Letters from World War II : J.H. Massey

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Letter from Harry Massey to Barbara Massey

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the way. But, I'm forgetting, we are now in Damascus & there was so little time, that we made straight for the Great Mosque, having decided to see that if nothing else. But it was Friday & we were not allowed inside, as it was the time for midday prayers. So we went around the outside, which was very probably more interesting. It was possible to see into the mosque - which has no roof, of course, & so there is plenty of light - from various doors & gates in the walls. There was not a great deal to see - various tall pinnacles of minarets & fountains, lots of dirty Arabs bowing & scraping - but the main thing was the mosaic on one wall, which depicts Paradise & is very famous - looked from where I was to be really very lovely. There was much Ranan & pagan carving & uncovered & not uncovered pillars & arches & gates & remains by Nazi bombs. But the whole place is surrounded by the old Syrian bazaar & market. Here, everybody is making all manner of things int he open shop windows: woodwork, metal work, jewelry, embroidery & food & the cooking of it. It was absolutely interesting, & you & I could have spent days just wandering round looking & watching. I thought of it. The funny little hankie I enclose was from the modern part of the bazaar & cost 1 pence, which equals 10 Syrian pounds which equals about 2-1.2d. But the old part is a really remarkable hive of human industry.

After this I went to the "Cercle des Officier"

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In spite of all this, I have had more fresh air & out of door work & exercise in the last three days than for some time. There was about ten miles of marching on the way here & then I have been trudging round looking at all our defence posts. I have been taking the subalterns every morning on drill parades & yesterday I had a full Coy parade, very regimental.

Also I am provided with an open two seater Austin 7 here, as the CO's car, & so my motoring is also done in the open, instead of in a hired civilian saloon car, as up to now - not so grand perhaps but it is far healther & it is mine own to drive myself: I hate being driven by these people - they are the worst ever. The Arab worse than the Jew of course. I have not met one decent driver - either they drive too fast, terrify me or else they drive so slowly & carefully I want to scream.

Tomorrow, we start off on a full training programme & everyone will be very busy.

I had a note from Eric (Blake) James the other day, sending congratulations about Maxie - which was very kind of him. The rest of his letter was rather pompous, as usual, talking glibly about O2E & the A.M.S & so on. I was amused when you told me about him having written Peggy that he was too miserable on the boat to enjoy himself. I should hate to think that on a six weeks voyage I had to tell you that to convince you that I really was missing you & had reached hitherto untouched depths of misery. And that I could not tell you that in spite

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of all this, I had had some good times too.

I also had a letter from Vera - nothing much new, just 6 pages of her usual amusing chat: she told me Vernan was in love again - this time an 18 year old - that she would write to me once a month, which she thought was very nice of her. It certainly is - I must send her an A.G. And your no 53, Aug 4th came yesterday - so at last I have got my wish of having a letter from you on a Saturday. You enclosed the B.C & W.D. commission statement - £18,990 profit, total commission of £1,190 of which I get one quarter. Whatever Willie & the others have been, it is really a shame that after all my work & effort, I should not receive the whole damn lot, except perhaps for £100 each for Frost & Birchall. It is just this sort of thing, not salary, which allows one to get money in the bank & then invested, & so be able to pay school bills & buy more insurance, & aim for retirement at same time - & in the present, to build up a lovely home, & collect some treasures & allow you to have some lovely clothes - silks & furs, nice luxurious & extravagant. I hope we shall be able to have some good years after I come home, that Willie will be somewhere else. But we are saving something - already we have paid almost ₣300 in insurance, & now you have bought 60 shares of 300

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was loan - & there is no overdraft & we are still saving fairly well. It is going to be exciting & tremendous fun setting up house again - if only we can find a house. And I do hope & pray that we can find a district which we like & which answers both our purposes. But I am perfect to state, categorically here & now (& with no escape clause!) that your wishes are more important than mine. Provided I can get in & back from the works in reasonable time & comfort, & without drawing any protest from Peter C - you have the say: I quite agree with being towards Leeds - but I imagine that so long as you are within 5-10 minutes walk of a bus & the bus will get you into Leeds in 15-20 minutes, you will be satisfied. But I must say I hanker after some semblance of country - at least a garden with decent soil & some trees & fields within sight. We shall obviously have to take our time in looking around - where the hell are we going to live in the meantime? Maybe we shall be able to find rooms or even a flat for a few months. It is really quite a problem isn't it? Returning to my place of business where I have been since Jan. 1934 & where we have lived together since Dec 1935 - & we have no place to go & no friends with whom to stay. Except the Mitchells, which God forbid.

It has just been announced that ordinary Air mail letter posted in the U.K. between certain dates in June have been lost by enemy action, & I think that will account for your no 45 which is a writing

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number. This sort of thing is sickening, though I suppose one should not complain now that letters are coming along fairly well & regularly. But quite apart from not having one of your valued letters, there may easily have been something quite important which you wanted me to know, or to which you expect a reply. I hope my missing ones turn up - it couldn't possibly be a mistake in my numbering, because I put each one down on my paper - date, number & no of pages. No 19 was posted on 16 Feb from Jericho - 8 pages - & was sea mail. No 21 was my first L.C. No 22 was 8 pages & may have been sea mail. No. 40 was 10 pages & was definitely air mail. I will certainly buy you some slippers my darling - I will try & get into Tel Aviv this week & post them off at once & hope that they will arrive in time for Xmas. I wish I could too. Oh dear. The news is quite good these days. I am tensely watching events.

