Letters from World War II : J.H. Massey

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Letter from Harry Massey to Barbara Massey

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No. 15. Monday, 1st June. Major J.H. Massey. 6, Palestinian Coy, The Buffs. M.E.F.

My darling sweetheart.

It is ten minutes past eleven. Therefore no time to begin a letter. But I have been busy all day until a late dinner at 9.0. I do want to hear the news at 11-45. Libya has started again. & last night gave the news of our 1000 bombers over Cologne. & so I am anxiously watching events again. And when I arrived back at 9-0, I found your no. 90 waiting for me. & I have read that twice already. & also no. 91 again. which came in a week ago. Your no. 90 enclosed w snaps of Maxie & I was so pleased to have them. I ticked you off in my last letter for not sending me enough photos. & I have had results within 3 days, which is good going. But these were quite unexpected, because I have had no warning about them in your pcs. I think Max looks marvellous & lovely, darling. the ones with the Tibbles & sitting in his pram especially, & the squashed face finger in mouth ones in his high chair are quite good too. He is so like Lisa, darling, particularly in the one with the Tibbles. And he is so wonderfully fat & plump, all over, amrs & legs & everywhere. You are a wonderful mother, my darling. & your milk must be perfect. Your letter came this evening - at midday I was disappointed with an A.G. from my ma - & which was rather what I expected. I'm afraid. i.e. she had not heard from me for ages. Fortunately, I have been much better since she wrote that. & I am now sending a regular service of A.G's, & so you should not be embarrassed any more. She still talks

Last edit 7 months ago by KokaKli
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about "your son". It is so silly, really. I think I told you that I had written to her & told her to make up her mind that his name was Max.

I am now [started?], & will go on with this tomorrow. xxx H.x.

Wednesday - 3 Jan. I am becoming more & more dull & flat, I'm afraid. & I do not find it very easy to know what to do about it or do with myself. My work is so deadly dull & uninteresting. & I am finding it increasingly difficult to take much interest in it. I used to think at one time that these Coys would get their chance one day. & that soon we should have more useful & more exciting work & training. But apart from a little talk & a few rumours, nothing happens. And so my enthusiasm is pretty flat by now. And then there are other things about which I have taken an interest. & tried to get something done. & have changes made - but all to no avail. And one gets no thanks & no credit for trying. & so I think 'fuck it' - I will not bother any more, & will just fiddle along with my own boring job, & have more spare time, which I will use for reading more books & writing more letters to you. But it is hard to change one's nature. & if I see something wrong I cannot help wanting to do something about it. but that means writing a report, or going to see somebody, & being rude, or persuading, or suggesting, or half suggesting - instead of just being able to do it. You say you are hard put to it to prevent your mind from atrophying. & to be honest, I am the same, if not moreso than you. What I say above rather gives the impression of boundless energy looking for an outlet. But the last few weeks my energy seems to have sagged rather - & I feel badly in need of a fillip. I find myself rather

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apt to work continuously & aimlessly. And to spend an awful amount of time thinking about things before doing them. & often not doing them at all. And this is a bad waste of time. Really, the only thing for me to do is to mind my own business more, & make up my mind that I am only an unimportant major & these other things are no concern of mine. And get through my own dull work as quickly & efficiently as possible - & then organise the remaining time into private reading & writing. that sounds fairly simple, but I do not expect that it will work out at all.

Your no 90 was a most interesting letter, my darling. You enclosed a cutting from the New Statesman on the Palestine issue. but you did not comment on it. But what it says is all perfectly correct. From a military point of view - quite apart from any other - the Jews have been snubbed & insulted & ignored all the time; whereas the Arabs have been appeased & courted & flattered. And the Arabs as soldiers are plain bloody useless, totally unreliable, & would probably, & I mean probably, turn against us if the Nazies were to get into Palestine.

It is really necessary to put the Jews & Arabs into their proper perspective, & to see them as they really are, instead of as we popularly suppose them to be.

In England we see the Jews as smart people at business & money - money lenders, jewellers shops, buying & selling faulty [cloth?] & second hand goods in general, shady lawyers etc etc. & it is much the same in Germany, France & other European countries. The explanation given to me for this is that they have always been an opressed people, driven from place to place & country to country - & that they have never been allowed to own land

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or to join in the normal business of the country. And that they have, therefore, always fallen back on money dealings & have naturally become expert in such lines. And we always look upon them as (pale faced, urban hook nosed, undersized, fat, & rather overdressed) people. Here in Palestine, one gets quite a different set up. As I have described to you before, they are to be found farming the land & working very heard - & in factories, making all manner or things, from their own electricity to the jam & honey which I send to you. And they are healthy, good looking people (- some are sallow & dark & have schnozzles, but may have brown hair & fair hair, & blue eyes, & sun burned healthy complexions, & in fact, none of the usual characteristics at all.) The Jews have proved beyond doubt in Palestine, what they are capable of doing, by way of real creative work. their achievements on the land, & in the towns of Tel-Aviv, Haifa & others, are almost unbelieveable, considering the shortness of the time & the difficulties which lay, & were placed, in their path.

Thursday - June 4.th A rather extraordinary interruption prevented me going on yesterday, which I will tell you about later.

