salisbury after the shops close and I hate being beholden to anyone.

Before I forget, you didn’t say how much I owed you all in and no don’t forget to add on two thirds of the telephone bill.  Now please add up what I put in my last letter and tell me – no shinanegin’.

My address in full would be (mind you, it’s you who hated, or thought silly abbreviations being explained, but here it is:) Personal Assistant to Chief Superintendent (Porton), Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment and the rest is in plain English.

Really struck a blow at the thought of not seeing you at Whit, but I guess you know best about your own finances and at present I really would like to get myself a bit straight before going gay with mine as I would like. (1)  However, if some or most of the cash I owe would get you down there, do let me know. This I really mean, so tell me and cash is cash and I do owe you a bit, so tell me. If you feel badly about it, remember I wouldn’t think twice about coming to you if I needed even a very large amount of cash at any time – think of it as an investment for me if you like, but at the moment it’s on my conscience and I’d be happier if it weren’t.

Could you send the repaired shoes as I’d like to wear them with my navy dress, especially if I’m to be at the Reids for Whit.  I feel almost scared at the thought of Noel and I being there without you two, but daresay we’ll manage if we get an invite!  Do please write to Aunt Ena Mum, as I’d like to know whether or not it’ll be O.K.

Another thing is Style and Gerrish, I’ve never been in the shop since last Sat. I went into the shop with Noel the week before Easter and they don’t like us making private calls from work, but I think I’d better in this instance. (2)

Listen, is the rhubarb still being given away quite a bit and is 26 the ‘Grand Central Phone Booth’? (3)   I paid the Hemmons an extra 2d. for my call to you, as I think it’s only fair as in a call box it would be 2d. more.

By the way, on Monday, after work, I returned to ‘No.7’ to find Mrs. Hemmons in bed.  It’s dreadful, but she has hardly any sight in one eye and when the eye started to go funny she’d a sort of nervous breakdown at the same time.  All this was some time ago – before she was married, but last week her eye started to ache – the other one – and worrying about this made her all strung up, so she has the pain in her eye as well as being nervously sick too.  A sister at the hospital (think it’s a gross breach of Medical etiquette for a sister to so speak) told her in all probability the same thing was happening to her good eye as had happened to the other and Mr. Hemmons had to phone the doctor for her in the middle of the night as she was all quivering.  Poor soul, so you see as I was going out to the ‘Desert Song’ last night with a ‘Y’ girl – date I couldn’t break, I felt I had to sit with Mrs H. from 6 when I came in, till 7, when I had to leave to catch my bus.  She seemed fairly normal, yet underneath, I felt she was pitifully glad to talk to me.  I felt so ineffectual, for it’s not like comforting someone about having a broken leg. (4)

Mr. H. (who’s proved nicer than I thought at first), said she’d probably be taken to her people in the country or to hospital and of course my mind instantly sprang to the fact that I couldn’t be alone in the house with him – the kids are with her mother. (5)   But he said he’d be practically shutting up house, but that I could stay on and do for myself if I liked. The idea has just struck me, that if I’m to do for myself completely, that I can get my ration book changed, for if one’s registered with the NAAFI here one gets a permit to shop there, but not for casual shopping.  Then I could nip out during working hours to shop.  You see, there are no other people in my position as far as I know, men from elsewhere yes, but their wives shop for them. I’m the only office girl posted from elsewhere as far as I know, so hope they’d let me nip out.  Say I changed to self-catering, should I pay the same amount?  No breakfasts, but all the cooking facilities instead?  Please write and let me know – your reply won’t get to me till next week though, as I’m leaving here Friday night, straight for London and I may not be able to ask you on the ‘phone tomorrow.

People up here go out picking flowers – it’s an activity which would never occur to me – and you?  The head messenger, sometimes brings me flowers and occasionally a chocolate, but every day he brings me an apple and says I can go and help to pick them in the summer. As I adore apples this is quite jammy.  The messenger I should add has no ulterior motive that I can see as he was at Gallipoli or something in 1900, but he’s sweet.  (6)

At the moment I’m very, very angry at Noel.  You see he said “It’s your turn to write” and exhorted a promise from me to write last Tuesday, which I did. Narry a letter did I receive, but as per promise sent him a p.c. from Bournemouth, giving him the times to ring me last night, as we’d agreed he should ring, but I didn’t know then, or rather realise I was going out to the ‘Desert Song’, well he rang and sounded tragic as only Noel can sound tragic, saying he’d only one letter from me and hadn’t been able to write to me because I hadn’t put my address at the top.  It was written from the Office, so in my usual way, I’d just put ‘Office, Morning’, thinking he’d have or remember my ‘No.7’ address from my other letters.  These he said he couldn’t leave lying about, so he hadn’t got it and was on the point of writing to you for my add.  Mum! We spent most of the three minutes explaining things to each other very quickly and completely misunderstanding them, but it’s so difficult to be slow when one only has three minutes, for he’d no more change and I forgot to say ‘Reverse the Charges’ going on to do more talking.

I don’t know where I’m staying or what we’re doing, as to save the expense of O’seas House, or upsetting Lynda, I suggested we both stay at a London YH – either Gt.Ormond St., or Highgate (by the way what about us there in the summer?), as this conforms with the proprieties, be cheap and save him nipping all the way in from Hayes. (7)    He said this blessed job of his didn’t give him a minute and in the rush I forgot to say “phone them”.   I dictated this address to him here in the E for Ethel fashion, but as I’ve had no letter this morning wonder if he got it down all right and anyway has made me more angry at there being no mail from him yet.  He did call me ‘darling’ more than I did him, and did sound tragic, but Oh Noel. I know he can organise, because he was an Army Officer and produced revues, but I wish he’d organise me!

Noel drag 2 png

Camp Follies.  Noel is on the right.

Hope you two aren’t getting too rash over your spring-cleaning and straining yourselves at all, and also that you’re keeping well.  In view of the foregoing, this is a contradiction, but if you could spare a minute to write to Mrs.H. thanking her for looking after me so well and hoping that she’ll be better soon, I’d be most obliged, and I think it would cheer her up.

Looking forward so much to talking with you to-morrow night.  You’re the most wonderful people I know and I love you.

Len xxxxx


1.  Whitsun in 1949 was on the week-end of June 4th to 5th.  It seems that Len had planned that Mum and Dad would come down and be with her and Noel at Aunt Ena’s.

2.  Style and Gerrish department store, in Market Place, Salisbury.    Style and Gerrish in 1949 also advertised  their Funerals and Cremations service, with “Private Mortuary”.  Debenhams now occupies the former Style and Gerrish store.

3.  Rhubarb in Mum and Dad’s back garden.  And the telephone is being used by Mum and Dad’s neighbours in the avenue.

4.  A news story in the Salisbury Times in autumn 1948 had reported that a 33 year old doctor had been appointed as a “Mental Health Officer” for the town.  Mental Health Officers were an innovation throughout Britain, created as part of the implementation of the new National Health Service.  Mental illness was still for many a taboo subject, and mental healthcare provision was still very limited.  Anti-depressants were not developed until the early 1950s and specific medication  for anxiety was also not developed until the 1950s.  Before then some very unsuitable medications were prescribed, amphetamines being one example.   The relative youth of the appointed doctor may suggest that more senior medics did not regard it as a plum or worthwhile appointment.  Although there were some outstanding exceptions, the British Medical Profession in general were not that concerned with mental health, and  amongst some medics there was also the attitude  that many who became mentally ill were emotionally or morally ‘feeble’.  During the Second World War, for instance,  a RAF bomber crew member could be discharged for LMF: Lack of Moral Fibre, which would be stamped on his pay book, and the disgrace could haunt him for years.   The Americans had a more enlightened and humane approach: a USAAF bomber crew member would be rested because he was suffering from ‘Combat Fatigue’.

6.   Len’s date is fifteen years out.   Gallipoli is on the Turkish coast.  During the First World War Turkey was an ally of Germany.  Gallipoli had a strategic importance and at Winston Churchill’s urging, British, French and Anzac troops landed at Gallipoli on  May 1915. They were faced by the Turkish army. There were to be heavy Allied casualties and the Allies finally withdrew in December, defeated. 

7.  The Great Ormond Street and Highgate youth hostels no longer exist.


Next:    Part Three  Chapter Two  Whit week-end 1949: Mean Mum and Mean Noel

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Part Two 11 Marriage and the Scum of the World

Part Two 11  Marriage and the Scum of the World

“Never in Egypt… The very way in which the scum of the world gather here is depressing…”   Len to her parents, letter of 12 December, 1948.


Noel, i50 x png2 December, 1948.  Thursday.

Dear Helen,

In my last letter I was cold because that’s the way you like it, in this letter I’m still going to be cold, only this time voluntarily.  I’m hurt and annoyed because I haven’t heard from you yet.  But seriously, I know you’ve got quite a few appointments and not a little entertaining to do, but please try to send me a postcard.

At the moment we are surrounded by a lot of “green zombies” just in from the U.K. who are enraptured by the Middle East.

I’m wondering if the fact of your first letter arriving so soon, wasn’t just a lucky break. Anyway I hope you get this before Monday, otherwise you may think I’ve gone.  But still we understood you’d come unless you heard that I’ve left.

Tony is getting really worried over our prolonged stay as he has booked a room at Torquay for himself and wife for Christmas, as a sort of second honeymoon & the prospect of Christmas here for him isn’t a happy one.

Well it’s getting on for half past seven now & it’s well past my bed time so Cheers for now.

All my love,


p.s. Please write soon.

xxx xx
xx xx


Noel, i50 x png4 December, 1948.  Saturday.  156 Transit Camp.

My Darling Helen,

I have just received your Monday’s letter & consequently I’m a very happy person.  I was beginning to think you’d given me the brush off.

I’ll book you in at the Leave Camp today for Monday.

Look sweetheart I hope you don’t think I take your coming and going for granted or as a matter of course.  When you first came I was too staggered at the fact you’d bothered to come and see me.  I’m so looking forward to seeing you on Monday.  I won’t wire you or go to the B.S.D.M. character unless I’m leaving before Monday as we arranged, although I’m more than confident that I won’t be leaving for at least a couple of days after.  I must confess I took your tip and moved on to a cabaret last night with Tony and another character.  I can’t say I was impressed by the Sensuous Dance.  It got somewhat embarrassing because one of the dancers came over to our table & kissed the character we were with.

Well Dearest I’ll close now. I’m longing for Monday.

All my love,

Noel. xx xxx xx.

p.s.  Thank you very much for the Photographs.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-14 December 1948.
BSDM Cairo,
c/o Det. APO S.299
Tired Saturday, 11ish in the morning.

People My Own,

Yes almost asleep in the office as I’m just back from a ‘do’ at TEK.

On Wednesday I went to dinner with Mark at the Metropolitan.  Must tell you of the food, though it’s mean with your having so little.  Before dinner we’d sherry, then: we’d two plates each of asparagus soup, then had some very tender cutlets & lots of mushrooms with spinach & lettuce dipped in caper sauce.  Next came pêche melba with ice cream, followed by Turkish coffee & a Dutch liqueur – it was perfect.  But I really felt uncomfortable with eating so much.  I can’t eat half the amount I used to knock back with ease.

Thursday was full of excitement as we tried to foist off the landlord from taking this month’s rent – which in effect is our deposit returned to us – & also trying to get a reply from Jack as to whether he’s coming into the flat & giving us key money for doing so – this has all been postponed till to-day – in fact I must ring him in a minute (1) – the other tenant the landlord has in mind is someone Security are trying to run out of the country!  Apart from the cash, if J & his pal (also a branch of Sec.) come in, I’d be able to go on living in the flat. (2)   Will keep you abreast of all events.

Yesterday I went to TEK with a crowd of girls by car & came back early this morning. Had a grand evening of dancing & ‘social’ including blow football which was most energetic. Saw Noel’s C.O. there who said N. may still be in Egypt at Christmas & if so I’m to come up to their mess for the Festive Season.

Mailbags of love,

Len. xxxxx

p.s. Had two letters from Noel from 156 Port Fouad.


1.  Using the office phone, in office time – a classic practice.

2.  “Sec.”   Security.


Noel, i50 x png9 December, 1948.   156 Transit Camp.

My Darling,
For once I am at a loss to adequately express myself on paper.  I’m missing you more each moment, and hoping you miss me a lot too.

I hope you arrived back safely.  I must confess I feel guilty at being the cause of you jeopardising your job, but on the other hand I’m more than glad you did.

I’m feeling very depressed today for obvious reasons.  My one desire now is to go home & get it over with & then wait for you.  Two months seems an awful long time.

