Part Three 3: Good-bye Noel, Hello Teaching

Part Three   Chapter 3

Good-bye Noel, Hello Teaching.


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

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png9 June, 1949.

The Office, Thinking Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Dear Len,

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

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

With love from all,

Aunt Ena.


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

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

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

Restaurant in Charing Cross Road.  Sat.

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

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

Len. xxxxx


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

2.  The Coach & Horses.

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

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


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


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

27 June, 2014.

The Sunny South, Monday.

My Gladsome, Glamourous (and so precious) Glaswegians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mummy, please do not etc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the love from country to shipbuilders shores town,

Len. xxxxx

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

p.s. ‘Phoning Wednesday evg. L.


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

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

3.  Circs: circumstances.

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

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

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


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png30 June, 1949.

British restaurant, Salisbury. Thursday teatime.

My own darling Mum,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always your own,

Len xxx


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

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


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

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png4 July, 1949.

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

Hot office and sickly grass outside. (1)

Wall Honey Chile,

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

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Haunch of Venison, Salisbury.   2008.

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

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

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

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

Len. xxx


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

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

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

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


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6 July, 1949.

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

 Overcast Sky over Office Wednesday.

My dearest Mama,

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

Items of Interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len. xxxxx


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

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

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


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Ilford Selo film wallet, September 1949.

len on Luneberg heath crop pic png12 July, 1949.

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

Tuesday.   Morning before tea and consequently feeling rather lethargic.

Dearest and Best,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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“German farmhouse.”   Len’s writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len xxx


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.  Adds.  Addresses.


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

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

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

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

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

It was renamed the Anglo Iranian Oil Co in 1935.

In 1950 Abadan was the world’s largest refinery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



len on Luneberg heath crop pic png16 July, 1949.

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

Funny (peculiar) Saturday.

Sugar and Spice and All that’s Nice People,

Hail and how are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your very own Len. xxxxx


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

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

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


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png20 July, 1949.

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

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

Gladsome Glasgow Girls and Boys,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Idmiston Halt station png

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

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

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

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

Very much Asta la vista, your most own,

Len, xxxx


1.  “p.u.”   Pick up truck.

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

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

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

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


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png26 July, 1949.

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

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

Best People I know,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len, devil eyes glasses png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Len pic for part 3 png smaller-1

Len with a ‘Maria’.

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

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

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

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


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png9 August, 1949.

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

Deceiving Sunshine Tuesday.

Dearest Dears,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the love I have to you two.

Len xxxxxxx


1.  English August Bank Holiday week-end.

2.  Brit. R.  British Restaurant.

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

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

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

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

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

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



len on Luneberg heath crop pic png11 August, 1949.

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

Reflective Afternoon.  Thursday.

My darling gay Glaswegians,

First enclosures.  They are, one of the Conservative Assoc. leaflet given me at Marlborough – “even a child can laugh at them”,  two,  a receipt for the cash for the carpet. (1)

Well you know what the third is, it’s my coupons for sweets – please use them up you two – and don’t bring any sweets from it down here with you Mum, as I have goodies for you – no details now – surprise, surprise. 

You’ve made no mention of the September tourists, are they still coming as far as you know?

I went to this woman recommended me last night Mum and booked you up there. She’s O.K. – plump spinster with grey hair.  The room’s got a pleasant outlook and there’s a bathroom and loo upstairs. It’s not what I’d like you to have, but couldn’t find anything else – it’s all right you know, just not top notch.  It’s 7/6 b & b which is really robbery, but again the cheapest I could find. Hope this is all O.K. with you?

That’s all at the moment Honey’s, here’s to hearing you Saturday – how about you picking up the receiver this time Dad?

All the love in England. xxxx

p.s. I wish I was living with you two at ‘26’. L. xxx


1.  The enclosures are not in this collection. Val and Len had gone for a day trip to Marlborough.  In a few weeks Len would return with Joan Brandley,  for a day trip.   Marlborough was a safe Conservative seat.   The Conservative leaflet could have commented on several things that were happening at the time. In the summer of 1949 the Labour Government had proclaimed a State of Emergency because of a dock strike in the then very busy port of London. Dockers were out for 24 days. Conscripted troops were sent in to unload the ships.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stafford Cripps,  announced that the weekly sugar ration was being cut back to 8 oz a week, and sweet rationing, which had been scrapped, was unexpectedly reintroduced to 4 oz per person. There was also to be a cut in tobacco supplies.  Newspaper leader writers expressed concern at the reported increase in Juvenile delinquency in Britain, and sugar refiners Tate and Lyle announced an all out war on Labour’s plans, announced for the forthcoming General Election in 1950, to nationalise the sugar industry.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png15 August, 1949.

