Part Two 5: Betrayed

Part Two   5:  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.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-115 October, 1947.

My room, Monday night.

My own Ones,

I forgot to tell you that yesterday on board the ship Ken and I listened to “Land of Hearts’ Desire”.   Am I glad I’m going out tonight – I keep thinking of the West and it’s much better to fix one’s mind on some mundane Cairo activity.   As you’ll see I’ve got a bad attack of longing and feeling I need the Highlands badly – it’s all through talking to Ken, but he, poor soul, is about as badly off, for he’s not allowed away from Liverpool when they get home – I s’pose he gets a spell occasionally, but he seems rather as if he’d like a sight of the Highlands soon.


Tuesday I’d my French lesson.  Before it a bloke called whom I’d met ages ago at a dance.   I don’t want to go out with him but want to get Esme taken out, so made a date for a foursome on Sunday.  After French I did some rather lethargic ironing then went across to the Findlays, where I’d dinner and we planned their party and I helped make the games.

Yesterday I heard from Peter James, one of the RE Loots I know through Ken and John. After being home on LIAP from Pal. he’s been sent to El Kirsch in the Canal Zone and says he may be coming up to see me – seem to be hearing from, and of, masses of friends these days. (1.)

Yesterday, I Gezired, then tramped around with Esme looking at various Pensions as she wants to move off the Sudan (2.).   She took me to tea at Gezira and we nattered then I went to Mrs. Stokes.   Mrs. S.  still hopes her husband will get up from TEK this week-end despite the restrictions on travel. (3.)   She also hopes to be home by Christmas.   There’s talk of the peak of this epidemic being reached by Mid November (4).   It’s a bit of a b as far as travel goes, but whenever I say anything like that, I feel wicked thinking of the poor people who are so helpless.  Do feel I was lucky to live in Britain during the war, where things really happened and now to be here, where things have been and are happening.

The whisky and champagne shall duly be added to my list of ‘presents and souvenirs’.  It already totals about £105 in dough, so something will have to be cut out!   You’ve had it as far as stuff through Ernst goes, don’t you remember that parcel I sent through the APO (5) when you were here, just at the very last gasp before restrictions were clamped on? The Dip Bag is the only, yes the only means of getting anything out now and you know all that we’re allowed to send through that is non-liquid food.

You needn’t worry about my saving over here, I’m just managing to keep going on my FSA – keeping myself and getting stuff from the Mousky etc – but I do want the rest of the dough in the bank, after all,everyone goes abroad to make their fortune, yes, no?

Bye pets, very much love, Len xxxx

p.s. Heard from Daisy – says I’m to show her how to make broth!  Will have to re-learn myself first.


1.  ‘Loot’: Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, based in Palestine.  LIAP was  a scheme where anyone who had served for three years abroad was given a short home leave.

2.  Floating hostel like the Britannia.  The Sudan is still used as a Nile tourist boat.

3.  TEK: Tel-el Kebir. The Army base, close to the original outbreak of the cholera epidemic, was a permanently tented Ordnance camp, with a capacity for 13,000 troops.  It included a vehicle depot, military hospital, a unit of Military Police dog handlers,and  a unit of SIB.  The barbed wired and mined perimeter was 17 miles in circumference with look-out posts and searchlights.

4.  The forecast was correct. 

5.   APO: Army Post Office


In the memorabilia, but not enclosed in a letter were two newspaper cuttings from Mum from the Evening Citizen of 15 October, 1947.  The letter the cuttings would have been enclosed in is not part of this collection.  The main cutting is the news report of the launching of the ss Caronia, the largest boat built in the world – at the time – since the end of the war in 1945.  Mum was at the launching.

Elis.launches John Brown boat png

“Keep this cutting as we want it for the scrap book.  See Tait’s Smile on back – it’s a scream!  I’d a lovely day at the launch.” Mum’s writing, left hand side.

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The following is a note Len wrote to herself on 19 October, 1947, two days after she sent the above letter off.  It was written on a folded sheet of foolscap paper, and at one time had been sealed with a snip of brown gummed paper.

L notr to herself 19.10.004 png19 October, 1947

What is the truth of the matter?

For over 7 months I’ve thought I’ve been in love with & engaged to Ernest.  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.

I have been told that Ernst had been taking a girl out.  The source of my inf. took pleasure in telling me so maybe part of it is embroidered.

At this critical point I see Ken whom I haven’t seen since July ’45.   I’m very happy with him.

Now I’m back in Cairo wondering exactly what’s going to happen.  Yes, that’s the point, instead of forcing the issue to keep the decision in my hands as I would do normally I’m waiting for someone else to make a move.  But what can anyone do?

Things go through & through my brain.  Do I feel this deep affection for Ken because of Scotland or am I suddenly – more than usually – homesick because of Ken?   If as I think the two are co-related without this fact lessening the value of either, I’m no nearer an answer.

I feel a bond with Ken which I do not think is imagined.   But my imagination will jump about, fixing the limit of that bond.

Oh, what’s the truth?

Why aren’t I cut up, or am I merely stunned at the moment.  At times I think the whole thing very funny whilst at others I’m searching for an answer, but have no feeling of being lost.

Why do I have to stay out here to get money?

I want Scotland. Scotland to love, Scotland to look at, Scotland to think in – that’s not escapism.


Jean Findlay's letter png

                                                                                 Cairo.  17 October, 1947.
Dear Mrs. Bryers,

We were so pleased to receive your letter – though you wouldn’t think so the time I’ve taken to answer it.   I hope you don’t object to a typed reply but unless I do my correspondence in the office it never seems to get done.

J Findlay's letter png

Still no news of my father coming out – Cooks have messed him about no end – but I have written to him to tell him to take a plane if he can’t get on a ship this month.  My only fear now is the cholera business will put him off as I understand the papers at home are full of it.  Needless to say, like the Riots, you know more about it than we do.  That mine of information, The Egyptian Mail, puts it on the back page.  Mind you, in these awful native villages where conditions are so bad, the position is really serious.

My friend out at Maadi (1),  Lil Thornton, was making us laugh when we were out there yesterday.   She has been having her dining room distempered – you know that spray system they use out here – and after the sprayer-cum-stirrup pump thing they use in the process had been returned, she discovered they had missed a bit of the wall beneath a window.  She sent for the painter and kicked up a bit of a fuss about it.   However, as usual, he just shrugged, “maleeshed” and assured her he would put it right.   She left him to do the job and went to another part of the house but, hearing a most peculiar noise from the Dining room, went to investigate.

She was horrified to find painter and his small boy down on their hands and knees on the floor – spraying the distemper on the wall out of their mouths.  The distemper was made up with Nile water and fish glue.  Can you imagine it?  She yelled at them and they, to pacify her, rinsed their mouths out with filthy dirty water from an old “chatty” in her garden.  She went on at them and they told her it was quite all right because they had had their “jags”.   Such is life in Egypt.

We have had several expeditions to our beloved Mouski (2) – pity we couldn’t bring it home with us (John says I’m doing my best).   The pride of my life at the moment is a set of Camel Bells a friend brought me from Damascus.  Six on a string and they have a beautiful tone.  Every time your daughter visits us we count them after she has left – I’m sure she means to “clifty” them.  The weather is lovely now.  Like lovely warm spring weather at home.  This is the nicest time of year in Egypt.

We haven’t seen Ernst for a bit as he is too busy to come to Cairo. We hear of him though.

We are in the throes of a party this week.  Helen has been a grand help to us.  The big night is tomorrow so we have our fingers crossed that everything will go off with a bang.  Hassan is having a marvellous time – cooking and baking like mad – he called me into the kitchen to “shufti tourkish”.   Not knowing whether to expect to eat, or one of his many relations I was relieved to find it was a turkey.  He loves a party and he really is a super cook.

That’s all for now, folks.   Don’t worry about Helen and the Cholera – she is perfectly well and happy – apart from an occasional bout of Home-sickness which gets us all at times.

Kindest regards to you and you “guid man”.

Yours Jean G. Findlay.

reverse JF's letter png


1.   A wealthy  suburb town south of Cairo.

2. Mouski:   this is the spelling given in the Union Castle Line South and East African Year Book, 1939.

3.  BMEO: British Middle East Office, in Cairo, part of the Foreign Office.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-120 October, 1947

Hello dearest People,

With you once more – received your 210 the other day, but your 209 hasn’t arrived, I just hope it comes in O.K.   Yes, Jean F. has heard from you Mum and wrote to you on Saturday.