I’m wondering if I’ll get a letter from you before I leave. I think I asked you to write to the U.K.  I’m wishing I hadn’t now.

Please write & tell me how you get on over your flat & whether you get fixed up somewhere else.  I hope Esme’s out of hospital now.  What exactly was the matter with her.  I will try & get through on Saturday, I think I’ll be on the Orbita but with luck I shouldn’t embark before Sunday. (1)

Well dearest I’ll close now please come soon & redeem your legs. (2)

All my love,

Noel. xxx xx
xx xxx
p.s I love you.


1.  The ss Orbita, built in 1914 and scrapped in 1950.  Used as a troopship throughout the Second World War.  The appalling conditions on board in 1943 are online at the BBC WW2 People’s War ‘site.  They were recorded by an 18 year old RAF airman in his diary at the time.

2.  Coffee table legs.


Len Gezira envelope png

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 December, 1948.
BSDM Cairo,
c/o Det. APO S.299

Eternal Blue Sky,

My Dearest Darlings,

Here marks the spot where I step out of chronological order to tell you something that warrants it.

I was down at Port Said to see Noel – pretending to be sick from work – for two days & we’d a wonderful time.  Actually, we did nothing really, but were with each other which was all we wanted.  He asked me to marry him on Tuesday 7th and I said “Yes”.  The whole thing’s happened so quickly I can’t believe it myself yet, but as always I want to keep you abreast of events, so feel it’s better to give you a shock now than later.  Noel’s taken the coffee table legs, but doesn’t want to go to Glasgow until I come back – he’s nailed me down to saying that will be March.  His idea is to get into agricultural college then on to fruit farm in Canada, or if he can’t get into ag. coll. to dash across & have a shooft at Canada, then come back & meet me in March.

At first I thought it a bit much him not going to see you in Glasgow, but I can assure it’s only his diffidence that’s stopping him.  However, he’s phoning me from Port Said this Saturday, so I’ll try to do some persuading.  I do love him & I hope you will too. He’s got a super sense of humour, and lovely light touch & loves me an awful lot.  I’ve no rhyme or reason for loving Noel, I mean if anything he’s an Empire Builder, but he’s definitely the person I want to live with for life.

Esme last Saturday was going straight to Fayid from TEK (where we’d been on Friday) but I came back to Cairo.  I saw the agent – the fate of the flat is still not settled, by the way, and I went on afterwards to Zamalek calling at Jack’s office en route.  On Sunday Esme came back at night & Jack came round & we all nattered together.  I’ll tell you the full story of the flat when I come home – it would lose half it’s value if written down, but I may say the Brig. whom Jack is still running out of the country is still after the flat as well.

Monday after work I got the 2.45 for P.S. – remember my hustling you onto it Mum? As I said, I had two super days there with Noel.  We were both at Port Fouad – he at 156 Transit Camp & I at the Married Families’ & Officers’ Leave Camp.  I phoned Esme on the Tuesday & discovered she was going into hospital (!) but would continue to cover up for me.  We knew something would come up we hadn’t thought of!

Wednesday night I came back to Cairo.  Met some Italians on the train – a bloke & his mother. Invited me to his wedding in P.S. this week-end.  If I’d the cash I’d have gone again.  It would have been nice to have gone with Noel.  Esme had sent Mark to me, so I got safely back to the flat and her note of instructions.  I went to see her in hospital yesterday.  Iris came to see me and we’d tea, and Jack came too.  He’s sacked Abdul for us this morning to cut down on expenses. (1)

Must go now – sorry for such a scrappy letter, but I’ve a quiet week-end coming up – I think I shall write a screed then.

Every bit of love,

Len. xxxxx


1.  It is not clear if Abdul is an additional servant within the flat.


As will be realised, letters from Mum during this period, and until mid-January 1949, are not in this collection.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-112 December, 1948.
BSDM Cairo.


Sullen Sky. (Yes, we’ve had some rain here recently)

My own dearly Beloveds,

Have just realised that last letter of mine was a bit sudden to put it mildly, but remember it’s only December now & we’ll have lots of time to talk about it in letters. I’m really dying to get home to have a good natter with you both – there’s so much I’ve got to say about everything.

At the moment I feel I just want a bit of grass & some chickens in the back of beyond to let me get my breath for a few years.  If Esme gets up north to see you as she very much wants to do, she’ll tell you half the story.  I know from your letter (1) you don’t ‘feel’ for her, but she’s O.K. really & most warm hearted – so if you could put her up for a few days & tell her about hostelling both she & I would be most grateful.

It’s lovely, for I’m alone in the flat – and you know how I like being alone in houses – & as it’s a Sunday morning it just makes it super.  My energy, or rather mood for doing jobs of work dwindles during the day.  In the morning I want to tackle everything, in the afternoon I’m quite keen & as soon as darkness falls (5 pm. here now) I have to stir myself to do anything.

I’ve finished boiling some of my own clothes & have washed my stockings.  Now I’ve got Esme’s hankies on the boil to take into her later.  She’s still in the Anglo-American. Yesterday she went to the operating theatre to have her sinuses drained.  I propose walking over there in a shwoya – must remember to take in that sheet before I go, ‘cos it looks like rain – visiting her, then going to Gezira for lunch & walking back to get here before 2 p.m., as Noel didn’t phone yesterday & I said in my last letter if I didn’t hear on the Saturday I’d wait in from 2 p.m. onwards on the Sunday.

Sunday evening.

Didn’t get back here till 4.30, but am not unduly worried about missing the call as I somehow feel Noel went on the “Lancashire” bound appropriately (as the bloke who told me said) for Liverpool. (2)    It sailed on Friday & would thus obviate my having a call at all if N. were on it.

Thank you so much for the little sequins on black net. I haven’t determined yet whether to use them on the back of my gloves or on something else.  They’re fun and thanks a lot.  Thanks too for the Silvikrin shampoos – they certainly are super.

Before I forget, with Esme going,  either I buy her out of half the electric kettle, or someone (presumably the next tenants of the flat) buys us both out.  Can you tell me if you think it a good thing for me to do the buying out, which would mean paying £1 for her half, or to receive £1 for my half from someone else.  It’s a Swan Brand kettle & I don’t know how scarce they are at home. (3)   With her being in hosp. E’s sailing’s probably being delayed to the “Maloja” on the 3rd Jan now, but if other people are coming in the flat, I’ll want to know what to do.  Please reply to this straight away.

I don’t agree with you at all about the ‘house of dreams built upon the sand’.  It was the tenor of your letters being like this early in the year which made me feel I had to have a leave at home to have a shooft was necessary.  I’m very glad I had the leave, but only found U.K. as I had expected.  I admit I had all the joys of being free all day & enough cash to be gay with it, but on the other hand, being only a visitor I didn’t reap the advantages of being of the community.  Is it just the Scottish winter which makes you so keen on coming away Mum?  Living abroad, perhaps yes, but never in Egypt, the very way in which the scum of the world gather here is depressing in itself.

No, to answer your question, Esme is not a Jewess.  She has some Spanish blood way back, which may account for it.  I always thought she had a jewish look myself – however, her eyes are blue & I think in details she looks less of a Jew than in snaps.

Can’t get over the story of Hutch & the quick mouse.  I miss H, so tell her to keep herself well licked for me.

Appropos of the weather, can’t you take your holiday in the winter & go to the south of France or to Italy?  I probably sound horribly impractical saying that, but surely Daddy could get a week or rather a fortnight off work on health grounds.  How’s your circulation Dad? I realise you’re being most fashionable, but I’d rather you left the complaint to His Majesty. (4)

At the moment I’m sitting in the flat with my feet up.  I’m wearing my blue woolen frock & also my red woolen dressing gown & over my feet is my matching blue jacket, for though there’s a fireplace we’ve nothing to burn.  That’s not strictly true, for the ironing board Ned made was a fiasco & it’s out on the balcony waiting to be chopped up.  We’re saving it for a special occasion – but what, we don’t yet know.

In view of the warmth, are you getting the phone put in the living room, or as is usual, in the hall?  I think phones by the bed are super, but then that’s only suitable for a flat or bungalow, otherwise one would have to race medly upstairs before they stopped ringing.

Thanks for Stanley’s letter – must drop him a line. (5)

Here’s “PV”.  (6)

Flat plan rev. png

Thanks so much for despatching the parcel.   I understand about your names being in full on the cable – it’s been a requirement of the Eg. Govt. since the start of the war with Pal. (7)    Remind me to send you Esme’s  & my parody of “Doing What Comes Naturally”. It’s called “Doing the Para-Military”.

Lots of love to the Best People.

L .
p.s. Picturing you at Blairgowrie – do go with or without J. (8)

p.p.s Fancy you listening to Gerald Shaw. We think he & his organ are ghastly here – it always pops up and has colours whirling all over it , just as you’re enjoying a quiet evening at the pictures. (9)

p.p.p.s One reason you ought to see the Findlays is that I gave them a bottle of Haig’s to take to you!


1.  This letter is not in the collection.

2.  Change of boat.  Noel was originally to sail on the ss Orbita.

3.  Electric kettles were still a luxury item in Britain of the 1940s.

4.  King George 6th had circulation problems in his legs, caused by heavy smoking.  He was to die of smoking related causes in 1952 at the age of 56.

5.   Stan was the brother of Len’s friend from the SE Essex Tech College days, Joan Garnett.

6.  The flat she is sharing with Esme.  P.V. will be the abbreviation of the flat name.

7.  A birthday telegram for Len from her Mum and Dad on her 23rd birthday, on November 29.

8.  J. – Joan Brandley.  It seems Mum and Dad were considering going to Blairgowrie for New Year.  Blaigowrie in Perthshire is in the heart of the raspberry growing area.

9.  Well known British Wurlitzer organist who continued playing into the 1970s. He must have had a short residency in Cairo as he usually played in Britain.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-116 December, 1948.


Weak Winter Sunlight.

My very Rearest & Dearest People, (1)

Must tell you I was looking through an Illustrated London News at Gezira the other day & saw that Sir Iain Colquhoun was dead – did you know? (2)  He was such a personality of Loch Lomondside it seems funny to think he’s gone.

Haven’t told you my chronicle since last Friday. I came back from the hospital – as I thought to a quiet evening, but Pen was in on his way back from Singapore & rang me. He took me to the BOAC mess in town & I met the rest of his crew.  Can’t understand men working in something like BOAC – they’re glorified bus drivers & only seem to spend their money in bars.  Pen took me home & became quite boorish when I told him I only wanted him as a friend and he went off in a huff.  I’ve only stayed friends with him all this time to get my coffee table legs flown home & as Noel’s now taken those, I was hoping Pen would take the brass top, but “twas in vain.”

Saturday Stuart Brigstock rang me. He’s now a RAF sergeant but was one of  the two LACs  (3)  who knew Betty Baxter, who came to Cairo to see us in June. He’s a Leicester lad, so if I go down to the Reids for a few days, must pop in to see him. He’d put in an application for early release to study a week before & was flying home that afternoon – if only I’d seen him instead of Pen the night before I might have got the brass top home. Both had rung when I’d been at the hospital on the Friday, but only Pen rang back later.

I’d no phone call from Noel, so expect to hear he embarked before Saturday. I’d masses of other phone calls later in the day. One was funny, from one of the rogues Jack knows in his capacity as Security Officer. Jack had given my number as where he (J) would be as he didn’t want this bloke to contact him. This bod rang me twice & during a talk on how US (4) cash was (& I don’t mean American) said “I don’t want to be a multi-millionaire” – so obviously thinking “Just a millionaire”. I refused all calls to go out & also one from the Brig. next door asking me over to their flat for a drink – talk about “Won’t you come into my parlour…” He and Jack are fighting out the matter of tenancy this morning.

Sunday I chored, went to the hospital & Gezira and had a quiet day at home afterwards.

Monday I sat in the British Institute talking and writing & went on to an amusing American night at the Guild.

Tuesday I went straight to the hospital & seemed to see half of Cairo there. Then I wrote letters at Gezira before going on to a rehearsal.

Yesterday the Brig. tried to woo me again.  I then SOS’d Jack and there was a pitched battle between them the next morning.

Must tell you, Iris told me that the best beauticians here told her to use solid sour milk as a cleanser before she washed her face. I started yesterday & am saving the rest of my Lizzie Arden. (5)   This sour milk doesn’t half take the dirt out & makes your face feel great.

Am dying to hear what you wore & how this business of jurying went – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Yes, thank you, I received the pictures of Aunt B. & Co. Sorry for not mentioning it. I thought I had.

