Letter from Harry Massey to Barbara Massey

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Letter written by Harry Massey from the No. 6 Palestine company at the Bluffs to Barbara Massey.

This is a scanned version of the original image in Special Collections and Archives at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.



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Letter No. 82 - Wednesday Nov. 12th

Major J.H. Massey 6 Palestinian Coy. The Buffs M.E.F.

My own darling Barbara

You raised & discussed & asked some quite serious questions in your letter which came to me on Monday & I think that I had better try & reply to these before another letter comes from you & makes me to talk about other things & also before I go too long without a letter & become so miserable again that I can only write about that.

You talked about religion & went on to say that we should all try to live less selfishly & lead the "good life" & then that we should be thinking things out in order to work towards something better.

Well, I have thought a great deal - not particularly definitely & not with very much of a plan & practically never with any opportunity to test my thoughts in argument or discussion with anybody for whose opinions I have any respect. That is one of my troubles out here. I have not you to talk to & I have not you to criticise me & make me think about myself & being C.O. my officers have to be very respectful. And the result is not exactly that I am becoming very pleased with myself, but I am very critical of nearly everybody else & consider myself vastly superior to them. (This is becoming more of a discussion about myself than about post-war reconstruction but it is really rather necessary to what I am going to write about). I don't mean to say that I think I am very clever because I don't think that & I also know that I am not too well educated & I am most certainly very ill read in comparison to you, & people like Frank Macaskie & many others. But what I do find so widely & so generally is Englishmen out here who have no real honstey or sense of decency.

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they are lazy & easy going - they make no real war effort - they behave like animals sexually, the married ones as bad if not worse than the single ones - the latter of whom I could understand & sympathise with them having girl friends & sleeping with them but not standing in queues for the same whore in the same brothel - & they nearly all without exception, when the war is over, will go back to England, & be perfectly content to carry on their old useless lives & never think for a moment again of how this war came about & what is going to be done to prevent it all happening again.

There seems to me to be a tremendous scarcity of men with honest minds, unselfish & good living, & who at the same time have brains & ability & energy & ambition & who at the same time have consciences & right ideas. And so long as our country is ruled by people whose only qualities are money and for influence and/or family, on the one side, & other people who have brains & energy but which are exerted to their own ends - so long will we continue to slide into troubles & conflicts & wars, & all the misery & destruction which they bring with them.

To come back to myself a little - I find myself beaming rather priggish & very impatient of inefficiency & ineffectiveness & complacency & general gutlessness & general unsuitability. This may be wrong, as it is difficult & perhaps rather revolting to imagine a world in which everybody was not deficient in those

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qualities or some of them. But, out here, my criticisms are directed against officers - & on a rough average for every officer you have 35 - 40 other ranks, therefore the officers should have these qualities in a greater or lesser degree. But, in fact, all that they have is the advantage of a better education & upbringing, & those they put to very poor use. Take my second in command. Belreus gets the job, simply because he comes from a good family & went to Wellington & Woolwich & he was worse than useless. Then Barrett gets it because he is in the Regular Army & his father is a Lieut Col & M.C. & D.S.O. - & he is nearly as bad. Then Jim Headley could have had it from my recommendation - but he has not the guts or willingness to pull his weight in the war, to agree to carry out my demands: for hard work & efficiency & being hard with the men. And then Salaman gets it, & though by no means perfect, is by far the pick of the bunch - he is a very ordinary chap & has rotted in the Army for the last six years - but he has some character & idea of doing his best to help & win the war. And here & there & everywhere I go, I find officers commanding Units, & more important people too, who allow people under them to be lazy, waste time & energy & money - pass it on to the

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men under their command.

I think that these will have to be an end to this "officer class" business both in the army & in civil life - that there will have to be a great deal of ruthlessness to bring about this end. I don't mean a revolution or bloodshed or any such thing. Better that it takes longer & avoid these horrors - but it must not take too long, or else it will be too late, & there will also be the danger of the charge not taking place at all - or else it going as far & then sliding back again. But I do think that there will have to be a big upheaval in the country & big shaking up which will bring the best & most able men to the top where they can govern & run the country & the counties, the cities & the towns & the villages & the districts & the companies & the firms.

I'm afraid this is all pretty jumbled & disconnected darling - but I have not martialled my thoughts for the letter, they are not particularly coherent anyway. Partly because my main job is running this Coy & not planning the future of the world & partly because I have nobody to whom I can really talk. But perhaps you will get the hang of my state of mind & I hope you will feel that you are more or less with me:

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think you will be, somehow.

But I feel so strongly that the future of the world, & the way things go - depends so vitally on the men & women who are ruling & running the world - & in particular, in our case, England.

And at the moment, & for some time, I have been feeling pretty disgusted, revolted, disappointed & at variance with my fellow country men. This is not in comparison with other countries, fortunately - but just by themselves. I have met & come up against a great many people out here & so far, Frank Macaskie, Ben Arji & a man on the staff of the last H.Q. I was under - are the ony ones I should call first class men. And the majority are just rubbish.

Look at the reasons why we are at war now! Respective of the rights or wrongs of the Versailles Treaty. Germany was allowed to become strong again & her strength could & did mean only one thing. The Conservative Party allowed this, & Churchill warned us about it & today, all those Conservatives hail Churchill as the great man of the century & our natural leader. Blast & damn the complacent self seeking, self satisfied bastards - why could they not say that 6, 5 or 4 years ago. (Oh yea - Churchill maybe a very clever brilliant man, but you can't really trust him - I can hear my father now, saying that - & my mother nodding wise

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