Part Two 10 Almost Home and Noel

Part Two   Chapter 10: Almost Home and Noel


In the nine week gap in this collection of correspondence between Mum and Len, this is the first letter of Mum’s since her last one of 18 April, 1948.  Len is about to return to the UK on leave.


Ed.Fest env.


Mum letter image png_edited-122 June, 1948.

Tues. Cold like January, but getting warmer.

Darling Own Cuddles,

Isn’t it strange to think this may be the last letter I’ll be sending to you before you leave Egypt!   I have been counting the days – Daddy also – and judge you should just about get this one ‘ere you set sail.  We can picture the buzz you must be in just now what with the jigs & reels – especially the reels – your wee heid  must be going round!  Never mind, honey, remember Mother’s advice, KEEP COOL, CALM and COLLECTED.   We don’t understand about some girl Joan travelling with you, is she only going part way? – she has no hostel card – or has she?  Funny to think you won’t have time before you leave to reply to this letter!   No letter from you since last I wrote, but shall leave this one till the noon post hoping for one then.

We are very, very busy – you know me – I keep saying to Daddy “I’ll bet the honey girl has a few ‘all night sittings’ getting ready for the great homeward trek”, and then I say “and I’ll have a few ‘all night sittings’ getting ready for her homecoming”!  But we are really taking care of each other and enjoying all our preparations.

When (if) you get to Naples look out for the Embassy where Nelson met and fell in love with Lady Hamilton – it’s a large red building on the hill on the left hand side as you approach the pier, try also to see the wonderful General Post Office there, and of course Vesuvius & Pompeii.  Oh! it’s all so wonderful sparkling sea & fairy islands, the Sorrento Peninsula & Capri, how I want to see it all again – roll on, Littlewoods!  I wonder if you’ll feel the same as I did when I got to Italy.  I felt I was nearly home again and that the East was far away – it’s a queer feeling and really brought home to me (far more than when I landed at Port Said) the difference betwixt East and West.  Wish all this cairry oan  re. visas etc. was washed out, I’d take a job then as governess or summat. 

Daddy is feeling and looking very, very well and is quite sunburned but alas! his leg, so far, isn’t reacting the way it ought, but he has been told he must have patience; he is to report at the hosp. on Sat.  We hope next week he will be able to run around – he can walk alright now but the right leg gets painful.  We went shopping in Clydebank yesterday and enjoyed the wee outing.

Our latest burst is in a pipe just at the front gate step where there is a hole in the pavement.  The G’gow Corporation say it’s the owner’s liability so I told Mrs. Mac. who is moaning about the expense of repairs but her remedy is to sell the house (cheaply) to us – must get down to talking it all over on your return.

Let us know when you get to U.K. and also when we may expect you in ‘Dear Old Glasgow Town’.  Isn’t it wonderful to think of.  So thrilled & excited to bits.

12.30.  No letter yet from you, honey so I’ll close this and if a letter comes in tomorrow I’ll answer if required, if not this will be the last the noo.  

 Mucha plenta da love, your own Dad and Mum. Oh! the joy of hoping to really see you soon.  Cheers. 

“My heart is in Glasgow

My heart is not here

My heart walks in streets with old memories dear,

I know all her faults, but she’s my cup of tea,

My heart is in Glasgow

And always shall be.”

p.s.  The above is from an article which appeared in the ‘Citizen’ a few weeks ago.  It was written by a Scotch woman who was somewhere overseas.  I like the bit about “old memories dear”.  Busy Sauchiehall Street & Buchanan street’s lovely shops.


Mum letter image png_edited-123 June, 1948.  Wednesday

Hello Honey,

As I said in my 292 of ystd’y I’d write again today if anything required me doing so, well, this morn a letter came for you with a penny stamp on the en. and of course, it was open.  The letter is from the Cent. Sch of S.Y and D.A. (1) and goes on to give all the partics – copy enclosed.

Well, dearest and best, I really sent our good wishes for a happy, joyous and safe journey home in my previous letters, so I’ll make this brief.  The plumbers are here and I really think they know this is your castle for I’m sure they plan to dig a moat around the old house – we have to close our eyes and jump over a huge hole when making our entrance or exit, also they keep making cupsa  tea which rather holds up the proceedings.

It’s a glorious day today, brilliant sunshine and all the plants and grass are vivid green after the rain.

Hoping this gets to you in time.  I’ll acknowledge receipt of entrance test form in case this doesn’t get to you in time – it’s like Paddy:  “If you don’t receive it, write and let me know”.  I’ll say you’ll write when you arrive.  All our love as ever.

Dad & Mum. 

“The Entrance Test for Stage Students will be held on Thurs. July 29th.  You are requested to attend at the Royal Albert Hall at 9.30. am.

Candidates are required to –

Prepare one of the following speeches:

The Merchant of Venice Act 111 Sc 2

Paulina “What studied torments”

‘not dropped down yet”

Romeo & Juliet,  Act 11 Sc.2

Juliet – “Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face”  – which the dark night, etc”

Prepare a speech, not exceeding two minutes in duration, from any modern play.

Perform an impromptu scene on a subject to be announced on their arrival.

Read at sight a passage of prose.

Vera M. Sargent,  Registrar.”


1.  Central School of Speech and Drama, London.


With one exception, there is now a break in the correspondence, as Len returns to the UK for her leave and then travels back to Egypt.  This period is approximately from late June, 1948 to 22 August, 1948: eight weeks.  Her original plan was a leave period of five and a half weeks.

“I thought of leaving 31st  July and returning to work on 7th September.  Course so much depends on air line times etc., but I’d like to have the August Bank holiday thrown in if poss.

My idea is to spend my time as follows: week in London with you two and I can find about auditions study etc. at the same time and hold a tea party at which anyone who wants to can come – that’ll cover people I can’t or don’t want to devote time to.  Then a week at 26, then toute seul – i.e. all alone I spend two weeks in the Highlands – but you two coming with me to Loch Lomond to begin with.” –  Len’s letter 2 April, 1948. (Part Two Chapter 9)

It is guesswork how she travelled home to Britain. In her letter of 2 April Len had talked of airline times.   Mum in her letter above of 22 June talks of her “setting sail”, but she could be talking figuratively.  However, she mentions the possibility of Len arriving at Naples, which suggests a boat.  She also mentions a Joan, who will be travelling with her, but asks if she has a hostel card.  This will be a Youth Hostel card. There is a strong possibility that Len did arrive at Naples, and then hitched via France, with or without out the ‘Joan’ using youth hostels, to Calais or Boulogne for the cross channel ferry.

How she travelled is complicated by this letter from BOAC, replying to a letter she had sent them from Coldingham Avenue on the 20 July.

BOAC letter png

The letter is, as can be seen at the top, from the Import Cargo Section of BOAC at Heath Row, as it was then spelt.   Her Personal Effects  were sent from Almaza.  It is possible that she didn’t fly with them. In 1948 the BOAC Flying Boat  service between South Africa and Southampton,(which landed at Cairo on the Nile and Almaza on the Mediterranean on route), carried cargo, besides passengers.  The Personal Effects may have been from the various items Len was accruing prior to permanently leaving Egypt.  Whether it was also some way of getting around Egyptian custom restrictions is not known.  Almaza on the Mediteranean coast was well west – at least over 120 kilometres – from Alexandria.  It is possible that she was helped in getting these Personal Effects to Almaza by one or more of her Army friends in the Suez Canal Zone.  BOAC also had an office in Cairo.  Renfrew airport is now better known as Glasgow airport.

We think that she flew back with a BOAC flying boat.  Her memory is of the intense blue of the Mediterranean sea moments before the flying boat landed, and  the foam spraying up over the port hole as she looked out.  However, the  return details of her journey are complicated by a reference in a letter she wrote on her return in Cairo about her sending Mum a letter from Aix-en-Provence.    The range of the BOAC Short Solent Flying Boats was a reported 1,800 miles, so there was no need for them to land  for a re-fuel off the Mediterranean coast of France.  In addition, the memory of the Mediterranean foam is undermined by her writing, in the letter just mentioned, of a BOAC car running her into the centre of Cairo.  However, it seems that the engines fitted to the Short Solent flying boats were unreliable.  On one website one passenger out to Australia remembers the journey took 4 weeks because of malfunctioning engines.  Another online memory of a journey from Southhampton to South Africa, via Cairo, revealingly mentions that engine  trouble forced the seaplane to land at Marseilles where running repairs were made.  So it is likely that Len was right in remembering the Mediterranean foam – French Mediterranean foam – and that she had time to visit Aix-en-France, when her plane also developed engine problems.  As it is, despite their flying range, when flying out from Southampton,  the flying boats first landed at Augusta, on the Sicilian coast to refuel, before flying on to Cairo and landing on the Nile.

Amongst recollections of BOAC Short Solent trips, from the site: (reproduced with gratitude)

Anthony Craddock, 12.04.2011
In 1950 my father and I emigrated to East Africa on one from Southampton waters owned by BOAC. Two engines had problems over France so we did a forced landing in the harbor at Marseille France where they were patched up and we flew on to the first scheduled stop in Augusta, Sicily.  There we waited for a week in a hotel at BOAC’s expense for the next weekly flight to bring us out new parts. Then we continued on to Nairobi via Alexandria and I think Khartoum. I remember I was airsick over France, and then seasick in the choppy waters of Marseille harbor.

Although flying by a BOAC flying boat might seem romantic, the reality could be more like an adventure from Tintin.

Zelda Wilkins, 03.04.2013
In November 1949 I flew with my brother (14) and my parents to East Africa from Southampton. I was 9 so do not remember it very well. The weather was very bad so much so that we had to fly through the Alps because we could not gain enough altitude to go over them. We were not fed on board only when we landed subsquently because it was so bumpy we were all very sick. They ran out of sick bags! In fact my parents told me there were only two people not sick on the flight – one being my mother. Even the stewards were sick. We landed on Lake Naivasha and were transported to Nairobi in a bus with wooden slated seats. The journey took 36 hours and was one I will never forget.

As will be seen as the narrative unfolds, Len being Len, she picked up contacts and friends amongst BOAC employees.

“Let us know when you get to U.K. and also when we may expect you in ‘Dear Old Glasgow Town’.“, wrote Mum.  Again, besides the change in anticipated dates Len thought she would arrive in Britain, the idea of her and Mum and Dad spending a week in London when she arrived has changed.  As far as we know, Mum and Dad did not come down to London during her leave in Britain. Neither do we know whether she stayed with the Holts, or Joan Brandley and family in Dagenham, after arriving in Britain, or on her way back down to Southampton to get the flying boat back to Egypt.   Nor do we know if Joan Brandley travelled to Scotland.  We do know she stayed with Pat off the Finchley Road in Hampstead. 

Len had travelled down from Scotland for an audition with the Central School of Speech and Drama.  It seems her audition was not successful, but as will be seen, it didn’t put her off drama and the theatre, for a while.  We do not know whether she also had an audition with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  Her audition at the Central School of Speech and Drama was the day following the date of Mum’s letter.


Len with Pat

Mum letter image png_edited-1 28 July, 1948. Wednesday.

Hello Darling!

It’s 10 p.m. and the jobs are finished for the time being so thought I’d say a ‘how do’ to you.  Out thoughts are with you all the time and we hope for the greatest success for you in all your wishes and plans.

We are sweating and sweltering here in this terrific heat and we hear this is just nothing compared to what you are enjoying in London.  We’ve been listening to the radio and hearing about the crowds in London for the opening of the Olympic Sports.  (1)   I guess you think the Old Big Smoke is a rather busy place after all – how does it compare in your mind with Cairo, I wonder.  Take note of the shops so as you can tell me.

So far the enclosed is the only letter which has come in for you, and, as you can see, it refers to the collection, etc. of your canvas bag.

I’ll leave this letter open till the morning to see if there’s any more mail for you – if any comes in later I’ll send it on or wire you the gist of it.

I was in town this afternoon, left my Pythons at Bayne & Ducketts who are to make the button holes in the straps.  The shop girls were in ecstasy about my python shoes.  I was quite summer gloveless so bought myself a pair in Lewis’s, very nice white thread ones ‘hand made in Italy’ price 4/4d. and containing about sixpenceworth of material – they were selling in thousands – the heat – so Italy sh’d be busy!  I got quite a lot of eats in Ross’s including a remnant piece of Spam for no points!  I also bought a bottle of ‘Elasto’ tablets for Daddy and do hope they’ll do him good – I worry about him.  I mean to try them myself also, so sh’d you.  I also bought a bottle of Blackcurrant Syrup in Boots – my Deah! – it’s the most wonderful stuff, full of Vitamin C.  The dose is 2 tablespoons per day – we are weeks ahead!   You sh’d get yourself a bottle at a London Boots, price 2/9d. for about a pint. 

Good night now, honey, bless you always, Mum.

p.s. Gloves are off coupons so do get yourself some.  Tell Pat Brown to send on the stockings you gave her for me, or you can bring them.


1. The first post war Olympic Games were held in London.  The previous had been stage-managed by the Nazis in Berlin in 1936.  At the London Olympics several athletes from the east and central European communist states , including four Czechs, applied for asylum.


In Len’s itinerary for her holiday in her letter of 2 April she also spoke of having a party in London.  Besides Pat, other returned Cairo and Suez Canal Zone friends included Harris, Peter and Malcolm.  We have no indication whether they all met up.  Harris was to start at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in September.  And by the summer in 1948 he should have returned the forgotten items to John Gielgud’s cousin, and perhaps have got the invitation to John Guelgud that he had hoped for.

Glencoe village png

Len, Glencoe village, Feb 1945 png

Len in Glencoe February, 1945, with the Pap of Glencoe in the background.  The concrete signpost behind her has the initials of Arygll County Council on it.  In both photos there are telephone poles and wires, but no electricity. The far seeing post-war North of Scotland Hydro-Electric power scheme that was underway would change this.  In the 1945 photo the curb stones at the junction are painted white to help drivers in the blackout.  Their own car lights, because of the blackout regulations, would be permantly dimmed.  Glencoe seems to have been one of her favourite places.  From a letter of Mum’s, sent in October, it seems the whole family stayed at Glencoe.  This was either a weekend holiday for Mum and Dad, or a longer holiday.  They would have travelled from Glasgow by train and got off at the now closed Ballachulish station, to the right in the postcard below.

Glencoe png

Acininver png

Len had said that she wanted to be alone to think in the Highlands.  Being in remote and unpopulated Achininver was the perfect place to think, and figuratively, a million miles from the Auberge du Turf in Cairo, with King Farouk at the next table.  We also know, from a future letter,  that she had also been on Skye.

She’d also been to the far north east coast, at Dornoch.  As with Mum and Dad’s visits, and Ena’s cancelled visit, we do not know whether there were relatives of theirs that they could stay with, or with friends of their former family.

Dornoch Firth png

This postcard view from Struie shows the Firth of Dornoch.

It is unclear what thoughts she had alone in the Highlands, and what conclusions she came to about the direction of her life,  as she was coming up to the age of 23.  We do know from a future letter –  in Part Two Chapter 11 –  that she didn’t intend to stay a shorthand typist for the rest of her life.  And though she seemed to have dropped the idea of studying at a drama school, we do not know what her alternative thoughts were.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 August, 1948.  The Old Firm.

BSDM Cairo, c/o Det APO S.299, MELF.

Most dearly Beloved Ones,

Back again & how I wish it were Scotland – a leave completely spoils one for this place.

How did you get on at Motherwell – hope you got some good food there, then got back to Glasgow all right.  That was the coldest train journey I’ve ever had – I chittered all the way to London – but after that I’d warmth all the way, so was O.K. (1)

BOAC’s car took me straight to Garden City,  for I didn’t see Mark at the BOAC offices en route – he arrived at the flat later having  waited 2 hours at the Air Booking Centre by mistake.  I just said hello to him and gave him the tie with which he was overjoyed and then bode him adieu, to have dinner, do my unpacking, talk to Esme and get to bed.

Disposals have been far more petty & nasty than I thought, but with Britain in the forefront of my mind I couldn’t care less.  They’re demoting me, as Esme said in her letter & moving me from this job. (2)   They’re furious about my over-staying my leave & though they don’t say so, about my having a super time.

Actually I arrived here on Sunday night, but the thought of coping with Cairo made me forget to cable at first & so I sent off news of arrival the following morning (yesterday – Monday) – hope you received it & my letter from Aix-en-Provence.

The flat is simply gorgeous & between it & my friends life here is greatly improved. (3)

What’s the latest from Uncle Bert?  (4)   We mustn’t let him cancel his trip altogether & in view of my official reception here I’m prepared to come back at any time to see him.

I don’t need the letter about my not being educationally qualified now, but could you please look amongst my papers for me ‘three-months-either-side’ notice.  I know it’s somewhere & will look in my trunks but am not at all sure where it is.  Feel I ought to have it from the point of view of protecting myself with its three month basis. (5)

Honestly though, I feel a different woman from when I left & everyone says how well I look.

Love, every bit of it,

Len. xxxxx

p.s. All the trouble happened when I was on leave – things are quieter now. (6)

p.p.s  Esme said Ernst was all chummy & says he’s coming to Cairo to see me – he’ll be lucky if he does.

p.p.p.s  Could you please buy & send me by air mail another tartan wool tie – completely forgot I’ll have to give something to the bloke who lent me the air travel bag.  Thanks a lot.


1.  It is not clear why Mum would travel with Len to Motherwell, on Len’s train journey down to London.  The Express would stop at Motherwell to pick up further passengers, and that is where Mum would get off.  The local stopping return journey to Central Station would take 30 minutes.  Len says she had a cold onward journey – and this is August.

2.  What kind of demotion this was is not clear. It may be that she was taken off having a supervisory role within the typing pool.  However, if so, a Civil Service letter in a future chapter, indicates she was either re-instated, or that this was not part of the demotion.  The demotion would presumably effect her pay, or, delay her career advancement.  She had passed her Clerical Officer exams and was on the Civil Service Establishment.  It is unlikely that she was stripped of her Clerical Officer grade, and even if that had been mooted, she would have  fought it, involving the local branch of  Civil Service Clerical Association union, that she had helped to set up  in 1946.

3.  She has, on her return moved into a mixed flat.  Unknown to her, she and her flatmates are about to realise they are inheriting outstanding unpaid bills from the previous tenants.

4.  Uncle Bert:  Uncle Albert.

5.  This is the paperwork that spells out that both parties – the Civil Service and herself  – have to give a minimum of three months notice to be sacked, or to quit.

6.  Len is probably referring to the anti-Israel Cairo street protests and the resumption of hostilities, on 9 July, 1948, in the Arab-Israeli war.


Mum letter image png_edited-130 August, 1948.

Monday morn.  Breezy Britain.

Hello Our Own Darling,

Lovely to get your 302 of the 24th this morn, do keep on feeling well and chirpy and on top of the world so that the effect of your holiday will be long lasting.  So happy to read in your last para. “The flat is simply gorgeous and between it and my friends life here is greatly improved”. Keep on being happy and comfortable, my precious, in spite of the old C.S. and Disposals – remember the NORTH! 

It’s pretty rotten they way they are behaving and I worry about your not staying at the Tec. Coll. till you were sixteen, but we considered it all well and at that ghastly time of raids the only thing that seemed urgent and the right thing was to get you to safety.  As I’ve said before, I’m a great believer in the right moment of time, so we probably did what was right as something awful might have befallen us if we’d sent you to Somerset and we pray that your future will be rosy and gay – so many ways and so many avenues leading to happiness in this old world, and that you will find the right one is the only wish and dream of your Mum and Dad. (1)

Glad to learn Mark liked his tie, can he say “It’s a braw bricht moonlit nicht” yet?  Yes, honey, I’ll get another tie for you first time I’m in town.  I’ll get the shop people to wrap it so as I can send it off straight away.  I’ll also look for your “Three months either side” notice.

By now you’ll have my letters giving you the gen on Uncle Albert’s sailing (August 24th from Boston, Mass).  Isn’t it terrific.   As you can guess I’m up to high doe! (dough!).   I’m getting Daddy to write to his cousin in L’pool to be there to meet the ship.  Daddy was going to write last night but just as he was starting Maud came in, yes, about 8.30 p.m.  She was all done up and fully hoped to see you, amazed when she found you’d gone.  Maud had on the 13 guinea hat (2), it’s a large Bangkok straw with a twist of French ribbon on it thus –

CU Maud's hat png

I must be on the look out for a large straw I can do up!  Nothing to it at all.  The hat suited me a treat, also M’s Silver foxs.  It was very funny, Hutch went on the table and went close to Maud and had a good look & smell of the fox furs, then sat back a bit & took it all in.

To get back to Uncle A.  I must get Daddy to write tonight – lovely if they c’d meet Albert, it would be a terrific lift and surprise for him.  Worst of it is he hasn’t told us the name of the ship, and Daddy can’t presently find Percy or Grace’s addresses!!! Must have a shoofti for them mysel.

Got a letter from Trudi Grafton on Sat. to say she is in London and has the sheets and asks re. sending them on – by or via Joan Brandley or if convenient she c’d bring them (the sheets) to G’gow if I can wait for them till after Sept. 15th.  I shall write back and ask her to bring them and to stay for a few days.  Good to think the sheets are rolling in – I told you we got the pair via the Helensbrough man last week; it now only remains for ye coffee table and wrapping ones to come in – any news of them and it?  Trudi’s address, in case you want it,  is – 509 Duncan House, Dolphin Square, London. S.W.1.

Daddy and I had a wizard holiday at Dunoon on Sat.  It was a glorious day of bright sunshine and the crowds at Dunoon for the Cowal Games was terrific and a very cheery lot, how we kept saying we wished you could have been there, the music and the kilts, however, we have great hopes you’ll see it all next year.  Over 50 pipe bands competed and that made over a thousand pipers, a quite unforgettable scene. 

The strangest meeting took place. Dad & self were in quite good time to get the 12.30 at Singer but were held up by the canal bridge being closed so we had to wait for the 1.18.  I bought fruit and while walking along the platform we saw a woman in hiking kit and a bergen (3) so I went up (as is my wont!) and spoke to her, asking her where she was going and she replied “Ardgarten”.  After a while she said “You’re a sister of Ena Mackay’s” and I said “Yes, how did she know” and she said she remembered me from years back.  We all got in the same carriage to Craigendoran where she was to meet two pals from G’gow & change to the West Highland for Arrochar. 

In the train she told us she was a foundation member of the S.Y.H.A.  We went on to talk of hostels, Loch Lomond etc. and thinking of the Clarkes there I asked her if she knew the Findlays and oh! boy that started it!  She knew John F. very well for years and said “He is in Egypt now” and I told her they were great friends of yours.  She doesn’t remember Jean, but hopes to meet them when they return.  She said John is the best comic she’s ever met & how he used to keep them laughing for days; I gave her our name and she is to send us a winter programme of the Health Culture Assn. of which she is a very active member.  When I said “Bryers” she said, “Oh! you get your coal from us” and it turns out she is head of the Coop coal office, getting Mrs Wick’s job when that lady left to get wed.  Be sure, honey lamb, to tell Jean & John about our meeting this girl – she’s 40ish I sh’d say (but don’t you say!) and her name is Iza Morris.

A letter from Joan B. for you came in this morn. – I’ll have to send it under separate cover, also a P.C. from Sweden.  The number of letters I’ve got to write & send are really beyond telling, but they’ll need to wait as I’m absolutely too busy for words just now getting all fixed for Uncle A. 

I’m giving the house it’s final beauty treatment – well, dolling it up a bit – must never be anything final for I believe in the Chinese saying “What reaches perfection perishes”.  Yesterday & today I’ve been a scrubbing out below the stairs cupboard & ye kitchen dresser – I think I’ll leave the odds & ends drawer for you to tidy!  Wouldn’t you love it!

I told you Uncle Donnie’s great idea for a boarding house at I.O.M.  I wonder what would be best – the select clientele of the north or the tougher, but just as critical masses of I.O.M.  Uncle D. found out practically all about I.O.M. whilst there; went to see the authorities re. taxation and all details – he really does know the ropes – and uses them!

It’s raining now (our unpredictable weather!) and every drop is full of our love for you, darling.

 Cheers, your very own Dad and Mum.  xxxxxx

p.s. Be as sweet as sugar if you meet Ernest – let him see what he’s missed – I must write to him soon, a sugary letter.


1.  Several London colleges and Tech Schools were evacuated en masse to Somerset when the London Blitz started, including, as an example, the Regent Street Polytechnic. 

2.  Maud’s 13 guinea hat was the equivalent of 1½ weeks wages of an unskilled manual worker in 1948.

3.  Bergen: another name for a rucksack.


Ernst Sept 48 png

Ernest, heaf and shoulders copy png10 September, 1948. .  

TEK.  1245 pm.

Dear Helen,

Thanks an awful lot for your kind invitation to the House-warming party tomorrow night, duly delivered this morning by someone from BSDM.

I should really like to come but I’m afraid it’s impossible, as I promised to attend a farewell dance for some four chaps at Moascar tomorrow night.  I am sorry I didn’t know about your party sooner.

I am still intending to pay a last visit to Cairo before I leave, perhaps at the end of this or early next month, and to hear all the ‘Gen’ on the UK from you.  Please let me know if you’re coming up to TEK in the near future.  Will you be at the Riding  Club Dance on the 17th?   

 As you may remember, I should be demobbed on the 30th of this month  at the latest but am held back on a Court-martial for which no date has as yet been fixed.

Hoping to see you again soon.

Yours Ernest.

Ernst env reverse png



1.  Ernest’s return address identifies him  as a Regimental Sergeant Major, in the Special Investigations Bureau of the Royal Military Police.  It seems he has been transferred from Port Said to Tel El Kebir (TEK).


There is now a 6 week gap, apart from Ernest’s letter above in this collection of letters.  Summer has moved into Autumn.  Uncle Albert, and his banjo, has arrived from America, but he has been away for a while from Mum and Dad’s house, possibly revisiting family in the Liverpool area.


Mum letter image png_edited-115 October, 1948.

Hello darling,

I called yesterday aft. at 99 Norse Road. (1)   Mrs Ballantyne, (2) and Rory were at the Modern Homes Exhibition and Uncle D. was in the house all on his own and he showed me several of the “buys” P & he got at the sales – Mai deah!   You never saw such bargains – everything that guy touches seems to turn to money.  They have every conceivable gadget at 99, including two meat safes, gas boilers, two sewing machines – one brand new which Uncle D. got for 10 gns. and a beauty for 6 gns. 

He says he will get four times those prices for them in Iran.  However they are to keep one so that dear Aunt P. can make troosers  for wee Rory.   They got a three piece wardrobe for 11 ½ gns. – absolutely superb.  Uncle D. had brought an incense burner (brass) home from Iran – he’d paid £5 for it there, and he bought two exactly like it at the Crown Salerooms for 30/- and sold them to P’s sisters for £1 each; he got a £7.10/- shop price perfect Parker pen gold mounted for 25/-  – you just can’t believe the bargains he gets and it was wee me who told them about the sales.  P has bought umpteen new dresses and got Rory a brown very expensive Burberry which doesn’t suit him nearly as well as his old blue one.

U.D. must have a wonderful salary; he bought two diamond rings at the sale, one for P. & one for wee Maggie, but I guess he’d make wee M. pay for hers.  Phemie & Rory expect to leave by tanker from Greenock on Monday first and Uncle D. is to fly out on the 25th.  They are busy packing, boxes and crates and trunks all over the place.  I asked them if they had a spare one to put me in as far as Port Said!  Aunt P’s tanker will, she thinks be calling at P.S.  Uncle D. and Aunt P. were dashing off to the Alhambra later, where they had booked seats for Noel Coward’s “Perchance to Dream”.  

 U.D. was saying they don’t plan to come home next  summer but, all going well, will return in 1950. 

Daddy is away to the hospital to make an appointment to see the specialist, then he is going to the Eye Infirmary to get his eyes tested for new specs.  Dad plans to go on a day’s outing to Edinbro’.  It’s arranged by the boys where he works and Daddy is terrifically looking forward to it so I hope the weather will be good.

I’m planning to lift the stair & living room carpets and give them a good beating and clean down the stair case, dust walls, etc. and varnish the stair, then that will be every corner in the house turned out.

 I got an Ox Tail at the butchers on Wednesday, it’ll be a great help with the meat ration.  This morning I was planting bulbs and now we hope for the best results.  I’ve put in two lots of crocuses, one lot each of Jonquils & snow drops  (the flower for Mothers) and two narcissi bulbs – one red, one blue – they are all in the dark in the living room cupboard to wait till the green spikes appear – it’s a fascinating job planting them & watching them.