About Noel, he was christened Arnold Duncan, his fellow officers called him Charlie & his people & I call him Noel – clear? (6)

The nougat I hope to get home with somebody, or through Jack or someone else with Bag  facilities by post. (7)

I like your silliness about the birthday card. (8)   That’s what I like about Noel – he can be so silly, yet is most practical when necessary.

Christmastides of love to you,

Len. xxxxx


1.  As spelt.  Len’s pun.

2.  Sir Iain Colquhoun, clan chief and 7th Baronet of Luss and Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire.  He had died on 12 November, 1948, aged 61.

3.  LACs:  Leading Aircraftmen.

4.  US: Usless.

5.  Lizzie Arden:  Elizabeth Arden beauty products.

6.  Doubtful if Mum has replied yet to Len announcing she and Noel are to marry.  The letters Len has sent since telling Mum are consecutively numbered, so no missing letter, where we would have read her reaction to Mum’s reaction.

7.  Bag:  Diplomatic Bag.

8.  Len’s birthday card from Mum and Dad.  Not in this collection. 


Len Letter 85 png

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-120 December, 1948.
BSDM Cairo.
Start of Christmas Week in the sunshine.

Most dearly Beloveds,
As usual I’m receiving masses of Christmas Cards from lots of people to whom I’ve sent none &  vica versa. It’s hectic.

Last Wednesday & Thursday were quiet, all that happened was that Jack came to lunch Wed. – the day Esme came out of hospital & Esme had a trunk call on Thurs.

Friday I went straight from work to French and then went into town to meet Esme & Morris & we all went down to the Mousky. I got some super bargains & so did Esme. My purchases included a Xmas present for you Dad – no description, surprise – and a flap over skin bag for 17/- and a short haired bag for 6/-  – liquidation stock.  I also got for Noel’s sister a set of silver bracelet, earrings & ring inlaid with turquoises – not real, but you know I like the stones in the blue bead necklaces. Got myself a ring of the set. They were only £2. 8s for the set of three. I also got a gong. Only 35 Pt. It has an Arabic design – the Koran, as specified by you Mum.

We came back to have something to eat at Groppi’s, then all three of us went on to a pre-Xmas party at the English Prep. School at Maadi. It was grand fun – we had modern & country dancing, including the Dashing White Sergeant. I also met an awfully nice Swiss girl, so it was a good evening

On Sunday Jack rang and he offered us two ducks which I went round to collect. I also got a letter from him to the Brig. (the rogue) who’s trying to get the flat & this made the Brig. most irate & rude, so Jack’s s’posed to be coming to-day to pour oil on the water with the Brig. & fix tenancy for himself (J) with the agent.

Afterwards Esme & I walked to Gezira where we had to contend with more rudeness in the shape of Bill Barrett wanting cash for the sheets left in the flat by them when they left.  I personally have only used one of their sheets about twice, when laundering my own, so don’t intend to pay a sou, neither does Esme, who says no contract was entered into, and the main users, the Hurleys are in England.  If only we can hold the fort till Esme sails I can quite truly disclaim all responsibility.

From there we went to the Wiltshires who were most cordial & invited us over there for a Xmas Day Dinner – we’re practically high and dry for the whole Xmas period – angling for, instead of turning down invitations – so it was nice to be asked so warmly & it’s grand to have Xmas Dinner with a family.  Mrs W. hasn’t any children & I do feel sorry for her – d’you think you could possibly write her a note Mum, thanking her having me over there at Christmas?  Thanks.

Business – is it possible for you to get a cheque for £15.7s.6d. to Mr J.Owen at Barclays Bank, Ltd., Grange Road West, Birkenhead?  If any difficulties tell me! (1)

More tomorrow. As always, all my love, Len



1.   It will be remembered that Len is getting her wages sent to her home address in Yoker and that Mum is paying them into a savings or bank account, and that in Cairo she is living off her Foreign Service Allowance (FSA).  The cheque mentioned is presumed to be repayment for the loan of money she had asked Jack for, mentioned in her letter of 30 November, 1948.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 December, 1948.
BSDM Cairo.

Christmas Feeling o’er us stealing.

Hail, Loved Ones,

Just back from a brandy (on an empty stomach) from one of the numerous ‘dos’ going on in the office this morning. Last night Esme and I stayed up till 3 a.m. checking the contents of the flat with the inventory – breaking the news to ourselves what wasn’t ‘invented’. I hope to get an ecru tea cloth (yes, motifs and good work) out of it amongst other things.

Just had the disheartening news that the APO has been closed, so shall just go on writing this letter and endeavour to post it from the Canal Zone, rather than wait till next Wednesday (it’s now Friday) when we start work.

Missing you two and Noel horribly, but there’s lots to do here – contrary to first expectations – & I must try and put my mind on it.  Lovely to hear your juring experiences. (1)   Can’t get over your being four days running (!) at court – it must have been a great experience.

We’re allowed to send sweets between 15th Dec and 15th Jan, so must send to you – one package ‘per person’ only though. Trudi hasn’t included crystallised cherries in her parcel as I asked her, but has everything else.

My new lampshade is getting a number of signatures on it and as I hope to get quite an international representation and it’s a better shade than Esme’s, I can’t complain.

I forgot to say, haven’t heard you mention the MoS cheque of late, is it coming in all right every month?

I love the long straight skirts with splits at the bottom, and thought of having one half cream oatmeal and half chocolate – you know, longways, then a little chocolate jacket fitting and with a very short bit after the waist and with cream oatmeal introduced somewhere on it – Yes?

So glad the Cyprus parcels arrived safely and at such an appropriate time. I know those tins of Australian cheese, no wonder you polished it off quickly.

You are so good to be so super about Noel and me. After I sent the letter, I thought it was a bit much, but just wanted to let you know.  Don’t know why his family call him Noel, for his birthday’s on 18th November.

About your present Dad, it’s to do with what you’re giving up – yes, smoking. But listen. it’s a tobacco jar, for pipe tobacco, for you know a pipe’s much better to smoke if you have to smoke occasionally, than cigarettes as one doesn’t inhale pipe smoke. Esme’s bringing it with her, but refused to bring your stockings Mum as she has so much to carry already. Jack’s caused us such a lot of trouble that I’m hoping he’ll try to earn our forgiveness over the flat by taking the top of the coffee table home, as well as your stockings Mum.

Noel’s surname is King – you know, the person I dashed off to see at P.S. in response to his frantic letter.

The night before last Jack phoned me to say my parcel had arrived and he sent it round to me at the office, yesterday morning – can you believe how quickly it came – 25 Nov to 22 Dec, and you know how long ‘bag’ parcels generally take. (2)   It’s a dream. The girls had me open it in front of them and as each item and rhyme came up. (3)

mum poem 1 png

They said “Oh, how she must love you” – it was almost embarrassing, but you know I appreciate it tremendously and as for the birthday present itself, I was terrifically thrilled. It’s so exactly what I need and will look lovely with the ballerina. Looking forward to doing the yellow dress, but at Xmas would like to wear my ballerina, as so far, I’ve only worn it for half an hour at our party.  This week’s been hectic and the thought of packing to go away is wearing with emphasis.

transit note  rev png

Monday we’d lunch out at an Egyptian restaurant with an Egyptian from the Embassy and then went back to the flat, when the agent came, and the question of who’s getting it was settled once and for all, even though Jack was there, cheeky as usual and almost put his spoke in the wheel. In fact he may not get the telephone bill till March re-paid us by the next tenant through him. All this business is too complicated to put in a letter, but Esme will tell you the whole story.

At night we went to dinner at the Wiltshires, but they’d thrown out the ducks which J. had given me and which they’d offered to cook, and fed on another duck they’d bought. After which we went to the CTG and had great fun with guessing games in mime. I had to do ‘Crime Passionel’ and ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ which were both quite energetic.

Tuesday I went from work to French – where Vera told me I was fluent, then to Gezira for a bath (no hot water in the flat) and back to PV where Morris came to tea. Then I went to Cook’s with Esme to arrange (as per my idea) for her to get off at Marseilles and meet her sister of the CCG in Germany in Paris. (4)

Evening at P.V.

Back from the office to-day & went to bed to catch up on sleep. Then I got up and Esme started nagging me about going out & I can’t stand nagging. She was in a hurry & flapping about getting to Cooks, so I suggested she phoned them. She did this and learnt they were closing shortly after, so she just went out of the door of the flat and hasn’t been seen since. As we’ve got an international Xmas on, starting with dinner at the Bougrains to-night & I’ve very little money, I’m most annoyed. You see, with another you can tram & walk about the streets, but now I think I’d better get a taxi as the Bougrain’s street isn’t a main one & anyway I don’t like the fireworks they throw under your feet in Cairo at Xmas. To make matters worse I rang the duty officer at the office & learnt he’d just left & he could have given me a lift into town by car. Thanks for letting me moan.

Back to the earlier chronicle – Tuesday and going to Cooks with Esme, afterwards we called for Helga, the Swiss girl I’d met the Friday before at Maadi & all tootled along to an Embassy dance which was quite enjoyable & at which I jitterbugged as I haven’t for years. (5)

Wednesday we’d Trudi to lunch – don’t wonder, only spinach & scrambled egg cooked by me. Then the Pool came to tea. (6)   We provided tea, milk, sugar & lemon & they the grubstakes – plain and fancy pastries.

Then we chored & phoned Fanara & they seemed most keen on us coming to the evening dress do on Sunday. Hence our international Xmas – French people to-night, Americans to-morrow (we propose going off on our own to Suez later tomorrow) & English on Sunday.

Yesterday I walked over to the Swedish legation on the other side of the river, and had to walk round that awful part where we had our Great Fright Mum, as the road across the island was closed. (7)    I had with me a letter from Steena, Swedish girlfriend which Ulmar was sending through their ‘bag’ & my lampshade to be signed – all as per phone call with him – he’d said ‘Come any day’.  Lo and behold he was off sick, so Ieft the letter at the legation and had to cart my lampshade all the way back to the Garden City on foot in the gathering dusk, after my vision of super French coffee and a lift home.

Last night we went to the recital at CDG and learnt one of the people there may be getting an exit visa & he’s thrilled beyond measure as he wants to study medicine in U.K. He also said ESR (8) may have a small part in a radio play for me shortly, so here’s hoping.

I’m having to cut this short, as much as I hate to, as the French Christmas Dinner calls. A wonderful New Year to you my poppets – insh Allah we’ll think of one another.

Christmastides of love & kissses from Len. xxxxx

p.s. The letter I am enclosing is rather interesting & I’d like you to keep it for my scrapbook please.


1.  Jury service. “Juring” – Len’s spelling.

2.  “Jack sent the parcel round…”   The parcel has been sent by Diplomatic Bag to the British Embassy in Cairo.

3.  “Rhyme came up.”   Len’s Mum would often attach a small piece of paper to an item with a verse relating to it.

Len on Luneberg Heath, looking towards the Russian occupied zone, 1948

Len on Luneberg Heath, looking towards the Russian occupied zone, summer 1949.

 4.   CCG:   The Control Commission for Germany.  Germany was divided  into four occupied zones after the defeat of the Nazi regime in May 1945.  The British zone extended to Flensburg and the Danish border in the north, and covered cities such as Dortmund, Essen, Dusseldorf and Cologne to the south.  Bremen, Hannover and Hamburg were in the centre, with Lüneberg Heath one of the areas butting onto the USSR occupied zone to the east.  The United States and France occupied and administered the other zones to the south in Germany.

5.   An early form of rock n roll movements, with more scope and more vigour.  It developed in the US in the late 1930s.  Many dancehalls in the UK banned it when it first arrived in Britain from America with the U.S. D Day  troops in 1944.

6.  “The pool”.  Len’s typing pool.

7.  The Swedish Legation was across the Nile, to the east of Gezira island.

8.  ESR.  Possibly  Egyptian Services Radio (Forces Radio), which tends to be confirmed in references in Part Three.

_ _ _ _ _

“Blue Sky over” California.
7 November, 1948.

Dear Helen,

I was glad to hear that your trip to the U.K. was such a success. We too were caught by the “sciopero” in Italy. (1)   As you will remember,  we left Cavi di Lavagna at about 1 P.M. on July 14. (2)   We arrived in Pisa at 7 P.M. and started toward the “Leaning Tower”. After walking a few blocks, we noticed that all the shops, theatres, restaurants & bars were closed and that the streets were full of well-dressed, expectant looking people. When we reached the bridge through the centre of town we saw huge groups of police & ambulance attendants. Then we found the cause.  Large posters all over the main square told the people that Togliatti had been shot & that the “sciopero” would be effective at 6 the next morning. (3)

We managed to get a dinner in the back room of a little side-street restaurant with the help of a perfect stranger who did not sympathize with the “Commies”. We ate by candle light in the middle of the hushed, frightened voices. Finally we finished, paid the bill & after the lights were extinguished we were ushered out into the dark street where we scurried back to the railroad station.