Had a letter from Harris moping about my non-arrival last week-end, life is funny, ha ha, I mean.   Last week-end certainly was, however I s’pose one just can’t be in four places at once.

I’d lunch with Pat on Friday.   Afterwards we did a spot of shopping and I got some Guerlain Shalimar lotion for Jean’s birthday (i.e. Jean F. – reason for party).  Guerlain is s’posed to be much better than Worth, Lanselle or any of the other people.  I think that books are my favorite half necessity half luxury and my three favorite luxuries are perfume, furs and jewels.

Pat was expecting David up on leave, but didn’t know whether he’d get through, however when we got back to the ‘Y’ there he was, having come through with no bother and he’d had no inoculations or anything!

I taxied back and went to the Findlays. We did some furniture moving and various other things to prepare for the party and I’d dinner there.

Saturday I had tea at the Allen’s.  Bishop Allen (1) and his wife had invited lots of girls along to talk about the formation of a girls’ club.  We’d a lovely tea and the Allen’s are so charming, well if you’d nothing else to do you’d be liable to become an ardent churchgoer. Bags of ideas poured in about what the girls wanted from P.T. to Art, so it looks as if there’s bags of scope.   I’m s’posed to be taking Jean along as she can teach leatherworker.

I dashed back to change, then went to the party wearing my Peasant Dress.  It was a grand party, we played charades and loads of uproarious games.  I really ate too much, but the food was so terrific you couldn’t help it.

Yesterday I felt rather depressed thinking back on the previous week-end (2),   but went to Gezira, returned to do my washing, then changed to go out with this chap I’d met through Honey.

There were four of us, Reme, Esme, Reme’s pal – George and me.  We went to Marlins first and I’d a Sflogliatella, then George had to take the car back and dump it as his father wanted it at night.  His father’s a Bey and is to be made a Pasha soon – he’s a Christian which is quite unusual for a Bey.

We drove up to the gates of the house in Zamalek , he hooted, a servant came to open the gate and he drove up the drive and into the garage.  When we got out we were greeted by three dogs.  Afterwards we taxied out to Covent Garden on the Pyramids road and danced there.  We are lucky, for these two blokes look upon us purely as friends and George is s’posed to be taking us to meet his people, and giving us lunch.  The dancing was good fun, for they dance more or less in the English style and really move on the floor.  There were a crowd of students there who’d just finished their exams and were performing quite crazy antics on the floor – it was just like a modern ballet.

Must get this in the mail now, but as soon as I’ve got it in will try to get cracking on a really good letter.

Bye, and so much love, Len xxxx


1.   Bishop Allen was British Bishop of the Church Missionary Society of Egypt, an Episcopal Mission.  Its success at converting muslims to christianity was minimal. In a private letter written by Ronald Campbell the Ambassador to Egypt, to Allen in 1949, he candidly said “These Christian minorities here have in the past been somewhat cowed by the rather blatant Moslem-Arab political sympathy shown by H.M.G. and its officials in these parts; largely on account of our desire not to offend the susceptibilities of the Moslem world in general and India in particular.”

2.  “Felt rather depressed…”  An interesting slip, as she wrote a positive account of the weekend to her parents.


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Len for Egypt letters png_edited-121 October, 1947.

Tuesday morning in the office.

My darling parents,

Must tell you about yesterday, went for my vaccination as it’s two years since it was done.  The nurse said “Where d’you want it?” I said “Will it leave a mark?”  She replied “It might”.  (1)

This interchange continued for a little, with her telling me to hurry up as she’d loads of people waiting, so I said “Leg”, whereupon she made me get upon the table-cum-couch and I bared the old leg.   She said “It’ll take a long time to go through because you’re tanned” and she was right!  I placidly looked through two “Country Life’s” whilst she scratched away at my leg, then dripped vaccine on it – never remember it taking that time before.   Afterwards she said “Did you want something else”.  Not ‘medly’ desirous of a jag I mumbled something incoherent, so she said “Well you can have your typhus” and ‘did’ me in the arm.  Contrary to expectations I didn’t feel bad at all, I’m just crossing my fingers about ye leg hoping it’ll heal O.K.

Last night I was at the CDG with Alan Withers and Trudie Grafton.  Reading from “Jane Eyre”, “Wuthering Heights” and “Wild Decembers” was the order of the day.  It’s to be done for the British Council in celebration of the Bronte Centenary – don’t know yet what the casting is, we’re hoping to hear next week.

I note your requirements from the Societe Phillipe  surplus stores and will see what can be done when I am replete with cash – it’s hopeless for me to try to buy anything after a day or two after the first of the month.

The shock about the D.W. (2) was because politics are so taboo out here that it’s sort of hectic even to mention the name (but I was so glad to get it.).  Think Jack is horrid keeping all that food to himself, but he can’t feel nice inside.

As I said,  heard from Daisy Bulbeck – she certainly has fallen for Britain.  Also heard from Nan Buchanon of “ROFD” who seems to hope her letter will catch me before I get on the boat as Simpson the Principal Clerk told her I’m due home next month.  It’s nice to know they expect me at Dalmuir.  I just hope they can keep a job for me till I’m ready to start there.  (3)

I’m enclosing the race card from the Findlay’s party.

Race card png

Race No.4    United Nations Chase

1.  Bevin’s by Egypt out of Treaty   Sudanese Prince

2.  Stalin’s by UNO out of Action  Balkan Monarch

3.  Marshall’s by America out of Dollars   European Venture

4.  UNO’s  by Britain out of Palestine   Palestine Headache


Yesterday I ‘phoned Ernst, yes I booked for six minutes and did my French whilst waiting, you see there’s generally an hours delay.  He said “Why don’t you do this more often?” but the delay coupled with the much more important fact of its being 24Pt. a time (for six minutes) is an adequate answer.

Afterwards I returned to wash and change and have dinner with the Findlays.  Jean came along with me to the Allens, as she says she’ll teach glovemaking.   I was elected onto the committee.

Must get this in the mail now.  So much love to you darlings – its overflowing.

Len xxxxx


1.  The inoculation was for smallpox.

2.  D.W.:  Daily Worker.

3.  In a letter not in this collection there has been a revision of  Len’s  Ministry of Supply Cairo contract finishing in March 1948, cutting it back  to January, 1948. However, as will be seen in the ensuing narrative, this will change again.


A letter, or letters referred to in Len’s next letter in this correspondence are missing.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-125 October, 1947.

Quite tired after late night, but not busy at work.

Dearest Ones,

Don’t know where to begin – not that I’ve any startling news, but just lots of little things to say.  On Thursday  I’d a committee meeting in the afternoon.  It was in Pamela Fedden’s flat – she’s the chaplain’s wife.  The flat adjoins the cathedral and is really ducky as is the bishop’s house.  We discussed quite a lot of things, so I hope the club will prove quite successful and allow everyone to pursue their various interests.

Yesterday morning the Embassy type  who was going to get those photos for us (whom you encountered on a dark stair and who’d just come off his motorcycle) came round and asked me if I’d bring some girls to a small dance they were having at the Security Mess last night.  Well I did so, hence my late night.   It reminded me of the time you’d been there Mum, for like you, Esme and I stayed till the last.  Everyone  enjoyed themselves.  Everyone was asking about you and wanting to know your adventures in the U.K.   Esme and I got home about 2.

This morning I went round to the clinic, the nurse said my vaccination hadn’t taken and I thought all was over, but she followed it up with “It will this time” – so I’ve been scratched on my arm this time, this was followed with the second of my typhus jags – I haven’t enough energy left to comment.

As far as I know there are no arrangements about mail in the event of Egypt being sealed off.  However I’ve heard nothing whatsoever about mail being stopped and you can always enquire at the FO if you’re ever worried.  Periodically in riots, cholera and the like, wires are sent to the FO from here to tell about the staff e.g. their being all O.K.

Please don’t get a dog, it’s so fatal to free movement – remember we used to wonder what we’d do with Hector?

Must say I’m looking forward to getting my leopard skin swimsuit – didn’t realise at first it was to be in that parcel.

All your requirements for stockings etc. have been noted, even to the two bottles of whisky – it’s getting hard to get here now at the legit price, but I’ll keep an eye open from now on.