Just look at this ink!  Must get another bottle.  Uncle A. hopes to be back at 26 next week when we shall get all the news, he has written to you, he says.

look at this ink png

We hope there will be another letter from you with the morning post.  Dashing off now to post this & get the rations.

Bulb bowls of love ever blooming for you.

Your own Dad & Mum. xxx


1.  In nearby Scotstoun.

2.  Mrs Ballantyne is Phemie’s Mum, also known as ‘Wee Maggie’


Mum letter image png_edited-119 October, 1948.

  Tues. morn.. Sunny Cold.

Hello Darling,

Just dashing to get this off after one of the most amazing week-ends – I’d better start at the beginning.  On Friday night Dad & I were just sitting down to a cosy fire side night when a ring came at the door and it was a wire to say “Phone Newton Mearns 2155”.  Daddy dashed out to the ‘phone as I’d got a bit of a cold.  It was Lot Morrison to say their mother had died the day before.  Daddy said we’d likely be out to see them at the week-end.  On Sat.  Daddy was at Edinbro’ with a bunch of boys from work.  It was a lovely weather and they enjoyed the day very much, going & returning by coach.

On the same day I tried to get some sorta wreath of evergreens or flowers to take out to Lot’s on Sunday, but all the flowers I saw (in Clydebank) were a bit blown & tatty as it was Sat. afternoon.  I managed to get some beautiful Asparagus Fern – cost me 6/- for 6 sprays, cheap too.  On Sunday I was busy all morn. as I didn’t – couldn’t get any white satin ribbon but remembered I had some lengths of white taffetas in the house.  I cut some on the cross and made the most gorgeous huge bow: Mrs. Collinson gave me some chrysanthemums, copper colour & I got some out of the garden & made a really super bouquet, twining the fern thro’ the white bow.

I had just finished & Daddy helped me to get lunch when a ring came at the door.  I said ‘Oh! my’ and when I opened it if it wasn’t Ken Dixon!  I wrote to tell him not to come last Sat. but he evidentally thot’  Sunday w’d be O.K!  I said “Oh! we are just going out” and he replied “Oh! it doesn’t matter, I just wanted to see you”.  I put him in the sitting room, gave him a whisky & biscuits & he sat and Dad & I talking to him in relays as I was really hurrying.  At last as we were ready to go & he had made no signs of going so I asked would he like to come with us & he said he w’d love to, so we all hiked off to Newton Mearns.

Quite a crowd of people was there and must say the family had made Mrs Morrison look nice.  She had on a beautiful pale blue satin gown & a large ivory & silver cross – the gown was trimmed with white real lace and everything was in keeping.  She was 86 years of age, a wonderful woman.  After what seemed ages Lot came in, she’d been into town & made us tea.  By this time Ken was starving.  He kept looking at the clock (which wasn’t going) & at his wristlet watch & said he thot’ he’d have to walk from Kilmarnock to Muirkirk  (1) etc. etc till at last I asked him if he would like to come home with us to stay overnight and he said he that would be grand, so we got the last bus home to 26, and I had to start to make a proper meal as we only had sandwiches and biscuits at Morrisons and you know Ken’s appetite!

I made spaghetti on toast with piles of fried tomatoes.  Ken was saying what a lovely house this is and he was in raptures about the comfort of the spare bedroom & said it’s the most comfy bed.  He had no hurry to depart in the morning & says he still thinks Scotland is tops.  He says he was never so entertained as at the Morrisons and what laughs he had about their twelve cats and two dogs!  Ken says he’ll be writing to you & sending some snaps.

Breezes of love drifting to you from us.  You are ever in our hearts & thoughts, Yum-Yum.

Dad and Mum.

p.s.  No word from Findlays or from Uncle Albert.


1.  At the time there was an army camp in the Muirkirk, Ayrshire area.  Presumably he had a weekend pass.


Mum letter image png_edited-122 October, 1948.

October Morn.

Hello Cherub!

It’s the limit! – I solemnly declare it’s the shirt and semmit! (1) Another unexpected visitor in the shape of dear Uncle Albert came in on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and this after I’d written to say write or wire!   I said “What’d you have done if we’d been out and he quite cooly said “I’d have gone  next door” !  However I’m well used to the unexpected guest by now so I take it all in my stride.

At the moment U.A. is getting ready to write another of his endless letters, and, as he has already spoiled three of my pens I’m determined he won’t get this one.  The positively maddening thing is that he keeps on saying how much better the pens and ink are in the U.S.A. and how many wonderful fountain pens he has over there!

Now to answer you.  Re. slimming beauty treatment, all we ask is to make sure it doesn’t damage your health in any way and for goodness sake don’t do anything just because that poor wee Esme suggests it – sounds good buying a really wizard frock – was it your idea or Esme’s? (2)

So glad you liked the snaps. (3)   They are all good tho’ the Glencoe one is dim.  Remember how it rained and yet we were so happy – funny how when one is really merry, weather and finance matter so little.   The suit I have on, on Dunoon Pier  is my old grey flannel – remember I got it years & years ago.

Good that you are to get Trudi to go with you prospecting for carpets, I think she will be very helpful and knowledgeable – tell me all partics. before buying, so as I can think it out.  Trudi will be telling you all about her trip here, she really did enjoy herself and said it was such a relief to get away from Lunnon.  (4)

Re. your request , I drop hints to U.A. to send you more cosmetics – where & how c’d he send them out to you?  Anyway, tho’ there’s few things I wouldn’t do for you, my baby, but asking U.A. for anything I just balk at. 

Please write and give us all the data re. ‘phoning you on the 29th (darling 29th!). We must remember that  Cairo & Glasgow times differ & take that into account.  Ken Dixon was saying the charge is about £3.6.8.  Next time I’m in town I must call at the G.P.O. & ask if there’s any further news of a ‘phone for 26.  I’m frightened to bits of the things but shall do my best for your dear sake.

We would like to give a party for U.A. but he must dominate the talk all the time & Daddy says he wouldn’t like his friends to meet him.  We cannot go out with him as he doesn’t want to spend money at all –  I’ve dropped heavy hints re. going to a show and the necessity of booking in advance but he says he’s seen all the shows from front, back and sides and they are of no interest to him.  Believe me, he is heavy weather.  As we are out of all the dough for his keep we cannot see we sh’d be out of pocket for his entertainment also.  He wants us to have a party so as he can play his banjo – he takes it everywhere – it’s awful.  We are promised pie in the sky in the shape of parcels from U.S.A..  He is a poor soul & we c’d pity him if he acted decently & not such a blow hard – here he is asking for a new pen – what shall I do? – What shall I do!  I’ll hide this one.

All for now, must run to the shops.  Give our best to Trudi.

All our love, Mum.


1.  A commonly used Scottish word for vest.

2.  This letter about slimming and a new frock are not in this collection.

3.  These photos do not survive in this collection.

4.  Trudi Grafton presumably will have brought up the sheets from London.


US Navy Day oct 48 png


Mum letter image png_edited-126 October, 1948.  Tues.

Dearest and Best,

The River has just come in from not getting his innoc. for return to U.S. and is telling me some screamingly funny joke about a Horse and Rabbit in a pie while I’m trying to scribble this to you. 

You said in your 318 of Oct 19 (1) to always give U.A. your love, whether your remembered to send same or not, but, my deah, he insists on reading all your letters unless I hide them first.  He says “I know there’s nothing in them I shdn’t read” so you can react as you please.  I c’dn’t show the last one so he thinks you are a long time in writing.  Please send one I can show him.  He has just demanded tea & I’ve got to get it ready for him.  Now he is asking me to go to town with him some day to help choose presents for the people in L’pool.  However with the memory of his & my last day in town together (when he made me feel thoroughly miserable) I’ve said I don’t think he likes Glasgow and referred to several derogatory things he said about it on our last trip.  He almost apologised & said  it was because our decadent neglected towns have all been such a shock to him!  I just say to myself  “Oh! Bonnie Scotland, what I’m suffering you ye noo”.  You say you mustn’t say anything nasty re. U.A. – please don’t – we’ve said them all.  The awful thing is, we feel so sorry for him, but he makes us mad – absolutely doesn’t give out at all, in thought, word or action & has no interest whatever in anything or anyone outside of himself.

Re. what he said to me about leaving dough between you and James M. I’ve found out he has said the same (with variations) to Getchel’s boys and all the cousins, etc. so it’s worth nothing at all.  His letters which he insists on reading to me, are all couched in flowery language which doesn’t mean a thing – it’s sickening.

Uncle Donnie called on Sunday.  He is flying from London to Iran today & is getting a wonderful day for it.  It’s a 20 hour flight.  Aunt P. & Rory left last Wednesday & were to sail to Swansea first of all.

There’s a letter & pictures in this morn. from Aunt Betty .  I’m trying to make up my mind to show them to U.A. but I quail as one picture shows. A.B. sitting beside U.A.’s bone of contention, Mr Hall.   I think I told you, U.A. makes out A.B.’s friendship with Mr Hall is a scandal but I know the scandal is only in U.A.’s mind.  Uncle Betty has sent me a coat, one of hers, isn’t that lovely, she is really a dear.

You know HOME is waiting for you right here.  Home and welcome and love – this is your own place, steadfast and unchangeable.  I sometimes wonder if this time next year you’ll be clad in Harris Tweed, using a shooting stick and discussing the respective merits of Shorthorns and Ayrshires!  It’s worth having a go at the Ministry of Ag. when you make your much hoped for return (2),   meantime save dough and buy Eastern curios, etc, and don’t forget the carpet.  Above all, oh! above all, keep safe & happy.

Ever your own adoring Mum and Dad.


1.  Not in this collection.

2.  It seems Len is thinking about making a move from the Ministry of Supply to the Ministry of Agriculture.  As we will see, she liked working on the land, and maybe she likes the association, even if she continues to work as a shorthand typist,  within the Civil Service.  It also indicates she has changed her mind about studying at a Drama College.


Mum letter image png_edited-129 October, 1948.   Friday

Winter Yet.

Our Bright Sunbeam,

After reading your 319 (after yr. 318) we are left gasping.  In your 318 you give us the gen. re Mrs W’s freakish hospital lack of discipline, Jack’s neglect and Trudi’s fickleness, then your 319 brings us word that you have been visiting the Wilt. woman, forgiven Jack, and then taken tea with Trudi!  It must be something in the Egyptian air, and we give up! (1)

Uncle A. got his innoc. for Smallpox on Wed. and Daddy told him he thot’ he (U.A.) would come under the Nat. Health scheme and U.A. has this morn found the bit in his papers where it tells him to make enquiries at a P.O. so now U.A. is quite happy thinking he may not need to pay.  He says “Oh! I don’t mind paying” but believe me it’s a case of “methinks the gent doth protest too much”.  He is quite right of course but what have American Citizens done that they sh’d qualify for our free health services?!  They pay no visa guarantee money like my £50 for Egypt – it’s a bit much and another indication of how we dance to America’s tune.

It’s with much alarm we read in your letters of raids, etc.  Do, do keep safe darling. (2)  

How are your finances?  It’s very bad to get a £20 advance unless for the purchase of some big bargain. entertaining, phone calls and all the quite unnecessary  (and uninteresting) trimmings are such a drain on dough.  I have to keep a tight hold on finances here as catering for one extra (used to American food) for a period of two months takes up any surplus there might be.  I’m leaving any further criticism of U.A. until we find his reactions when he returns to the U.S.A..  At present his whole idea seems to be not to spend.  We could have given him such a wonderful holiday if he had shown any signs of generousity.  Daddy & I contrast his behaviour with yours – the way you were so good to us and so kind and you were a very splasher of dough compered to U.A.  After all, after nearly 40 years absence you’d think he’d want to stand us a meal out or something!  We keep telling him you and Uncle Donnie took us to the theatre, etc but he just doesn’t bite.  As you know Daddy and I can take ourselves to a show etc. but if he’d only show willingness!

Got a sweet letter from Aunt Betty two days ago, she is quite settled down in Phila. and she thinks she might be there till the spring when she may sell up Willow Grove to go west to her sister in Calif.  A.B. sent us several pictures.  I’m enclosing two for you, darling, you can send them back any time to us or keep them to look at to cheer you up.  In all the pictures they look so happy.  Betty’s brother, Andy, has quite a look of Bruce I think.  Ruth is Andy’s daughter, isn’t she lovely!  Note the new look shoulder draperies on her and her mother’s dresses. 

Bryers family group

Bryers family members in the United States. Aunt Betty is second left. This is not the photo that Mum refers to (no draperies on the shoulders) but it is assumed that Ruth is at the front, sitting on the grass.

Aunt Betty looks very well we think, she tells me she has sent me one of her coats, I am delighted as I can do with another one – the one James Mitchell sent turned out to be a treat, a lovely blue and all wool but the weight is more suited to warm weather as it is a fairly open weave; I made several alterations to it and it really looks smart, here is a wee scrap to let you see the colour, etc

Mum  29 Oct 48 png

The weather is bitterly cold and U.A. is miserable about it as he cannot walk far or do much to keep himself warm – he is lucky to have a good big fire to sit at.

Ta-ta just now, our own only dear one, all blessings on you always.

Oceans of love.

Dad and Mum.

p.s. Yes!  Dad had a grand day & grand weather at the outing to Auld Reekie.

p.p.s.  Aunt B’s pictures were taken at Willow Grove in the garden.


1.   Mrs W – the “Wilt” woman is American.  She and her husband will invite Len and Esme for a meal at Christmas.  We do not know how they and Len first met.    Trudi is Trudi Grafton, and Jack is someone Len has met on her return from her UK leave, who is part of an Army group providing security cover at the British Embassy in Cairo.

2.  The war between Egypt and Arab allies and Israel was continuing, and there was unrest in Cairo and the rest of Egypt.


There is now a three week gap in the collection of this correspondence.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-122 November, 1948

BSDM Cairo,

c/o Det. APO S.299,


Eyes turned to England. (1)

Best Beloved People,

Your 322 needs to be replied to (2)  & I must tell you also of super week-end – not because of activities but because of the super type I met – a most unusual combination – you know he’d a light touch & was attractive yet is good too.  Nearly always one gets attractive bad people or good unattractive people & the combination (of the better qualities) leaves me gasping a little.

However to your 322.  Uncle A’s conduct leaves me speechless – you get those medals all right.  Now have your “Entertainment of American Visitors” up in my room beside “Whit’s she up in the air aboot noo?”

Had a p.c. from you Daddy today, you know your Liverpool one.  Not quite with you about trip ‘cos from letters it appears you went down after Uncle A., yet saw him off?

Impossible to do anything about parcels from Cyprus – but here’s hoping they’ll turn up yet.  Esme proposes to give me  a collar & cuff set in lace for Christmas from there, so it too will be ordered for despatch to England, perhaps if & when it arrives you could hang on to it for me – you see it’s no good getting it sent to Egypt as it means customs & lots of things.

Dorothy sailed on Saturday, complete with your crochet cotton Mum, so I hope it won’t be long ere she arrives and despatches it to you.  Will now see what I can do about the silk stockings – I’ve just had a phone call from Pen – in Cairo again on the Singapore route this time, so if he doesn’t take the legs of the coffee table, he ought to take the stockings. (3)

There are three of us in the flat – 3rd= Maureen’s father-in-law. (4)   He’s stayed with us ever since he was posted here from BSDM Alex.  We’ve tried everything to find a girl but as yet no-one wants to join us.   I’m stony because Ned ran up terrific bills before they left, from which we’ve not yet recovered & I wash my sheets because I don’t want them ruined by the dhobby.  You see there ain’t no sheets with the flat & up to now we’ve used Bill’s and E’s and me own, changing with one of theirs now & again when one of mine’s in the wash.  Bill wants the sheets back & we’re wooing all Army & Embassy personnel we know, for the loan of 3 pairs to enable us to cover ye bodies & allow enough for laundering too.  The third of my sheets is wrapped round the brass bits  of the coffee table which is finally covered with some black-out cloth.  So just hold on & I hope they’ll all gradually go west – in the best sense.

PLEASE DESPATCH THAT DRESS – Mummy, I asked you to do it there and then without putting anything else in – won’t go on, ‘cos I’ll only rage & you know my sudden gusts – & I know you for shoving everything in parcels. (5)    However, you are wonderful, but I don’t want to get parcels of stuff over here, & then sell the clothes I don’t want, “tain’t economic ducks” – after all, labour is the most precious commodity & plenty needs to be spent to sell anything in Egypt.


Well honestly, it was terrific to say the least.  We bussed down, went to the mess for food (different Sgt’s mess each time) and then to Church of Scotland to rest and wash & change. (6)   Less than two hours later as we were departing for the dance, Mr West (the man who looks after the C of S canteen & hostel) said to me “The boy’ll be over in the morning.”  Golly, I thought the morning coffee was becoming a habit with Ernst, but never thought he’d exercise remote control in that direction.

We went by truck to the dance where a ghastly sergeant stuck to me – I vaguely saw Ernst who was most pally – then had the idea of announcing through the mike.  The people looking after us thought it a good thing so I was duly told by the band what the next dance was & did my stuff.  I turned round to drift back when a young subaltern asked me for a dance.  I danced with him & found he expected me to stay with him.  At this time I was not enthralled, but he was a pleasant companion which the other bod was not.  Then Ernst excused himself at one stage to draw me aside & ask me to come with E & Dorothy (English Embassy girl, not the one taking the e. cotton) to a party at their mess.  I said “Yes”.  You see Esme was fed up & had no-one, which meant she would come back to Cairo the next day (Sunday) leaving me alone to come back this morning.  At the party I thought she’d meet someone.  Later I told the sub. I’d have to leave early as I had to join a party which had been pre-arranged.  He said I left him a broken hearted man, but this I did not greatly heed.

On we went to Ernst’s Mess, where instead of there being a party we had to open it up.  I fumed at him for bringing us down on false pretences (a thing I’d never have done when enamoured) & he said other people were coming & to complete his appeasement gave D, E & me a ½ lb box of Rowntrees chocs each.  I nearly fell through the floor to be blunt – first thing Ernst’s ever given me & the first time I’ve given him a row!?!   The people did come & I went into the cookhouse & made tomato sandwiches & we’d a grand sing-song lasting till about 3.30 am.  Ernst drove us back in his jeep accompanied by Lettie & made a date with me for 11 the following morning. (7)

We slept well & I got up at 9.45 & phoned the MO who without a murmur arranged transport for us this morning – a difficult thing to do, as the checkpoint where we pick up the bus is outside the Garrison.

Then I went to meet Ernst – was wearing the ancient but super navy skirt & the jumper of the twinset for the first time – I looked O.K. & the jumper really does things for one.

Ernst nattered away furiously & when I said I expected to be on the boat shortly said “You can’t do that, you can’t go before me, it isn’t done”.  However, despite his pleas I said I wouldn’t be in TEK for a while, so he said he’ll next see me in Cairo.  I told him he’d better leave me then, as it was 11.55 & I was due to see Duncan at 12 noon (subaltern of the previous evening).

Nipped away to freshen up & came back to find Duncan waiting.  He insisted on taking the girls to the mess as well for lunch, after which Dorothy came back to Cairo with the CO by car & another bod who suddenly took a fancy for city air.  Esme was with Tony another sub & Duncan & I were getting on like a house on fire.  He’s half English, half Scottish like me & and is 5’ 10”, blue eyed, 22 & full of quips.  Later we drove around, had tea in Tony’s tent & a mock seance, then went to the C of S to change, came back for dinner & went  to see “Jassy” at an open air cinema – yes, it was cold despite my stockings, but not too cold.  Then as it was part of Tony’s duty we toured the perimeter (wire fence around the Garrison) in an armoured car after which they took us back & we said good-night.  (8)

The tragedy of it is that Duncan (Lt. King) goes into 156 Transit camp at Port Said on Friday whilst awaiting ship to U.K.  He’s to try to come to Cairo & anyway I’m s’posed to be going to P.S. week-end after next – if he’s still in 156.  This week-end we’re expecting people up from Fanara.  Jack wanted to see me this week-end, but I told him of the bods coming up & mentioned the following week-end, but if all goes as planned I’ll have to postpone it still further – Pen in Cairo 5 days and rehearsals make further complications.  At the moment I just want to see Duncan ‘cos he’s so darn nice & I like him, but I daren’t drop everything else impulsively.  Thanks for bearing with me once more, but you must admit I haven’t raved about anyone since Mark which was a long time ago.  Duncan’s got a sister at RADA & lives at Esher (nr. London) just now & plans to go to Agricultural University before going to Canada to fruit farm.

Has that phone been installed? – I’ve told everyone we’re expecting it to be installed shortly & am just waiting to give them the number.  It would be grand if it could be installed for a week today, but from what I hear the time lag between hearing you’re going to have one & actually having it goes into months – I bet Maud’ll keep you on the end of the line for hours at a time. (9)


Must sign off now kittens – love you as much & more than ever.

Len. xxxxx


1.  “Eyes turned to England” – possibly a reference to her Ministry of Supply Civil Service employers in London, who would determine when she is posted back to the U.K.

2.  Mum’s 322 letter is not in this collection.  She wrote several letters to Len high-lighting Uncle Albert’s ‘behaviour’.

3.  Pen is part of BOAC aircrew, and Len probably met him on her BOAC flight.

4.  Esme is the other flat mate.

5.  The letter in which  Len asked for this dress is not in this collection.

6.  Esme is part of the “We”.

7.  Lettie is probably Ernest’s fianceé.  Ernest married  Arlette P.J.M. Packham in London in 1949.

8.  As footnoted elsewhere, the barbed wired perimeter fence around TEK was 17 miles in length.

9.  “Grand if installed… a week today.”  That would be on Len’s 23rd birthday, 29 November.  There was a telephone in the Cairo flat she was sharing.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-1

30 November, 1948.

BSDM Cairo,

c/o Det.APO S.299,


Uncalm Cairo (1)

What a St. Andrews Day!

Most well loved People,

What are you to think of me?  Haven’t written since the 23rd I know & this won’t get posted till the first, but I hope you’ll forgive when you hear what’s happened in the interim.

Well I’ve been busier at work than I’ve been for a long time which has almost precluded writing there & the rest of my time has been hectic.

Last Tuesday I Frenched & saw “Message for Margaret” put on by CTG & I forgot to say Pen of BOAC dropped in for a morning coffee.  Wednesday Jack came to lunch & Pen to dinner but we spent the time quietly indoors.  Thursday I stayed in to sew and at night refused a BOAC invitation as I was taking a friend of Jack’s to the recital for Security  observations & they never came, so I didn’t go out.

Friday I went to Vera for French & from there to rehearsal at Hope Clayton’s.  She’s one of the cast, runs Cairo’s best pension & gives us wonderful teas.  She’s a grandmother married to a Brigadier, & as well as acting she sings & toured America as a Wightman cup player – not bad eh?

At night stayed in to get ready & also collect some cash Jack is giving me out here that I may transfer to him in England.  You see I meant to gradually cut down my advances to nothing, but they’re stopping them altogether this month which is a bit of a bind & necessitated my action as above much as I hated doing it.  I shall give you the amount & name of his bank account in due course, when I’d like you to send him a cheque. Please Mum – don’t say I’m awful please, because it’s the flat wot’s done it. 

Saturday I’d a busy morning at work, but got away all right & went straight to the station accompanied by one of Disposals local bods who insisted on acting as my escort.  I should explain I’d a super letter from Noel (formerly Charlie, Noel’s what his family call him) (2) on the Friday saying he’d adore to see me at the week-end if at all poss. & that he expected to sail on the Tuesday – it was written from 156 Transit at Port Fouad.  As the people coming up from Fanara were on a scheme & during a trunk call said they’d come the following (i.e this) week-end, it meant I was free to go to Port Said, so I did.

When I arrived at P.S. I asked the RTO if there was a Lt. King at 156. (3)    He got on the phone,  stayed on it for ages enquiring, then said “He’s not there.”  When I replied “Yes” to his query of “Did you come to Port Said especially to see him? – there was a mingled chortle & guffaw from the BOR’s also in his office for they thought it a great joke. (4)   However they looked up their books & he didn’t appear to have come through the station, then they rang the Embarkations Staff Officer, but got no reply, then they wondered if he’d gone straight on the boat & finally they phoned TEK, who said – yes, a Lt.King had left on the Friday.  “Well what’s happened to him between Port Said & here” I asked.  They didn’t venture a reply but took me down to the quay – beside the famous customs shed  & there we waited for a launch ordered for us on the old-boy basis.  Eventually its lights twinkled & it arrived. 

We boarded & it whizzed away – being a speedy craft to Port Fouad & the back of 156.  We got out & on to the black desert & walked forward.  The enormous black back gate loomed up & a voice said “Halt, who goes there?”  I was with two RTOs & they halted themselves & me & one yelled “Friend” – “Advance friend & be recognised” the sentry replied, so he did & left us outside whilst he went in to enquire.  He was gone ages & I began to think Noel was halfway across the Med., when he came out to say he was there. We went in and right across the place that breathes discipline.  At about 6 am. each morning the loudspeaker says – it’s a well known fact out here – “All ranks will rise from their beds, wash, shave and be properly dressed for breakfast.”

However on we went to “A”  Officers’ Mess & there Noel was, just finishing his shift of guarding a deserter.  I arrived in P.S. at 7, & contacted Noel by 8.30, but I learnt later the RTOs didn’t get out the camp (156) till 10.30! as I wasn’t with them – having gone  to the main gate with N.


We walked over to the Married families & Officers’ Leave Camp, where we had dinner, then I at last managed to find the receptionist and booked up.  I’d taken my ballerina with me, but there was nothing on to which I could wear it, so just wore (after washing) another dress, then we went to P.S. and danced in the Eastern Exchange.  We eventually said good-night over at PF about 1.30 a.m., despite the 156 rule of “All Ranks must be back in the camp by 2259 hours” – 11 p.m.  He was going straight on duty at 2 a.m. to 9 a.m., guarding a deserter, whom he told me was a very reasonable bloke.

Sunday I got a super breakfast, then Noel arrived at 11 a.m., a bit late, because they wouldn’t allow him out of the camp whilst the church parade and service was on.  We walked on the seashore – where our famous photo was taken Mum – then went across to the Officers’ Club for lunch and boy, did it rain. delesseps crop png Then we’d a walk along the breakwater, right past de Lesseps statue before coming back into town to have tea at Gianola’s.  Then we ferried back and we sat for a little while in the lounge of the MF & O, before I packed.  We went back to the ferry via 156, where Noel attempted to go in for his greatcoat as it was darned cold and I was wearing my Motoluxe (5), but they wouldn’t let him in as there was another church parade on and if he’d gone in he couldn’t have gone out.  He saw me off by the 7 p.m. train to Cairo – remember us sleeping in it Mum? – and I’d an uneventful journey back to Cairo.

 I let myself into the flat and found your cable perched against the telephone – it was lovely to get it and thank you so very much – I must have got home just about midnight or after (as the train was late getting in), so yours really was the first greeting on my birthday.

Next morning found Esme’s present of the diamanté bracelet and also a card and a rhyme separately.  At work the pool bought me the most superb enormous bunch of flowers, barley sugars – Barker & Dobson’s, and some nougat.  I’ve been giving out some of the barley sugars, but as I’m not a sweet fan, will send the nougat to you.  Then Esme and I toured the town in the afternoon and we’d tea in Groppi jardiniere – me treating her it being my birthday.  ‘Tea’ is an overall term, as she’d meringue with coffee ice cream and French Coffee and I’d a sfogliatella and a hot orange squash. 

