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1943 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1943

by Margaret Taylor, age 28 - 29 years
January - December 1943

In this year, Meg is still working as an Army Medical Officer at the camp at Queensbury, near Halifax in Yorkshire.

  • Friday Jan 29th 1943 A sudden visit home to support the family coping with the illness and death of her father, Leslie Washburne.
  • Sunday, Feb 7th 1943 Wondering what has happened to David Holland. Feeling out-of-place with her peers.
  • Sunday, Feb.28th 1943 It's over! But Meg's not as desolated as she could have been - common sense triumphs over emotion.
  • Friday, April 2nd 1943 Working hard - growing respect and a good working relationship with her commanding officer.
  • Tuesday June 1st. 1943 Developing friendship with Captain Walsh, but still not feeling at home in the barracks.
  • 27th June 1943 A trip to Carshalton and reunited with Leonard, a trip to London. Missing Capt. Walsh when he is posted elsewhere.
  • 28th December 1943 A more comfortable lodgings, away from the Barracks, and work continues to be busy but missing the leadership of Capt. Walsh.

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Friday Jan 29th 1943

I have put off writing for a week or so, though I knew I must record recent events, however gloomy an undertaking it may be. I had been working at the C.R.S. for about 10 days or so and becoming settled in and comfortable both there and at the billet here - Selway - when the world was upset without warning by a telephone message from Mums saying Daddy was very ill again and would I return home at once. I got off that evening, travelled all night and got back home about 7:00 a.m. Daddy was as he was last time he was very ill - terrible to listen to, breathing with laboured breaths, but cheery and as plucky as ever.

Mums and I took turns in sitting up in the den with him and giving him anything he could take - at first it was double-bakes and bread and milk etc., but he became terribly weak and was soon only having brandy or champagne or orange juice and it was dreadful to watch him getting worse - we almost persuaded ourselves he was improving sometimes, but we didn’t really believe it. Jim came home on Friday night and sat with Daddy till midnight on Saturday night and then I took over. About 2:00 a.m. Daddy just stopped breathing  and by the time I had fetched Mums and Pat and Jim he was dying. Thank goodness it wasn’t Mums who was sitting up there just then; it was bad enough as it was. Poor little Mums, she was wonderfully brave, but completely miserable and terribly distressed. Pat was a great help, as she didn’t realise fully what it all meant and she wasn’t so overcome and helped to keep us sane too. She cried of course, but it was mostly for sympathy with Mums and they hugged each other and consoled each other in a wonderful way - it is good that they mean so much to each other, for they will be left together now for some time I’m afraid - anyway till the end of the war. Alan came home on a 2 days compassionate leave, for Tuesday and Wednesday - his safe return to England was a patch of brightness in the dismalities of that awful week. The funeral was on Tuesday at Canford and Uncle Harry and Auntie Tia came down for it and many of the wardens and Dr. Alexander came too. Everybody was overwhelmingly kind and their sympathy was so real that it was hard to face without breaking down completely.

I got an extension of leave for another week and stayed on to cope with registration, visiting the Bank and the solicitors and doing the shopping etc. Mums did not venture out while I was at home - she could not meet anyone without being very upset, but she wrote saying she was going out to the Little Theatre soon after my return here, so she is progressing. She and Pat are going to the farm for a week or 10 days from tomorrow - I know the complete change will do them good and I hope the weather will be fine enough for them to get out-of-doors a good deal.

I am not yet used to the knowledge that Daddy has died - having been away from home so much and for so long, I am used to not seeing him for months on end. But sometimes I realise it starkly and death has come to have quite a new aspect for me since I have known it in the family itself. If it is so disturbing a thing for me I can imagine (though poorly I suppose) how devastating it must be for Mums - they loved each other so truly and tenderly.

Now I am back in my other, work, world and, except for moments of leisure, home thoughts are far away, though they are more frequent recently than before. In the last  letter Mums sounds more herself and I am very anxious to see what her letter tomorrow is like.

Must stop now - more meditations and other aspects to follow very shortly.

Goodnight!

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Sunday, Feb 7th 1943

The mood for writing is upon me tonight and the others have all gone to bed and the fire is not in bad repair, so I’ll spend ½ hr. or so scribbling before I go to bed. I have been back at the C.R.S. for a fortnight or so now and am in the rut of it again and back to the stage of thinking over cases and forms etc. in spare moments - often almost unconsciously. Mums and Pat have had their week at the farm and in spite of the rather wet weather have managed to get out amongst the hills most days so they must be feeling much better for the change.

I do wish I could have been with them - a week of country life is what I yearn for now more than anything else. Or maybe what I yearn for, next to hearing from David again in the old style. Since Daddy died I have heard from him only twice - once as soon as he heard about it and then not again until just over a week ago. The first letter was sympathetic and normal in tone; the second, whose delay had made me really worried in case anything was amiss with him, was short, constrained and cold and it hinted at mental worries which were really upsetting him. My reply demanded - no, it gently requested as a matter of fact! - an explanation a little fuller than the nebulous hints he had given me to account for the change over from warmth of companionship to chilly acquaintanceship. I haven’t heard from him again yet and it is 10 days or so since I wrote so there is something serious afoot. I wish he would let me know what it is. I’d a hundred times rather know, whatever it is than be left out in the cold, imagining things worse than possible. But the odd thing is that I find I feel just as fond and sympathetic for him as ever I did - almost more so, in spite of all doubts or even criticisms which my mind produces or coldly surveys. It must be a pretty real love I have for him - I think I love the fine man he could and should be and which I can see clearly standing in front of and overshadowing him as he behaves sometimes - selfishly or thoughtlessly or beneath his best nature. But in spite of the worry over over-due letters or frigid atmospheres I am not miserable, though perhaps I will admit depression occasionally. Whatever happens I feel that while I have days full of interesting work; books to choose and read which bring to life the great ones of all the ages; countryside within get-at-able distance and companions to live with who are not completely uncongenial, maybe wireless and music as well - then I shall never be really unhappy; in fact I would go farther and say I should always be happy, though it might be a rather serious type of happiness sometimes - as now!