The only bit of Elizabeth Barratt Browning with which I’ve any connection is not a sonnet – we’d a rather lovely thing of hers in “This England”, you’ll find it if you look at the script.  It begins: ”Hark the flow of the four rivers, Hark the flow”.

Your 209 is still missing – or was it a mistake in numbering?  Want to get this off now, before the week-end.

Take care of yourselves, love Len.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-12 November, 1947.

Ladies’ Lounge, Gezira.

My own dearest Darlings,

Cairo seems like a dream – no wonder of course, for it’s so far away from a normal existence.

Before I forget – could you please have masses of dark green cabbage for me?  I think I could live on it alone – for a little while at any rate – what is it the poem says about ‘this gaudy melon flower’?

What I now have to tell you is that Ernst & I have grown out of each other – in other words I’m once again “Free, white & 21”.   It’s been a rather gradual process, but I think I realised what was happening quite a while back.   I’m so thankful I didn’t yield to his pleading & get married in the summer.   No purpose is served by discussing at great length about this in a letter – I’ll tell you ‘all’, all being well when we meet.   I still feel fond of Ernst & do hope he gets on well – but I know now, it’s not to be with me.   Don’t please worry for us – for me at any rate – I don’t even grudge the time I’ve spent with him, because I had some very happy times & apart from that it’s been an experience which has taught me a lot, yet has not been unpleasant.   ‘Nuff said.

Don’t know yet any more of my date of departure.  Gradually I’m telling people I’m going & they’ve all been so nice & very helpful.  From now on I don’t propose telling you what I buy, so that the opening of my trunks at 26  may be an occasion of lots of surprises.    I’m so looking forward to seeing all my old friends & all my met-in-the-ME friends in U.K.  I’m always bludgeoning people into going to the Highlands, but we’ve never had any complaints, have we?   Remember how enamoured Bob Getchel was?

On the other hand I don’t mean you’ve not to say what you want re. bringing stuff back – suggest like mad & if Cairo has it & I’ve the time & money I’ll try to purchase.   Do you want sheets?  I’m told – though I haven’t seen them – that Societe Phillipe (hereafter known as SP) have some at 150 pt. a pair for single & 220 pt. a pair for double width.  In case you’ve forgotten Mum, in English the prices are 30/- & £2.4s. respectively.  They’re also supposed to have netting which would do for curtaining at 5 pt. (1/-) a metre.

Met a girl the other day at drama rehearsal – she’s NI, (1)  but I was talking of Cork with her & quite out of the blue she said “It’s a great city for parties”.  How I echoed her sentiment, for I remember it so well although I was only a wee girl at the time.

I sent off two parcels – your Xmas ones on Saturday, but at present I’ve lost the list of what was in them – hope I find it for the contents listed on the outside are not the real ones as I didn’t want to mention anything inclined to be greasy – like dessicated coconut – as it might contravene ‘bag’ regulations.  By the way, the food in the parcels is all packed in stockings.  These are ones of mine which you might like Mum, ‘cos as you wear longer skirts than I, a high ladder wouldn’t show.

I’ve been holding court since I laid down my pen – Liz McC & Mrs Saracha.  The latter is pressing me to visit her & the former is going to try to hold up my departue for a week or two, so that more of the old ackas may accrue, etc. (2)

Have just found the list I can now detail the gen. The larger parcel contains:-

2 ½ lb Rice
½ lb raisins
½ lb Tea
½ lb Dessicated Coconut
Small tin Tongue
Small tin luncheon roll
¼ lb sugar.

The smaller one contains:-
½ lb sultanas
1 lb Crystallised Gams
1 Pkt. mixed almonds & raisins.


The only thing I may have told you wrong are the ½ lb of sultanas & raisons as packing them I was pushing around completely indistinguishable stockinged packages.

Hope the news about E. hasn’t given you too much of a shock.  Must confess I feel much more of myself again now that it’s all over – there’s so much in the world – isn’t there?

That’s all my poppets. Hope to write again with more news in a day or two.

As ever loads of love,

From your Honeychile.

Len. xxx


1. NI:  Northern Ireland.

2.  It is assumed Len is ‘holding court’ at the Gezira Club.  Liz McC is believed to be her senior in the Mission typing pool.  As will be seen as the narrative unfolds, Mrs Saracha has a connection to the actor John Gielgud.  A variant spelling of ackas (money) is ackers.


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Mum letter image png_edited-17 November, 1947.  Sad old Home

Our Darling Own Girl,

Your 229 and 230 came in yesterday and really I don’t how to answer the latter.

In your 229 of Thurs Oct 30th you say ‘phoned Ernest’ and in your 230 of Nov.2nd (3 days later) you say it’s all off between you;  must say the news is a complete shock to me, not so much to Daddy as he hasn’t been east or met Ernest, but even he says he is bewildered.

 For myself I feel dazed and hurt – dazed that this should have happened after your many protestations of your unchanging love for Ernest and how your meetings with him, his meeting me on the “Franconia” and all our comings and goings whilst I was in Egypt were so essentially a major part of my visit, then I’m hurt because in your letter you give no indication whatever of what the rift in the lute is – or I sh’d say what the rift was that led to a break.

Also you don’t say anything about your own feelings and the tone (or style) of your letter makes me wonder : “methinks the lady explains too little” sorta thing.

You know, darling, I am so close to you that I really feel all your emotions in myself and I really feel desolated after reading your letter.

I thought Ernest a fine chap and got very fond of him and you know we both got on well together, and your feelings for him at that time were very evident so you can understand how puzzled I am and hurt that you gave no indication before that your feelings were changing.  I must take good care to stand well away from any future “crushes” of yours, believe me, I could not stand any more shocks like this, though I never thought that Ernest was just another “crush” of yours.

Just before your letters arrived yesterday I’d written and posted a long letter to Ernest, so he’ll know that I, at least have nothing to do with the break.  I want to write to him again, but will wait for a reply from you to this letter so as I can get a better idea of just what happened.  Tell me if the first discords came from you or him, also if you are both still good friends and if you have talked it over and agreed to call off anything more than friendship.

I think you ought at least to remain good friends with E.  Somehow I cannot believe your feelings for him are entirely dead.  I know perfectly you are very wise to break off anything more than friendship (if your feelings have changed) before you got married, though in marriage one often finds a better meeting ground and more companionship than in the stormy days of courtship.

 Now, if I may presume to advise (and you know I never have done before) don’t do anything drastic – that is like not seeing or speaking to E. again or breaking finally with him – till you get home, all being well, and you see the ghastly specimens that are going around.  Going into town yesterday (and just after receipt of your letters) I was accompanied by Miss Ruddock and Miss Gibson and thought ‘what ghastly old maids’ and hoped you wouldn’t end like that, thought I do hope life holds more exciting things for you, travel and fun.  Then in town I saw some of the relics of the war, poor souls.   I do so much want your life to be gay and lovely.

Wish I could grow old and sensible myself, but it seems I can’t and I live again in you. My thoughts, since the arrival of your letter keep returning to Port Said and Ernest and you and I’m weeping all the time, but must snap out of it.  It’s just that so many of our plans have gone awry, lets hope we shall get over it soon.  I think of those ghastly Kenya and M.E. (1.) types I met on the ship coming home, no charm or intelligence or grace, only money.

Keep well and happy, honey, your happiness and well being are our chief concern. Don’t take too much notice of this letter, I’ll feel better in a day or two I hope, must keep cheery for Daddy.  It’s a nasty day of rain and fog and darkness all adding to my low spirits so excuse tears. I do so much want Ernest to come over next summer.  You do understand, don’t you, how dreadfully puzzled and hurt I am, so do write and tell me the things I’ve asked.  Over all this do let me say I know, and expect, you will act wisely as I know you have done always, bless you.

Ever with fondest love for you,

Your own Mum.

I think of all our talks on the wicker deck!

ANSWER THIS LETTER PRONTO & KEEP WELL.  Let me know if you are still friends with E. and if I’m to mention the break next time I write to him.

Cheerio!   Mum. x.

Mum's anguished letter png___________________________________________________________

1.  M.E. types:  Middle East types.


Mum letter image png_edited-19 November, 1947.

Sad Old Home. Have you got my No.220?  (1)

Our own darling girl,

No letter yesterday from you, so I still have only the one containing the staggering news (Thurs.) to think of.  However, we are very glad to learn by the radio that the cholera is on the decrease.  We hope continually for your own safety.