I also put a deposit on a dress.  You’ll be glad to know it’s not dark and restrained – one of the girls was lecturing me about wearing brighter things and I think her words coupled with your own must have had some effect.  Esme says “Yes, it gives you a wonderful line, but I think it looks like a blanket”, however, as I don’t think much of her dress taste I’m not worried by that.  It’s a big check – really big – but like you Mum I take no notice of those theories, which are very rarely applicable.  The bodice is cut on the straight and fits perfectly with a dart not coming up the front but from half way up the bodice on the side seam, it has an ordinary plain collar of the material – not peter pan, but ……. like that. 

dress letter 30.11.48 png

The colour by the way is a turquoise and black with a yellow bit in it too.  Don’t be put off by the t & b, for I’m sure you’d like the colours – sort of tartan effect.  I must admit the skirt is cut on the cross, which is the only bit I’m chary about, but it does fit like a glove, but all over my dee-yah.  The sleeves are slightly bouffiant finishing in a highwayman’s cuff – O.K., I admit I made up the expression, but you must admit is sounds O.K. comme ça  …… – it has three gold buttons on the cuff and also a gold buckle on the belt.  The reason for the superb fit, is that it zips up from below the waist at the back.  price – £5. 19s., which you must admit is not extortionate for a woollen dress – the shoulders, I will admit do not slope, but are not determinedly square.  I’m dreadful, for I hope to pay the balance – deposit was £2 – at the end of the week, and at present don’t know where I’m getting it from – just can’t summon up worry about cash.

I forgot to say about the week-end that Noel, wants me to jump on the next boat for U.K., and is horrified when I talk of March – which is the quoted departure date at the moment, but London cables could get me home at any time.  Yes, he’s most keen to say the least and I do quite a lot of reciprocating.  You shall be kept fully appraised of further chapters.

Told you about Noel’s sister being at RADA, didn’t I? 

Noel '47

Noel. Palestine 1948.   Note pistol in holster, and barbed wire fence behind him.

He himself is 22, 5’ 1o” – or rather that’s my guess and has been in Burma and helped evacuate the people from Haifa. (6)   His father’s a Colonel in the Indian Army, but N, though he knows Hindustani – having been in the Indian Army himself – wants to study agriculture, then go and fruit farm in Canada. (7)

After town we went to the Embassy to interview the new servant in Jack’s office and we found him O.K. (the servant.) (8)   

Yesterday was hectic as we were busy beyond belief at work and the axe came down on a number of people, including Esme, for she was told she’s to sail on the 23rd of this month!  As you can imagine we’re moving heaven and earth at the moment to get rid of the flat and get some key money at the same time.   Of course what I’d like is to have Jack and Bob Shields (his pal, also kind of security) come in and let me stay on – we’re just waiting for their decision.  Otherwise I’d perhaps move in with Trudi as she’s asked me to do – sink me pride  – I would if it was convenient, or go back to bed and breakfast.  I’m hoping that although my finances are in this state at the moment, even if I stayed on in the flat, it wouldn’t be as expensive as it is at the present, as J & B don’t want a cook and if I can stay on in the ME another month or two, perhaps I’d begin to see the light. (9)

I’d to cancel my French lesson, to have this conference with Jack when he came, so hope to go to-day instead.  I’d Miss Sullivan – a friend of Liz Lawson’s to tea – who is also interested in the flat, comforted Esme, wrote a bit of this letter to you two and at night  went to a rehearsal.  They tell Esme if she can find a later boat in December she can take it, so she proposes to haunt all the travel agencies.   She’s coming to me for aid like the Dickens and practically doesn’t want me to leave her side – yes, looked suicidal till I agreed to  go to an Officers Mess dance at TEK on Friday.  The idea is to go and come back to Sat’s work by a bus about 6.30 a.m.   I’ve also got the household accounts to do this month, though it’s not my turn and of course Esme wants our full up lampshade – we started another yesterday.  I’m a bit peeved about it as the visitor’s book and lampshade were my idea in the first place and many of the all-over-the-world signatures, we won’t get again, however I am sorry for her being axed so suddenly and suppose I must put on a good face on it, though this possessive helplessness is a bit wearing.

I was a bit disappointed about your not phoning, but feel with you about the usage of our phone and would have hated to think of your stamping about to keep warm in the GPO in George Square. (10)     Feel it’s not worth while having a Trans-Continental call now, as I don’t know when I may get the order of the boat – you see when I suggested the birthday call that was some time back, for a special occasion and before the situation became as fluid as it is now.

About the Cyprus parcels, after all this time, Esme tells me it was only fruit parcels which went direct from Cyprus.  The order for yours must go first from Cyprus to Australia, from where they are eventually despatched and reach U.K. about 5 or 6 months later, so at least that’s more hopeful, December is the fifth month after ordering. (11)

All being well I will try to get some of my photographic friends to do some dark room work on my Syke negs.  (12) 

Could still go on for another three pages, but that would mean my missing yet another mail, so will make this finito.

Always in my thoughts darlings, all the warmth from here to you and all the love,

Len.  xxxxx.

p.s. Received the birthday card. L.


1.  The demonstrations were still continuing in Cairo, and elsewhere.

2.  Duncan – Charlie – Noel.  All the same person.  Len attempts a fuller explanation in a letter to come.

3.  RTO:  Transport Officer.

4.  BORs:  British Other Ranks.

5.  Motolux was a British made moderately fashionable full length coat available in fur or llama wool. 

6.  Operation Polly, as footnoted elsewhere.

7.  Noel – Arnold Duncan King – was born in Kanpur, Bengal in 1926.

8.  It seems that Jack is going to become a flat-mate.  Despite her financial hardship it seems Len, and flatmates, are taking on a new house servant.  This indicates the low rate of pay for such Egyptians.  

9.  “Begin to see the light” – financially.

10.  The large main Post Office was in George Square, Glasgow, where Mum would be able to make a Trunk and Trans-Continental phone call.  The George Square Post Office closed in the 1990s.

11.  Sending parcels via Cyprus is assumed to be another way of getting goods to Britain and avoiding paying Egyptian Customs duties.

12.  Negs:  photo negatives.


Noel 2 envelope png

Noel 2 letter repro png

Noel, i50 x png156 Transit Camp, Port Fouad. M.E.L.F.

Wed. 1. 12. 48.

My dearest Helen,

Apart from the start of this letter, I shall continue in a cold & aloof strain as you don’t approve of people who are warm in letters & cold in reality.

Why I have been so long in writing this letter is because to be quite honest, I lost your A.P.O. address & have been tearing the tent apart trying to find it, luckily I did.

Although you say I’m over expressive in letters I honestly can’t express in this one how glad I was to see you again & how mystified & flattered that you bothered to waste your week end & come & see me.  Nobody has  ever quite taken that interest in me.  I must say I felt that it should have been I who visited you in Cairo & you know I would have done if it had been possible.

This blasted Transit Camp gets daily more depressing, I think I’ll do someone an injury if I’m here much longer, only the memory of seeing you here last week end & the thought that you’ll be here next Monday makes life tolerable.

I won’t warm up any more, but at the risk of offending you I’ll say Please Write soon.

All my love,

Noel  xxxxx

p.s. Ref. your joy through strength friend, you too can  have a body like mine if you’re not careful.


Noel drag png

Noel in Camp Follies. Palestine, 1948.   This photo was in the Memorabilia collection.


Next    Part Two  Chapter Eleven:  Marriage and the Scum of the World.

“Never in Egypt… The very way in which the scum of the world gather here is depressing…” Len to her parents, letter of 12 December, 1948.


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Part Two 9 Hectically Excited

Part Two  9  Hectically Excited

” To-day I’ve had letters from the Guildhall and Central School and my latest idea is to make it home for leave, and not return if I find I pass their auditions and also that they can’t postpone my entry for a year. ” – Len, letter to Mum, 24 March, 1948.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-121 March, 1948.
Evening in Zamalek.

My dearest Well Loved Ones,

Greetings – hearty & strong & many, many happy returns on your birthday Mum.  Do tell me what you did on yours Dad & you what you do on yours Mum.  What’s the Spring like – is it as lovely as always & have you been out of town lately to Loch Lomond or Rothesay?

Poor Esme is in hospital with jaundice – I went in to see her to-day & she’s so yellow it’s difficult to believe.  She feels fine now – it seems the worst part is over when you go yellow – she was at work during the worst part.  Her main concern is to be well enough to be out of the Anglo-American & at Kabrit for a dance which the RAF gang they met at Luxor recently are having.

Yesterday I went out with Mark.  We drove into town first for chocs. & cigs. & I called in at Esme’s pension, and that’s when I found out  she’d gone to hospital.

Then Mark & I went out to Maadi for dinner & another quiet evening at his place. He’s terrifically good fun & we’ve lots of laughs together.

To-day I got up late & walked over to the Anglo-American to visit Esme, buying flowers at Gezira en route – the wee soul was so glad to see me that I was glad I’d paid her a visit as soon as I could.

Once again, wonderful birthday. The clock’s chiming out all my love for you.



Len for Egypt letters png_edited-122 March, 1948
Hectically excited. BSDM.

Most nearest and very dearest Beloveds.

I’ve changed my mind about not signing on with the Mission. There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip, but here are my plans – to delay entering drama school for a year to try to re-save the dough I spend in another year with the Mission and here’s at the last the important thing I want to do with it: COME HOME ON LEAVE.

As I’ve got my maximum of 6 weeks in U.K., can take a fortnight of it and also loads I’ve got at this end can be added on to it too.  I had this in my mind very vaguely when I was first asked to stay on, then your letter with “see if you can get back” made the idea grow.   My idea is to have a general shooft (1) – see how easy, or difficult it is to get into drama school.  Of course I don’t need to say it, but just to confirm it in your minds, I couldn’t stand another year of not seeing you so that’s the reason that the going home on leave is a must.  It’s all in the melting pot as yet, but I’ve seen Establishments and they say it will be no trouble at all.  You probably think this is a sudden and enormous change of front – please tell me if you disagree or concur and if you’ve any amendments to make.

Want to get this off to you now as we’re almost stopping – what do you both think?

My love as always and in every way,

Len xxxxx


1.  Shoofti (to have a look) is an arabic term that has become current in British English usage.  However, Len consistently in her letters spells it Shooft, though her Mum uses the more common Shoofti.


Mum letter image png_edited-124 March, 1948. Wednesday.

A lovely Spring day.
Birds singing,
Clouds winging.

Darling Bestest,

Writing this against time, darling, so as it to get it in the 4.30 coll.  It’s a glorious day of sun and dainty breeze and I’ve just got in from the shops where I stayed longer than I intended as I saw oranges, etc too good and too scarce to miss.

I bought a pair of shoes on Monday in Manfields.  After the girl assured me they had nothing like what I wanted and brought out umpteen prs. of shoes plain and fancy she had another look and bought out an odd pair (I mean one pair) she said they were sent from their London shop; they are beige bumpy leather med. heel and only 31/7d – practically a throw away price as things go today with shoes selling at anything up to £9 and more.  You should see the shoe shops absolutely crowded out, but I think its panic buying and if the good example of the Coops is followed prices should drop sharply. (1)

Daddy got his letter from you on Monday and was so happy about it.  Maud called at night and he was talking to her and telling her how wonderful you are.  Dad is calling for his suit at the tailors tonight.  He is to call at the Western on Sat. morn for an examination and they told him they would give him exercises to do, so that should make it supple again.  I was talking to Mrs Collinson this morn. her brother and wife and family are planning and packing to leave Ceylon this week-end – do you recall meeting her brother?

Must now get this in the box honey lamb. You are ever, ever in our thoughts, bless you, our own darling girl,

Your ownest Dad and Mum. xxx Cheerio!

Hope to send you a long letter at week-end – waiting, as always, for your next letter. This is just to let you know we are O.K. Mum.


1.  The Budget was due in 12 days and various rumours were flying around, hence ‘panic’ buying.  In the Budget, on 6 April, the complexity of Purchase Tax was simplified into four categories.  The changes did not affect the price of shoes. As usual, duty on alcohol and cigarettes was increased. Dad, as a heavy smoker – 60 a day – would be affected.

Cartoon budget png_edited-1

Osbert Lancaster cartoon from the Scottish Daily Express.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 March, 1948.

Almost time to call it a working day. BSDM

Very dearest dears,

Did you think I was a bit nuts when you received my last epistle, the truth is I feel really lost about what to do, and I’m sitting on the fence so much that your “life in the East is good” etc. letters just pushed me over to wanting to make it a leave in July.  Won’t get much of this done to-day, but thought I’d start.  No criticism whatsoever is even inferred about the context of your letter, perhaps there are other factors which have influenced me subconsciously.

You see, as a CO – my present grade, (1) I’m almost certain to be sent to work in London. You know how I feel about London – I couldn’t bear to work there – studying is an entirely different proposition.  To-day I’ve had letters from the Guildhall and Central School and my latest idea is to make it home for leave, and not return if I find I pass their auditions and also that they can’t postpone my entry for a year.

Wouldn’t it be super if Uncle A. could come across on leave at the same time and all of us meet in U.K.?

Thank you so much for all the care you’ve taken in answering my query about going with Mark to the Red Sea. By the way, about Mark’s invitation, there definitely is a party going down to a  place on the Red Sea where the hot springs are.    As you’ll have seen from previous letters I’m not going.

Monday, Mark and I had lunch at Findlays, then after a short drive I went to the Cs. No-one was in, so I visited Esme, then Chayanne.  She’d received your letter and was really overjoyed with it – I’m probably moving to her soon, but if you don’t mind I’d rather tell you why if and when it’s a fait accompli.

 Yesterday I phoned Mark and we’d dinner at the Savile, then went to Bernard’s and talked.  Leaving there we went down to Mark’s en route to which we’d a puncture. Mark and I by the way (how true your remarks about that phrase are Mum) have agreed to be platonic friends – we have so much to talk about always, that this shouldn’t be too difficult.

 Talking of Henry Lindsay’s height, Mark is 6ft. 2ins.  I’m beginning to come round about cars, but walking – well, I haven’t got round to it for ages, so p’raps I’ll take up tennis.

This letter seems to be extremely disjointed, but I’d better get it in the mail now, or I will miss it entirely.

Every ray of Egyptian sun is shining through to you two with love,

Len. xxxxx.


1.  CO: Clerical Officer.


LHLand copy

Mum letter image png_edited-128 March, 1948.

My Birthday, Easter Sunday, Sunshine and Breeze.

Dearest Most Precious Girl,

The moment I saw two letters from you I knew tremendous news was contained in at least one of them!  So!  You have signed on for another year with the Mission, but, shall be coming home on leave.  Well, honey, Daddy and myself have talked it over and we really think you have done the best thing, this way, you will not have any feeling of having burned your bridges and will be able to consider your future and do a good long think.  You say – (in an earlier letter rec’d last week, your 269) that my 260 rather took the ground from under your feet – but why, my sweetheart? (1)    I do hope you fully understand I really work at doing a bit of thinking over here for you and about you, also that I want you to always consider every move from every angle and no chances missed in your life, so you see I just put down my conclusions on paper and hope you will understand why I say this or that.

Our great “looking forward to” date at this time is your so much hoped for home coming.  Already apropos your going back again we are saying to each other “Another year after her leave won’t be so long in going in.”  We are really getting excited now about planning to meet you and see you, even to the extent of arranging the blooming of the garden, as far as poss. to be at it’s best about August!

 Re. your trip home, of course your fare will be paid by the Mission?  I know you will know the right way to go about seeing that is done.

Many thanks for your sweet letter for my birthday.  Daddy got your letter for his and will be replying shortly. Daddy brought me up breakfast to bed this morn. and also on the tray he put his Birthday Gift to me, a lovely card and a bottle of “Evening in Paris” perfume. Wasn’t it sweet of him. It all made me feel very luxurious “bring on the Dancing Girls” sorta feeling!

Daddy called at the hospital – the Western – yesterday. He saw the specialist who wants him to go into hospital for a week or so for observation and treatment. He assured him there is nothing seriously wrong and you can guess how pleased I am to be told that it is not serious. It seems the whole trouble is bad circulation and treatment sh’d put it right. I’ll keep you well informed about he gets on, he must be fit to go and meet you.

We intended taking a run down to Ayr to-morrow but we think of the difficulties of getting back, so if the weather is still good we plan to go to Helensburgh for the day.

Every Easter Breeze is laden with love from us to you, our darling.

Mum & Dad. xxx


1.  Letter 260, that took the ground from underneath Len’s feet is not in this collection.  259, the preceding letter,  was Mum’s of 7 March, 1948 “Breathless trying to follow your day…” and Mum’s 261 of 14 March, 1948,  was when she and Dad first went into Town to look for a suit for Dad.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-12 April, 1948.

Grey sky, but who cares, viewed from Chayanne’s.

Hail Good-looking Ones,

I’ve heard  that old Ernst has been moved to TEK. Accordingly when I got to Port Said I knew it was no use trying to ring him, but felt it was only courteous to ring Johnny as I was in the neighbourhood.  He told me he’s being civilianised and is coming to Cairo in the Embassy this month.  He also told me that Ernst was engaged to his ATS girl from Fayid – I told him to pass on my congratulations.  However, on Tuesday when I returned to work, I received a letter from Ernst from TEK – first let me convey his message to you Mum. He asks me to explain that he’s been so busy it isn’t true, but that you are on his list of people to write to, and of course he apologizes for not replying to you ere this.

However, he goes on to give me his big news – which is not as I expected, of his engagement – but that he’s got his repat to UK fixed for December.  Isn’t it amazing, all the natives of England stay on in the Middle East, whereas an Anglophile  like Ernst moves heaven and earth to get there.

Before I forget must say – maybe I’ve said it already – my plan is to burden every Englishman I know going home with as much stuff as he’ll take – as I can’t see an Export Permit covering all I’ve got, especially with the new restrictions – nothing but personal belongings unless you’ve been here at least 5 years and jewellery according to social standing!!!

It was a slip on my part to let Peter away with nothing, but I’d no dough at the time and hadn’t formulated my plan of getting them to take home the stuff I’ve got just now. I’ll try to get Malcolm to take a pair of sheets and all being well if my leave scheme comes off and I’m still here in December will absolutely load Ernst down.

Everyone here lives in mortal terror of the Customs and the thought of getting a carpet out just makes me feel weak right through, if only Ken C. would turn up and take it off on the “Patrician” for me.

However, back to the main theme, his letter – no mention of an engagement and bits about the Cairo road bringing back a lot of memories, and gives his phone number and says he hopes to see me there soon for a week-end or Sunday and says he hopes to be coming to Cairo shortly on duty trips.  Don’t like it at all, still I’m probably imagining things and it’s really all on a purely friendly basis on his part.  It’s certainly not more on mine.  I’d love Mark to meet him as I feel they’d get on together.  I must give him a ring from Q this week-end – it’s practically next door to TEK – and ask whether congrats are in order. (1)

Longing to get home to talk about the house.  Of course Mark and I talk of architecture and decoration and he talks smugly of our conventional English architecture, and our conservative attitude towards it.  I answer by taking a real interest in and try to absorb modern ideas – even his design of a house with a swimming pool coming right into it, but berate him for his lack of tolerance in respect of some of our fine period examples – we spit the words “Queen Anne” at each other.  What I started off to say was though, that talking with him has brought out my interest in design and decoration which was only latent and makes me think of all we could do with “26” if it was ours.

Did they give you an overhaul at the Western, or just foot Dad?  I ask apropos of the pain you had in your chest.  So glad the winter this year has passed and hasn’t been as severe as last, I worry frightfully (well, quite a bit) in the bad weather ‘cos I know you’re both so full of beans and do lots of things, and don’t coddle yourselves at all and you should a bit.

Later in the morn.

Wednesday I saw Chayanne and arranged to move in yesterday, then cancelled my lesson with Vera as I couldn’t have a French lesson and move.  Parting from Morris after coffee in Groppis I went to Margi and he showed me how he’s starting to make my other shoes and also some white sandals which he thought would be a good pattern for my lizard skins. It’s a super style – high heeled ankle strap with a platform and beautifully finished – should look super in skin.

I’ll tell you about this now, but don’t bother to reply about it as really I want to forget ‘cos it makes me feel so irritated when I think of it and I don’t think much can be done.  My green coat, Bethlehem Mother o’ Pearl Earrings, my Poison Ring, Hand Embroidered Handkerchief Sachet, the Last Lace Hanky I had from Aunt Lizzie, a Max Factor Pancake Make Up and my music are all missing from my stuff.  I shall see the Companions about it and take Mark along for moral support, but can’t see those Greeks loosening up on anything.  S’pose it was partly the servants – having been so lucky up till now, I forgot how one is s’posed to have stuff pinched right and left here, well I’ve had a taste of it now.

Yesterday, I moved after lunch. It was really wonderful to get to Chayanne’s. I’ve got an enormous double bed, a little settee that goes round a corner, a big wardrobe, dressing table, bedside table and another table with a drawer in. For the first time I set up my coffee table (s’pose I might as well let you know I’ve got one), then Chayanne set some marigolds upon it and they were reflected in the brass.  There’s also a chair in front of the dressing table and an arm chair – with the thought of being another year I really need to have somewhere I like and feel happy with.  I was beginning to jump when anyone spoke in the other place

You’re kidding about my fare home being paid by the Mission! – I’m crossing my fingers about getting on leave at all – you don’t know what funny things can crop up. Yes and if I’m known to be in U.K. officially I won’t get any FSA for the time I’m out of Egypt and that won’t be so hot.

You see people are staying on and if you say “I’m not staying on unless I get home leave”, they’ll say “Oh really, we can get plenty of people who can – Toodloo” – and that’s putting it crudely, but it’s the definite gen, you needn’t think I haven’t tried to persuade Estab., but I’m afraid I’ve had it, won’t even be sent back to sit the EO exam – hideous isn’t it, but though it’s a lot of dough I feel it’s worth it completely and absolutely when I think of you two. (2)   I thought of leaving 31st July and returning to work on 7th September. Course so much depends on air line times etc., but I’d like to have the August Bank holiday thrown in if poss.

My idea is to spend my time as follows: week in London with you two and I can find about auditions study etc. at the same time and hold a tea party at which anyone who wants to can come – that’ll cover people I can’t or don’t want to devote time to.  Then a week at 26, then toute seul – i.e. all alone I spend two weeks in the Highlands – but you two coming with me to Loch Lomond to begin with.

Does that sound horrid?  I’m so mixed up about things I’d like to be alone in the country.  I love to think and enjoy its beauty at the same time. And one can never be really alone out here. You’re not hurt are you? After that I want to come back and spend a week with you two once more before returning.  Unless I can manage more leave, travelling time will knock off a day or two of the various weeks here and there in U.K. and I’d like to go by an airline that gave me a day or two somewhere.

Are you taking that rest cure in the Western yet Dad?  Anyway, take it easy just now so that we can beat it up in the summer.  Jean Findlay tells me apropos of their holiday in Italy that the shipping lines want to be paid in dollars.  It’s going to be hideous with a capital H if the air lines want the same thing.

Loving you ever and ever.
Len. xxxxx


1.  Ernst has got engaged five months after Len and he broke off their engagement.

2.  EO: Executive Officer.


Mum’s letter is written two days after Len’s above. She will not have yet received Len’s re. missing items.


Mum letter image png_edited-14 April, 1948.

Sunday 4.4.48 – What a lot of fours!
Gardening Day in the Old Home.

Best Beloved Ain Wean,

Picture this, if you can, eating cheese sandwiches and downing them with hot tea, jolly good after weeding and digging.  Alas! the gentle dew from heaven visited us and so we had to call a halt to our horticultural activities pro tem and this is Marie Corelli now active with her “dipper” in an effort to catch the 4 p.m. post.  (1)

What a worritin‘ wee letter your 273 of 24-25th March is!  Worrying about what to do re. shall you go back after leave or not.  Well, darling child, my advice to you is please don’t worry one other minute for I can assure you from my own experience, those problems of time and space have a way of sorting themselves out.  We think your idea of “home for leave but not return East if I find I pass their auditions and they can’t postpone my entry for a year” is simply splendid.  It leaves doors open to you and will let you see how things are here and you’ll not have a feeling of having burned your bridges and leaving the east forever in the past.   As you well know, honey, the great purpose and ambition of our lives is for your well being and, if we could, we would give you mental vision to plan the best by trying to let you see things from our point of view and in the light of events here.  If you find everything here i.e. conditions of study, passing exams, etc. all to your liking it will be a great relief and joy to us to know you have chosen such and such a course (whatever you decide to do) with an absolutely free mind and not one hampered by the thought “I’ve got to do this or that” – comprey?   As I allus  says, mite – freedom is the essence.

Do, do enjoy Egypt without worrying what’s next on your geographical menu. The main thing is to keep well and happy.  We are so proud of you and, for the moment, think of one thing only, your so much hoped for and longed for homecoming.  So glad Mrs Skaracha got my letter, give her my love and thanks for her kindnesses to you. Yes, we will wait for all the news of your (maybe) move from the Cs till later as you ask.

Spadefuls of love and showers of merry thoughts from your gardening parents. Blossoms of hope and joy are blooming in our hearts for you, our own darling.

Dad and Mum.


1.  Marie Corelli was an early twentieth century romantic writer. Dipper: pen.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-17 April, 1948.

In the office.
Sunlight striking bare trees

Very dearest Dears,

About home leave, a complication has developed.  One needs a re-entry visa and cannot get this unless one has a residence visa.  Accordingly one has to more or less pull all the strings of heaven and earth for the latter.  I gave my passport to Prince Abbas Halim’s stepson, whom Chayanne knows, but had it back with nothing done as yet, seems I’ve to fill in a form. (1)    Estabs. were very grudging about it, seems they’ve nearly run out of the quantity of visas they can issue.  I’ve also spoken to Lily Shaoul – d’you remember her Mum, a thin, small dark girl with a lovely face. She’s going to the U.K. about June and is trying to fiddle herself a visa and has said she’ll try to help me too.

This means even if I can’t go on leave I can’t go holiday either, so that’s why I feel I might as well not be skimpy and enjoy tennis and riding whilst I can.  Also I’m frightened about buying another thing to take home till the export ban’s lifted or modified, for people are selling things on the docks for a song as they can’t get them out of the country.  Nevertheless, Mark and I are s’posed to be going to look at carpets this week-end.


Saturday the bus took us straight from work to Quassassin.  I  ‘phoned Ernst who is at TEK, just next to Quassassin.  After a while Ernst came and we nattered and nattered. He was in a most disquieting frame of mind – for example, he said “I used to think I was sane, but now I wonder”.  When I asked why he said he was thinking of himself becoming engaged and when I asked him why he did it he said  “That’s what I’ve been asking myself ever since”.  Also, he brought up the letter I wrote him (for we took our hair down in a big way) and said I didn’t mean what I said in it.  This left me agape for a second, then I said “Ernst Hirschberg, you’re the most conceited man I’ve ever met”. Honestly, he’s got a nerve. He’s got a beautiful face, a super body, is intelligent and efficient, but has about as much consideration as a bulldozer – am I glad that we’re just good friends now.

I stayed the night in Ish as I like to stay in the canal zone when I’m there.  I tinkled Esme to let her know we’d go back together.  But the funniest thing that happened was this.  I was sitting in the lounge of the Y talking to Miss Morris (you probably met her Mum).  She’d been in China and Ernst and she could talk about the Tiensin scandal. (2)   I’d just discovered she’d been in Abadan and knew the Mackays (3) when in walked Ernst (and TEK’s about 50 miles away).  He breezed up with he’d just been rowing, then we exchanged pleasantries about Miss M. knowing everyone in the East, then I said “What made you breeze in here?”  He rejoined with “I couldn’t come in here alone could I?”, letting me know the erstwhile fiancée was also in ye building.

 After this 18th Century repartee he departed to wash his hands and I made my way to the cloakroom.   There I saw a girl repairing the old face – as I combed my locks – then she finished and she’d hardly gone out of the door when I saw in the cloakroom mirror Ernst and she departing through the gate – he must have absolutely whisked her out. Afterwards I went dancing with a girl and her boy friend who insisted on taking me along, then trained back with Esme and some other girls.

By the way, forgot to say that when I got to Quassassin I discovered Malcolm had gone home unexpectedly, the day before, and there was I left with about half a cwt. of stuff – inc. a pair of sheets which I had to cart back to Cairo – better luck next time I s’pose.

Had better get this off now. Oh, I’m also enclosing a thing about coupons – perhaps you’ll comment on the views expressed and on whether any of the facts it gives give a wrong idea, so that I’ll know what’s what for coming home. (4)   Yes, if I can’t come home on leave I want to come for good, but time will show what happens. Must say I feel most lethargic at the moment – the ME certainly has a sapping effect.

Cheers & all the love there is for you.

Len. xxxxx.


1.  “Abbas Halim (October 9, 1897 – July 6, 1978), also known as Nebil Abbas Halim or Sharif Abbas Halim, was a prince of the Muhammad Ali dynasty and a labour activist in Egypt.”  – source, Wikipedia.  The Wikipedia entry on him is interesting reading and adds to the political background of Cairo and Egypt at the time that Len was living there.

