Part Two 1: Fresh and Innocent

 Part Two   1: Fresh and Innocent

“I’m so happy you are as you just are, so fresh and innocent and yet with that wee bit of worldly wisdom which is such a safeguard.  Your stay in the East will educate you and show you ‘all is not gold that glitters’ and we tried to give you a certain armour of confidence & self reliance before you went away.” – Letter from Mum to Len, 14 March, 1947.

Egypt map png Len recalls that her Mum travelled down from Scotland to Liverpool to see her off.  Len also recalls that she forgot to pack sanitary towels, and that on the voyage out she noticed how everyone ate their soup with their right hand.  She was left-handed.  As there was still a stigma about those who were left-handed,  surreptitously she started  to eat her soup with her right hand.

The first surviving letter in the correspondence between Mum and Len (and occasionally Dad) during her time in Cairo is from April, 1946.  Because they numbered their letters – a left-over of Second World War Two practice between many overseas troops and their families back home – we can work back from the April 1946 letter to a probable date in early November 1945 that Len arrived in Egypt.  She was almost 20. She was still working as a shorthand typist for the Ministry of Supply (one of the forerunners of the present Ministry of Defence), but now for their British Stores Disposals Mission.

The ‘disposals’ were the huge amounts of war surplus material that were left over after the World War that had ended only three months after Len had arrived in Cairo.  The surplus not only included the sale of surplus WD film stock, gas masks, clothing and tents but also lorries, pick-ups and other material, that in the context of unrest and conflicts in British colonies and British ‘areas of interest’ (i.e the Middle East) was a potential political hot potato.  There were also sensitivities about their disposal as some items were from the United States Lend Lease programme.  Questions about alleged sales to Trans Jordan and other Arab countries would be raised in the House of Commons.   In early 1949 the Minister of Supply, G.R.Strauss, would give a written answer 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 Ist 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”.

When Len arrived in Cairo in November 1945 Egypt had had a kind of independence from the British since 1922, but informally and formally was still an uneasy, and unequal partner with London.  The 1936 Suez Canal Zone treaty with King Farouk guaranteed British presence until 1956.  The indulgent, womanizing and gambling King Farouk was not liked by secular or religious Egyptian nationalists, and demonstrations against western interference in Egyptian and Arab affairs were common.

Besides the Suez Canal and oil, the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt was a vital link for the British Empire with important logistic bases and transit camps and recreational facilities for its forces.  These forces – all services – were deployed in the Middle East, the horn of Africa, East Africa, the Indian Ocean, India (until independence in 1947), Singapore, Malaya, the East Indies, Hong Kong and the Pacific.

"Left to Right.  Moi, Doreen, Des & Joan.  The prow of the good ship.  May '46"  Len's annotation on back of photo

“Left to Right. Moi, Doreen, Des & Joan. The prow of the good ship. May ’46”    Len’s annotation on back of photo

Some of Ministry of Supply admin staff were quartered in floating ‘hostels’  (often former Nile tourist cruiser boats), berthed near the Gezira Island in Cairo.  The boat that Len was on  was the Britannia. This is the first surviving letter from Len in the Cairo correspondence:

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-16 April, 1946. B.S.D.M, G.H.Q, M.E.L.F. (1)

Dearly Beloveds,

I received this morning your 46 and envelope containing Amami shampoo – all jolly good.

Thursday afternoon – blissfully – I did nothing except natter to Patricia. (2).   In the evening I talked to her a wee bit, but went to bed comparatively early.  Yesterday afternoon I attended a meeting at one of the girls’ flats about starting up the C.S.C.A. and other Union machinery out here and I believe that shortly things should start moving. (3)   Last night I read to Gillie who is again sick with food poisoning and went to bed early.  Today work and glad of receipt of mail from you.


Before I go any further I must say how welcome & how wonderful the parcel was. Before hand I was wondering what to do, as my make-up etc was running low, but now I’m very much O.K. in that line.   It was lovely to see my green coat again.   I told you didn’t I that it cost me 45 in duty & 25 pt. in maintenance costs; that’s 15/- so the “bag” definitely seems the best way. (4)

I did a colossal wash this morning – stockings, blue jumper, white American blouse, make up rags, face flannel, flowered apron, white cooking apron, wee tea aprons, 2 brassieres, navy gloves, nine hankies, pair pads, red & yellow scarf, nightie, pair silk pants, pair wooly pants, slip, camiknicks & suspender belt.

Last night I went to the Y.W.C.A. dance & it was pretty grim.

I’m enclosing a photo of me on a camel.   It’s not glamorous, but I think rather funny – I’m sitting at that peculiar angle as I was scared of falling off by leaning forward – my hand is clutching a fez, in fact my face appears to be the only composed part of my body! (5)

I hope to go down to Luxor on a Y.M. tour at Easter (the week-end after this) and up to Tel-Aviv to Aviva in June, but of course it’s all up in the air.  Over here one seems to decide to do things quickly and I’m sure that long booking in advance for holidays etc. is unheard of over here.

I’m beginning to feel not so much of a stranger in Cairo ‘feeling at home’ describes it more accurately, except that I could never feel at home here.  This feeling though of being in things and knowing one’s way around has come suddenly and without the realization that it was coming.

Did you go to the opening of L.L.Y.H.?  Is the open road seeing or going to see much of you two these days? (6)

Please don’t say the “sober grey U.K.” it’s just the most wonderful place on earth.  I envy Aunt Kitty off to Skye for 3 weeks, but as Patricia said, when you feel homesick think “I’ve got the rest of my life to live at home, so I’ll really enjoy everything while I’m here.”

Your 47 – first by A.P.O – got here O.K. and really I think that Tait’s Smile about the floating Eastern carpet is priceless. I simply must stick it up in my cabin. (7)

Au ‘voir my beloveds and wrap yourselves in cotton wool for me.

All my love for you, Len.


1.  British Stores Disposal Mission, General Headquarters, Middle East Land Forces.

2.  Patricia: Pat Brown, a work colleague friend of Len’s, who will occur  in the narrative through to 1949 and London.

3.  CSCA: Civil Service Clerical Association.

4.  “Bag” is sending mail by the Diplomatic Bag service.

5.  Not in this collection, unfortunately.

6.  L.L.Y.H:  Loch Lomond Youth Hostel.

7.  APO: Army Post Office service.  The Tait’s Smile cartoon is not in this collection.

One of Len’s holidays in the summer of 1946 took her to the Lebanon:

Beirut envelope front png

Beirut env, reverse png

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-14 September, 1946.  B.S.D.M., G.H.Q., M.E.L.F.

Dear Mr. Mathews,

Much time has elapsed since the end of my holiday but I’ve never written to thank you for your kindness to me.

It was really necessary for me to get to Beirut quickly & I must thank you very much for seeing that I got down from the mountains, first in your car, then in a taxi.

I hope you are completing your mission successfully & that life is going well with you.

Once more I’m enveloped in Cairo’s whirl, but I cannot forget how kind you were to me. Thanks once more.

Yours most sincerely, Helen Bryers.

"Fawn in Cairo Zoo".  Len's writing on back

“Fawn in Cairo Zoo”. Len’s writing on back


Part of the whirl of Cairo was going to the Cairo zoo, and to music concerts


programme detail 11 Nov 46 png Music for All png

In the thirteen months that Len had been in Cairo, since November 1945, Mum had written her one hundred and twenty-seven letters.  This is one hundred and twenty-eight, the first that survives in this collection: IstMum letter cairo png   128 Mum, letter png

Mum letter image png_edited-1Thursday, 12 December, 1946.

