Part Two 2: 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
Your lovely newsy 161 just got in – mucho gracious, as Jack says when he wants to air his Argentine speech.
Re, visa, it appears the corrob. from Cairo is not required, it’s all done thro’ L’pool. I wrote there again re. dates last Wed. and got a reply back on Fri. to say the visa is valid for 3 months from the date of issue. Last Thursday I called at the Ellerman City Line and a very helpful man there told me there may be a ship of theirs sometime soon but they never know from day to day just what the Gov. are doing with their ships as all lines are now in a pool – have been thro’ the war and still are. I put my app. for registration in at their office but its really all one where its handed in as its all a pool.
This week I’m going to get innoculated all being well. The man at the City line offices advised me to write to the E. Con. at L’pool and to ask them to hold my visa ready until I inform them I have a passage & then I can get the visa sent here pronto. In the meantime I must get the machinery moving to comply with conditions required for getting a visa, i.e. telling the bank to write and tell the E. Con. that a guarantee of £50 has been set aside for them and to get the Provost or someone to say I’m a householder with permanent interests in this country and must also guarantee to not take a job in Egypt.
I really feel mad at Cooks for wasting so much of my time and my sincere advice to a traveller would be “Stay away from Cooks”; they told me the Consulate takes no notice for weeks of apps. for visas and yet I got replies in a couple of days! Ah well! – one lives & learns and it means we don’t have to pay Cooks any percentage – good! Have a gorgeous time at Cyprus (1) and keep your self safe. You can understand how busy I am, Sunbeam honey, so I’ll say ‘ta, ta’ keeping my fingers crossed to be seeing you soon.
Ever your loving Mum. x
1. Len is sailing to Cyprus for a holiday.
I note I sent the ‘Kestos’ on Mar.10th, letter no.158, so hope you have it by now & that you feel ‘uplifted’, ha! ha! a week joke, y’know.
Now, amongst my thousand and one other jobs I’ll have to see Mrs. Findlays Mum some day soon.
Hurrah! the sun is shining – first time for ages. Loving you all the time – you should see me hurrying with my sewing. Should I take my fur coat? – or is this a joke? Please tell me.
Your own Mum. xxxxxx
Hope this gets to you, honey, before you leave for Cyprus. We hope you have the most wizard holiday in that far fair land. Also hope my 158 with bras. arrives before you leave.
Here’s your Mum, 21 again and I don’t feel a day over 18! (1) Got a lovely card from Daddy and it’s on the mantlepiece beside the sweet one from you, so, as I look at them I know there’s two people who love me.
All this week seems to have been taken up with making arrangements to give the guarantee of £50. On Tues. I went to the Coop to ask them to send an advice to the Con. However, the Coop told me they are not a bank in that sense, but only a share and loan Society & suggested I deposit £50 in another bank for the purpose of guar. I said O.K. when c’d I get the £50?; they said they got their money from the bank on Thurs., so again I said O.K. I’d call Thurs.
Yesterday morn. I went to the Commercial Bank at Kelso Street, Dumbarton Road corner, and the man there asked me to call again at 2 p.m., as the manager would then be in. I called at 2 p.m. & saw the boss who, after reading the letter from the Con. ‘phoned head office for their advice, result they want me to write to Con. asking for more specific details of what is required re. how is the money to be put in my name, etc and if it’s a bankers guarantee they want. The manager took endless trouble.
People (some) say to me – kinda amused – “any more word of when you are going to Egypt” as if it’s something quite imposs. Well, for them I have a grand technique of buttonholing them and telling them a terrifically long story in minutest detail so they are glad to get away from me and don’t mention Egypt again! I get a laugh!
I have my new teeth, they are kinda sweet – not much different from my others, built out more and not like a mouthful of false teeth, if you follow. I met Millie’s Mum yesterday, she got some new teeth some little time ago – well, all I can say is, some folk are easily pleased! Two rows of tiny even teeth, not filling out her mouth at all.
Must now say ‘ta-ta’ and get that letter to the Con. away.
Keep smiling & happy, and kiss your wish ring to bring me out.
Loving you ever, Mum. x – A birthday kiss.
1. Mum was 53. She was born on 28 March, 1894. Her father, Roderick Mackay, who registered the birth in Dornoch, is described as a butcher. The ‘Maiden Surname of Mother’ is McBain Smith, her married name Annie Mackay. In the Spring, 1894 Registrations of Births in Dornoch in the County of Sutherland the fathers’ occupations either side of Roderick Mackay’s are William Sutherland, ploughman, and Donald Ross, fisherman, the latter’s signature recorded as ‘his X mark’.
“Fair is April, Fair the Morning my Beloved, my Beloved”.
Well, this April morn is fair enough, my Beloved, the sun is shining and the birds are singing but there’s frost on every thing and it’s very cold.
Lovely to get your very long (19 pages) 163 and your unnumbered one of March 24th.
A dozen times yesterday we said ‘I wonder what the wee one’s doing & where she is’ – we are thinking of you all the time & hoping for your safety & joy. The papers & radio are full of the ‘cairry ons’ at Haifa & we wonder if you got through. (1)
Ever with fondest love. Mum. xxxxxx
1. The boat that Len was on would have docked at Haifa, the main port in Palestine, on its way to Cyprus. Haifa had been developed in the 1920s onwards by the British as a port to handle their export of oil. Palestine, under British Mandate since 1920, was in the throes of Jewish terrorist group attacks against the British, and Arabs. A month before Mum wrote her letter, on March 2, 1947 the British declared Martial Law on five Jewish areas, including Tel Aviv and Haifa, after twenty British soldiers and civilians were killed.
My darling Len,
My very first mail I had in my new station is from you – a good omen don’t you think.