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

On bus just before it starts at 8 am. Monday

Dearest Mr. and Mrs. B.

How are you getting on?  I hope you’re having a second heat wave in Glasgow too.

I enquired about excursions when seeing Margot off last night. (1)    One at 12/- ret. goes on Tues, Weds and Thurs. from Sal at 7.50 am. getting to Ryde, I o W at 11.5 – you return at 6.20 pm.  One also goes on Sundays at 8.50 am, returning same time. I’m enclosing the leaflet about the holiday runabout – you could even get further afield economically by taking a bus from where your ticket stopped.

Must say Marie’s invitation does make me want to go to Sweden, especially with Freddie in Stockholm to take one around too. (2)   He flew – but not at the £40 etc. touch of BEA – it’s a smaller airline he came by and much cheaper.

I’ve written to Esme cancelling our trip to Oxford.

Please tell me when you’re due to arrive Fri. as soon as poss., as I’ve to go up and tell Miss Sansom on Thursday.

Also birth certificate, if you’ve not despatched it, please remember to bring it, please.

Will send a longer letter either to-night, or to-morrow morning.

All the love in Porton to you two poppets.


Paul and Bjorn1.  Margot, who Len met at the WEA Summer School in Germany. 

2.  Marie is Bjorn and Paul’s Mum.


This is the letter Len said she would write later in the day.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png15 August, 1949.

My room – cold despite terrific heatwave.  Monday.

Apart from the lovely positive things about teaching I shall be so glad to get away from:-  the Civil Service, secretarial work, the 1¾ hour’s travelling a day and these digs.  Just hope things go all right.  Margot only came on Sunday as her father had had a heart and asthma attack, but she said I must find out all the in and outs to try to get as much as possible in the way of tuition and possible grants, so propose to write to Mr.Evans, Senior Tutor at Cardiff Uni. – Germany met and one of my referees – did I tell you he suggested giving me a testimonial for this scheme and I’d not so much as mentioned the word teaching to him!

Please Mum, can you beg, borrow or steal another tin of that national dried milk, it’s wonderful.

Margot says it would be expensive to go to college in London – wonder where I’ll be sent – am keeping my fingers crossed that it all comes off all right – please do so for me too.

Herewith comprehensive W/loo Sal. timetable – I can get another from the station.   Noely gave me the enclosed timetable.   Despite how long you say I’ll be at work, I’ll really only be there Fri. morning and I hope, unless they have a fit at my wanting time off to have my eyes done as well as foot.  The administrative officer – sal. about £12 a week and a good pension, won £6,000 on the f/pools a year or so ago and he’s niggley – imagine with all that cash. Still I’ve got my appointment card from the eye man.

Know you will probably be sewing something half of Thursday night anyway and that you like travelling by day, so if you like it that way, O.K., but have a lager on the train with your lunch and think of me – I always think of lager in connection with train meals – reminds me of going up to Uncle D’s wedding. (1)   There’s a military dance on Saturday night, so don’t get too tired.

I. of W. is a closed book to me – just hope on opening it if it doesn’t prove too expensive – I’ll make enquiries about places there and elsewhere. We could bus about halfway on the Friday (mid week-end) as I finish with the hosp. at 5 pm., and stay at some Y.H., then continue to I of W on the Sat.  We could go straight there on the Fri. as it only takes 4 hours from here.  Bring Y.H. card anyway.

Yes, I’m afraid it is a matinee though you don’t like ‘em. The evening price for a decent seat would have really rooked me and it’s hideous getting back from London on a Sat. late.  Yes, let’s go and see Joan B. and her people on the Sunday. (2)

Yes, I have seen the Sunday-met guy.(3)   Had a lovely day last Thursday – came home to find acceptance letter, went out and had lovely call with you, found 2/6 and came out to bump into him.  I was half-weepy (homesick) and half thrilled, so had to tell him, saying not to tell a soul as everyone in Sal. knows everyone else. He was looking for a girl he was ½ hour late for and was going dancing.  He walked me round to the library and inquired what I was doing afterwards. (4)   I said going to bed, upon which he said – here was he dog-tired and going dancing and me bursting with energy and going to bed – p’raps I’ll bump into him again without a girl in the offing.

Must write and find out what’s happened to Mark.  Keep on having ‘little last extravagances’ before saving, so if he doesn’t come soon don’t know if I’ll even have his £30 left in bank, let alone any ‘ain cash’.

Must – but definitely close now – don’t think I’ll be sending any more mail for you both at 26 before Mum’s departure, but hope to write to you shortly, Dad.