Darling Cuddles,

Here is the latest about the house – I called, as appointment, at the Abbey B.S. & saw the manager on Monday, he was very reassuring re. our position & says if the owner doesn’t sell to us she cannot sell, with vacant possession, to anyone else and our job is to try to get the house for as little as possible.

After my talk with him I realised how some people make fortunes tho’ at the beginning they have no cash as he told me of a couple who bought the house of which they were tenants for £800 – a house like ours – and after doing some repairs sold it for £2,300 with vacant possession and, after paying for repairs and legal transfers, etc. made a clear profit of over £1,200!  A little nest egg like that would take us travelling a bit, eh?

Glad to tell you my ownest Sunbeam I got a brassiere for you – not a Kestos (1)  but the very nearest in a Q. in the corset shop in Sauchiehall Street to get it & will post it to you next week, my darling, do hope it suits.

This is just the wee-est note to tell you the latest events and send our never changing love.  Must now put on my armour and sally forth to ye shoppes.

All our love to you across the sea. Dad & Mum.


1. American designed bra, popular from the 1930’s to the early 1950’s.

21st png

Mum letter image png_edited-1Sunday at Home.  1.30 p.m.  15 December, 1946.

Darling Best,

So glad the birthday present arrived safely, honey, and delighted everything pleased you so much and that the ring fitted.  You know I’m an old fuss pot about that sorta thing, and boy! did we put some thought into that ring! – the fit and design, it meant many calls from the jeweller umpteen wee bits of paper with this & that suggestion re. design.  You see all jewellry is by law made in the shops only in just 9ct gold and, as we particularly wanted 18 ct. for your ring, it had to be done “off the books” and we were very lucky to get it, as you can be sure it was all strictly illegal!

I remember long ago you said you would like a ‘wishbone’ ring and I thought it would be the best thing for your birthday, the design is different from the shop ‘wishbone’ ring and makes for greater strength and is quite unique; it is meant by us to make all your dreams & wishes come true, our darling girl, so kiss it when you wish, & presto!

I note what you say re. my trip, pet, and I’m getting forward with forms, etc. & will be getting my passport pictures done this week.   On the form I’ve got & which is stamped “Orient Line” by Cooks, it asks ‘have you a passport’ & ‘have you obtained a visa’ and also asks reasons for travelling, re. this last I want you to answer this by return & say what I sh’d put there.

I think I’ll drop a line to Mrs Findlay’s Ma, as it wouldn’t be gracious – and you know what a stickler I am for doing the gracious thing! – to accept help from Mrs. F.  re. speeding up the passage for me & not see her Mum – am I right begorra?  (1)

I’ve heaps of sewing to do – when am I ever other than that? – and I can see many night shifts in front of me, but as long as I see Cairo, I shan’t mind.  No, I’m not getting a lot of new togs just enough to make me comfy – the coupons are the snag and my mind is exploring here & there wondering who’s ear I can bite.  (2)

Jack’s father wrote to tell his brother & he that there’s a Norwegian ship in dock somewhere on the Clyde & Jack has gone off to find it and send messages home by the Captain.  Jack says he is going to get us some goats milk cheese from Norway. (3)

All our love is always yours, Your ever loving Mum.

p.s. Regards to all your boyfriends.  Tell them I’ll let them take me out by turns (when I arrive) to show me the Mysterious East!

Cheers & love.  Mum.


1.  The Findlays were a couple in Cairo who had befriended Len, and will feature occasionally in the narrative. They had  had a connection to the wartime Glasgow Scottish Youth Hostel Association group.   The mother and father, and sister, of Jean Findlay lived in the Glasgow area.

2.  Clothing coupons, which included dressmaking material.  See Guns Before Butter below.  

3.  Jack was a young Norwegian, lodging with Mum and Dad.


Guns Before Butter

At a time when Britain was close to being bankrupt,  and was already committed to repaying the United States for war loans, and a huge post-war loan, the Labour Prime Minster Clement Attlee, a few weeks after Mum wrote her letter above,  secretly started the programme to build an independent British nuclear bomb, in January 1947.  The estimated costs were around £40 million.

Clothing (as mentioned by Mum above) and food were two prominent examples of the extreme rations imposed by the post-war Government.  Bread, never rationed during the war, was to be rationed in 1947.  Many goods were being made for export – cars, for instance, as a way of earning currency, whilst imports were being cut back.   John Hall, a contributor to the 1948 Daily Mail Year Book (which went to press  late 1947) explained  “Britain was spending more than she was earning.  The nation was like a man spending £30 a week when his income was only £21 a week and tiding over by drawing the other £9 from a loan granted by a “rich uncle”  In Britain’s case the loan was from the United States – the £937,000,000 loan negotiated by the late Lord Keynes in 1946 – and it was running out rapidly.”

In October 1946 Hugh Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, had told Attlee and fellow Cabinet Members within GEN75 – the secret committee set up to look at nuclear energy – that the costs of developing an independent nuclear weapon were not  sustainable.  Attlee reacted by excluding them from the next GEN75 group that he  chaired three months later when the decision was taken to go ahead.     The final cost of developing the British atom bomb was closer to £100,000 million, not the original estimated £40,000 million. (For a full account, see Cabinets and the Bomb, Peter Hennessy, Oxford University Press.)

If Parliament and the electorate had known, the Nazi expression Guns Before Butter would have had an interesting resonance in post war austerity Britain.  However,  Mr Winston Churchill and his Conservative Party were delighted to discover the covert development of the British atomic bomb by their Labour colleagues, when they came to power in the 1951 General Election.  The first British atomic bomb was exploded in October, 1952 on the Montebello Islands, off the Western Australian coast.


Letter from Canadian serviceman png Enclosed in the envelope that Mum sent Helen was a letter from an ex-Canadian serviceman, one of the north American servicemen befriended by the Bryers during the war.   Mum has written at the top:  “I’ve answered this so destroy after you’ve read it.  I’m writing to all Can. friends in view of trip there sometime.  Mum”

Tecumseh, Ont.  Nov 13/46. (1)

Dear Mrs Bryers –

That last one did it.  I hereby humbly beg your forgiveness for not writing sooner, and I will try to rectify the habit in the future.  I honestly didn’t realise how long it was since I last wrote, and I am ashamed.  Thank you so much for persevering and bringing me around.

I’m very glad to hear that Helen is enjoying herself so, and particularly that she is not worrying over the present trouble there.  I suppose you do enough worrying for both and I don’t blame you.  Helen is certainly seeing an interesting part of the world and I do envy her.

It will be grand if you can find a spare passage out, and spend some time there with Helen.  Surely you people who build the ships have some influence with the shipping office.

Our papers too were full of the news of the Queen Elizabeth, and the pictures of the interior made me realize what a lot of work they have done in refitting her. She was an awe-inspiring ship in wartime so I can well imagine what a wonderful sight she is now.   I thoroughly enjoyed my trip across in her, and would like to repeat it in the future. (2)

 My latest bit of travelling was by air, sort of a last fling while I still had my gratuities from the service.  I blew all I had on two weeks vacation and thoroughly enjoyed the change.  On very short notice I got a plane reservation from Detroit to Seattle on the west coast.  The trip was smooth with lovely weather.  The trip only took one night. Even yet I find it hard to realize that in less than twelve hours I travelled nearly two thousand miles.  From Seattle to Vancouver B.C. was only a few hours by bus, and I stayed there for a few days visiting service friends.  Then on to the Okanogan Valley in B.C. where most of our export apples are grown.  Nearly all my paternal relations live there, and that was first and only visit with them.  It was very short, for time was rushing.

