Letters from World War II : J.H. Massey

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Letter from Harry Massey to Barbara Massey

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absolute bugger- I am furious + dejected + wiser too The complacency here is terrific- the New Statesman would call it Brook Poppery. But people do not want trouble or unpleasantness, + will bury their heads + blind their eyes to avoid it. It will be bloody troublesome + fucking unpleasant if the Nazis have a go at Palestine. You would really think that the command would be plesed that somebody, like myself was taking an interest responsibility. But no I am looked upon as rather a nuisance + an embarrasment. I really believe - + when I tried to see the Area Cmdr the day before, yesterday, I was merely informed that he knew the situation. God, but its awful. I have tried really hard the last few days to do something about it but it is impossible- I feel very browned off + disappointed I do wish I was more important + had more authority. As it is I always have the feeling of being told to mind my own business + just attend to my own job. I am really beginning to understand the saying that we muddle through- + always win the last battle. The trouble is the expense which is thousands of unnecessary lives lost + months of time wasted - + you + I kept apart. It is difficult to feel contented with it darling- but you must please try to do so. I must post this one off. I am dying to hear more from you about Cambridge - [illegible] have gone all wrong again.

I will pray & hope for better news - & you must too. And until it comes, I love you my darling. & long for you & Maxie & think always & only of you. XXX Harry.

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[partial postmark] FIELD MY 42 154

[written] 12 Mrs Barbara Massey. c/o Mrs Jenkins. 6. Bulstrode Gardens. Cambridge.

[stamped] PASSED BY CENSOR No. 514

[page turned] JH Massey.

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Letter No. 14

Thursday 28 May 42

Major. J. H. Massey 6, Palestinian Coy, The Buffs W. E. 7.

My own darling lovely Barbara,

At last we have a happy anniversary to celebrate even though I am very unhappy that we cannot be together on Max's first birthday. I have had congratulations from Ben & various people in the Coy. & Burstein was kind enough to telephone - they all say that they hope I will be home for his next one. Hope! My God, I really thought that there was any doubt about it. I don't know what I should do. But believe me my darling I am thinking of you today & of Maxie & very laughlingly. And remembering how brave you were & how many difficulties & inconveniences you had to endure being kept all alone & [?] eight months pregnancy before you. And what an awful time you had the last few days waiting for him to be born & on the day itself. And remembering how terribly sad I was that I could not have been with you shortly after Maxie was born. You were feeling mentally physically relieved & happy. It was such a gloriously happy moment after Lisa was born - & it could have been even more so this time to know that once again we had a baby safely born & perfect. It is all very cruel - first I had to leave you neither of us even knowing if you were going to have a baby or not & then I am away & you are alone when he is born & now the same againe when he is 1. And I have benver seen him & the three of us have never been together. It is difficult to console ourselves about so much but we do know that we have immense & wonderful happiness & joy & contentment ahead of us & the one condition necessary is now for me to come home.

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What news have I for you my love? Really nothing at all of importance I am afraid. And as usual, I can only run along about this & that. I do my best to please you in that way. I had a very pleasant evening with Burstein on Tuesday when we had dinner & then went to the Palestine Orchestra & Ballet. The music was lovely & I enjoyed the ballet. I thought the standard was not too high. But it is a beginning of Palestine or rather the Jew's effort to have their own ballet. There were no men at all & no real leaders or stars - except Gertrud Kraus, who runs it & who did a solo dance called the Strange Guest, by Sarasate of whom I have never heard. It was all very enthusiastically received. I had a long talk with Burstein during dinner & after the show - all about Jewish problems now & after the war. He told me that their soituation & difficulties & even who had tried to. I am told by Ben that he likes & admire me very much & that he is probably the best friend I have in Palestine - as it seems that the main reason for this is that I have always treated him as an equal - whereas the other Majors & British Officers in general rather patronise him & treat him in a condescending way. It is bad isn't it? He is an extremely intelligent, well read & interesting man, & you would never dream of treating such a person anything else but as at least an equal. And yet our brainless self centered British Officers come out here & treat such people in such a way - & even have the cheek to say "You had better watch these bloody Jews - they don't like us really." Admittedly, the Jews must have thinner skins that any other people upon earth & cannot adopt quite such a "fuck it" to what other people think of them as we do - but that is really all the more reason why we should be especially careful & try to make certain that at the end

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of the war we leave behind us a people who trust us & like us, instrad of just a people who will make use of us so long as we are a power.

