Letters from World War II : J.H. Massey

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Letter from Harry Massey to Barbara Massey

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Edward Keith Roach & tune to 549 pages. I hope I shall find the time to do it justice. XXXXX Harry

Wednesday Oct 22nd - I'm afraid I'm in a most awful mood, darling, & as in that doctor's evidence in the final scene of "Mr Deeds goes to Town", at the bottom of a curve. I tried hard to write to you last night & starting in good time at 8.15 but I just could not snap out of it at all. I then began to write off some of my Christmas Airgraphs & waded through about 20 of those. They are really quite good things, with a drawing of a camel, with a V on its side & Father Christmas up running across a desert - & there is very little room for writing. So I am sending off a large number of them to all our friends & customers & people in the B.C. I then picked up a detective story: which Burstein had given me, saying he knew I did not like such things but this one was very good. It was absolute tripe of course, & it was only the fact that we have a Coy library which prevented me from tearing it up. Ben then called in to see me & we had a whiskey & a good grumble - & I went to bed at 11.0

I am feeling a little, but not very much, better today. But I must get down to this & see if writing to you will not pull me up the other side of the curve. As I have told you before, sweetheart - if I can get on with writing to you, I begin to feel much nearer to you & much more contented & less hopeless.

I think that the one main reason for my being so particularly downhearted, & in spite of having 2 letters & 3 pcs of mail from you all in one day - was that for the last 2-3 weeks I have been thinking so continually & frantically about how to join you & later

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another year has passed. And though we want to save money for our new home, the thought of another year away from you & perhaps longer, is almost more than I can bear to think of & the spending of £200 or £250 on the journey does not seem too much to pay. Especially when you remember my argument about major's & captain's pay & how I should go down to the captain's rate if I were posted home. And neither you nor I would dream of my staying out here for the one & only reason of remaining a major & drawing the pay. And then again, I have been quite lucky to be a major at all - & we never counted on the extra money. I wonder if the B.C & W are guaranteed to go on paying my 1/2 salary - I think they are really & that things will not get so bad with them that they have to stop doing that for their people.

And another "pro", darling is the fact that you would see something of this part of the world - Palestine, Syria & Egypt, at least. And then when the war did end, there would not be such a frantic rush to get home. & we might be able to see more of it - even Greece & Italy. I wonder would we be able to go home together & what a thrill that would be. And how awful if I was demobilised quickly & had to leave you here.

Another awful thought, darling, is that while you were here, & the war still on, that I might be sent off to some other country to which you could not come. Or even that I might & am the Bn & the Bn be sent home. Oh God, but

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these pros & cons make my head spin. I only hope that before you get this letter, things will have clarified & I shall be able to catch it up with more helpful & intelligent LC.s or A.Gs.

You ask me if I still feel married to you, darling. Goodness me, I most certainly do, though I have never really thought of it as feeling married to you. You reall & truly do control my whole life out here from morning till night & when I go to bed, & when I am in bed, or when I wake up during the night, & in the morning when I lie in bed, think of you before I get up - & when I have my canvas bath too. I love you deeply & furiously & longingly all the time sweetheart, & feel part of you. Yes. I suppose it does amount to feeling very much married to you, but not in the usual way in our way sweetest. And I feel more frightfully passionate & randy about you too darling angel - do you about me? It is agony at times, really & truly & amounts to a positive physical ache. I can remember every tiniest little part of you & oh but I do long for you darling. And I think of all sorts of new ways to make love - I sometimes wonder if you blush, 2,000 miles away.

As you say sweetest - it is hellish for two little passion flowers like us to be separated. I think our passion will be evergreen when we meet again.

About our wireless - I was rather afraid that it would be 100% buggered. I think that that B.A. Birchall must have switched it on when he went to inspect the water pipes etc. & not switched it off again.

I do not know much about their insides as

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you know - but I think this would be the result of that. By all means try the insurance - but I think that they would turn it down. But do try. It cost 5 gns.

