Letters from World War II : J.H. Massey

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Letter from Harry Massey to Barbara Massey

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It is good company, already, and gives me somebody to talk to in my room, where I spend so much time alone. I have called him Peter - it is quite a pleasant name, and occured to me because on the same day King Peter of Jugo-Slavia took control of his country , against Hitler and so, I hope, shortened the war, and so brought you and I nearer to each other.

We now we have the Turks, Yugo-Slavs, and the Greeks on our side - the pick of the Balkan countries - so things are looking up. The summer here is just beginning, and the days are becoming warmer, the flies and mosquitos are coming out, and winter clothing is going away. In 2-3 weeks now it will be really hot. If only you were here to enjoy this peace and sunny weather. It does seem so wrong, that you should be in [bombed?] England and I am safe and sound in the Holy Land. All my love and kisses, darling heart, to you, and the baby if it is arrived. And if not, you know I am always thinking about you. Forever - Harry

Last edit almost 2 years ago by MaryV
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Letter no. 31 / Tuesday - / Capt. J.H. Massey / 8 Apr 41 / 6 Palestinian Coy. The Buffs / Meddle East Forces. 'My own darling - I have not written to you since last Wednesday. I started the other night, and felt all bloody minded and dull again and could not go on. And since then, the Company has had to do another move, and so, of course, I have been up to the eyes in work again. This time, it was only a short move - out of barracks and into billets, and in the same town - but even so, it has made me frantically busy again, and not a moment to spare. Last night, I was so tired, I could hardly climb into bed - but I managed it, and it was at 10.0 o'clock, and so I feel a good deal better today. I still have a bagfull of work to do, but I want to send this away now - and then I begin a decent letter again. These moves are a damn nuisance. Each time they happen, there all the organisation of the move, and then settling in - and then I have to make our new fire orders, and new air defence orders, and new standing orders, and new guard orders, and arrange all the office, and fix up a laundry, a tailor, and a barber, and a shoemaker, a new canteen. And a hundred to one different things. One of the big troubles of course, is having a second in command yet, to help me with all this work. But, I think that will be put right soon now - I will tell you more in my next letter. I got your very first letter on Friday. posted by you on 11th Oct- so it had taken one week short of 6 months to reach me. A terribly long time, but it was still good to have it. Last Sunday was Apr 6th and so 6 months since I left you. What an age it seems, my darling - and how long is it going to be until I come home to you? It is impossible to say that I am becoming used to this even becoming resigned to to it - because I am doing neither. I just miss you terribly, all the time, my dearest one, and think of you and pine for you and long for you. And I'm finding it ever more difficult to remain cheerful and take an interest in things and even worse, people, or even be naturally civil to them. This German war on Jugo-slavia

Last edit almost 2 years ago by MaryV
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has just started now - and in N. Africa again too. And I cannot imagine whether this is going to shorten or lengthen the war. I suppose it is as well that things have started to pop again - & there is now some chance that, at [least?] the end will being to come into view. But oh, my darling, the pain of being away from you, for all this time, and at this time, is so depressing and miserable that I cannot even cry or even feel very much. I just blindly and painfully ache for you - and to be with you again and speak to you, and feel your touch. I badly need some good news from you - and from the war. Look after yourself, my sweetheart and never forget will you how much I love you. All my deepest love to you and to baby - always your Harry

Mrs H. Massey c/o Mrs Nash East Lodge Winkfield Manor Near Ascot Berks

Last edit about 2 years ago by MaryV
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Letter No. 32

