Part Two 4: Cholera and Riots

Part Two   4: Cholera and Riots

“Listen, honey lamb, there’s something we want you to do for us and that is, please, while this Cholera epidemic is rife send us a wee note everyday, it needn’t be long or newsy note, just a scribble to let us know how you are keeping.”

                                                             – Mum to Len, 2nd October, 1947.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-112 September, 1947.

Break time.

Hello loved Ones,

Have all your mail up to 197 received yesterday – am anxious for the latest news of your foot Mum.  I do hope it can be completely normalised by one means or another. Anyway be sure to rest it,  remember (what’s so often forgotten) that without your health you can do nothing and that with it life is a field of adventure.

Thanks for despatching that business of certs. to London and taking so much trouble over not getting them squashed.

To-day I despatched a parcel to you – I gave Mr Stokes the stuff and he made it up for me.  Unfortunately ants got into the Turkish Delight – so that’s why there is not much left.  It contains 4 balls of crochet cotton, Ilb crystallized fruit, few bits TD and about 3 or 4 lumps sugar, as well as a 1/4 lb of tea and a huckaback towel.   I hope it gets to you O.K.   Tried to get Persil, but so far can’t find any, however I’ll try some more – would you like Lux and is there anything special you want in food next time I send some and what d’you advise me to bring home with me?   As a luxury I’d love to bring one of those 50Pt tins of asparagus tips – can’t send it by bag (1) as it’s got juice round it.   I love where you say “ Home awaits you here and love” – so many people would give anything for just that.  It’s wonderful to have you in my mind and I’m so glad you’re the people in my home.   I have your letter Daddy.  It’s very interesting to learn all about your tour of Lancs and I’ll reply soon.

Give Hutch my love – you certainly do name ‘em.  I’d adore Daddy and Ernst in kilts, what tartan does Daddy want?  No more news of legacy? (2)   Discovered soignée can only be applied to dress and not about being careful oneself.

Know I shouldn’t have left this till work (i.e. break in work) for I’m always rushed – must go back to write a nice leisurely letter to you with everything in it.

All my love darling ones, Len xxxx


1.  Bag:  Diplomatic Bag.

2.  An Uncle of Mum’s had died and there were complications with his will.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-112 September, 1947. BSDM Cairo, c/o FO, SW1.

Just before the bell goes.

Hello my own Dearests,

On to replying to your 197 now – thanks so much for looking after my cheque and banking it.

The Sky High perfume sounds great, but darling don’t get any for me – you know it’s liable to get smashed in the post – you buy two bottles for yourself and what d’you want me to bring home for you “Queen of Egypt”?

How superb that you’re going to give a lecture Mum, I’d adore to be there – I bet you could tell ‘em a thing or two.  (Want info. for your notes?)

On Tuesday I did some French, and had my lesson, after which Vera and I had a short walk.  I think it was then I saw Mischa – my first sight of a real Displaced Person. He’s a Yugoslav and as he’s not a Tito fan is going to France.  UNRRA (1.) are flying him to Algiers by TWA and from there he’s going by ship to Marseille.  It makes me mad to think of him getting all that done for him and the Home Office have kept Ernst’s application a year now with narry a word, however time will show. (2)

In the evening I went over to act as ‘sitter’ to the Stokes.  It was positively embarrassing the way they practically enveloped me in luxury and were so profuse in their thanks. They gave me my tea and left me with books to read, as well as nuts, sweets, chocolate and tart to eat and lemonade to drink.  They looked so happy going out (to the pictures) it was the first time they’d been out alone since they left England.

Wednesday I did some French, then went down the Mousky with John Findlay – Jean had a cold, so stayed in the house.  After a short while I got an ivory chess set and board for Ernst – £E3.25 which leaves me budgeting like mad for the rest of the month, but as you know I love that sort of thing, so don’t worry.   It’s a really lovely set and I do hope he likes it.  Afterwards I had dinner with the Findlays.

Everybody’s been so nice to me, the Findlays, Stokes and Solovieffs – there are so many nice people aren’t there?

Thursday after work I did my washing and ironing and stayed in.  Yesterday I went to Gezira and then to the Zamalek shops but still no Persil.  After doing a few desultory things in my room, I got dressed as Vera had asked me to have tea with them.  Her parents went out to play bridge and I’d tea with Vera, Mischa and Grisha – four nationalities – Russian, Yugoslav and Italian (in the order named) and me.  Grisha works with Vera on the Journal d’Egypte. We talked, read poetry and danced to the radio, it was most pleasant.

Haven’t anything else to report except that I’m learning a French Fable by heart (I love fables) and hope to go on to the famous French poets.

The week-end has elapsed and I’m getting into the ways of my new abode, or rather  I’ve settled to really making the best of my time and not wasting it, i.e. as I’ve the time,  really having an extensive ‘go’ on my person, i.e. always looking at toenails and keeping them short, soft and clean, keeping hands really super, giving myself face packs then counteracting dryness with your Coty skinfood and also oiling my hair a little bit each night and giving it a three minute massage – it’s really improving under this treatment.  It may seem a waste of time to you in Britain, but it’s lovely to be able to use your time luxuriously.  After all, this period of quiet will probably only last a few months.  I’m actually getting on with my mending now, system being to mend everything before I wash it and doing as much other mending as I can.  Ancient swimsuit – I bought second hand here about 18 months – (for 50pt.) – I’m making into a two piece one.   The crowning achievement will be if I get the neck of my pink lace blouse altered from a V to a square, for I must get everything else done first.

On saturday I went for a walk in Gezira with Vera then called on the Stokes, who gave me my tea and again left me with nuts etc. whilst they went out.  This time they didn’t go to the pictures but wandered round the town and enjoyed themselves buying the odd thing.

I slept late the next morning, being awoken by the band of the procession for the funeral of the Iranian ambassador.   I had breakfast, nattered to Vera and Mischa and did my sewing – it was like home – sewing on Sunday and listening to the radio.   Then I went to Gezira, had an argument with the same chap I’d had an argument with before, sunbathing at the same time.   Had lunch with some girls whom I knew on the slab then set in the Ladies’ Lounge and did my French.  Then went back to the Sols. We took some photos of Mischa’s going and I wanted some of Vera anyway. (3)   Then I put on a face pack, did some sewing – of swimsuit and after some general beauty routine went to bed.

That’s all my news so I’ll get this off.  Do hope your foot’s keeping well Mum and that you’re managing O.K. at home – keep those fires burning for a wee one oot East

All my love pets, Len. xxxx


1.  UNRRA:  United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

2.  Helen (‘Len’) recalls that Ernest’s surname was Hirschberg.  She cannot recall what his nationality was.  As earlier footnoted, Ernst was born in Berlin to German parents.  Her memory is that he spoke English without an accent.

3.  These photos do not survive in this collection.


Mum letter image png_edited-116 September, 1947.  A Rainy Day.

Dear Chooks,

So glad, honey to read in your letter before your last one that you had “found yourself” and you are now your old bright sunny self. You seemed to have forgotten how to laugh & be funny and it was cramping your charm a lot.  I believe this ‘being in love’ business has a lot to do with your always wanting to be on your toes and lacking ease and I well understand for we all go through that stage – at least most of us females do!   Can’t speak for the men.   Keep on the good work of being yourself.   Don’t let anyone change you – “stay as sweet as you are”.

 Got a letter from the C.S.C ysd’y saying they hadn’t rec’d your Birth Cert.  I sent a letter off pronto saying I’d sent the B.C. and R.S.A. Cert. to them by registered post on Sept. 9th and hoped they’d rec’d both O.K. – Oh! those Civil Service people !*!

Big Ginger, the cat of Mrs Allan in Tweedvale is in the kitchen just now along with our own wee black Hutch.  The latter wants to play and tries to catch Ginger’s tail, but he is too dignified to tolerate such goings on.

Your 211 came in last week with those wizard P.S. pictures of Ernest & you & the Britannia. (1)   Re. the Brit. I think, if it is still there it w’d be a good idea to take part pictures of it like a series along its length, then they c’d be put together to form a large complete picture – see?   My grouse about the Brit. one you sent is that it doesn’t show my cabin, boo! hoo! – only my bathroom – consider doing as I suggest – thus:

Mum letter, Brit photo idea png

Was absolutely thrilled by that picture of you taken at the base of De Lessep’s Statue and I’m so glad I have some P.C. views of it for we heard over the radio that the rioters completely destroyed it – is this so?   The other pictures of you and Ernest are terrific, you both look as if you are about to speak. (2)    You can see what I mean about your hair, it is endy and broken looking – don’t tug it when you comb it and do oil it before shampooing but not with a dressing oil or brilliantine – they rot the hair.  My hair has got thinner – the sun out there certainly did not agree with it, but I’m gradually getting it back into a condition by massage and Silvikrin.   There’s a whole lot of new wee hairs growing on my head – goody, goody.  One bottle of Silvikrin does the trick.