Burstein says I must get into Parliament after the war! He also says that you & I must come to Palestine for a holiday, & that we shall be very welcome.

I expect you will have seen in the papers that a biggish number of Poles has now arrived in the M. E. The are mainly men who have been interned by the Russians when they occupied part of Poland in Sept '39. It seems that that the relations per week the Poles & the Russians is very bad & that the fault is mainly on the Polish side. And even worse is the relationships between the Poles & the Polish Jews. The trouble being purely & simply antisemitism. The Polish Jews now want to transfer from the Polish Army into Jewish Units of the British Army & the Polish Army is ready to agree. (It seems tht the officical Polish Govt outlook & policy is not antisemitic) but our rules & regulations are so ponderous & complicated that nothing can be done. But it's really dreadful & discouraging the way in which everybody seems to dislike everybody else, isn't it? & the world does seem to be in such an awful mess & muddle in addition to the war itself. Your letter 91 (90 missing) & 2 PCs from May 4th & 10th (rather quick ones) came in on Tuesday. & I was dilighted to have them. Things seem to be quite good at Juliette's & I am so pleased & I pray that they will still be so when this letter arrives. I am very anxious to hear more about your job & how you like it & how you doing at it. And thank you for your sweet sympathy about my loss of Peter. I have recovered from the bitterness of the blow for now - & Toby is very nicely filling the

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get which was left in my mode of life. He is a dear little dog, but I'm afraid has not got Peter's character - independence.

I have bought two pounds of dried apricots today. I will get some jame and/or honey tomorrow. so you may look forward to that in Aug/Sept.

Your letter 91 was a lovely one & gave me great pleasure & feeling. It was your first one from cambridge. & told me some things aobut your arrangements & hopes there. & quite a lot about Marie & his new little friends, bless him. the only wrong thing was that you said you were glad that we had now finished discussing unfaithfulness. & I'm afraid that in my last letter but one, I wrote another short chapter on the subject, but it was in answer to something in one of your letters. & so you must please forgive me. I agree that it is a hateful subject & it is hereby banished. I can assure you, my own darling, that never for one moment have I doubted your love & constancy, & I am quite sure that you know that & also know how wonderfully thankful & happy I am because of it. But men have such a bad reputation & we are so far apart. & I suppose that was why I presumed to reassure you about me from time to time. Maybe my reasons are too idealistic - but I feel so much that way. But thank you for calling me a healthy animal. I certainly do feel very healthy & very animalish about you.

And hereby the subject is banished.

Saturday - May 30th. I think I had better tell you what is happening with my officers. That dreadful Carsenty

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person has now gone, thank goodness; he is definitely to be thrown out of the Army. But the process is such a long one, & I was browned off with having the fat, lazy, lying cad about the place, & persuaded Col. L. to take him off my hands. Col. L. is a very weak & silly man. I had had Carsenty confined to camp for a month & doing ordereley officer every day. nor did I allow him to use the mess - but Col. G. thought that his treatment was rather harsh, & so he is now having an idle time at the P.R.T.D. Its the old trouble of you must treat an officer as a gentleman, which I do not agree with at all.

Bloody Dikman is to be court martialled, & remains in close arrest - & so I am thankful that I do not have to see him. The story is too long & silly to tell you about in a letter - but I will give you a good laught about it when I come home. Or rather, about three months after I come home & when we may lose [illegible] to such ordinary topics again.

Arkin's wife has had a baby - a daughter. And he was able to take her to the nursing home, & see her after the baby was born, & go & see her every day, & take them home from the nursing home. Its a bit galling for me to have stand by & watch all this going on. He is having a tea party for the child at Nathanya this afternoon - I managed to make excuses not to go, but heard this morning that he was upset & offended, & so I have just been on the phone & told him I will go. Bless it - this kind of business just makes me feel all the more sad & homesick.