2.  Len mis-spells: it is Tientsin, a then Treaty Port.  It is difficult to know which scandal was being discussed.  In 1900 European troops went on a sustained looting spree; in 1937 a murder revealed corrupt dealings amongst the European police and in 1939 an assassination was known as the ‘Tientsin Incident’.

3.  Uncle Dennis and Phemie.

4.  The item on Clothing Coupons in the UK, that Len mentions, follows.  It is included as it gives a unique insight to one aspect of the rationing in the 1940s austerity Britain.  It is also an insight into the complicated and tortuous bureaucracy that went into this Board of Trade guideline. Future Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was President of the Board of Trade at the time it was written.

“From – The British Chamber of Commerce of Egypt Journal, March, 1948

Clothing Coupons in Great Britain To-day

The question of clothing coupons for visitors to the U.K. is one that is frequently raised by members of the Chamber, who want to know such things as whether visitors are entitled to coupons and if so how many, the number of coupons required for different articles of clothing, and the formalities for obtaining them.
As so many members will shortly be making plans for their summer holidays in England, we thought it would be useful to contain up-to-date information on the subject from the Board of Trade; according to a detailed memorandum just received from them, the position is as follows:-

Issue of Coupons

All visitors arriving in the United Kingdom from Egypt, if staying for more than twenty-eight days, receive a proportionate share of the ordinary civilian basic ration. This is 12 coupons for a stay of three months, which are issued by any National Registration and Food Office.
As supplies are still short in the United Kingdom and civilians are kept on a strict ration, an automatic issue of coupons for visitors, in addition to the basic ration, is not possible. The only cases which are considered are those where exceptional clothing hardships can be proved. Applications for coupons in such circumstances should be made to the Board of Trade, 91 Victoria Street, London, S.W.I. Visitors are advised that, to prevent discomfort and disappointment, adequate wardrobes should be brought with them.
British Nationals normally resident in the United Kingdom but temporarily domiciled in Egypt, if on leave after an absence of two years abroad, are granted an issue of coupons for re-kitting purposes when returning to Egypt. Enquiries regarding this allowance should also be made to the Board of Trade, at the above address

Personal Export Scheme

In addition to the basic clothing coupon ration, there is in existence the Personal Export Scheme, whereby visitors to the U.K. may purchase rationed clothes free of coupons and purchase tax if the clothing is sent direct to their address abroad or else to the ship or ‘plane by which they are leaving the country.
In this article we only give details of the Scheme which are of special interest to visitors, who will, no doubt, make a point of obtaining fuller information from their suppliers.
Coupons Under the Personal Export Scheme, goods rationed under the Consumer Rationing (Consolidation) Order, 1947, that is clothing, footwear, and many kinds of textiles and textile goods, may not be handed or delivered to a customer in the U.K. unless he surrenders the appropriate number of coupons, but the goods may be despatched to an overseas address, including delivery to a ship or aircraft departing for overseas destination, and the Board of Trade will be prepared to reimburse the retailer with coupons. Application for coupons should be made to the Board of Trade, I.M Division 1, 152 Gloucester Terrace, London W.2., preferably on form A.T.3.0. which can be obtained from that Department.
Export Licences Visitors to the U.K. are normally allowed to take out without export licence articles which they have bought in this country with their own currency. There are a few exceptions to this rule, notably fire-arms, rubber tyres and tubes, cotton thread, valuable works of art, stamp collections, soap exceeding 2 lb. in weight and foodstuffs in excess of what is obviously required for the journey.
Payment Where the goods are to be despatched to an overseas address or to a ship or ‘place and are going to a place outside the Sterling Area, payment must be made in accordance with the Exchange Control Regulations.

Persons Settling in U.K.

For those who are leaving Egypt with the intention of settling in the U.K., the following details based on an article which appeared in the January Journal of the Overseas League, will be of interest.
Persons returning to settle in the U.K. receive a clothing book containing valid coupons “proportionate to the length of the ration period remaining”, i.e. at the rate of 4 a month. If they bring with them children under eighteen years of age, each child will get 10 extra coupons in his book. In addition, people coming home from overseas can, in certain conditions, apply for supplementary coupons. Those, for instance, who have been living in a warm climate and have no cold-weather clothing, may be granted extra coupons.
The following are details of the cost, in terms of coupons, of some of the most ordinary items of clothing:-

Men’s Wear

Mackintosh or unlined coat 9
Lined Overcoat 18
Suit (jacket, waistcoat, trousers) 26
Jacket 13
Trousers 8
Shirt 7
Shoes 7 & 9
Pyjamas 8
Socks 2
Collars or handkerchiefs ½

Women’s Wear

Lined Overcoat 18
Coat and skirt 18
Skirt 6
Woollen dress 11
Cotton or Rayon dress 7
Blouse, woollen 6
Blouse, cotton or rayon 4
Shoes 5
Stockings  1½ & 3
Handkerchiefs ¼

Clothes prices fall into two categories – those for utility clothes, and the rest. “Utility” is a bad word, that suggests institutional uniform; but in fact utility clothes are in no way standardised. They are ordinary good-looking clothes, made out of materials and to specifications laid down by the Board of Trade to ensure the best possible use of supplies. They are sold at strictly controlled prices, and there is no purchase-tax on them. The prices of some non-utility clothes are controlled – women’s coats, for instance – and the profit on all clothes is controlled. But all non-utility clothes pay purchase tax, which may range from one-sixth to two-thirds of the price. There is nothing second rate about utility clothes – firms with reputations like Jaegers, Braemar Woollens, “K” shoes, Daniel Neal, Simpson’s, Austin Reed’s, make or sell utility clothes.
It is not only clothes that cost coupons. There are sheets – 8 or 12 coupons a pair for single or double-bed size; towels, I each, tea-towels, I.  Certain furnishing materials are on coupons, but this is a rather involved subject. Roughly, furnishing materials cost less coupons per yard than dress materials, and can be got fairly easily without coupons – but at anything from a £1 a yard upwards. And all household linen that is not rationed – tablecloths, napkins and so on – is mostly non-existent.
People returning to settle in the U.K. should concentrate on taking with them textiles, sheets, curtain-lengths, dress-lengths, materials for nightgowns and underwear. If they obtain from the Board of Trade a copy of the Clothing Quiz sold at 3d. a copy, they will find in it answers to many questions of interest to them.


Mum wrote the letter below the same day as Len’s above, so she will not know that Ernest is engaged, or that Len’s plans for having holiday leave in the UK have run into complications.


Mum letter image png_edited-17 April, 1948.

Wednesday.  A wet dreary cold day but with the feeling “Spring is just around the corner”

Dearest Own Beloved.

We are so glad to get your 275 this morn. to learn you are safely away from the very terrible house of the Companions.  What a packet! and dreadful to think you had to suffer those indignities and dangers, that terrible father and son, I’d like to stick pins in them, the perishers. (1)    Poor wee Lita, lets hope some of the glimpses of fairyland you showed her will let her remember there are happier, brighter ways of living.   Let’s write it off as an experience, for, after all, one must take the rough with the smooth, mite.  But I must speak of them stealing your belongings, you know they are responsible for their servants thefts, hope Mark told them off good and proper, and that you let them see what British dignity and indignation are like. You should make them pay for the stuff they stole.

Before I go on to answer your 274 and 275 let me ask if you arranged for your salary allowance (i.e. cheque which comes here each month) to be paid to you out there for March?  I ask because so far I have not received it from London. Yesterday I thought I’d best not put off any longer and I wrote to the M.of.S. London telling them it hadn’t arrived.  If you have asked them to pay it out there, there’s no harm done by my writing – maybe they’ll pay it twice!  I made a bash at the address – Adelphi, London. You know that cheque comes in a wee, wee open fronted envelope, everyone can see what it is and it could easily be pinched.  Well, this is me passing the matter over to you for your action or otherwise.

 I was just thinking as I was lighting the fire this morn. (Yes, we need good fires yet), a year ago just now I was up to my neck getting ready for my great adventure.  You make no mention of going to see Au Bouddah about our carpet – that I know, would be one of your interesting jobs in Port Said and I guess you are keeping it a surprise.  Was talking to Mrs Collinson this morn. her brother and family are on their way home, left Colombo on March 31st on the “Strathnaver”.  Mrs. C. was telling me they got presented with a beautiful Indian Carpet just before they left – lovely! It seems they can bring anything and everything home and nae bother, maybe having a house out there makes a difference to what one gets through ye customs.

More than ever now, a carpet is a must, and honestly, if the Customs at Southampton are like when I came thro it’s nothing, brass ware – you can get in any amount and a carpet for your mother?

It seems as if Cooks had done their bit properly there was no need for us to pay a piastre when I left P.S.  Mr Munro didn’t pay a penny and he brought home lots.  I know you will attend to all this for you are a wise wee thing and have been brought up in true Scottish tradition of thrift.  The great idea (I mean for presents for us as a family) is to keep to large articles, i.e. coffee tables, carpets, etc.   Do please understand, honey girl.  By the way, those brass napkin rings, that I brought back,  are ideal for casual presents.  Must tell you Aunt Ena went crazy about ours, so that’s an idea if you want to please her, she hopes to come north at Whitsun, they are going to Wales for their main holiday,

No, I really was not kidding on when I spoke of MoS paying your fare, I really truly thought they would.

No, I don’t see why it was “polite to phone Johnny” and think probably his tale of Ernest being engaged is only a figment of his imagination – you know Johnny.   I also don’t think you should phone E. to ask if congrats. are in order – (that way of doing is very raw, if you understand what I mean – I don’t suppose you will!)  Let E. tell you the news himself if it’s true. I could say lots about E. and you, but least said, soonest mended and I shall just await events.  Lovely that E. has got his repat. to the U.K.  It’s what he wanted so much and I can make a guess he views everything in a different light from what he did a few months ago.  I’ll be glad to hear from him.

Your plans for your leave sound splendid – Dad and self can see it being all a terrific rush but we do think it will be good for you to do a bit of quiet thinking on your own but I want to tell you, no matter how we think or plan it often turns out a waste of time, for, as I’ve told you before, time and events have a way of arranging themselves and our lives in a very different pattern from what we think we’d like and many of our problems resolve themselves in the same way.

By now you’ll have my O.K. to go on with my shoes getting made at Margis – sounds lovely and I await your instructions re. measurements, etc,

Wrote to Harris yesterday thanking for cheque. I asked him would he like Joan B’s address, but won’t send it until she says O.K.

Oceans of love getting very thrilled at hope of seeing you soon. Bless you always.

Dad and Mum.

Harris was asking if you will be home this summer as he’d like to see you.  He’s passed auditions for Guildhall.  (1)


1.  Mum’s unfounded anger anticipating that Harris will not repay the money Len lent him has dissipated.  As Mum notes, he has also been accepted at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, one of the colleges Len plans to audition for if, and when, she gets to the UK for summer on home  leave.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 April, 1948.

Start of Summer Sun. BSDM

Hello my own Darlings,

Still no word of visas and with things like that it’s so difficult to press them, as they get in a bad mood and one more or less depends on their moods – will just have to keep trying.  Day to day bulletins of nothing happening would be rather depressing for both you and me, so I’ll wait until and if anything happens before giving forth with ‘visa views’.

Yesterday I’d my French lesson, then went riding at Mena with Iris.  My re-action was, “Why haven’t I done this since I was a child?”  However, despite the panorama of Pyramids all round the episode did not end so well, for Iris’ horse galloped away with her and she came off.  We took her from Mena to the Anglo-American in a taxi – the friends who’d motored us down were on the golf course at M. and one came back with us.

We put her in the Anglo, though she never lost consciousness, for we felt it was best. She’s got some cuts on the back of her head, but nothing that needs stitching.  I must go and see her to-day.  I determined that Mena was wonderful and so was riding, but it’ll be a riding school for me for a good while, where everything is well controlled. Then when I eventually head for the open spaces again, to go with Mark, who’s an expert horseman – it’s so lovely I shouldn’t like to have it mucked up by having a needless accident, though even the best riders sometimes come a cropper.

After leaving Iris’ bedside I did some washing and went out to a reading of Will Shakespeare in Gezira Preparatory School (where you first saw Merle & Warwick, Mum). (1)

Anyway, now I may say tap o’ the marning to ye  however as I’m P.Aing Old Bill with Iris off, I haven’t had the time to dwell with you in this ere  epistle that I would have liked, so before the mail goes, must put this in without further ado – take great care of yourselves. (2)

Your most own and always loving,

Len. xxxxx.


1.  The Stokes’ children.

2.  “P.Aing” – Personal Assistant.  “Old Bill” is assumed to be the Director General of Disposals in Cairo


Mum letter image png_edited-111 April, 1948. Sunday.

Everything in the garden lovely.
“If I should plant a tiny seed of love in the garden of your heart”

Hello Cherub!

Happy to tell you the M.o.S cheque arrived here yesterday; the envelope is postmarked London April 8, 3.45 p.m. so it must have been sent on Tues. 6th.  Boy! was I relieved to see that familiar envelope!

No further letters from you so I’ve none to answer.  Everyone I meet who knew you (and some who didn’t) say “when is your daughter coming home?” and I reply we are so oh! so much looking forward to seeing you in the good old summer time.   We saw in the papers that the MacDonalds are leaving Loch Lomond (the Youth Hostel) (sounds like a title of a song).  They musta made up their minds since we were there at New Year as they had no word of moving then and Henry L. didn’t mention it when he was here.

I got Mrs Scarchas letter yesterday and am so happy to hear from her; she says you are a darling and clever too and they are so happy to have you there, she seems worried about her husband not getting a job – what nationality are they?  If I know that I’ll maybe be able to say something to comfort her when I reply.

What you said of the contents of the letter you received from Ernest bears out what I said to you i.e. that all the uncertainty of his position of a few months ago was making him see everything in a contorted light and now his whole outlook is brighter.

Mr Collinson next door is ill with a very severe cold, the old lady, Mrs Ronson has been told she is to ‘take it easy’ and Joyce, now aged 12, went into the Western yesterday to have her adenoids and tonsils removed.

Dad and I saw “Torrid Zone” at the Bank (1) last night, it’s really good and quite a kinda new story. (2)

Bye for now, darling best of all.  Must dash to the post with this.  Dad is busy in the garden and says to be sure to send a bouquet of love from him. They were playing a new (to us) reel on the radio the other day “The Bonniest Lass in the World” and Daddy said, quite pat, “Oh! she’s in Egypt” – wasn’t that lovely!

Cheers and tons of love as ever, Dad and Mum.


1.  One of the two cinemas in Clydebank, at the time.

2.  Despite Mum saying it was a new kind of film, it had been first released in 1940.  Because of Britain’s dire financial situation the Government had imposed a dollar saving 75% tax on new imported American films.  Many old films were re-released by distributors.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 April, 1948
Cotton Wool Clouds. BSDM.

Good-morning my Darling Ones,

Sorry for the dearth of epistles from ME me, but seem to be involved all round and I hate writing to you in snatched moments.  Still bashing on at Iris’s job with a will, for although she’s out of hospital, she’s had rather a shock and is taking it easy in Claridges.

As you say, I’m being so vague about my homecoming date to anyone except intimates that it just isn’t true.  Truth to tell with all this visa business in the air I don’t know myself.

As the year advances I’m becoming more relaxed and don’t feel so tense in my letters to you, with the thought in mind that soon I hope to be able to say it all to you and not just the written word.

Saturday I saw Iris in the Anglo, and in the evening went with Mark to see “Fiesta” – the worst film I’ve seen in a long while. (1)    Afterwards we’d dinner then went back to his place at Maadi.  Sunday I’d a long lie, then got up and did my washing.  Afterwards I met Mark and we sauntered round Gezira before going out to Maadi – he said it was too hot to look at carpets.

Monday I lunched with Iris in bed at Claridges, then I played tennis with the Pro. Tuesday Mark and I had lunch with the Findlays.  Then I repaired to Gezira to have a conference with Jimmie Penstone of the CTG (2) on a production they want me to do for them.  Afterwards Esme and I sat on the slab in the twilight and discussed how she’s going to teach Mme Fayid – the Companion’s neighbour – English from French. Back at Chayanne’s Mark came to say he couldn’t make our planned trip to Suez with the Fs on Sunday as he’d a dinner at the Swiss Legation – that was to have been the last time, but I won’t see him any more at all now.  Yes, I’ve stopped going around with Mark – it’s a bit of a blow, but I feel it’s a decision I must take.

 Sorry for being so brusque. Will attempt to write a really long epistle in a day or two. No mail from you for about 10 days – take great care of yourselves.

Millions of love to you.

Len. xxxxx


1.  “Fiesta. 1947.  102m  Technicolour.  A Young Mexican wants to be a musician though his father insists he should be a bullfighter.  An extremely boring idea for a musical which at its best is a tedious time-passer” – Halliwell’s Film Guide.

2.  CTG: Cairo Theatre Guild.


Mum letter image png_edited-118 April, 1948. Sunday

Pouring rain but the garden oh! so green and fresh.

Hello Darling one over the Sea,

The radio has just finished talks on Turkey, Canada and New Zealand. I’ve been listening while “getting on with my sewing” and I wish I’d wings, or, what would do as well, a few thousand pounds of spare cash!   Anyway, by traveling in fancy whilst remaining at 26 I do get around in the utmost comfort for there’s a big fire blazing and all is warm and cosy.

Mum, Dad, Len garden 1945 png

The Rose Arch, Summer 1945.

Yesterday Daddy and self worked in the garden all afternoon; the rose arch had been blown down about two years ago and Daddy fixed it up lately, and, tell yer the trewf , mite, it’s so frail I hastened to paint it so that the paint could give it strength and keep out the rain, its only half finished as each little lathe has four sides as I found!

In the evening we went to see “This Gun for Hire” – Allan Ladd and Veronica Lake – very, very good.  Must mention I was listening to Children’s Hour Toytown – do you remember Toytown – and one of the chief characters as always was Ernest the policeman and I remarked to Daddy that when you used to listen to it when you were a wee girl you didn’t know you’d one day meet a real Ernest a policeman!

We’ve discovered that the wood worm is still busy in the sideboard I got from Aunt Mary.  I really thought I’d got rid of them for I kept the sideboard outside for nearly six weeks after getting from the north and spent hours and hours of work on it getting all the old polish off – a really big task; I also doctored it with paraffin, ammonia and turps thinking all that would get rid of the pests, however, we see wee mounds of fine sawdust here and there and now we see Mr. Woodworm is still with us, so we have decided to send the sideboard to a saleroom as we are afraid the worm may get into other furniture or the piano and that would be ghastly.  As it is I see traces in the old mahogany chest of drawers but hope to check that. Of course I shall keep the Sutherland bog oak handles, they, or rather the material, is over a thousand years old and Uncle Angus was offered quite a bit for them.

uncle angus obit png_edited-1

So Iris – the mysterious Iris – fell off a horse – will you still manage to wash her hair?  (1)  I do laugh when I think of you in the midst of whatever you are doing dashing off to “wash Iris’s hair”.   Yes, the horse-riding must be very thrilling and exhilarating but go easy for goodness sake and be careful – you only get one set of everything, you know, and we couldn’t bear you to get hurt, so remember, cherub.

I’m on my toes to learn how you got on your search for carpets last week end – of course you saw AU BOUDDAH at P.S.?  Do let us know all about it.

The radio has just playing the new song “Put another chair at the table, set another place there for me, soon the time will be here when I’ll be sitting there” – well, we do hope it may come true and soon; you can’t think how we are planning and dreaming always, of course, keeping our fingers crossed.  No more word yet of Dad getting into hospital and his foot is a wee bit easier since he had his corns etc. fixed at the chiropodists on Friday, and I’m so glad, as I told you, Uncle Albert wrote he was bothered with exactly the same pains in his legs, a very tiring ache it is, so do hope Dad gets better soon; he is at work today, they are very busy just now.

Must busy to the post. Take care of your precious wee self, you are our bright and shining star.

Every spring breeze wafts love to you from us here in Scotland.

Cheers. Dad and Mum.


1.  It is not clear why Mum refers to Iris Jago as “mysterious”.  If it was a comment by Len, the letter is not in this collection.


There is now a nine week gap in this collection of the correspondence.   The next letter in this collection is 22 June, 1948, from Mum, looking forward to Len’s holiday arrival in the UK.  During these nine weeks there were significant disturbances and war within Palestine, caused by the declaration of an independent state of Israel and the reaction of Egypt and other Arab nations.  It became known as the 1948 Arab – Israeli War, known to Arabs as ‘The Catastrophe’, and to Israelis as ‘The War of Independence’.

During these nine weeks Len manages to get the required visa in connection for her journey to the United Kingdom, and Mum continues to badger her about buying a carpet. Ena visits Mum and Dad at Whitsun, and Pat (Patricia) Brown visits them too, up from London, with sheets from Len from Cairo.

Next Friday,  5 December, 2014.   Part Two Chapter Ten: Almost Home and Noel.

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Part Two 8: Marriage – No second hand or damaged material

Part Two  Chapter 8:   Marriage – No second hand or damaged material. 

 “Remember always, honey, your value (I hate to put it this way but facts are facts) in the marriage market is a very, very high one…. therefore no second hand or damaged material will be good enough….” – Letter from Mum to Len, 26 February, 1948.


Mums letter, APO png

Mum letter image png_edited-124 February, 1948.

Good news in the Old Home.

Your hoped for home coming.

Our Own Darling One,

So much to say so I’ll start by saying that Mr Munro and Christine called on Sunday and brought us wonderful Birthday presents from you, and wonderful presents they really are.  Daddy is going around saying (in effect) “I’m so warm with my new ring” and last night I caught him putting it on to go to the clinic, wants to show it off all the time, it really is wizard, a perfect fit and so handsome.  Do tell us about the scarab – it is scarab, isn’t it?  I mean a real fossilised beetle?  We notice we can see through it (head to tail) so I guess it must be a real scarab.  We’ve turned it this way and that and all around. My dress length is truly glamorous, such a beautiful quality, Christine said she really felt like keeping it for herself!  I see there’s three metres in it – right?  Now I must think up some really cute style for that lovely stuff – any ideas?  It should wash and wear for ages, and you are a sweet honey to get it for me, it really looks like summer in Egypt, so cool and sweet – I don’t mean summer in Egypt is cool and sweet, no sir! but the sorta clothes they wear there.

Mr Munro brought his snapshot album to let us see his pictures and (keep it dark) I don’t think they are so good or interesting as my own collection except that he has been to and has pictures of far more places than I had.  Made me awfully wild when he kept saying “were you there” and “ did you visit that” – well, sweetheart, I guess the only thing for me to do is to make a return trip – ain’t they started a scheme to take Mothers out yet? – or Daddy’s?

Honestly, if ever that Littlewoods comes up it’s Dad and I for Egypt, must see Luxor, Mr. M. was in ecstasies (?) about it. (1)     He says he enjoyed his holiday and is “not sorry he went” (awful expression), but he still likes his own country best.  I think I’m really like a sponge as far as travel goes, I soak it all in and I can never make comparisons.  It’s best to understand the minds of the people.

On Sat. I got started out on my shopping right after breakfast.  I went into town to Muirheads as I saw they had a sale advertised, gloves at 10/- etc. and nylons at 6/11. When I got there the Q was right round into Cambridge Street so I says to myself “none of that for me.”   It was snowing like billy O but Q they would.  I went right in – the Q was for stockings only by the way.  I bought two pairs of gloves, one pr. heavy brown leather for Daddy for his birthday – he doesn’t know it yet, so keep it dark – and one yellow leather pr. for myself.  I then went to the stocking counter where the floor walker told me I must join the Q outside (almost collapse of me).  I told him I’d been already purchasing.   He hee hawed and then told me to stand “there”, “there” being top of the Q.   I was served right away – we were only supposed to get one pr. each but I got 2 prs. nylons and 2 prs. pure silk.  The nylons are seamless and the pure silks are fully fashioned – supposed to be imperfect but I cannot see a flaw in them.  All this shopping meant the handing over of 16 coupons, but shall have enough I think.  I’ll keep (or try to keep) 2 prs. stockings for you.  I’d advise you to bring home several pairs of the fully fashioned five bob ones as we hear they are going off the market soon,  but it’s maybe not true.

On Sat. also I got 2 rabbits in Lewis’  this was very fortunate as I was thus able to give my two unexpected guests dinner.

Yesterday I was greatly surprised to get a letter enclosing two slips of paper – receipts for a parcel from C.A.R.E. i.e. Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe.  The donor is Uncle Albert and I have to take the receipt, with my identity card, to the Clydebank Coop, Central Branch, Alexander Street and collect my parcel weighing 27lbs!  I think they’ll send it for me.

I’ve been told those C.A.R.E. parcels are really wonderful, everything in them. Wasn’t it terrifically kind of Uncle Albert to send it – we are very thrilled and must write to tell him so and say a great big thank you.   We got a letter from Uncle A. lately and he says you are his “most priceless possession”, so do write him nice letters, honey, he must be very lonely, I think.

Hope my 250 and 251 get to you soon honey.  Your 260 got here Sat. and your 261 on Mon. (Yestd’y) and we must say you do look lovely in those last pictures, dear. (2)    You look so slim and elegant somehow, you can fairly see your long, fine bones coming out now, if you know what I mean; in fact you are what are popularly known as a “smasher”, I’m sure lotsa people think you are really wonderful and none of them more than your ownest Dad and Mum.

Look at the wee wee space I’ve left to say the most important thing, that is how thrilled, oh! thrilled and joyed we are to learn of your decision to finish in July. That time is now a bright and shining star on our horizon – more about it in my next epistle. All the love in Scotland and our hearts, our own darling.

Dad and Mum. xxx


1.  Mum’s spelling, and question mark.  But her spelling is correct.

2.  These photos of Len not in this collection.


Mum letter image png_edited-126 February, 1948.
Thurs. Your Little Grey Home in the West.

Darling, darling Ain Wean,

Your 262 of 20th Feb. got in yestreen (1) and we are so glad to learn you are fit and well, honey.  I’m so glad you are getting lotsa green vegs.  That’s the stuff to put colour in your face and spring in your step.

I feel just now, after receiving your unnumbered “for me alone” letters of Feb 11th, 17th and 23rd, that I want to take you in my arms and comfort you and give you hope and maybe laugh at you a wee, wee bit! (2)

I never mentioned Mark in any of my letters because his being 14 yrs. your senior just seemed to make it impossible that you sh’d be anything but, not friends, just aquaintances. No matter how much you may seem to have in common you must remember his youth is behind him while you are only “on the threshold sweet” and nothing can alter that fact. It’s hardly worth discussing any further as his admission of being in love with a dame in Switzerland just cuts it all out, and I’m so glad you said, in effect, in the first part of yr. letter “I couldn’t stand any (his) murky past if he had one.”   Remember always, honey, your value (I hate to put it this way but facts are facts) in the marriage market is a very, very high one – you w’d mean success to a man, I say this as its simply a fact; therefore no second hand or damaged material will be good enough – the adventure must be fresh and new to both partners.

You know, when you were a wee girl a fortune teller told me you wdn’t marry till you were about 26, I often think of that. (3)    Remember what I said about as “good fish in the sea” and also that I said they keep improving all the time!

 I w’d advise you not to go around very much with Mark or give him much of your time – it w’d only be unsettling to both of you.  I had much the same experience with Stanley Dark and my one regret, after the whole affair petered out, was that I’d given so much time to going around with him.  It was good of M. to “tell you all”,  he c’d so easily have kept it dark.

No, I certainly do not think that the idea of men fills your life – you are much too clever to be so silly, please do know I understand.  Like myself, you are very young – some people stay like that all their lives, you know, and some people are old from the day they are born, poor things.

Re. yr. remarks that you’d enjoy a struggle to make ends meet, etc, yes, maybe you w’d but I wouldn’t want that struggle to be too much of a bread and butter one, it’s so fatal to iniative (?) and ideas. (4)

 Any word yet of the 10 quid you gave Harris? – that poseur; honestly I think its a bit thick – and has Esme repaid you?  For goodness sake get wise to the fact that those people are using you for their own ends.  Stop being Confessor in Chief and don’t make their arrangements for them, it gives a girl such a managing aura which is awful, much better the fluttering eyelash and helpless look, so snap outa the manager’s chair NOW!

Daddy and I have talked of little else than the fact that you propose coming home about July, and, oh! boy, I’ll say we are thrilled.  You know we wdn’t say “Come” or “Stay” but now you have yourself made the decision we can tell you of how terrifically happy we are about it; bless you and may you be kept safe.