At midnight a train left “for Rome”. They told us it probably wouldn’t get through. We took a chance. After sitting up all night, we were still moving toward Rome at 6:15 so we thought our worries were over. Instead at 6:30 our train was stopped in Civitavecchia by a singing, marching mob carrying red banners. (4)

Our train was held in this little town for 1 and a half symbol days during which time we had two roles, (5) a piece of cheese full of maggots & a glass of boiled milk. The mob went through the train but fortunately we were in the 3rd class section & they didn’t bother with it.

Of course we made many new friends during this time – you should see the list of people with whom I now correspond in 7 languages & in 12 countries. That besides my school work keeps me very busy.

My latest project is playing the lead in an Italian production of “La Locandiera” by Goldini. (6)

I’m also putting a great deal of time to a study of Shakespeare this semester.

I was pleased to hear you found such a wonderful apartment in Cairo. If I ever do get down that way, I will surely let you put me up for a few days. My latest plans are to return to Switzerland next Sept. for a year at Zürich  University.

Sincerely, Bob.


1.  “Sciopero” – strike.

2.  Cavi di Lavagna is down the coast from the port of Genoa.  This tends to confirm that Len on the outward part of her UK leave sailed to Europe, and then hitch-hiked  to the French channel ports.

3. Togliatti, leader of the numerically large and politically powerful Communist Party in Italy had been shot three times by a lone assassin that day, 14 July, 1948.  Critically ill in hospital the assassination attempt created momentary political turmoil in Italy, with a General Strike called for the following day.  A few days later, from his hospital bed,  he called for calm.

4.  Civitavecchia is on the coast, north west of Rome.

5.  “Roles”  American spelling for the British spelling “Rolls”.

6.  La Locandiera, written 1751 by Italian dramatist Carlo Goldini.  This suggests Bob and Len knew each other through the Cairo Drama Guild.

_ _ _ _ _

Mum’ writing on the back of Helen’s above letter.

six honest men, mum REV png


I keep six honest serving men

They taught me all I know

Their names are why & what & when

And how & where & who


Noel env 26 Dec png

Noel letter 26 Dec png

Noel, i50 x png26 December, 1948.

Lt A.D.King. R.A.S.C
c/o Grindlays Bank Ltd
59 Parliament Street

My Dearest Helen,

I arrived here a couple of days ago, complete with legs (1).

I left very suddenly on the Lancashire on the 11th instead of the 13th & that’s the reason I didn’t phone at 2 on Saturday. I hope you understand. The ship didn’t stop until it reached Liverpool. We got off at night & travelled to York for a day & I was demobbed forthwith.

The trip was pretty deadly. We ran into a gale in the Bay  so I went to bed for a couple of days. (2)

The weather here is chronic, cold as hell, there’s a thick frost & fog outside at the moment. I just leap into bed, clothes and shoes on.

The first thing I did yesterday was to see if there was any mail for me at the Bank.(3)   I think they’re pretty clueless as they must have sent any mail to my unit. I suppose I’m to blame really as I should have written to them. Anyway I’ve told them now.

This isn’t a very inspiring letter, because to tell you the truth I’m more than browned off, as you know I didn’t want to come home & the first day back more than confirmed my viewpoint. The only thing I want more than anything at the moment is to see you Darling.

All my love, Noel
xx xxx xxx xx

1.  The coffee table legs.

2.  “The Bay”.  Assumed to be the Bay of Biscay.

3.  This is Christmas Day, unless the cold is affecting his memory, and he means Christmas Eve.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-130 December 1948.
Almost the end of the year.

BSDM Cairo.

Nearest & Dearest,
Honestly, it’s a disgrace sending a short note like this, but feel it’s better than nothing. However I’m sure you’ll understand that between Christmas, Esme going, us winding up the flat, me packing, finding somewhere else to live & Hormanay coming up to-morrow, I’ve no time to stand & stare. That promised long epistle is coming up though. Sorry you couldn’t make Blairgowrie but hope you have a super Hogmanay & all you wish for in the New Year.

Calenders of love,

Len xx xxx

TEK M Police png

Royal Military Police, Tel El Kebir.  “One we didn’t go to.” Len’s hand writing on reverse of invitation.


Noel, i50 x pngI January, 1949

LT. A.D.King R.A.S.C
c/o Grindlays Bank Ltd,
59 Parliament St.,

My Dearest Darling,
I have just received three letters from you & don’t quite know where to begin to answer them.

I must say I feel pretty mean for not sending you a Christmas card, but I hope you understand. I get more browned off as the days progress. I’m glad you’ve got yourself fixed up. No I won’t contact Esme till after the fifteenth & I think it was very sweet of you to go to all that trouble, please tell me how much I owe you (1).   As it is I owe you more than I can ever repay. I think that’s rather poetic.

I more or less told you my impressions of the U.K. in my last letter. At the moment it is hailing outside & the blasted buses have gone on strike so one has to travel by train or walk.

Please send me this long awaited photograph of you to remind me. Send it to my Bank address, you know how it is with me, no fixed abode & sponging on various relations. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no such people as friendly relations.

Last night I went with my cousins & sister to kick the gong around as it was New Year’s Eve. We went to a very conservative hotel & they took a somewhat dim view of me starting a Conga.

I’m glad you’ve given the Brig. the brush off.  I never did like the sound of that character.

I hope you’ll excuse this letter but the room is full of people doing and saying all sorts of things & it’s not exactly conducive to letter writing.

I hope this Swiss woman doesn’t turn out to be another affair like the Greek one.

They seem to be running out of Prime Ministers in Egypt, I hope you are staying away from all the trouble. (2)

I wish you wouldn’t keep reminding me of your ex friends, and the ex European tour, you make me feel a heel.  However I must confess I want you all to myself, do you think that’s bad?

When are you coming home honey chile?  At the moment I’m finding out the form about the College.

I’ve just realised with horror that I forgot to number my previous. Finally a quotation from a poem which I learnt the other day. “Sweet Helen made me immortal with a kiss.”

Please write soon my darling.

Noel. xxx xx

1.  We have no idea what Len has done on Noel’s behalf.

2.  Crises were continuing in Cairo in relationship to the defeat of the Egyptian intervention in Palestine.

Noel-short-h png

The back of the envelope that Noel sent his letter in. He’d run out of space on the front for the ha’penny stamps he was using to send the letter. Plus shorthand notes written  by Len.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-13 January 1949.
BSDM, Cairo.
Full of Homeward Bound Thoughts.

Most dearly Beloveds,

Yes, this morning I was told I’m almost on my way.  Of course I’m fighting for the first week in Feb. from a financial aspect, but feel somehow I’ll be lucky if I get put on a boat at the end of Jan. for they wanted to know if I was prepared to go on the “Caledonia” on 9th!

Isn’t it too wonderful to be true?  I’m just dying to get home to see you two again, to see Noel, to be in Britain & see the rest of my friends.  I’m just marshalling all my forces for the changeover from living a full life here to devoting all my time to home-going preparations & getting my affairs in order – you know, clothes mended & the like.  You see we get £30 FSA a month – a £1 a day & I’ve just put in for all my salary to be paid out here this month, but the earlier in the month I go, it means the less FSA I have & oh boy, the things I ought to buy according to my list.  However I shall borrow out here & pay back in the U.K., rather than go short on stuff.  It’s the carpet I’m thinking of most & I want to try to get it first.

My one horrid thought is – “Will this mean Esme coming up to see you when I’m there?”  I’m sure she’d grasp at the opportunity of coming up to Scotland when I get home and was there & she’s so possessive I couldn’t bear it.  I thought a shwoya hiatus would occur ‘tween her departure and mine, meaning we could have ‘drifted apart’, but as things are, it’s negligible.  Perhaps you could say you’ve got to nurse a sick cousin in Sweden, but as an excuse I must admit it sounds a bit steep.

All being well I hope to play ducks & drakes with the Civil Service before I resign from it & just hope Dr.Gilston will give me nice certs. re my arch & my shoulder – just couldn’t bear the thought of typing again in Britain. (1)

Now Sweden.  Daddy, you simply must get a week’s or preferably a fortnight’s leave in Feb for the three of us to pop across there – I’m fed up going places without you.

Haven’t told you of Xmas yet, have I?  Xmas Eve we’d masses of parties at work, then I slept a little before getting up to write that last letter to you.  Then came the Bougrain’s where we’d pork jelly, mutton, nuts & lots of things, then we went to the midnight service at the Cathedral & came back to champagne, finally getting home about 3 am.

We got up at 9 & got ready for going away, taking our bags with us to the Wiltshires where we’d a Christmas dinner, though actually it was the duck.  Then we caught the bus to Suez where we saw what a ropey town it is, then as the Welfare Bus service had collapsed two MPs took us out to the YW by jeep.  There we’d a quiet night singing carols & the next day hitched on to Fayid.  There we went to the mess at Fanara to which we’d been invited & I wore my ballerina.  It’s skin tight  & by the time I’d eaten a real Xmas dinner of 9 courses with turkey and all the trimmings I didn’t dare to sneeze. We congaed, did the old fashioned waltz & the Grand Old Duke of York.  E & I were rather gay, so that our original escorts took offence & other people brought us home. We got back to the Officers’ Club at 7 am, slept till 1.30 then we just played around till the evening, when we went to the O’s Club dance with the blokes who’d taken us home the previous night.  We danced till 4.30 am, then this bod & I went in swimming, coming out to a big breakfast.   He left & I went to bed about 6ish, getting up at 10, then E & I went to visit a BSDM bod in hospital there before bussing home. We met a bod on the bus, a Cpl in the RAF who was flying home to get married the next day. We had him up to the flat for a drink.

Wednesday E & I did a bit of the inventory of the flat, then I went out to a Swiss woman where I thought of letting a room. Came back to chore & so to bed early.

The next morning (30th) it was really funny as E & I have taken all the stuff surplus to the inventory – though I may say I forgot the eye lotion & that adorable little yellow eye bath you gave me.  If you see another Mum, d’you think you could get it for me? Maybe you think it’s bad leaving something behind, but the struggle in that flat would make people forget more than an eye bath.  Amongst my share of the surplus was a little ecru lace tray cloth & three solid silver – I think & hope – fish forks.

Anyway the combined surplus was lying on the table early in the morning, when the bell went.  Thinking it might be the agent, we raced to & fro shoving forks & the like into dresses.  By the way an old pouff was amongst the surplus & I emptied it of the stuffing & posted it on Hogmanay, though it looks now as if I’ll be there before it.

Mark and Helga came to lunch that day & he brought my Bernardelli (2)  and a little rug which I must also send home as ‘personal effects’.  As for the carpet proper, I’ll just have to try & borrow the money for it & use my judgement of choice of colour etc., but I’ll try not to rush it.

At night we stayed in. The next day – Hogmanay – I went to French, then visited Chayanne & did some odd jobs in Zamalek before going back to PV to pack.  After we’d had a good session at this we went out to the Bougrain’s & I thought of you as the old year passed.  We all sang “Old Lang Syne” & drank champagne, then later went on to the flat of one of the sons & his wife.

We eventually got back about 4, having Henri, one of the brothers as a first foot – he gave us a Libyan note each as his threshold gift.  We packed till 6.15, then went to bed till 7.30, when we got up & I washed my hair before going to work.

There were more parties in the office & we finished at 12.30.  Back at the flat the agent came up to take the inventory & we were kept by him & had to sign a thing saying we’d pay the electricity bill – that flat gives me the willys.

We got away at last, but so late it meant we didn’t get to TEK till it was dark, so hitched into the garrison – as no transport was there – our benefactor being Col. Kirkpatrick – a Scot.  Then we danced – I wore my ballerina & Helga had a grand time. E. had gone into a tantrum when I’d suggested taking Helga, yet on the Sunday when I got back to the C of S about 6 & went to bed early,  E never tried to contact me – she was at another mess. Helga & Dorothy the only two other girls had gone, but as E. was with a bod she was quite happy – so much for our “last evening together”, with all the stress she’d put on it.  Her behaviour certainly was an eye opener for me.

Yesterday morning I bade her adieu & got a hitch – whilst I was waiting for the bus – with some French people, right to the door of Disposals.

About 12 or so, they broke the gladsome news to me & half of me’s been in the U.K. since.  However I want to see Vera to cancel my french from now on & also went out to see Major Wallace who’s not well, but this chap told me he thought the Wallaces had to go out that evening, though Major W’s not fit, so we just had a coffee, then I came back to bed. (3)

So that’s the end of my news. I’m not going out tomorrow night so will endeavour to reply to your letters.