I went on by train through the heart of the Rockies (real mountains if I do say so myself), ending up in Edmonton Alberta, where I visited more relatives and spent a few hours in the little town nearby where I was born.  On again in two days to Calgary, visited friends for a few hours only, then spent the next three days on the train in order to get home in time to go to work.

Looking back I realize it was a lot of travelling to jam into two weeks but I got that restless feeling out of my system and paid a lot of visits that have been waiting for years.

And when Helen comes back from the East you can all fly to Montreal or New York overnight, or are you going to stick to the good old ocean?

Outside of my personal news there is very little.  We have been having a lovely fall, much warmer and dryer than is usual.  Seems as if you are getting all our rain over there.

All our large strikes were settled last month and about time too.  The workers have done themselves and their country a lot of harm through these long strikes, and they will feel it this winter.  In the States, just five minutes (3) away from us here on the border, they have many shortages and a great deal of inflation which makes us realize how fortunate we are.  We have plenty of food, reasonable prices for these times and a fairly sane government.  All we need is a great number of houses to make everyone happy.  Our housing shortage is quite acute for a country which had no losses due to the war, and the building trades aren’t being very successful in their efforts to help the situation.  Even a year from now will not see enough houses built.  Thank heavens I have no worries on that score, for we have our own little place and it looks good these days.

I do enjoy hearing from you and I hope everything goes well with you and with Helen.

Best regards to all, sincerely, Bob Brooks.


1.  Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada is a five minute car ride across the bridge that links it to Detroit – the Motor City – and would take the driver onto the Edsel Ford freeway.

2.  The world’s largest liner when launched at John Brown’s Clydebank yard in 1938, the Queen Elizabeth had just been refitted for civilian use after being used as a troop ship during the war.

3.  Mum’s underlining.


Mum letter image png_edited-122 December, 1946.

Dearest Cuddles, Wuddles, Puddles (Longtime since I called you this!),

“Let me tell you the tale of my life, sir, its full of sensations and thrills.” – Well, after all the excitement of your life in the east I don’t know, but anyway exciting enough for here.

It’s days since last I wrote, honey, but you’d understand how busy I’ve been as all the arrangements had to be made for the house valuer coming here on Friday.  Well, he came along in a huge car, very posh, & so it sh’d be when his fee is £3.10/- for about ¼ hrs. work – if you can call it work!  As I was showing him around he asked how much the owners valuer had assessed it at & I said £1,200 for us and £1,750 for anyone buying with vacant possession and he turned & said it would be a bargain for us even as sitting tenants at £1,200 as its a valuable house, so now we are waiting to hear what the Building Society advise & how much their solicitor can get the house for, for us.

On Tues. there was an advert in the Citizen  ‘Fur Coat, Musquash, for sale, suitable for repair work’, so I answered and kinda forgot about it in all the shopping, etc. Yesterday was my Coop U.C.B.S (1) meeting in Glasgow & I dashed there & dashed back to the Daily Worker bazaar in Bothwell Street and then to the G.P.O to Air-mail Xmas cards – so many to send – then down home.

Jack was out, but Daddy was in and greeted me by saying he had had a report to make as our kitten was missing – yes, we have the most adorable ginger kitten – I found him in the Coop grocers on Wednesday and he is lovely looking but was half starved when I found him – you sh’d see him now, lovely – and so clean, he follows me like a puppy.  I was ghastly tired & weary & felt like weeping but when I called out ‘Hope’ to him, he came running in so all was well.

Daddy had a visitor shortly after I went out – a ring came at the door and when he answered it was a man who works over beside him, with a suitcase and lo & behold!  it was in answer to my answer to the advert for the musquash coat, he had brought it along not knowing it was for someone he worked beside, so Dad had taken him in & they had a chat.

Since writing thus far we’ve got the dinner past, Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudd. & Spinach followed by Custard a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit each – “awfa guid, Maw”.

Jack has gone to see Blithe Spirit at Unity’s Film Show with complimentary tickets I got at the Coop Party meeting on Friday, he was to call at his brothers to see if he would – could – go also.  I’ll let you know how they enjoyed the film – remember it?

Now, about the Musquash Coat – the woman who had it must have abused it a lot as the skins are torn and the lining all pulled out, I don’t know how it got in this state -certainly not with fair wear & tear and it is not so old – quite modern indeed and it is the most wonderful fur, beautifully soft golden skins – you know that very becoming shade, the lining is complete & perfect & is all embroidered round the bottom, the coat is medium small size, but I can enlarge it by using the bottom row of fur – same as my black seal – and making wide sleeves.  Guess what they are asking for it? – between £2 & £3 – so I will offer £2-10/-, truly just match money compared with what the coat will be worth when I’ve finished it, but I don’t suppose any of the careless ones realise its possibilities.  I love those short Musquash coats, they can be worn with tweeds or for dress.

Last week I got a cheque for £7 from Uncle Donnie, this to be divided as follows – £2 to Dad & I, £2 to Aunt Kitty and £2 to Aunt Ena & £1 to Marie Rose  – I sent it off as requested. (2)

Hope you got our Xmas cards O.K. honey, I told you we got yours and it’s a Sweetie. Hope you are getting the mail in from us regularly, my sweetest sweet and that you had a wonderful time at the Christmas Party on the 20th.

Jack has just come in & says Blithe Spirit is a wizard picture – he is still laughing at the bit where the ghostly wife drives the car past an astonished policeman.

Daddy has a sore knee and has decided not to go to work tonight as it is very painful and he has promised me to go and see Dr. Cochrane, the bone specialist tomorrow at Paisley.

 Fondest love ever, Mum.


1.   Coop Upper Clyde Branch Society.

2.  Uncle Donny is presumed to be Dennis, and the cheque to be divided between his three sisters: Mum, Ena and Kitty.  Marie Rose is the young daughter of Ena and her husband Bill.


Mum letter image png_edited-1Christmas Eve in ye old Home, 24 December, 1946.

I just couldn’t let this night pass without letting you know you are in our thoughts as always, our darling.

Here’s the latest re. hoose.   I called at the B.S. yesterday to pay the surveyor’s fee and the under manager told me he’d just been getting a letter typed to ask us to call for an interview with the manager, so I made an appointment there & then for 3 p.m. today.   Just as we were getting ready to go out, Mrs Rae from next door called for a loan of a pudding basin as they were just about to put their plum pudd. on to steam when the basin broke.  I think ours must be what is termed “a well appointed” house for I was able to produce a selection of basins for her choice.

At last we got away in a ghastly thick fog and frozen roads.  We saw the B.S. manager – very efficient & polite – who phoned up their solicitor for an appointment for us and we are to see him at 11 a.m. on Thurs.   They evidently got a very favourable report from the surveyor.  The surveyor reported that, with vacant possession the house would easily sell for £1,750 or £2,000, so you see honey, if we can get it in the region of £500 to £800 it w’d mean a profit for us anytime we sold whilst the present housing shortage lasts & that looks like being for many many years.  (1)

Dad & self then went shopping and went into Masseys. There was a huge pile of mince pies on the counter & Dad asked about them & the guy serving said they were only for registered customers & I said  “He (Dad) doesn’t understand all about the difficulties of shopping, ha! ha! But I’m going on holiday and he’ll get to know.”