I’m writing this with Hutch lying on my lap and every time my hand gets along to her ears she flicks it so much as to say “can’t you sit quietly?”  It’s getting time for supper so I’ll say ‘night for now.  Yes it’s Thursday night and that Jack, who leaves on Sat. hasn’t even a book packed.  Ah well, its up to him. Till morning light, good night our very precious one. xxx

Friday Feb. 27th. Good morning! I hope I see you well.

Must tell you that yesterday I collected the C.A.R.E. parcel from the Coop – as I told you they are sent by “donors” in U.S.A. and Uncle Albert was our donor.  It’s really magnificent, Dad and self spent an hour last night getting it opened as it was all done up with wire, herewith list of contents: 2 tins Braised Beef, 2 tins Liver Pate, 2 tins Marg., 1/2 lb. tin Butter, 1 tin Dried Eggs (1½ doz), 2 tns Dried Milk, I tin Grape Fruit Juice, I tin Orange juice, 1/2 lb. tea, 2lbs. Sugar. Ilb. dried apricots, 2 tabs. Toilet soap, 3 lbs. slab chocolate, I pkt. Yeast.  It was really kind of him to send it and it will surely make life easier for a week or two.  Please send Uncle A. a card for his birthday if you can spare the time, his birthday is 13th. March and his add. (in case you’ve lost it) is Mr A.E. Bryers, c/o Joe Howlett, 956 North Lewis Avenue, Waukegan, , Ill. U.S.A.

All the love of our hearts and thoughts is in this letter for you, our dearest dear. Dad and Mum.

I’m enclosing some bits and pieces. (5)


1.  Scots. ‘Yesterday’.

2.  These letters for Mum’s eyes only do not survive in this collection.  An additional letter written on 11 February does survive, but it was written for both parents. (See Part Two Chapter 7).

3.  The fortune teller’s ball was faulty:  Len was 29 when she married, not 26.

4.  Mum’s spelling and question mark.

5.  Mum’s ‘bits and pieces’ follow.  There are two cuttings: one from the Daily Express (Osbert Lancaster’s Pocket Cartoon was a regular feature), and the other from the BBC Radio Times.  Also enclosed is a scrap of a letter from Ena.

Cleched fist cartoon png

R.T. SYHA png_edited-1

Len was to stay at Achininver youth hostel in August.  The Radio Times has misspelt the name.

Aunt Ena's new look Feb '48 png_edited-1

Scrap of letter from Ena to Len’s Mum: “I have the New Look. I bought myself corsets & a brassier on Monday.  Old Look. New Look. I’m quite a smasher.”  Mum’s writing across it: “From Aunt Ena’s letter. They’re not coming up north now according to her last letter.”

The New Look: In February 1947, after years of wartime austerity, Christian Dior stunned and delighted the fashion world, and women, with his New Look.  Tight fitted waists with yards and yards of material below was a gauntlet thrown down that Harold Wilson, the Junior Trade Minister took up.  He denounced it as ‘irresponsible, frivilous and wasteful’.   The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stafford Cripps wanted it banned.   Ena’s letter,  a year after the introduction of the New Look, shows that Harold Wilson’s condemnation, and Stafford Cripps’ desire to have it banned were  ignored and thwarted.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-128 February, 1948
Blue Sky but blowy. BSDM Cairo Det. APO S.299.

My Nearest & Dearest Ones,

Once more into the breach dear friends – must tell you I’d practically no green vegetables in Egypt till I moved to the Companions and now I have masses of spinach and similar – isn’t it super?

Before I forget – do keep Christmas free – I want a big party to go to Paris if it’s at all poss. and have already asked a number of people who’re quite keen – wouldn’t it be fun if we could all foregather there from all over the place?  Of course it’s potty of me, when I haven’t enough dough to maintain myself and study to talk of holidays, but as the old saying goes – “A gaun foot’s aye get’n”. (1)

Lita had asked what time I was getting up on Sunday – with lack of caution I’d replied “About 9”.   She came in on the stroke of the hour and before I knew what I was doing I was out cycling with her – having had breakfast and hired cycles – round Zamalek. I’d lunch with Peter at Le Petit Coin de France in town – the best restaurant I feel that Cairo has to offer for reasonably priced well cooked and daintily served food. (2)

In the afternoon I stayed with Lita, nipping out for about an hour to introduce Malcolm to the Findlays.  Back to the family, then at night with Peter in our farewell do at the Kursaal. (3)    Why these people come on leave to see me, I don’t know.  The worst of it is that Peter – the most restrained person alive – (and despite all my dissuasive tactics) wants me to meet his relations in Liverpool and come and see him at his home – a place called Wooton Gilbert or something nr. Durham.  Malcolm too says “I’d love you to meet my mother”.  All of which leaves me a bit breathless, as specially as Mark’s saying it would be nice if we could meet in England in the summer???

Malcolm '48 png

‘Malcolm, Egypt ’48’.   Len’s handwriting on reverse.

At night they had me stay in because the servants were off and they didn’t want to leave Lita alone, so I couldn’t go to the Theatre Guild with Malcolm, but he was awfully nice about it and I tried to make up for it by walking to work with him next morning – yes, he picked me up at my door and walked all the way to the Garden City with his fully laden case, before going back to Q. (4)

By the way I’m enclosing a pansy which has rather had its chips.  Lita has given me many good specimens which I’m s’posed to have sent ere this – if you said you liked it she’d be pleased – she really has some lovely ones and is swamping me with samples to send all my friends – goodness knows what my friends will think.

In the way of guests I’d Esme to tea on Monday, stayed in all day Tuesday coaching Lita for her exams and on Wednesday Pat came to tea on her last day (full day – she phoned me her absolute farewell the next morning) in Cairo.  It was awful saying cheerio to her. She was looking up Ernst the next day in PS and staying the night there.

At night I went out with Mark – we went to the Auberge du Turf and saw Farouk who looked pretty awful. (5)     Mark has a beautifully sophisticated brain and is a delight to talk to.

We’re all going away the week-end to Bourg-el-Arab, about 20 miles west of Alex.

Lower Egypt full map png copy

Burg el Arab, west of Alexandria.  Note El Alamein to the west of Burg el Arab.

Yesterday we  had lunch together to discuss the arrangements.  There are a few people going from the British Consulate, then Mark, Bernard, Marjorie (his girl friend who works at BMEO), Esme and I. (6)    It was at Bernard’s place we lunched yesterday and Mark, B & Marj should have left by car early this morning.  Esme and I are going down by pullman bus this afternoon and have instructions to get off where the road branches west for B-el-A and the bus continues on to Alex. – this branch comes where one gets ones first glimpse of the Med.  If not there – i.e. if anything goes wrong – we’re to wait at the Cafe Trianon – doesn’t it sound romantic – and failing that to park ourselves at the Cecil Hotel till they come for us.

Must draw to a close now. Your most adoring kidlet,

Len. xxxxx.


1.  Scots. ‘A moving foot is always gaining things.’

2.  Le petit Coin de France restaurant is mentioned in some recollections of expat life in Cairo.  The waiters wore the fez.

3.  The Kursaal, Cairo was a music hall, a casino and a restaurant in 1918.  Its use may have changed when Len ate there.  There is presently a ‘New‘ Kursaal restaurant in Cairo.

Central Canal zone map png

Map by and copyright Richard Wooley.

4.  Q:  Assumed to be El Qassasin to the east of  Tek El Kebir. 

5. Farouk:  King Farouk.

6.  BMEO:  British Middle East Office, part of the Foreign Office.  As previously mentioned, Jean Findlay worked there.


The next letter from Len, written on 3 March,  was written before she had received Mum’s letter of 26 February, with  advice about Mark, and the list of contents of Uncle Albert’s CARE food parcel.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-13 March, 1948.
In the DG’s Office. (BSDM etc)

Hail One and Onlys,

Yes, I’m working with Iris Jago for a wee while, as Mary Page’s gone home and she hasn’t a replacement yet. (1)

I have all your letters up to your 256 now and note that you’re glad about my decision not to stay till October – I’m glad too, for I feel heckovan unsettled.  Just back from a super week-end which makes life in Cairo all the more – well, not for me.

Yes, we caught the streamlined bus to Alex. on Saturday – it was a super de luxe affair and it only seemed a few minutes before we arrived at the half way house.  We met Major Cameron there, who insisted on buying us lime juices, sandwiches and chocolate.

In 15 mins. we were on our way, but when we came to the first appointed spot there was no sign of the car, so we just stayed on the bus and there the gang were at the Cafe Trianon – all muffled up from the blustery wind on the front.

Quickly we got into the car and whizzed out to Bourg el Arab – it was really wonderful. It was built by a British aristocrat in the form of a castle and courtyard. We stayed in one of the towers.  Downstairs we’d a kitchen, then a bedroom where Esme and I slept and another one above where Mark and Bernard slept.  Marjorie slept with the Laights – British Council people whose dwelling in the compound was not quite as primitive as ours.  We’d a servant who did the washing up, but otherwise we did everything ourselves.  The bedding had to be carried in Mark’s car, for except for the actual bedsteads and one mattress, the bedding was nil.  We didn’t do a lot of cooking, for we rather lived out of tins and on cheese, but it was the first time I’d cooked eggs and bacon and made tea and coffee for 2½ years so it was great fun. The first night we’d rice and chicken which had already been prepared and after going over to the Laight’s for a drink we retired early to bed.

We got up at 7 the next morning – it was wonderful to see the place in daylight – the stones looked so yellow and the sky was so blue that the whole effect was just too “Beau Geste” to be imagined.

Shortly after getting up and having some tea and halowa (2) as no one else felt energetic Mark and I went to the beach by car – it’s four miles away.  We drove out under the arches – one almost expects the portcullis to drop behind you – and on down to the sea.  Never have I seen a sea of such an exquisite colour – it was sheer turquoise – the only colour it reminded me of apart from the stone was that in those butterfly wing brooches, but it had a purity and strength which have to be seen to be believed. After the first glimpse we drove downhill, but suddenly we were stopped in no uncertain fashion – the car had sunk into soft sand.  We got out and I asked helplessly what was to happen.  Mark indicated silently that we were to dig – a contingency I’d never thought of, so I started, several little wallads (3) came along and helped and before long the car was clear and off we went.

We undressed and got into the sea – I can’t truthfully say we swam, for the waves were so strong they just knock you about and we soon came out – Mark could combat the waves but felt the cold – with me it was the other way round.  Once back atBourg, we’d an enormous breakfast, then I wanted to savour the lovely cleanliness quite alone, so when the others went off to see an ancient temple and a lighthouse I stayed behind.

On their return we ate again and then all of us went down to the sea. I didn’t go in this time, but it was much warmer that it had been in the morning and Mark and Bernard went in their underpants as they hadn’t brought their costumes – Esme, Marjorie and I paddled – ‘course I felt grim as I hate not to be able to swim and watch others doing so, but I hadn’t taken my costume.  That night we again went to bed early.

The next day we’d another trip to the sea, but no-one swam – Marjorie went back early – we just got her back in time as the car got sanded up again and we’d to dig once more – incidentally my nylons survived both digging operations (yes, we were right down on our knees) and the whole week-end.  I wore them in the office and caught them on a chair – they’re now in repair.

About 2 ish on the Monday we packed everything up and came slowly back.  We stopped for a shwoya picnic of oranges and eggs – the desert was covered with flowers of all flowers and the effect was really super.

Yesterday I stayed in with Lita all day – we’d a fire and I told her how I used to see pictures in the fire – she was intrigued and gazed away and soon told me all the saw.

I haven’t seen Morris Z. for ages, ‘cos of my moving and shopping only being possible in the afternoon – guess I’ll have to see him in the evening and ask about that carpet. Re. Pat’s clothes advice I feel it’s right to have clothes in those basic colours and feel you need them before embarking on the brighter ones – people who grew up during the war just haven’t had a chance to do both – have the basic and bright.

Have the London coaches got lavatories etc?  The Nairn bus to Baghdad has got W.Cs., a bar and showers!  Must say the Alex. bus is the most luxurious I’ve ever been in.

I am so glad that Jack’s going now though and really do think you should keep the house to yourselves – if only we could buy it quickly – but the only way is a Littlewood’s win, so I guess negotiations must go on – what’s the latest?

Just back from a party next door.  Two little boys had it.  There were masses of kids, masses of food, masses of mothers, masses of governesses, masses of rows, with a film show thrown in – and I forgot to mention a sprinkling of the new length in the mothers – made me think how incomparably better my parties were & how little these women & kids have despite their money.

I’m not seeing Mark till next Tuesday & am looking forward to seeing him a lot. Hardly like saying that for I feel instinctively that you’ll disapprove, but you know how it is – people like Peter never are young & people like Mark seem to have the youthful spirit deep inside & really can be called ‘The Light of Heart’.  He’s so delightfully crazy & nonchalent & yet there’s an underlying precision & efficiency which completes the head in the clouds & feet on the ground effect.

So thrilled your ring fits Dad & that you like the material Mum.  Didn’t write about it before as I wanted it to be a complete surprise – the scarab in your ring Dad is from the set of two tablets & a scarab given me by Johnny Morton before he left for home, which his pals & he excavated at the Pyramids.  It is not a fossilised beetle the scarab but a genoo-ine  Pharoh carving – d’you like the Lotus engravings on the sides – the Lotus is the flower of Egypt.

Wonderful – wonderful – all congrats. on your Q-crashing – a scene after my own heart. Re. your advice I don’t want to touch silk stockings after my experience of nylons. The joy of them is no darning – much as I like threading the old needle in & out & it’s more profitable for me to exercise same on John F’s socks & get a jumper & cardigan from Jean – n’est ce pas? (4)

What was the “Care” parcel like?  Hope it helped out for a few weeks. Appropos of Uncle A. if he’s so keen on me, don’t see why he shouldn’t help me to study drama in the States if I can’t get in in the U.K. Isn’t it awful the way the years roll on, I want to study for a few years, live in France for a few years, visit Europe & spend a year or two in the U.S. apart of course from spending most of my time at 26 CA & golly how old would that make me.

4.3.48. Posting this now, forgot to say that at the film show yesterday we’d technicolour & talkies inter alia – what sophistication for kids.

Cheerio poppets & all the love of springtime.


1.  Len is temporarily working in the Director General’s office, whilst still working as a shorthand typist. She was 22.  From future references, we know that she went on to be the Supervisor within one of the typing pools.

2.  Arabic:  Sweets.

3.  Arabic:  Boys.

4.  Len did darning repairs for Jean, and Jean in turn knitted items for Len.


Mum letter image png_edited-1March 7, 1948.
Sunday. Grey skies and wet rain.

Darling Best in all the World,

Lovely to get your 264 of Feb. 28th on Thurs. last – Daddy and self get breathless as we try to follow you though “your day”.  I’m so glad you are getting mountains of spinach – that’s the stuff to give ‘em – do keep healthy, one can do anything and get anywhere if one is.  What a lovely idea for us and “a number of people who are quite keen” to meet in Paris next Christmas, Daddy and I are all for it and already I’m planning some dramatic clothes in my mind’s eye.

Any word of my carpet yet?  It’s really a “must get”.  You were saying summat about Mr. Z saying he c’d not get a 3 by 4 yds. one for £30 – well, the MacDonald boy did – tell have another try or try Au Bouddah’s at P.S. – Fouad Street.  They may be measured in metres which would make it slightly over 3 x 4.  I don’t only want the carpet as ‘a thing of beauty’ but also as an investment, as they are nearly worth their weight in gold over here, some in Lewis’ at £350 and more.

Maud (Mrs Hamilton) was over on Thurs. night attired in a vivid red dress and grey squirrel coat, she really kept us entertained and was telling us of a chap Lot has met and of all the fuss Lot is making to make an impression on the guy.  Ys’td’y, Sat. Daddy and I were in town in the morn. (hunting for a new suit for him) when who sh’d come up to us as we were looking in Malcolm Campbell’s  (1)  side window in St. Vincent St. but Lot; she has certainly improved her appearance tremendously, her salt and pepper hair is now a dark brown and she wore vivid lipstick and had a forward tilting hat and mustardy check suit topped by a black seal skin cape – very smart, but Daddy didn’t like the cape.

It seems this new guy is a Polish-Belgian surgeon and he is to take charge at Perth Infirmary from tomorrow.  He thinks Lot has far too many cats (eleven) in her house and the last time he came he brought chloroform and put 5 of them to sleep for the evening so as they c’d talk!  Dad and I nearly collapsed laughing – must tell Aunt Ena.

As I said, we were out hunting a new suit for Dad and are carrying out shopping by the famous ‘process of elimination’.   Yesterday was our 2nd hunting Sat.  We saw a smart tannish brown in smoothish herring bone tweed which he thinks he may have, this one is £11.10/- suits are suits nowadays – Lot was telling us her friend was getting one made and its to cost 28 guineas. (2)   We went into Craigs in Union St. for lunch and then I got a tram to C’bank as I had a Coop meeting there in the afternoon.  I met Dad at Kilbowie Rd. at 5.30 and we bussed by S.M.T. (3) to the Ascot where we saw Rbt. Young in “They Wouldn’t Believe Me” – jolly good.

How lovely all those guys wanting you to meet their folks – Peter and Malcolm do sound fresh and young and sincere. It musta been fun going round Sam Alec. (4)

I gave my travel talk on “My trip to and from(and in) Egypt on Friday night – everyone sat with gaping mouths taking it all in as I told them of my 2 eggs for brekkers etc. Unfortunately Mrs Brown had given too much time earlier in the eve. to Congress reports (5) so I had to leave them all in Cairo as the hall light going out warned us it was 10.p.m. but I’m to continue at our next meeting.

 All our love to you, our own darling,

Mum and Dad.

(A week yesterday Jack went away and now we feel so happy for though he was both quiet and clean we could not stand that chappie!)


1.  Well known fruit and veg shops throughout Glasgow.  They closed down in the 1990s.

2.  A guinea was 21 shillings (£1.05 pence).

3.  SMT: Scottish Motor Traction.  A year later, in 1949 they were nationalised by the Labour government.  The Conservative government in 1985 forced them into privatisation.  Their Western SMT coaches were a familiar overnight trunk route service between London Victoria and Glasgow.

4.  Sam Alec:  Mum’s joke for Zamalek.

5. Coop Party Women’s Guild Congress.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-18 March, 1948.

(Just about to go over for latest Cholera inoculation).

D.G’s Office, Monday morning.

My very ain Ones,

Isn’t this pale ribbon grim – it’s Mary Page’s machine, must put in a new black ‘un.

Pale type ribbon png

Seem to have masses of news – to go back to last Thursday, Steena (Swedish girl friend) phoned me to ask if I’d like to go the Russian Ball on Sat. I said yes, so we made the arrangements.  I lunched with the Findlays and received my Fair Isle Jumper which is really a pet.  By the way, I bought a dress second hand from Iris Jago – pale blue crepe, but not the new length, however, it zips to below the waist at the back and as I love zips I like it quite a lot, price £4 – but as she paid £12 last year I can’t complain..

Friday I’d my French lesson at Vera’s. I enjoyed same as I’d done masses of homework which left my conscience clear and also we talked about the ball, to which Vera – being a white R. was going of course.   Back in Zamalek, Lita and I were alone in the house when the new car they’ve bought was delivered – it’s a Hillman Minx – so the man who was delivering it took us for a drive in it.

Didn’t go out at night, but sat over the fire doing my French whilst most of the family and a neighbour played cards and I also had some liqueur chocolates which they offered me to keep my strength up – they had genoo-ine  liqueurs inside, chartreuse, kurasol and the like.  Notice the word ‘fire’ it’s colder for this time of year in Egypt than it’s been since I’ve arrived.

Saturday morning, Nick (the brother) and Lita drove me to work in the car – they’re still in the thrilled stage with it, whilst I’m acquiring a real hatred of cars – I hate Mark’s and also theirs annoys me – cars make me feel so old and I always want to walk, however, I must admit they’re handy at times.

Lita went to the pictures in the afternoon, so I was able to go across to Gezira, wash my hair, and write, talk to old friends and walk.  Back at the Companions I did my ironing, then nattered with the family before getting ready.  The mother insisted on lending me her fur cape and also a lovely little handbag – black suede and gold.  Then they drove me into town and I called for Steena.  The men in party were a Colonel up from Fayid – head of the German section of the FO and a young Latvian from the Swedish Consulate.

Our table was just beside Farouk’s – after sitting beside him at the Auberge du Turf the week before I’m becoming really blasé about it, but although that may be rather grim, I know a tiny bit of heather would just thrill me through, and I know I’ve never been thrilled with night life.  Farouk wore an ordinary suit whilst every one else was in evening dress.  The ball was most enjoyable, but we left at 2.45 am. before it finished. I wore my white dress.

Yesterday Lita woke me and I got up at 9 am. and washed before I knew what the time was – as I’d come all the way back from the Helio Palace Hotel the night before and hadn’t got to bed till about 4, this was a bit off.  However, I walked into town with Lita and took her to Groppi’s for an ice cream, before we gharried (1)  back.  Then we’d a drive in the car before lunch and one afterwards. Then she roused me from a tiny sleep I was trying to have to play the inevitable hopscotch with her.

Had a letter from Aunt Lizzie.  She talks of a slump in her letters – no wonder, I hate the American policy.

Aunt Lizzie png_edited-1

Must admit I really enjoy my new place on the whole – it’s nice to feel you’re wanted and they really are quite good people.  As for Mark, the infatuation’s wearing off and anyway, I don’t know when I’ll be able to see him again after to-morrow tonight, for I’m booked up for ages ahead with organisational things, quite apart from men.  The Latvian want’s to see me again and is ringing me, and Esme told me this morning that Malcolm told her he’s coming up to take me to see “Great Expectations”, you see, she was at Q. for the week-end.

Haven’t heard a word from Harris yet, shall have to write to him soon, anyway I’ve had to give his address to Chayanne to give to Gielgud, as he hasn’t delivered the stuff to him yet.  Esme’s not paying me back till she goes home, unless I need the dough before that.   Over to you best beloveds.

Yours most own, Len.


1.  Horse drawn cab.


Mum letter image png_edited-110 March, 1948.
Wed. morn. “The First Wild Days of March”

Darling Ownest Best,

Whatchermean  by saying “Just back from a super week end which makes life in Cairo all the more – well, not for me”?

Do you mean it’s too far removed from life as lived in Britain today?  Your week-end certainly does sound wonderful, a sorta real technicolour film; my advice is, don’t worry about it all being quite out of this world, it’s all in this world, you know, and you sh’d lap it up while you get the chance for whatever they say, life in the East is good and the people out there who pine for “England’s green & pleasant land” are in for a bit of a shock, that is, of course, providing one keeps one’s feet on the ground and maintains an even keel.

You know that, above all, I’m a realist and I think you ought to enquire of your office administration if you can go back, if you want to, after you come home.  Don’t for a moment think I’m putting you off this right little, tight little island – you must come home – but I often wonder how you will react to it and it’s best to have strings – comprey?   I want you to have all the chances I didn’t get, so take the advice if you want to.

Must apologise for a mistake and an omission I made in my last letter.  The mistake: when Lot Morrison’s friend gave the 5 cats chloroform it was only to put them to sleep for an hour or two – nothing fatal.  And the omission:  I forgot to say ‘thank you’ to Lita for her pansies so I’m enclosing a wee letter for her herin.

Yes, yr. childhood must have been a fairyland of dreams compared with poor Lita’s film parties, etc.  Those were the kind of people who were on the ship coming home with me.  I often wish you and Joan Brandley had been on that trip with me – you’d have knocked them cold – and, oh boy! how they needed just that.  Well, bring Lita over and we shall let her see there’s more in life than the mighty piastre.

For my lovely Cairo lavender blue material I’m thinking of making it low necked in front, long sleeves, long length and a – wait for it! – bustle bow – I adore bustles made thus, it w’d serve as a dinner dress if we go to Paree – by the way, I’ve given up singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and am now heard trilling “The First Time I Saw Paris”.

It’s a good bargain for you to get your jumpers etc. knitted by Jean Findlay whilst you do her darning.

Yes, I’ve noticed the lotus engraving on the sides of the ring – lovely.  I always get mixed up with the Poppy and the Lotus – they are both for Egypt?  About your black striped suit you spoke of – please wear it out before you come home – black!  And I don’t like blues, browns & blacks “relieved by touches of white & colour”.

As I write I’m partly listening to a school’s broadcast vilefying the new regime in C.S – it’s (the b’cast) ghastly and the same as the newspapers – fancy teaching poor kids all that spiteful stuff – never mind, we march on. (1)

Daddy, who is on night shift, didn’t go out to work last night as he wasn’t feeling very well, however he has been up for breakfast this morn. and seems quite bright so he may go to work.   About buying the house, honey, I don’t worry about buying it quickly – we c’d always get it through a society, but I do think it’s one of the things we must get down to quickly after your longed for, hoped for home coming.  Keep well and happy, my darling, you are ever in my thoughts & heart and mind.  Planefulls of love.

Your own Dad and Mum. xxx


1. ‘The new regime in C.S.’  Mum is referring to the situation in Czechoslovakia.  At Yalta in 1945 Stalin agreed to democratic elections in the nation states that the Red Army were to occupy when the War in Europe was concluded.   It is difficult to know whether Roosevelt really believed such genuine democratic elections would take place, or that their results would be respected.  As Chamberlain had a misplaced belief that he had a special relationship with Hitler in 1938, Roosevelt also believed he had a special relationship with Stalin, who he liked.  Churchill (who privately knew Britain’s days as a World Power were over) had few illusions, and neither did the British and American Foreign Secretaries and their advisors.

However, in Czechoslovakia, with the popularity of the democratic pre-war politician such as Edvard Benes and Jan Masaryk still in place, the Communists found it more difficult to force or brow-beat non-Communist Parties into political alignments that suited them.  As President, Benes led a Government that was democratic, from 1945 to 1948.  Frustrated, the Communists (with the Red Army as an army of occupation) staged a Coup in February, 1948, and Benes resigned in protest.  Jan Masaryk remained in the re-jigged coalition as Foreign Minister, hoping to salvage something. British friends such as historian John Wheeler-Bennet and writer/diplomat Robert Bruce Lockhart were very concerned for him.  On the morning of March 10, 1948 he was found dead beneath the bathroom of his residence at the Foreign Ministry.  Speculation continues whether he was killed by the Soviets, or whether he committed suicide.  The radio broadcasts Mum is referring to were about the February coup and the aftermath.  By an extraordinary coincidence, Mum has written this letter –  ‘Wed. morn.  The First Wild Days of March’ –  on the same day that Masaryk died.  The news of his death had not yet been released.

Included in the letter was a cutting from Mum, also relating to Communists.

Schools Unity png_edited-1


10.03.48 letter png

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 March, 1948.

BSDM Cairo, c/o Det APO. S299, MELF.

My room Zamalek, during Lita’s Greek lesson.

My own beloved Darlings,

Halfway or almost through March – believe Peter has gone as all demob. groups have been brought forward – had a letter from Malcolm to-day saying he’s coming up for the week-end as it’ll probably be his last one & he didn’t expect to go till April before! Lots of our girls are going on the boat this month & more next – believe I could stay on till summer 1950 (!) in Disposals, but it just doesn’t appeal.  I admit I’m a tiny wee bit wondering how I’ll feel in austerity Britain, but I know this luxury life is not for me – something in me revolts & I’d far rather be doing the washing up & singing in the kitchen at 26, than dashing around in a flashy car.

Yesterday I was endeavouring to get some beauty sleep after lunch when Mrs C. called me & wanted to know if I wanted to go the National Sporting Club with the neighbour – Mrs Fayid & her kids.  Inwardly cursing my ruined sleep, I accepted politely & went to change as requested – I’d on my corduroys.  Then I had to wait whilst everybody got ready – I was angry at them making me get ready too early as minutes on my own are so precious, but I was stoic, even when I just had to sit over at the NSC as the mothers knitted & the kids played.  To crown it all my latest pet hate was involved – another car – it leaves the C’s little Hillman Minx & even Mark’s behind – you know you press buttons & everything happens. Thank goodness more people joined us over there which made a more than full load for the car on the return journey so Mrs F. & I walked back.

Last night I went out with Mark.  First we went to a violin recital & from there on to the Champagne Club where we talked & danced. The concert was such a joy after the Cairo run of things.