Write to tell me any musts in the buying of Egyptian ware or food which occur to you, though as far as I can see I’ll be practically on the boat – wonderful thought – by the time I get a reply.

Forgot to say that Trudi was offering me asylum for a few weeks till I found a room, so called at the flat yesterday to collect my trunks & moved to her.

All the love from the bit of me that’s here – the rest’s already with you darlings.

Len xxx xx


1.  Although it looks as if Len is planning leaving the Ministry of Supply, and giving up being a shorthand typist we have no inkling on what she is planning to do, now that she has gone off trying to get into a drama college.

2.  Likely to be a Bernardelli fashion item, rather than a Bernardelli hand gun!  Helga may be be a new female companion of Marks’.  Len had previously said she met Helga in Maadi, and Mark lived in Maadi too.

3.  This is the Major Wallace who Len first mentioned in her letter of 18 August, 1947 where they had talked about Gruinard Bay, and who was running an Export scheme via Cyprus, besides working in insurance.


Lens 5.1.49 png

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-15 January 1949.

BSDM Cairo,
c/o Det. APO S.299,

Waiting for tea at the Solovieffs’ – Vera gone out to buy bread.

Dear Beloved Ones,

How goes it in Yoker?  Cairo reporting t’ards end of tour of duty.  Here’s the name of my ship “subject to confirmation & authorisation” – as they told me – the “Moreton Bay”, Commonwealth ship, tourist class of 15,000 tons, stopping at Malta & docking at London (do they mean Tilbury or really the Albert Dock?).

Isn’t it exciting, was offered a first class passage on the “Lan” – something,  on the 21st, but that extra 9 days gives me almost £E.9 (FN £E) more FSA, so it’s worth staying for and tourist class should be good fun & as I came straight through coming out, I’d like to stop somewhere on the way back. (1)

What I’m wondering at the moment is will the ‘phone be installed by the time I arrive all being well approx. Feb. 10th?   Wouldn’t it be super, then I could ‘phone you on arrival?   Would you like to come down and meet me?   At present I propose to have Noel meet me on arrival, then after spending a few hours with him, take the train north, for a week alone with you two before he comes up for a week with us all – after that my plans are fluid.

So funny to hear of Glaswegians celebrating Xmas – it certainly makes up for an exhausting time.

The electric kettle has little feet & can be used on the table, but I shall try to sell it for £E.2.50 or £E 2 & if I can’t sell it at that price, bring it home.

About Esme, as you know my approx. date of arrival now, unless you’ll be well clear of her by then, write to her to say I’m coming home, and that you two are coming to meet me & therefore can’t have her.  At all costs I don’t want to see her, so if she’ll be in London at the time the boat docks, please don’t give her the name of the ship. Thanks. I’m sorry the way I always seem to wake up to what people are really like at the most awkward moments. (2)

Wonder why the Findlays brought you ‘White Horse’ instead of the ‘Haig’ I gave them? They probably drank the latter & have been searching for another bottle in replacement during the intervening months.

Trudi hasn’t got your letter yet, it seems they’re sending a lot of their mail by sea bag now, hence it’ll take ages.  I sent a BOAC card to Marie Rose showing the ‘Solent’ – my type of flying boat and wishing her well. (3)   Would like to visit the Reids during my leave & also the Frasers (but not so much), the only people I’m not thinking of going along to are the Ballantynes (4). Talking of that name I saw a rose twinset by Ballantynes of Peebles for £E.12! in a shop last night! (5)

Regarding despatches, I sent about 3 lbs of sugar & one or two barley sugars as “B.S’s & sugared almonds” on the 5th, as we’re not allowed to send anything in the food line but sweets.  On the 6th I sent a small Persian rug Mark gave me for you Mum. Remember I told you?

Don’t want to reply to some of the bits in your letters as I feel I’d rather hold on & discuss with the two of you bahdin.  Fancy it snowing so early in the winter – keep yourselves wrapped in cotton wool for me.  Dying to go to the local pictures with you – so hope the Ascot, Odeon, Bank & Empire have good shows on – ‘shuffle ‘em up’ as they say when they play housey-housey out here.

This office is like Euston Station, (6) so I’ll give you news of my doings shortly. Suffice to say for the moment I’m in a broadcast play – & they say, why didn’t they know about me before, so I gently explained about the three years I’d been trying to get on E.S.B!.

All the love from the East to West.

Len. xxx xx


1.  £E: the symbol for Egyptian Pounds.

2.  Len’s antagonism to Esme will blow over, as will be seen in Part Three.

3.  The Short Solent flying boat.

4.  Len’s antagonism to the Ballantynes continues.  As she refers specifically to the Ballantynes ( and not the Mackays, the surname of her Uncle Dennis) she must be referring to Phem’s Mum known as  ‘Wee Maggie’, who lived close by in Scotstoun.   Uncle Dennis and Phem were back in Iran.   The Reids seem to have been rehabilitated in Len’s affections.

5.  Ballantynes of Peebles are still manufacturers of fine woollen wear (at the time of writing, 2014)

6.  Euston Station, London was the terminus for those travelling down from Glasgow Central station. 


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 January, 1949.

BSDM, Cairo.

June in January.

My own Darlings,

How are you there in the snow & melted snow – funny that it came so early this year. Just hope there’s some left for me as I’d like to do some ski-ing.  D’you think one of you could find out for me when the Scottish Ski Club are having meets – I ask you to do it now ‘cos one might start shortly after I get home.  Having leave in the winter I might as well turn it into an advantage.

Your letter is just in Daddy & the description of Uncle Albert made me laugh no end. I’m absolutely furious about that whisky & am only glad I hadn’t given back the sleeping bag I used on the journey over – at least I believe I hadn’t. I’ve been asked by a friend of theirs to take a pair of stockings & some ashtrays to Jean – I can’t very well refuse, but there had be a darn good explanation given as to what happened to the ‘Haig’ before they get them. You don’t think it was all a joke do you, & the ‘Haig’s’ still forthcoming? (1)

On Saturday – 8th – I sent off some books, in fact most of my books as I want to have as little as possible to put through the censor.

Haven’t told you of my doings for a while – last Tuesday I rehearsed on & off (for the ESB play) most of the day & also went with Raoul – whom I know from recitals & who got me into the play, to his house & looked at his study-cum-laboratory.  He’s got a wonderful microscope & I looked at masses of diseases on slides through it.

In the evening I went to the British Embassy dance – in the same place where you came Mum – with the Wiltshires.  It was one of the best I’ve been to there & the W’s were overwhelmed. Jack stopped being cheeky for a little while & introduced Mr.W. to Sir this & Lady that, and Mrs.W. got really gay in the Paul Jones.  Aftrewards Mrs W. said she ‘Never knew the Bridish could be so frenly’ & it was the best ‘purty’ she’d been to & the American parties weren’t good & not at all ‘frenly’.

Thursday I’d lunch with Helga, went down the Mousky with Morris (no news of purchases, all to be a surprise), then to the Ballet with Jack & Co. – we were five and had a box – I wore my ballerina, green cape with fur collar & black elbow length gloves with Esme’s diamanté  over the gloves at my wrist. Yes, the ballet itself was good – ’twas at the Opera House.

Saturday I’d rehearsal, then tea with the gang – of the play – they’re awfully nice & shopped. Then at night I went to see “The Man About the House” with one of the announcers – enjoyed it, but not enamoured.

The mail’s almost on it’s way, so must run.

Planes & planes of love to you.

Len. xxx xx


1.  Len’s antagonism to the Findlays (and to Esme) may be an outcome of stress she is feeling in getting the asked for carpet for Mum.  The Findlays had been good to her during her stay in Cairo.  In 2011 Helen indicated that Mum had not been entirely appreciative of the carpet when she finally brought it home – that it was not large enough.  That Helen’s memory of those years is not good, yet she remembers this detail is probably significant.  In the 1960s Helen would visit the Findlays in Glasgow, with her children, so as with Esme, her riled feelings would blow over.


Daisy png

Daisy Bulbeck CU png17 January 1949.

My dear Nell,

First of all forgive me for not having send you greetings for Christmas, but I was so sure I did sent you, and I’ve seen your and few others letters written for Christmas and not sent. Oh! I know you are sweet and will forgive me.

Your letter made me so happy as usual, and those pictures reminded me those lovely days we had in England and Scotland, I do thank you very much. Yes, I would like to see Scotland again, I hope it will be not next summer but the next one. I did promise and I will keep my promise, and we will be 2 couples, my husband and me, my brother in law and wife, because I just had the news that he is engaged to a nice girl. He’s a nice boy, they make a nice couple.  They are going to marry end June or July, what is troubling them is the flat, cannot find anything as they like to live in town, anyway I suppose they will find something with the time.  And I hope food rations will be much better.

You wrote having your brother in law, I suppose you must have had a hard time with him, (I share a brother with the name Albert and I like it).  Pity he did came in winter and felt so cold, I personally felt just the job, I got crazy when I saw the snow, and the snow lasted nearly 10 days, and I was all day out, my husband brought me with the car everywhere, we stopped nice places (very high hills) and I did play with the snow like mad, throwing snow balls to my husband like children, and every place we could find more and more. We went near the sea shore and the snow was blowing terribly. Oh! I was happy, and I did enjoy every second. My nose was red, my face too, my mother in law was sorry for me (but not me!…..)

I’m glad your husband is much better, its so sad see people you love suffering, you want to do so much for them.

You certainly had a good time when Helen was home, you are lucky to have such a sweet girl like this, joy full, gay, smiling all the time, and you are right we are talking (and how!) like parrots!…. in a gay mood.  And we are very sorry she is leaving, oh! I’m not selfish I know what it means for you but we are going to miss her terribly especially I do like her so much, she is very good heart, soft, understanding, in a word she is perfect, a sugar to eat.  We do talk about England, and I feel English because I feel terribly upset when someone say something about it I don’t like. I do jump like a cat. And believe me they don’t talk twice with me to upset me.

With Helen it’s nice to hear her talk, she likes cooking, sewing, isn’t she nice, you have a cold and she wants you to be in bed, she is a darling.  She look so radiant when she have one of your letters, she run, she read, laugh, tell us always how nice, sweet you are, loves you, and kiss and kiss that letter, she certainly loves you, its so nice to see you loving each other like this.

Its nice to see Christmas and New year, shops busy lights everywhere, crowds everywhere. I’m sure Scotland was very busy but you should see Cairo, made you feel so happy just to see such crowds, and the lights.  I wish you a very happy New Year, it will start very well with Helen back to you, it’s a good start. I hope she finds a nice weather and have a lovely time.

I’m writing this letter in the office, as we have not much to do, oh!… I did like sitting near the fire writing in England, I remember myself sitting near the fire writing all my letters in the evenings.  I was writing or sewing, my husband reading, my father in law reading, in a word everybody was doing something, and lovely plays or songs in the radio, 20 Questions never missed, (1) and we gave the answers before them, not always right our answers, my father in law guessed nearly always, and you can imagine, it was fun, oh! it was lovely times, I never forget, we like each other so much.

My Mother, she is so happy, because they love me so much all of them. They are so good, if it was not for my Mother, I would not so much want to stay here, England is a lovely country, my husbands family are all as sweet, and he is a dear husband.  My sister and family they will go to America, sure with God help.  And so if I have the opportunity to stay  with her, my mother,  that is what I do.  We love each other so much. (2)

Well dear Nell I suppose I have to stop writing, I could go on and on, but I have to stop. I wish you and your husband so good and happy New Year, good health and prosperity, and all the best luck in the world. Helen is thrilled to see you soon. I’m staying with her in those last few exciting emotional days, you need someone to help you mentally.

Again many good wishes and many kisses, and may God bless you all.

Yours affectionately, Daisy Bulbeck.


1. 20 Questions: a popular BBC radio quiz.

2.   Although Daisy’s mother may be Egyptian it is more likely she is European.  Besides the British and French ‘colonies’ in Cairo there were others, including a sizeable Greek population estimated in 1940 to be 250,000.  They had their own Greek language periodicals and mostly lived in Alexandria and Cairo. They were mostly the descendants of mid nineteenth century immigrants.  During the Second World War there were volunteers from the Egyptian Greek community who fought with, or assisted, the Allies.  It will be remembered that the Companions and their young daughter Lita were Greek.


Len 18 Jan png

British Stores Disposal Office, Cairo.    This ‘get carpet’ letter is not in the collection. Other ‘Get carpet’ letters are.


Mums tel.no letter png

At last, the telephone has been installed at Coldingham Avenue.