Dad said  “Yes, she is going to the land of milk & honey”, and the fella said “Where is that” & I said “Cairo, Egypt” & that started it – he was recently demobbed and said if he hadn’t been married he’d have rejoined again so as to spend another 6 months in Cairo, which he says is a most exciting city & he liked it very much.   Well, we jawed & jawed & he said “Oh! I must give you some of these mince pies as you are old Egyptian friends.”   He made up six lovely mince pies for us! – so you see, honey, “agaun fit is aye gettin’”. (2)

We hear on the radio tonight that a bomb exploded in the Anglo-Egyptian Club but no one hurt, thank goodness.  Must stop now, my sweetie pie, hope Santa puts something nice in your stocking.  It’s raining cats and dogs tonight, the weather is terrible.

Boxing Day. 26.12.46.

Just look at the day it is and we never got this away to you – yesterday just seemed to go in wee bits of cooking, cleaning and shopping (3) and now we are just off to the solicitors to make arrangements re. his getting in touch with Mrs Mac’s chap – I guess she’ll throw a pink fit when she hears our offer in the region of £500 – £800! (4)   It was such impudence of her solicitor to try to stampede us into £1,200.

Our kitten, Hope, is really a pet and is growing like anything, he is creamy ginger colour & so clean and dainty.  How do you like his name?  It had to be something beginning with “H” as is our tradition & I thought “Hope” so nice & cheerful.

There’s cards in for you from Mrs Holt and Bob Getchel, I’ll forward them in separate envelopes. (5)     The mantlepiece is decorated with over 20 Xmas Cards we got.

We got a most lovely aluminium teapot and silver jam spoon from Aunt Ena – they are really beautiful and just what we wanted.  I got a tin of Bath Salts & tin of talcum from Joan Brandley, very sweet of her to send them. (6)

We intend to go to L.L.Y.H. at New Year – what am I to do with Hope?  I’ll be running up here every few hours. (7)

Best love in the world to you, our own one.

Cheers & love, honey girl, Mum. x.


1.  In 1945 squatting spontaneously occurred, due to the housing shortage, in places such as the surrounding area of Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, including a nearby empty army camp.  By the time squatting occurred in cities like London political action groups were sometimes involved.  The housing shortage was anticipated during the latter stages of the war – much housing had been lost in the Blitzes, and the V1 and V2 raids – and the first prefabricated home (prefab) was erected and occupied in London in the Spring of 1945.  It is reported that by January 1947, a few weeks on from Mum writing this letter, 100,000 prefabs had been built.  However, there was still a housing shortage, particularly in the bomb damaged cities of Britain, most of which also had crowded slum areas,  such as the Gorbals in Glasgow.

2.  Scots: ‘A moving foot is always gaining things’.

3.  Shopping on Christmas Day:  Christmas Day in Scotland historically was not as significant as it was, and is, in England.  As late as 1967 it was not a statutory holiday for blue collar and shop workers in Scotland.

4.  Mrs Mac – Mum’s abbreviation for their landlady.

5.  The Holts from Dagenham.  Bob Getchel was a serviceman who had met Mum and Dad and Len in Glasgow during the war.  His family were very close friends of Dad’s relatives in the United States.

6.  Joan Brandley, from Dagenham, and who is in the hiking gang photo with Len on the Loch Lomond steamer in 1945, and on Len’s list of People and SongsJoan Brand pngThere are photos of Joan with Len’s Mum and Dad, on the beach at Dornoch in 1946.  She will also appear in youth hostel photos with  Bruce Bryers.   Bruce Bryers was possibly a nephew of Dad’s.  Where he lived, whether England or Scotland is unknown. 

7.  Loch Lomond Youth Hostel.   The distance between the youth hostel and the house in Yoker was 3 miles.  The nearest station to the hostel was Alexandria.

Joan B Dornoch png copy

Joan Brandley with Harry, Dornoch, 1946.  Photo taken by Mum.


Mum letter image png_edited-1Monday.  30 December 1946.

The day before Hogmanay.  (Have been busy making up your parcel – slacks & bra. etc and am now dashing off with it to the G.P.O.)

Dearest and Best,

We are all well and happy, but busy, boy! I’ll say we’re busy!  I’m writing this in the middle of a mouthful of lunch.  I note all the splendid tips in your letter re. filling in my forms and shall act accordingly, after New Year my thoughts and deeds will be dedicated mostly to arranging my trip.  The days just now are so brief and meals so many.

We are going to L.L.Y.H tomorrow – both Jack and Dad stop at 12 so we shall be off soon after.  Jack is thrilled to bits at the idea of the hostels and I’m going to get a membership card for him in town today – that is to be his New Year gift from Dad & self.  Jack is really a lonely soul and has not much young company so he is enthusiastic re. visiting L.L. and yesterday put on the outfit he proposes putting on for the trip so that we c’d O.K. it – or otherwise; he has a camera and films so will try to get some snaps.

We’ll be thinking of you on New Year’s Eve and wishing you all that’s Merry.  May all your dreams & wishes come true in 1947.

Your own ever loving Mum and Dad.


Mum letter image png_edited-13 January, 1947.

The beginning of the year 1947 in The Old Home.

Our Darling Own One,

This is the very first letter of the year and the first one we received this year was from you – we are so happy you had such a wizard time at Christmas.  We just got back from Loch Lomond Y.H. last night and oh! boy – what a time we had!  It was one of merriment and fun from the time we got there on Hogmanay till we left last night.

"Group at Auchendrennan New Year's Day, 1947.  Dad and Mum at left and right.  Mrs Mac is in Centre with Henry Lindsay at her back - that's Henry's brother in kilt next to me.  The piper appeared playing a tune, he had walked all the way from Tarbert after playing all night!"  Mums annotation on back of photo.

“Group at Auchendrennan New Year’s Day, 1947. Dad and Mum at left and right. Mrs Mac is in Centre with Henry Lindsay at her back – that’s Henry’s brother in kilt next to me. The piper appeared playing a tune, he had walked all the way from Tarbert after playing all night!”  Mum’s annotation on back of photo.

Jack was overcome by the Membership card we gave him and some of his Norwegian Pals propose coming over to Scotland for a tour during the summer and he is to get a bike in April so he will be able to make good use of the card.

Like ourselves, he thinks Auchendrennan is wonderful and quite admires Joan MacDonald and thinks she is so pretty “like a doll” as he says, she is certainly a bonnie lassie and as sweet as she is pretty, as I told him, however Jack is so shy, he just remained tongue tied.

Before the clock struck midnight we all (about 85) of us trooped out and Henry Lindsay listened for the Chimes (this was because a piper was playing loudly) then we all trooped upstairs where Mr. & Mrs, Mac rec’d us with ginger wine and cake, then we had dancing & singing then Dad, Jack & self were invited into the kitchen where the fun was terrific & later  Mrs. Mac. invited us all up to their own flat, it is very nice and, my! what a party – Daddy kept saying it was the best for years, it was hilarious – even riotous with fun and singing and ended up with several prostrate forms lying around, a true Scottish New Year.