Now, about Darlington Hall, or munitions. Your last pc. announced your return to Beaconsfield & so I presume that Darlington Hall is off. So what about munitions? Weaning Maxie will put that off for some time, & our other plans will have their affect. But, darling whatever happens it will feel the same as when I wrote before & I do not like the idea at all. I am doing my part & the war has cost you very dear already. By the grace of God, you have had Max safely & you are now well yourself - but I still think that you are not strong enough for such work, that it would knock you up & perhaps do your health permanent harm. I do realise too that things are desperate & that an enormous industrial effort is required if we are going to win in anything like reasonable time. But I do not think that it should fall upon you - I do not think that you could do it for long, without hurting yourself. There was a General Order only today pointing out that wives with children up to 14 yrs would be exempt - & war is not yet 8 months. I know how you feel darling, but please do try to find some other kind of work - which allows you more time to look after Maxie & which will not be such a strain upon you.

About Lisa, darling, & your talk with the girl Jan - there is

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of course such a thing as glandular deficiency - that is what Kitty Holman's baby died of. But I do not think for a moment that it was that with Lisa. The specialist told me that the infection was fierce & that it caused this dreadful crust to form continually in her throat & wind pipe & that she could no longer stand up to it. I don't think you should worry, my darling - even if it were glands, it is not hereditary at all - but only accidental.

Poor darling Lisa - I think of her every day. She was a sweetheart & our lovely darling.

I'm going to bed now - God bless you, my dearest beloved Barbara. I love you with all my heart. XX

Friday Oct. 24th. Frank Macarskie walked in on me this morning, to my great surprise - he had just arrived by plane & was leaving again in 3/4 hour. I'm afraid I cannot tell you anything about his future moves. He had written me all about who he had met in Cairo etc. & why he was unable to join me for some leave, but his letter has not reached me yet.

He had managed to cable home & get replies from both his mother & his girl friend & so he was very thankful to be in touch again - even if only by cable. I had asked him to go to the shop in Cairo where I had £1 deposit for the storing of memory beads & see if he could get hold of a garnet ring instead - & he managed to do this & I will be sending it on to you. It is just a plain garnet stone & I quite like it - I hope you will too, darling.

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Frank had met various people in Cairo. Eric (Blake) James who after six months on the staff has trebled his pomposity - he had dinner with him once & arranged to meet him again but at the last moment could not face it & rang up & made excuses. He also met Terence Waters just back from Abbysinia & who now imagines himself as a form of Lawrence of that country, & was so far back & pleased with himself. That Frank found him virutually impossible to talk to - in fact, he would hardly speak to Frank. It really is ridiculous - he & Eric should have their heads knocked together. He also met Bob Gentles, who is now a captain, & something in the C.M.P. ie Corps of Military Police. And did I tell you that I had heard that Gordon Dunbury & Tomlinson were dead? This news is confirmed & the reason was - drink. Dreadful isn't it? And what a way in which to meet one's death in mankind - an excess of gin & whiskey - rationed in the U.K. & brought to the M.E. under Royal Navy convoy in invaluable shipping space. I had also heard that John Fox Strangways was riddled with bullets & dead - but apparently only the former is the truth, & he is very much alive in hospital.

And then there was news of Rex - he has just gone to the Staff College at Naifa, so I expect I shall be seeing him. But it really is remarkable - the Staff College is supposed to be reserved for officers of the higher intelligence, ability & promise & we always thought of Red as being pretty muscle bound between the ears. it is no blasted wonder that the British Army muddles through & it take us donkey's years to win a war. It really is so

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disheartening, this kind of thing. Of the only other two officers I know who have gone to Staff College - one is a little wimp in my Regt, with a pair of handle bars on hia upper lip & who was so brainless he had to give up trying to be a solicitor & go into the Regular Army. And the other, from a Scotch Regt & who is known in his Bn as a nit wit when, when will they begin to realise that, having decided that the British soldier, man for man, is equal to & superior to the German solider - the main reason for the success of the German Army is superior Staff work - in other words, efficiency & organisation & hard work & that those qualities do not of neccesity go hand in hand with family, money & influence & snobbery & being a good fellow in Mess & being able to talk Regular Army nonsense & knowing how to cover up other people's mistakes (dog doesn't eat dog). Do you know, they still, out here try & stick to the tradition that one does not talk politics in the Mess & one does not listen to foreign news broadcasts. Oh God - but these people make me sick.