Moascar-RAF Kabrit pngMark asked me to go away for Easter in a party down the Red Sea Coast – I said “No”. We thoroughly went into seeing & not seeing each other last night, but he says he’d like to me come at Easter as it would be such a wonderful trip. The alternative is to stay with the Scottish RSM & his wife at Moascar & go on to PF (1)  leave camp – which means I’ll probably see Ernst – which I’m not keen on.   Esme may arrange for me to go RAF Kabrit for a dance instead of Moascar.

 I’m not worried about myself mentally or physically with Mark & would like to see the monasteries etc. on the Red Sea Coast, but won’t reverse my decision unless you think it’s O.K. – there is definitely a party going.  Please write with what you think.

I’ve taught Lita how to play “Beetle” & she’s really fallen for it – had the two little boys from next door in & play it last night.  They’re the sons of Mrs F. – to whom Esme’s s’posed to teach English.  Her husband is at present in New York on business! – he’s an engineer specialising in air conditioning – they’ve got a baby a.c. plant in their bedroom Mrs F. tells me – honestly their money flows like water & they’re not a bit happier.

Putting this epistle in the mail now – take care of yourselves –

Masses of love for you. Len. xxxxx


1. PF: Port Fuoad, or Fuad.  The latter is the current preferred spelling on maps.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 March, 1948.
Garden in Zamalek.

Hail, well Beloveds,

Carpets – on Friday Morris Z. told me that real Persian cannot be got for less than £5 a square metre, so that 3 mtrs x 2 mtrs would be what you would get for £E30.  Now, d’you want me to investigate Persians that size or non P’s of a bigger size?  Mark is also going to make some enquiries for me.

Was in fits about the cats being put to sleep.

Telephone – any more word of installation?

Did you get that suit Daddy?

Very thrilled to hear that at last you’re giving your travel talk on Egypt – hope the second instalment was lapped up with even more enthusiasm than the first.

Every time you talk of things at home I conjure up visions of what I remember, cinemas, guilds, shops etc. & I’m darn glad I didn’t say “Yes” to that offer of Egypt for a bit longer as these visions have been getting much fainter – but 2½ years away isn’t such a long time – it’s that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge.

It’s getting more & more difficult for me to get out & the father seems to think it odd I go out so often at night – goodness knows what he’d think if he’d known me when I was really busy.  Anyway I don’t want to tell you about it, for there’s nothing in it, but these people have bouts of temperament quite often & I don’t want to get an ulcer keeping (outwardly) patient throughout, but for the dough I can hold out until July.  Of course if they get grim I should move & there’s no difficulty in that direction as everyone wants me to go & live with them.

I went to the super-flat recital at night & listened to Brahms.  You may remember I went to a violin recital on Tuesday – still want Joan B. to take me to the Proms.

Friday I had lunch with Morris, then at 3.30 washed Iris’s hair at Claridges. (1)   At 7 to meet Mark.  We looked in one of those lovely antique & bookshops combined & then drove out to Maadi.  We’d dinner at his place & finished off with coffee & liqueur chocs.  Afterwards we listened to the radio & just had a nice quiet evening.

Saturday Malcolm ‘phoned me at work & then came to make arrangements about the evening in the afternoon. (2)  I thought we’d have a chance to sit and natter as Lita had gone out with a little pal, but no. Mrs C. came in & called me into her bedroom where she gave me a dissertation on how her husband – who’s in Alex. wants no men to cross the doorstep.  The effect of that on me of course is sheer fury, but one has to be tolerant. However it did make me see the psychological angle & once again how lucky I am to have parents like you. Restrictions like the above would be most conducive to making people deceitful, whereas your sensible outlook serves to promote understanding all round.  Their mentality just makes me stand and gape.  I said they’d said I could have my friends in & she said in effect, “Oh yes, girl friends” – you’d think blokes were a different race – it’s so silly.

Anyway, at night Malcolm & I went to see “Dead of Night” & afterwards had dinner at the Kursaal.  The good soul’s so terribly heavy. I don’t believe I’ll see him again this side of the Med as he’s being demobbed at any moment now.

Yesterday I cycled and played hopscotch with Lita.


It’s about 7 am. on Monday morning so I’ll get this off now & get tucked into some breakfast.

Your most own very adoring, Len. xxxxx


1.  Iris.  Iris Jago who Len is working with in the Director General’s office of the British Stores Disposals Mission.  Claridges is the hotel previously foot-noted, and where some BSDM staff are living.

2.  Len, and presumably other shorthand typists in BSDM are required to work Saturday mornings.


On the same Sunday Len wrote a separate letter to her Dad.

Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 March, 1948.
Cloudy Cairo

My dearest Dad,

Hope this gets to 26 in time for your birthday.  This is a reply to your letter, besides my birthday greetings to you.(1)  Wonder if you’re wearing my present as you read this?

Just hope that after Mum’s birthday on the 28th that our next lot of birthday’s will be together.

It’s so interesting to hear of your work – I always love to know what’s going on in that direction for I feel industry is so real.

Sorry about your legs being bad – I do hope the Ortho gets them completely better. I’ve been doing my share of massage out here recently – trying to massage Iris Jago’s scalp to improve her hair & Mark’s arm – he strained a muscle playing tennis.

As July/Aug. looms nearer I’m getting excited underneath & when I really think of it – as to-day,  I just don’t seem to be able to write much – just longing for us all to be together & oh boy, bet we’ll talk incessantly for days.  It’s feeling like that which makes it difficult to put things on paper – when I hope that in a few months more we’ll be telling anecdotes in person.

Must put this in the mail now Dad, hope you have a wonderful birthday & a lovely spring.

Always your most loving chile’,

Len. xxxxx


1.  This letter of Dad’s  is not in this collection.


Mum letter image png_edited-114 March, 1948.

Sunday morn.
Sunny lovely crisp morning
And we are now on Summer Time
The Hall Clock new time is scorning
And is an hour behind with chime.

Darling Own Very Best,

The above didn’t start out to be a poem (says you “and neither it is”) ho, it just sorta happened. Anyway, we did lose that hour last night but are all set now with clocks at proper time.

Daddy and I went into town yesterday to see about his suit and we seem to have struck lucky for Dad decided to have the smoothish tan tweed we saw last week but when we got to the shop another salesman attended us and he showed us some wizzo Harris Tweeds and Dad decided on a lovely rough tannish brown one, double breasted jacket, the latest, and absolutely genuine “Harris Tweed – I was a man renewed indeed, because I smelled that Harris Tweed”. (1)    Dad also bought a nearly white cloth bunnit – very posh with tweeds and chamois gloves.  We then had a walk around, me trying to buy shoes but Qs too terrific, couldn’t wait, then we had tea at the Angus, now the Coop, then trammed right down to the “Bank” where we saw “The Two Mrs Carrols”, very good. A lovely way to spend a Saturday.

Dad is to get his suit next Friday as the troosers required a small alteration.  Just now Daddy is in the sunlit garden making his first dig at it, we’ve not long finished brekker and looking at the Sunday Papers. I’ve to get the dinner on to cook then I’m off down to Clydebank to an address to see about some furniture advertised, to see if they have a small garden shed, we really need one for odds and ends.

I wrote to Daisy Bulbeck last week – where is she now – Southampton or Cairo?  I wrote to her at S’hampton.  Yes, sweetheart, I’ll sure write to your Chayanne – must look out her address which you sent. (2)  We seem to have a lot to do, between the house and garden and I’m starting on my Spring cleaning – Patricia will likely arrive in the middle of it! – well, she can help – can you picture Patricia wielding broom and duster?Pat Brown, Zam, Feb 48 png

Dad and I both think you should write to Harris or his parents, and ask for your dough pronto – the end of a beautiful friendship, but do get the dough. Also get the dough from Esme double pronto, why should she have your cash?  Just ask yourself that in a calm voice – no reason at all – it would all help to buy our carpet which is a “must get” for you, and anyway those debts have a way of fading into the limbo of things forgotten if the loan goes on too long, so I advise you to tell her at once that you want to buy something costing a lot of dough and you’d like the money at once.  Do take our advice in this and go after Harris and Esme – it really makes me wild, and Dad also, when we think of what a softie you’ve been about this, so be firm, and earn our praise by getting back your money – get your dialectics working! (3)

How nice you got a letter from Aunt Liz. and fancy her talking of a slump – well, they’ve got it coming and with the latest taboos on entry into Canada it looks to me as tho’ both U.S.A. and Can. are real dictator countries.  (4)   We sent a cable to Uncle A. for his birthday – we do feel sorry for him, it would be lovely if you could meet him for, honestly honey, you are his lone star, so it’s up to you. Aunt Liz. never replied to our last letter so that’s that.

Must go now and get a cuppa ready for Dad and self then off to C’B.  We’ve not fixed anything about our holidays yet, in the words of the song “It all depends on YOU”. But, tho’ Daddy enjoyed his holiday last year on his own he said he missed me terribly while he was away and he also said he wouldn’t like to ever go on his own again – so its nice to know I’m wanted!  As if I didn’t know, but its good to be told!

Cheers and love and hopes.

Wearying on your next hoped for letter and counting the weeks till your hoped for return.

All the love we have from Dad and Mum.


1. ‘Harris Tweed – I was a man renewed’:  assumed to be a well known Harris Tweed advertising slogan of the time.

2.  Chayanne, the daughter of Madam Saracha in Cairo.

3. ‘Dialectics’ – a well known term and concept within the Communist movement, derived from Marx, and Hegel.

4.  Mum’s anti-US sentiment has now included Canada, despite earlier thoughts about perhaps moving there.


Mum letter image png_edited-117 March, 1948

St. Patrick’s Day, begorra!  A Grey blowy day but with a feeling that the Sunshine is just around the corner

Darling Very Own Dearest One,

Your 267 got here on Monday and it was lovely getting it so soon after your 266.

Now about your asking should you or should you not go with Mark and party to the Red Sea Coast – in the first place, why did you ask our opinions? – especially in view of the fact that you say “I’m not worried about myself mentally or physically with Mark”. Here are our considered opinions. Daddy says he thinks you should not go, as the fact of your asking us proves you are doubtful about something or other and you never asked before what you should or shouldn’t do.  Dad says he trusts you absolutely but is not so sure about Mark, these older guys are often wiley – but you already know the joke about “Come and see my etchings”.

Heres my view, I see no reason why you shouldn’t go on the trip (after all you went to Bourg-el-Arab) provided you make certain there is a party going, etc.etc.  You see, as well as being trusting in you, I also know you are wise enough to always let your sense of values be in correct balance, this is a priceless asset to have as one goes through life; well, there it is, mate, yer tikes yer choice.   Life, for you holds so much I trust you to make no mistakes, also I quite see your point in not wanting to see Ernest at P.S. – going there every holiday looksa bit “off” – well, maybe something else will turn up for Easter.  I’m on my toes to hear what you decide to do.

Daddy and I were all set for a cosy night at the fire with the papers on Sunday when a tinkle came at the bell and on answering someone with a tall figure there voiced “Remember me?”  It was Henry Lindsay whom we hadn’t seen since New Year. (1)   H. had left his sleeping bag here and when I said “Come in “ he used the length of the hall to explain he had exams this week and was going on holiday for 3 weeks.

LLYH Henry Lindsay png

Henry Lindsay, back row, right, Loch Lomond Youth Hostel, New Year, 1947.  Mum is on the left, with her arm through Henry’s brother’s.

All of our visitors seem to use that bit of 26 to explain the reason for their visits and H. was no exception – it’s really funny.

Well, you’d think he was just dashing in to get his sleeping bag, but no, it was long after midnight when he decided he’d better be moving. We did so much enjoy his visit and it was the first time we’d seen him dressed up and really, he looked like a million dollars. He is tall (6ft.1 in.) and slim and is a real comic, or, should I say has the most terrific sense of humour. We, the three of us, had a real blether.  I mentioned you said the Findlays knew him and that started something!  It seems Jean was engaged or nearly engaged to some big nut, a Solicitor or summat and broke it all off when she met John, it seems it was the talk of the hostels.  H. says Jean was a lovely girl in those days.

H. makes me wild the way he always sings the praises of and always goes to the west coast of Scotland, honestly I get mad and I think I made an impression to show there’s other places on this ‘ere globe when I did some spouting about Egypt.

H. certainly is adventurous, he was a cabinet maker and then went into business with another guy.  H. then sold his share, after a year or two, and is now attending Jordanhill Teacher’s Training College (2) to qualify as a teacher at a technical school. He says its amazing the subjects they get, psychology, discipline, speech training, etc.etc.  If ever he gets to be a teacher I’m sure he’ll be wonderful as he has such a way with kids – they get classes to teach just now and he made us roll up when he told us of the pep talk he gave the kids just before the inspector visited them.  The inspection was a great success and he got very high praise.  Hope H. gets on well with his exams. He plans to go north west by Benalder and Glencoe and to walk right across Rannoch Moor, etc. He was saying what a wonderful voice Joan Brandley has and we heartily agreed with him.

I’m enclosing a letter from Aunt Ena, the letter she refers to was from Uncle Donald’s landlady in Barrow asking if Aunt E. and us others would like to erect a tombstone. I’m replying to Aunt E. to take no notice of the letter.  Freeman’s got far the most under the will, so let them erect one themselves.  Fancy Aunt E. buying a Silver Fox Cape, its such a very ageing fur, but mustn’t say so! hush, hush. I haven’t yet bought anything for mysel.  I’ve a specialists bill in – remember I told you Dr. G. sent me to a specialist? – for 6 gns (3) and he only listened to my heart and looked at my foot – honestly, they earn their money easily, however, suppose the old adage of the labourer being worthy of his hire applies here also. (4)

Every ship that leaves our shores has an unseen cargo of love for you, sweetest girl in all the world, bless you.

Dad & Mum.

p.s. Don’t talk like that about not liking cars, try not to get, or give voice to those kinda phobias, they are all a symbol of man’s progress and I wish we had one.  Don’t please be fanciful like that, be sweet, my pet. xxxxxx.


1.  New Year 1948, when he was at Loch Lomond Hostel, when John Brandley was up from Dagenham.  He was also at Loch Lomond Hostel the previous New Year, when Mum noted that there were “several prostrate forms lying around”.

2.  Jordanhill was, and is, the main Teacher Training College in Glasgow.

3.  £6.30.

4.  Fiercely opposed by the British Medical Association (who represented fee charging doctors and consultants), Britain’s National Health Service was to start in a few months time, on July 4th, 1948.  It was also fiercely opposed by the Conservative Opposition.  Churchill, their leader, invoked comparisons with National Socialism (the Nazis) if the bill became law.


Ena to Mum, March1948 png_edited-1

2 Hilders Road.   Sunday

Dear Nellie,

Hope you are well. I wrote you a long letter and sent it with mags some time ago since then MR has received a card from you. (1)

Anyway here goes. I bought myself a beautiful silver fox cape with part of my money. Have you treated yourself to anything?

Any word of Len coming home? You must be longing to see her.

I am not making my trip to Bonnie Scotland until Whitsun as MR may be going  to Belgium then. It all depends on the restrictions. The Paris trip is off owing to restrictions. (2)

We have booked for our holidays, Dornoch being out of the question without a car. (3) We have decided to go to Llandbedr. nr Barmouth in Wales from 7th – 21st August. We were recommended to the hotel and sent for the tarrif.  Good food, and a well stocked bar.  7 gns week.  It is an old fashioned Country inn 2 miles from the sea and fishing from the bedroom window.   Bill is going to the Grand National on Saturday. He leaves on Friday stays overnight at Wigan and home on Sunday afternoon.

What do you think of the enclosed letter. (4)    When Bill brought it from the letter box he said “Here’s someone in Barrow. Knows you got the money and sending a begging letter”.  Freemans seem very slimey to me.  What do you think – strange how they could get my address from the solicitor when I got the money.  I’m afraid they are very friendly with the solicitor.  Anyway I don’t intend to send them any money. What do you think?  We can discuss it when I come up but in the meantime will you please return the letter.

I was wondering if we could arrange a reunion dinner. Dennie (5)  may be in Glasgow when Len comes home.  Of course, if Phemia would let him away for a night.

I am going to make myself a black dress tunic effect to wear my cape with.  Then I’ll be a smasher.  Isn’t the weather grand.  I sit out in the garden most days. What are you making new?

Bill is waiting to post this so I’ll say Cheerio for now.

Please write soon and give me all your news, also views on enclosed letter.

Love to you both,


Marie Rose was thrilled with her letter. One of her friends is going to U.S.A. for a holiday and gave a farewell party at the Opera House last night. She got Just William’s autograph. (6)

I don’t know what lady Uncle Donald used to write to. It certainly wasn’t me.


1.  MR: Marie Rose.

2.  Money restrictions, presumably.  There was a low and stringently enforced allocation of how much Sterling an individual could take out of Britain.  Betty Baxter in her letter to Len describes being short of cash on her trip to Belgium.   Ena and family were used to a more comfortable holiday experience. 

3.   Although petrol was rationed it is more likely that Bill’s injury prevented the use of their car. 

4.  This letter is not in this collection.

5.  Their brother Dennis.  

6.  The Just William books by Richard Crompton had been dramatised for radio, and broadcast 1946 – 1948.  The autograph would be the actor John Clark’s,  who played William.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-119 March, 1948.

Another Cairo Morning.

Hello my own darling People,

Forgot to tell you that Daisy’s back – she called in at the office the other day looking remarkably fit.  They’re down at Fayid now and he’s civilianised in Fixed Assets.

Why the prejudice against black?  It isn’t really the end you know and definitely right for some occasions, and I still hold on to the idea of having a basic wardrobe in quiet colours – after all, it is pretty grim if things don’t match.

Later in the morning.

Had mail – happy girl I am. Your 261 and a 14 page effort from Pat – I’ll never manage that much to her, but she’s really more news at the moment than I have. (1)

Thrilled at the thought of your suit Dad – I’m just longing to see you in it.

Dad in his new rig copy

Dad in his new suit and ‘bunnit’, holding his kid gloves at Greenock, summer 1948.

How did your birthday go?  You seem to be getting the suit amazingly quickly.

Re. Esme, I made the arrangement with her and don’t intend to alter it – please don’t worry.  Harris is a very different cup of tea and I intend to write to him to-day.  Back to Esme, my idea is to get the dough home, not more out here – must keep the old studies in mind.

Re. Uncle A., much as I’d like to see him, I feel I must turn to studying before anything else.  If he would finance me, either to study in the U.K. or the U.S or finance my trip, it would be different.  It’s difficult to be so hard-headed, but one could drift on for ever going to see people.


Wrote to Harris, so hope it has the desired effect.

Must tell you, people are beginning to comment on my hair again, which is rather cheering.

Yesterday I visited Esme who can’t eat and is getting almost skinny – actually she’s pineing for a bloke. This is one she met at Luxor – I can’t understand it.  She’s only known him a week.  Gosh, I’ve had a violent crushes and a broken engagement, but they never seem to knock me up or down – touching wood ‘medly’.  Poor little kidlet though, she doesn’t get on with her parents and I think this is a worry too – for she’s just told them she’s staying another year.  I think it has all shoved her in bed. However she should see the bod in question soon and will know how she stands – if she can, for she’s so weak she’s always sitting down.

From there I went on to Margi – he’s about the most exclusive shoemaker in Cairo. He talked me into having some brown skin shoes – class courts made and also, also giving him the skins Chayanne gave me (they were what I went in with originally) to make into sandals – he says there isn’t enough for shoes proper.  However he’s really a legacy of Pat’s.   Already he wants to make me the sandals for nothing – says he’s an artist and really he is, for his shoes are dreams.  But if the sandals are nixus the brown efforts will be at least £E.5, however shoes are one thing on which one shouldn’t skimp.  The important point is – revelation – I have a whole python skin Morris gave me for you Mum and as Margi’s so good and I can’t really imagine your being able to get shoes made in the U.K. I was wondering if you’d like me to get him to make ‘em.  I’ll give you all the gen if you say ‘Yes’.

Finis for the moment – shoefulls of love,



1.  Not in this collection.  Pat is now in London,  still working for the Civil Service.


Next Friday, 28 November, 2014.   Part Two Chapter Nine: Hectically Excited

” To-day I’ve had letters from the Guildhall and Central School and my latest idea is to make it home for leave, and not return if I find I pass their auditions and also that they can’t postpone my entry for a year. ” – Len, letter to Mum, 24 March, 1948.

Posted in Cairo 1940s, Feminism, Gender Studies, Letters, Social and Political History, Suez Canal Zone, Womens History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part Two 7: Experimental Theatre

Part Two  7:   Experimental Theatre     

“I’ve been thinking about what I want to study and have decided that in all respects the theatre is really what I want. What I’m interested in most is the experimental theatre, poetry and broadcasting.”


Daisy's letters png

Daisy Bulbeck CU pngDear Mrs Bryers,

I’m sorry I didn’t wrote before, but time passed so quickly.  Then I thought I was going back to Cairo very soon, and all we had was to wait and wait, they always had new papers to wait for, then they told us (the army) I couldn’t go back to Cairo with my husband, no accommodation for me there.

We wrote to Cairo that there was for me, and the answer was I could go. Then another letter I cant go, London wrote again and still we are waiting.

Made me very upset all this always not knowing what to do.

Well I suppose Ill know very soon what we are going to do.

I had a really lovely time we went all over the places.

My husband bought a car and we had the most beautiful time.  But now we cant use it, basic petrol.  I don’t mind I saw everything, we went to London many, many times and I did enjoy myself.  Even we saw Elizabeths wedding dress and the present. The Dress beautiful, all flowers made with pearl, 2.000 pearls and the cost of the pearls, £1.000. And the presents I cannot tell you how very marvellous they were.

Helen wrote me and don’t know when she will be home, I hope for you to have her. She’s very nice girl and I liked her very much and always will, you cant forget good friend.  And I even saw the snow, Oh… it was wonderful we were going on one of our trips before Christmas and in a very high hill, they stopped the car and I rushed and started playing with the snow, made balls, through (Daisy’s spelling) it to my husband.  Made some pictures with snow in my hand, will send it to, as soon we take them. (1)

Please will you send me the negatives from the pictures we made at your place.  I’ll Bulbecks at 26, no mum pngsend them back to you as soon I have few printed.   We sends our best wishes for New Year, and all the best of luck for you both and Helen.  I wrote her a letter before Christmas.

My husband want to be remembered also my brother in law.  God bless you both.

Lot of love from your affectionate Daisy Bulbeck.

Daisy's address png


1. These promised photos have not survived in this collection. Despite her name, Daisy is obviously not British.  Note the continental way she puts a full stop, and not a comma on the amount of money the pearls on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress cost.  It’s a probability Tom met her during or just after the war.  The ATS, for instance, recruited women in liberated countries during 1944 and 1945.  Stores Disposals also recruited workers locally.


Five preceding letters – to this one – from Len to her parents are not in this collection.  So no follow up to the rest of her Christmas and New Year news in the Suez Canal Zone.  Also, there will be references in Len’s following letters to matters mentioned in these missing letters.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 January, 1948.

BSDM Cairo,
c/o Det. APO S.299, MELF.

ME Twilight

My own Darlings,
Before I get into this letter properly, let me say that you won’t be getting any MoS cheque this month.  I’ve asked all my money to be paid out here as Esme wants to borrow it in case she’s going home in April, so that she can buy things.  Like Harris she proposes paying me back in U.K.  You’ve no idea how true the song is for us  “…. and when they’re running short of cash they borrow from each other.”

No mail from you since the 8th.  I expect it’s the transition from bag to APO.   However I can’t complain for everyone else’s mail is delayed too.

Monday I’d Esme to lunch, left her to have half an hours French with Vera, then we got ready and went over to the Stokes.  We took the kids and Doris to the newly opened part of Garden Groppi’s for tea.

On Mon. I went to the Y.W. before going on to the Theatre Guild. It was wonderful – we’d a rehearsed play reading of Ibsen’s “Ghosts”.  I’ve been thinking about what I want to study and have decided that in all respects the theatre is really what I want. What I’m interested in most, is the experimental theatre, poetry and broadcasting. I want to try to get into one of the big places in London, like the Guildhall, RADA, or the Central School.  The CS Course is three years, so I guess I’ll have to save like mad, but even if the Government won’t give me a grant, they may give me a loan.  Anyway, if you know you want to do a thing although it has difficulties I always feel one should plunge in then one just has to get through – e.g. the way we managed about your holiday Mum.  Do tell me your comments and any ideas you have – the theatre – or one of its branches is really all that interests me a lot and is the thing for which I have most aptitude, but as always I want to preserve an open mind and not shut myself off from all that happens around me and from which I may learn something of value.

Anyway, Tuesday, Pat came to lunch, then we walked round Gezira and afterwards she bathed whilst I washed my hair and showered. Then we had tea and I just stayed in, in the evening.  Yesterday I did my washing in the afternoon and at night  went to the Fins (1) for high tea.  Jean only was in, as John and Mr Munro were at the pictures. By the way, he’s not going now on the 20th and I believe the sailing of the Stokes’ boat has been delayed to the 24th.

However, the Fins and Esme and I are exploring the possibilities of a Med. tour, or a visit to Greece or Turkey for our last holiday out here.  Last night Jean said to me  it would be wonderful to go to the International Youth Hostel Rally.  Anyway the point I’m leading to is this – it’ll probably be held in France or Belgium, so can’t you get yourself elected (as a member of the S.Y.H.A., should not be not so difficult) as one of the Scottish delegates Dad?  Please, oh do try.   Mr Munro is to find out where it’s to be for Jean.  So do write and tell me what you know and you try to come, won’t you Daddy?

Jean was also saying that Lewis’s have nylons at 8/11 and as I don’t remember your having used up my last 6 export coupons I was wondering if you could have two pairs sent to me Mum.  ‘Bag’ from U.K. to here operates till the 31st, so if you could get them into the FO before the end of the month it would be really super.

Have you read “Middle East Anthology”? (2) ME Anthology png  It was Esme’s Xmas present to me and really provides a wonderful picture of life here so should prove interesting reading for someone like you who’s been here Mum.  That is all 26, that is all – over to you.

Masses of love flying to you chookemses.

Len xxx


1.  Fins: the Findlays.

2.  Middle East Anthology, edited by John Waller and Erik de Mauny, published by Lindsay Drummond, London, 1946.  It contains an early short story by Olivia Manning, a memoir by Lawrence Durrell and poems by Keith Douglas, amongst other selections.

mideast contents png_edited-1

Page One of the Contents, Middle East Anthology.

Three Gezira Lovelies, on page 98,  by John Ropes is a three page verse drama:

gezira ladies 1 png_edited-1

gezira ladies 2 png_edited-1

gezira ladies 3 png_edited-1

Three Gezira Lovelies: copyright John Ropes/Estate of.   From The Middle East Anthology List of Contributors biographies:

John Ropes:  Lt-Col in Royal Artillery.  Awarded O.B.E.  Used to write for the Gate Review before the war and in Cairo wrote for the C.A.D.M.S. ‘Revue Order, 1941’ and ‘Revue Order, 1942.’


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-119 January, 1948.

Office desk, monday morning.

My very own Ones,

No mail from you for 11 days – so I’m wondering what has happened.  I won’t send any more enclosures till I hear from you that my letters are getting through. Try as I will to banish it I still have a gnawing worry about you both.

Friday it was Pat’s birthday and I’d lunch with her and also tea, then went  to pick up the suit and blouse I’ve brought and went on to say good-bye to the Stokes.  Their boat is probably not sailing till the 24th, Mr Munro has no sailing date yet and Pat is now going in February.  She’d like to come and stay with you sometime in March if that’s O.K.?

Saturday I went to Qassasin by the local bus – Sgts Mess do.

Central Canal zone map png

Section of Suez Canal Zone map. Map by, and copyright, Richard Wooley.

 On arrival we’d tea, then a little later dinner and dancing.  I broadcast through their mike – later we’d a lovely buffet supper, more dancing and finished with a sing song. The types though not sand-happy were not exactly intellectual, however it was quite enjoyable and I met a boy who’s practically in love with Scotland though he’s never been there and so I told him I’ll give him bags of gen on hostels and the like.  What news have you Daddy apropos of the hostel conference I talked of in my last letter?

Yesterday – we stayed at the “Y” at Ish,  we’d coffee in the lounge there, did some walking and went back to Q for lunch. We took some snaps, got in some table tennis and dancing and I’d my first driving lesson, in a 15 cwt. – it was fun.