Your two letters arrived this morning – though one with its address in strange handwriting puzzled me a bit but I quickly caught on when I associated its stamp with you and the fact that your boat called at Haifa. By now you’ll be hiking the mountains and valleys of Cyprus, thinking I hope as much of the 18th as I am.
I’ll do that little job for you at the YMCA, probably get down there sometime this evening. I keep forgetting it’s Easter but must admit I haven’t taken much of a holiday. In fact, life has been pretty hectic these past few days and work has piled up steadily. In order to keep my desk cleared for action and loathing to see my in-tray fill up I had to do a bit of overtime. Being busy makes the time go quicker only 11 days to go till I see you again. In the few spare moments when I have time to think of personal things, my thoughts inevitably wander 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 mentally.
It’s a good job it’s only temporary, I’d find it very hard indeed if you’d sailed anywhere but to a holiday destination. I feel quite confident about the immediate future, meaning the next few months
beyond your return to Egypt – the time when you will be reading this letter. We would be able to see each other at least one weekend a month, perhaps two.
Rumour has it now that Cairo will be in bounds to personnel in Civvies and what with the Findlay’s (1) very kind offer, I should be able to manage a trip once in a while. Then you’ve got your mother coming to look forward to. I do hope it will materialise all right. By meeting the boat at Port Said you might “kill two birds with one stone”. My old specialty.
Since Wednesday and the dance which, by the way, was a terrific flop, I have not indulged in any exciting social activities, although I have been in town every night. I dislike being on my own in a mess with only a permanently inebriated L/cpl Mess Caterer as company, apart from year old mags and periodicals. So I tramp into town, 25 minutes at a brisk pace. As the evenings are cool enough for battle dress, this is a pleasant walk, part of which leads past the infamous Arab Town, which is of course out of bounds. Then the “Sea, Land and Air Club” and the Eastern Exchange Hotel seem to be the only social centres and I must admit they don’t improve on acquaintance. The former place has got “rackets” written all over it, a fruitful field for investigations, and the latter is a constant source of trouble with merchant seamen and junior ranks trying to get in.
Put 3 blokes in house arrest Friday night after which I went to the railway station and collected 3 more bodies who were being escorted from Cairo by the Civil Police. They all claimed to be Merchant seamen or stowaways, without any means of identity. After a couple hours of “persuasive” talk in the Port. Police Station they admitted to being escapees from 51 Military Prison at Fanara near Fayid. (2) Two of them were once friends of ours. I knew of them but had unfortunately never seen them in person when they disgraced our Guardsman at Bab el Hadid (3.).
But more of my adventures when I see you. Gosh, that can’t be too soon for me. Don’t let the Khedios Mail Line (4) do you out of a precious couple of days by being late in arriving. I hope you will let me know when you’re expected in, and the name of the ship so I can meet it. I am well in at the Docks, have been spending hours and hours down there getting to know everything.
Darling Len (I do like this abbreviation) don’t forget when you’re reading this in your cabin on the “Britannia” that my love for you is growing steadily.
Kissing you lovingly, Your Ernest.
1. The Findlays presumably offered Ernest a bed if he was to visit Cairo.
2. Fayid is 69 miles to the north east of Cairo. It was the GHQ of British Middle East Land Forces. It was also the important RAF air base in Egypt. The camp and airbase are now abandoned.
3. Bab el Hadid is the location of Cairo’s main railway station.
4. The boat company she is sailing with.
Wot a rush! Got fixed up at the Commercial B. of S. yesterday re. £50 deposit visa guarantee and today I’m writing to the Con. giving my promises not to do and to do this & that. Now I’m dashing into town to post letter and to enclose £1 visa fee & postages (various). Then I’m going to ye shipping office to enquire re. passage on any ole boat at all so long as it takes me to you – yipeeee!
The people Robertson over the road – you remember, the girl got wed a few years back – have gone to Vancouver for a holiday. They left Good Friday morn. in two cars. Mrs H. next door was telling me they had been messing about with Cooks for ages & getting no forrarder when they spoke to some man in their restaurant mentioning their brother and he put them on the right path & they were all set in a few weeks.
Hope you are enjoying a wizard holiday and getting loads of sun & fun. That ole postman ain’t called at our ‘ouse all week! But while you are well & happy we are content.
Must een dash away. (1)
Ever all our love, darling own. x. Mum.
1. Scots: Een: used here in the sense of ‘now’.
15 April, 1947. A real April Day.
Darling Own One,
I think this letter sh’d be headed “GOOD NEWS RE TRIP” but, being the canny Scot I am I’ll just say I’ve got good news for you – like that. I’d better give you the details in a practical way.
I didn’t get along to the shipping office on Fri. as I was late in getting to town and it came on to rain like Billy O and my business in the P.O. getting the data away to the Consul took so much time with Q’s at all counters.
On the Thursday I deposited the £50 at the Commercial Bank and the manager said he’d write pronto to the Consul.
On Friday I sent the Con. a letter saying the bank w’d be communicating with them and enclosed letter from Cooperative Cashier saying I have interests in this country & that I’ll definitely be returning here (as if he knew!).
Must give that Con. points for promptness for on Sat. I got a letter from them saying they’d got the letter from the bank.
Yesterday I went to the City Line Offices – they are wonderful there – really take an interest, not like that ghastly Cooks.
Now here is what I think is good news. The man at the S.O. said there’s the City of Hong Kong leaving on the 18th or 19th April – but he didn’t think I’d get a passage on it as it’s all folks for the Far East, but if I did c’d I be ready? I said I c’d with a scramble & left a ‘phone number – Smellies shop, over the road.
There’s been no news this morn. but at the one o’ clock news I got the tail end of the news on the radio & heard something about “all those on leave from the M.E. (1) must report at Southampton on the 18th”, so I guess that one is all booked.
However the S.O. man said he thinks there’ll be another ship at the end of the month, if so, that’ll be bonnyo. They never know from day to day where their ships are going. You can guess, honey lamb, I’m up to the ears preparing. We shan’t have cash to gallivant about a lot, but just to see you and Egypt is all I want, and oh! boy, how I look forward with joy just to that.