Mum letter image png_edited-119 January, 1949.
Tel. Clydebank 2138
Wed. Like being in NOAH’s ARK in Gales of wind and rain.

Our Dearest Very Best beloved,

We are getting very excited and we see its just three weeks tomorrow till you may be setting foot once more on Britain’s shore – wonder if you’ll be singing “I see the old homestead & faces I love, I see England’s valleys & dells” or will it be “My heart is in the heart of Loch Lomond, with the hearts that belong to me” or maybe just “I belong to Glasgow”.   Daddy and myself are running around in circles, assisted by Hutch, wanting to get this & that done before your much hoped for homecoming.  We keep saying we wonder what you’ll think of the climate!*?!!!

Yesterday I “coped” with some washing, what a business! I’m still drying everything off in relays in front of the fire.

with Mummy at the fire December '44 png cor

On Monday I was in town & came home drenched & cold & miserable and it was a great comfort & joy to find your 338 & 339 both on the mat, I read them while the kettle was boiling for a cuppa.

Lucky girl to have been at the ballet at the Opera House, how I’d have loved to have seen both – did you know I’m very interested in ballet, I think its a wonderful medium and I am also very interested in Cairo’s Op. House ever since Mr Serafi told us of its amazing history. Tell yer the trewf, mate, I’d love another trip to Egypt.

Maud was over last night. I gave her her “New Year” – first of all some real Haig and then some of that ghastly concoction John F. brought & it nearly knocked her out altogether!

About what you are buying before you come home, please concentrate on the CARPET.  Have you bought it yet? No, don’t tell us if you mean it to be a surprise.  Re. tweeds, suitings, etc,. well, I’d say don’t buy any of those, after all, Britain leads the world (ahem!) in their manufacture and there are a few items creeping back into the shops and we sh’d have plenty of coupons.  Don’t buy anything for Collinsons as we are giving wee parting gifts to Joyce & Gordon before they leave next week.  Get some wee gee-gaw for Maud, something personal I think (she worships anything from abroad) a brooch, ring or string of beads, if you can get anything very cheap.  Go over this page carefully, honey, as this will be my last opp’ty of giving you buying instructions.

About meeting you sweetie pie, you say its up to us and you have arranged for Noel to meet you.  Dad & myself have talked it over & decided that as someone is meeting you & you want to spend a few hours with him and as you then will most likely be coming straight to Scotland it would serve no purpose for us to be there as well. We are quite matter of fact about this, my darling, and not the least bit offended or put out by Noel’s meeting you, indeed it is very kind of him as he can see you thro’ customs etc. at Tilbury if you come in through there.  Daddy & myself will meet you at Glasgow, oh joy!; we can then leave on good fires so as to give you a cheery welcome home – your own home. I plan to get both your own wee room & the big bedroom ready so that you can “take your pick” as the hostess said when she offered her guests home made rock cakes! Of course all and any of the foregoing arrangements can, and may be altered at practically a moments notice by telephone by either party.

I got a lovely long letter from Ernest yesterday, he says he must be in U.K. by the end of March, he said he got a note from you & will try to see you before you leave, but in any case he hopes to call & see us all in Scotland.  Just be airy fairy with him if you see him in Egypt – I mean don’t tell him any of your plans, its much better than laying all your cards on the table, believe me.

Hope your plays are a great success and that you manage everything before you leave. Don’t bother with people or things that don’t matter – concentrate on the necessaries & above all, do keep well and happy.  Hope you manage ye carpet without too much bother.

Gales of love to you, our darling.

Dad & Mum. xxx

p.s.  Boy! You should see the rain & hear the wind!  Hutch is getting nearer the fire.  All our love. xxxx

p.p.s.  Got a letter from Aunt Kitty this morn – wonders will never cease, truly. They are moving upstairs at Kelvingrove to another flat; they got a Christmas card from you and Aunt. K says she will write to you. xxx  (1)

1.  Kelvingrove is only a few miles from Yoker.   It seems Kitty is not so close to her sisters and brother.  ‘They” may refer to a woman companion of Kitty’s as there has never been a mention of a husband. 


Mum's last png

Letter 341, Mum’s last since Len arrived in Cairo in November 1945.

Mum letter image png_edited-121 January 1949.
A hint of Spring in the air

Hello! Very Best Beloved of ours.

I wonder if this will be my last letter to you at BSDM also I wonder if it will get to you in time. We can just guess (or can we?) at how busy you’ll be with all the very last minute matters which will crop up no matter how we try to arrange everything beforehand.  My head is full of “wonders” but will try to keep calm.  I wonder if I sh’d start to paint the kitchen – I want to do it Dutch Blue – I wonder sh’d we spring clean the living room before your hoped for homecoming – guess I’ll leave it all so as you can lend a hand – would you like that?

This noon a lovely parcel came in from Aunt Ena – our Christmas gifts a bit late on account of M.R’s op.   There’s a lovely big cake with marzipan & walnuts on it, 2 tins steak & kidney pud. and 1 plum pud. very tasty, very sweet. We’ll keep the cake for you.  Must tell you Maud gave me a lovely shoe lift & button hook combined and a glove stretcher all in ebony for Xmas.

S.O.S S.O.S S.O.S  Please bring a piece of stone (or something like that) from the Pyramids & Sphinx.  I was reading of a man who built a fireplace in his house with stones from all over the world – a great idea; I don’t say we’ll build anything but I’d really love a piece of the Pyramids & Sphinx.  All those souvenirs will mean so much as time goes by so do try for a lump or lumps.

I feel I’ve so much to say but cannot seem to get my thoughts collected so guess it’ll have to wait till we meet. Needless to say our thoughts and love will be all around you on every mile of the journey home – “the journey home” doesn’t it sound good?


May every wave on your homeward sea tell you of our love.

Your very own Dad and Mum – and Hutch. xxx


CS envel png

CS letter png

This letter shows that three weeks after her ‘demotion’ for over-staying her UK leave she has been made supervisor of the typing pool of BSDM in Cairo.  However, apart from getting an allowance for her supervisory role, it does not promote her on the career ladder of the Civil Service.  There is no mention of her demotion, so it is still not clear what form this took, unless she was down-graded from Clerical Officer.  She clearly isn’t a Clericial Officer at the time this letter was written.



Len's last png

In a curious coincidence, after three years in Cairo, Len’s last letter is also her three hundred and forty first, as is Mum’s above.

Last Cairo letter png

BOAC Augusta Sicily

Len Gezira envelope png

Gezira Sporting Club Cairo

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 January, 1949.

 Still without a Ship

Dearest, Nicest, Most Delightful Parents,

Your 340 in this morning & all instructions noted.

Everything’s too much up in the air for me to write about anything but as soon as/& if the position clarifies I’ll write a screed. Excuse my unloading ancient photos etc. on you with every letter, but I want to have as little as possible for the censorship. (1)

Once again, all news as soon as I know myself, Best Beloveds – Oh, in case I forget to say later, our instructions are to report to London if our homes are there or if we arrive there.  As all the ships on which I’m likely to travel are scheduled to go into London, this means I’ll have to go to Adelphi for an interview before going north & may necessitate my staying in London overnight if the office is closed when I disembark.  I’ll ring you from the first phone I see after landing.  You should know to be in for the call, when all being well I tell you the ship, for then you can follow its movements through Cook’s in Glasgow.

Over to you Scotland, over to you.  Don’t, repeat, don’t work like demons.  That’s the good thing about not telling people you’re coming – they can’t prepare, so please take it easy.  All instructions have been noted.  Part reason for not replying is fluid state & part surprises for you two.

Ever loving, your Len. xxx


1.  No photos survive in this envelope.


As the Minister of Supply, G.R.Strauss,  had said in early 1949 in  a written answer to a question in the House of Commons concerning the Stores Disposal Mission in Egypt:

“On Ist January, 1949, 1,328 people were employed. Salaries, wages and allowances were at the rate of £267,000 a year.  By 1st April, 1949, the number will be reduced to about 265 and the rate of annual expenditure to £87,000. During the last two years 772,000 tons of surplus stores and 29,000 vehicles were disposed of, bringing in £18,700,00. In addition, about 208,500 tons of stores and material in short supply were sent to this country. It is not practical to give the cost of production of the goods sold”.

From Len leaving Cairo in late January in the eight weeks  to the 1st April deadline the British Stores Disposal Mission personnel would be slashed by 80%.   She was not the only one returning to Britain.  The Sergeants and Officers in the Suez Canal Zone would suddenly find even less women to invite to their dances, or to fall in love with.  (Other ranks may have availed themselves of brothels in Port Said and Alexandria, if any survived from the Second World War.)

As noted before, the Suez Canal Treaty ran until July 1956, and most of the facilities that Len  had visited were still in place and needed  until then.  The conscripted British military forces were still fighting colonial movements against British rule – Malaya, Cyprus and Kenya, are examples.  It was the post-war Labour Government that continued conscription after the Second World War and it was a Conservative Government that announced the phasing out of conscription in 1960.

Four years after she returned to Britain the Egyptian Army “Free Officers Movement” co- led by Gamal Nasser overthrew  King Farouk who fled to Monaco.  Even before the intervention of British, French and Israeli forces in October 1956 over the Egyptian State nationalisation of the Suez Canal, rising Arab nationalism was changing the nature of the European communities in Alexandria and Cairo.  The Gezira Sporting Club was nationalised and by 1958 significant numbers of those from the Greek community –  as one example – were leaving for the United States and other countries.  What had been an estimated population of 250,000 Greeks in Egypt in 1940 is currently (2014) estimated to be just 1,000.

Apart from the former RAF airbase at Fayid, used by  the Egptian airforce until the 1980s,   the other British army and airforce bases have mostly left no trace, with the desert, for instance, reclaiming what was the huge Tel El Kebir camp, close to the outbreak of the cholera epidemic, and where Len in November 1948  had inspected the perimeter fence in an armoured car.


Next Thursday   Part Three  Chapter One :   Sht.Hand Typist, Porton.  Transferred from Overseas Duty.  

“It’s funny, but I feel at home in Scotland and definitely a stranger here among foreigners…”

Porton Down, New staff png



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Part Two 10 Almost Home and Noel

Part Two   Chapter 10: Almost Home and Noel


In the nine week gap in this collection of correspondence between Mum and Len, this is the first letter of Mum’s since her last one of 18 April, 1948.  Len is about to return to the UK on leave.


Ed.Fest env.


Mum letter image png_edited-122 June, 1948.

Tues. Cold like January, but getting warmer.

Darling Own Cuddles,

Isn’t it strange to think this may be the last letter I’ll be sending to you before you leave Egypt!   I have been counting the days – Daddy also – and judge you should just about get this one ‘ere you set sail.  We can picture the buzz you must be in just now what with the jigs & reels – especially the reels – your wee heid  must be going round!  Never mind, honey, remember Mother’s advice, KEEP COOL, CALM and COLLECTED.   We don’t understand about some girl Joan travelling with you, is she only going part way? – she has no hostel card – or has she?  Funny to think you won’t have time before you leave to reply to this letter!   No letter from you since last I wrote, but shall leave this one till the noon post hoping for one then.

We are very, very busy – you know me – I keep saying to Daddy “I’ll bet the honey girl has a few ‘all night sittings’ getting ready for the great homeward trek”, and then I say “and I’ll have a few ‘all night sittings’ getting ready for her homecoming”!  But we are really taking care of each other and enjoying all our preparations.

When (if) you get to Naples look out for the Embassy where Nelson met and fell in love with Lady Hamilton – it’s a large red building on the hill on the left hand side as you approach the pier, try also to see the wonderful General Post Office there, and of course Vesuvius & Pompeii.  Oh! it’s all so wonderful sparkling sea & fairy islands, the Sorrento Peninsula & Capri, how I want to see it all again – roll on, Littlewoods!  I wonder if you’ll feel the same as I did when I got to Italy.  I felt I was nearly home again and that the East was far away – it’s a queer feeling and really brought home to me (far more than when I landed at Port Said) the difference betwixt East and West.  Wish all this cairry oan  re. visas etc. was washed out, I’d take a job then as governess or summat. 

Daddy is feeling and looking very, very well and is quite sunburned but alas! his leg, so far, isn’t reacting the way it ought, but he has been told he must have patience; he is to report at the hosp. on Sat.  We hope next week he will be able to run around – he can walk alright now but the right leg gets painful.  We went shopping in Clydebank yesterday and enjoyed the wee outing.

Our latest burst is in a pipe just at the front gate step where there is a hole in the pavement.  The G’gow Corporation say it’s the owner’s liability so I told Mrs. Mac. who is moaning about the expense of repairs but her remedy is to sell the house (cheaply) to us – must get down to talking it all over on your return.