Just longing to get some letters from you.  Take care of yourselves.

My love to you darlings,

Len xxxx


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-122 January, 1948.

BSDM Cairo, c/o Det APOS.

299, MELF

My darling beloved Ones,

It’s a fortnight to-day since I’ve heard from you, but we’ve been told that all the mail has gone to Turkey by mistake – the APO haven’t got used to dealing with our stuff from England yet, so it alleviates the worry about you especially as everyone else here is in the same boat, but nevertheless it’s a bit depressing and I realise more than ever how much your letters mean.

Don’t know if I said so in my last letter or not, but a chap at Qassasin – the one who’s fallen for Scotland though he’s never seen it – said to me he thought the Edinburgh Festival was to be in August this year, do you know?  It should be wonderful, shouldn’t it?

The sheets have arrived.  Yes, they came by bag and arrived in two lots, one Monday, one Tuesday – one date – which looked like the sending off one was 22.12.47, so they must have come quickly if that was right.

Monday I’d lunch with Morris and we went to the Pyramids.  Then, we’d an ice cream in L’Americaine and I went on to the Y, where I nattered to Pat, then Esme came and we went to the CTG – Peer Gynt, which left me in a trance.

 Yesterday I did some chores and went to see the Schrachas – poor Chayanne (pronounced to rhyme with Diane) has had gyppy tummy badly, but is O.K. now. Anyway I’ve had two comparatively early nights and hope to have two more.

In the morning I went with Pat to the dentist  (this all in office time – happy thought) and then we went to the Egyptian State Broadcasting to try and crash in, we’d an interview and left our names, but influence ranks high, so don’t have masses of hope.

Longing to hear all your news, how you’re surviving January etc.  Hope they hurry up and send that mail back from Turkey – it should work out all right when they get used to it, just hope you’re getting mine.

That’s all, no more news but do take care of yourselves.

All the love in the world,

Len xxxxx


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-11 February, 1948.

Writing by a bedside lamp, but not in bed. BSDM Cairo, c/o Dep APO S.299, MELF.

My very own dearest Darlings,

Once more I’m glad of having had a few early nights, for with all the events scheduled to happen within the next few weeks I don’t look like having many.

I’m due to move about the 15th & after that my days are s’posed to be spent talking to the little Greek girl & when I went on Friday they were so thrilled to learn I was Scottish. (1)

The father’s studied in England & has been to Glasgow.  I explained about wanting to see a friend (Peter) during his leave, but after that I’d be at their disposal & they said that would be O.K.  They want me to be there all week days except one – which is to be free & when I’m on I’m to be there from 3.30 – 8.30 & as she has lessons three days a week from 5.30 – 6.30 that gives me that time to myself too.  I do as I please at week-ends, stay in or go out.  Only have vague notions of improving her English, but do hope to get her to learn “There was an old goblin in shivery pool”.

They’re also pleased I adore swimming & walking & don’t like the pictures.  However (once again) masses of things have now cropped up & 5 men of my own loom on the horizon quite apart from a friend of David’s Pat wants me to look after next week-end here.

My own 5 are Malcolm – who wants me to go down to Q the week-end of 7/8th, who wrote me again – before he’d heard from me enclosing an ordnance survey of the Lake District (could have sent nothing to please me more) & who may be coming to Cairo soon. (2)     Secondly Peter’s coming on leave shortly for he’s due to sail on Demob 18th Mar.  Thirdly (watch how they all piled up within 24 hours) I met the most wonderful Swiss architect  who wants me to look at some houses he’s building.

To-day the Findlays told me they spent most of their time in PS with Ernst meeting him at the EE & he said he’s coming to Cairo on leave the week after next i.e. 8th & that he’d be writing to me about it.  Lastly, as I looked at the paper to-day I see the ss Patrician’s due in on Alex. “about 8th Feb.” – which means I hope to see Ken Cook. Usually I manage to dovetail things without overlapping, but I seem to have had it this time.

Friday the Fs were at PS bidding adieu to Mr M.

Saturday I’d the most wonderful mail, 2 letters from you, a letter from Malcolm with the OS of the Lakes, a letter from the Central School with an application form for the autumn term (this I hope to send to you bahdin for completion) & also a friendly letter from Nan Buchanan.

 I got to know the Swiss architect who is a friend of Bernard Rice, an artist I’ve got to know from Maadi who is bad, in that he brings out the romantic in me by describing wonderful times in Yugoslavia & living on 7/- in 3 months in fishing smacks on the Dalmation coast – all carefree but really very bad as one isn’t contributing to the community.(3)

The Swiss architect  lives at Maadi, like Bernard Rice, and is from near St.Moritz, is tall & slim, 30 ish & adores dogs, music & mountains.  Although he’s travelled all over the place (& now wants to settle down) there’s something naive and diffident about him which is most endearing.  His name is Mark.  He’s the sort of person who makes one feel quite unlike a career woman.   However, a little putting-the-brake-on is indicated in all directions, so ‘nuff said re. him.

Thanks so much for sending me Joan’s letter. (4)

Take great, great care of yourselves my ain chooki-burdis .

Love, love, love, Len. xxxxx


1.  Because of the missing five letters we have no background to why Len is moving in to new digs as a companion to Lita, the young Greek girl.  It is guessed that Len is getting free lodging and board, something that will appeal to her as a keen saver of money.  Len’s  friendship with the Solovieffs and their daughter Vera – she continues to have French lessons – has not stalled.

2.  This is the first mention, in these letters, of Malcolm, a British Army officer.  He was probably mentioned in the missing five letters.

3.   Bernard Rice, 1900 – 1998.  He was a designer, printmaker and sculptor.   When Len met him he was teaching wood engraving and etching in Cairo.  He was born in Austria, and studied at the Westminster School of Art, and then The Royal College of Art.   The V & A,  the British Museum,  and the Cairo Modern Art Gallery,  amongst others, hold items of his work.  He died in Hastings, England.

 4.  This letter of Joan Brandley’s does not survive in this collection.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-14 February, 1948.

Same Firm. BSDM Cairo, c/o Det. APO S.299, MELF.

Most precious Parents,

To make up for the dearth of letters a wee while back, I’m now receiving both air and sea mail from you – yesterday your 249 and to-day your 245.

In the back of my mind I knew of the one thing which could just crown everything – i.e. all the people I’m s’posed to see just now, but never dreamt it would happen, however it did.  Yesterday I’d a letter from Ken-who-never-writes, yes Dixon’s on his way out.  As per request in the letter I booked a call to him yesterday (he’s at Fanara – refer to that map, what, haven’t you got one!) but as it didn’t get through in the morning I went to the EST place in the afternoon and when I eventually got my 6 mins. at 13½ pt. – he hadn’t come back from lunch!

Fanara & MELF HQ png

Section of Suez Canal Zone.   Map by, and copyright, Richard Wooley

Only after I’d put down the phone did I remember that the message that he was to ring me was pretty US as it’s very difficult to get through to a civilian number in Cairo from a military one in the Canal Zone. (1)

Accordingly I booked a call first thing in the morning and as it was so early it came through fairly soon and he was in.  He’s been here a fortnight but couldn’t remember my address till the other day – admits that was dopey.  I’m going down to Ish on Friday after I’ve had my French lesson and washed my hair and as my Swiss architect rang me yestre’en  and I’m to go and look at houses after lunching with him tomorrow, that disposes of two people, leaving Sgt. Shirley – whom I learnt came to meet the two girls in the truck last week-end hoping I’d have gone to Q too, Ernst – from whom I haven’t heard yet as to when he’s coming on leave so it shouldn’t be this week-end, Peter who also owes me a letter and old Ken who’s previously on the high seas. It’s a great life if you don’t weaken – have visions of Pete and Malcolm running into Ken and me in Ish – personally I’d like one big happy family, but people sometimes have a habit of not getting on, I mean ones friends – i.e. Pat and Esme love each other from a distance.

Yesterday I went  with Pat and we looked at more sales – aren’t they fun even if you don’t buy a thing?, and I got a bargain.  According to my basic plan – drawn up with Pat’s help – I’m s’posed to have everything classic and in three colours – navy, brown and black. The shoes I bought fit the specification as far as navy goes, but otherwise, well they ain’t the least bit classic – courts with open toes and heels and punched holes about the size of threepenny  bit – but they do look nice and should be good for dancing.  What really won me was the price – 60 Pt. or 12/- – not bad eh?


Definitely feel there’s something ‘agin me’ as far as trying to look neat and smart goes – did my washing yesterday, including hanging out of roll-on and navy skirt (I’m lengthening it and had to wash it to get rid of fuzz etc. inside old hem) and guess what, it was the one day of the year (well not quite) when it rained, so goodness knows whether the skirt’s shrunk or not – and I’d already taken it in and of course the roll-on was as wet as could be, and I wanted to wear it today under my re-modelled navy dress to look really svelte for my Swiss Mark – think I’ll have to go back to books and maps.

Talking of the former, I managed to get hold of one I’d been looking for for a long time – Cornelia Otis Skinner’s “Our Hearts were Young and Gay” – it covers a trip to Paris and is, I believe on the lines of “Gentlemen prefer Blondes” – not reading it yet though, like my ME Anthology I want to read it in the great bahdin. (1)

After my washing I went to the Companion’s and talked to Lita – I can see she’ll keep me on my toes – I’d almost forgotten the word Algebra.  It’s so easy when far away, “Yes, children are good for one”, but boy, who tires first, however, it should mean far less introspection, which is a very good thing.

They wanted me to move next week when I was there yesterday, but I was adamant, thinking of my last week of freedom and also of the “Patrician” – don’t know what I’ll do if she comes in just as I move, for I ought to keep to my bargain of staying and nattering and there’s no news of her being in the Med. yet.  If she were a fortnight late ‘twould be all right, but a week would jigger things, taking me to moving day.

I note your carpet requirements and as I’m s’posed to see Morris (2) on Monday, shall tell him all then, so that he can be on the look-out and there should be no rush at the last.

After C’s last night I went on to the WNC (3) and we’d PT, it was good fun. I am a silly, have so many encs. to send to to-day as I’m going out (with Mark) haven’t brought as many bundles as usual and have nothing by me, marleesh, ‘twill have to be next time.

Esme forgot to turn, hence the double exposure of ‘me and the lion’ at Suez. (4)

Len, Lion-a

Len in CU, Chsistmas '48 png

Will reply to the rest of your letter in my next, but have to get this in the mail – all the love in the world to my dearly Beloveds.

Len. xxxxx


1.  US : Useless

2.  Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough, 1942, made into a film in 1944.  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, 1925, made into a film in 1953.

3.  Morris Zeid, referred to by Mum in her letter of 17 December, 1947.

4.  WNC: the Christian instigated Wednesday Night Club.

5.  ‘Esme forgot to turn’ – to wind the film on.  Len is responding to a question from Mum, in a letter not in this collection.  There is a possibility that this is the only surviving photograph from when Len, Esme and Myrtle were in the Suez Canal Zone at Christmas.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-19 February, 1948.
BSDM Cairo, c/o Det. APO S.299, MELF.

No hint of blue in the sky, but not very chilly.

Dearest own Ones,

My quiet period seems to have passed by and again I seem to be writing brief letters – awful isn’t it?

I wrote you on Thursday, well that day I’d the most wonderful day I’ve had in the ME except for the day of your arrival Mum. Everything just flowed into everything else. First I’d lunch with Mark at Groppi’s – and it was a perfect lunch, then we drove out in his car to Maadi where he showed me the houses he was building. They really were dreams. The design of the house, the wallpaper, colour scheme and furnishings had all been thought out at the same time, so the effect was admirable. Of course the kitchens were super and everything generally was utilitarian and pleasant to look at the same time.

Then we looked over Maadi Club and had tea there and afterwards drove out to the Pyramids and had a drink in Mena House, then he drove me back to town and deposited me at the Harari’s.  He’s the bloke who gave the Psychology lecture to us and has a super wife and kids.  I looked at their kids, then went to a recital.

It was in the most super flat I’ve ever been in, gorgeous paintings, carpets etc. and we sat in chairs with side bits on (you know especially level with your head). There were chintz cushions scattered about the floor for the latecomers to sit on. Not only was it furnished with bags of money, but with exquisite taste. Those people must never see the little maimed children in the street – they live in another world.

After a while the lights went up – we’d been listening to Bach and Handel in the darkness – and some doors opened noiselessly to reveal the most super buffet I’ve ever seen – everything was really perfect. The way our host’s suit was cut it must have cost the earth.  After cutting back some of this food we left.  Really I’d have adored to have stayed, but I was so tired and couldn’t have coped without the Hararis who were leaving then, however I hope to go again soon, the only thing is Peter will be here and he looks like a child who’s been slapped if you say you can’t go out with him and although I’m only fond of him as a friend, I hate to hurt him.

Friday I washed my hair and packed and caught the 6.30 down to Ish, Ken met me and after I booked in the Y, we went to the King George where we talked and danced shwoya.

Rather he talked, for the whole week-end I listened to his experiences in Haifa.  He’s nearly round the bend, though he’s getting better now, but his nerves are in a really bad way and I got the full brunt of it.  He wouldn’t let me contact any of our other mutual acquaintances, but just kept on talking of Haifa, the mass murders, sniping, suicides of British blokes who’d gone right round the bend. (1)

Ken Dixon png

‘Ken Dixon by the breakwater, Feb. 1948’.   Len’s handwriting.

Saturday, we walked, went to the US Club for lunch, sat and nattered, had tea at the Y, dinner at the Greek Club and danced at the King G.  Sunday we walked, and I’d lunch at the Y, whilst he went to his mess, then after tea I caught the bus back to Cairo with the rest of our girls who’d been at Q.  On arrival I’d tea with the Sols and nattered to them and Vera’s girl friend who’d come up from Alex.

That’s me up to date, but I can’t go on nattering as there’s masses of work and I must get this in the mail.  Then of course I’m so involved in sorting myself out.  Phoned Peter this morning and he’s coming up Wed., I’m half expecting a telegram from Ken C to say come down to Alex., ditto a letter from Ernst to say he’s coming on leave, there are also some other bods in various places demanding letters or a ‘yes’ to their coming to Cairo and this afternoon I’m shopping with Morris, then seeing Mark at night for dinner before going on to “Lady Precious Stream”, lastly I’m s’posed to be moving at the week-end and then staying with the little Greek girl most of the time – something’s going to go somewhere, but as yet I don’t know what.

Cheerio the noo pets and keep the home fires burning.

Absolutely your own most loving, Len. xxxx


1.    Throughout 1947 (and into 1948) the Zionist terrorist group Irgun,  were indiscriminately killing British servicemen (most of whom were conscripts) in the Haifa area, besides Jerusalem and other areas within the Palestine Mandate. Servicemen (and civilians, including Jews and Arabs)  were being killed weekly. Killings were achieved by booby trapped vehicles, vehicle mines, kidnapping followed by executions, attacks on military and non-military buildings, attacks on British Army Red Cross vehicles and posts, attacks on the Cairo – Haifa train, and so on.  By February 1947 the British decided to evacuate all service families and ‘non-essential staff’ out of Haifa to Egypt, in Operation Polly.   Ken Dixon is on Len’s 1945 list of friends and music she associates with them.  The music Len associates with Ken is Melody in F


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-111 February, 1948.  (1)

Just in the office.  BSDM Cairo, c/o Det. APO S.299

Parents o’ mine,

Mailless little me – haven’t had a letter from you since the 4th – the APO needs shaking up.

Pat Brown, Zam, Feb 48 png

“Pat snapped during some antics on the Solovieff’s balcony in Zamalek. Cairo, February ’48.”   Len’s writing on reverse of photo.

Monday I went down the Mousky & got Pat all her gift requirements – with Morris. She can’t bear the Mousky.  At the same time I got a little black horn deer with ivory antlers for Esme’s birthday & a goblet carved out of gamoose horn for myself comme ça –

Len goblet horn

 – imagine all out of one piece of horn & it was only 20 Pt!  Had proved an unpopular item as is doesn’t shout ‘made in Egypt’ – hence the cheapness – it’s an antique too.  I was buying masses of stuff for Pat & getting it all together helped keep prices down.

I came back & changed & Mark called for me in his car.  We’d dinner in a little Italian place, then went to see “Lady Precious Stream” which was most amusing.  Afterwards we drove over to Gezira, parked the car, went for a brisk walk by the Nile.  Then he drove me back.  He told me his age – 39.  It was rather surprising, but I s’pose the various things he’s done have taken some time.

Yesterday Pat came & looked over my clothes with advice on same – it was hectic – my pulling clothes on & off.  Then I dashed to the C’mt meeting – which I took being vice-chairman (the chairman proper Pamela (vicar’s wife) being in Upper Egypt on church work).  Then the c’mt all tea’d in Loques (just beside Groppi in Midan Soli Pash).  I went to bed fairly early.  Mark had asked me to a fancy dress ball, but I really needed that early night.


Yesterday I did my washing, then went to the Companions & talked to Lita. Gosh what a packed hour & a half.  I listened to her telling me a film story, wrote a treatise on New Orleans for her, sang hymns ditto, watched her doing exercises – let her watch me (thank goodness toe-touching isn’t beyond me) doing likewise and played tag with her.

Returned to 173.  I repaired a few ravages next by doing exercises in my split skirt – actually looked at myself, realised I hadn’t time & caught a tram into town & Peter.  We coffee’d etc & he did my French with me, then as he wouldn’t come to the country dancing I went alone.  It was wonderful, some boys of the Maadi Dancing Group came up & as well as quite energetic English dances we did a Dashing White Sergeant & an Eightsome Reel – we were in stitches half the time with laughter.  Afterwards Peter picked me up & we’d some food together before walking back to Sam (1) – what an energetic day.

Keep smiling big smiles chookums. Shiploads of love,

Len. xxxxx


1.  Len also wrote a second letter on this day (not in this collection),  11 February, for Mum’s eyes only.  She was asking Mum advice about her relationship with Mark.  (See the next chapter, Part Two Chapter 8)

2. Sam: Len’s nickname for Zamalek.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-118 February, 1948

Invigorating morning. BSDM Cairo, c/o Det. APO S.299, MELF.

Two best loved Ones,

Just taking the address of the Palmgren’s from your 245 and as Peter and I should be calling on Steena (my Swedish girl friend) to go to the WNC Valentine Party tonight, I’ll ask her if she knows it or them.

The Left and Right seem to be having a rare battle in the W.4 area. (1)   Doesn’t it make a difference when you know your friends lean the same way as you – neither Pat or Esme are left and it means one can’t talk on quite a lot of things.  Mark has quite an open mind on the subject.  He’s definitely Left and likes Com. in theory, but says theories don’t work when applied to human nature and cites Russia where he’s been and we’d a heated discussion about that awful book “I Chose Freedom” – written by a Russian who when in America with a Soviet Mission, ran away and wrote this book – I ask you, not only was he a traitor to his country, but a traitor to his ideals too. (2)

Must tell you that yesterday I made the great decision – should have hated to think I was being swallowed up by the ME, so when I was asked by a supervisor over the phone yesterday if I’d stay on beyond July to say the end of October I said “No”.

Just afterwards by the last of the mail I’d a p.c. from Joan Brandley in which she says her leave’s from a date in July to the beginning of Aug., but continues that she wouldn’t dare ask me to spend it with her as it’s my first summer home – of course I’d like to see her for a few days, so it’s grand her leave comes then, but I’d like to be alone for most of the time to think,  as one feels so mixed up in ones mind with being away so long.

It was lovely getting that p.c. after my great decision – you’ve no idea how the ME gets an insidious hold – made me feel how alive home is and that there were others besides you two who want to see me.  I hate to think of the £30 a month I’m saving just now for those other months, but after all, what is money and I feel I must get home in the summer – procrastination is so weak and I just can’t do without seeing you both much longer.

Appropos of your query re. the British going. Well, the troops moved out in March ’47, but since then the British community as a whole have stayed put. (3)

My social life is hectic – though my new abode is slowing it up a bit which is a good thing, but many of the girls don’t go out much and the Connaught House ones (YW) especially seem content to sleep, eat, work, read, sew – yes, they go to bed early every night.

I think it’s bad to pamper kids, but there’s nothing wrong with a little mother love – I couldn’t bear to have a wee baby and have it away from me most of the time. There’s no doubt about it this is a heck of a decadent country and people get like that living here. Shouldn’t like to have kids here – from seeing Lita and other kids I’m sure the schools are lousy as is only to be expected.

 DDT paper pngAppropos of the sheets I haven’t opened them, but have surrounded them with DDT powder  and put them in one of the trunks which has been put away.

I’ve thrown away the old expanding case which has definitely had its chips.

That’s me replied to your letters, the last being 252. I have all but 250 and 251, so things are straightening out slow but sure.

On Sunday Mark called at 9 as arranged and we’d breakfast on the “Sudan” houseboat together.  From there we drove out to Lake Karoun which is about 50 miles away.  It’s amazing the way the desert suddenly gives place to greenness, but it’s not a very inspiring stretch of water and like most, or rather all of Egypt as far as scenery is concerned left me cold. However, we nattered medly all the way and had a super lunch at the further away hotel, coming back to have coffee at the nearer one, playing some ping pong and having a walk by the lake before returning.

We’d tea at Mena House on the way in, then he dropped me in Zamalek and I went up to the Findlys where Peter foregathered too and we all had dinner together, after which we played cards to finish off the evening.  S’pose I’ll have to learn bridge as a social accomplishment, but I just don’t enjoy cards at all.

Monday I packed and moved.  Oh, but I am enjoying my new abode, I may get a bit fed up as time goes by being with Lita – but at present I can’t see how.  Don’t see what I’m doing for my keep, but I s’pose they just want someone to be with her as much as anything. Must take a photo of the view from the window to send you. (4)  Yesterday I gave Lita “Shivery Pool” to learn, showing her all the actions by saying it myself first. She was entranced. She is a lovable little girl and said to me yesterday sort of full of quiet joy “It’s our second day together”.  She’s given me some pressed pansies, and I told her I was going to send you some, which I must do.  It’s wonderful too being back to regular meals and the rest of the family seem awfully nice too.  I let the Father tell me what he thought of America and things in general – I always think men love to tell you how they’d put the world straight – did I hear a protest from you Daddy?

I stayed in yesterday, except for after lunch when I went over to Gezira to see Lita playing hockey and nipped into the Ladies’ lounge where I found Steena and asked her to the party to-night.

Had a letter from Malcolm this morning to say he’s coming up this week-end, so I wrote back feverishly and at once to say cancel it, as Peter will be here this week-end. Told Malcolm I always get involved a good while ahead and to come up on the week-end of 6/7th and to stay over to the 8th when I’m producing a rehearsed reading of T.S.Elliot’s “The Family Re-Union”.  Pray for me, the only thing I’ve ever produced before was “Christmas Carol”, admittedly it was most successful, but this is a much more complicated and highbrow affair, but in view of my future hopes I could hardly refuse when the Theatre Guild asked me to do it.

That is all, over to you. Love by ‘plane till we meet again.

Len. xxxxx


1.  Mum presumably sent the local (and now defunct) weekly paper the Clydebank  Press to Len.  Although Len talks about Left and Right, the political correspondence, at the time, in the Letters page was between local communist party members attacking the Labour Government (“a budget for big business”, and so on), and local Labour Party supporters responding by calling the communist letter writers supporters of totalitarianism who are not acknowledging the social welfare reforms the Labour Government was bringing in. 

2.  I Chose Freedom: The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official by Victor Kravchenko, was published 1946 in the USA, and published 1947 by Robert Hale in the U.K.  It remains a searing exposé, based on first hand experience, of the terror regime in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  It was violently denounced by the USSR, who demanded that Kravchenko be extradited back (to certain death). The international Communist Parties throughout the world (under instructions from Moscow) – with the exception of Yugoslavia who had its own problems with Moscow – ran equally violent and vicious campaigns against Kravchenko.  He had joined the Communist Party in 1929, and was a witness to the mass starvation of the Ukrainian peasantry as a result of Stalin’s forced agricultural collectivization.  As late as 1983, when the identity of his son (who’d changed his name and had lived anonymously for 37 years) was discovered, the Soviet authorities imprisoned him in a gulag for five years, simply for being Kravchenko’s son. The son spent the last three years in a gulag whilst Gorbachev was First Secretary of the Communist Party. His father had died –  peacefully –  in the U.S. in 1966.

It seems that Len had not read the book.  She identified with the cause of the Soviet Union at least until 1955.

The same week Len wrote this letter to her parents, George Orwell was in Ward 3 of Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, fifteen miles south east of Coldingham Avenue.  That week he had just written a letter to Fred Warburg, who had published his Animal Farm in 1945 when his previous left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz wouldn’t touch it.  Orwell was very ill with TB damaged lungs, and had finished the first draft of Nineteen Eighty-Four in the previous autumn, October, 1947 on the Isle of Jura.

3.  Len is responding to a query from a letter from Mum not in this collection.   “In May 1946, plans were announced for the withdrawal of British Troops from Egypt into the Canal Zone. The H.Q. B.T.E. (British Troops Egypt) was moved from Cairo to Moascar, a suburb of Ismailia in the Canal Zone.  Disputes between the United Kingdom and Egypt over The Sudan led to negotiations collapsing, but the British withdrawal continued.  On the 9 February 1947, the 2 Bn. The Royal Fusiliers handed over Mustapha Barracks in Alexandria to the Egyptians. On the 28 March, The Life Guards left Kasr-el-Nil Barracks and withdrew into the Canal Zone. The Canal Zone was divided into two Brigade Areas, the northern formed by the 3 Infantry Brigade, which also was designated the Strategic Reserve.”  Sourced from, and grateful thanks to


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-120 February, 1948.

BSDM Cairo, c/o Det. APO S.299, MELF.

Hail, Smilers, Your 253 came in yestre’en – keeping me abreast of the news. (1)

Glad to hear you’ve made the decision to get rid of Jack – when is the day to be when he gets his marching orders?

No, I still feel slightly odd at always having to let men pay, but I must confess that I never voice my feelings nowadays.

Yes, you know I have been thinking about cutting down on everything and not knocking around doing everything and your letter’s a great help in straightening things out in my mind.  But I don’t see what’s wrong with a straw hat round the neck though, think people look most attractive like that.

I’ve never had a 2 ½  Forces letter from you yet, so don’t know about its quickness. Pat received your 6d air mail O.K.  Her sailing’s been advanced from the 29th to the 25th, so now she should sail on the Lanstephen Castle (or a name like that, she’s not quite sure) next Wednesday.

Think I told you about Mark’s houses – everything was built in, of course, in the kitchen and they were tiled shoulder high with rounded corners where floor and walls met. He’s building a boys’ club at Alex. and a school here, must see the designs. Told him of the courtyard school idea – e.g. Mounteagle and he says it’s a bad thing because of drafts, noise carrying etc. nevertheless, though it may be bad from a technical angle, I enjoyed Mounteagle. (2)

Monday I moved and stayed with Lita and her family for the whole day afterwards, but I already said that in my last letter?  By the way, I’m getting masses of green vegetables, more than I had since leaving U.K.

Wednesday I stayed with Lita, then at night went to the Valentine Party with Peter and Steena.  Thursday I’d my French, went back to 15 (my new road number) then went into town early, saw Pat, then both of us had dinner with Peter.

Yesterday I stayed with Lita during the day, playing hop scotch and doing things like that, then at night went out with Mark.  He hadn’t had dinner, so I drank a sherry whilst he dined, then we drove out to Maadi and visited Bernard (you know the artist), we’d  tea with him and nattered away, then came back to Zamalek.

Would you please send the enclosed form on for me – thank goodness the Guildhall doesn’t have an entrance fee, or rather they’ve crossed it out on the form they’ve sent me. RADA have though, so I should be sending it to you shortly too.  Take the dough from the next you get from the MoS.  Sorry for involving you in the sending of these forms, but I just don’t know how I could send the dough from out here.  I’m enclosing the 6d. stamp off your last letter as it wasn’t postmarked – ‘ave a go chum.

In case you give it to friends at any time (or you need it yourselves if that Littlewood’s (3) comes up), my new address is:

c/o Companion, Flat 4, 15 Sharia Amir Hussein, Zamalek.

And as Joyce Grenfell says in revue “And that is the end of the news”.

As always, my love through every season.