I am still bewildered by the news re. your break with Ernest.  My mind keeps darting to this or that event during my trip and I cannot, try how I will, find any peg to hang your very sudden change of opinion on.  To tell us its been a gradual process is futile as its just over a month since you gave him the chess set for his birthday and only about 3 weeks since you wrote of ‘my beloved Ernest’.

I really thought you had the sun and the stars and the moon – when I think of how you were always together, our talks, and what good times we had in Ernest’s company.  So many things are happening just now to remind me of him.  One thing I do ask of you and that is to remain friends, knowing Ernest’s very independent nature, I know he will find this difficult; but surely you will not leave Egypt without seeing him and (I hope) arranging to meet him over here.   I’ve been making so many plans for next summer – all of them including E.   Let me know about if you are friends and seeing him again.  Mind you, overall this I still think you are wise to make the break if your feelings have changed, it’s the very suddenness of it that dazes me.

Many thanks for the parcels which you have sent for Xmas, they sound lovely.  I don’t think it’s worth while to send or bring more food at the price it is in Egypt, honey.  Your money would be better spent on souvenirs.

Ever with our fondest love.

Your own Dad and Mum. Hope you understand why I say ‘No more food’ – it’s the same as I feel about the flowers – I’d rather have something that will last.

Love Mum x


1.  Mum’s letter No. 220 is her shocked  preceding one of  7 November, 1947.


Mum letter image png_edited-111 November, 1947.  The old Home.

Your 231 of November 6th in today. (1)  We are very glad you are well (touch wood) and that all the friends are so helpful.  Daddy and I think you’d be much better to cut out all those theatre activities as you seem to have far too many irons in the fire – a lot of your letter we cannot understand re. rushing here and there.

Since your letter telling of the break with Ernst I feel everything has so little stability.  You know I was the one to point out the cons. of the case and you were the one who pooh poohed all I said, so you can guess the shock was – well, a shock.  At the moment I cannot bear to even think of my trip.   Last Friday I was to give my talk on my trip at the Coop Party meeting but that afternoon I’d got your letter telling of the sudden break and I just couldn’t speak at that meeting without breaking down, so I didn’t go at all.

You’ll maybe think this is all very silly but I want you to put yourself in my place for a little while.  You tell us so little.  Please don’t ask any of those M.E. people to visit us here if Ernest is not to be one of our friends – I couldn’t bear their inanities unless he is there to leaven it all with his sense and good humour.


Royal marriage png_edited-1

 Cutting of forthcoming Royal wedding enclosed by Mum in this letter. (2)

Jean Findlay’s Dad was here for a few minutes yesterday to tell us he is flying over on No.22nd.  It seems he got the offer of a sea passage just after he’d booked and paid for the plane.

Sorry to write in such a despondent vein – its how I feel.  I wish you’d left things as they were till you got home.  I feel so sorry for Ernest after all he’s been through, I warned you about this when I was there.  I look for a letter explaining fully.  You see I thought that when you got home  that memories of the M.E. would be relived in our own home.

Best wishes for all you do.  Remember I love you always just the same, and I think you’ve done right if your feelings have changed but I do think you made the break hastily.  Sorry to harp on this topic, its uppermost in my mind just now, and I can’t write coherently on any other subject.

Bye for now, its very late and I’ve still some jobs to do.  Please cut out that theatre stuff, rehearsals etc. it’s such a waste of time.

Cheerio and Fondest Love, Your Own Mum. x

Must tell you I gave that order to Lewis’s on Sat. for sheets on your coupons, and they were supposed to be sending them away yesterday. Two pairs large cotton, one pair large flannelette and one pair smaller flannelette; they cost £5.17.2 and 44 coupons so hope they reach you safely. No need to buy more sheets there.
Cheerio Mum


1.  This letter not in this collection.

2.  Princess Elizabeth was to marry the Danish-Greek Prince Philip nine days later, on 20 November, 1947.  Prince Philip’s three surviving sisters who had married German princes, some of whom had had former Nazi connections, were not invited.


Mum letter image png_edited-114 November, 1947. Frosty November morn.

My darling,

This old pen of mine once wrote you such merry letters is now quite out of tune and can’t make jokes any more it seems.

 Your 232 of Nov. 7th got in yesterday and we are thankful to know you are still keeping well. (1)

Daddy and myself are quite well and keep ourselves busy as usual.  The parcel I sent you about 4 weeks ago should be there by now, or almost, and I hope you’ll like the contents.

I’m still terribly upset about the break between you and Ernest; as my mind goes back to all you told me and all our doings during my trip I get more and more puzzled and miserable.  I think in my mind I sort of put Ernest in Bruce’s (2.) place though Ernest is quite individual and his charm quite unassumed and, apart from his undoubted handsomeness he has that boyish diffidence which is so rare in a world of selfishness and people pushing others out of the way to get on and loosing all their own joy in living in the process.

Thank goodness Daddy remained unspoiled; as time goes by I find it more and more refreshing to have someone beside me who is real.

Your letters sound very feverish and unhappy, and this chasing rainbows is not you, you don’t seem even able to make your letters clear and it all makes me wonder.   After being so long away you will have built a rosy dream of Scotland and I know its difficult to get a true picture whilst you are in that land of sunshine the same as its hard for me to recall, in these days of bitter cold, that over in Egypt the sun is bright and warm.

I have already told you how I feel about Ernest coming over here next year, I shall be most terribly disappointed if he doesn’t, and I’m awaiting your letter to tell me of what his feelings are in the matter of your estrangement – was it mutual or which of you made the break?

It has all put years on me.

Will you do something for me?  That is, have a day with Ernest at Port Said before you  leave Egypt.  Have a day with Ernest, phone him and ask him what day or part of the day he will be free and go and see him and have a talk with him about the future, say how much we hope his repatriation will be to the U.K. and how we are banking on him coming to Scotland for a long holiday and anything else nice and encouraging you can think of.  Please drop everything else and do this, believe me, most earnestly after you come home  you’ll be thankful you did.   I cannot too strongly impress on you that how you see things just now and how you will view them when you get home are two utterly different things, so do, do, I beg of you, see Ernest and kind of patch things up, I know I can leave it to your good sense and feelings and thoughts of days that were to say the right thing.  Don’t let running here and there and meeting people who don’t matter keep you from carrying out this errand, make it a day for Ernest alone – You’ll always be glad if you do.

Fondest love as ever,

Your own Mum. xxx

Please, please, have that day at Port Said.  Wish I could see you for just one half hour before you leave but must leave it to you.  Fond love, Mum.


1.  Not in this collection.

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

Joan Brandley, Bruce Bryers, Dad & Mum.  Carbisdale Castle.

2.  The reference to Bruce Bryers, presumed to be a nephew of Dad’s is curious: ‘I sort of put Ernest in Bruce’s place.’   There is no indication in the letters that Len and Bruce were ever sweethearts.  In nearly all the photographs of Bruce with Joan Brandley in them, he has his arm around her, whether in the 1945 photo of the hiking gang on Loch Lomond, or in the 1946 photo at Carbisdale Youth Hostel.


Mum letter image png_edited-117 November, 1947.

Frozen Scotland. Monday.

Darling Cuddles,

Your parcel containing letters and parcels or raisons and currants came in today, when the postman handed it to me he said it had been repacked and asked me to make sure it was alright, this I did.

No letter from you since Thursday, but no doubt there’s one in the post, we do hope you are well, our darling girl.  I’m still attending the clinic for treatment of my back, it’s getting lots better.  I think all homes should have those sun lamps and high frequency electric appliances, they are really good, I can’t stand the people who sit around and moan and don’t get their aches and pains attended to.

Feeling sore about your break with Ernest (tho’ mind honey, I’m attaching no blame to either).  I’ve been trying to forget Egypt, or rather my visit thereto, but like the song “Can I forget you, or will each night remind me how sweet you made the moonlight seem”.   I bought a packet of Rinso and a tablet of toilet soap (one monthly soap ration) and believe it or not the name of the soap is “Araby”.  I’ve bought a large new flower pot for the table on the half landing and the name on the bottom is “Lotus”.  We went to the pictures on Sat. night – Barbara Stanwyck in “The Other Love” – and when he was enticing her to leave the sanitorium he says “the world is full of lovely cities – London, Paris, Venice, Cairo and Rome”.  I bought a Canadian Paper and the first story I looked at was about Cairo and the Savoy Continental Hotel there!   So it’s a case of “It’s easy to remember, but so hard to forget.”