But I must calm down - there is so little that I can do about it, worst luck.

What else did Frank tell me? The time was so short, & as it was he kept his plane waiting 20 minutes, they were pretty set up when we arrived. I asked him what he thought about you & Maxie coming out here - he thought that it might be a bit hard on Max, that I should

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first of all exhaust all the possibilities of being sent home myself. I suppose that that does in fact seem up the same view. But, in the meantime, there can be no harm done in finding out just what can be done in the other direction & if & when the time comes, & we have found out just what your journey is, then you & I can decide how good or bad it would be for Max. Possibly many things will change during the next month or two which will make us think again - the only things which will need change, except to increase, are my love for you & my longing to be with you & Maxie. The enclosed newspaper cutting caused me a little trouble & I was sent for by the Area Commander to explain myself. The trouble of course was the last sentence. The whole paragraph is a complete misquote of what I actually did say, the last sentence resembles nothing that I said at all. Col Leicester understood very well, because he has suffered himself from this kind of press misrepresentation. But what did make me livid, was the fact that it was the Brigade Major who had dug this up - & two other things lended, which I was equally easily able to explain. He is a bloody man & a bloody fool too. I think he knows by now that I think both of those things of him. This was a deliberate attempt to get me into trouble. But I am being very careful, darling, keeping my feet very dry: but

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those [?] are both annoying, or they are such a waste of time & energy.

Sweetheart, leaving you out of it for the moment, I do long to see Maxie. It is difficult for me to say so very much about him, but I drink in all the news & descriptions whicih you give to me in your letters. From your letter & the snaps, he is really marvellous - & thought I cannot see that he looks like Lisa, I can quite believe it. Even so, he looks very much of a body & really enormous for his agel & so strong too. Your last letter informed me that he had taken his first bottle. That's wonderful dalring - if only to get your hair out of that bag. I do miss so much, not being to know him as a bably & him know me & take off his naps & put him on the pot, & pick him up & so on. As you have said, I think too that all these little things form a bond between a baby & its mother & father. But maybe I shall not be too late. And now, I must stop. I am in a far & away better mood today, thank goodness - though I do not know why. Perhaps because I have seen the new moon, & got a new pair of shoes & wished. All my deepest, dearest love, angel sweetest Barbara XX for Maxie Always your own Harry XXXXXX

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Letter No. 79. Sunday Oct. 26th

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

My dearest darling Barbar

I do wish I could begin a letter with something exciting or thrilling to tell you. It would be so much better reading for you & would give me so much more pleasure too. But there is nothing at all. I have written five letters so far this month, to the extent of 52 pages & goodness knows what I have written about - I do hope that my letters are still interesting enough. You see here I am now. There is really not one single important thing to tell you about me or about my life - not a single matter which you ought to know & which will make any difference to anything - & yet I shall write from now, 9-0 pm, until I go to bed. I shall probably read odd bits from some of your old letters & look at your photos & in my album & think an awful lot of things about you, past, present, future & talk to Peter a bit, & have a whiskey & smoke some cigarettes - the result will be another evening passed. & several, we shall see how many, pages contributed towards your next letter. I'm not for a moment trying to make my letters to you appear to be a duty, even if they are. I want you to get as much & as many as possible from me - there is nothing else at all which I [wish?] to do. but, darling, they are so much made up of bits & pieces about me & my life - & odds & ends about people & things. And sometimes I wonder, when things are like this, if I would not do just as well to write you one page. - Tell you nothing has happened. I am very well & very lonely & missing you far more than I can possibly tell you in my words - & that I love you desperately & then

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