In my work here I am happy, for I like everyone at the C.R.S.and the patients behave very well, considering how they might try to take advantage of a young female officer attempting to wield a rather unsteady and definitely unmilitary type of authority. At Selway I am settling down now comfortably with the A.T.S. officers and am more accepted by them now and treated as one of themselves. 

Tugwell is more especially companionable - it is funny how much more readily I become friends with older people than with people of my own age. Perhaps it is a penalty for probing a little deeper than the average person of my age - they regard me as a highbrow bluestocking with no zest for the amusements they enjoy. And no more have I the zest for them, so maybe they are right! (I think there is some snobbery, semi-veiled, somewhere in the last paragraph - let’s hope not, but I rather fear so. I’ll register the fact of being ashamed of it anyway!)

My cold will never get better if I don’t dose it up and go to bed - it’s nearly 2358 hrs., so

Goodnight!

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Sunday, Feb.28th 1943

My first ‘love-affair’ is over - has frittered out unmajestically and left me strangely unmoved. Maybe the recent emotional time due to Daddy dying had exhausted my capacity for strong feelings, but anyway the fact is that David (after another long interval) wrote saying he was in love with another person and although he had daily expected to wake up and find it untrue, he hadn’t woken to date and was beginning to think he wasn’t going to. I should, naturally, have felt the deepest of glooms and despairs, but actually I felt, and have kept feeling, a deep sense of relief from an insoluble worry which had begun to weary me and make me lose my interest in other things. Now I have regained my freedom of emotion and independence, and feel my old self and more comfortable. David still has my love, but it is not a binding one and that is good because he is so unreliable that a binding love would never have been anything but a chafing halter between us. I do hope he doesn’t give his latest lady love the mental tussles I had to contend with - and I hope she survives equally unharmed!

I have said I want to keep up our friendship if possible, for I feel there is a lot we could still learn from each other, but for the present anyway I expect he will be too preoccupied to desire a mere friendship, and it might be difficult to explain too! I am awaiting his next letter with more interest than emotion - I think I am more than a little relieved to know that I am not going to have to take on the job of looking after David and running a home with him - he is loveable but not easy to live with, and the more I saw of him the more I saw straight through him to a deep selfishness which made him behave badly sometimes. It seems odd to love someone and yet to be glad they don’t want to marry you - I think my heart loves him and my head says ‘no’ and my head is on top at present, and may it long remain so!

Leonard, by contrast, writes as fondly and characteristically as ever, and it is a comfort to have his letters and hear all about Carshalton and the little world there that I know and can picture so well.

Work is an absorbing item - it absorbs all my energy and my thoughts just now, and I grudge it neither. Capt. Walsh delights in giving me as much and more than he thinks I can do, and I won’t give in and he won’t relent, so I feel I need a holiday at the moment! He is a grand person and kind in the best and most reassuring way, under the disguise of terseness. He still frightens me sometimes, but I quite enjoy it!

Goodnight!

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Friday, April 2nd 1943

Things go on much as they did when I last wrote, but I want to overflow onto paper, nevertheless, this evening.

I’m on duty so there is no point in going up to bed till midnight - I have been dragged out of bed too many times recently to want to risk it again! But I’m awfully tired; too tired even for reading, so I thought I’d write here instead, by way o f relaxation.

I haven’t heard from David for several weeks, and he is beginning to fade from the foreground of my thoughts. I am still glad that affair is over; it carried no prospects of a happy future, but I’m glad it happened, for I learnt a lot in the emotional sphere while it lasted. From Leonard I had a letter like the old ones, contented and frankly written and I replied with a long letter in the same vein, telling him of all my activities here. And my activities here increase almost daily, till I am beginning to feel that upon my shoulders rests the weight of at least ¾ of the ills of the British Army! I worked pretty hard during January and February, and after having a cold for over a month I got bronchitis, (never have I had anything of that ilk before!) and I departed home on leave and spent the first 3 - 4 days of it in bed recuperating.

Alan and Jo were home too, and it was good having the house full again. I was treated as an invalid and made the most of it, for a lazy time was just what I wanted most. I returned in pretty good trim though a little below par, and within 2 days had started another cold, which I have still got and which is going strong, after a good fortnight - truly Halifax air is deadly!  Capt. Walsh left for his leave the evening I returned and was sent for a Tropical Medicine course in London in the middle of his leave, and he will not be back in Halifax till next week sometime. I sent him a couple of rhymes and some nonsense lines parodying the independent reports * on the draft men, and when I got no reply I was afraid I had offended him by being too familiar or unorthodox. But no, I got a friendly letter from him the other day, describing the Tropical Medicine course etc. and that pleased me a good deal, for it showed he was as good a soul as I had thought. Capt. Magauram has been doing the S.M.O. job in Capt. Walsh’s absence and I have worked with him easily enough - he is pretty efficient. But I can’t say I like him awfully though he is kind and cheerful which are the important things as far as work goes. As a person, though, he is not one I should make good friends with - he likes pubs and racing motor-cars and dirty jokes and doubtful language and chews over a bit of gossip with more relish than many a garrulous female of bad repute! Gosh, I have made him sound awful - it isn’t really as bad as that.