Ever with fondest love. Mum.
p.s. I heard a good bit in a film about “not thinking poor”. I thought it was very good as so many people do “think poor” – not me.
p.p.s No swimsuit so far, called at Arnott Simpsons yesterday and they only had one ghastly affair. I’ve written Aunt Ena to try one for you in Leicester and I’ll still try here.
1. M.E: Middle East
I am so sorry I couldn’t get down to meet the ‘Talodi’ but have some very urgent reports to finish off. You’re booked in at the YWCA. (1) Phone me as soon as you can (330 Military). I’ll try to see you as soon as possible.
1. It is assumed the boat berthed at Port Said.
Just had my innocs. and may have to go back next Wed for more – hope to leave Thurs next, yes I know, I sh’d have had it done long ago, but the whole diff. of a visit to Egypt is to make all dates coincide, if you comprey.
I’m off now to wire the P.O.Co. to keep my passage for me and I’ve already written to the Consul for my visa – I explained to you I’d asked them to keep it in readiness – its all just breathless!!!
Aunt Phem. called on Sun. night – they arrived a week today. I couldn’t wait any longer to see Roderick and so called at 99 (1) on my way from the doc. Oh! honey, he is just adorable and threw his arms around my neck whenever I went in – his grandma says he will never give her a cuddle – – just proves the old saying that blood is thicker than water – just remembered, she is his Mum’s Mum – but you know what I mean.
P. gave me nylons and Daddy socks – lovely. You never saw such stuff as she brought home, hundreds of pounds worth in carpets and food and P. drips with hand wrought gold watches and bangles. Uncle D must have a terrific salary; (2) she says it’ll cost me a rare lot in tips on the trip – well, if it does I’ll have to swim home for I’ve only my fare, but tra!la! tra!la!. I’ve a merry heart – thank goodness.
Must now busy – what I’ll have to tell you of my rushing when we meet!! No one to root for me – done it all my wee sel so have the band out and a medal ready. Shall write in a day or so to let you know the latest.
Ever your loving Mum
Wearying to hear from you – its been a long time no news.
1. Aunt Phem’s mum’s house.
2. Dennis worked for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Abadan, Iran. At the time it was the largest oil refinery in the world and remained so until 1963 by which time Anglo-Iranian Oil had had a name change and was known as BP, British Petroleum.
Before the First World War John Brown and Co. of Clydebank had developed the oil fired Brown-Curtis turbines. There was a direct link between this and Uncle Dennis’s future job in Iran. The oil fired turbines, and the company’s shipbuilding skills impressed the British Admiralty, and HMS Hood, Tiger, Repulse and Barham were built at Clydebank for the British Navy.
Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, was aware that the new generation of British Warships, (which sailed the High Seas protecting the interests of the British Empire) were oil burning, rather than coal burning. To guarantee and protect the strategically important supply of oil he concluded a deal in 1913 with the recently formed Anglo-Persian Oil Co., the early forerunner to British Petroleum. The Government acquired a controlling interest in the company, and invested £2 million.
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).
The British control of oil in Iran was to have consequences throughout Len’s life. Churchill, as Secretary for War and Air, and then Colonial Secretary in 1917 is credited, by the Churchill Centre, with drawing the boundaries of the modern Middle East.
The following extract is from All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer.
“The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company… reported in 1947 an after tax profit of £40 million, and gave Iran just £7 million. To make matters worse, it never complied with the committment under the 1933 agreement with Reza Shah to give labourers better pay and more chance of advancement, nor had it built the schools, hospitals, roads or telephone system it promised. Manucher Farmanfarmaian, who in 1949 became director of Iran’s petroleum institute, was appalled by what he found in Abadan:
Wages were fifty cents a day. There was no vacation pay, no sick leave, no disability compensation. The workers lived in a shanty-town called Kaghazabad, or Paper City, without running water or electricity… In winter the earth flooded and became a flat, perspiring lake…When the rains subsided, clouds of nipping, small winged flies rose from the stagnant waters.. Summer was worse..The heat was torrid, the worst I’ve ever known – sticky and unrelenting… . In the British section of Abadan there were lawns, rose beds, tennis courts, swimming pools….”
Cold and wet here but I dream of sunshine
Darling Bestest Own one,
Excitement’s terrific. Just going to settle down to a dizzy evening’s sewing last night when the bell tinkled and it was Dr. Khalil and Miss Muir. Did I tell you I met him on the No.9 (I’ll soon own those No. 9’s, the times I’ve been into town lately!) and he was telling me he was almost booked to go to P.S. on the Cameronia on May 4th? – sailing from Glasgow.
This was too much for me and next day I dashed wildly up to town (again on a no 9) and saw ye guys at ye Anchor line who didn’t know a thing about it – they never do. Shortly after that I got the letter from the P.O. people and on advice from the City Line people accepted the passage – they told me it’s a chance in a thousand and it would be very difficult to get out in Oct. Look how I’ve wandered from what I was telling you!
When the Doc. and Margaret got here my trunk was in the hall and I said gleefully “just ready to get my trunk ready as I’m hoping to sail on May 2nd – tra,la, tra la” and they both said in chorus “May 2nd?” I said “Yes.” and they both said in chorus “On the Franconia?” and on my answering “Yes” the doc. said “So am I” and Margeret said “So is he” – Now isn’t that a coincidence. We, including Daddy, were all talking at once.
It seems the Cameronia sailing was another glorious Cook’s mistake – honestly they are quite hopeless at Cook’s here. My visa, which I wrote for on Sunday arrived on Tuesday, so that was speed; it is dated 21st April and is an entry visa for 2 months only, I was going to send it back to L’pool but asked about it at the Post Office and the man there said it means two months in Egypt and I have a letter from the Con. to say its valid for 3 months from the date of issue and as you wrote it can easily be extended I decided just to hang on to it as I might rub them the wrong way if I quibbled – did I do right?