At the hostel (but not at the party) there was a party of students from the International Club.  Mostly Indians and EGYPTIANS and, as is my wont, I made hay while the sun shone by talking to the nicest Egyptian I c’d see.

Our festivities were broadcast by the B.B.C. at 8 till 8.20 on New Year and this E. I spoke to was one of two picked to ‘say a few words‘ over the mike, and I found his name is Doctor (it sounds like this) “Kiellally” – however, I’m going to invite him & his girl friend down some night – she is studying social science at the University and lives at Danes Drive, Scotstoun.  The doc. is awfully interested in my trip and we talked Egypt for hours and he says what a pity I can’t wait till June to go out as he is going then and would be delighted to travel with me.  I bet he knows the ropes re. that journey.  He says I c’d go via France without bothering with Cooks and there’s a regular service of ships once a week from Toulon to Alex or P.S. It w’d be exciting to go like that, the only snag being baggage and customs, but I guess I c’d manage.  Cooks make one feel so helpless, it makes me mad.

Now what I want you to do pronto is to give me your views re. travelling via France, free from any agency, I know I don’t need a visa to get into France but if I travel on my own how shall I get a visa to get into Egypt?  And what about innoculations?

Re. the house, Dad & I saw the solicitor as arranged and he suggested offering £750. He further said not to worry in any case as the house (with the present legislation) is ours anyway, but that it w’d be nice to buy as one’s own house.

I have the most ghastly feverish cold, the first in years so I sh’dn’t complain – but I do!

Keep well and happy own darling, we are loving you all the time.  All the best in the world in 1947.

Cheers and love, Dad & Mum. xx

p.s. Our kitten, Hope, is the sweetest thing & plays so well.  He is getting quite big, Jack & self came up on Wed to feed him.  Hope is like a puppy & was so excited when we all got back yesterday, he plays with a string & paper & goes up to the wee table to look for his ‘mouse’, as we call it.


Mum letter image png_edited-19 January, 1947. Thursday.   Cold snowy January.

Darling Cuddles,

Do hope you are O.K. as there’s no letter from you for a week now. I’m just hoping the lorry driver’s strike in London won’t be holding your letters. (1)   No, I ain’t “sarky” – we have been warned over the radio that mail will ultimately be held up.

Got a lovely food parcel from Aunt Betty yesterday, it was posted on your birthday. Aunt B’s box contained, amongst other good things, a lovely box of Peanut Brittle – awfu’ guid, Maw. (2)

And must tell you your parcel arrived safely on Monday, Jan.6th, this is the one containing chocolates, dates, butter, rice and Turkish Delight – goody, goody, and thank you a million, best beloved.  I’m keeping the box of T.D. for some special occasion.

Did I tell you I’d a cold? Well it developed into ‘flu, drat it, and I’d a day in bed last Sat. Daddy did the shopping and cooking. I’m O.K. now.

Must now fly, so mucha to do.

All our love, best of all. As I write I keep listening for a letter from you.

Cheers & love to you, Mum. x


1.  On 13 January the Labour Government used conscript soldiers to break the strike.  On 20 January the lorry drivers voted to return to work.

2.  The food parcel was sent from the U.S. and took seven weeks to arrive.  Aunt Betty was married to John, one of Dad’s brothers.  It was their son, Warrant Officer R.D.Bryers who was killed when his flying boat flew into a hillside.


Mum letter image png_edited-112th January, 1947. Sunday.  Is it Spring?

The birds all sing And the sun peeps out for a while The morn may be grey But the sun’s gay way Makes all in the household smile.

Darlingest Best,

Just dashing off to the post with this & to get the papers.  Daddy has a cold and is spending the day in bye-byes.  We had a gorgeous evening at the Pav. Panto last night. (1)

Yes, Uncle John died on October 17th.  We were very grieved & shocked to hear it as we had just got a letter from Mrs. Raeside, a sister of Mrs. Hall, Aunt Betty’s neighbour, to say he was home and doing well, however, Aunt Betty tells us he just got home to die as there’s no recovery from lukeameia.  We are so sorry for Aunt B. and I keep writing to her and thinking of her.  I must also get down to writing to Uncle Albert as we got a long letter from him telling all the details re. Uncle John, the end was quite peaceful, he just slept away, so that is one comfort.

The weather is very changeable – hence all the colds in the heids.

By for now, must buzz.  Your 134 & 136 got here yesterday and your 135 on Friday.  So glad you are well and happy – that’s what matters most to us.

Loving you all the time. Mum. xxx


1.  The Pavilion Theatre, Renfield Street, Glasgow.  A landmark, and well loved, theatre in Glasgow, and still going.


2 January, 1947

Dear Nell & Harry,

All your letters in and I know you are grieved about my darling John.  We did everything possible to save him, although we knew when we found it was leukemia his chance for life was short.  The Dr. had already told me what to expect.  It was terrible to keep looking for a change in him all the time.  I am so glad he got home to die.  He really should have been in hospital for extra care but he begged so to come home and Dr. said no one ever lived with said disease, the acute kind.  His heart just wouldn’t take it.

I guess I just gave up when John died because I have had a terrible time of it since.  I have been down to my brother’s after those nervous spells several times, but the last couple of weeks home have been very good.  Dr. here in Roslyn (1) didn’t do much for me but give me needles that didn’t correct cause, so went back to our old Dr. who specializes in nerves.

John and Betty

John and Betty

No one knows what it is like until it happens to them to be so alone. Sometimes I think I can’t go on without John but each day I see more clearly  he would want me to stay here and try to finish what we started to do here.

I think John knew he wouldn’t be long because of some of the things he did and said the last few days before he died. I am going to wait until spring before I think about work. I will try to get something part time I guess.

We have a heavy snow and ice covering so I’ll be in for several days unless someone shows up. Mr Hall has been a “Good friend” to me in my hour of trial and my brother just about done himself in running around, trying to make things easier for me.

It is very sweet of Harry and you to ask me to come over for a visit but even if I I wanted to dear, I wouldn’t pass the Dr. examination for trip.  I hope you get your meal box.  I had some one else mail it.

I have been taking good care of myself and I do feel better and sleep a lot better. Thanks for all your kind thoughts, my darlings.

As ever, love Betty.


1.  Roslyn, Washington State, U.S.


Mum letter image png_edited-119 January, 1947.  Sunday

Darling Own One.

The days seem to be whizzing past at a terrific rate and the past week has been one of such running around & not seeming to get much forarder  in my arrangements re. trip;  however, did some more enquiries re. teeth, passport, etc.  I see my last letter to you was on Wednesday 15th.(1)    Well, I w’d be telling you Maud called here on Tues. eve.  On the Wed. I intended asking at Customs & Excise re. passports, etc, but while I was in the G.P.O. I thought I’d ask there and was told the address of the passport offices (10 Bothwell St.). Well, I went along there on Thurs. aft. and found they’d moved to round the corner in Hope Street, at least the Public Entrance is there.  By the time I ambled round it was 4.10. p.m. & when I got to the office I found it closed at 4 p.m.

 Life seems such a rush but lots of things (extra) I’m doing now are really part of my preparation for trip and I don’t want to get my ticket & not be ready to go.