A message came through saying Capt. Walsh was to be posted the other day, and when I thought he was going and Magauram was taking over the C.R.S. I thought I shouldn’t mind being posted myself - there is something about Capt. Walsh which makes me respect him - I call him ‘sir’ without thought - and makes me care whether I do my job rightly in his eyes and gives me pride in it too; but I have never called Capt. Magauram ‘sir’ and never will, and the way I do my jobs under him is the way I do to please myself, and I would make no extra effort to gain his approbation, or get any real kick out of it if he gave it to me. Anyway tonight another wire came which cancelled the first, so probably the posting is off, or at least delayed, and Capt. Walsh will be returning so I feel relieved. I have been working like a slave during the past fortnight - there has been a real epidemic of ‘flu and pneumonia and the C.R.S. is full practically to the last bed - and past the last pair of pyjamas!   Must go to bed now.

Goodnight

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Tuesday June 1st. 1943

About 2 months since I last wrote, but little new to record. I am going home for leave tomorrow and that thought is making me restless and unable to settle to reading - and I am jibbing at the thought of washing my hair, as I had originally planned, so this book has come as an outlet valve again.

I have been working at the C.R.S. for over 5 months now and have come to feel that i really belong there. I look forward to each day’s work, and though I am pretty glad to knock off at the end of the day I know I would gladly do anything left that needed doing before I knock off. I hink that it is the kindly, keen atmosphere there that makes me happy - no shirking is allowed; the work is done briskly and efficiently; all hard work is appreciated - all those making mistakes are first rigorously blown up and then forgiven and laughed at if possible. Th emale staff are naturally biased in favour of anything feminine and I get spoilt and my faults overlooked more than I deserve. The V.A.D.s treat me with a respect which I still cannot believe in, and Capt. Walsh treats me more kindly and shows more deference for my clinical fancies than ever.He is becoming a really good friend to me and tonight I plucked up courage to ask him to help me with my income tax form and he was ready to do it at once and teased me about applying for deductions on loads of little things like membership of the B.M.A. and The Lancet or insurance companies etc. Cpl Watkins was in the office part of the time and he joined in the ragging - he is an awfully kind and honest person and one of the nicest of the men staff - I wish he didn’t come so close to me though , when he brings me sick reports and things to sign! (It annoys Capt. Walsh too when Watkins hangs over on top of me, for he often calls him away on any old pretext!)

But it was really about Selway that I wanted to get a load off my chest. The atmosphere here isn’t so friendly, or rather it is not homogeneously friendly - there are undercurrents of feeling, often only partly expressed, which make me uncomfortable sometimes. The others think of boy-friends and social activities as the only other topics or possible interests after A.T.S. affairs are finished. My desire to listen to the symphony concerts, to read Goethe or anything even slightly serious is regarded as ‘rather odd’ and I consequently feel rather odd about it. I can’t stand drinking parties, and as all Army parties or gatherings of any sort are always of the drinking variety, I make an unwavering rule to avoid them. Hence I am labelled (truly) ‘antisocial’, and it doesn’t seem to occur to them that it is only their brand of sociability I am rejecting - in my own peaceful way I can be quite sociable, but pubs and mess-rooms aren’t the environment I choose. It is a funny thing, for although I know perfectly well that I wouldn’t like to think and behave as they do, yet when they are all sitting round in the drawing room with their boy-friends neatly paired off, I feel a bit out of it. Still I feel less out of it now when the weather is warmer and I can come up to my room and be quiet with my friends - the Lancet, the B.M.J. and the Bradford Library book of the moment!

I had a good letter from Leonard the other day - I might go to Carshalton for a day or two of my leave - I’ll have to think it out and see.

Goodnight!

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27th June 1943

Well, I did go to Carshalton during my holiday. Better still, I induced Mums and Pat to accompany me up (for Whitsun weekend). They stayed with Auntie Tia and I stayed at Q.M.H. They were much the same at the hospital - Queenie, Holman, Dr. Thornton, Dr. Last still there as well as Leonard and the P.D. On Saturday Mums, Auntie, Pat and I had lunch at Maxim’s Chinese Café and then went on to the Academy. Leonard found us there and then we had tea and on to see ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ at the Savoy. Leonard ‘mixed’ easily into the party and enjoyed it all I think. It was good to see him again, but still there was no real depth to my pleasure, and I’m afraid he knew and was hurt by it. But I couldn’t help it, that is how it affects me and it would be stupid to pretend otherwise. He is a good friend, but somehow not a completely satisfying one, for there are a great many little things about his behaviour and whole mental outlook which don’t harmonise with my feelings, there is lacking a depth and breadth and above all an open-heartedness. But it was a successful weekend and I think that both Mums and Pat profited a good deal from the change, short though it was.

This wasn't really what I started off to write about though - I wanted to tell about the sad news that Capt. Walsh has been posted and is leaving tomorrow. He only heard on Saturday and in spite of seeing Major Muressett about it this time the decision was irreversible and he is really going. The thought of the change from Capt. Walsh to Capt. Magauram at the C.R.S. makes me despondent, and the thought of losing touch with ‘the SMO’ just after having made good friends with him makes me feel really sad. He was about the only person I know here whom I respect and like sincerely - the only others anywhere near that category are some of the V.A.D.s. None of the Army officers have anything in common with me and I cannot visualise being friends with any of them - except maybe Major Baker from the Barracks.

So at the moment I am looking forward to a difficult and rather lonely period. I only hope that Magauran will not want to be too friendly, and try to get me to go out to lunch etc. with him, for since he lives in his own house he has quite a lot of meals ‘out’. He would be asking me merely as a practice board to keep his conversational tallies up to the mark and I shouldn’t be flattered or amused.

Working with Capt. Walsh was good fun - there was plenty of teasing and bantering recently and I was getting bolder and venturing on answering back. And more important, we had been discussing cases more recently and he had taught me a lot of useful things, especially treatments and tips for diagnosis. We had good fun setting up a drip transfusion apparatus the other day, and I have shown him two poems I wrote since I came back from leave. He enjoyed the one about the A.T.S. inspections, it tickled his vanity and sense of humour. I mean to write a skit on the staff at the C.R.S. and send it on to him as a farewell offering.