I also sent off my acceptance of passage yesterday – I’d wired previously – and a bank draft for £40 – single 1st class fare. What you had to do to get away was a walk over compared with my effort for a 2 months visit. I could write a book about it and Daddy says he’d have given up long ago, but no’me, Ah’m the wee determined wan!
The doc. says to write and tell you not to worry about me at P.S. as he is travelling right on to Cairo and will see me alright on the train – about this, you suit yourself honey girl, but don’t worry about me as the doc. will see I’m O.K. through Customs, etc, as he knows all the ropes out there, being a native, and he said to be sure to tell you he will look after me if you are not at P.S. and you can meet us at Cairo if not at P.S.
Remember the “Franconia” leaving Southampton about 2nd May – you can look for it in the papers, ain’t it thrilling!
Lot Morrison called over on Wed. eve. wanting me to take in a wee stray dug (I didn’t see it) but I told her I really couldn’t just now.
Lot was very interested in my trip and wanted to help and took away that leather apron you gave me to make a travelling bag for me – that will be a help.
I hunt for Jantzens each time I’m in town but no luck but again saw the girl at Lumleys who confirmed my name is down for one. However, Daddy will get it for you if one doesn’t get here before I leave and I have a plan to make one for you.
No news from you yet and I look for a letter every post but I know one will be on the way to us. You’ll not have time to reach me here by letter but please send a line to Daddy, he is going to write to thank you for his lovely shoes, they are just wonderful and a perfect fit , he is busy just now doing the stencil for my trunk. Daddy had to file the lock off to get keys for it as the key was lost as I told you.
A thousand jobs to do yet as you can imagine. Hoping I’ll not be sick and able to eat all the food on ye ship sailing the ocean blue.
Fondest love ever, Mum. xxx
Some days after writing this letter Mum travelled down by train to catch the Franconia sailing from Southampton. It seems she broke the journey by staying a night, or two, with old neighbours in Dagenham, possibly the Baxters, the parents of Betty Baxter who had sent Len the postcard from Salisbury in 1944.
The Cunard liner the ss Franconia was launched at the John Brown Clydebank shipyard in 1922, three years before Len’s birth. There have been claims made that Churchill used it as his base during the Yalta conference, February 1945, when he, Roosevelt and Stalin discussed Europe’s post-war political re-organisation. An alleged sighting of a Churchill double on the Franconia sailing back to Britain has added to the story. However, Churchill, Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, and Moran, Churchill’s doctor were staying in the Vorontsov Villa in Yalta. The Franconia, anchored in Sevastopol, was the base for support staff, including cipher officers. Churchill was, immediately after Yalta, flying secretly to Greece, where he was concerned about the influence of Greek communist partisans, and their influence in a post-war Greece. In 1947 the Franconia was being used as a troopship, with some accommodation for civilian passengers.
This strikingly luxurious on board menu, for Thursday, May 15, 1947 would have been unavailable in even the best of restaurants in a food rationed Glasgow of 1947.
It seems from the date of departure and the length of the voyage there and back, and from details in a letter Dad wrote on 14 July that Mum was in Cairo for approximately seven weeks. We know from a future letter that Mum stayed in a spare cabin on the floating hostel the Britannia.
She met Len’s work colleague friends, and the Findlays and many others at the European only Gezira Club, with its swimming pool and other relaxing facilities. The Gezira Club will feature in the ensuing narrative. And she met, and approved of Ernest. She also heard that the Britannia would soon no longer be a floating hostel. It is possible that the Britannia and the other former Nile cruise ships were being returned to their pre-war Tour Operators, of which Thomas Cooks was one.
The Norma Photo Studio who employed the street photographer printed four 6 x 9 cm enlargements from the negative. It was taken on a 35mm format camera probably originally ‘liberated’ from a German POW, or a dead German serviceman. The 35mm format camera had been developed in pre-war Germany.
The negative has been carelessly treated – at a guess – in the hurried darkroom processing. The print shows a crease, the top has a light leak, and there is curious spotting, probably chemical, near the bottom. But it was an important memento of Mum and Daughter together in the summer dress heat of a Cairo street in July 1947. The invoice date is 4 July. Within the week she was sailing home. Her length of stay in Cairo would be partly determined by when she could get a return civilian berth.
That berth was on the ss Dominion Monarch, a luxury liner built for the UK – Australian trade in 1939, by Swan Hunter in Wallsend on Tyne in the northeast of England.
The Dominion Monarch was requisitioned in 1940 to be a troop ship, and was still sailing in that capacity when Len’s Mum boarded it at Port Said. The trip home was via Naples. In 1950 Len would be writing to Swan Hunter, asking to visit their yard, as part of her teacher training course in nearby Co.Durham.
My Wee Lovely Lass,
Just got mums letter tonight letting me know that she is on her way back home and think she will be back at No 26 in about another weeks time and say honey am I going to have a hectic time getting No 26 in something like a shipshape condition for her return.
I have all the floors to do also a lot of dusting not counting the garden by the time that is done and I have got mum settled back here again I reckon that I will have earned my holiday but do you know honey girl it has been worth every effort we have all made so that the trip for Mum would be a success so don’t fret too much about mum having to leave you my dear as you know it will only be a few months till you will be seeing us both again in the meantime put on the old record and listen to your mum and dad talking to you again. (1)
This is just a wee letter to let you know that I have received all your mail and to let you know that I am still keeping in the pink but must now draw to a close as the midnight hour approaches and I must go to the land of nod so bye bye for now my dearie hoping that you are keeping well and looking after yourself.