Thrilled still by your mention of a ring for me from the Muski (arabic spelling!).   Don’t worry about the exact size as I can get it made to fit here as long as it is somewhere near.

The whole country is shocked at the news of Nancy Riach’s death in Monaco.  She had achieved so much and life seemed so full of promise for her.  That Infantile Paralysis is an awful disease. (3).

Jean Findlay’s Dad & Sister called on Sunday as arranged and we thoroughly enjoyed their visit.  The house was warm and cosy.  I had fires on in dining & sitting rooms and it was all shiny.  We talked and talked and I showed them my Egyptian pictures.  Mr. Munro is all set to go and is just awaiting his sailing date & ship – lucky man!   I offered to go with him as guide!   Jean is to meet him at Port Said.   I think he is really quite thrilled at the idea of the trip and was asking my advice on this and that.  They brought us a pot of delicious Black Currant Jam.  I made meat rissoles – mince, onion, etc – and tomatoes and I think they enjoyed the meal very much.  Mr M. will be telling you all about how we look when you meet and in spirit we shall be right there beside you.

Jack says he may be getting a bike this Saturday, well he can build a shed for it in the garden for I’m not having a bike in the house – enough work as it is.

Must now busy, it’s Tuesday & the shops shut at noon.  Our warm love is there to cheer and comfort you, our sweetest honey girl.

Cheers, Mum xxxxx.


1.  Not in this collection.

2.  Not in this collection.

3.  Swimmer Nancy Riach, from Airdrie, Scotland collapsed and died during one of her races at the European Swimming Championships at Monte Carlo, September 1947.  The streets were thronged for her funeral.  She was twenty.  In 1946 she had been the Women’s British Champion in the 100, 200 and 440 yards freestyle events, and held various records.   Infantile Paralysis, more commonly known as polio, was prevalent in the post-war ’40s.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-118 September, 1947.

In my room. Thurs. night

My dearest Ones,

Before I go on to my letter proper please, no more of these scare letters to me.  To-day’s letter – 199 – contained the only information I’ve had about anything happening to the British Consulate.   Also about P.S., if it weren’t for the fact that one of our girls has just come back, I wouldn’t have known there were riots there.   Incidentally it’s the small de Lesseps statue in the gardens that has gone not the big one on the breakwater. (1)   Please believe me, security arrangements are well in hand and I think it’s wicked the way reports seem to be exaggerated at home.  Happier?

On Monday Liz told me there was to be a cricket match on the Wed and a practice for it in the afternoon, so I went along – did enjoy it.  I’ve always thought cricket such a lovely game and it was wonderful to play.  When I returned to 173, Mischa said “good-bye” – for he was flying to Algiers that night.

At night Liz and Bill were s’posed to be picking me up in the car to take me to the CDG – Cairo Dramatic Guild, name of new organisation.  Their arrangement went wrong and they never came, so I went upstairs again (had been waiting at the door) and Mr Sol offered to take me by jeep.  Accordingly we drove off, going first to the Journal d’Egypt offices to pick up Vera (she works odd hours).  She suggested I go out with her friends and her as by this time it was late for the CDG, I agreed.  They took us by car to the Pyramids and we’d an icecream on the way back.  I couldn’t get gay, for all the time I thought of Ernst.   At dramatics it’s different, but having to sit next to these men in the car made me wish so fervently I was elsewhere and of course it was horrid to see the P’s and think the last time I’d been there had been with E and you Mum.

Yesterday was the match.  Each team was short of players, they were all out for 43 and we’d 73.  Then we declared (‘cos it was getting dark) – I’m hoping to do some more of it – it’s grand fun.  I came back, change hurriedly and went out to the Findlays.  We’d a cold dinner as their servant was out and they taught me to play ‘Golash’ – a cross between Bridge and Whist.   I’m not really interested in cards, but feel it’s a necessary social accomplishment.

The pictures of the Bulbecks and you are terrific – doesn’t Jack look nice (that is to say nicer than I thought somehow).  It was grand to see a recent photo of you Dad – I want to see you so much – and to see you looking so fit in it.  Must say you look really glamorous Mum.   Everyone looks so happy – wish I’d been there.

Bulbeck at 26 with mum png

‘Dad, Mum, Tom Bulbeck, Daisy & Jack.  August, 1947’     Mum’s writing

The curtains look so fresh too – it fairly takes me back – must fight off that homesick feeling.

D’you fancy an Alexandrette?  Knowing your liking for non-red jewellery I’m dubious, for you see it’s blue in daylight but red in electric light.  You’d better tell me if you’ve anything in mind, colourless zircon, yellow zircon, alexandrette or what, in case I came across a bargain suddenly.  And you Dad what d’you fancy, just tell me.  Mummy will tell you the sort of thing which it is advantageous to get here, e.g. jewelry.

No more word about Ernst’s movements or plans – wish there was.

Going to do some exercises, then bed – take care of yourselves as autumn comes my own ones.

Cheerio then and love as always, Len. xxxx


1.  Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805 – 1894) was a French diplomat and entrepreneur who founded the Suez Canal Company to build and run the canal.   The canal was completed in 1869.  When the Canal was nationalized in 1956 the statue was symbolically removed.


Mum letter image png_edited-118 September, 1947.

My Belushka – Ha! ha! You didn’t know I’d speak RUSSIAN! (Ask Vera about it. I got it out of a book – only hope I got it right!) (1)

It seems unbelievable but your 213 posted in Egypt on Monday last, Sept. 15th got in yesterday, Sept. 17th – TWO DAYS!!!

Now in this wee note I’m just going to answer your heart cry about why Daddy didn’t mention Ernest in his letter to you.   Well, my sweet, I gently, oh! so kid glovedly asked him first, if he’d mentioned E. – I cdn’t say outright “you didn’t mention E.”, and he said he hadn’t.   I then asked “Why” and he answered   “Just because I never thought of him when writing my letter, as the wee one asked me to tell her all about my holiday so that’s just what I did” – so there you have it, honey lamb.   Believe me, it’s nothing Daddy has against E. just simply that he hasn’t yet got it into his thoughts that anyone else comes into the family circle.   Believe me too when I say your Daddy loves you an awful lot, an awful great lot and is wearying to see you.   The other night he confided in me he is counting the time till your return as he wearies to see his darling.   Don’t say any of this when you write – he’d think I was telling!  (2)

We shall be glad when New Year is past for then we shall be keeping fingers crossed, be into the year that, all being well, will bring you home.  The only thing Dad has said re. E & you is that he w’d like E. to get his nationality – don’t say anything to E. as it w’d only worry him and the poor darling has enough of that already and it’s something we can all debate (if) when  we all meet.   Dad also said the other night you sh’d write to Princess Elizabeth asking her help! (3)

Had a five minutes visit from Aunt P. last night, she and Roderick leave tomorrow night for Abadan via Plymouth by tanker.

Wee Gordon Collinson got severely burned last Friday on his limbs and body when he pulled a hot teapot full of tea down on himself and today I was in there for a couple of hours helping to hold him while the doc. put on fresh dressings, however, the wee chap is getting on fine and is out today in his pram for the first time since the accident.

Regards to all the folk I know. I’m going down to the clinic tonight to see the doc. there about my foot, goody, goody, it only needs to be massaged.

Cheers from your own ever loving Mum. x


1.  Belushka, Mum’s stab at a Russian term of endearment, is obscure.  Belushka, geographically,  seems to be a small place in Russia.

2.  Dad’s letter is the one he wrote about his holiday, and meeting his cousins.  It seems that Len and Mum had a system of writing some letters that were for Mum’s eyes only.  In addition, it seems probable that with Mum being in the home, and Dad at work, she would be the first to see the letters  that came through the letter box – in the days when there were two deliveries a day.  And this would include saturdays, before the 44 hour week, when Dad would be across the Clyde at his works.

3.  Ernst’s application for British naturalisation had been lodged some time before.  Re. asking Princess Elizabeth for help, Prince Philip her fiancé, of Danish – Greek nationality had had no trouble in recently getting British citizenship.

Two press cuttings were also enclosed in this letter


Old days headlinepng

47 hour news papa png

Make up trends headline png

Make up trends prara:1 png_____

Mum letter image png_edited-121 September. 1947.  Sunday.

Sunny Lovely Day.

Our Own Cuddles,

Let me tell you the tale of last night, Love, it’s full of sensations and thrills! -I’ll say last night was full of thrills – but “tae ma tell” as Rabbie Burns was wont to say.