Work during the next month or so will be heavy - there is no replacement for the S.M.O. and so there will be only Magauram, Paulett and myself, and we shall be kept running about I expect.

Hang this war business, it shifts things round just when you are getting settled down and comfortable - maybe that’s why it is done!

It’s no good venting any more spleen or woe tonight, so I’ll shut the safety valve down again and just wait and see how things progress.

Hang everything! Goodnight!

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28th December 1943

The fact that it is six months since I last wrote here shows that things did not turn out so badly as I feared six months ago. For it is when I am unhappy, unsettled or worried that I reach for this book and dissipate troubles through the fountain-pen nib. If I believed in Providence I would say that Providence must pride herself on the regularity with which she provides compensations or substitutes when the need is greatest. All that that grand language is leading up to is the thought that not long after Capt. Walsh left, and I found myself in rather alien mental territory, I left the A.T.S. mess (which was enlarging beyond its cubic capacity) and came to Elsinore, ℅ Mrs. Hirst.

Here I have been ever since (August - December) and I hope I stay here until the war ends! The atmosphere is homely and kind and cultivated, and as unlike Selway as it could possibly be. There are no boy-friends, no blazing jazz, or undercurrents of animosity and gossip and I have a lovely big sunny sitting room with a grand fire and all the privacy I want (and could never get at Selway).

My evenings are those I longed for ever since I struggled into Khaki and Aldershot - a warm room to myself - wireless of my own - and more reading to do than time to do it in.

So you see even if there is no Providence the somehow it was managed very neatly without her, and almost as soon as the poor little doctor was left in an arid mental desert she was rescued and planted in a congenial and very comfortable oasis again. For which, let me say, I have constantly been truly thankful.

Work at the C.R.S. is outwardly the same, actually quite different. I have complete care (not charge) of the wards - Capt. Magauram keeps daily lists of patients and sees I send them out by the 10th day! I have got complete charge of the 700 odd A.T.S. - now three companies (J, E and A) and 170 A.A.P.s and have 08:30 hrs. sick parade every morning (which means getting up before 0700). I am in medical charge of the R.S. at the barracks and cope with the Medical Boards on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the sick-or-leaves and the O.P.s Altogether it keeps me pretty busy , especially in the mornings; often the afternoons are not full unless we have a busy time on. The night work is very tiring when it comes round more than once a week and means staying up late or getting up and dressing and plodding to the C.R.S. and back in the cold and blackout. But this is much the same as it ever was, the difference is in the atmosphere of the place. The brisk efficiency  and alertness, the ‘spick and span-ness’ of the place has departed with Capt. Walsh and Capt. Magauram has imported a lazy, easygoing and rather sly air which sits heavily on the building and slows down the wheels till it’s hard to know whether they are turning or standing still at times. Sister and I do our best in the wards to keep things active and efficient and we do fairly well, but the rest of the staff are beyond me and I cannot and do not try to exert any authority over them. They are always pleasant to my face but I should not like to venture to guess whether they would do anything  I told them if they didn’t want to! It is the S.M.O.’s job to keep the place running efficiently and if he does not object to a slack working medium, I can’t either (officially!)

No time for more rhetoric tonight, but I’ll fire off again tomorrow night! Goodnight!

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Categories
1942 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1942

by Margaret Taylor, age 27-28 years
January - December 1942

As the year begins, Meg is still working at Queen Mary's Hospital for Children, Carshalton.

She gets called up to join the Royal Army Medical Corps, with training at Aldershot followed by a posting to Queensbury Camp, near Halifax in Yorkshire.

In this year, romance blossoms for the first time in her life, but it's complicated!

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Thursday January 29th 1942

It is quite a long time since I last wrote, so I’ll fill up the gaps tonight. I’m still at Carshalton, and will be till next June anyway. I have been divorced from the surgical team for over a month now, and miss working with Mr. McKeown more than I like to admit. It is not nearly so much fun tootling round by myself, and it is worrying to be solely responsible for the children in six quite large wards - though it is only the two babies wards that really frighten me now. It is difficult, too, being quite new to the job, to learn from an experienced sister, such as Sister Hamilton, without losing control of the children and their treatment. Still all goes remarkably smoothly on the whole and no major tragedy has yet occurred. I have much improved in the anaesthetic line and am beginning to get the hang of it and not be so frightened at the prospect of a ‘dope’. Dental anaesthetics are my latest ground of battle, but Mr. Cardigan likes teaching the technique so he shoulders the responsibility and helps me at the necessary moments.

When I last wrote we thought Broughton was coming as H.S. in my stead, but she got another job and Reeve applied and was appointed instead. She has been here now for nearly two months and has rapidly settled into the mess. She is a cheery personage and full of fun, though she is essentially of lower middle class derivation, and I admit she jars rather often by being a bit uncouth. I am not certain how much I am prompted by jealousy of her, for she has my Mr. McKeown to work with, and she is busy carrying on a very open flirtation with Dr. Ahern, which somehow annoys me, for no real reason.

The rest of the mess are I.S.Q. Dr. Holman has blossomed out quite a lot recently and though he is still only to be described as retiring he occasionally advances much farther than he used to. Dr. Key has been coping with the M.S.'s job for some months now and has everything well under his thumb. He is a great source of comfort to me and I think the evening visits he pays me, and during which we discuss anything and everything from ‘shop’ to ethics keeps us both sane in a mad world of pettiness.

The new M.S.-to-be is Mr. Evans, who is young and full of vigour, but of whom Dr. Key forecasts some heavy breakers ahead. He comes in about a week, so I’ll wait and see. Jolly late so - Goodnight!

ISQ - In Status Quo - unchanged.