Goodnight sweetheart and all my love to you, from your own dear Daddy. xxxxx
1. Record shops offered a personal recording service on a shellac 78 r.p.m
My Dear Len,
This is to let you know that I have received your last two letters – the one that Ernest posted at P.S. and your No 193 and was very pleased to hear that you saw mum off on her return journey and that you are getting settled down again. I am sure my darling that you will miss her ever so much but keep the old chin up and always keep that big smile going for it sure keeps up that old morale.
So far I have had two telegrams from London to let me know when our mum gets into Glasgow. One last night to say that she was getting the one o’ clock from London so up I goes to see what time it arrived at the Central. (1) They told me that there was no train at that time from London so tonight when I got home was the other telegram to let me know that mum was leaving on Wednesday morning at 10 and was due to arrive in Glasgow at 6.35 so will again get to the Central to meet our mum I hope.
I can tell you now that I will be ever so pleased to see her for I have missed her while she has been away and it made me think of you both ever so much. I believe I missed you more while mum has been with you than I did while she was at home but it wont be long honey until we will both be seeing each again and I think we will have one of those parties like what we used to have as soon as you return.
I have been very busy this last two weeks both at the work and at home getting the place that is No.26 tidied up for our mums return. Remember how we went to it at Canonsleigh Road when Mum was coming home after her operation. (2) This time I have not got it in such good order but somehow I think our Mummy will be pleased even if it is only to be back at No 26.
The factory is on holiday and this is our busy time and I have worked late Friday night, Sat off, Sunday Monday and Tuesday until 7 o’clock each night so feel a little tired somewhat but will be full of beans tomorrow night to meet my darling sweetheart and to hear all the news about you my dearie. (3) I have received a post war credit note for you for the sum of £9.8.6 which we will keep here until you return as there is no sign of them paying it out for a while yet it is for the year ending 1945 so you should have another one for the year 1946 if your overseas service counts make inquiries regarding this. (4)
This is all the news at present except that I am looking forward to my holiday this weekend. Will drop you a card from Morecambe so bye bye for now my dear and good night and God Bless you.
As ever I remain your loving Daddy. xxxxxxx
1. Central Station, Glasgow.
2. Canonsleigh Road, Dagenham.
3. This suggests that Dad was a maintenance engineer at the factory. With the production line stopped for a fortnight it would give the maintenance engineers time to permanently fix running repairs, and overhaul and service machinery.
4. Because of the increased costs of Government spending during the war, tax free allowances were reduced. However a calculation was made by the Inspector of Taxes on the additional amounts individuals had to pay and was credited to the tax payer as Post War Credit Notes. In 1948 they could not be cashed in until the age of 60 for women and 65 for men. On this basis Len wouldn’t have got her money until 1985. Subsequent changes in the Finance Act meant they were cashed in mostly by 1973. The sums received were paltry.
‘This is the part of Morecambe where I am staying at. I have marked it with a cross just above the place where I am boarding at. Daddy’
29th July, 1947. ‘Aldro’, Morecambe.
My Dear Len,
As you will see from the above address I have arrived here for my holidays and so far I am enjoying myself immensely. I arrived on saturday night when it was raining but it cleared away by the sunday morning and since then the weather has been lovely so much so that I am getting quite a nice tan getting out with just my flannels and a short sleeve shirt. I have already worn the one you sent home with mum. It was just the right size and quite a success.
This is a very good house I am staying at. It is near the front just like what we had when we were at Hastings and the food is all that could be desired. The visitors are a very mixed lot from all parts of England and Scotland and we have a very good pianist from Manchester who keeps the company going with the assistance of your darling daddy and between us we keep them all in good humour which makes for the pleasure of all. So you see from what I have told you can rest assured that I will enjoy the rest of my visit here.
I was very pleased to see Mum before I left for my holiday and to hear some of her holiday experience but as she said it will take long enough to let me know all that happened while she was out in Egypt visiting you so when I get back home I expect that Mum will just start again where she left off.
Will write you again when I get back home so bye bye for now my honey girl.
With all my love from your Affectionate Daddy. xxxxxx
‘4 August, 1947. Dear Len, I am spending a few days here with my cousins before going on to Liverpool to see my other relatives. Have had a lovely and enjoyable holiday. The weather has been fine except for these last 2 days when it has been a little unsettled but it has not kept me indoors. Will write you a letter when I get home and tell you all about my holiday. Love Daddy.’
5th August, 1947. Coldingham Avenue, Glasgow W.4
No more from you since your S.O.S re. cheque. I can guess how busy you must be just now with ‘moving day’. (1) Do hope you managed to buy another trunk as I know you would need it. The weather is quite cold here – at least that’s how I feel it tho’ all the non-Eastern travellers think its very warm.
On Sat. just after posting the doe to you I was in the lift at MacDonalds going up to lunch when someone passing said ‘Hello’ and it was Lot Morrison, we both went to the restaurant to find lunches ‘off’ so we hiked to Lewis’s and Lot made me promise to call on them either Sun. or Mon.
I went over yesterday and saw Mrs Morrison – it was her birthday – for the first time in years, she is 86 – a wee shriveled person but I should have recognized her anywhere. Mrs M and Maud and Lot and May (the patient) are all going to Braemar Highland Gathering today, tho’ how they were going to get Mrs M.to the MacBraynes bus station for the Highlands at 9.15 a.m. beats me! You should see Maud and Lot’s houses! Crowded out with junk – at least it looks junk because its so crowded and the houses are bungalow types – Lot’s is a real bungalow whilst Maud’s has two sloping ceilinged bedrooms up a tiny staircase and boy! do they think they are good! I like suburbia, but! Newton Mearns is supposed to be posh – well, all I can say is – give me Yoker everytime and how thankful I am that I live at 26 Coldingham Avenue and not at Newton Mearns – millions of bungalows all looking exactly ‘alike’.