And last week I got a new officer to replace my casualties. His name is Laskov, & he is a big husky young fellow of 23 or 4. He is a product of the

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last officer's course at Sarafand, & had applied to come to this Coy - he said he had heard that No. 6 was the best & most hard working Coy. He is a serious & pleasant lad, & I like him very much. He was Russian. Rather a loss this week - I have lost my C.S.M. [Carmine?] who has been transferred to the M.E. Commandos. he will be very useful to them, & is pleased to go to a more active job. & also sory to leave the Coy. I am lucky in having an excellent Sgt to promote in his place, a chap named Slavins. He is first class technically - & is an extremely pleasant type, which is a great heep. And he comes from Latvia! - it's amazing where all these chaps come from, isn't it? I'm very pleased to be able promote him, because he had the opportunity of going to another Coy, as C.C.M., a few weeks ago, & preferred to remain here as a Sgt. which was quite a compliment to me & to this Coy.

You said in your letter darling, that you thought your writing was better than your conversation. I think that you are very good indeed at both. Don't you think that many of these brilliant & witty talkers, talk rather a lot of nonsense. & are very much inclined to make sense & subject subordinate to wit & brilliance? You say you think your brain is slow - but I certainly don't think that - except that you are sometimes rather nitwitty about matters of business - & you were very slow in deciding to marry me! But so often I find myself thinking of something to say & then deciding that it is not worth saying. And many times, saying something & immediately wishing that I had not. I often rather wonder if there

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is any sincerity much behind these witty & brilliant people. & are they not making rather a deliberate impression on people, irrespective of sense or substance. Or am I being rather smug, & excusing my own deficiencies by belittling those people who converse better than I do?

I certainly agree that it is very pleasant to be able to talk well & amusingly on occasions, & especially when one is thrown among strangers & is apt to be tongue tied, but apart from such occasions I always feel very easy when talking to you - & also when we are just sitting & saying very little. I read an article in "Time" the other day, about Winant, the U.S. Ambassador, who is said to be a truly great man, & certain to be President one day. At his first public occasion in London he was unexpectedly asked to make a speech; he stood up & was completely silent for four straight minutes, then said "I made the mistake once before of being the first on my feet when I was not ready for it" - & that was all he said.

Anyway, we will practice on eachother, darling - over nice Gins - Frenches before dinner - & during dinner. I think you talk very well when you want to feel like it & I am much more in need of practice & coaching. It is a fine thing to be complementary & a help to eachother. You said in one letter that you felt you could help me - & of that I am very certain. And I want to help you in any & every way I can. Goodness knows what I shall find to criticise in you but I will do my best & you can help me to help you.

I have started being a little more social & friendly with the R.A.F. here now. there is nobody I

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like particularly - but I really have to get away from all my Jews sometime. & have a beer & some idle chat with English people.

I am so pleased to hear that you were going to have your photograph taken with Maxie & I hope that this has materialised & that you have posted it by Airmail.

You have been awfully idle about photos & snaps though - & the most recent I have are of Max at 6 months. And I have been showering you with pictures of me from all angles. I have my album all ready & waiting & have put nothing at all in it for 3 or 4 months

The weather is pretty good now - the rains have finished of course, but it is still reasonably warm & not too hot, apart from one [khamsin?]. This place is now covered with flowers weeds, instead of being hard cracked barren ground. And there are a multitude of small pretty flowers of all shapes & colours. The nights are lovely. & cool. & I sleep under one blanket, & Toby. Just now, the moon is full. & very brilliant & silvery. If only you could be here. There is actually another squadron leader, who was here pre war, & he actually has his wife & boy living on the place with him. It is too much for me. There is nothing very cheerful, is there darling? All the war news is confused, from every where. & it is not easy to tell how we are doing.

I long & yearn to be with you & to hold you in my arms & kiss you. Love & kisses to fat little Maxie from his lovely old daddy.

And all my love & heart & body to you my sweetest. Hary.

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