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Sunday 10th May 1942

I must blow off some steam and misery tonight, and putting it into words will be a relief and get things straightened out I think.

Maybe I have been working too hard or worrying too much, probably the latter. I have five wards of my own now - one of them an adult ward and two of them infants. The responsibility of treating severely ill patients off my own bat weighs on me rather heavily, and when one dies I can’t help wondering whether I did anything wrong, or omitted doing anything I should have done.

Just over a week ago Joan White - a T.B. peritonitis of about 18 years old - died, and this week one baby in AE. 6 died and another is going to very shortly. The last and weightiest straw though was that Jean Playle, the nicest of all the nice kids in E2 has developed meningitis, and within a week of being taken off her frame and put into a plaster spica. That the change of treatment had anything to do with it I doubt, as she was not progressing properly before that, but that it might have caused it I can’t be certain and the possibility sits on my head like a black cloud. I know that if a doctor does what he - or she - seriously considers best, and ill comes of it, no blame attaches morally to the doctor, and I suppose that realisation must comfort me - but still I feel miserable.

Yesterday I seemed to spend most of the day interviewing parents of very ill children, breaking bad news to one after the other, until by evening I felt I was an unclean thing and brought trouble wherever I went or even looked. When Dr. Key asked me in the evening why I had been so subdued and miserable recently it all came to a head and burst into a flood of tears. Poor Dr. Key - he gets the emotional outbursts of the females upon his shoulders. He bore up nobly, was very sympathetic without being sloppy, and I think, now!, was very brave to stay holding the hand of a sobbing and red-eyed maiden in her sitting-room, with the chance of anybody barging in at any moment.

I don’t know why I felt it all so acutely but I do get fits of depression for little cause sometimes, and this time heaps of little miseries had piled up rapidly and made a formidable heap. Anyway my fit of crying was rather a long one, and when I awoke this morning my eyes were still very red and my eyelids so swollen and puffy that I resembled a true-blue nephrosis! Luckily it was Sunday, so I asked for my breakfast in bed, and by the time I had to do my morning round I was more presentable, though far from normal in appearance. I’m afraid they must all have noticed I have been crying - for not much escapes in a mess like this - but they probably think I was worried about Alan, who was overdue (he rang up tonight from Bristol actually, and it was marvellous to hear his voice and hear he was safely back after an exciting trip and a battle on the way to Russia with his convoy.)

Dr. Key says I shall have to readjust my attitude to patients, and not let myself get fond of them or put myself in the patient’s place, because it is an unbearable strain and, more important, it makes good diagnosis and treatment much more difficult, Though that is true and I acknowledge it, I still think that it is extremely important to have at least an interest in patients as individual people and not survey them indifferently from a pinnacle of science. Children, and adults too I think, know jolly well whether you care if they get better or not and can tell if your interest is in themselves as beings - ill beings for the time being - or in their illness only. There is no excuse though for getting ‘soft’ about children’s illnesses, and if it hadn’t been for the rush of tragedies last week I think I could have stopped myself being swamped with misery and making an ass of myself with Dr. Key.

When you dig deep enough I believe all tears are tears of self-pity. I wasn’t crying for the children or the parents last night - only for my part in their illness or death - in case it was my fault for moving Jean off the frame: what the parents thought of my treatment and whether they blamed me or not, and the feeling of being nothing but the bearer of bad news, and possibly the cause of it. If i know I did my level best for the children and brought to bear the requisite ‘normal average of care and skill’ then there is nothing to reproach myself for, and no censure to take to heart even if it is given.

It is sad that a cherished and loveable and only child like Jean should die of meningitis when she was almost at the active stage of T.B. hip, but if all the sad things in life are to upset me so much in future I shall lead a dog’s life - and get pretty dehydrated too!

Goodnight! 

  • spica A hip spica (pronounced 'spy-kah') is a type of cast used to keep the hip or thigh still.

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Tuesday July 14th, 1942

Not so very long since I last wrote, but things have changed at break-neck speed, and the world is a difficult place for me now.

At the beginning of June, Reeve and I both got preliminary notice of ‘calling up’ for the R.A.M.C. Reeve applied for a postponement and got it until next January. I didn’t apply, for it was time I moved and I thought I ought to go into the Army if they were needing doctors - I had done nothing for the war till then; only subsisted in luxury on double or triple rations and not been overworked. It appealed to me too as an adventure coming (we hope) only once in a lifetime and not to be missed. So I am now at home, having had my ‘medical’ at Bath last Thursday and having left old Queen Mary’s for good I expect. I have promised to go back there for a visit if I am near, and show myself off in uniform, and I mean to go, for I should love to see everyone again. I miss the place terribly, and in eighteen months had come to regard it as a second home.

Dr Key
Dr. Key

The other ‘news’ to report is not, like the Army, in the hard reality of daily life, but is as big a change in the mental sphere of existence, and with more longevity I trust. During the last few months, and especially since I returned to Q.M.H. in April after failing the D.C.H., Dr. Key and I have been a lot together, and grown to know each other pretty well to the lowest depths of our minds. I had grown to rely upon him for help in difficulties - mental and medical - and to value his companionship very greatly. He, it seems, had grown to love me, also very greatly. When he told me that, at first I was simply overwhelmed - feelings I could neither analyse nor really understand flooded through me. When I had got sorted out I knew I didn’t really love him, though I had a real and deep affection for him and a joy in his companionship which I have felt for no other man. His love is obviously deep and sincere, and to be the owner of it is a job of formidable joyousness. His wish is only that I should be happy and because of that he is unaffectedly content that my feelings for him should be, as they are, those of friendship only.