Daddy is still on holiday. Got a P.C. from him yesterday to say he’d found his cousins, Hannah and Mary Elizabeth – at Fleetwood and was staying there a day or two then going on to Liverpool. He left Morecambe on Saturday. He says the weather is splendid and he is enjoying every minute of his holiday.
Jack returned from Norway yesterday afternoon, he looks well and sunburned and says he spent 2 weeks of his holiday mountaineering but somehow I can’t picture him climbing.
There is much to do in the house and now I must fill in those new ration books – pages of ‘em, but as I can’t get grub without them I must get down to it.
Herewith the second instalment of cheque doe – £4. Cheque was for £15 – 15/-.
Please tell Findlays if they ask, I hope to deliver their stuff this week.
All love from your very own Mum. X
p.s. HOPE YOU GAVE A PHOTO TO THOMPSON, THAT PICTURE TAKEN WITH MARY FINDLAY AND ERIC BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE BRITANNIA. ITS VERY IMPORTANT AS I PROMISED.
“7 August, 1947. Dear Len, Have got round a lot this holiday and have enjoyed myself very much. Spent 3 days with my cousins H & ME at Fleetwood and have been to see some of my relatives at Liverpool. Will soon be getting back home to hear all the rest of the news from Mum re. her holiday, while I relate mine to her. You can’t see me in this snap as I am on the far side of the pond. All my love Daddy. xxx”
Friday, August 8th, 1947. Busy old home.
Dearest Own one,
The last post has passed for today and no letters at all! Your long one of Aug.Ist came in on Tuesday 5th – some speed! You don’t mention a lot of things I speak of in my letters so hope you are getting all our mail, honey. You’ll know by the numbers. I sent a wee letter to Ernest yesterday, hope it arrives O.K. and that he is well.
I know my opinion wasn’t asked for, but must say – forget it if you like – I don’t think its a good line (technique, way, idea, etc, etc) to say you’ll lose 10 lbs. if E. gave you a studio photo. I don’t think that joke is funny, sort of destroys the old dignity (elusiveness, undiscoveredness, etc, etc) but you know best – its just my idea and maybe you like making jokes about weight & I’ll agree they’re alright sometimes. Just laugh it off, ha! ha!.
Was much interested in your account of your hunt for digs – are Stokes and Findlays both off? Please tell Mrs Stokes I sent her a letter – made a bang at the address from the plan you sent me of where your new digs may be – addressed it thus – Mrs Stokes, Flat 10, 26 Hassan Pasha Sabri St., Zamalek. (1.)
I seem to be swamped in jobs – housework, sewing, and letter writing and visiting. I’ve shoals of letters to write. Got a lovely letter from Aunt Betty who has sent us another parcel and got Aunt Lizzie to send one also! Aunt Betty really is a darling. Also got some good pictures of them all.
Daddy is not home yet, got another card to say he found his cousins, Hannah and Mary Elizabeth – remember them? – at Fleetwood. So I look forward to hearing a very interesting account of the meeting. Dad is also visiting his other cousins at Liverpool and also Alice and family – I’ll bet my sweetheart is having a grand time and he really deserves it, he did so well while I was in ye orient.
Herewith £2 (two pounds) more tomorrow. This makes £10 I’ve sent. (2)
Cheers. Fond love darling from Mum xxx
1. Zamalek was and is a smart Cairo residential district on Gezira island. Apart from the Findlays, already mentioned, the Stokes will feature in the ensuing narrative. They were people that Mum met at the Gezira Club, amongst many others.
2. Mum is sending Len amounts of money. It is not clear if this is repayment for Len helping with Mum’s fare out to Cairo, or with her return fare to Britain.
Here is the first letter – in this collection – from Len to her Mum since her letter of 6 April, 1946 From now on there will be continuous correspondence from Len.
12 August, 1947. BSDM Cairo, c/o FO, SWI.
First of all, let me say that I’ve sent the photo to Thompson. I put the photos in Photolux, but it wasn’t till yesterday I’d the dough to get them out and by that time, Thomson had left the boat, however, last night I gave the photo for T. to the Chinese-looking suffragi who said he’d give it to Thompson . (1)
Ernst got your p.c. O.K. and should have written to you by now. (2) I’m hoping to hear that you two have established a flourishing correspondence soon, for I feel that Ernst needs more rations of you for your combination of sanity and softness. He’s so frightened of anything sentimental, seems to think it’s going to bite him, if only he’d believe that things can be pleasant and true at the same time. However, I’ve pursued this theme before and further words will only mix me up. You know what I mean.
By the way, you can tell Joan Brandley as much as you like about Ernst , for, well you know the way I feel about Joan. She’s almost like a sister to me and I wouldn’t mind her knowing, the only thing is, don’t tell her by letter, please wait until you see her at New Year.
Just this minute I’ve had a letter from Ken Cook. (3) He’s gone to sea and lo and behold has been all around, Haifa, Cyprus, Tel-Aviv etc. and he hopes to come to Alex. next trip. (4) You’ve no idea how excited I am, for he’s really a super type and I’d love a natter with him again.
Unless I close this letter now, I’m sure something else will eventuate to stop me getting it off, so I’ll close now, but will get down to a really long and comprehensive one soon. Good-bye darlings, do take care of yourselves for me – remember how I love you.
As always, your most loving child,
p.s. Ken sends his regards to you two, quoting the address of the old home, which shows he hasn’t forgotten.
1. Suffragi: servant.
2. Ernst signs his letters to Len in the Anglicised way ‘Ernest’. Len refers to him in her letters home as ‘Ernst’. Len was correct: his name was Ernst, but he preferred the anglicised form.
3. Ken Cook was on Len’s 1945 List of People and Songs she associated with them. Ken is associated with Twilight is Falling on Bonnie Loch Leven.
4. Alex: Alexandria, which was also the Royal Navy’s base port for Mediterranean operations.
7th August, 1947. Liverpool
You must excuse the fact that this letter will be dirty. As are my hands.