We can picture how busy you must be with all the  hoped for home coming preparations and you can bet your Dad and Mum are on their toes at this end fixing this and that and making this home as bright and cosy as we can fix it for you.  I’m really very excited and I know Dad is also, he is filling all his spare time doing odd jobs which have been waiting to be done for some time.  We have plenty of fuel and my word we need it, the weather is absolutely bitter, hard white frost for days back and snow is expected anytime.  The wind is like a knife and nearly takes the skin off one’s nose.

I’ll leave the rest of this letter over till tomorrow morn when we hope there will be a letter from you. Good night, our Own Best Beloved. xxx

Tues. morn. Nov. 18th.

Hurrah! Your 233 came in this morn.  As always we are joyed to learn you were still cholera free when it was written and do hope our darling own one keeps well.  Daddy and myself are distressed to learn of all that meaningless running around you are doing to lectures and classes and rehearsals and making yourself ill.  For our sakes cut out all that theatre stuff, etc.   I do not like diletanltes (spelling?) (2) in anything and I don’t want you to become the usual M.E. square peg in a round hole.  Dad and self don’t even try to keep track of your friends and the places you rush to – only a very few names mean anything to us, but no doubt it’ll all come in handy for your diary later on.   The P.S. September pictures were not very good, were they?  I don’t remember Ken Cook at all – what he looked like – but I see from the picture he has curly hair and sticking out ears!  Awful! (1)

So glad the parcel arrived safely.  I can quite understand the swim suits are surplus, but you can sell them, let me know if the Lareyan one fits you.  I mended the Jantzen one – notice?   Your “buys” sound very exciting and needless to say I’m filled with curiousity – but don’t tell me of anything, keep it all as a surprise.

Dad and I smiled at your mention of cold in Cairo, mai deah! everything here is completely frozen – I put a brush to soak in water last night and today I can’t get it out of the bucket!  Can’t get any washing done, everything is inches deep in white frost – frost flowers on the windows.  Bye, and our ever enfolding love.

Dad and Mum xxx

Do hope my letters are getting thro’ O.K. now I’m awaiting answers to my last four. The currants and raisons are a real treat, ta so much.


1.  Len’s letter and the photos she took in Port Said when she met Ken Cook on the ss Patrician are not in this collection.

2. “Spelling?” – Mum’s question mark.


To Mum from Harris png

24th November ’47.  14857405  Sgt. H.May,

 Library, H.Q. , B.T.E., M.E.L.F. (1)

Dear Mrs Bryers,

I have been meaning to write you since your return to England, but in Egypt one always puts things off to another day – consequently things never get done.

However, as I have just returned from Cairo after seeing quite a lot of Helen, I thought I would drop you a line and give you all the latest news.

Helen is extremely well.  How she has managed not to eat cream cakes etc I just do not know!  We had several shopping expeditions as I am also getting ready for coming home.  When Helen does arrive in England she will most certainly need a whole train!

The weather is rapidly changing now and getting much colder.  I shall be glad to get back home to some nice warm fires – and comfortable beds!

Helen has said that you will be pleased to see me when I get home – so I do hope that we shall be able to arrange something.  With luck I should travel on the same boat as Helen.

Do give my kindest regards to the family. I hope you will manage to stay clear of all the ailments at present in fashion in England.

Until we meet again, my best wishes. God Bless.

Sincerely yours,

Harris May.


1.  BTE, MELF:  British Troops Egypt, Middle East Land Forces.  The British Troops Egypt HQ was in Moascar, Ismailia, in the Suez Canal Zone.



Nov 23, 47 len letter png


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 November, 1947

Grey morning.   Just gone 7.30.   BSDM Cairo c/o FO, SWI.


Your 223 came in on Friday Mum, (1) but I think it’s better if I wait till I receive your answer to my letter with explanatory enclosures before discussing further on the Ernst theme.

I’ve been giving the parcel skirt big licks in the way of wear around town – it’s just the thing for Cairo at this season & so super smart.

I’m glad to hear you’re both O.K. – I hope you’re not too badly upset Mum & that your health hasn’t suffered as a result of E’s & my being friends only now.   It takes a lot of restraint not to reply to your letter point for point but I expect by the time my reply reaches you that you’ll be in a different frame of mind & want to recind your earlier viewpoint.

Thursday I tacked my blue dress ready for machining in the ‘taking in’ process.  I did some other odd things – by the way we got away from work at 12 instead of 1.30 because of the wedding. (2)   Anyway at 6.30 I went to bed, setting the alarm at 5.30 & damping all my ironing in readiness.  The one thing I forgot to do was wind my clock, so I didn’t wake till 6.40 the next morning, so as I’ve to catch the bus at 7.20 my ironing had had its chips – I much prefer doing things like that in the morning.

Friday I went for a car trip with Mr Harai & his wife & child. He’s to be our lecturer on psychology at the girls’ club.  He’s a Barrister at Law – from the Sourbonne (actual spelling) in Paris & has the most heavenly voice – the kind where you don’t need to listen to the words a person’s saying at all, just hear the music coming from their throat, O.K., enough said but you know I always have been batty about voices.

Saturday I’d a phone call from Pete James whom I didn’t expect up till 5 in the evening.   He’s one of the people I met through Ken P., is 22, a B.Sc.Eng. London University & rather sweet.   He’s been stationed in Palestine, but has had that now, for after his return from Egypt was posted to El Kirsch (Canal Zone).   I hadn’t seen him since February, when he came down from Pal. on Operation Polly (evacuation of women & kids) so it was nice to see him again. (3)

Then Johnny Kay phoned – he’s on his way home, by the way – & asked for news of Pete.   Accordingly the three of us had lunch together in a restaurant in Loli Pash, then tea in Johnny’s pension.   Afterwards Pete & I went down some back streets & did some window shopping.  We went back to his place to wash, then went to the dinner dance at the Auberge du Tarf.  It was most enjoyable & we encountered Vera & her boyfriend there & in a particularly riotous dance all four of us danced together.

Yesterday I’d a rehearsal in the morning, then Johnny & Pete played chess & we lunched on the slab.  Back at my place I showed Pete all I’d bought, then we went into town to tea at Groppi – it was an absolute deluge all day yesterday.   After tea we’d a long gharry ride as we couldn’t get into the pictures.  Got washed, had some Arabic food & finished up at the Champagne Cliff – poor old Pete must have spent a small fortune – however, I’ve promised to take him to the opera when it comes to Cairo.

As I can’t send a cheque or p.o. I’d be much obliged if you could affix the said stamp (5/-) to the attached  form for the CSC.  Never mind the mild lies in it – re, dates, etc, they’re necessary to make me eligible – and send to the CSC. (4)    Thanks.

I gaily ask for things like this, but how are you for dough?  Will love to have a natter re. my giving some help in the upkeep of the house on my return.

Cheerio poppets & oodles of love,

Len. xxxx


1.  Mum’s 223 is her 14 November, 1947 letter ‘Frosty November morn’ and ‘This old pen of mine once wrote you such merry letters is now quite out of tune…’

2.  The wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on 20 November, 1947.

3.  Palestine Post – Friday, 7 February 1947:  “With the evacuation of police dependants and civilians being completed Operation Polly was applied to Army families. Wives and families of officers and other ranks were removed from Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel-Aviv on the first stage of their journey.  Families from Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv went to Sarafand and they will leave from there by air and rail”.  When they arrived in Egypt they  were quartered in the British Army Maadi camp in the Suez Canal Zone.  (source:

4.  CSC:  Civil Service Commission


The Explanatory Enclosures:

The First Enclosure

enclosure.1 png_edited-1

23 November, 1947

Thursday morning.  Deserted office – everyone out for a break.

Nearest & Dearest,

I might have guessed you’d read between the lines, as far as my  week-end at Port Said went, well here’s the whole story.

I think it all started a few days before I went down, when I’d a letter saying mostly “how busy I am” from Ernst and on the same day a very warm one from Ken.  I made arrangements to go to P.S., then on the morning of my departure – Sat. a telegram dated the previous day – came from Ernst stating he would be at a Court Martial at Fayid and suggesting that I go to Ish or P.S. the following week-end.  Of course I’d abandoned all idea of going to Ish as I wanted to see Ken.