Our friendship though is a precious thing to me, and we are very happy when we are together, chatting freely on anything in our heads, or just being quiet together in company. There is no friction between us  and nothing we could not discuss. He has told me frankly that he has loved and still does love Mrs. Key, though he has never had any true intellectual companionship with her, as with me. To him Gill is the most precious thing in life, and anything which would affect her happiness is of prime concern, and knowing Gill I can well understand that she is a child in a million and quite unspoilt. Let nobody tell me that life is not a complicated business - I know better! But I do believe that life if faced honestly and truthfully is a happy thing and this bit of life has added to Leonard’s and my happiness and not detracted from anyone else’s, so I feel that all is very well.

I think, however, an explanation is due to ‘the parents’ for I can’t keep anything from them and still feel ‘straight’. I do hope they will understand - they always have before, but this one is rather a corker!

Goodnight!

RAMC - Royal Army Medical Corps.

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Saturday September 26th 1942

Barracks building from Crookham Camp

Once again, not so long since I last wrote, but things have moved fast and furiously. On Aug. 29th I went to Crookham Camp, Boyce Barracks at Aldershot and was there for 3 weeks. I’ll write more about that if I get the time and the urge to record it. But for the moment I’ll just say that during those 3 weeks I got to know David Holland very well indeed and we liked each other extraordinarily well right from the beginning - and we shared a taxi up to the camp on our first arrival, oddly enough. We went out bird-watching and country exploring, sometimes alone, sometimes with Mr. Beadle, and we had supper and a cinema and a long bike ride back from Aldershot in the dark - with a pause for cigarettes and conversation on the way.

When I was posted just over a week ago he was going on to Mychett the same morning and I missed saying goodbye to him and the others too. (The only other I minded not saying goodbye to was Hodson really.) I wrote saying I was sorry for my rude departure and giving my address and last Friday I got a wire asking me to phone him that evening. He said he had been posted to West Wales and intended to go through Crewe and would I meet him there if possible.

I haven’t time to do the next bit in full, so I’ll leave it till tomorrow and do it full justice!

Goodnight!

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Sunday September 27th 1942

To appreciate and to recreate the atmosphere of that week-end I must start at the beginning I think. The beginning and nearly the end, was that I nearly missed the bus to Halifax to catch the train - in fact I did miss the one I meant to catch, but got one 1/4hr. Later, which landed me at the station with two minutes to spare.  Another obstacle which was surmounted as if by magic was the financial side; for I had only 7/- (seven shillings - about 35p) odd. I rushed into Miss Carter’s office to ask if I need be back before midnight or so  and lo and behold she gave me leave to be off until Sunday night and she presented me with £2 - I asked her for £1 actually, but goodness knows what would have happened if she had only given me £1 - for I got back on Sunday night with precisely 5 pence ha’penny in my purse - another rather miraculous thing.

The train I discovered was packed full but an army lieutenant in the corridor made room for me next to him and we talked a bit and it transpired that his mother was a doctor in Halifax and his sister newly-qualified in Birmingham! He gave me his mother’s name and address and said she would be glad to see me if I called - and I mean to go this week sometime, perhaps after ringing mup first. That was my first travelling acquaintance. After changing at Manchester I shared a carriage with a very fat and jolly-faced Yorkshireman who had retired from the R.A.F. in disgust, and who gave me the low-down on England, its government, politicians, generals etc. etc., and all most convincingly and in great good humour. I found him most entertaining and was sorry when he got out and left me in solitary state.

I got to Crewe soon after 5:00 pm and went to a nearby café for Welsh-rarebit and coffee, and then back to the station to wait. I waited for over ½ hr. And depression settled black about me as the minutes dragged by. After all, it did seem fantastic to expect David to meet me there at that time; a place we neither of us knew, neither of us being sure we would be free to go there, and having no means of getting in touch with each other to alter plans or leave a message. However, before I had quite decided whether I had the audacity to go back that evening, or whether it would be even more nerve-wracking to stay in Crewe for the night by myself, a voice announced David had arrived - he had been waiting ½ hr. down below and getting quite as despondent as I. The complexion of things changed immediately and we started looking forward to a glowing day and a half ahead. David waltzed me off to a hotel and we booked next-door bedrooms without batting an eyelid! I was glad he did it so much as a matter of no moment, for I was wondering if it was really do-able. We had the inevitable and disheartening Yorkshire ‘high-tea’ and then wandered down to the centre of the town, arm-in-arm and perfectly content to merge with the rest of the Saturday-night-outers. We queued for a cinema and got in in time to see the big film, which wasn’t at all bad. Back to the hotel and a good double sherry each completed the holiday feeling. Then to bed after a bath and a prolonged chattering of nonsense together. David woke me at 7:30 the next morning - and Sunday at that! I had another grand hot bath. Then breakfast, dispensed by this talkative waitress, and a visit to the station, which showed I had to catch the 6:15 pm train back. We had already decided to spend the day seeing Chester, going there in the bus and that didn’t leave till 11:15, so we spent the time until then finding a Toc H canteen and having really excellent coffee and cakes there for practically nothing. The bus ride was fun and lasted 1 ½ hrs. - a bit too long really. We had a superb lunch costing 5/- each - at the Grosvenor Hotel and then spent the rest of the time until the return bus was due in walking around the city on the old walls. The views were lovely, the old buildings inspiring and we teased and chatted together in the height of good spirits. David told me about his wife and Judith and Margaret and said I should receive an invitation from ‘Isabelle’ shortly, and I said I wanted dearly to see his family and his house. We hugged like a couple of softies on the back seat of the upper deck of the bus coming home and the sight of it so blatantly done kept the seat clear for us nearly all the way back! My train was late leaving Crewe and we blessed every minute in retard and planned hopefully for meetings at Liverpool or even near Snowdon in the future. The return journey was quite rapid and uneventful except for the fact that the train arrived ½ hr. late and I missed the last bus from Halifax and had to take a taxi - for which I paid, with only 5 ½ d to  spare!