We arrived here this morning and I am on duty all day and so on until tomorrow morning. We have just arrived back from a tour of the Med., having been to Mersin in Turkey, Jaffa, Tel-Aviv and Haifa in Palestine and Limassol , Larnaca and Boghaz in Cyprus.
‘Dipping deep for Famagusta and the hidden sun
That ring black Cyprus with a lake of fire’.
Do you know that Helen? Flecker’s ‘Old Ships’
‘I have seen old ships, that sail like swans asleep
Before that village, which men still call Tyre
With leaden o’ercargoed, dipping deep’, etc.
I love ‘o’ercargoed’
Sorry, both my writing and spelling all to blazes.
So you are studying French. Well, well!
Do you know the song from Marie-Rose which answers him when he calls. I was singing songs of the Highlands in the Med. with a braw Highlander, by name McKenzie.
At Mersin I was talking French (my conversation in French is slightly better than my writing of it) to two girls who were at a party we had in what I imagine was the Turkish equivalent of a German beer garden. I t was very interesting because although it was a big party, me and an Arab named Hannal Naddy from, believe it or not, Kings College, Newcastle on Tyne, returning to his home in Palestine, two girls and myself had a small one of our own. One of the girls spoke French and one of the girls spoke French, Turkish and Hannal spoke Arabic and English. I spoke English and some French. ‘The natives appear to be hostile’. Your knowledge of foreign language will give you an idea of the difficulty and the fun we had.
The wireless operator on this ship is a Glaswegian. (I hope that is the correct term). We will probably be going to Alexandria next trip so shall see your Egypt first hand.
We were in Haifa when the President Wharfield, the Jewish immigrant ship came in. (1) They put the ship next to us after they transferred the Jews and I was rather amazed to think that 4,500 people could have been housed in such a small ship. The British have a peculiar habit of casting searchlights over the harbour through the night and patrol boats go around dropping depth charges. This is very disconcerting when one is trying to sleep. But after we left, the same evening I believe, the Jews, (I presume), put a time bomb in a British ship and made a bit of a mess.
If you wish to have a reading list:
Algernon Charles Swinburne, poems; Ernest Dowson, poems; Arthur Symons, poems; William Morris, poems & prose; D.G.Rossetti, poems; Ernest Hemingway, prose; Ezra Pound, poems; Charles Baudelaire; Francois Villon; James Elroy Flecker, poems; Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, etc; Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici; Sir Ronald Storrs , Orientations; T.E.Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. And, if you have a deep interest in English literature – The Cambridge Lectures, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.
I think that is enough for now.
Give my regards to your mother and father at 26, Coldingham Avenue, Yoker, etc when you write.
Vaya con Dios,
Address:- E.K.Cook, 5th Engineer, ss. Patrician, c/o Ellerman & Papayanni Lines Ltd., Tower Buildings, 22, Water Street, Liverpool.3.
1. The President Wharfield is better known as the ss Exodus. It had sailed from Hamburg with Jewish Holocaust survivors who had no legal immigration certificates to land in Palestine, with the intention to berth in Haifa. The British Royal Navy, following instructions from London, seized the ship off the Palestinian coast and the occupants were transferred to three boats that returned them to Hamburg, in the British Occupied Zone.
First of all, let me say thanks Dad for the p.c. from Liverpool. Isn’t a coincidence in all the time I’ve been out here I’ve never had any mail from Liverpool before, and to-day I’d two, your p.c. Dad and Ken’s letter (postmarked Bootle Liverpool) and both posted on the same day. Ken Cook is 5th Engineer on the s.s. Patrician so I’ll be studying the shipping charts (or whatever they’re called.) ‘medley’ to see where it’s bound for out east and when. His letter is most interesting. I’ll send it to you when I’ve replied to it all being well.
Tell me Daddy, d’you know a man called Milne who was in progress at R.O.F Dalmuir? He was one of our Storeholders and just flew back the other day. ‘Twasn’t till after he’d gone I knew he came from Dalmuir. If I’d known earlier I could have asked him if he knew you. There must be a number of storeholders with us from the Scottish R.O.F.s. Haven’t you heard anyone you know say they were going out here?
I’ve got both, or rather, two of your dough letters now and so Little White Lily is happy again. (1) You were a darling Mummy to send it so promptly – again thanks.
Here’s more of my news since I saw you off, Mummy. After me taking the photo of the ”D.M.” when I got ashore from her after lunch P.S was Out of Bounds and on the way to the Eastern (2), boys were trying to run me over with bicycles – cycling on the pavement etc. and really not doing it in a funny (ha,ha) way. You see the character of a town changes entirely when there are no British troops in it. I hopped into the E. quick as I could and checked up on Ernst’s booking for me at the Y., then taxied there with my baggage. You see I didn’t want to go on foot in the town again for them trying to run me over interlude made me rather scared. After I’d been at the Y. a little while, E. arrived for tea. I asked him how he’d been able to come when it was O of B, and he said in his own words “Don’t look a gifthorse…” etc., then I took the photo from the balcony.
I told you in my earlier letter didn’t I of my return to Cairo in the car with Liz and Bill, then spending the afternoon fixing up French lessons with Russian teacher.
On the Wednesday I went straight to Gezira (3) and talked to Myrtle Tandy, a girl who also does “B & B” and I learnt all the ins and outs of living that way from her.
The Stokes generally get over to the Gezira at 3. As we stop at 1.30. I get there about 1.40 and have something to eat and sunbathe whilst waiting for them. Lots of girls at the Club whom I don’t even remember meeting you are enquiring as to your whereabouts and wellbeing Mum, so think well of yourself.