Jack was away visiting someone he knows in Balfron and Dad and self had been at the Odeon (“Black Narcissus’ – a good picture).   We got home latish and found Jack, who is usually in before us, had not returned.   I made supper and as we sat there a terrific rain storm came on and Mrs Allan’s big Ginger cat (by name & colour) came in.   We read and ate & waited for Jack, then decided he musta made up his mind to stay the night at Balfron and we prepared for bye byes.   Daddy closed the storm door and locked up, then I said I’d see if the wee outdoor shelter I made for the cats was quite
dry as we had to put Ginger out.   To make it clear, here is a diagram of where the shelter is:

Cat shelter drawing png
It, the shelter was really made from the old door they took off the kitchenette.  You may remember the corner just where the cellar door comes near the privet hedge, well that’s it.  I built up a kinda platform & put old jerseys etc. on it to make a cushion for any cats which might be needing shelter.

I went out and noticed that the platform bit was sorta knocked down and I took a wee box I needed for firewood and took a box of matches out to get a light to see in the corner so as I c’d build it up.   I struck the match and looked down but couldn’t see anything, then I held it up & sorta drew it along at face level (this all happening in a split second of time) and as my hand with lit match came to the corner it shone into a man’s face!!!

I have the vaguest of impressions of him drawing his hand over his face (as if waking up from sleep) and noticing he was very young, 18 or 20, hatless & coatless.   My match was still burning, so you’ll know this was all a matter of seconds, and I ran into the house making babbling and inarticulate sounds, something like, “Harry, Harry, a man, a man” – Daddy says he knew it was really a cry of terror and he dashed into the kitchenette, grabbed the bread knife and went in pursuit but by the time he’d reached the gate the intruder was at the bottom of the avenue & turned the corner in the direction of Clydebank.

When Dad came in I’d more or less collapsed into a chair & he’d to hold me tight to let me know he & I were O.K.   As I dashed in I heard very quick running & got the awful feeling the guy was following me in to murder both of us!   Picture yourself holding a match in utter darkness & suddenly seeing a face you didn’t know was there!   Mrs Collinson says she was shaking like a leaf when she heard my cry (in the safety of her bedroom).

Anything we say or think re. what the guy was doing there is all just conjecture – to me he seemed exhausted & terrified and I’ll bet he was more terrified when I gave that blood curdling & involuntary yell!   Collinsons were at their window & Mr. C. says he never saw anyone hoofing it so quickly as that guy did down Coldingham Avenue!

I went into town yesterday and fixed you up a Bank Book at the G.P.O.   You have to sign the enclosed slip in 2 places and return it to me and I’ll send it to London.   I explained to the Clerk & wrote on the application slip that you held another book which was presently mislaid.   He said that was O.K.   You can have as many books as you like provided you don’t deposit more than £500 in any one book!   All being well, by the time March comes you sh’d have a tidy sum put by.

I told you of Aunt P’s hurried visit on Wed. to tell us they were leaving on Fri.   Well, I went to St.Enochs (1) on Fri, at 5.30 to see them off.   I saw the Plymouth Express away but no P. & R. on it.   I got home and got Jack his dinner & did several jobs till about 8.45 when a ring came to the front door & it was Daddy and Aunt Kitty – he’d met her coming up the avenue – Dad was returning from work. She left again at 9.10.

 Honestly, if anyone in this world suffers from visitors who drop in for 10 minutes, it’s me!  Needless to say, I hadn’t time to show her any of our wonderful pictures.   She asked how you were and in the same breath said she’d need to run.

 Believe me, honey, re. Aunt E. and Aunt K. it’s purely and simply jealousy which makes them pay such hurried visits and show so little interest in Egypt.  It was such a lovely change last week to entertain Christine Munro and her Dad & note their terrific interest. I always console myself (if consolation were needed!) by the thought that, if all goes as we plan for next summer, and they say ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ I can always answer I never had time during their too, too, brief visits.

Many ‘thank yous’, Beloved, for sending my Ecru Cotton and other specialities, you are a honey. You are quite right, 4 balls of cotton won’t be enough to finish the cover but you can send more anon.  Oh! and I want you to get another pair of sandals from the Muski for Dad, size 44.  Yes, “Queen of Egypt” would be wizard for my perfume.  I w’d so much like you to bring or send home so many foreign things, honey, this will maybe be our last chance of cashing in on goods from the Orient. Even the tiniest bit of anything Egyptian makes such a splash over here; a tiny bit of embroidery for a dress, or something in brass or glass.

No more word of the legacy from the solicitors, and Aunt K. was telling us they are trying to get the addresses of Uncle John’s family & that’s what’s holding up the disbursement of the sponduluks.  Uncle Donald’s landlady got £100, his landlord £100 and their daughter £50.  Mr Davis got £100 – can you beat that!!!  There were also two boxes left in care of Afflecks, the furniture people, Ayr & those were sent to his landlord.  They were two boxes containing valuables taken from the house in Ayr before he sold up.   I was the one who always had to “jump through the hoops” for Uncle D. in his tantrums, so I do think I’ll deserve my wee share.   I really don’t know why they sh’d find it so difficult to find Uncle John’s heirs – do you?

Daddy & self saw “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim” last week, in it Betty Grable bursts into tears – she was so like you and made exactly the same crying noises – it was really funny to us – see & hear it if you can! I’ll say ta, ta till tomorrow morn. Bless you, Mum. x

Monday 22nd. No letter this morn., it’ll be later. Your (Identity) Nat. Reg. no. is YSEA/924/44 – check up with I.D. card. (2)

Loving you ever, Cheers, Mum. xxx

p.s.  Hope you got the Gyppo’s name I sent you to buy stuff.  Daddy says to please give Ernest his best wishes & regards, give him my love, Mum.


1.  St Enoch station, now closed, was, with Central Station, the station for trains to England.

2.  Identity Cards were mandatory in the UK from the beginning of the war in 1939.  They had an importance for the issue of ration books and cards; and for I.D. checks used by police and the military.   There was a thriving black market in stolen and fake ID cards.  They were scrapped in 1952, when most rationing was declining, sweets by 1953, and meat in 1954.


Poulgorm p.c. png

Joan Brand.png23 September, 1947.  Glengariffe

My dear Helen,  I humbly apologise for not having written for so long; I didn’t seem to be able to settle down before my holiday.  Your Mum probably told you I was planning a hitch-hiking tour of the Co. Cork & Kerry. (1)   Well here I am in Glengariffe after hitching 60 miles from Cork yesterday in three cars and one lorry.   Saw a good deal of the place yesterday with the help of a local.   Met an English boy called Norman in Blarney on Sunday.   He may look me up here.   25/9. Am now in Kenmore after partly hitching & hiking the 17 miles of exciting mountain road.  Will write in a few more days.  Love Joan.

reverse Glengarrif ;p.c. png


1.  Joan Brandley’s reference to Mum is when she stayed in Dagenham on her way to Southampton.


The next letter is from Len, written the day before Ernst’s birthday


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 September, 1947.

In the office, pleasantly cool morning.

Hello well loved Ones,

Your 200 and 201 came in yesterday – it’s great to hear all your news, but oh how I long for home.  I’m remembering so much, Sunday morning – hanging on in bed till the last moment, hiding the papers from you Daddy, the local pictures and myriad little things.

Could you please post my much-taken-in skirt soon, as it’ll be the only winter thing to fit me, for I’ve lost another five pounds.

You’ve had it as far as the “Britannia’s” concerned (photos) for it’s moved away, but surely you can see a picture of your cabin in the postcard views I sent you of it ages ago? (1)

Had a letter from Lilian to say she hadn’t gone to Sweden ‘cos the hostels were closed oweing to the infantile paralysis – she must be disappointed. (2)

How’s the foot Toot?  And any more news of your lectures on Egypt?

Hope wee Gordon Collinson’s better – do give my regards to the C’s and H’s and to all the other folks I know who’re around.

 Your talking of a shed in the garden for Jack’s bike, reminds me, is that primus still there and O.K.?   Out here they use them for cooking – they’ve a set of about 5 at the Sols.

Monday I did my cricket practice and washing as well as a shwoya ironing.  Then with Trudi Grafton (you remember her giving us tea at Gezira once) I went to the play reading.  We’d a dramatic quiz and I gave an excerpt from “This Way to the Tomb” – a verse play as my to-be-guessed-for-source contribution.  Trudi and I trammed it in and back.


I was worried as I hadn’t heard from Ernst, so was glad to receive a letter the other day.  The delay was due to a combination of business – due to riots and postal hold-up. I was so thankful to hear as I’d been so worried; no doubt he’ll tell you his adventures when he writes.

 To-day I hope to catch the 2.45 Diesel to Port Said.  I’m looking forward to getting out of Cairo for a few days and needless to say I’m simply longing to see Ernst.