Now, life is a funny thing. Here is Leonard who is married and loves me and I only like him and can feel nothing deeper than that. Then, from the blue, in 3 weeks there grows up David who loves me too in a different way, who wakes a spark of passion in me (and I had begun to wonder if I was made without any!) He is much more forceful by nature than Leonard is or could be; he knows what he wants and does his damndest to get it, yet he is true and honourable and has already told his wife that he has grown fond of me and wants me to meet her and his children. More than ever I am glad I never even tried to persuade myself or Leonard that I did more than feel affection for him, for I now know a little what more is needed before affection grows to love. I wonder if I’ll ever marry - I hope so but even if I don’t I have at least been loved and have brought happiness in companionship with two men whom I admire in very different ways.

How very odd!  Goodnight!

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Wednesday October 21st 1942

There is plenty to tell this time, for the week-end which has just passed has been the most eventful of my life. To begin at the beginning, the week-end I described when I last wrote gave rise to adverse comment by Mum & Dad; they said I was building my pleasure in David’s friendship on the misery of his wife and if I thought it over I would see that it wasn’t the right thing to do. This made me think furiously, and though at the end of my deliberations I still thought our friendship was a fine and honourable thing I realised that if it provoked jealousy and misery in his wife it must be stopped. When I had reached this decision, I got a letter from Isobel and to my delight it said our friendship might be a blessing for them both and invited me to Betws-y-Coed to stay for a week-end with them both and form a Triple Alliance.

I managed to arrange with Hird (and Mrs. Dixon!) to get off last week-end on Friday and return on Monday morning. The journey was remarkably easy - change at Manchester and Llandudno Junction only, and from Llandudno Junction to Betws-y-Coed the country was superb and I got a view of the sea (which I hadn’t seen for months and months.)  I arrived about 6:30 pm and David and Isobel met me at the station and conducted me to my residence - called Coed Pier - and commanded by a Miss Knight. Isobel was very quiet but I liked the look of her and when we had talked a bit together I liked her even more. We all separated for supper and met at Woodlands about 8:00 pm. We went for a walk up by the river and then returned to tea and a bed-rock discussion on the Triple Alliance just before retiring to bed. Isobel said David must not write less to her than to me, we must not let any love-making go on between us and we were not to come across England to see each other, though we could see as much of each other  as we liked if we were posted near together - no more staying the night in the same hotel! David and I put in a few words but  they were mainly asides and minor modifications. I arranged to spend the morning with Isobel and the afternoon with David. Isobel also presented me with the news that she thought she was pregnant again, for she hadn’t been feeling well for several days.

The morning was quite a success. Isobel and I climbed up the hill behind the village and surveyed Lake Elsi and as much of the landscape as appeared through the driving mist. We got soaked through and descended rapidly and had coffee at the local café while our stockings dried on ou9r legs - most uncomfortable. We talked a lot, odd things and serious things and Isobel told me of herself and of David and I told her in all good faith that I didn’t think I could ever fall in love with him, knowing he was married and had children etc.

In the afternoon Isobel rested. I went to lunch at the mess in the Military Hospital and met 5 or 6 of the officers there. It was a most substantial meal. We planned about six alternative expeditions for our afternoon, all the other officers advocating their favourite haunts. Wew ended up however by deciding to walk up the river to Swallow Falls, and have tea there. I looked at the Path. lab. and the wards and a few other rooms in the hospital, and then we started off in the drizzling rain. We sheltered under trees at the river bank when it started pouring hard and we smoked cigarettes and ate chocolate and felt at peace with each other and the world. Talk flowed easily and gaily and then became more intense. David declared again that he loved me and I began to believe, for the first time, that his love was the sort I call true love, solid and lasting. He said quite a bit about his past life with Isobel and I saw they must have had a wretched time together for a long time past. Then David said he wished he had met me first and married me and brought up a family, and asked if he ever broke with Isobel would I come to him. My answer came back immediately and without any time for conscious thought - ‘like a shot’ said I, and from that time I knew that I was really in love and I think that every moment since then I have become more so. But the problem was not solved, it was just beginning! Isobel had a claim on David which could not be ignored and perhaps she loved him, we could not be certain. She said she did, but she did not behave as if she did and her hysterical nature made it difficult to know whether she was even sure herself. Instinctively I knew that time must be left to straighten out the uncertainties and I suggested that nothing should be done about our pact until a year had passed and during that year we both tried to the best of our ability to make the old marriage a success. It seemed so simple then, but now I find it is a sacrifice that is difficult beyond compare, though still I know it is the only possible way to get lasting happiness.

If I had encouraged David to break away at once from Isobel (and he would have needed little persuasion I think) we could not tell what her reaction might be and we could not risk ruining her life. Anyway I wasn’t sure his love for me was a lasting thing, or even that mine was either. So we made it a year of Triple Alliance, a trial for trying again to harmonise husband and wife and children, and I was to be a sort of lubricating oil.

I can’t finish all this tonight, so will leave off here and carry on tomorrow.

Goodnight!

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Friday October 23rd 1942

After this talk we walked together to Swallow Falls, both feeling like light-hearted and love-sick children, and we had tea and chatted, partly serious and partly teasing and everything seemed settled to perfection. But Isobel guessed most of what we were feeling and after our return that day and during Sunday she was completely unapproachable and in the depths of depression. On Sunday morning she came down late after breakfast in bed and we then went along the riverside all together and watched some dippers, which thrilled David to the core as he hadn’t seen any before. After lunch Isobel said she wanted to go out alone and would David and I go on up to Lake Elsi and she would join us for tea. We trudged off carrying tea - in a bottle - and wearing Macs. We were glad to be alone together again and climbed joyfully to the top of the hill, pausing en route for periods of analysis of the situation (it kept cropping up in the middle of anything we talked about.) We left the stone monument thing where we were to meet Isobel later and explored the dam and climbed up to the rocks the other side of it, and there lay and ate chocolate and nagged[?] - I have never been so happy as I was the early part of that afternoon. Isobel came up and we waved and called but she didn’t see us and we scrambled back at break-neck speed in case she wandered away looking for us. Then we had tea, but the mist was blowing up and it was getting cold and Isobel was practically mute and couldn’t have any tea, so it was rather a failure. We soon departed homewards and sat in Woodlands till supper time. David and I talked; I tried to draw Isobel into the conversation but it was no good.