On Friday I’d no chance of going into town as I’d to do all the week-end shopping as I’d arranged with Mrs Collinson for the piano tuner to call yesterday.  I must tell you the piano tuner was in raptures about our piano, saying it is a perfect instrument and a ‘smasher’ and he wishes it was his. (2)

I must tell you I got on the tram from the town on Wed. aft. laden with shopping and about 2 stages from where I got on I glanced up as someone entered & if it wasn’t Maud again on her way down here to see if we’d found her gloves!   She’d missed the last bus home from town the night before and had fell and hurt her leg and a policeman had to take her home!   Maud said she’d enjoyed herself so much at our house.

I plan to go in the morn. to see Dr Gilston & ask him to sign line for the D. H.(3) also my priorities and enquire if he can give me a clue about trip; as you’ll see from the en. cutting he has been having a spot of bother with some of his staff at the hotel. (4).   I like the bit at the beginning about Peace shattered at Shangri-La!

Met Millie’s Mum yesterday as I was going into the dairy – another new hat she was wearing.   I told her I was busy getting ready for a trip to see you in Egypt and she gasped!   Later she said “you must have plenty of money” & I replied anyway I’d plenty of determination and a strong wish to travel & didn’t squander much money on clothes or furnishings while high prices prevailed during the war, to which she replied she never spends much on clothes or furniture – I thought ‘liar’ – she’s always seen with another new hat or carrying another new carpet!

Bye for now, my darling.  Keep well and happy.   I’ll send a further bulletin soon.

Aye your own Mum. xxx

p.s. Jack sends kind regards.


1.  Not in this collection.

2.  Presumably Mrs Collinson and Mum were having their pianos tuned at the same time.  Pianos were still in many homes throughout Britain and were from the time before the gramophone and then the radio  had started to become the  new  entertainment in the home. 

3.  Dr. Gilston was the family G.P and D.H. is the Glasgow Dental Hospital, whose entrance in the 1940’s was in Renfrew Street.

4.  Dr. Gilston, it seems also boosted his income from owning a hotel.  The newspaper clipping is not in this collection.


Mum letter image png_edited-123 January, 1947.  Thursday.

Hello Chooks!

Must take time out to send you a bulletin.  On Monday I started right out at 9.30.a.m. & went to Dr.Gilston, got my form signed for the D.H. (new dentures), got my form signed for priority milk & eggs, told Dr. G. you’d given his name as ref. he said that was quite O.K. and sent you all good wishes, also said he’d do me innocs. when required. (1)    I then proceeded into town to the Passport Office where they tried to be most helpful, it seems the procedure is this – I get my passport; fix passage date, then get visa for Egypt as, if I get visa first I’ll lose time on it if my sailing date is after that on visa as it counts 3 months from when I get it – comprey?

I asked re. going via France and going ‘agency free’ (my phrase!). The passport people thought this w’d be best as all the agencies will have waiting (for passages) lists.   I thanked them & went on to the White Star Shipping people where they told me there are absolutely no sea passages for tourists at present, still only Gov. officials & priorities, I asked what about via France & they said they c’d get me to Toulon but I’d probably be stranded there for lack of a ship to Alex or P.S.   As I told you, Dr Kelally whom we met at L.L.Y.H. said there’s a ship leaving once a week to & from Egypt – but first must tell you the shipping people said it w’d be very foolhardy to go to Toulon without going thro’ an agency as I’d not get on a boat.

Now, listen carefully honey and write pronto telling me what you think of this plan so as I can keep it up my sleeve, as it were, if Cooks etc. fail me and I don’t get away, say by the beginning of March.   The visa is the snag as I sh’d require to say for when I wanted it.   Oh! if only I c’d see you for half an hour!   They tell me I c’d get to any place in the world easier than to Egypt – this just acts as a dare & puts me on my metal.   There is no French shipping line in Glasgow, so it is a dead end there. Meantime I’ll hie me back to Cooks and get the latest gen.

Over all this the weather is awful. Fog, frost and the biting winds and the food situation is bleak, but I’m stocking up the cupboard for Dad while I’m away.  It’s some rush, but boy! I see pictures of you meeting me on Afric’s Strand  & all is fair and well worth while.  Ask the Ernie (any relation to our Foreign Secy. Bevin?) if he can wangle me a passage on ye ship. (2)

Must now busy to Scotstoun to Food office to get my priority form in my ration book; the house teems with forms (paper!).

Simply tons of love and then more. Mum.

p.s. Hope has a pal now – a lovely black cat, like our previous one, with its front leg in a plaster cast – you sh’d see them play – great fun to watch.


1.  The reference from Dr Gilston is referring to Len applying to be on the Civil Service Establishment.  Although Len worked for the Ministry of Supply, she had been on a ‘Temporary’ basis and not on the Civil Service ‘Establishment’.  Being on the ‘Establishment’ had benefits, such as job security, being on a career ladder and receiving a ‘Wedding Dowry’.    The Civil Service Marriage Bar – that prevented women continuing to work for the Civil Service once they married – had only been lifted in October 1946.  But a Wedding Dowry was still given if a woman left to get married.  Although the marriage bar had been lifted, there was still a cultural expectation that it was proper for a woman to retire from the Civil Service if she became married.

2.  Ernie (in future letters referred to as Ernst) seems to have been Len’s first boyfriend, as far as we know, in Egypt.  He was a Military Policeman.  Ernest Bevin was the current Foreign Secretary and former pre-war leader of the Transport & General Workers Union.  During the wartime coalition government he had been Minister of Labour


Mum letter image png_edited-126 January, 1947

The Day after the 25th but no blasts of Janwar’ wind do blow It’s dull & dark and the sky Holds more than a hint of snow

Dearest of all,

This was to be a letter of tales of great achievement, but alas! when I awoke yesterday I c’dn’t speak or see out of my eyes for a heavy cold – I was really mad as I’d planned so much – get my passport photos & go to Cooks to register for via France.   It was Student’s Day, too, and I so much wanted to see them parade – such is life, some bright light will shine for me for that disappointment. (1)

I just made one trip to the shops for the necessities.

 Today I feel not so bad but Daddy is in bed with a heavy cold.  I’ve given him a “Koray” (2) and hot drinks and hope he’ll soon be better, poor dear.  When it comes to a real cold day I sometimes think I sh’d be in Egypt then I’m sorta glad we’ve got over the peak of the cold weather with me still here to look after Daddy, have a fire on when he comes home, etc. Jack too likes to see the fire and enjoys all the home comforts, plenty of soup and good grub.

When the days get lighter & not so cold I won’t worry so much about leaving them.  My worry will be (as it is now) to get to you pronto.  I really think, dear I’ll be there by about the middle of March – get that Birthday Cake ready!

Don’t be rushing into everything, honey lamb, you’ll get so tired out you won’t enjoy anything.  You sh’d have just let Ernie (you’ll have to think of a better name for him) stay peeved about not seeing you that Sunday you worked. – however you know best.   Glad you got the chance of working that Sunday at Shepheards (3), but was £2 ample recompense?   I think £4 w’d be nearer the mark – double time for Sunday, you know – however, again you know best.

Cheers & love & love & love surrounding you all the time.



1.  The Glasgow University Rag day.

2.  Koray was a proprietary pain relief pill, popular in the 1930s and 1940s.

3.  Shepheards Hotel was the hotel for the Officer Class and other pukka Europeans in Cairo.  Other Ranks and Egyptians were banned.  It features in many Cairo based novels and recollections.  It was burned out in anti-British protests in 1952.