On the Thursday Patricia came to lunch and we went to Mrs Branton’s (4) for tea – as per invitation. Then, well old Pat was going to see “Brief Encounter”, and she must have seen the longing in my eyes, for she insisted on my coming and also on treating me. You see P & I were in the play version of it “Still Life”, P played the gossipy woman and I played the barmaid. I knew “Brief Encounter” had gained an award and was reckoned on being an extremely good film. I certainly found it so, best I’ve seen since I came out here – what acting, everything was so completely true to life. You agree?
On the Friday I again went straight to Gezira, where I again talked to Mrs Stokes. I’m always trying to get away to do some sewing or something, but she insists that I stay and I practically have to make a dash for it when I eventually go. Don’t know what she has in common with me, I s’pose she just likes another woman to natter to. She received your letter all right Mum and let me read it. It certainly is a lovely one and Mrs Stokes was thrilled to receive it and to think you’d remembered the address.
On the saturday I took out the pins I’d put in to take in the green pinafore dress and put on some tacking, then went for a walk as well as doing some washing. All the emphasis on washing and ironing is ‘cos I want everything up to date when I move as the Britannia facilities are rather exceptional and landladies are all s’posed to be a bit stuffy about you doing your washing. Anyway I’ve got to buy an iron, so you see why I’m doing everything ‘medly’ just now.
The girls from the “Sudan” came over to talk after dinner. You remember the “Sudan” houseboat don’t you?
On Sunday, my last Sunday on board, I’d breakfast in bed, then attempted to get down to sewing the seams I was taking in, on the machine. That bullet spool got me and not knowing it was only the case I tried to wind the thread round it by hand. However Joy Cooper came down to help me and we managed between us to get it going all right. I got the job done O.K., then went across to the club to sunbathe.
Patricia came back with me for lunch. I then started to do my ironing on the wicker deck – there’s a new arrangement whereby it’s plugged in there and the ironing board is put across two tables. It’s not nearly as hot as the other wee place and you can talk to your friends (you slaving and they reclining on ye wicker chairs) as you iron. I’d two phone calls to break this pleasant pass time. One from an Egyptian journalist. Knowing that Egyptians just don’t get the brotherly attitude, I did a thing I’ve never done before in my life – I cut him off. I don’t want to get involved in anything and you know me, I get friendly with people, then they get too friendly and suddenly I find myself in a web half of which I’ve spun unwittingly.
The other was from Mrs. Branton asking me to tea. How I cursed, for I was enjoying my chores day, but didn’t think it polite to refuse.
Monday came with its usual routine, Gezira, talk to Mrytle, wait for the Stokes. Mrs S. told me they hope to be leaving Cairo in another three months, as her husband’s got a posting elsewhere, but I don’t know any more as yet. She expects to get more gen this coming week. I left them to go to town where I got a grammar book for my French etc., then the ironing and sewing.
On Tuesday it was John Morton’s 21st birthday. He’d said he’d take me out for some Arabic food and when by accident I picked on his birthday day he wouldn’t change it.
In the afternoon before John and I went out, I went to my French class. My teacher’s a dear. She’s young, says she is a colourless Russian (5) but wants to go there (notice not ‘go back’ for she was born here), as she feels their theory is good. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her. Then I bought two bottles of chianti wine at 18Pt. each for John. They’re in those lovely wicker basket efforts and you can sort of sling them over your shoulder and hold by the raffia handle – lovely and silly.
Back to the Britannia to change, then he came and we went into town, had some cold Ovaltine, then saw “Two Smart People” at the Metro, John Hodiak and Lucille Ball, n.t.b. (6) and quite passable as light entertainment. Afterwards he discovered he didn’t have enough money for Arabic food and as I was in my usual state of penury I couldn’t help, so we’d sundaes at L’Americaine, then taxies back to the “Britannia” where we’d sandwiches and a bottle of chianti (only a pint in said bottle) between us. He let me keep the bottle. I simply adore it’s little half basket.
Yesterday I Gezira-d and introduced Mrs S. to the Wilemans and Mr W. was teaching me to dive, I think doing exercises ordinarily helps with diving, for I seemed to get the straight leg bit quite well. Mrs S. does madden me a bit though, for she didn’t attempt to get friendly with the Wilemans. We did have fun in the water yesterday and now I know Gezira better, it’s losing its stuffed shirt atmosphere for me.
I returned to the “Britannia” to learn about our moving off on Friday instead of Saturday- I’d got my dates mixed up – so speeded up my programme a bit by more energetic washing and a shwoya packing. (7)
Did I tell you I’ve now 5 in my pool at work? Three U.K. based and two locally engaged. One of the U.K’s is away on a court of enquiry job at the moment. Although, as I told you before, the types are older I find it comparitively pleasant on the whole.
Without further ado though, I must call it a day.
Oodles and oodles of love, Len xxxx
1. Little White Lily:
‘Little White Lily Smells very sweet;
On her head sunshine,
Rain at her feet
Thanks to the sunshine,
Thanks to the rain,
Little White Lily is happy again…’
– George MacDonald, 1824 – 1905
2. PS/Eastern: Port Said; Eastern Hotel.
3. The Gezira Sporting Club, with its racecourse, golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts and croquet lawns was – along with Shepheards Hotel – the place for Europeans in Cairo, and as such has featured in poems, novels and recollections by them. It is on Gezira Island on the left bank of the Nile, and shares the island with the exclusive Zamalek residential area. In 1947 membership was by election, but British Army Officers were automatically made members. When Len was writing, membership was exclusively European, and non-members could get a day pass for a few pesetas.
When King Farouk was overthrown in 1952 by the Free Officers Movement, co-led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Gezira was nationalized. These days, with its football stadium, horse racing, swimming and golfing, it is described as Egypt’s ‘greatest outdoor attraction’.
4. Len had already agreed to B & B with Mrs Branton.
5. Colourless Russian: neither Red Bolshevik or White Opposition Russian.
6. ntb: not too bad.
7. Shwoya: a little bit.