On arrival at P.S. we went to the SIB offices where I said “Hallo” to Ernst.   He was busy, but helped Aileen to contact her bod at El Ballah.  He was in a civvy suit – really ‘going out’ wear – it registered at the time, but I refused to let it mean anything.   He phoned the ‘Y’ to book us up there and as there was no point in hanging around I said “Good-night”.  He replied in the same way and we went to the ‘Y’.  Naturally as on former occasions I expected him to ring me, but he didn’t.  We’d dinner at the Splendide as I hoped to bump into him there.  I rang both his camp and his office – he was at neither nor expected back at the office.  By the way when I said “I thought you were at Fayid” he said “Oh, it was postponed”.

That night it was impossible to contact the “Patrician” but the following morning I contacted the British Coaling Co., who let me know I could go on board.

Before I dashed up to tell Esme to hurry, I thought I’d speak to Mrs. Wragg (1), as I didn’t want her to think I was two-timing Ernst and if he came to say something funny.

I walked over to her and said “They tell me I can go on board my friend’s ship, I just wish I’d seen Ernst for longer last night, for I didn’t have time to tell him when I saw him”, (which was the truth).

 Hold it, here it comes.

She said  “Well, now that you’ve told me that, I can tell you that he was out with a girl from here last night.”  Whereupon she proceeded to revel in the details, telling me where they’d been, that this girl had been up two or three times before to see him, etc. I’d told her about receiving the telegram from him – sort of just in passing – and she said  “It’s very naughty of him to tell lies”.  Well the ground by this time had been completely taken from under my feet, but the use of the word ‘naughty’ is funny and so too was the bit where she said “I don’t know what the relationship between you is???”

Long pause, but I just smiled dumbly at her.  I felt a bit wobbly, but Mrs. W. was obviously laying it on thick.

You can imagine how I felt tearing across P.S. harbour in a launch to see someone whom I hadn’t seen for two years, whom I’d liked very much at one time and with the thought of ‘what’s the truth’ re. Ernst in the back of my mind.

You see, before I’d gone down I’d wanted to see Ken just to be positive that I didn’t feel anything for him any more and get him right out of my mind.  Needless to say now I just don’t know where I am, but the point is I don’t feel angry, hurt or jealous, however back to my story.

For a little while after arrival the nagging thought of ‘E’s waywardness’ continued, but it was soon banished.  Ken was and is a darling, as I said previously, his sarcasm has disappeared but all his grace and courtesy remained.  He wasn’t the least bit romantic, but then he’s not the sort of person who is till you’ve known him for years. As a specimen of what my camera takes I showed him the breakwater snap of Ernst and he said “Oh, the body beautiful” and as I took it from my wallet he may have realised how things were.

Ernst:PS copy

Now, I don’t know whether it’s because of Ken I’ve had bad pangs of longing for the Highlands or because of the Highlands and our association together there I’ve been thinking quite a lot about Ken.

Well, Esme and I left the ship after a really wonderful day – what circumstances, honestly you must admit they’re unusual.

Since my return I’ve written to Ken – a polite cool note to thank him for our lovely day aboard (they got us our meals and everything).  I wrote it when I was half asleep and wonder if it being so abnormally cool has made him send no reply.  On the other hand, the ship’s on the high seas and I can’t exactly expect a normal mail service.

Naturally I didn’t write to Ernst, but on Monday had a letter from him, he apoligizes generally about the week-end, but doesn’t go into details (mind you, I wouldn’t in a letter either) but he seems to think everything’s fine and dandy.  Last night I felt in a daft mood, so phoned him, he told me to be good and I replied “You too”, whereupon he said he’d grown a halo – I ask you.

I know he loves me and realise he’s the kind of bloke (perhaps?) who needs to take some girl out if the girl isn’t on the spot.  But I do object to being lied to, I mean to say if Mrs. Ws. is right, seeing a girl – who comes about 50 miles to see you (from Fayid) about three times and sending a telegram of fictional movements is a bit much.

However, the only thing I’m worried about is not being worried.  I can see that this affects my whole future, but I just can’t summon up any worry.  My only desire is to be quite alone in the Highlands, to think and decide what I want (from what is available!).

The Second Enclosure

The Second Enclosure was a subsequent letter to the letter from him that Len mentions above. In this letter he acknowledges that he had been seeing someone else.

The letter is not in this collection.

Second enc, no letter png

The Third Enclosure

Third enc.png

len letter to Ernst png

Copy of letter to Ernst dated 17.11.47

My dear Ernst,

I was so glad to receive your last letter, for it was almost an exact echo of my own sentiments.  That’s why I ‘phoned instead of writing, as I found it so difficult to write warm letters. That too, is why I wanted to see you at the week-end as I didn’t want to do anything by letter.

It’s amazing the sense of relief I have now and how much happier I am to be “Free, white and 21” again.

Although I’ve felt this for a long time, I’ve tried to stay by you, for you’ve suffered so many other setbacks I didn’t want to let you down.   Aren’t you glad now that I didn’t give in to your pleading to get married in the summer as you wanted? (2)   But post mortems are rather silly unless they’re for some specific purpose, so ‘nuff said.  I’m sure we shall get on far better as good friends than we ever did as an engaged couple.

What have you being doing with yourself lately?  I do hope you’ve been accepted for demob in the U.K.  I appreciate how infuriating it must be having to fill in those endless forms and yet at the end you’re no nearer your goal.   I’m glad you’re not so busy due to the cholera because you’ve really been working too hard.

How’s Johnny?    Do keep me abreast of events.  Give my regards to him if he’s still in Port Said and to any other mutual friends and acquaintances whom you see.

Cairo seems to be waking up for the winter season and there are quite a number of social events.  You know about me belonging to the Cairo Theatre Guild which meets each Monday, well, quite apart from the Monday night ‘dos’ they’re producing some plays for the British Council for the Bronte Centenary Celebrations.   I’m playing Isabella in “Wuthering Heights” and find it lots of fun.

Last week-end we were lucky enough to see the Remembrance Day Parade at Moascar Garrision.  We tried to get into the Church, but couldn’t as it was packed, however we could hear the strains of Jerusalem (And did those feet…..) drifting out – the cream stone church looked perfect against a background of blue sky.  Afterwards we saw General Allfrey taking the salute at the march past.(3)   I was rather thrilled as it’s the first parade I’ve ever seen.

Apropos of shopping, have you managed to get any whisky for me yet?  It would be a real boon if you could, because the price is soaring to a really fabulous price in Cairo and NAAFI still sells at a comparatively  reasonable sum.

All being well if your U.K. release comes through O.K., do come and stay with us in Scotland and see what it’s like.  Will you be in Cairo at all shortly?  If so be sure to look me up.  Anyhow, I hope we see each other before I leave Egypt.

Write soon telling me all your news.  Hope you’re keeping fit and enjoying life.

Most affectionately yours,

(Sgd.) Helen.


1.  Mrs Wragg is assumed to be the warden of the ‘Y’ – the YWCA.

2.  It is recalled that when Mum disembarked from the Franconia at Port Said, Ernst got down on one knee and asked her if he could have Helen’s ‘hand’ in marriage.

3.  Lieutenant- General , Sir Charles Walter Allfrey, General Officer Commanding British Troops in Egypt.


Received two days before her 22nd birthday, a birthday greeting telegram from her Mum and Dad.  Her address at the Solovieffs’. is Flat 7,  No 9,  Sharia Mamal el Sukkar, Garden City, Cairo.

Birthday cable png_edited-1


 2 Dec 47 xmas franked png

 Mum letter image png_edited-12 December, 1947.

Foggy Old Home.  A cosy nest in a Foggy Fairyland. (Longing to hear all about your birthday)

Our Very Dearest Own One,

Just the business of doing the daily tasks seems to occupy most of those brief winter days even tho’ we arise at 6.30. a.m.  When darkness falls there’s dinner to see to and then the fireside calls for the rest of the evening and I try to get some mending done.

This morning I went to Dr. Gilston to get my priority for milk and eggs renewed.  Dr. G. was asking about you and wants to be remembered; he also gave me a prescription for a tonic – I didn’t ask for one – and charged me 4/6d.  What a man!  How he does know how to make money.  I hear his hotel is doing very well, it was a great speculation to make and needed some nerve to sink all that dough in it, he sure deserves success.