Ever your own, Len. xxxxx


1.  Does not survive in this collection.

2.  Lilian is a friend.


Mum letter image png_edited-125 September, 1947.

Autumn day.  Anniversary of the Battle of Loos (1)

Hello Chookie Birdie – long time since I called you that, eh?

Well, I’m just dashing off into town to send off cable to Ernest to convey our best Birthday wishes.  These days I seem to be dashing here & there all the time and don’t get much chance to settle down to “the sewing”.  Never mind, honey, I’ll get that skirt etc. off to you next week  or bust.

I’m so glad the big De Lessops monument is still O.K.  I told Daddy so much about it and hope he will see it someday.

The lady who stays at Mrs. Collinson’s has just been telling me she has won a prize – just rec’d the cheque of £9.1.10d. in a “News of the World” fashion comp. – must have a try at that myself.  They are a nice young couple, she just recently celebrated her 21st birthday – much too young to be wed.

I’m all of a doo-dah wondering what to choose from amongst the galaxy of jewels you hold before my eyes – colourless zircons are lovely, but I do like Alexandrettes and I love the blue changing to red.  Oh! Daddy says now, as you asked him, that he too, w’d like a ring, so there you are, honey.

Must now positively buzy.  Cheerio, our Best Beloved.  Daddy told me at breakfast today to be sure to include his good wishes in the cable to Ernest.

All our love is flying over the Med. to you.

Mum. xxx


1.   The Battle of Loos, 25 September, 1915 was the first time the British used gas warfare.  The Germans had used it first, on a mass scale, five months before, on 22 April, 1915.   Both sides used the highly toxic chlorine on these dates.   As a killing weapon it was not as effective, compared to bullets, bombs and shells, and it often drifted back into the trenches of the armies that had released it.  It was regarded with horror by all in the front line.  Infantry on both sides were reluctant to move forward in areas that had been cleared of the enemy by gas, as their Army issue gas masks were often defective.  Mum mentioning the anniversary of the Battle may have been prompted by losing a brother,  or of Dad losing a brother.   Of the 20,000 allies killed, there was a high proportion from Highland Regiments.     In 1949 Len would be working as a Personal Assistant at Porton Down, Wiltshire, the British government research centre for chemical and biological warfare, where in the post war 1940s  conscript troops would take part in gas exposure experiments.


Mum letter image png_edited-128 September, 1947.


Darling Cuddles,

This is the Autumn Holiday week-end (1), and we see by your last letter it’s a holiday with you also.  We wonder if you’ll be allowed to travel owing to this Cholera epidemic – you said ‘no more scarey letters” and tho’ we know you are well looked after we can’t help worrying a wee bit – tell us in your next letter what preventative action your people are taking.

After keeping on at Dad since shortly after his return from holiday in Aug. I’ve eventually got him to write & thank his cousins at Fleetwood & L’pool for their hospitality.

Talk about 9 to 5 existence – feel I c’d do with some of that there right now.  On Fri. I was all set to get on with my household jobs and shopping in the morning and go to the foot clinic in the afternoon.   About 10.30 a.m. a ring came to the door and it was a representative (Mr Ulph, what a name!) from Andrew Learmonth (again what a name!)  Property & Business Agents, to say Mrs. Mac had put the business of selling the house into their hands, but she wanted to give us the first chance to buy, etc, etc.   I said we’d already considered it & made an offer but got no further and he replied he really thought we sh’d make an offer in the region of £1,400.   I replied our solicitor poo-poohed the idea of anything over £1,000 in view of our position as sitting tenants.

Mr. Ulph replied that they, being the biggest property agents in Glasgow c’d give Mrs. Mac. alternative accommodation for us if the property was sold and he said the house w’d fetch £1,800 or even over £2,000 in the open market.   I quite agreed with him but pointed out no one w’d buy without vacant possession, then he again spoke of alternative accomm. etc.

Of course a lot of his talk was eye wash and a shot at making us do some panic buying. As I told Daddy, by the time Mrs. Mac. w’d pay them to get us alter. accomm. & they w’d find it in this district and fight a Court Case with us (for we would certainly fight) she would be glad to get £1,000. So there it is, honey.

How I wish you were here, so as we c’d get it all fixed and talk it over.  I called at our solicitor’s office yesterday but it was closed.  Mrs. Mac. is a veritable Shylock, but cheer up, we’ve got the law on our side.  Sometimes I feel like taking in a family with a dozen kids – that w’d make it difficult for old Mrs. Mac.  But with Daddy & Jack on Essential Work it makes our case good and proves she only wants to sell for profit as she already has her own house.  I’ll say cheerio till the morn.  Maybe there will be a letter from you, then. My thoughts are in P.S. today with E. and you.

Mon. morn.

No mail from you this morn, so will close this. We are not going off anywhere today as daddy has a pain in his chest and is resting in bed and I do hope the rest will make him alright. It’s a showery day but good.

All our love always, Dad & Mum. xxxx


1.  Commonly known in the Glasgow area as the Glasgow Fair weekend.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-129 September, 1947.

The office.  Morning.

Hello dearest Ones,

Are you up to high dough about the Cholera – if the radio and papers at home exaggerate about it as they do about the riots, you probably are?  I may say that everyone’s being inoculated – reminds me of Glasgow at the time of the Small Pox.  The only thing I’m annoyed at, is that it didn’t provide me with an excuse to stay in Port Said – e.g. if Cairo had been made a Cholera area.

I posted a letter to you on Friday.  You may already have got it.  Well on Friday after work I dashed back to 173, washed and changed and did my last bit of packing, then taxied to the station.  As I’d hoped, the fact that it was not a Saturday meant there was room on the Diesel.  I talked to various people, but had quite an uneventful journey down.

Ernst was on the station to meet me when I arrived – it was wonderful to see him again after such a long time.  He put me in a taxi and as usual – had to go back to work.  He picked me up a little later from the Y – and we went to the “Splendid” (literally your first ‘taste’ of Egypt Mum).  Johnny was there. (1)   He left us after a little, then we went across to the “Eastern” to dance – sat at a table with Johnny and some of his friends.  Just after midnight they played “Happy Birthday to You” – Ernst was awfully thrilled.

The next day I met him in the “Britannia” Club – had the chess set all set up – and gave it to Ernst.  It was his morning break so he’d to dash back.  In fact I saw comparatively little of him over the whole week-end.

However, at night he called for me and we went to the Casino Palace and drank his birthday toast.  From there we went on to the Splendid.  A number of people who Ernst knew were there and we all had dinner together.  Afterwards we went dancing at the Eastern.  Then this Major pal of Ernst’s took us for a car trip – he was taking his girl friend – a hospital sister – back to El Ballah a little way (about 27 miles) up the canal.  He’d a super De Soto car (2) – it was like a small house – so we’d a super ride. Finally got into the Y about 2 a.m.

On the Saturday I tried to get to my beloved Gamil’s Beach.  But as transport was restricted I went to the French Club beach at Port-Fouad with Myrtle Tandy (an Embassy girl I know who was at P.S. on leave).  Afterwards we’d lunch at the Officers’ Club, then went to Gamil’s.  Myrtle wasn’t keen, but I adore it – it’s cleaner than Port Fouad, is lovely and quiet and as it’s on a peninsula has gorgeous breakers.  Myrtle left before me to go down town.  At night she came out with Johnny, Ernst and self. We followed the usual Splendid – Eastern routine.

Yesterday instead of going by the late Welfare bus, I got the Naafi truck out to Gamil’s at 9 a.m. and came back about 12.  Met Ernst in Gianola’s at 1 and found he’d been trying unsuccessfully to arrange a hitch for me.  We’d a lovely lunch, then walked along the beach.  After sitting on deck chairs for a while we adjourned to the Y.W. for tea, then walked to the station.  I was to meet Pat in Ish (3) between 6 and 8 and as there were no hitches, proposed getting the 5.15.  When we arrived they blithely told us it had been cancelled – as it was a local train – on account of the cholera.

We tried to hitch, but as there was nothing Ish-bound, I went back to his camp with Ernst and waited there.  We watched it grow dark – it was lovely out in the desert, then he put me on the 7 p.m. train.

Patricia was on the station at Ish. By the time I saw her I was already out of the train – not wanting to go on to Cairo alone – but she’d come to the station on David’s advice (and with him) as he said I’d be on board.  Our blokes knew better than us, for Ernst said Pat would be at the station.  Anyway I got back on the train with her and stayed at the ‘Y’ last night in Town, not wishing to go Zamalek alone.   I so enjoyed my week-end, but now I’m just longing to see Ernst again.

Any more gen as to whom the sleeper in the garden was? It must have been awfully frightening.