Darling sweetheart, this letter of yours I have just received was a very unhappy one, in spite of you being so pleased about Max. In fact you finished your letter by saying that it seemed to you to be one long grouse & you had told yourself about 16 times that you supposed you must "stick it". Sweetheart, don't call me unsympathetic because you know I'm far from it & don't say that now you will have to be careful of even what you write to me - because you know that would be

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wrong too. You have written me exactly what you were thinking & feeling & that is what you must always do to me - promise, please. But angel darling, you must try to be happier & more content - & not go out of your way to wring the last drop of misery out of the cup. I'm not discounting for one minute the utter foulness of the situation, God knows I'm too miserable myself to do that. But it will be so bad for you to be so continually unhappy, & almost seeking unhappiness - & snapping at your ma - & allowing that silly Peggy & impossible Kenneth to upset you - & admitting that your nerves have gone to pot. You will spoil your temper & your nerves for good & all if you go on like this - & give yourself wrinkles & lines too! Nerves & temper are a state of mind & very much a creation of habit, I know. I have periods when I am impossible & snap & yap at everybody & every little thing annoys me & positively jags my nerves. And then I have to tell myself to control myself & I come out alright again. If you have to be a cabbage there is no use in being a temperamental cabbage - you must be a real one. And not only must you stick it, you must make the best of it & make it your mind that no thing & no body is going to upset you or spoil your peace of mind. Several million men at home are lucky to be still at home. But several 100,000 men are

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away from home & out here or even further away. And you do love me darling - & you know that I love & worship you. And that there is not the faintest chance that I will ever touch or look at a woman out here - because I think it would be disgustingly unfair to you - because it would spoil so much between us - & because I do not want to. You are everybody & everything to me & still would be if I were here for ten years. And we have enough money even if you cannot buy all the food you want.

Once again, I pray you do not think I am being silly & smug & [?]. But I want to help & I think you must agree I am giving you good advice & counsel. Perhaps I am taking it all too seriously & you were just having a bad day & wanted to unload. And why shouldn't you. But, on the other hand, you did write all this to me & I don't think or expect me not to react at all. And so this is the way I am reacting. But very sympathetically, please believe me darling & not criticizing you for one moment. You are beyond that from me & nobody else has the right to do it. Don't go to Nicolet's Antony at Bishop's Wortford darling

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You know them, Nicolette in particular, nearly drove you crackers before & you were jolly glad to leave. Or am I thinking of Eleanor. I believe I am. Is it still too late to go to Vera's town? It is so safe up there - Vera told me in her letter how she wished you were there & how sure she was you would enjoy being there more than in the backwater of Noss Mayo. I feel so afraid of anywhere at all within distance of London & on the way to the Midlands. Poor sweetheart Barbara - I am so sorry for you, you know I am. I wish I could help more. I try to do my best with my letters, but I'm afraid they are not too cheerful. If only our sweet darling Lisa could have been with you. She, the sweet happy little soul would have been the one to know your feelings & keep you company & go everywhere with you. And with Max as well. You would have just missed me together, & she would have made all the difference in the world. I shall be writing you a L.C. tomorrow which I hope will arrive near her birthday.

I can hardly believe that Pattie is having a baby - though i think she will make a very good mother. Will she have any milk at all for the child? She has no bos [bosom?] at all or does a bos suddenly appear on such

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occasions & go away again afterwards: I suppose Jas is still hiding behind 1/2 dozen cows. It will all be the same after the war I expect, but if I was Jas, I should prefer to have gone along with everybody else. Someone like fat old Birchall is doing a lot of work but Jos' few cows could be looked after by the man across the road.

I must finish on the page & go to bed. P.T. at 6.45 in the morning & right on until 7.15. This for 3 months. They should all be soldiers at the end of this. And by then I am hoping the war will be over.

Yes, Peter is a Schnauzer. He is in tremendous form & loves being here & away from barracks. He was very worried on the move & stuck to me like a limpet - he knew something was going on with all the packing. It will be very sad if I cannot bring him home.

Goodnight sweetest darling - please be happier. I shall work with all my might, when I come home, to compensate for all this misery. And I will succeed. All my love & all my dearest loving kisses & hugs & bites & licks & squeezes & all of me. For ever Harry.

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for lunch. The cloak room presented a remarkable sight of mixed French & British hats. I had a gorgeous lunch, french cooking, & a large bottle of Vin ordinaire - & it all cost 1/9. Hablish & the driver went to a cheaper place, spent 2/6 each & came away hungry.

Sunday 14th Sept. I do not seem to be making very good progress with this letter & now I must go ahead & reach the limit & tell you as much as I can & post it. But really, there is much to do here. The Coy we changed places with are the oldest Coy & have the reputation of being the best one - but the more I have seen & hear of them, the worse they compare with mine. They had been here for a really long time, & I expected to find the defense scheme all in good working order & P.A.D. & Sire, & standing orders all ready just to take over & carry on. But there was more or less nothing & what there was, is all balls. So that means that I have had to get down to it, & I am still in the throws. Goodness only knows how the other Coy will go on where I have come from. Also, the annoying part is that we are looked upon as nothing here. I have already set about to correct that impression & shall continue to do so. I do not want all the work I have had for the last few months - but I do insist on just a little more limelight & cetainly not to occupy an inferior position

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