Then I went to the food office to get my priority line put in my Ration Book.  The F.O (1) was in Scotstoun but today I found it had been moved to Partick so I had to hop on a tram & go there, then I trammed right back to Kelso St. to the Coop as I get my rations on Tuesdays and they shut at noon, so it was quite a rush.  I dashed home to put in the shopping then off to Clydebank for our whisky ration to save for New Year. Today I got the first lot of whisky for weeks as it has all been put under seal in bond because of the budget. We only get one glass at a time so it takes some saving.

We’re so glad that you’ve met Jean’s Dad – yes, he is a pet and quite humorous, the kinda observant buddy who will enjoy all new scenes and experiences – let us know how he is doing.

Many thanks for enclosing the letter from Harris, he is sweet and says that, with any luck, you should get the same boat – that w’d be nice for you honey, but I can picture you, like myself, wanting to travel alone – always the excitement of the unknown – however, you’ll know best about that.  In his letter, Harris says that with the stuff you’ve bought you’ll need a whole train to yourself!  He also says you are much thinner than you were – remember, you’ll need a layer of fat to stand this cold!  I must send him a note.  Get his English address before you leave.

Now a further word about souvenirs.  Yesterday in the clinic I heard someone in the next cubicle talking of vacuum flasks and I at once remembered, thats another ‘must’ so honey, please add to that list “Parents – Two vac. flasks one large, one smaller, for the use of.”  This parent w’d also like a fan or fly switch or both!  Remember because of cash (the lack of) I did without a fly switch in E.  Well, now I want one – I don’t know what for in this country of cold and frost but I do want one.  Are the blue beads (china sorta) still to be had & have they earrings to match?

Except for smaller presents for friends (& so few qualify for gifts really) the idea is to buy larger pieces. When we were at Watsons a week ago, Mrs. W. showed us the souvenir which Ronnie brought home, there’s a number of nigger’s heads in ebony and smaller silver & brass stuff, but she kept moaning ‘Oh, if only he’d bought a coffee table like yours’.  So you see the idea about bringing larger stuff – of course lots of the smaller things are lovely also – it all depends.  But believe me, that coffee table makes a hit with all who see it.

I am still going to the clinic on Mondays & Wednesdays to get my back done & they say it’s getting on fine and all the fibrositis is nearly out of it, isn’t that grand?  Daddy was at work Sunday but came home at mid-day as he’d caught another chill, he went to bed and stayed there yesterday, but went to work today, as he was feeling O.K.

The weather is really past speaking about, it’s intensely cold.  I never remember a November like this, all the trees are covered in a slight layer of snow which has become frozen and the effect is incredibly lovely, the avenue looks like a fairyland.

I think this is all for now, honey.  Hope my remarks re. souvenirs will be helpful.

Clouds of love are all around you and every star holds a kiss from your own ever loving dad & Mum. xxx

p.s. There’s a birthday card in for you from Joan Brandley.  I’ll send it on to you.

Cheers & love ever.



1.  F.O.  Food Office


Mum letter image png_edited-17 December, 1947.

Quiet Sunday at Home.

Our Darling,

The two wonderful, thrilling parcels got in yesterday.   Since Thursday night I’ve been in bed with ‘flu, yes, the real genuine germ.

Daddy was busy in the house (he has been so good) when the bell rang the postman handed in the parcels – gorgeous!  You can guess what my bed was like as we excitedly untied the parcels and saw the lovely contents, and the stockings!  They will be so useful and you know I’ll make good use of them, my darling.  All that lovely food!  The rice is wizard, we haven’t had any in the shops here for years, and its such a help in cooking.  The raisons and currents are so good.  I put some currants in semolina pudding tonight tho’ I hate giving that Jack any of the goodies you send.  Many “thank yous” for the tea, honey, I do adore orange pekoe – you know I’m really a connoisseur where tea is concerned.  The coconut, desiccated, is a treat as you can guess, also the tins of meat, and we love the wee Christmas card you enclosed, thanks a million for everything, our dear, dear girl, not forgetting the sugar lumps.

I really feel grim about not having sent you a Birthday or Xmas parcel, but you know why we didn’t dear,  it’s because of your homecoming which, you and we hoped would be by the New Year, and your letter telling us not to send parcels, however, I’ve made up my mind to send one to you pronto as in your last letter written on your darling birthday (which makes it November, as we know) you tell us the news of the offer and your acceptance of the three months extension, which means, if all goes well, you sh’d be home about the beginning of March, whopeeeeee!  (1)

Actually, sweetheart, we think you’ve done the best thing as the weather is just ghastly over here just now and the days so short and dark.  We would love the spring to welcome you, tho’ in March there will still be the need for fires – we had heavy snowfalls in March last year, but the brighter, longer days sh’d be here, when you can enjoy your trip to the Hielands better – do you still want to go?

Its perfectly silly, I know, but it makes me sad to hear you talk of your “career”. (2)   I’m so odiously old fashioned. I can’t stand career women, but maybe you mean that someday marriage may become part of your career?  If so, cheers!  A woman who has a career is still, in my opinion, a failure.  But you are much too young anyway to talk of a career so lets forget it. and take no notice of the foregoing remarks, its just the ‘flu germ talking!

Why the revolt against the good old C.S? (3)   Daddy and I have talked it over and have come to the conclusion you’ve maybe heard tell of some other good jobs out there.  Yes, no?   By the way, I sent off your applic. form stamped with C.S. five bob stamp the same day as your letter asking us to do so arrived.  You are very wise to go in for exams, there’s always room at the top.

Daddy has been busy doing some jobs about the house and now we want a cuppa tea, so I’ll say ‘good night’ and put the kettle on, hoping for a letter from you in morning – no letter since Thurs. but oh! those dear lovely parcels! night-night, our own darling and best, Dad and Mum. xxx

Monday morn. Dec 8th.

Goody, goody, a letter no. 239 in from you so glad you were happy and well and safe at the time of writing and pray it continues so for you. (4)   We hear such awful accounts of the rioting and the paper give such headlines.

Palestian partition

No more news about the ‘phone except a note to say there’s no chance of getting it in soon, but I’ll gee them up sometime when I’m in town.

Oh! You are just a great baby! What I’d give to be out there beside you right now. In your 239 letter received today I can see right into your mind and its on a see-saw and no mistake. (4)   You say you wish we c’d both go out there, so do we, our honey lamb, but that’s not why I call you a baby. You paint such mental pictures of things happening as you’d like them – we all do, really – I speak appropos your idea of showing off Peter’s (5) good points to Ernest – what w’d be the use, do nobody any good.

Do hope you manage to the Canal Zone for Xmas and oh! boy! how I wish I c’d be there. Hope you enjoy it all tip-top – shall you arrange with Ernest to meet you?

 You know, my sweet, I don’t think it was really he who wrote that letter (6), no, it was the awful disappointment he felt at being again being turned down for that job – he must get really so sore about the awful frustration of everything he feels he must just hit back and I think the same applies to that woman he mentioned.   He feels a sorta queer comfort in moping in the dark morass of disappointments and she is just part of it all.  I honestly believe that if he got a job and got away from P.S. or even just had a settled job he w’d see things in a saner happier light. I glimpsed some pictures of another side of him while I was there.

How I hope everything goes well so as he can visit us next summer.  Oh! if he asks you what you told me re.your break just say you just told me the bare fact and no details, if you do this (I mentioned no details whatever when I wrote to him) it will make it easier for him to write to me, comprey?  And if he asks what I said just say I said it was a matter concerning you two only.

 I know you are overjoyed you kept yourself to your self (if you ken what I mean!) for now you can meet him quite gaily and know you have all his respect.

I really think he will be sorry now for the break, but time will sort out everything.  Go easy on what you say to him, I know you are wise wee thing and I can leave it to you.  If he or you – both of you, I mean, have a change of heart re. the future it’s always a case of ‘least said, soonest mended’.  After having discoursed at length I’ll close that subject, and you needn’t reply.

 Re. your making an evening dress, I think it a great idea, did you think of something slinky or bouffant?  Personally I love the new ballerina style, lovely with hair done in a ‘bustle’.  I saw an idea in our paper to get this effect with loops of velvet ribbon, which I must try if I go out anywhere in the evening.