Thanks for POSB (4) card, I’m returning it herewith. Want to get this off now, to let you know I’m O.K.

Loads of love, Len xxxxx


1.  Johnny: Johnny Walker, a friend of Ernst’s, who had met Mum at Port Said, and in Cairo on her visit.

2.  Manufactured by Chrysler of America.  

3.  Ish: Ismailiah, where the RAF base was.  David, mentioned further down in the letter, is assumed to be a RAF boyfriend of Pat’s.

4.  Post Office Savings Bank.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-12nd October, 1947.

Balcony of the Office, Thurs. morning.

My own Ones,

Wish you’d get Uncle Donald’s dough – don’t see why the landlady etc. should have had theirs paid.

Ernst was intrigued with the one of the house in the snow – I’m sure he’d like it a lot.

Back garden in snow png

‘Home’. Mum’s writing.  This is the back garden.  No date but probably the winter of 1946/1947

Yes, almost six months and I will be home.  Will you manage off work to come and meet me Dad?  I’d like to jump right off the gangplank into your arms – how I wish you too could have come here on holiday.  However take care of yourself so that you look good for my return.

To finish my birthday weekend with Ernst, as I told you I stayed at the Y on Sunday night.  On Monday I went straight from work to 173.  I felt really awful without Ernst and as the only way you can’t think is by sleeping and I was tired anyway, I slept.

About thirteen past five I awoke with a start to realise that I’d an appointment to catch the car to take me for the inoc at 5.15.  Accordingly I dashed medly down for it and woke up en route for the clinic.  Everything was extremely well organised – a week later we’re supposed to go for a second one.  I expect the papers at home are giving it big licks, but honestly, Glasgow had an epidemic in ‘42, so it’s not so awfully unusual. (1)

That evening I called on the Stokes – she always returns from the club before dark – but got no answer, so I presume that as the TEK road’s closed Mr Stoke’s couldn’t get back after the week-end. (2)  Bet he’s glad.

Trudi Grafton called for me to go to the CDG, but when we trammed in, we found a policeman on the door and the lecture off. (3)   Trudi wanted to do a flick, but I wasn’t keen, however I could see she wanted to go, so went.  And am I glad, for the film was “Monsieur Beaucaire” with Bob Hope – I was in stitches and nearly fell out of the seat – oh, I did enjoy it.   I think the last film I saw was “Brief Encounter”.   Wish the good ones always followed on like that.  Have you seen “Msr. B.”?

On Tuesday I slept in – when showing Trudi my alarm the night before I must have pushed it in (it only goes off when out), so I slept on blissfully.  As we’re not busy, I walked in and got here about 9 a.m.  Wish I’d got someone to walk with in the mornings, for I really love it.

I’ve discovered a good food item, tins of kipper snacks at 5pt. each, they make a good meal. Makes you wonder about Norway, being able to export as cheaply as that and I understand they’re only 4½ pt. in town.

As it was St. Vera on Tuesday the Sols. had a party, really an eating do, with the most wonderful cakes and my diet went completely to heck, however the cakes were worth it. I’ve been at Gezira earlier and came back to help arrange things for the party then went to bed after it finished.

Yesterday, I learnt that the “Patrician”, Ken C’s ship was in Alex. or maybe en route for Haifa.  Anyway I sent him a telegram, so hope to find out soon what’s cooking.

In the afternoon I went down the Mousky with the Findlays and Johnny Walker. Johnny got a suit length. (4)     I got two brass candlestick affairs (not ordinary candlesticks) and half a dozen big wine glasses, as I’ve got some Cyprus hankies too (a girl brought them back for me) I’m well started on souvenirs.

Had dinner with the Findlays – jolly good.    Must get this off.

Very much Love, Len. xxx

p.s. Don’t you adore the enclosed effort of APH? (4)   I showed it to Ernst.

What Have title png

What have:1 png

What have:2

Wht have:3

What Have They Done to Her  copyright: Estate of A.P. Herbert.


1.  As Len would have known, the ‘epidemic’ was small pox, not cholera, and it wasn’t an epidemic.  Despite what Len says, the scale of the cholera epidemic in Egypt in 1947 was very unusual.

2.   TEK:  Tel el Kabir, a major British Army camp.  The outbreak of cholera occurred in a village just a few miles from the camp.  An attempt to isolate the outbreak was made, hence the ‘TEK road’s closed’.

3.  CDG:  Cairo Drama Guild.

4.  It seems that Johnny Walker may have been Cairo based.

5.   APH:  A.P.Herbert.  Len is referring to ‘What Have They Done to Her’, a poem by him, torn out of a July 30, 1947 edition of the humorous weekly Punch.  Mum and Len had a shared liking for poetry, and A.P.Herbert seems to have been a favourite.  Besides being a poet, a dramatist and a novelist he was also the Independent M.P. representing Oxford University.  A campaigner for the reform of the marriage and divorce laws he played an important role in the passing of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1937.  The Act removed the male gender imbalance of the previous Act of 1857.


The 1947 Cholera Epidemic in Egypt

The outbreak of cholera, and its scale was very unusual, and it is difficult to know whether the local English and other European language newspapers gave it significant weight.  It is also interesting to speculate the extent to which Europeans living in Cairo were mostly oblivious to life around them for most Egyptians.

While there had been small localised outbreaks of cholera there had been no major epidemics of cholera west of Afghanistan since 1923.    The first reports of a cholera epidemic in Egypt in 1947 were notified to the Interim Commission in Geneva (the body responsible for setting up the then new World Health Organization).  The outbreak occurred in El Koreen, a village almost equal distance between Cairo and Port Said, and within a few miles of the major British Army garrison at Tel el Kebir.   What was first thought to be food poisoning was quickly suspected to be cholera by September 22.

Despite isolation of the village the outbreak was not contained, and became an epidemic that panicked neighbouring countries who shut their borders. Even the transfer of mail across borders was banned for fear of contamination, in some instances.   Most cases were in rural areas with no sanitation.  In one day in October, at its height, there were 500 deaths and 900 new cases reported.

The Interim Committee of the WHO coordinated the sending  of huge amounts of vaccine and medical supplies into Egypt.   The epidemic was finally controlled after six weeks.

10,277 people had died.

In a post epidemic report it was suggested that the probable cause of the outbreak was Egyptian labourers returning home from India where they had been working at British air bases.

Within some Arab communities it is still believed the outbreak was the result of  Jews poisoning wells.



Mum letter image png_edited-12nd October, 1947.


Good morning, honey.

No mail from you this morn. but the news says 49 deaths in Egypt from Cholera – we shall certainly expect to get these daily bulletins from you – start right now, my darling.

Dad is on night work this fortnight, so here we go, both of us off to ye solicitors, must go and put on some braws, and mustn’t forget to take my ever constant companion i.e. a shopping bag, for the matter of food is ever at the back of one’s mind these days.

Remember, sweetheart, to give us your news & views on how much we sh’d offer for house and any other relevant advice you can think of.  The important thing is to let us know you are well.

Fondest love, our darling.

Ever your own Dad & Mum. x

10 p.m.

 I just have to write listen, honey lamb, there’s something we want you to do for us and that is, please, while this Cholera epidemic is rife send us a wee note everyday, it needn’t be a long or newsy note, just a scribble to let us know how you are keeping.

On the one o’ clock news today it said the epidemic was now in Cairo – I was sewing for you at the time and felt really grizzly at the news.  So a wee bulletin from you each day will do much to give us peace. We hear the cholera is now in the Canal Zone and know you’ll be worried about Ernest, we also hope so much for his safety and well being.

We are longing to hear about your week-end & if you were allowed to travel, we heard on the radio that travel there had been banned.   I’ll stop here till tomorrow morn.  Nothing on the 9 or 10 o’ clock news about the epidemic.

Good night & love, Mum.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-15 October, 1947.

My room – Sunday morning

Hello my own Ones,

How are things at home – I bet it’s getting cold now – how’s the fuel situation?  It’s still presently warm here but sometimes a cardigan has to be worn in the mornings or evenings.

Did I tell you that on Wednesday I heard from our shipping dept. that the “Patrician” was either at Alex. or Haifa bound?   Well I telegraphed Ken but received a reply to say the ship had sailed – that’s the first of my just-missed-someone tales.   I haven’t got over the second one yet.  Had a letter from Stanley written for the last mail boat leaving the “Strathowen”.  It was posted from Port Said on the 27th! and I was actually in P.S. on the 27th!*!

