Letters from World War II : J.H. Massey

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Letter from Harry Massey to Barbara Massey

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war is over & those countries are open again. The result is that they have little or no national feelings & they are not prepared to fight or make any sacrifice they don't have to make. It is a disgusting spirit & many people would like to use compulsion. But how can the Government introduce conscription here, when even in N. Ireland they have not got it?

I have been to the Garrison cinema tonight, saw "Intermezzo" with the new girl, Ingrid Bergman. It is a lovely film & I liked it very much. Though it is sad. Have you seen Ingrid Bergman? she is most attractive & acts beautifully & with any amount of guts & fire.

I am not in good letter writing mood, I will finish on this page. I bought a new pair of suede shoes today with crepe soles. My Cairo ones for 25/ & with which I was so pleased, were worth no more than their price & are now in pieces. So this time I paid £3 & they are excellent shoes. I'm afraid too, that some of my shirts & shorts are on their last legsThe dhobis knock such hell out of them. I hate spending money on new clothes out here, but I am really getting to the end of all possibilities with my 3 good Cole shirts - having bad a piece from the tail transferred to the collar twice already.

I'm sorry to finish this letter on rather a dull & flat note darling, but I feel hellishly flat. But I am very well, of course & being very careful about myself. So don't worry sweetheart. A big fat kiss & hug to Maxie & all the love in the world to you my sweet darling. Always your Harry XXXXX

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[image: front of envelope, stamped & postmarked]

By Air Mail par avion

76

Mrs H. Massey

Carseland Noss Mayo Near Plymouth

Norton House Park Lane Beaconsfield Bucks

Passed by Censor No. 2464

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Letter No. 77 Tuesday Oct 14th

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

My dear darling Barbara

I have just had your A.G. of Sept 17th & I'm so pleased that my two parcels arrived safely & that you like the things. I suppose even two pounds of sugar is a help - but it seems a little crazy to be sending tea to you which had already been sent out here from England & before that had come past this way en route from China. I will buy some jam & honey as you ask for on my next trip to the Naafi. And I am glad you like the undies & stockings - even though the undies were artificial silk. I absolutely adore you in pretty pants & petticoats & things - may I have more to do with the purchase of your things after the war, darling?

Poor Madge. It is dreadful about Walter, even though they did lead rather a chequered life. Please tell her how sorry I am when you write to her. I think she should just sit pat with her Michael & not bother about any more husbands, don't you? Or will she be tempted on account of the doubtful distinction of having three of them at her age, & with her looks.

As I told you I was going to, I duly went up to Zikhran Ya'akov today & attended another meeting & made a recruiting speech. But it was all rather a farce as far as I was concerned. I feel pretty annoyed about it. The main reason for the meeting was to commenorate the death of a Jewish woman, Sarah Hanson. She & her family worked very successfully for the British intelligence in the last war, until they were caught by the Turks. She behaved incredibly bravely, told the Turks that she was the chief one & there was no use in questioning the others. She was tortured & refused to speak & finally managed to obtain a pistol & shoot herself, as she was afraid she would not be able to stand any more. So, they decided to use this day & her memory & martyrdom to give point

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to such a meeting during Recruiting Week. Ben came with me to interpret & we set off at 8.0 & drove the little Austin to death, in order to be there by 10.30 am. It had been intended that Major Aran should go there but he had to return to Egypt & so, having heard me perform on Friday, they asked me to go instead - saying that it would make all the difference , a British Major going all that way especially to speak to them. Arrived at Zikhran we found a hell of a lovely party going on & about 3-400 people in the process of forming themselves into a procession to march to the grave. But they were nearly all women & children. It seemed the young men were either working or keeping out of the way. I shook hands with the Major & the Muktar & a few other walkers, who were very polite & pleased to see me, but did not seem to have much idea about why I was there. Then the ex-headmaster of the local school took us in hand, I asked him how many recruits could be had - what was the potential. He weighed the question very carefully & proudly announced that he really thought that they could reach - 10! I wanted to leave, but it had all gone too far. So we tacked onto the end of the procession & proceeded to the cemetery. Four or five speeches were made & then it was my turn. It really was a little awkward because it was a commemoration & we were in a cemetery. Anyway, I said a few words about Sarah Aranson's death having