There is now a six week gap in this collection of letters.  They resume with one of the few letters surviving  from Dad to his daughter, in early March, 1947.


'8' suggests this is the eighth letter he has sent his daughter since she arrived in Egypt in November, 1945

‘8’ suggests this is the eighth letter he has sent his daughter since she arrived in Egypt in November, 1945

Dad letter png

7 March, 1947

26 Coldingham Ave., Glasgow W.4.

My Darling Girl,

I went to write this letter to you when I find that my pen has got broke again so you will have to excuse the scribble as I have put an insulation tape round it to hold it together.  I am not going to make any excuses this time for not writing except to say that your Daddy is so indifferent or shall we say lazy fact is my dear I dont know what to say when I start to write I suppose if I was to write a bit more often I would find it a lot easier but nevertheless here goes and I don’t expect you will worry how it is written as long as you hear from your Dad.

Len dear let me thank my dear for sending the shoes and hope that they arrive in time for my birthday and say honey that sure will be a lovely birthday present also the cigarette case which I wont half swank about and let my friends know from wench  it came and who sent it, once again thanks a million. (1)

You will be wanting to know how I am getting along with my job.  I am still over at Inchinnan with the Rubber Co and find it is as good a job that is going about here at the present time. (2)   The money is better than most firms and the conditions are very good in our shop.

But oh dear the weather this winter for travelling to and from work has been very hard and heavy but so far have lost no time off work with it sometimes having to go through 2 to 3 feet of snow also fog but so far I have only had one cold  (old gag “lasting all the winter”)  no dear this one lasted for a few days and I must say that my health has been very good, so I am now looking to the Spring when it is lovely going to and from work, with all the countryside coming to life and developing as the season advances.

Ordeal by snow png

Cutting amongst the memorabilia.  Len would be lodging in Salisbury in 1949.

It does one a world of good even just to look at it from the bus.  I was hearing that they are getting very busy down at the Ordnance at Dalmuir and that they have work there for two years.  Will let you have more details when I get to know more about it.  So far I have just heard of it roughly and have not mentioned so far to Mum.  You see our dear Mum has so much to do just now in this effort of getting out to see you and she seems to be coming up against snags all the time what with one thing and another, but rest assured your Mum will make of it is at all possible for there is only one person I know who has the spirit to get there or or what they want along with your Mum and that is her little daughter of course I come tagging along, what a trio says you.

I don’t need to tell you any of the home news as there is a little lady at no 26 who does all that, except to tell you of the snow that fell over a week ago is still with us.  I cleared the path round to the back door and Mum cleared some away from the front path which I finished on the weekend.  Also cleared the path in the garden so as to let Mum hang out any washing she wished to do.  The rest of the place is just snow from the back of the garden right down to the foot of the Ave.  The only path is what has been trampled down.  It is the heaviest fall of snow that I can remember and never at this time of year.  We get a little sunshine during the day but it is always freezing at night and very cold.  So far our water pipes are running (touch wood) so we have a lot to be thankful for.  We have also a good supply of coal which I think will carry us through till the good weather comes along.  (3)

You want to know what I have done about getting to the U.S.A.  So far my dear I have just let it slide and didn’t bother about it but must go up to the Passport Office soon and see about it.

 I will be able to get some saturday mornings now as I have every second saturday off work with the new 44 hr working week. (4)

This is me breaking ice again my cuddles so forgive your Dad for neglecting you for so long but do intend to make amends so accept all my love my dear and take great care of yourself for both Mum and Dad, you darling, as ever from Daddy. xxxxxx


1.  Len recalls that her Dad was a heavy smoker: sixty a day.

2.  The India Rubber Company was across the Clyde from Clydebank.  Dad would have taken a bus to the Yoker Ferry, to cross the Clyde,  and then another bus to his works in Renfrewshire.   Inchinnan is a short way from Renfrew,  where Dad was registered as living when he  married  Len’s Mum in Clydebank in 1925.

3.  The harsh winter of 1946 – 1947 affected all of northern Europe.  In Britain freezing temperatures and deep snow caused problems for mining and moving coal to the power stations.  Emanuel Shinwell, Minister of Fuel and Power became, for some, the scapegoat and because of death threats was given a police guard.  The severe weather caused riots in Holland, and 150 died of cold and malnutrition in Berlin.

4.  ‘The new 44 hr working week’.   A  1919 demonstration in Glasgow’s George Square (backed by a strike) to demand a  44 hour week by engineers in the greater Glasgow area resulted in the then Government sending tanks in, and setting up machine gun posts on buildings overlooking George Square.  There is a sporting chance that Len’s Dad, as an engineer,  was amongst the demonstrators.  The irony is that Emanuel Shinwell – the post-war Minister of Fuel and Power –  was one of three activists who were imprisoned in 1919 for their role in what the then Secretary of State for Scotland somewhat floridly, and inaccurately, called a ‘Bolshevik uprising’ in the city.  


Len's writing on the envelope

Len’s writing on Mum’s envelope

Mum letter image png_edited-1

14 March, 1947.

Like Switzerland in the old home today – Blue sky with fancy clouds and bluey white snow all around.

Dearest and Best

What shall I do?  What shall I do!!!  Just got (with noon post) a letter from the Royal Egyptian Consulate General, L’pool, and contents are as follows –

Dear Madam,

With reference to your letter of the 10th inst. regarding an entry visa for Egypt I beg to inform you that we can consider your application if you will comply with the following:-

Deposit the sum of £50.0.0 (Fifty Pounds) as visa guarantee, in a bank at the disposal of this Consulate, and let the bank notify us in writing to this effect.

To prove to us, in writing, that you have permanent interests in this country.

To undertake not to take any employment during your visit to Egypt, not to extend your stay, and to leave the country on the expiration of your visa.

Please note that the visa fee is 17/1d. plus 6d. for postage.

Yours faithfully,

The Acting Consul.

Now honey girl I could comply with these conditions, but want your advice first so please answer pronto.  Surely there’s some way – wish I c’d get a Government job!  Will my £50 be O.K. if I tell the bank to act as they want?

Thanks for your 157.   I’m so happy you are as you just are, so fresh and innocent and yet with that wee bit of worldly wisdom which is such a safeguard.   Your stay in the East will educate you and show you ‘all is not gold that glitters’ and we tried to give you a certain amount of confidence & self reliance before you went away.   I was such a green one at your age, one gets more fun when one is a bit worldly wise but never, never, never blase.  Maybe that’s why I’ve such a zest for life now.

Bless you again, my darling own one,

Fondest love from Dad & Mum


Mum letter image png_edited-1

15 March, 1947.

Still freezing here, no sign of a thaw.  We’d another blizzard on Wed. eve.

Dearest Treasure,

Don’t have a fit getting 3 letters in 3 days from me – my head is full of ye Cairo trip and oh! to have you here for 10 mins. to get it all fixed.

 Re. paying for trip, you say you’ll pay up to 3/4 if I cannot take it out of our account, well, I guess that’s the way it will have to be, honey, for it’s imposs. to save doe over here, the wages are just a sight – quite out of proportion to the cost of living – a shilling for two wee leeks yesterday – also this house is quite a big upkeep off one wage but very well worth it, more so than being able to bank 10/- a week as we c’d do if we lived in a room and kitchen, and a trip to Egypt is really a luxury in my life and if it comes off it’ll be thanks to you, my darling.  (1)

Jack is off up to see Dr. Webster re. a passage on a cargo boat for me.  This letter from Aunt Ena just got in, note Aunt P & Rod are sailing on 10th march. (2)

Loving you always, your own Mum.