Saturday 12 Apr 41

Major J.H. Massey 6 Palestinian Coy. The Buffs Middle East Forces

Sweetest darling - so your clever husband is now a major! You told me in one of your letters, when you had first heard I was a captain, that I must hury up & be a major in record time, & so I did my best to oblige you. As I was telling you in my previous letters, I was becoming not a little enfuriated [infuriated] at the delay - but it finally appeared in General Orders yesterday, dated March 10th. It should really be dated earlier, but I suppose I must not grumble. I was wearing one pip last June, and now I am wearing a crown. I think it rather suits me, really. In order to be perfectly prepared, I bought some crowns last Saturday, & felt rather rash at the time - many a slip twixt cup & lip, etc. And then I called you on Thursday, saying it was in the bag. And so now I feel quite relieed, that nothing has gone wrong. And I have sent you a cable today, to tell you the good news. The difference in pay is marvellous, of course - as I have told you darling. £ 219 a year - or £ 18-18-0 in a 31 day month - or £ 4-4-0 a week - or 12/- a day. So the longer it goes on, the better. It will not make the slightest difference to my mode of life or rate of living, so you can count it as money saved. But of course darling, if you want to spend more, you absolutely must do, & on whatever you want to. And if you want to give more to your ma, I am perfectly agreeable, sweetheart, & happy that you should do so.

Your letters have come to a halt again - it is disappointing

Last edit over 1 year ago by Sean
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darling. I had your first letter 8 days ago - but your most recent one, no 26, arrived on March 23rd - I really thought that they were now going to come along regularly, & that the old ones would arrive from time to time as extra ones. In this worst of all possible existences, away from you, that is the one thing which is lacking at the moment. Otherwise , I am gradually getting my life organised. This move into billets has been a good thing. I simply hated the barracks - it was so noisy and jarring, and the mess was so beastly, & expensive too. Now, we have pleasant, large, solidly built stone houses, in a pleasant road, & in a pleasant district of the town. The Mess is a fine, big house about 200 yds away from the remainder of the company. It has a large, but unkempt, garden, & is surrounded by tall, kind of poplar trees. But I have my bedroom in the Coy office building; it has one door into my office, and another one out a small verandah, on the ground floor. I have hot & cold water in the bedroom, & there is an electrically heating bath too - & the usual offices. The house has quite a sweet little garden, & lots of lovely flowers & I now have fresh flowers in front of your photographs every day. The pioneer has made Peter a run in the garden, surrounded by wire netting, & I found a kennell too - for some reason beautifully camouflagued. He makes a bloody awful noise in it, most of the day, but I dare not take him out, in case he gets the idea

Last edit over 1 year ago by Sean
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& something happy & exciting too. 32 was my age when I left you - & the next one, 33 is my age now. And my last one, 31, is your age now, though of course I realise that your are only 21 really. Whatever you are, you are very wonderful, my sweetheart. As I sit here & think about you, I marvel at you, my darling one. I think about you, & shake my head & groan aloud, this being parted from you is so agonising & tragic. You are so beautiful & lovely, so young & so pretty, so smooth & so soft & utterly gorgeous & sweet & adorable & desirable. Barbara dearest darling, you are so satisfying to be with, so fine to talk to, & so heavenly & wonderful to make love to. I am perfectly certain that there is nobody in all the world like you, so perfect & lovely - others never will be. Age will never make any difference. I shall always love yoyum passionately & deeply & with all my heart & soul. I'm not just writing this darling, because I think it will please you, or because I think it time I made some endearments. I feel it terribly strongly & with the utmost strength & certainty & I am trying hard to tell you.

Oh, I do long to be with you. I pray hard, every day of my life here, that this may be soon. There is so much happiness & joy and excitement & interest & contentment & peace and quiet & love - if only we could be together.

It is nearly 12-0 - & I will finish this tomorrow - and try to make it a long one. I have so much to tell you again. Goodnight my sweetest love -

Last edit almost 2 years ago by MaryV
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Do you know this Dvorak stuff, darling? I'm sure you must do. I told you before that the lettle quartette had played some of his and that I had enjoyed it very much. Dvorak was a Czech- & so is Singer - & so the result was magnificent. It is most lovely music, - so alive & exciting & beautiful & tuneful - & I suppose very easy to understand. They played an encore - & Singer nearly lost all his clothes. The other concert, I enjoyed very much too, though nowhere near no much. Firstly - "Anderson Overture" Cherubini's which I rather forget now. and then "Harold in Italy" by Berlioz which I liked, really, though not wildly. And then Brahms Symphony No 1 in C. minor, op 68 (if you know what I mean!) which was lovely. The conductor was a man called Crawford McNair who conducts the Palestine Radio Orchestra -he was somewhat wooden & automatic. And there was a soloist, a man called Ödön Pártos, who played a viola very nicely - & dropped his bow once. The next concert is in May, & of course, I shall go. They are the only things I look forward to nowadays. Except that I see a film has arrived, with Bette Davis and Charles Boyer, which should be very good.