Of course many are the ‘if only’s’ I’ve used. e.g. if only I’d looked at the embarkation lists Ernst always has (I would have loved them to meet) but after all although I was expecting Stan to go through soon had had no word of his departure.  He expects to be demobbed early in October and asks me to write him at 249.   Somehow I’ve an idea he’ll be visiting 26 en route north before long.  Please commiserate with me on missing him. (1)

Yesterday I posted a packet of old letters home.  I left work early as I’d a touch of gyppy tummy and stayed in bed all day.  I feel O.K. now.  The Sols. were most solicitous and one of the girls from the Zimmer popped in to see me.  In between these attentions I read “Pride and Prejudice” so quite enjoyed my day in bed.  Must go and get some breakfast now.

Much amour, Len xxx.


1.  Stan is probably Joan Garnett’s brother, as the ‘249’ Len mentions is 249 Joan G. letter image pngBoundary Road in Dagenham, from where Joan wrote her letters to Len about the London Blitz.


Mum letter image png_edited-15 October, 1947.

Is this “St. Luke’s Little Summer”? A glorious Sunny Autumn Day.

Our Own Best Loved One.

Here is the latest about the house.  We’d an app. at the solicitors for 10.30. Friday.  We toddled along and I told him of the visit of Learmonth’s repres. and asked him what Mrs. Macs. purpose w’d be in going to L’s and taking the business out of the hands of her own solicitor and he replied it would be because her solicitor w’d tell her what he (our solicitor) was telling us now, i.e. she sells at our price or not at all.

Mr Semple said we were to be quite easy and not worry a bit as our position is absolutely secure and the idea of us being offered alternative accom. is ridiculous as the only time that can be done is if the owner requires the house for his own occupation.

He also said our only advantage in buying just now w’d be for money making if we wanted to sell again.  Houses of three apartments, yes, 2 rm.& kit. flats, are selling for £1,200 with vacant poss.  In last Thursday’s “Citizen” Daddy & I saw “Yoker – 5 apt. semi-detached villa for sale – apply Learmonths”.  We guessed it was 26 and we were right for yesterday morn. a ring came to the door & it was Mrs Ryan – wee Claude’s mother to ask were we going away as she had replied to the advert.

I told her the position – we were not going away and had already made an offer for the house and there would be no possession for any buyer but if the house were sold it w’d simply mean for us, a change of landlord.

Mrs R. was in for nearly 2 hours and we’d a rare old chat. She is very nice but desperate for a house, she greatly admired your piano and the picture of Dante & Beatrice at Florence and the Holbein you gave me, also our ancient China dugs , and she thinks the house is lovely.

Her sister Allison got married lately and is going out to S.Africa when her gold mining husband settles on one of three jobs there but it may not be for another year yet and her sister Jessie is getting married at Xmas and will be bringing her husband to the family home and as Ryans had already a house but foolishly gave it up & came back to the old home as they already have Claude and another baby arriving any day they feel it’s incumbent on them to get another house.  I was saying Mr & Mrs Rae next door are anxious to get a house but Mrs. R. said the Raes are in a much better position as they are in with her mother.

I’m telling you all this to give an idea of the most crying out need of Britain today – before food even – that is, houses.  This house here could easily be converted into two quite self contained flats if desired, just needs a little extra plumbing to get water up from bathroom to have a basin in a bedroom.  Daddy & self have decided to leave things as they are until your  return. (1)   The sol. said our offer (£850) was more than Mrs. Mac. w’d get in peace time so why sh’d she want to make more money out of it now.  As we’re sitting pretty she can’t do anything.  Houses are worth more than diamonds nowadays, but I love diamonds! – and houses too!!

We are so glad you managed to P.S. and enjoyed the visit so much even tho’ Ernest was so busy; we are sorry he didn’t get our cable of Birthday Wishes and wonder what c’d have happened to it.  I was so careful to send it on the Thurs. to arrive on the 26th.  I’ll enquire at the G.P.O. about it, but hope you told E. we were sending it.  You don’t say anything of Ernest’s reactions to the chess set present – did he like it?  The card of the “Splendid” takes me back – oh! how it takes me back – to that first wonderful first arrival night at P.S.

Splendid bar png

 Well, now we look forward to reunion in the good old U.K., where there – you & E. – won’t be any feverish rushings to & from the Eastern Exchange & Splendid!  Oh!  Just wish you & I c’d have one of those “Ernest” natters like we used to have on the “Britannia”.

Jean Finlay’s Dad will be there by now I suppose and will be telling you of how we look.

Re. the clothing coupons, so many things like material by the yard, brassieres or other body supporting garments and Utility goods are subject to export licence and retailers have to get a licence before they can get the coupons, but I’ll take the form into town someday & enquire what we can get.

Must now “get on with my sewing”.  Our love is all around you all the time, everywhere.

Cheers. Mum. xxx

p.s. Regards to Stokes and  all the people I met.


1.  Len would be returning to the UK in late March, 1948


Mum letter image png_edited-17 October, 1947. Tues.

Darling Own one.,

Yesterday I got the sweetest letter from Ernest saying he rec’d our Birthday Cable on the Monday – we are so glad he got it O.K. even tho’ that guy at the G.P.O. assured me it would get there on the Friday – maybe it did and the delay may have been at the P.S. end.  Ernest enclosed a snap of himself and his jeep and speaking of it, he says ‘do you remember the first morning after your arrival at P.S. when I met Helen & you walking near the Casino Palace Hotel?  I was driving a truck which you thought was a jeep, well I’m enclosing a photo of me & my jeep”. (1)    I think it’s awfully sweet of him to remember like that – shows that first morn of my arrival must still be fresh in his memory, bless him.

He seems to have thoroughly enjoyed his birthday and tells us all about it; he says you seem happy in your new abode and he hopes to get a 48 hour pass sometime this month & looks forward to seeing for himself.   He says not to worry about the cholera outbreak (we do a bit all the same, bulletins please!).

Ernest says his parent’s plans are still vague.  He has been busy putting in applications re. repatriation, etc, and his letter sounds cheerful and bright; glad he liked the snap of 26 in it’s winter mantle of snow.  Oh! my sweetie pie, it’s good to know you are well (touch wood) and we do hope the innocs. will keep you safe, also Ernest.

These cuttings were enclosed by Mum

Naturalisation figures png

Go to Australia png

Birth of a Baby png

Daddy will love that bit in your letter where you say you wish you could jump off the gangplank into his arms.  Oh! & do get a bot. of whisky & a bot. (or more) of champagne to bring home – I seem to recall you said you’d get some stuff sent thro’ Ernest’s mail – don’t worry about saving much doe there as you’ll find the stuff you buy or bring or send home will be much more valuable over here than the cash – people go into raptures about my coffee table – another & bigger one is a ‘must’.

The ‘What Have They Done to Her’ bit by A.P.H. was quite good or I think I ought to say ‘funny’.

I’m making broth, wish I could send some in this letter to you.

Loving you as always ever your own Mum. xxx

p.s. I enclose a letter from Aunt Ena which will explain the diff. between ‘legacies’ and ‘estate’.  Just burn Aunt Ena’s letter when you’ve read it as I don’t want it back.

Cheers & love, Mum. x


1.  Not in this collection.


2 Hilders Place, Leicester. Thurs. 2nd Oct.

Dear Nellie,

I have just received your letter 5 mins ago and as I have been going to write to you for some time passed – here goes.

I had a Glasgow Herald dated 26 Sept (Friday) with a big solicitors paragraph re Uncle Donald’s will.  Maybe you would be able to get a copy of the Herald.  Ian’s wife sent it on to me and said I and my family should claim.  I sent the cutting from the Herald to Kitty, otherwise I would have sent it to you now.

Anyway the gist of it is that anyone having claims must claim before 1st Dec. otherwise it will be divided between those who have claimed before that date, and especially wanted were the family of Uncle John.   Now Kitty says that Donnie wants to see if he can get some of the stuff back from the landlord, but I don’t think there is any chance if it was specified in the will.   Kitty has sent for a copy of the will.   It’s a bit unlucky for us that Uncle John’s children should get a share considering the residue was left to Ma, but evidently it is the English law.   Kitty says the solicitor told her we should get about £500 between us.   This means between the four of us and does not include the half of the estate which is to go to Uncle John’s family, it’s about £1,000 in all.   Personally I will be very pleased as I never expected to get anything after the tin spoons I got for a wedding present.

I expect we will get the money about Xmas.

You see when anyone dies and leaves a will the legacies are paid out right away, and the residue is the stuff that takes the time.   When Bill’s father died on 14th Feb. we got the legacy a few weeks after, but although the money in the residue was all very straight forward we did not get it until 31st Dec.   So we may not get Uncle Donald’s money until the end of the year.