Now, about the Arabs - I think that our popular idea of them is as a romantic, picturesque people, (& everyone an aristocrat in his own way; surely that is the conception which Lawrence has given to us.) But the truth is that they are a filthy, dirty, [illegible] crowd, very dishonest & completely unreliable - There is practically no Arab who you cannot buy for a few shillings - & then he will still be unreliable. And they are so lazy & workshy - & it cannot be said that they produce

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or create anything at all - except a hell of a lot more Arabs. The only quality which they seem to have & which the Jews have not to the same extent - is a sense of humour & a faculty for laughter, as a race. & much more apparent friendliness. But this is caused largely by their simplicity, & also their cunning & complete lack of principles; they will laugh & joke with you one minute & stab you in the back the next - for your firearm, or because somebody has paid them of.

And those are the people we have been trying to appease & curry favour with - at the expense of the Jews & at the expense of the war effort.

The situation is complicated, of course - & I wonder do you understand it? Roughly speaking it is like this - during World War I, the Balfour Declaration explicity & in writing, promised Palestine to the Jews as a National Home. this was in return for the promise of their full help & support in the war. And about the same time we promised the Arabs that in return for their support, we would free them from Turkish rule & assist them to set up their own state. After the peace, we agreed to accept the Mandate for Palestine, & so implement the promise of the National Home. And then Arab nationalism came into play & the fun began. It was never intended that the Mandate should be a permanent affair - we were to get every thing into shape, & order & then leave the country to cary on. But neither the Jews nor the Arabs would accept each other's rule - & I can see no reason why they should - nor would they work in together. And so, having done a gigantic piece of double dealing in 1914-18 - we have spent 20 years & more playing about with the problem & nobody & no Government has had the

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courage to force a settlement by the only possible means. which is a form of partition. And now we are paying in Palestine, as we have paid in other places, for weak & bad government. And the war is upon us & we are caught short. If we offend the Arabs, they may not help us & may even begin troubles - & we must also keep an eye on the kindred Arabs in Egypt & Iran & Iraq & Syria, & even Turkey. whereas, if we offend the Jews - well they must be with us anyway - & America is in the war now & so we don't have to worry about her public opinion any more. It's not very dignified or very honest, is it? - nor yet very far sighted.

But there is not very much point in my going on with all this - it is all a very complicated question & with many sides. & I could talk for hours about it, never mind write.

But I am pretty browned off & bored with my job. & I am quite certain that the men are too. - & I do not blame them at all.

About my interruption yesterday - I had just been writing that I had too little to do. & that I intended to organise my life, but doubted if it would work out - when I was called to the phone & the Brigade Major said he was afraid he had a job for me & would I come & have dinner & talk it over. And it turns out that I am detailed to undertake the tactical training of a Veterinary Hospital unit - i.e. teach them how to be infantrymen when necessary. You see what happens - that is just one of those lousy jobs, not very interesting, no thanks or credit - & it just takes up my time. However - I had a good dinner & a long talk with him until nearly midnight. As I think I told you, he seems to like me. I find him quite pleasant & interesting to talk to - & interesting as a type too. & therefore I feel that it is good for me, in a way,

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to talk to him. But it is annoying too, because I cannot say what I really think - for example to tell him that I think he is a nice enough chap & amusing & pleasant. & probably better than the average regular office. but a bit of a fool. & certainly idle & rather muddle headed. And for example again - it came through on the radio that our coal mines are now to come under state control. Brooke was furious & muttered "bloody socialism - bloody communism next". I remonstrated gently & pointed out a few things - but I really wanted to argue without reserve. But it would not pay - firstly because I want to come home - & secondly, because failing that, I want a good job when this one finishes.

You told me something about Geoffrey Tibble in your letter. & he does sound to be a strange chap. Now all this follows up what I was saying in my last letter. & I am very tentative about it. But you say he is dazzlingly intelligent - & yet he marries that silly girl. & you say he is very vain - & then he proceeds to generalise about you. & even says you are unfeminine because you want to create other things. And this probably influenced you to say in your previous letter that you thought you had a not quick enough brain etc. But I am a bit apt to feel that many of these brilliant & intelligent people do generalise a hell of a lot. & notwithstanding their knowledge of philosophy & such subjects in which they have specialised, they do have the habit of flaunting their superior knowledge, regardless of whether or not it really applies to the particular subject or topic. And you say that you are dissatisfied with the speed of your brain - but isn't it more a question of deeper thinking, & effort to say what you really think, rather than what sounds good - & not generalising - & also on account of much more sensibility & care for other

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[postmark illegible]

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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There seems to be a hoodoo on my nights, I finished this letter & went to bed at midnight. It is now 3-20 & woke up to find myself being consumed by bed bugs. Blast them. Then I had no matches- & stumbled about the mess & kitchen & could not find any there. & had to go & see the N.C.O in the guard-room - then I hhad to go through all the business of lighting a high pressure. And I have searched my bed & pyjamas & found us bugs. So I have rubbed myself all over with lemon spirit, & am having a whiskey & soda & a cigarette & telling you about it. I have this bug business & don't know why it should happen, because only today my blankets & sheets & bed were aired from morning till evening & 100% flitted. Maybe it is a flea from Toby. He is wagging his tail

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now & looking very friendly. & I am thanking my stars that I have a dog again, to talk to on such occasions as this - but I also wonder if he is the cause of the occasion. I think I might train a flea to wake me up at 3-30 a.m. & bring it home with me. & then I shall be able to see that you are there &and we are together. & look at you. & kiss you when you are asleep. & even try to make love to you when you are asleep; or perhaps you might wake up too like me to. Oh darling - isn't this a miserable life. being separated perpetually alone - & always thinking & wanting & hoping, but never to any avail. I love you so much, my own darling. & I only wait to begin life again, with you. Love & kisses from Harry.

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