There’s a new song out “Last night I dreamt I kissed you, I leaned across three thousand miles of sea”. Well, that’s what I’m doing right now, our ownest darling girl. Bless you ever.

With all our forever the same love to you, darling.

Dad and Mum.

I’ll have a look round for some good pattern for an evening dress for you. Yes, the parcel of ecru balls and linen skirt got here O.K.  Did I not say ‘Thank you’ – how naughty of me. Munching the raisons the noo!

Love and cheers. Mum x


1.  One, or two letters from Len, mentioning her now staying on – again – until March, 1948, and references further down to her ‘career’ and a ‘revolt against the CS’ are not in this collection.

2. See Footnote 1. above.

3.  C.S.:  Civil Service.

4.  This letter is not in the collection.

5.  Peter James, the ‘loot’ who had been in Palestine.

6.  This is the Second Enclosure, the missing letter from Ernst acknowledging he was seeing someone else.


Mum letter image png_edited-19 December, 1949


Oh! to be in Egypt
Now that winter’s here
For whoever lives in Egypt
Finds some scrap of cheer
No frost or snow to give them falls
No fog whose murkiness appalls
We queue for hours for pit or stalls
In Scotland now

Our Dearest and Best,

Last night I c’d scarcely get to sleep thinking of your wish for an evening dress, how I wish I c’d be there to make one for you, I feel I want you to have the most wizard clothes, honey, unusual and lovely, on the other hand, honey, like you, I feel you must have a flair for dressmaking – I know you have – and that its high time you were making something on your own.   I’ll give you any instructions step by step, but it w’d be a dreadfully slow business by post.  However, I’ve thought of a frock I’d like to make for you, but why not try it on your own?  Here is a sketch of my idea, front view:

Mum's dress design - 2png

Your 240 of Dec 3rd got in today and many thanks for it and enclosures. (1)

 Who is Esme – I don’t remember meeting an Esme, she looks nice, is she English and what is her age?  She looks as if she’s wearing her nightie.

I thought you’d mentioned that the Bulbecks were back in Cairo, now you say ‘send them a Xmas Card’, elucidate pronto, please!  The Bulbecks never wrote to us since they were here, why should we send them a card?

Please, oh! please don’t refer to or speak even to me of Peter James and Harris as ‘nice children’ – (after all, they are the same ages as you) this kinda talk gives a matronly aura, very unbecoming, and unsmart, so don’t do it.

You say you are definitely not an M.E. type, take it from me, sweetie pie, you don’t know, or will not know what type you are until your return to peacetime Britain; don’t make definite sweeping statements honey, so often they don’t prove right. Good night, very Best One.

Thurs. Dec 11th
My Darling – Got to the above length when sleep overcame me on Tues. night. You know how you feel so sleepy and tired after the ‘flu.  Yes, this is now noon Thurs. and my thoughts are all, all of you today.  Hoping you are safe and well and merry for we want all your days to be happy and gay and bright.  I’m on my toes to learn your plans for Christmas and New Year, hope all your dreams come true, if you go in bathing, do please sweetheart make sure there is someone near who can come to your aid in any difficulty, you know how precious you are so do look after yourself in all places at all times in all ways.

Hurrah! There’s a letter in from Joan Brandley today to say she plans to arrive in Glasgow on Sat. eve Dec 27th and stay until Sunday Jan 4th isn’t that lovely.  We are so much looking forward to meeting our Joanie again and hearing more of her experiences in Erin’s Isle.  Seems she enjoyed a terrific holiday landing at one time at Youghal after being mixed up in a motor smash outside Cork with Max Bacon’s brother-in-law “who later introduced me to the best dressed, best looking man in Cork – an Irish Pole!”  Do you remember Youghal, Len Bryers?   You and I spent a very, very happy day there once at a sunday school treat, we got so sunburned Daddy didn’t know us when we got back to Cork at night.

I want to arrange for the Watsons to visit us while Joan is here, their son Ronnie is a very good pianist and very interested in music so their mutual devotion at the shrine of Saint Cecilia should make a good meeting base.   For New Year I want to make a plum pudding and cake and Oh! boy I’m glad I’ve got those scrumptious currants and raisins etc.  Joan says she’d like to go to Loch Lomond (Auchendennan)- for the 31st – I hope the International Students are there again this year.

I think now I’ll draw this ‘ere to a close so as to get it in the post while I’m at ye shops.

Thinking of you always and always our very own, very own Best Beloved.

Mum and Dad x


1.  Not in this collection


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 December, 1947.
Almost finished morning.  BSDM, c/o FO, SWI.

My own Ones,

Don’t know whether I’m on my head or my heels, between constant rehearsals, Mousky shopping, the odd bit of French, delivering tickets, roneoing tickets, arranging dances, arranging games and buying prizes. (1)   Must say I’m looking forward to a bit of quietness at Xmas.

Sunday  I’d my French lesson, then went to Gezira to liase with Myrtle Tandy about Xmas – we’re s’posed to be going to Fayid for the actual days of Xmas proper.  Of course I bumped into lots of people but eventually got back to do the odd chore before going out to Mme Saracha’s.  It’s rather wonderful, for she’s a friend of John Gielgud’s cousin. It seems he was staying with them and left some stuff behind, anyway to cut a long story short Harris is s’posed to be taking it and thus get an introduction to John Gielgud. (2)

On coming back I got ready to go out with Vera and her crowd, including a girl up from the Canal Zone PID Mission (i.e. Political Intelligence Department).  I know the girl  as she once shared my room at Claridges. (3)

D’you remember playing a game called “Putting the baby to Bed” at Labour Party dos? Well, that’s one of the games we’ve listed for our party and are ‘medly’ trying to collect dolls for this purpose.  You may like to see the ticket – d’you like the design?

party invite


I asked Joe Catt for bells and holly leaves and she drew them in pencil on the draft and I did them out on the stencil and typed same. Makes me want to run off some Xmas cards on the same lines as I don’t fancy the idea of paying out 3Pt. a time for all my extra people.

Esme’s just come in to say she thinks she’s going to Palestine – she’s certainly got around whilst she’s been out here with Baghdad, the Lebanon and Cyprus and now Pal.  Makes one think of the pros and cons.  Things have always kept me in Cairo up to now, like half expecting you all the time Mum and of course Ernst.  Of course the ideal thing is a posting like Mary Davies had – six weeks in Rhodes.

That is all 26, that is all, over to you.

Planes of Love,

Len. xxxxx


1.  This is for the young women’s’ social club – The Wednesday Night Club – started by Bishop Allen.

2.  We have no idea from the correspondence who Mme Saracha is.  Len may have met her through the Cairo Drama Group.  Besides being a friend of Ernst, Harris May shares an interest in acting with Len.

3.  Claridges is a hotel that, it seems,  BSDM and other British Government  staff such as Len were initially put up in when they first arrived in Egypt.  Some staff of BSDM continued to live in the hotel.  There is still a Claridges Hotel in Cairo.


Mum letter image png_edited-114 December, 1947.

Quiet but busy Sunday.

It’s now 3.30 pm my Beloved, and positively must get this in the 4 o’ clock collection.

No letter from you since Wed. morn. but we know there’ll be one tomorrow morn and I can hardly wait for then. We do so much hope you are well and peppy and that your arrangements for the festive season are well ahead and that you’ll have the best time for ever, ever enjoyed – its really wonderful you know, and please know it, to be your age and be in Egypt and have unknown Christmas festivities to look forward to. We shall be eagerly waiting to hear all about everything.

I worry a wee bit about your clothes and hope they will be alright, but with you to adorn them, how c’d they be otherwise!  Do please, just for me, wear your hair, just for once anyway, parted in the centre, pulled not too tightly back and the ends curled as you used to do it, believe me, its so individual and so becoming, so please do it that way once (or more) for me.

Daddy and I saw “Holiday Camp” at the Ascot last night, its a wizzo picture, absol.tip top.

This is just the wee-est note to tell you again we love you and think of you always.  I must get busy on my Xmas cards soon.  Daddy is busy doing wee joinery jobs about the house.

Bye for now, our peachy.

Cheers and love ever, Dad and Mum.


Next          Part Two   Chapter Six: Bouncing Back “Scarier, Scarier, Ra, Ra, Ra.”   

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.

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