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been in vain if we did not win this war & if the Jews did not play their part & then proceeded to harangue them. They all listened very politely & their faces appeared interested. But it was all wrong. I felt the recruiting part might havae taken place elsewhere. After me, on old Rabbi chanted for about ten minutes & then the juvenile band struck up a tune - which half way through I recognised as "God save the King" & came up into a smart salute. We then came out to find that the Austin had disappeared & were informed by a duty polieman that the Military Police had found it unattended & taken it away. It took 1/2 hour to retrieve that. Then we went for lunch, & now I thought this will be good & make up for everything, Zikhran being the centre of the wine industry in Palestine. But no, the day was doomed. And we were proudly taken to a famous vegetarian penzion, had a couple of lemon wafers - & felt quite awkward when we asked for an ash tray to have a cigarette with our coffee. We then left in a hurray refusing an invitation to attend a recruiting conference at 5.0 pm at which they said my presence would do them great honour.

On the return journey, Ben & I felt so famished with hunger we stopped at a place & had a large omellette & fries, tomatos & potatosbegan to feel better. But what a day. And now I am beginning a cold, blast

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it, because it is giving me a foul headache. I do have some odd times, from time to time really. And having been here, solidly, every day for the last five weeks, Col Leicester chose this day to come & see me. But I am told that Peter gave him a great welcome.

I must take 3 aspirins & go to bed. Goodnight sweetest darling Barbara XXXXX

Saturday Oct 18th Angel darling heart - I'm getting in a most frightful state about this question of me coming home or you coming out here. I am quite unable to think of anything else. As you see, I was about to write to you on Thursday & then your cable arrived. I could not write - & I had to go out at 8.30 anyway. And last night, I wrote you a L.C telling you as much as I could of my plans & ideas. Within a few days, I should know more clearly as to whetehr or not this thing is within the bounds of possibilitye or not. I am only too afraid that it may be the latter, in which case I must come down to hearth again, & compose myself, & settle down seriously to the tack of getting myself sent home. No matter what happends, I have definitely finished with complacently sitting here & waitinf for the end of the war. I just cannot bear, my darling, to be parted from you one minute longer that is necessary - & so I shall go on trying & exploring & pulling strings & using such influence as I can get hold of, & always looking for new influence. It is not aneasy matter, & it will certainly require great determination on both our parts. But there

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must be something in the hackneyed old tag "where there's a will, there's a way". And I told you in my L.C. the Samuels are my big hope - & there may come the need for you to come out in the some special role. Perhaps as a war artist, or a designer, or even as a journalist. I don't know - I am only guessing now. And in any case, you will probably have far more news from me in cables, A.Gs, L.Cs before this letter arrives.

Max, of course, has to come too. You should not leave him behind, & I would not want you to. He will be weaned by the time you were to come - & then comes the difficulty of feeding him properly, on the journey. That is why I want you to come all the way by air, if it is possible & apart from Max, I feel it is much safer. We must be very careful about the journey darling - & on no acocunt must you take any risk which is greater than that of being in England at all. I could not hope to get over it if anything were to happen to you, my darling dearest Barbara. I do not think about this too often, but I know quite certainly that I could not live without you. I would not want to. But I am not going to dwell on that morbid note - even if we have to wait until the end of the war. You, I & Max are going to be together & we are going to have a wonderful life. You are incredible & wonderful my darling - I want to tell you but my words are so poor. But the moment I think of you. I do think of you more 7 more, the more I know that you have reached a higher degree of perfection than any other woman in this world. It is amazing that you

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shaky start with me, he has been working very well indeed & is really a much better C.S.M. than Jack. Finally, I gave Kiley a big rocket & made him apologize to Arkin. I then had all the subalterns up & lectured them in a firm but fatherly way, on the folly of very junior officers getting bossy & tough with senior N.C.O.s with about 12 years service behind them - & that if they found such a person in a bad temper, it is always better to keep out of his way. It is ridiculous really, & I had the same thing once before, when Moscovitz, having been commissioned about 3 weeks, tried to order Hemmings about. Hemmings told him where to get off. Moscovitz [reviled?] him in front of me & wanted to charge him, which I flatly refused to do.