1.  It is not clear how Mum and Dad proposed to finance buying their rented home.   Nor is it clear how Len could pay for the boat to Egypt. She was usually short of money.  As will be seen as the narrative unfolds,  in the future they would occasionally inherit small sums of money from distant relatives, usually on Mum’s side of the family.

2.  Aunt Phem, married to Mum and Ena’s brother Dennis.  Rod is their young son.  They are sailing back to Iran.


1.Ena 47 extract2  Hilders Road.  Thursday.

Dear Nellie,

Here I am at last.  Many thanks for the papers.  How we all look forward to them. Once we didn’t get them until Monday morning and Bill kept saying “How I miss Aunty Nellie’s papers”.  (1)

Glad you are both well.  We have had a terrible time with snow, but at last it is a thaw.  The blizzard was terrible, it was 10 ft high at the front door.

Bill’s arm is still bad but I think it is mending now. I am sitting under a Radiant Heat lamp writing this. We have hired one to see if it would do him any good.

Marie Rose is going to Edinburgh for Easter. (2)   Aunty Jean asked her to go.  We will put her on the train and I think she should be alright.  You must be terribly thrilled looking forward to your trip and seeing Len again.

Phemia should be home soon now. Do you ever hear from them?

I would love to see Maud.  Has she aged any?  Is she still as lovely.  I always thought she was beautiful. Does she live alone? (3)   Wish I had been at the hat trying with Maud and you. Remember how Ma used to always be getting the old hats out?   What great fun we used to have and how we used to laugh.  Remember all the parties , with Harry the star turn and what a rare lot there was always to eat. (4)    We are always hungry now and never seem to get enough.

I am going for another driving lesson on Monday.  I must get my test soon.  It would have been such a God send had I been able to drive when Bill has been ill.  He can’t drive yet, and how we miss the car.  It has cost him a fortune in taxis – about 15/- a day.  Well, I must go and get my beauty sleep.

Love to you both, from wee three.

Love Ena.

p.s. Friday morning.  Just had a letter from Phemie, she was sailing on 10th March. It’s heavy snow again.  I’m not going to try the hat competition.  In fact I don’t seem to have time to sew.  Love Ena


1.  The Glasgow newspapers.

2.  Marie Rose, Ena and Bill’s young teenage daughter.  

3.  Maud, and Lot, who will feature also in the narrative, seem to have been part of  a group of friends of Mum’s and Ena’s when they were all single, and seamstresses.

4.  It is difficult to know if Ena has compressed memories, or if  “Ma” had been living in the Clydebank area before the First World War.  Len recalls that her Dad was a very good singer – a tenor – and excellent dancer.


Mum letter image png_edited-118 March, 1947.    Ye blizzarded Olde Home.

Best of all Girl,

This is to be a quite ‘trip talk’ free letter – the last three were almost entirely of the trip.

Today has been a terrific day of gale & snow – somethink  awful, mate; you sh’d have seen me going to the shops all done up in hood, your old boots and an ex-A.T.S. rubber cape I bought in Arnot Simpson’s, it keeps me and the shopping dry.  In your wildest dreams you cannot imagine what the weather is like and for so long the first frozen lot of snow is still on the ground, we see it & slide on it when the new lot gets shovelled away.

Frost cartoon'47 png

I intended going into town today to enquire re. passages on cargo boats but after spending the whole morn. at the shops in the blizzard I just couldn’t get going on going into town in the snow & get back in time for the evening meal.  However, tomorrow is another day.

Your darling 158 and 159 got in today and also the sweet Birthday Card for Daddy and the two hankies.  The hankies are a lovely quality and just what Daddy so much needs, as you may remember, Gentlemen’s hankies cost one coupon each here and that soon makes a hole in the allocation.  Daddy’s Birthday Card is on the mantlepiece and looks cute – we smiled and remembered Daddy playing ride-a-cock horse with you – it all seems just yesterday.

 You said summat about 50 coupons you were getting, honey – any more news of them?

Tomorrow I’ll enquire at Lumleys re. a Jantzen for you – they said last time they’d soon be taking orders.  I have so many calls to make in town so must start out early. Lovely of you to have a pair of nylons for me as a ‘welcome to Egypt’ gift, what a lovely thought and just like my sweet girl.  Everyday I try to get a few steps forward on my trip – your letters bring you close & in fancy I see us both on the good ship ‘Britannia’.

Maud was here again last night – what a case!  So little in her life and how she dramatises all small happenings, she so much enjoys coming here and always has to rush for the last bus, she adores suggesting trimming for hats and had on a French throat sorta thing composed of a strip of broad gold ribbon with huge petunia velvet flat flowers on it – all her ‘braws’ are pinned on, never sewn.

It’s now 9 p.m. so I’ll “get on with my sewing” and say cheerio to you in the morning.

19th March.

Nothing fresh to report this morn. honey, except to say I love you this much longer. Just buzzing off to town. Bye for now.

Ever your own loving Mum.


Enclosed in Mum's letter of 20 March, 1947

Enclosed in Mum’s letter of 20 March, 1947

Mum letter image png_edited-1

20 March, 1947.

Honey Lamb,

Your lovely Birthday Card to me got in this morn. and it’s really sweet, thank you and bless you for remembering in such a lovely card, it’s now on the mantlepiece besides Daddy’s one from you.  The third hanky for Daddy (also in the packet) arrived safely – a lovely present and so useful.

I’m off on a round of the Shipping Offices today.  Jack got a list from the Lloyds man in Glasgow.  I asked him (Jack) if he (the Lloyds man) could get me a passage but the answer was ‘no’, tho’ I’ll bet had it been any of them it could be arranged.  However, what we don’t get we won’t need to thank them for & I’ll see what I can do ma ain wee sel.

Wrote to the Consul in L’pool yesterday saying I’m making arrangements to comply with the conditions for visa.  One shampoo enclosed – more later.

Fond love ever, Mum. x

Sally cartoon png

This Spotlight on Sally cutting from the News of the World was also enclosed in Mum’s letter of 20 March, 1947.   Like Italian communists who went to Mass, Mum had no problem supporting the Communist Party and reading the News of the World.  In the course of this correspondence there is no evidence that as a household the Bryers read either the Labour Daily Herald, the liberal News Chronicle, or the left Sunday Reynolds News.   Their regular paper seems to have been the Glasgow Evening Citizen, the Scottish Daily Express and the occasional Daily Worker, besides the News of the World.


Next    Part Two   Chapter Two:  Quick Ripening of Intense Feelings

“In the few spare moments when I have time to think of personal things, my thoughts inevitably wander back in your direction.  The quick ripening of our intense feelings for one another and the fact of this temporary separation seems to increase my longing for you, both physically and emotionally.” Ernest, to Len.  Written in Port Said, 7 April, 1947.

This entry was posted in Cairo 1940s, Feminism, Gender Studies, Letters, Social and Political History, Suez Canal Zone, Womens History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Part Two 1: Fresh and Innocent

  1. joy wight says:

    the book gets more interesting as it progresses.–very good background rsearch!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s