I have got myself a little bit further organised today, & my batman has now produced a good solid table, & a cover of sort of billiard table cloth, but in a pleasant warm beige colour. I have this in my bedroom, of course- & so now I can be out of the office,

Last edit over 1 year ago by Sean
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which is much better - and I can also see your photographs & the flowers.

Last Saturday, I had to go down to the P.R.T.D. to see Col. Leicester about a few things. So I took Ben-Arzi with me, & Peter, of course. After my business, I went to Ben's home, & stayed until the Sunday morning, before coming back here. He has an enormous family of sisters & brothers, & sisters & brothers in law - and all their children - and they all seem to live in a medium sized flat. But they are very pleasant & kind. In the evening, we went out to a dancing place, which was a very attractive spot, and I enjoyed it. I danced with Mrs Ben Arzi once - & spent the remainder of the evening sitting & talking & listening. His elder brother is going into the army, shortly.

I had quite a long letter from Frank Macaskie the other day, which I was very glad to have. He congratulated me on being about to be a major, & said "I know you will rise even higher than that, for I know of no one more capable of holding any rank that may be open to you"! Which I thought was extremely civil of him, & quite heartening, coming from Frank. He went on to say that he was in the ghastly position of being unable to rise, except into dead men's shoes. It is bad luck, really, I certainly know of no better officer thatn Frank. He had had another five days leave in Cairo - and had tried to get up to Palestine, but had not been allowed.

Last edit over 1 year ago by Sean
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He said he had spent all the time with Gerald Ecclestone (the man who is going to fly us home!) - the day time at [Gejirah?] - & the evenings at varous cabarets - Gerald to dance & Frank to drink. But that at midnight their ways parted - Frank's to his own bed - and Gerald's to some woman's. I do hope Frank gets through alright - it seems his battablion is in a pretty crack Division. He is one person I do want to see again - & I know he will be a very good friend of ours after the war. He sent me some snaps - from Tomlinson's camera. But I only appear on one of them. But I am sending on also, the one's of [Red?], as they will probably cheer up Marjorie. Of the three outside the tent, the one on the left is one of the bad type majors - Bob Gentles - the little man in the middle is nobody.

This is Easter, darling - & it is also the Passover. And I have observed the latter, but not the former, which must sound very peculiar. But is came about in this way. Quite an important Jew, a solicitor, who had been at our last Company concert, telephoned Ben-Arzi, and invited him and myself to their family Passover dinner party which, I think now, was very kind indeed of him, because Passover to them is much the same as Christmas to us. All the family was there, & all the children, the youngest 4 years old, in her party frock. We began the evening with Palestinian Vermouth. And then sat down to table. It all started off with a religious service. All the men wearing their hats. some in just ordinary hats - some in those bloody Jewish

Last edit over 1 year ago by Sean
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I remember you so vividly - love you so much. xxxx. Sunday. it is inow 9.30, which is my usual time for beginning to write to you, and I had intended to write all afternoon. This major business is just making me busier, so far - which I hardly thought was possible. But it certainlt seems to be bringing me exra work and responsibilities outside the Company. On Tuesday, there is to be a Jewish recruiting march, of which I have to take command- and so today I had to go out I make all the arrangements. I will tell you all about it after it has happened. And on Thursday, I have to be the President of a Court Martial. My various experiences as defending officer will be of help, of course - but I shall have to swot up the procedure pretty hard - and the Manual of Military Law is a mystifying tome.

The whole root and branch of this trouble is having no second in command - who, in these companies, does the work of adjunctant and quartermaster. And so having these jobs piled onto me, on top of a fairly difficult command, is all a bit too much. But, as I think I told you - this should be dealt with any day now. You remember me telling you about the various officers? In February, when I was in the process of getting rid of [Behrens] - I recommended Headley for the job. And I now hear from the Military Secretary that the is to be appointed . And when this happens, it is going to cause gloom, and anger among the other British subalterns -

Last edit almost 3 years ago by tt
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