Len. xxxxx


1.  This letter 253 from Mum is not in the collection.

2.  A primary school Len went to as a young girl when living in Dagenham.

3.  Before the British National Lottery, Football Pools were the weekly popular ‘bet’ on winning a large amount of money.  Zetters, Vernons and Littlewoods were amongst the main companies.


Next Friday, 21 November, 2014.  Part Two Chapter Eight:  Marriage: No second hand or damaged material. 

 “Remember always, honey, your value (I hate to put it this way but facts are facts) in the marriage market is a very, very high one…. therefore no second hand or damaged material will be good enough….” – Letter from Mum to Len, 26 February, 1948.




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Part Two 6: Bouncing Back “Scarier, Scarier, Ra, Ra, Ra”

Part Two  6:  Bouncing Back:  “Scarier, Scarier, Ra, Ra, Ra”

Mum letter image png_edited-117 December, 1947.

Hello Chum!

It’s exactly eight days since we heard from you – that is until your 241 and 242 got here this morn. (1)

Believe me, we were getting up to high Doh and no mistake; I guess it’s all the Xmas mail that’s holding up everything, however little white lily and the Rose of Lancashire are smiling and happy once more. (2)

Glad to know you are enjoying so much fun and hope oh! so much that all your dreams come true and that you’ll have the best time ever this festive season.  I’m in the throes of sending of my Christmas Cards, and, tough work, seeing Daddy sends off his.  We are also busy doing jobs about ye hoose, and I also want to alter and wash my red woolen frock for ye festive (New Year) season.   We got a letter from Joan to say she is arriving on Dec 27th so I’ve arranged with Mr. and Mrs. Watson and Ron that they are all to come over here on Dec. 28th – the Sunday, then we plan to go to L.L.Y.H. on the 31st.

Got a card from the Findlays today just as I was getting theirs off.

Mr. Morris Zeid (3) has been so kind to you  – I really must send him a card – I’ve got everything arranged in wee groups in my mind for sending cards to.  What about the letter I sent to Pat Brown – you’ve no word of it in your letter, honey lamb.

Jack is going home for Christmas, thank goodness!  He leaves Sat. first.

Best love to you our own one. A long letter soon. Much haste. Ever your own lovingest, Mum and Dad. xxx

Sending Harris a card and letter with this post, Mum xxx.


1.  242 is Len’s letter of 10 December, 1947:   “Don’t know whether on head or heels…”.  Her 241 letter is not in this collection.

2.  Reference to Dad’s family Lancashire background.

3.  Morris Zeid has been mentioned by Len in a letter not in this collection.  There is a possibility he worked for the Ministry of Works in Cairo.  She may have met him through the Findlays, or at the Gezira.  We do not know in what way he has been kind to her.  He will appear later in the narrative.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-118 December, 1947.

My room, Christmas drawing near.

My darling very Ain Ones,

It will be Christmas by the time this gets to you & may you have a really wonderful one.  Don’t let my absence cast any note of sadness for remember I’m with you in spirit & the months are speeding by.

First I must tell you about the past four wonderful days & the grand event which has marked each.  On Monday I learnt I’d passed the CO exam – the one I sat the day before you arrived here Mum. (1)  On Tuesday the crit for our show was in the paper – it’s the best I’ve ever had.  Yesterday we’d the wonderful party I’d been planning & working on for so long – it went without a hitch from start to finish.  Today was marked by my receiving a super Xmas present from Mrs Saracha – two lizard skins to make shoes – each measuring 30” from head to tip of tail.

Passing the CO exam means giving me Clerical Officer status (though in my own interests I may not claim same till reaching the U.K. i.e. the work out here would probably be better as a SH/T).  It also means that I’ve now officer rank & can use the officers’ clubs without slinking in and out.

I think it’s hideous them having your food office in Partick – is it caused by lack of accommodation?

I’m going to break my ‘no tell’ idea right now with regard to one item – whisky. It sells at a fabulous price here & as the Forces have been cut to ¼ bottle a month it’s not so easy to get it from them, but I’ve had a letter from Peter James in which he says he’s got a bottle waiting for me at El Kirsch.  I hope to collect it when I’m in the Canal Zone.

Esme & Pat have both volunteered for Pal.  Both wanted me to vol. too, but it wouldn’t be a sound move on my part, but my conscience is clear (about deserting them in their ‘hour of need’) as I learn that all vacancies are filled.  Esme isn’t going and is mad about it.  Pat is – or at least has been accepted.  She now has to confirm.  She’s not keen to go to Pal., but from various points of view thinks it’s a good thing for her & I must say I agree.  She’ll probably be writing to you with all the gen. (2)  I should have felt awfully guilty about the worry I was causing you if I’d gone.  It is of course vastly exaggerated in the papers, the same as Egypt, but the FSA (3) is less & my ‘frugal living’ scheme wouldn’t have raked in dough for the U.K. exchequer, so I think I’ll leave re-visiting the hills of Jerusalem for another time.

Jean Findlay’s Dad hates Cairo, that is Cairo proper – can’t stand the bustle & never goes in if he can avoid it.  From all accounts he seems quite content to sit at the club and watch the polo.  Different from you Mum – I’ll say.

I’m marking down all your “souvenir & shopping” requirements as your letters come through & am doing my best ‘dinnae fear’.

I an awfully worried about your both having flu one after the other – no matter how one tries not to, one magnifies things, so do please take care of yourselves – can’t you manage at least a week in the Scilly Isles or the Channel Islands in Jan. or Feb?  It sounds silly, but I feel it’s the best insurance against further flu.  With the present lack of fuel the best plan seems to be to “Get to where it’s warmest naturally” (with apologies to “Annie Get Your Gun”).

My contract of service is not a “3 month’s extension”, it’s an indefinite extension of contract with three months notice on either side.   It means that when either the employer or employee wants to part company they give three months notice, so you know my departure date is at least three months ahead.

It’s O.K. to talk of being a well groomed woman ten years from now, but things like that do not happen suddenly.  One has to strive for years – at least I do – & remember always to be polishing one’s shoes & pressing one’s clothes.  Some women enjoy clothes & like buying them, well although I enjoy them sometimes, most of the time I’m disinterested & and as far spending money on them – I always think of the wonderful books there are.

So glad the parcels arrived O.K.  Must try to send more soon – don’t you give that Jack any please.  Hope you find them O.K. as Xmas presents, for we can’t send anything but food as yet, nothing more being heard of APO. (4)

Yes, I still want to go the Highlands, but feel I will have to use some of my leave, laying the foundations for what I want to do in the future.  I’d like to use the money I’m banking  now to stop work and study.  That’s why every month out here helps, but I don’t want to stay on & on just for dough, for I want to see you both & also can’t spend the best years of my life in the ME.

I’m with you all the way about marriage being the thing for men & women but one just can’t sit back & daydream till a bloke happens along.  Much better surely to lead a useful life & make yourself richer (mentally) person at the same time?

I’m not revolting against the CS – it’s just not what I want.  Up to now I’ve done well from it I know, but it was chance that made me a CS & not because I selected it as a career.

Unless I get this off now, ‘twill be missing the mail.  Hope to write screeds from the Canal Zone.  All the love in the world & a tremendously merry, happy Christmas.

Len. xxxxx


1.  C.O.  Clerical Officer.

2.  Pat will not go to Palestine.  It seems she changed her mind.

2.  FSA: Foreign Service Allowance.

4.  APO:  Army Post Office


Mum letter image png_edited-119 December, 1947.  Friday.

Cosy old Home.   Shall be thinking of you when the bells ring out the old and in the new

No letter from you since Wed. but guess there’s one in the post.  By the time this reaches you you’ll (I hope) be right in the middle of the Christmas gaiety and we do hope you’re having the merriest time, our wee sugar plum.

Yesterday I put that £3.15/- in your P.O. account, this was the Savings Certs, Aunt Ena sent you last (1946) Nov.  I’d let them run out of date – as then you’d no P.O account, however, got them extended (the date) and now the amount is safely in your book.  To have heard Aunt E. talk then you’d think her gift to you would have been in the region of £50 or £100 – but £3.15/- !*!  I sent a card to Mrs. Stokes, positively I’m swamped thinking of the people to whom I’ve to send cards and letters! I also got a card, no letter yet, from Ernest.

 I don’t want to sound a nasty greedy wee bisom,  but if you see any carpets lying around without owners it would be wonderful.  I don’t mean you to cliftie one but to bargain!

Think I’ll now seek my couch as I’ve to be up at 5.30 a.m. to get Jack his breakfast before he leaves for “Norroway over the foam”.   Night night , my sweetest and bestest. X.   See you in the “Morning Days”.  Mum

Sat 20th Dec.

No post today but expect shoals of letters on Mon.  It’s a glorious winter day, sunny and bright, could do with plenty like this.  Got Jack away this morn 7. a.m.  He sails from Newcastle on the Jupiter at 5.30.  Have just been giving Hutch a row for stealing bones – what a thief she is.  But such a lovely, chummy thief.  The Clyde Valley electricians were putting in a new cable yesterday (and the day before) for Clyde Valley calls for Mr. Kinloch who is a C.V. official and who lives, with his wife, at Mr. Collinsons – I asked them, ha! ha! –  couldn’t they extend the cable to 26 but they replied that’s the corporation’s job, ha!ha!  (1)

If you go to P.S. you’ll see my ghost haunting the Eastern Exchange.  Remember all I’ve written to you re. sweet behaviour there, not heavy chum stuff.  Thinking of you all the time with love of the best.  Mum.

31 December, 1947.

Hurrah, hurrah! It’s Hogmanay and we got a letter from you today!

Yes, your darling one of Dec.18th You said in it “it will be Xmas when you get this” and lo and behold its Hogmanay!  Boy! were we up to high doe! 12 days without a letter!

Just getting ready to shop, make lunch, iron, pack, bathe and a thousand other jobs before proceeding to Loch Lomond. Joan is sitting opp. as I write, taking her breakfast (noon).

Bye for now, our very best Beloved.  We shall be thinking of you and drinking a toast to “absent loved ones” as the New Year comes in.

I’ll get down to a long letter soon.  So glad you’d a good time at Xmas.

Our love is all around you,

Your own Dad and Mum.  xxx


1.  The Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company.  They supplied electricity to the greater Glasgow area.  In 1947 they had a power station on the Clyde near Lanark, and also on the Clyde near Mum and Dad’s at Yoker.  In 1948 the company was nationalised. 


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-121.12.47

Lounge, Saturday morning at Leave Camp in Port Fouad, as Camp cheer goes – Scarier, scarier, Ra ra, ra. (1)

My well Loved Ones,

Unless I start this now I’ll never get it done.  I took away with me a script to learn, gloves to make, letters to write, garments to sew and French to study and I’ve done nixus – we’ve had a really glorious time though.

I just can’t enumerate all I’ve done – can’t even remember for my diary.

Before I left Cairo I said a Xmas adieu to the Stokes, Findlays, and Sarachas.  The show went off extremely well – crit enclosed.

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The Sphinx (English Language Cairo based magazine) review of the Cairo Drama Guild’s Bronte adaptations.  The Patricia Hurst mentioned is not Len’s friend Pat.  Her surname was Brown.

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Ads in the Sphinx magazine

After the first night I met Myrtle Tandy’s friend from Fayid and we all went to the Champagne Club.  I was s’posed to be going to Fayid for Xmas, but a few days before this,  her bloke wrote cancelling it, but as Esme had providentially booked us at Seaview, we came north instead.   The last night of the show we’d a party afterwards.

 Wednesday we’d the party rehearsal, then the party proper – it really was the goods.  Went with a swing from start to finish and I really felt it an honour to be hostess.  We’d put in such masses of work it was a relief to see it go off so well. (2)

Thursday – shopping and adieues.

Friday I chored ‘medley’ and packed.   I dropped in on the Findlays and left them their presents and left some sweets for the Stokes. I also learnt of a lift going down to Ish, so took the Saturday as leave as well as Mon. Tues. and Wed.

Saturday we left Cairo at 7 a.m. – the car was a Humber and got into Ish at 9.40 which was rather good going as Ish is over 100 miles away.  I did some more sewing, then phoned Harris, went to lunch with him at his mess in Moascar Garrison and came back to finish putting the 12 yds. of tulle (ballet skirt type stuff) round my 8 yd. wide dress and then I gave it and the slip in to be pressed and bought some tarts.

Here’s how I eventually looked.

Actually I was surprised at how well it turned out and old Harris was thrilled to bits.

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Harris went to the dance as a clergyman and had lots of fun adopting a benign attitude. I danced with pirates and cowboys and the whole evening was lots of fun.  Some of the costumes were awfully good.  The girl winners were: Mantilla Lady, Nell Gwynne and a Bint. The winning men represented: Mme Pompadour, a Chinaman and a Pirate.  There was a grand buffet and we supplemented same with my tarts after the parade was over.

The next morning I awoke with that lovely ‘on holiday and in a strange place’ feeling and after breakfast in bed got ready and went down to the station to meet Esme.  I so adore meeting and being met at stations.  There she was leaning out in her red coat. It was really fun standing there in the sunshine.  Straightaway we went over to the NAAFI for tea and a natter.  She told me that Myrtle T. had heard from this bloke at Fayid to the effect that the Xmas arrangements there were off.  Poor old Myrtle was left high and dry, but Esme had booked us up at Seaview at Port Said, so all went well. I was glad as otherwise Esme would have been at PS and I’d have been at Fayid which would not have been so hot – being separated I mean.

We went back to the Y and Harris came to lunch.  Afterwards further nattering followed then Harris petered off and we listened to the light music concert while awaiting the arrival of Peter. (3)   He duly came and again we talked furiously, then he dashed off to El Kirsh to change into Service Dress (from Battledress) and we too changed.  Then the three of us went to the Officers’ Club for dinner and from there on to the French Club for dancing, on to the King George for more dancing and back to the French Club to finish off.

The next morning we took the welfare bus to Fayid where I endeavoured to ‘phone to see if Ernst was still in the BMH (4) .  I couldn’t get through,  I discovered later he was out, so all was well. then we lunched and took photos. Afterwards we got a welfare bus to Fanara, then a DADOS (ordnance Stores bloke) PU to the Y at Suez. (5)  It’s right in the back of beyond, but they took us right up to the door and this Glasgow Captain – from the Botanic Gardens (6) carried our cases right in.  We booked in and had tea.  I’d a shwoya sleep, then we did the necessary running repair chores and went out to a CSE show – “For Export Only”. (7)   Hereby hangs a tale.

The place where we saw the show was BTD – the Base Transit Depot for the whole of the Middle East. You see 156 Transit at PS deals with people going home, but BTD deals with incoming people and once you got a footing in there you’d be made as far as contacts were concerned. Well this YW woman who took us to “FEO” said she’d take us on to the mess after the show, but when the show finished she whizzed us out of the auditorium and back to the Y without introducing us to a soul, let alone taking us to the mess.  We were rather angry, because it was sheer cattiness on her part and as we’d only two nights in Suez we wanted to get cracking, not only to get ourselves organised for those two nights, but to lay up stock as it were for future occasions.

We went to bed in a rather disgruntled frame of mind that night and the next day did masses of walking, visited Port Tewfik and took photos and then at night, the two YW women went out of the Y. for a little while and left us looking after it.  No other girls were staying there, in fact it seems to cater for, or rather be used more by men than girls, for masses come in to play the piano, to eat there and to play table tennis and the like. The ‘phone went.  I answered it.  The bloke on the other end was a Major from the staff mess of BTD (as opposed to the Transit Officers’ Mess) who wanted to give a message to one of the YH women.  He appeared enthralled at my voice and asked Esme and me out to dinner. We went and this type just didn’t conceal her fury at all at being bested.

We’d dinner at the Pig and Whistle Officers’ Club in Tewfik then later went dancing at the Os’ Club near BTD.  This Major was called Fraser – Esme was with a Loot in transit.  Major F. was old and jolly and came from Tyndrum.  He’s dying to take us to the mess some other time – it’s annoying about Esme s’posed to be going to Pal – for I’d like us to have gone together.  A young Lt. Fraser of whom the Major had told me came over for a dance.  It proved the last one and only made me all the more furious with this woman obstructionist, for although I can work pretty fast on getting friendly with people, I can’t do everything in a dance.

This bloke had only been in the ME five days and had been dancing in Glasgow three weeks before – came from Falkirk and is going to Glasgow Uni next summer!  He said how nice it was to be dancing so near Christmas with someone from around his area of home.  He also said he’d like to come to Cairo – but as I say you can’t do everything in one dance.  In all probability I’d have met him the night before if we’d been at the mess.  I mean, a contact all laid on in Glasgow for next summer.

During our walk before our outing with Major F. we’d fixed a hitch back to Fayid with DADOS’s driver in D’s PU – weren’t we lucky?

The next morning it picked us up at the Y – this horrid woman delivering snippets the while on how late it would be (and it wasn’t) – and on we went to Fayid.  Masses of ships were going up the canal and it was a wonderful sight to see them all northward bound.

This time we did not spend any appreciable time in Fayid, merely waited at Dumbarton House – yes that’s the name of the Catholic Women’s League place for the next bus to Ish.  On our arrival we went to the Y – it was Xmas Eve by this time (but in the morning as we’d started very early) and there was Pat.  She gave me all my mail – all nine bits of it and of course the three of us nattered furiously and caught up on Disposals news.  This included the withdrawal of bag facilities, so will you please go back to addressing me by APO and using the 1½d stamp. (8)   Cannot give any more gen on this just now, for the people who’re s’posed to tell us are so vague it just isn’t true. By the way, if you could study my tour, or rather read about it with a map by your side, it would make it much more interesting.  I’ve one or two good Canal Zone maps, but wouldn’t like to post them in case they were stopped and I got into trouble (9) – a decent one of Egypt should do.

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Map by, and copyright Richard Wooley.  Sourced from with grateful thanks.

Lower Egypt, 1943png cropped

Anyway I phoned Peter and asked him to lunch at the Y, couldn’t get hold of him, but his native clerk took a message and I got the girls – Esme and Pat,  who went out shopping whilst I changed, to phone from the station too, to make sure the message arrived – El Kirsh is one of those trunk calls which are difficult to make.

The girls hadn’t gone long when the ‘phone rang it was Peter on the line.  Instead of coming to lunch at the Y, he insisted on taking me to the US Club – United Services Officers’ Club.

On arrival at PS Pat, Esme and me made our exhausted way (for the bus had been no picnic with yelling, stopping and the like) to the station.  From there we were picked up by truck, taken across the ferry on same and right through the Married Families and Officers’ Camp.  You two would adore it.

They really do see you’re enjoying yourself.  There’s masses of hot water, bags of baths, washing and ironing facilities, super bars, radiograms with loads of records, quiet rooms and in fact all that one could want to make a good leave.

We’d a short tidy up, then went into dinner.  On the bus we’d met the other two girls who were Disposals-at-Seaview with us.  You see the whole of Disposals was stopping for Xmas.  Anyhow, we’d a table for four and thoroughly enjoyed our Xmas Eve dinner.  Then we dressed and attended the dance in the Cocktail lounge, a rather snazzy place built really a bit like the Paramount Cafe in Glasgow (10) except that at Married Families there’s an extra step in the middle on which the band play.  We finished with Carols and then I’d a walk by the sea in the moonlight with a RAF type. The sea did look gorgeous with breakers lit by moonlight.

The next morning Esme and I went across to PS and nipped into the Officers’ Club for morning coffee.  I tried to phone Ernst twice, but could not get hold of him. Then I tried Johnny and lo and behold old Ernst was with Johnny. We all nattered gaily over the wire and I made a tea date with Ernst. After that Esme and I walked around the town, visited the Britannia Club, took photos etc. Then we met Ernst at Gianola’s and had tea.

I must tell you – before I go any further – that after Ernst came out of hospital he learnt that he’s got to stay in the army five years to get British nationality, so will be in till gen demob in Dec ‘48, for by the time he’s had repat and leave,  it’ll bring him to April ‘49 which is the completion of his five years. (11)    Ernst remarked that Fayid was the place for crime, PS being really quiet and work confined to investigating petty pilferage’s.  He’d reason to eat his words, for just then we heard a bomb go off.

That was at 6 o’ clock.  E hustled Esme and me onto the ferry and went dashing to investigate.  We’d a wonderful Xmas dinner. They put out all the lights when they brought us in our blazing-with-blue-flame Xmas pudding.  Then we proceeded back to PS.  E had delegated Johnny to meet us and from him we learnt that between 6 and 7 there had been the bomb, plus two murders and a suicide.   I don’t need to tell you about the SIB. Mum, duty is definitely the watchword, so all Xmas Night, we were with different relays of men as others dashed off to do their bit.

The suicide was at El Ballah, one murder was at Golf Course Camp – near where Ernst is, the bomb was under the rudder of a Jewish ship, but actually didn’t do much damage, although it gave concussion to a poor old Arab who was on a lighter alongside.   And so to bed on Xmas night.

Boxing morning we took it fairly easy, but we went across to Seaview and explored there and at 2.30 I went in swimming it was really gorgeous.  Again we nipped across to PS for various odd things, including collecting our photos. (12)   I left Esme at the Officers’ Club whilst I went to see Ernst to collect our original Pyramid photos. We exchanged plans and offered each other advice, then he walked a little way down the road with me and we bade each other adieu – he says he hopes to come up to Cairo before long.

That evening we’d an informal dance at the camp and then for fun I went in swimming with a chap at 1.30 a.m.  I swam longer than I had during the day and thoroughly enjoyed it – it was heavenly swimming in the moonlight.

Don’t want to rush the rest of my story, so think I’d better leave it in order to get this letter off.

That’s all about for now, sorry for the delay in writing, but I really accomplished none of the chores I took away to do – neither did Esme.  However, I must stop this, and get it in the mail, then straightaway I can start on the rest of my chronicle, for my next letter.

My thoughts have been with you very much over the festive period and I’ve visualised Joan arriving and all the fun you must have had together.  Want so much to be with you for after all you are the people who matter so much and most and in every way with me – take terrific care of yourselves especially in the ensuing months of Jan and Feb and if you can manage a holiday in the south at all, do take it, and don’t let lack of dough prevent you for I’d like you to have some of the needy to go away.  However, ‘nuff said.

Have a wonderful time at New Year and give my love to Scotland.

Your very own loving wain, Len xxxxx


1.  Throughout her letters Len consistently spells Fuad as Fouad. So does Ernest.  

2..  The Christian Girls Club Party.

3.  Peter, the ‘Loot’ from the Royal Engineers.

4.  BMH: British Medical Hospital.  We have no idea why Ernst was in hospital.

5:  DADOS: ‘Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services’, a branch of Army Ordnance.  PU: Pick up truck.

6.  The Glasgow Botanic Gardens, in Hillhead, in Glasgow’s West End, a few miles east from Mum and Dad’s home in Yoker.

7.  CSE: Combined Services Entertainment.

8  APO: Army Post Office. Though it cost Len a 1½d stamp to send a letter by APO to the UK (the Diplomatic Bag service cost 2½d) Mum was to have to start paying 6d for an Air Mail letter to Egypt, once the DB service was withdrawn.  The Air Mail service to Cairo was re-instated within a few weeks of Len’s letter.  It had started in 1937, by BOAC flying boat services to South Africa via Egypt, and stopped when war broke out.  The Air Mail letters Mum would send would be in the same flying boat that Len used during her home leave later in the summer of 1948.

9.  These will be Army issue maps.

10.  The cafe was part of the Paramount Cinema in Renfrew Street.  The Paramount became the Odeon, which is now closed.

11.  Ernst was naturalised on 4  November, 1949.

12.  Apart from possibly one photo, reproduced in Part Two Chapter 7, none survive in this collection.


Next        Part Two Chapter Seven:  Experimental Theatre  “I’ve been thinking about what I want to study and have decided that in all respects the theatre is really what I want.  What I’m interested in most is the experimental theatre, poetry and broadcasting.”

Posted in Cairo 1940s, Feminism, Gender Studies, Letters, Social and Political History, Suez Canal Zone, Womens History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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“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.

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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.


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                                                                                 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.

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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.


Save silver lining png

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.


Mum's ernest envelope to Len png

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.”   

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Part Two 4: Cholera and Riots

Part Two   4: Cholera and Riots

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

                                                             – Mum to Len, 2nd October, 1947.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-112 September, 1947.

Break time.

Hello loved Ones,

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

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

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

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

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

All my love darling ones, Len xxxx


1.  Bag:  Diplomatic Bag.

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


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

Just before the bell goes.

Hello my own Dearests,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my love pets, Len. xxxx


1.  UNRRA:  United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

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

3.  These photos do not survive in this collection.


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

Dear Chooks,

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

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

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

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

Mum letter, Brit photo idea png

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Mum xxxxx.


1.  Not in this collection.

2.  Not in this collection.

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


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-118 September, 1947.

In my room. Thurs. night

My dearest Ones,

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

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

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

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

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

Bulbeck at 26 with mum png

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

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

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

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

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

Cheerio then and love as always, Len. xxxx


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


Mum letter image png_edited-118 September, 1947.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers from your own ever loving Mum. x


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

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

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

Two press cuttings were also enclosed in this letter


Old days headlinepng

47 hour news papa png

Make up trends headline png

Make up trends prara:1 png_____

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

Sunny Lovely Day.

Our Own Cuddles,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loving you ever, Cheers, Mum. xxx

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


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

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


Poulgorm p.c. png

Joan Brand.png23 September, 1947.  Glengariffe

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

reverse Glengarrif ;p.c. png


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


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


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-124 September, 1947.

In the office, pleasantly cool morning.

Hello well loved Ones,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Ever your own, Len. xxxxx


1.  Does not survive in this collection.

2.  Lilian is a friend.


Mum letter image png_edited-125 September, 1947.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mum. xxx


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


Mum letter image png_edited-128 September, 1947.


Darling Cuddles,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon. morn.

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

All our love always, Dad & Mum. xxxx


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


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-129 September, 1947.

The office.  Morning.

Hello dearest Ones,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loads of love, Len xxxxx


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

2.  Manufactured by Chrysler of America.  

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

4.  Post Office Savings Bank.


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

Balcony of the Office, Thurs. morning.

My own Ones,

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

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

Back garden in snow png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very much Love, Len. xxx

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

What Have title png

What have:1 png

What have:2

Wht have:3

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


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

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

3.  CDG:  Cairo Drama Guild.

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

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


The 1947 Cholera Epidemic in Egypt

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

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

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

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

10,277 people had died.

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

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



Mum letter image png_edited-12nd October, 1947.


Good morning, honey.

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

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

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

Fondest love, our darling.

Ever your own Dad & Mum. x

10 p.m.

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

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

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

Good night & love, Mum.


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-15 October, 1947.

My room – Sunday morning

Hello my own Ones,

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

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

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

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

Much amour, Len xxx.


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


Mum letter image png_edited-15 October, 1947.

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

Our Own Best Loved One.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Splendid bar png

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

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

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

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

Cheers. Mum. xxx

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


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


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

Darling Own one.,

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

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

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

These cuttings were enclosed by Mum

Naturalisation figures png

Go to Australia png

Birth of a Baby png

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

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

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

Loving you as always ever your own Mum. xxx

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

Cheers & love, Mum. x


1.  Not in this collection.


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

Dear Nellie,

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

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

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

I expect we will get the money about Xmas.

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

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

MR's skirt png

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

Love to you both, from all,


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


1.  MR:  Marie Rose, their daughter.

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


Gt Newtownhead p.c.

reverse Waterford p.c. copy

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


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-18 October, 1947.

 Evening in my room, Wed.

My dear own Mum and Dad,

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again for doing my banking Mum.

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

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

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

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

Very much love, Len xxx


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

2.  Dhobby:  washing woman.

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


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-110 October, 1947.

Almost first thing Friday morning.

Hello Precious Ones,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning and loads of love, Len xxxx


1.  This letter is not in the collection.

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

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

4.  CDG:  Cairo Drama Guild.

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


Mum letter image png_edited-112 October, 1947.

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

Dearest Very own One,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mum. x


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

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

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


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

Post office phone letter png


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-113 October, 1947.

After the weekend.

Hello Pets,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my love darlings, Len xxxx


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

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


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


Len for Egypt letters png_edited-114 October, 1947.

Typing and buzz of French.  Tuesday morning.

Hello Dad dear,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep well so that we can do the garden together.

Your most own loving, Len. xxx


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

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


Next     Part Two Chapter   Five: Betrayed.

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

                      –  Len, private note to herself.  Dated 19 October, 1947.


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