All the heatwave love hotted up even more and sent up to you, from me,

Len xxxxx


1.   Uncle D : Uncle Dennis.  The wedding would probably have been about 1943.   In the 1946 Abadan photo Rod is 18 months old.  Len would have been 18 at the time of the wedding.

2.   Joan Brandley,  in Dagenham.  The play is, as mentioned earlier, Worm’s Eye View at the Whitehall Theatre.  It is not clear if Len is a little confused: talking of returning to Salisbury on Saturday evening, and yet visiting Joan and her parents in Dagenham on Sunday.

3.  Sunday-met guy.  This is the nice ‘bod’ she met when she went to meet Noel off the train, 17 July, 1949.  “Imagine my fury… to find no Noel”.

Sal. PO png4.  The Library in Chipper Lane is half way down.  The Cadena dance hall was at the bottom, with the main entrance around the corner.


len on Luneberg heath crop pic png17 August, 1949.

7, Barton Road Road, Salisbury, Wilts.


My Dearest Daddy,

Here at last is a reply to your July letter but I won’t post it till Thursday night or Friday morning, so that you get it just after Mummy’s left for the south.

I wish you could come this time too, but I suppose we must just be glad you were able to manage earlier.

You mentioned two things you’d get for me before you left and I wondered if you’d got them yet.  One was the Dunlop spring press for my raquet and the other that you’d make a ball point pen for me from some old pen at work – how goes it? (1)

At the moment I’m very thrilled about the teaching business.  In my letter of acceptance, it says that an accepted candidate is eligible to work as a teacher whilst awaiting entry to a training college.  Now there aren’t any t.c’s in Scotland so that means I won’t be home for my period of training,  but wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could get a teaching job in Glasgow till I entered college and thus get a few months at home with you two.  Don’t you think it’s a good idea? (2)

Please though, don’t tell a soul about any of this, as I never like to talk about anything like this till it gets into its stride.

Must away now Daddy, but look after yourself in Scotland – Mummy’s address is –

c/o Miss Sansom,
9 Ashley Road,

All the love in the south for you, from,

Len. xxxxx


1.  It seems that Dad and others at his India Rubber Company works were developing their own version of a biro on the quiet.  Biros were the rage of the age.  Invented by Ladislas Biro in 1935, high altitude USAAF crew were impressed with the way it worked, and didn’t need constant refilling.  It went on sale to the American public in October 1945, advertised as a pen that “lasted up to two years”.  Despite it costing $12.50 the stock of 10,000 sold out in one day at a New York department store.  George Orwell, footnoted earlier as being in Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, with T.B., relatively close to the Bryers family home, was writing to a friend in London in March 1948 for a further biro, which he found easier to use than his fountain pen which was “on its last legs and you can’t use ink in bed.” (Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Volume 3).  Orwell was slowly finishing Nineteen Eight Four in 1948.   As will be seen in future reproductions of letters, Len started using a biro too.

2.  Len’s comments are confusing.  There were teacher training colleges in Scotland.  She would probably remember, when she was in Cairo, her Mum’s letter relating the visit of Henry Lindsay, striding up and down their hall, telling them about Jordan Hill Teachers Training College.  She might have meant to say that none of the teacher’s training colleges were participating in the Emergency Teachers Training scheme.  It is not clear whether this was because teachers associations in Scotland were opposed to the scheme.  There were certainly some very rigid and reactionary attitudes amongst many teaching staff in Scotland.  For instance, reported in the Scottish Sunday Mail (sister paper of the Scottish Daily Record) on 19 June, 1949:

“Equal Pay for Women is Wicked, Says Headmaster.”

Equal pay for women? – ‘Wicked and selfish’

Mr. R . J. Walker of Edinburgh speaking on equal pay in the teaching professions said in his presidential address to the Scottish Schoolmasters Association in Edinburgh.

‘It cannot be emphasised too much that there is no equal work in teaching.  The man’s contribution is manifestly different from the woman’s’.

To attract men to the profession there must be entirely separate conditions of salaries and conditions of service.

Equal pay was selfish because it struck not only at the headmaster, but at his wife and children.

Mrs. M.Y.Wakeheld,  president of the National Council of Women in Great Britain also agreed that equal pay was unfair to men, and was quoted, in the same Sunday Mail story,  that it could cause grievance among men.  Her comments were made at a luncheon in London to the National Association of Women Launderers.


Next         Part Three 4:  Fancy me a School-Maam.

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

This entry was posted in Britain Austerity 1940s, Feminism, Gender Studies, Letters, Porton Chemical and Biolgical Warfare Centre, Social and Political History, Womens History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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