Let us know when you get to U.K. and also when we may expect you in ‘Dear Old Glasgow Town’.  Isn’t it wonderful to think of.  So thrilled & excited to bits.

12.30.  No letter yet from you, honey so I’ll close this and if a letter comes in tomorrow I’ll answer if required, if not this will be the last the noo.  

 Mucha plenta da love, your own Dad and Mum. Oh! the joy of hoping to really see you soon.  Cheers. 

“My heart is in Glasgow

My heart is not here

My heart walks in streets with old memories dear,

I know all her faults, but she’s my cup of tea,

My heart is in Glasgow

And always shall be.”

p.s.  The above is from an article which appeared in the ‘Citizen’ a few weeks ago.  It was written by a Scotch woman who was somewhere overseas.  I like the bit about “old memories dear”.  Busy Sauchiehall Street & Buchanan street’s lovely shops.


Mum letter image png_edited-123 June, 1948.  Wednesday

Hello Honey,

As I said in my 292 of ystd’y I’d write again today if anything required me doing so, well, this morn a letter came for you with a penny stamp on the en. and of course, it was open.  The letter is from the Cent. Sch of S.Y and D.A. (1) and goes on to give all the partics – copy enclosed.

Well, dearest and best, I really sent our good wishes for a happy, joyous and safe journey home in my previous letters, so I’ll make this brief.  The plumbers are here and I really think they know this is your castle for I’m sure they plan to dig a moat around the old house – we have to close our eyes and jump over a huge hole when making our entrance or exit, also they keep making cupsa  tea which rather holds up the proceedings.

It’s a glorious day today, brilliant sunshine and all the plants and grass are vivid green after the rain.

Hoping this gets to you in time.  I’ll acknowledge receipt of entrance test form in case this doesn’t get to you in time – it’s like Paddy:  “If you don’t receive it, write and let me know”.  I’ll say you’ll write when you arrive.  All our love as ever.

Dad & Mum. 

“The Entrance Test for Stage Students will be held on Thurs. July 29th.  You are requested to attend at the Royal Albert Hall at 9.30. am.

Candidates are required to –

Prepare one of the following speeches:

The Merchant of Venice Act 111 Sc 2

Paulina “What studied torments”

‘not dropped down yet”

Romeo & Juliet,  Act 11 Sc.2

Juliet – “Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face”  – which the dark night, etc”

Prepare a speech, not exceeding two minutes in duration, from any modern play.

Perform an impromptu scene on a subject to be announced on their arrival.

Read at sight a passage of prose.

Vera M. Sargent,  Registrar.”


1.  Central School of Speech and Drama, London.


With one exception, there is now a break in the correspondence, as Len returns to the UK for her leave and then travels back to Egypt.  This period is approximately from late June, 1948 to 22 August, 1948: eight weeks.  Her original plan was a leave period of five and a half weeks.

“I thought of leaving 31st  July and returning to work on 7th September.  Course so much depends on air line times etc., but I’d like to have the August Bank holiday thrown in if poss.

My idea is to spend my time as follows: week in London with you two and I can find about auditions study etc. at the same time and hold a tea party at which anyone who wants to can come – that’ll cover people I can’t or don’t want to devote time to.  Then a week at 26, then toute seul – i.e. all alone I spend two weeks in the Highlands – but you two coming with me to Loch Lomond to begin with.” –  Len’s letter 2 April, 1948. (Part Two Chapter 9)

It is guesswork how she travelled home to Britain. In her letter of 2 April Len had talked of airline times.   Mum in her letter above of 22 June talks of her “setting sail”, but she could be talking figuratively.  However, she mentions the possibility of Len arriving at Naples, which suggests a boat.  She also mentions a Joan, who will be travelling with her, but asks if she has a hostel card.  This will be a Youth Hostel card. There is a strong possibility that Len did arrive at Naples, and then hitched via France, with or without out the ‘Joan’ using youth hostels, to Calais or Boulogne for the cross channel ferry.

How she travelled is complicated by this letter from BOAC, replying to a letter she had sent them from Coldingham Avenue on the 20 July.

BOAC letter png

The letter is, as can be seen at the top, from the Import Cargo Section of BOAC at Heath Row, as it was then spelt.   Her Personal Effects  were sent from Almaza.  It is possible that she didn’t fly with them. In 1948 the BOAC Flying Boat  service between South Africa and Southampton,(which landed at Cairo on the Nile and Almaza on the Mediterranean on route), carried cargo, besides passengers.  The Personal Effects may have been from the various items Len was accruing prior to permanently leaving Egypt.  Whether it was also some way of getting around Egyptian custom restrictions is not known.  Almaza on the Mediteranean coast was well west – at least over 120 kilometres – from Alexandria.  It is possible that she was helped in getting these Personal Effects to Almaza by one or more of her Army friends in the Suez Canal Zone.  BOAC also had an office in Cairo.  Renfrew airport is now better known as Glasgow airport.

We think that she flew back with a BOAC flying boat.  Her memory is of the intense blue of the Mediterranean sea moments before the flying boat landed, and  the foam spraying up over the port hole as she looked out.  However, the  return details of her journey are complicated by a reference in a letter she wrote on her return in Cairo about her sending Mum a letter from Aix-en-Provence.    The range of the BOAC Short Solent Flying Boats was a reported 1,800 miles, so there was no need for them to land  for a re-fuel off the Mediterranean coast of France.  In addition, the memory of the Mediterranean foam is undermined by her writing, in the letter just mentioned, of a BOAC car running her into the centre of Cairo.  However, it seems that the engines fitted to the Short Solent flying boats were unreliable.  On one website http://www.aviastar.org one passenger out to Australia remembers the journey took 4 weeks because of malfunctioning engines.  Another online memory of a journey from Southhampton to South Africa, via Cairo, revealingly mentions that engine  trouble forced the seaplane to land at Marseilles where running repairs were made.  So it is likely that Len was right in remembering the Mediterranean foam – French Mediterranean foam – and that she had time to visit Aix-en-France, when her plane also developed engine problems.  As it is, despite their flying range, when flying out from Southampton,  the flying boats first landed at Augusta, on the Sicilian coast to refuel, before flying on to Cairo and landing on the Nile.

Amongst recollections of BOAC Short Solent trips, from the http://www.aviastar.org site: (reproduced with gratitude)

Anthony Craddock, 12.04.2011
In 1950 my father and I emigrated to East Africa on one from Southampton waters owned by BOAC. Two engines had problems over France so we did a forced landing in the harbor at Marseille France where they were patched up and we flew on to the first scheduled stop in Augusta, Sicily.  There we waited for a week in a hotel at BOAC’s expense for the next weekly flight to bring us out new parts. Then we continued on to Nairobi via Alexandria and I think Khartoum. I remember I was airsick over France, and then seasick in the choppy waters of Marseille harbor.

Although flying by a BOAC flying boat might seem romantic, the reality could be more like an adventure from Tintin.

Zelda Wilkins, 03.04.2013
In November 1949 I flew with my brother (14) and my parents to East Africa from Southampton. I was 9 so do not remember it very well. The weather was very bad so much so that we had to fly through the Alps because we could not gain enough altitude to go over them. We were not fed on board only when we landed subsquently because it was so bumpy we were all very sick. They ran out of sick bags! In fact my parents told me there were only two people not sick on the flight – one being my mother. Even the stewards were sick. We landed on Lake Naivasha and were transported to Nairobi in a bus with wooden slated seats. The journey took 36 hours and was one I will never forget.

As will be seen as the narrative unfolds, Len being Len, she picked up contacts and friends amongst BOAC employees.

“Let us know when you get to U.K. and also when we may expect you in ‘Dear Old Glasgow Town’.“, wrote Mum.  Again, besides the change in anticipated dates Len thought she would arrive in Britain, the idea of her and Mum and Dad spending a week in London when she arrived has changed.  As far as we know, Mum and Dad did not come down to London during her leave in Britain. Neither do we know whether she stayed with the Holts, or Joan Brandley and family in Dagenham, after arriving in Britain, or on her way back down to Southampton to get the flying boat back to Egypt.   Nor do we know if Joan Brandley travelled to Scotland.  We do know she stayed with Pat off the Finchley Road in Hampstead. 

Len had travelled down from Scotland for an audition with the Central School of Speech and Drama.  It seems her audition was not successful, but as will be seen, it didn’t put her off drama and the theatre, for a while.  We do not know whether she also had an audition with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  Her audition at the Central School of Speech and Drama was the day following the date of Mum’s letter.


Len with Pat

Mum letter image png_edited-1 28 July, 1948. Wednesday.

Hello Darling!

It’s 10 p.m. and the jobs are finished for the time being so thought I’d say a ‘how do’ to you.  Out thoughts are with you all the time and we hope for the greatest success for you in all your wishes and plans.

We are sweating and sweltering here in this terrific heat and we hear this is just nothing compared to what you are enjoying in London.  We’ve been listening to the radio and hearing about the crowds in London for the opening of the Olympic Sports.  (1)   I guess you think the Old Big Smoke is a rather busy place after all – how does it compare in your mind with Cairo, I wonder.  Take note of the shops so as you can tell me.

So far the enclosed is the only letter which has come in for you, and, as you can see, it refers to the collection, etc. of your canvas bag.

I’ll leave this letter open till the morning to see if there’s any more mail for you – if any comes in later I’ll send it on or wire you the gist of it.

I was in town this afternoon, left my Pythons at Bayne & Ducketts who are to make the button holes in the straps.  The shop girls were in ecstasy about my python shoes.  I was quite summer gloveless so bought myself a pair in Lewis’s, very nice white thread ones ‘hand made in Italy’ price 4/4d. and containing about sixpenceworth of material – they were selling in thousands – the heat – so Italy sh’d be busy!  I got quite a lot of eats in Ross’s including a remnant piece of Spam for no points!  I also bought a bottle of ‘Elasto’ tablets for Daddy and do hope they’ll do him good – I worry about him.  I mean to try them myself also, so sh’d you.  I also bought a bottle of Blackcurrant Syrup in Boots – my Deah! – it’s the most wonderful stuff, full of Vitamin C.  The dose is 2 tablespoons per day – we are weeks ahead!   You sh’d get yourself a bottle at a London Boots, price 2/9d. for about a pint. 

Good night now, honey, bless you always, Mum.

p.s. Gloves are off coupons so do get yourself some.  Tell Pat Brown to send on the stockings you gave her for me, or you can bring them.


1. The first post war Olympic Games were held in London.  The previous had been stage-managed by the Nazis in Berlin in 1936.  At the London Olympics several athletes from the east and central European communist states , including four Czechs, applied for asylum.


In Len’s itinerary for her holiday in her letter of 2 April she also spoke of having a party in London.  Besides Pat, other returned Cairo and Suez Canal Zone friends included Harris, Peter and Malcolm.  We have no indication whether they all met up.  Harris was to start at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in September.  And by the summer in 1948 he should have returned the forgotten items to John Gielgud’s cousin, and perhaps have got the invitation to John Guelgud that he had hoped for.

Glencoe village png

Len, Glencoe village, Feb 1945 png

Len in Glencoe February, 1945, with the Pap of Glencoe in the background.  The concrete signpost behind her has the initials of Arygll County Council on it.  In both photos there are telephone poles and wires, but no electricity. The far seeing post-war North of Scotland Hydro-Electric power scheme that was underway would change this.  In the 1945 photo the curb stones at the junction are painted white to help drivers in the blackout.  Their own car lights, because of the blackout regulations, would be permantly dimmed.  Glencoe seems to have been one of her favourite places.  From a letter of Mum’s, sent in October, it seems the whole family stayed at Glencoe.  This was either a weekend holiday for Mum and Dad, or a longer holiday.  They would have travelled from Glasgow by train and got off at the now closed Ballachulish station, to the right in the postcard below.

Glencoe png

Acininver png

Len had said that she wanted to be alone to think in the Highlands.  Being in remote and unpopulated Achininver was the perfect place to think, and figuratively, a million miles from the Auberge du Turf in Cairo, with King Farouk at the next table.  We also know, from a future letter,  that she had also been on Skye.

She’d also been to the far north east coast, at Dornoch.  As with Mum and Dad’s visits, and Ena’s cancelled visit, we do not know whether there were relatives of theirs that they could stay with, or with friends of their former family.

Dornoch Firth png

This postcard view from Struie shows the Firth of Dornoch.

It is unclear what thoughts she had alone in the Highlands, and what conclusions she came to about the direction of her life,  as she was coming up to the age of 23.  We do know from a future letter –  in Part Two Chapter 11 –  that she didn’t intend to stay a shorthand typist for the rest of her life.  And though she seemed to have dropped the idea of studying at a drama school, we do not know what her alternative thoughts were.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 August, 1948.  The Old Firm.