Glad Len is so well and very glad your foot is O.K.  Kitty hurt hers somehow.  Doesn’t she look well. S he said she had visited you, and you both looked in the pink.  M.R. (1) has a bit of a cold, most people here have.  I have made her the most lovely drindle skirt out of her old school tunic.   Len would look lovely in one.  I put 1” wide braid round it, 2” inches apart at the hem, then I made a broad buckram belt covered with the same colours of braid, and a navy blue leather purse sewn on.  It looks a picture.  A zip fastener up the back. It is the nicest thing I have ever made.

MR's skirt png

Your kitten sounds nice.  Tommy won’t touch fish at least he will only eat one square inch. He likes cakes and buns best.  Thanks for the papers & letter.

Love to you both, from all,


p.s.  Do you still get your parcels from Australia?  I get some grand parcels.  My lady is a gem.  (2)


1.  MR:  Marie Rose, their daughter.

2.  All the parcels (food, etc) that Mum mentions in the course of the correspondence come from North America. 


Gt Newtownhead p.c.

reverse Waterford p.c. copy

Joan Brand.png7 October, 1947.  Waterford.   Dear Helen,   Am returning today after a really good holiday. Broke my train journey to Waterford yesterday and spent my last night here as a change from Cork. I dread to think of work on Thurs. and the old routine. I’ll miss hitching around, but especially the wonderful ‘eats’.  Cheerio for now – Joan.  Have met some wonderful Irishmen!


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-18 October, 1947.

 Evening in my room, Wed.

My dear own Mum and Dad,

 I know what you’re saying “Wot, no daily bulletin!” but listen anything at home must be exaggerating like mad, for, except for getting two jags one pursues exactly the same sort of routine.  And before I forget I have had both my inoculations – hope that makes you feel better.

Don’t know what I’m doing at the week-end or with whom I’m doing it.

D’you remember  Ken C’s sailings and me trying to get in touch with him?   Had had a reply back to say it hadn’t been delivered as the ship had sailed, well had a letter from him to-day at 173 – seems he wrote twice to my former add. and has just got my new one from a letter I sent to Liverpool.   From Alex he went to Haifa, from thence back to Alex. and he’s s’posed in P.S. on Friday and Saturday.  As I say I don’t know what I’m doing.  Heard from my darling Ernst to-day – he’s been terribly busy as usual – I’m longing to see him again and see if there are any more developments to the various irons he has in the fire.

Your papers came in to-day, Mum.  Propose giving the mags to Mrs S. – who seems to have so little and the papers to the Findlays and am showing other people various odd bits – how they make me yearn for home.  Got a shock to find the D.W. (1) in the bundle – needless to say it was a pleasurable one, I must see if it works the oracle at all with Ernst.

How are you Daddy? I hope that pain in your chest disappeared completely and that you’re ready again to help me battle my way through the British Customs!

Thanks again for doing my banking Mum.

You know how I feel about us having a phone – unless steps are taken now it might not be installed on my return.

Jean Findlay has given me a brown skirt which the dhobby (2.) shrank and consequently is no longer of any use to her – it’s a very nice one.

My parcel of letters came back as they wouldn’t let it through, so I sent it off again to-day – mostly letters but two 1/2 lb pkts. of sultanas and raisons, so don’t be mistaken when it says a larger quantity of food on the outside. (3)    Got two more ecru balls for you to-day Mum and hope to despatch fairly shortly..

Did I tell you I’d a p.c. from Joan B.  in Eire, merrily hitching 60 and 70 miles alone and I was once worried about taking her hiking! – this is only a fraction of what I want to say, but want to close this for sending off to re-assure you two, that to all intents and purposes, Cairo’s normal.

Very much love, Len xxx


1.. D.W. :  Daily Worker, newspaper of the British Communist Party.

2.  Dhobby:  washing woman.

3.  ‘They wouldn’t let it through’ – because of the cholera epidemic.  After the initial panic response mail was allowed to be sent out of Egypt.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 October, 1947.

Almost first thing Friday morning.

Hello Precious Ones,

7.30 and top o’ the morning to ye.   Yes, I got up just after 6.30, went to the bathroom, then hearing the suffragi – Mustapha – knock, I let him in. Back in my bedroom I did some vigorous exercises, then got dressed and had stewed apples and prunes, followed by ‘cawfee’ for breakfast, then out to catch the early bus (wanting to get this written to you before starting) and doing some French whilst waiting for it.

Had your 207 yesterday, how wonderful your application for a telephone is in – yes, I’m smiling and thank you so much. (1)

Ernst got your cable of birthday wishes on the Monday, it seems you have to allow more than one day.  He said in his letter to me that he’s written to you, so you should have bags of gen from him about P.S. and his news generally.  I note what you say about Johnny and I s’pose I agree, but being so nuts about efficiency, I can’t help thinking his unfortunate marriage was rather unwise and then I’m very slightly jealous of his being with Ernst so much.  I don’t mean it in a snobbish way, but he’s not one bit pukka and one’s judged so much by ones friends, that I don’t think the association is altogether a good thing. (2)    Do I sound rather horrid about the foregoing?

Jean Findlay’s furious, because after all these months her Dad’s been told by Cook’s that he must have a priority.   I advised that he go through a shipping company direct like you, but they say unless he comes soon, it’s no use as they expect to be going home in January.   It seems he’s most disappointed at getting this news from Cook’s – no wonder.   Somehow, although you came out in the summer, I thought it was a good thing Mum, and felt we were right to act as we did, I can see that you might never have got at all, if we’d left it till just now, with the Cholera etc., and as you’ve had your trip, nothing can detract from the fact that you’ve been ‘East of Suez’ now.

Coupons – I believe the big shops have export licenses already, but please try and work the oracle, for remember ‘taint s’posed to be so long before I’m homeward bound and all the jookery pookery’s got to be done with the shops and the goods despatched here, and their travelling time before then.  (3)

Monday I went out to an excellent dinner with Trudi Grafton at night, after which we taxied to the CDG (4) – they’ve new – much better premises – in the Masonic Hall.  Here we listened to a lecture on the theatre in London, which made one realise what one misses in that line by being out here.  Afterwards Trudi and I trammed back.

On Tuesday we’d our second inoculation, I’d my French lesson and did some odd chores, then went across to the Findlays, as I was having them to supper at the club. We’d a lovely supper with gorgeous silver out under the stars.

First there was gorgeous thick soup, then a choice of fish, roast beef, or assorted cold meat.  John had roast beef, but Jean and I plumped for the assorted cold meat.  The vegetable was spinach – as you know I go for it in a big way, so knocked it back.  The sweet was creamed rice with red jelly on top and we finished with coffee, rolls, butter and cheese.  Then we walked back and nattered in their flat.

Yesterday I spent half the morning arranging my week-end, getting a telegram sent off to Ken Cook, seeing Esme, getting our jag certs. copied in Arabic (for free passage) etc.(5).   I’m trying not to be excited and still don’t know when I’m going, just hope Ken hasn’t sailed by the time we arrive and that everyone’s one big happy family (i.e. Ernst doesn’t get mad at me wanting to see Ken).

In the afternoon I met John Findlay at Wilcox and he whisked me off to have tea with them and plan a party which they’re having on Jean’s birthday, a week on Saturday.  They’d planned on going to the pictures, then changed their minds, consequently as Hassan had gone off, John was out buying things for tea.  I did enjoy being with them, helping to cook the tea, then planning the party – wish Ernst could come up for it – must give him a pressing invitation from the Fs. this week-end.

Remember pets I love you and want to see you so much – so keep those home fires burning.

Good morning and loads of love, Len xxxx


1.  This letter is not in the collection.

2.  Mum’s comments about Johnny are in the missing letter.  Johnny was a Sergeant.  It is not known what Ernst’s rank was, but in general Len preferred the company of Officers.

3.  Len’s departure date – at this point – for her return to the UK is still March, but organising and sending cases and trunks home will become a pressing concern.  Her departure date will be brought forward to January, but will then change again.

4.  CDG:  Cairo Drama Guild.

5.  Because of the cholera epidemic all travellers had to have permits and proof that they had been inoculated.


Mum letter image png_edited-112 October, 1947.

A soggy groggy rainy day
Full of clouds all weird and grey
The “brown October” no more is brown
But wears a dreary, dripping gown.
(A poor thing but mine own).

Dearest Very own One,

Sunday eve. and Dad & I are wondering how your week-end went after your “don’t know what I’ll do at the week-end” letter rec’d yesterday.  Lovely to get another letter from you after getting one on Friday, and thanks a million, honey, for trying to put our minds at rest re. the Cholera.

I do truly sympathize with you about just missing Stanley, but, as you say, in any case there wouldn’t be anything you could do about it except perhaps wave to him from the quay for I don’t suppose troops would be allowed ashore at P.S.  Lovely if you can meet Ken Cook – Dad & self await your next letter eagerly.