I went to a dance in the R.A.F. Mess on Thursday, much against my will - but it was difficult to evade as I had refused two previous invitations to concerts. This time the squadron leader came to see me & ask me himself. 25 sisters had been imported for the occasion, from the various army hospitals. I had firmly decided before going that I was not going to dance & when I saw the sisters, my mind was doubly made up. What a collection! God knows how they had the cheek to come at all - dreadful bland looking creatures, with powder & lipstick blotched all over their faces. I really do think it is strange, the way these sisters rank as officers. And they are now allowed to wear pips & a matron w crowns. I spent 1-1/2 hours at the bar & then came home to bed.

Having just come to the end of another quarter. This has been a big account week. I have

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had to audit the three Coy accounts. My P.M.C. experience in the 5th has really been invaluable. Soloman came to me completely ignorant - Arkin took over P.M.C. from Morcovitz & also had to be taught. It has been rather a struggle during the quarter, as I have had to watch over them both, & get them out of difficulties - but finally they all came out alright & the things were sent off on Thursday in perfect order. They go to Col. Leicester as Area Commander & so I hope he will take due note. I went to see him on Friday evening, & had a long talk about various things & made lots of suggestions, & so on - so you see I am sticking firmly to as much publicity as possible. But what we want are results, isn't that so darling.

I am going to write to Edwin Samuel now - & tell him I am coming to see him this week & explain as soon as possible. Fortunately, I think he & his wife like me - which is rather extraordinary for me & somebody who does not know me very well - but they always seem genuinely pleased to see me & anxious that I should come & see them in their home. And I'm sure that if it is within their power to help, they will do so. And in any case, he should know the possibilities.

I think Peter knows what is going on! - he is giving me very wise & sympathetic looks these days. I will now stop this at the 10d mark. All my dearest love to you & Maxie - tell him I'm dying to see him & put his naps on & wash them. Kisses & kisses Sweet lovely darling. H.

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Letter No 78. Monday Oct 20th

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

My own darling Barbara

This has been a big day for me - your pcs of Sept 21st & 26th & Oct 6th all arrived together & also your letters 57 & 58 What a day - I have been reading & re-reading all afternoon & evening & it is now 10.30. I really think pcs are better than A.G.s The quickest A.G.s are no quicker than the slowest p.c.s & no A.G. ever reaches here in 2 weeks, which pcs do from time to time. You also sent a snap of Maxie lying on his back & you bending over him & fixing him a kiss - the lively little sod. He really does look sweet & such a manly little chap. If only I could see him. I cannot see much of you sweetest, except that you have got your hair in an enormous great bag! How frightful though I suppose you have a cast iron excuse, in not being able to get to a hairdresser on account of feeding Maxie. And you sent Patricia's letter - & you told me in a p.c. that she had just been to stay with you for a few days. This C.O. business is really rather revolting, isn't it? One by one they are bad enough, but a collection of them is really too much. I don't really blame Dorothy at all, she probably only went there in order to be rude to them & out of curiosity. And I wish Patricia would not stress the O'Neill side of the family - much as I love Aunt Sarah - & also not forgetting our financial possibilities from that part of the family. Possibly her bosom prevents her from forgetting it. And you say she now has a boy friend. I can hardly believe it & will anxiously await further details in your letter.

In spite of my luck today, I feel in no mood for writing, my darling, I have just come by a new book which I am going to look at & then go to bed. The good Ben gave this book to me & it is "The Handbook of Palestine & Trans Jordan" by Sir Harry Luke &

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