BSDM Cairo, c/o Det APO S.299, MELF.

Most dearly Beloved Ones,

Back again & how I wish it were Scotland – a leave completely spoils one for this place.

How did you get on at Motherwell – hope you got some good food there, then got back to Glasgow all right.  That was the coldest train journey I’ve ever had – I chittered all the way to London – but after that I’d warmth all the way, so was O.K. (1)

BOAC’s car took me straight to Garden City,  for I didn’t see Mark at the BOAC offices en route – he arrived at the flat later having  waited 2 hours at the Air Booking Centre by mistake.  I just said hello to him and gave him the tie with which he was overjoyed and then bode him adieu, to have dinner, do my unpacking, talk to Esme and get to bed.

Disposals have been far more petty & nasty than I thought, but with Britain in the forefront of my mind I couldn’t care less.  They’re demoting me, as Esme said in her letter & moving me from this job. (2)   They’re furious about my over-staying my leave & though they don’t say so, about my having a super time.

Actually I arrived here on Sunday night, but the thought of coping with Cairo made me forget to cable at first & so I sent off news of arrival the following morning (yesterday – Monday) – hope you received it & my letter from Aix-en-Provence.

The flat is simply gorgeous & between it & my friends life here is greatly improved. (3)

What’s the latest from Uncle Bert?  (4)   We mustn’t let him cancel his trip altogether & in view of my official reception here I’m prepared to come back at any time to see him.

I don’t need the letter about my not being educationally qualified now, but could you please look amongst my papers for me ‘three-months-either-side’ notice.  I know it’s somewhere & will look in my trunks but am not at all sure where it is.  Feel I ought to have it from the point of view of protecting myself with its three month basis. (5)

Honestly though, I feel a different woman from when I left & everyone says how well I look.

Love, every bit of it,

Len. xxxxx

p.s. All the trouble happened when I was on leave – things are quieter now. (6)

p.p.s  Esme said Ernst was all chummy & says he’s coming to Cairo to see me – he’ll be lucky if he does.

p.p.p.s  Could you please buy & send me by air mail another tartan wool tie – completely forgot I’ll have to give something to the bloke who lent me the air travel bag.  Thanks a lot.


1.  It is not clear why Mum would travel with Len to Motherwell, on Len’s train journey down to London.  The Express would stop at Motherwell to pick up further passengers, and that is where Mum would get off.  The local stopping return journey to Central Station would take 30 minutes.  Len says she had a cold onward journey – and this is August.

2.  What kind of demotion this was is not clear. It may be that she was taken off having a supervisory role within the typing pool.  However, if so, a Civil Service letter in a future chapter, indicates she was either re-instated, or that this was not part of the demotion.  The demotion would presumably effect her pay, or, delay her career advancement.  She had passed her Clerical Officer exams and was on the Civil Service Establishment.  It is unlikely that she was stripped of her Clerical Officer grade, and even if that had been mooted, she would have  fought it, involving the local branch of  Civil Service Clerical Association union, that she had helped to set up  in 1946.

3.  She has, on her return moved into a mixed flat.  Unknown to her, she and her flatmates are about to realise they are inheriting outstanding unpaid bills from the previous tenants.

4.  Uncle Bert:  Uncle Albert.

5.  This is the paperwork that spells out that both parties – the Civil Service and herself  – have to give a minimum of three months notice to be sacked, or to quit.

6.  Len is probably referring to the anti-Israel Cairo street protests and the resumption of hostilities, on 9 July, 1948, in the Arab-Israeli war.


Mum letter image png_edited-130 August, 1948.

Monday morn.  Breezy Britain.

Hello Our Own Darling,

Lovely to get your 302 of the 24th this morn, do keep on feeling well and chirpy and on top of the world so that the effect of your holiday will be long lasting.  So happy to read in your last para. “The flat is simply gorgeous and between it and my friends life here is greatly improved”. Keep on being happy and comfortable, my precious, in spite of the old C.S. and Disposals – remember the NORTH! 

It’s pretty rotten they way they are behaving and I worry about your not staying at the Tec. Coll. till you were sixteen, but we considered it all well and at that ghastly time of raids the only thing that seemed urgent and the right thing was to get you to safety.  As I’ve said before, I’m a great believer in the right moment of time, so we probably did what was right as something awful might have befallen us if we’d sent you to Somerset and we pray that your future will be rosy and gay – so many ways and so many avenues leading to happiness in this old world, and that you will find the right one is the only wish and dream of your Mum and Dad. (1)

Glad to learn Mark liked his tie, can he say “It’s a braw bricht moonlit nicht” yet?  Yes, honey, I’ll get another tie for you first time I’m in town.  I’ll get the shop people to wrap it so as I can send it off straight away.  I’ll also look for your “Three months either side” notice.

By now you’ll have my letters giving you the gen on Uncle Albert’s sailing (August 24th from Boston, Mass).  Isn’t it terrific.   As you can guess I’m up to high doe! (dough!).   I’m getting Daddy to write to his cousin in L’pool to be there to meet the ship.  Daddy was going to write last night but just as he was starting Maud came in, yes, about 8.30 p.m.  She was all done up and fully hoped to see you, amazed when she found you’d gone.  Maud had on the 13 guinea hat (2), it’s a large Bangkok straw with a twist of French ribbon on it thus –

CU Maud's hat png

I must be on the look out for a large straw I can do up!  Nothing to it at all.  The hat suited me a treat, also M’s Silver foxs.  It was very funny, Hutch went on the table and went close to Maud and had a good look & smell of the fox furs, then sat back a bit & took it all in.

To get back to Uncle A.  I must get Daddy to write tonight – lovely if they c’d meet Albert, it would be a terrific lift and surprise for him.  Worst of it is he hasn’t told us the name of the ship, and Daddy can’t presently find Percy or Grace’s addresses!!! Must have a shoofti for them mysel.

Got a letter from Trudi Grafton on Sat. to say she is in London and has the sheets and asks re. sending them on – by reg.post or via Joan Brandley or if convenient she c’d bring them (the sheets) to G’gow if I can wait for them till after Sept. 15th.  I shall write back and ask her to bring them and to stay for a few days.  Good to think the sheets are rolling in – I told you we got the pair via the Helensbrough man last week; it now only remains for ye coffee table and wrapping ones to come in – any news of them and it?  Trudi’s address, in case you want it,  is – 509 Duncan House, Dolphin Square, London. S.W.1.

Daddy and I had a wizard holiday at Dunoon on Sat.  It was a glorious day of bright sunshine and the crowds at Dunoon for the Cowal Games was terrific and a very cheery lot, how we kept saying we wished you could have been there, the music and the kilts, however, we have great hopes you’ll see it all next year.  Over 50 pipe bands competed and that made over a thousand pipers, a quite unforgettable scene. 

The strangest meeting took place. Dad & self were in quite good time to get the 12.30 at Singer but were held up by the canal bridge being closed so we had to wait for the 1.18.  I bought fruit and while walking along the platform we saw a woman in hiking kit and a bergen (3) so I went up (as is my wont!) and spoke to her, asking her where she was going and she replied “Ardgarten”.  After a while she said “You’re a sister of Ena Mackay’s” and I said “Yes, how did she know” and she said she remembered me from years back.  We all got in the same carriage to Craigendoran where she was to meet two pals from G’gow & change to the West Highland for Arrochar. 

In the train she told us she was a foundation member of the S.Y.H.A.  We went on to talk of hostels, Loch Lomond etc. and thinking of the Clarkes there I asked her if she knew the Findlays and oh! boy that started it!  She knew John F. very well for years and said “He is in Egypt now” and I told her they were great friends of yours.  She doesn’t remember Jean, but hopes to meet them when they return.  She said John is the best comic she’s ever met & how he used to keep them laughing for days; I gave her our name and she is to send us a winter programme of the Health Culture Assn. of which she is a very active member.  When I said “Bryers” she said, “Oh! you get your coal from us” and it turns out she is head of the Coop coal office, getting Mrs Wick’s job when that lady left to get wed.  Be sure, honey lamb, to tell Jean & John about our meeting this girl – she’s 40ish I sh’d say (but don’t you say!) and her name is Iza Morris.

A letter from Joan B. for you came in this morn. – I’ll have to send it under separate cover, also a P.C. from Sweden.  The number of letters I’ve got to write & send are really beyond telling, but they’ll need to wait as I’m absolutely too busy for words just now getting all fixed for Uncle A. 

I’m giving the house it’s final beauty treatment – well, dolling it up a bit – must never be anything final for I believe in the Chinese saying “What reaches perfection perishes”.  Yesterday & today I’ve been a scrubbing out below the stairs cupboard & ye kitchen dresser – I think I’ll leave the odds & ends drawer for you to tidy!  Wouldn’t you love it!

I told you Uncle Donnie’s great idea for a boarding house at I.O.M.  I wonder what would be best – the select clientele of the north or the tougher, but just as critical masses of I.O.M.  Uncle D. found out practically all about I.O.M. whilst there; went to see the authorities re. taxation and all details – he really does know the ropes – and uses them!

It’s raining now (our unpredictable weather!) and every drop is full of our love for you, darling.

 Cheers, your very own Dad and Mum.  xxxxxx

p.s. Be as sweet as sugar if you meet Ernest – let him see what he’s missed – I must write to him soon, a sugary letter.


1.  Several London colleges and Tech Schools were evacuated en masse to Somerset when the London Blitz started, including, as an example, the Regent Street Polytechnic. 

2.  Maud’s 13 guinea hat was the equivalent of 1½ weeks wages of an unskilled manual worker in 1948.

3.  Bergen: another name for a rucksack.


Ernst Sept 48 png

Ernest, heaf and shoulders copy png10 September, 1948. .  

TEK.  1245 pm.

Dear Helen,

Thanks an awful lot for your kind invitation to the House-warming party tomorrow night, duly delivered this morning by someone from BSDM.

I should really like to come but I’m afraid it’s impossible, as I promised to attend a farewell dance for some four chaps at Moascar tomorrow night.  I am sorry I didn’t know about your party sooner.

I am still intending to pay a last visit to Cairo before I leave, perhaps at the end of this or early next month, and to hear all the ‘Gen’ on the UK from you.  Please let me know if you’re coming up to TEK in the near future.  Will you be at the Riding  Club Dance on the 17th?   

 As you may remember, I should be demobbed on the 30th of this month  at the latest but am held back on a Court-martial for which no date has as yet been fixed.

Hoping to see you again soon.

Yours Ernest.

Ernst env reverse png



1.  Ernest’s return address identifies him  as a Regimental Sergeant Major, in the Special Investigations Bureau of the Royal Military Police.  It seems he has been transferred from Port Said to Tel El Kebir (TEK).


There is now a 6 week gap, apart from Ernest’s letter above in this collection of letters.  Summer has moved into Autumn.  Uncle Albert, and his banjo, has arrived from America, but he has been away for a while from Mum and Dad’s house, possibly revisiting family in the Liverpool area.


Mum letter image png_edited-115 October, 1948.

Hello darling,

I called yesterday aft. at 99 Norse Road. (1)   Mrs Ballantyne, (2) and Rory were at the Modern Homes Exhibition and Uncle D. was in the house all on his own and he showed me several of the “buys” P & he got at the sales – Mai deah!   You never saw such bargains – everything that guy touches seems to turn to money.  They have every conceivable gadget at 99, including two meat safes, gas boilers, two sewing machines – one brand new which Uncle D. got for 10 gns. and a beauty for 6 gns. 

He says he will get four times those prices for them in Iran.  However they are to keep one so that dear Aunt P. can make troosers  for wee Rory.   They got a three piece wardrobe for 11 ½ gns. – absolutely superb.  Uncle D. had brought an incense burner (brass) home from Iran – he’d paid £5 for it there, and he bought two exactly like it at the Crown Salerooms for 30/- and sold them to P’s sisters for £1 each; he got a £7.10/- shop price perfect Parker pen gold mounted for 25/-  – you just can’t believe the bargains he gets and it was wee me who told them about the sales.  P has bought umpteen new dresses and got Rory a brown very expensive Burberry which doesn’t suit him nearly as well as his old blue one.

U.D. must have a wonderful salary; he bought two diamond rings at the sale, one for P. & one for wee Maggie, but I guess he’d make wee M. pay for hers.  Phemie & Rory expect to leave by tanker from Greenock on Monday first and Uncle D. is to fly out on the 25th.  They are busy packing, boxes and crates and trunks all over the place.  I asked them if they had a spare one to put me in as far as Port Said!  Aunt P’s tanker will