The way we are told everything is going off our home markets it seems to me that you spending on necessary articles in Cairo is very wise indeed just now. (1)

Why did you ‘get a shock to find the D.W. in the bundle of papers’?  I believe I sent one in a bundle I sent to Ernest, I’m always trying to do good and be a ray of sunshine!

Next time you write please let me know if you have any of Elizabeth Barrett’s poems – I listened to some on the radio the other day and I seemed to remember hearing you say the same one, so reply pronto please.

 With running to the clinic three afternoons a week it just seems  I’ve no time for anything outside my household duties and food finding is such  a difficult job these days.  This is the end (tomorrow begins a new 4 weeks period) of this 4 weeks period and as our jam went done about the second week,  I went scrounging for spread for bread and bought a 12 once tin of “H.M.Forces” Jam – Cherry & Plum at 1/2d. and one point – it’s ghastly stuff and it says on the tin something about “expiring May 1947”.  Well, I’ll say that expired alright.  Fancy charging 1/2d. for 12 ounces and it surplus!

I didn’t give your regards to Jack as he really is a pain in the neck. (2)    I believe he would be alright if it wasn’t for his loving mother.   That woman doesn’t know what an important part, I, his landlady, play in his present life, nor does she realise he will never again get as good digs as he has here.  Last week a huge box of food arrived for him from Norway and he never as much as gave us a tin of sardines or a bit of fat and I know it’s his dear Mama who puts him up to keeping it all to himself, or sharing with his Grandma in Hyndland. (3)

I used to tramp my feet off to get extras for the table and made all his food with the extra trimmings, such as sauces, etc., but never again after that display of selfishness – everything is now served plain Jane & no frills and all extras I get I keep for Daddy & myself.

Jack’s room is stacked with food from Norway – fats of all kinds including margarine, and as last week was our ‘fatless” week I hadn’t any to cook with,  so gave him his sausages “fried” in water! – after many hints that I was short of fats for cooking, he guzzles away in his room – it’s really sickening.

He was telling me his mother told him not to go home by air as it is too dangerous!  We must get rid of him before you come home  as we shall require all our rooms I think, don’t you?

Isn’t it exciting to begin to plan! and believe me, sweetie pie, my head is full of plans!   Re, plans of Cpn. Bulbeck, he said something about going to Kenya for 6 months.  Is Daisy back in the office yet?  Good night now, our darling.  More tomorrow.


A letter from Uncle Donnie this morn., that’s all the mail; rushing like Billy-O.  It’s a wonderful sunny day – such a change from yesterday. Loving you ever and ever.

Mum. x


1.  ‘Going off the home markets’ – A result of the export drive to earn much needed sterling.

2.  The letter Mum refers to is not in this collection.

3.  Hyndland is in Glasgow’s West End, and was, and is,  still considered a moderately posh area of mostly spacious tenement housing.    The nature of Jack’s family is not known.  We do not know if his Grandmother was Norwegian, or if she was a Scot who had married a Norwegian.  Nor do we know why he and his brother were in digs, and not staying with their grandmother. 


Although not mentioned in Mum’s letter, the following correspondence from the GPO was enclosed:

Post office phone letter png


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-113 October, 1947.

After the weekend.

Hello Pets,

 I’m just back from a really wonderful week-end.

On Saturday with Esme and Aileen (also going away for the week-end) I went to Cairo Main for the 2.45.  We went straight from work and secured seats by about 2 p.m.  We sat in trepidation, for we’d heard so many stories about travelling being restricted because of the cholera, in fact our Security Officer had forbidden us to go to Ish.

After being away we’re really furious, for we find things are exagerated tremendously in Cairo and you’d hardly know there was cholera down there. Aileen was really angry, for she went all the way to P.S., then back to El Ballah and if she’d known earlier she could have got off at Ish.

When we arrived we went to the SIB (1.) to find out about Aileen’s bod (for he’s an M.P.) and Ernst was able to get her in touch with him.  He was very busy and those few minutes were all I had of him for the weekend.  He was on courts of enquiry and all sorts of things, had in fact sent me a telegram telling me not to come, but I had to go and see Ken anyway.

The three of us booked in at the Y. and as Aileen couldn’t contact her bod that night and it was too late for me to get hold of Ken, we went out to dinner.

The next morning I phoned up the British Coaling Co., who told me the “Patrician” had been in two days.  Their information was very good , for they told me I could get aboard by launch, where the boat was, etc.   I rushed to tell Esme and we launched away.   I went on board and was conducted to Ken’s cabin and when I went in and saw him, I felt I’d just left it 5 minutes before.   I said Esme was still on the launch and would have to be brought on board and so she was.   We’d a wonderful day.  We were on board from just before 10 to just before 6 and had morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and high tea on board.

This is only the “Patrician’s” second trip – she’s a beautiful new ship and the passengers’ and officers’ dining room is a dream.  Ken’s 5th engineer and has a super cabin, so goodness knows what the captain’s quarters are like.  The latter by the way is a dear – a Dublin man, who was most friendly without even a suspicion of patrony.   We were going to go for a trip in the lifeboat, but it was the first time it had been put in the water and as the wood hadn’t expanded it leaked, so that was off.

While I nattered for hours to Ken in his cabin, Esme was having a wonderful time with the rest of the crew in the smoke room.   In fact they practically tried to Shanghai us at the end, but our sensibility came to the fore, demanding that we take the evening train and not the early morning one.  Needless to say, to-day Esme and I almost wish we’d stayed and given in to their persuasions  – it’s not often that one gets a chance of seeing people that way.

It was wonderful to see Ken again. He’s just the same as ever, minus the sarcasm which is rather good – he was recalling Carbisdale Castle and is obviously just as much in love with Scotland as ever. (2)

Joan Brandley, Bruce Bryers, Dad & Mum.  Carbisdale Castle.  No date.

‘Carbisdale.  2.8.46. Joan, Bruce, Dad & Mum.’  Mum’s writing

That’s all my news for the moment, except to ask you once again not to worry about me.   I’m only sorry for the poor people who will be quite unable to take precautions, without sanitation or any conditions of living conductive to health.

Wish I could see you and have a natter, but let’s hope it won’t be too long now.

All my love darlings, Len xxxx


1.  SIB: Special Investigations Branch, a department of the Royal Military Police.  In Britain its civilian equivalent would be the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).   It worked in plain clothes and unmarked cars.  In Egypt, one of its jobs was detecting and recovering misappropriated War Department property, which, it has been claimed, amounted to millions of pounds worth.

2.  Carbisdale Castle was an early twentieth century pile built by a member of the then largest feudal owner of land in the far north east of Scotland – the Sutherlands.  The Sutherland family owned significant amounts of land around Dornoch, where Mum was born.   Carbisdale Castle was bought in 1933 by the Norwegian shipping owner Theodore Salvesen, and it was used as accommodation by the King of Norway during the Nazi occupation of Norway.  Immediately after the war, in 1945, Salvesen’s son gifted the building to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association.  It was used as a youth hostel until 2011.


Next is one of the few surviving letters from Len to her Dad.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 October, 1947.

Typing and buzz of French.  Tuesday morning.

Hello Dad dear,

At last I’m replying to your letter of the end of August.  I was thrilled to get a letter direct from you and learn of all your holiday doings.  So glad you caught the good weather down there – I can just imagine how pleasant and health giving your holiday down there must have been.

I’m so thrilled that our application for a telephone is in now – it’s good for getting in touch with people and them contacting you.  We always seem to have people popping up and maybe they could forewarn us by means of a phone.

I do love 26 – know you do too and just hope we can get it all right.   Tell Mum thanks for explaining it so clearly.

I note that you want another pair of sandals and would like a ring ,(1)   but is there anything you can get out of the my 50 coupons – it would be good if Mummy and you thought about this and what about sheets, then you could spend your frugal ration on other things.

Being on the “Patrician” on Sunday made me think of you and your Merchant Navy days.  Where else did you call in besides Montreal and how many trips did you do?

What are your plans about going West now?  Is there any possibility of going with your firm, anyway Albert seems most eager to help – I really would like to have a shufti at ‘over there’. (2)

This follows up a letter I sent yesterday and I hope it stops you worrying.

Keep well so that we can do the garden together.

Your most own loving, Len. xxx


1.  This was mentioned in a letter from Mum to Len.

2.  The India Tyre and Rubber Co. was owned by the Dunlop Rubber Co.  Dunlop had a manufacturing base in the U.S.A.


Next     Part Two Chapter   Five: Betrayed.

“For over 7 months I’ve thought I’ve been in love with & engaged to Ernst.  All my plans – with a brake on – were made in relation to him.  Now I find in the course of the week-end that maybe things aren’t so simple after all.”   

                      –  Len, private note to herself.  Dated 19 October, 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.

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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s