After supper it was much the same and I said goodbye to her fairly early and David and I went out into the fine moonshine night for a farewell stroll. We went up past the hospital and a little way up a narrow path into the woods. We talked love and sanity inextricably mixed and saw the moon on the water as it went under the bridge. We agreed again that love-making must be from then on taboo and we must both work all out to make the Triple Alliance a success. I didn’t sleep much that night and had breakfast early - 7:15 - and departed about 7:45 - David hung out of the top window at Woodlands and waved a melancholy goodbye. And so back to Queensbury!

After my return the full meaning of the week-end began to dawn on me and the unimaginable joy of the possibility of ever being married to David alternated with the gnawing knowledge that it was more likely that I never would and anyway my role was to work against the thing I wanted most in the world and push David away, while Isobel pulled him (aided in her pulling also by me!) On the whole, I dwelt on the possible joys of marriage and was happy, but yesterday morning I got a letter from Isobel, full of her love and courage to reform the family unity and make David happy, and asking me please, not to make David fall too much in love with me. Her letter was so sane, showed such uncanny insight and called so strongly to my better feelings that I could no longer picture her as the hysterical and un-liveable-with person I had dubbed her in my happier imaginings and I recognised I was really going to be lubricating oil only, useful and unselfish but hardly blissfully happy. Yesterday was the bleakest day I remember and my head throbbed with the whirling of different thoughts, hopes and dreads.

Today I am recovering and my equilibrium is returning slowly. I am realising that if I am never David’s wife there are years of close friendship with him and Isobel and his children in front of me and the ache for the ‘might-have-been’ is fading.

I’m afraid I wrote a miserable letter to David when I was at the height of my misery, but I sent him Isobel’s letter to show him exactly how she felt and showing she really loved him still, so I may be forgiven.

Enough for the present, I wish I knew what was going to happen next. Goodnight!

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Sunday November 8th 1942

This continued state of mental agitation is more exhausting than any physical combat. If we could all fight it out and get it over I could stand even defeat and be ready to accept the inevitable. But as things are there are everlastingly alternating rays of hope and deluges of despair and I feel seasick to the nth degree.

Last Thursday I got a telegram from David saying he could get the weekend off and could I meet him. I replied by wire but the same evening he rang up and we arranged that he should come and stay in Bradford, for Friday night anyway and possibly we might go further afield on Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday I was hectically busy, having raced down to the station in the morning after sick-parade, to find out what time his train arrived, and then a trip to Westleigh Hotel to book a room for him. Then they wanted me in Halifax that afternoon and I had no good excuse to get out of it - so had to go. I got back from there and had to catch a bus straight away without coming back to the camp to make myself presentable (funny how it worried me at the time!) I arrived at the station in what I thought was loads of time i.e. about 6:30 and I had been told the train got in at 6:50, but I had only just entered the station yard when David hailed me - he had got in at 6:20 and was wondering what to do because I hadn’t met the train! Gosh, it was good to see him again and we chattered so hard and walked in step so gaily that it was amazing that I managed to steer us in the direction of Westleigh at all. Anyway we did get there and David chose his bedroom and I showed him the photos of Isobel and the children, which I had collected in Halifax that afternoon. We then ventured out into the darkness in search of sustenance for David was ravenous; eventually we went to the Sundown Café and had rabbit pie, peaches and custard and coffee - not too bad! Then we sallied out into darkness again - darkness is quite convenient when you want to link arms or clasp waists while walking ! - and found the G.M. hotel by the station . There we sat in the lounge and drank coffee and David had brandy and I had a sloe (not slow) gin, which was jolly good. We talked seriously, discussing emotional problems in amazing calm, and planning for the future as we would have had it, and as we might have it, in a thousand different ways. We decided (or should I say I was persuaded!) to keep nothing hidden between us, for to hold love in check and not express it would distort and possibly magnify it to ourselves and that would have been disastrous. In our conversation I mentioned my diary and David asked if he could read it - for I found it well-nigh impossible to express my feelings for him and I suppose he guessed they would all be there. I gibbed a bit, for after all my diary is a secret thing, but then I decided he could, for it would tell him everything and he would believe it more readily. By then it was about 10 p.m. or a bit later and the last train had gone. We wandered about looking (only half heartedly!) for a taxi and then queued for one in the Town Hall Square. It whisked us back to Queensbury much too quickly and David waited while I fetched the diary and then we said Goodnight and he went back to Woodleigh.

The next morning the cold I had started the day before was much worse - I felt lethargic and a bit sorry for myself. There was the big Hallowe'en party for the Sergeants’ Mess arranged for that night and the C.O. had been so sticky when I asked if I might miss it that I decided I should have to return for it that evening. David and I had lunch together at Westleigh and then went out to the golf-course.

The pro’ lent him some clubs and we played about 6 or 7 holes - he well, I badly - and enjoyed it very much. We had tea there and Mr. and Mrs. Dufton came in and were introduced and were very friendly as usual. We returned to ‘high tea’ at Westleigh and then I had to come back to the party. I felt foul and in despair took my temperature and was delighted to find it was up to 99℉ - so I put myself to bed and had a long blissfully comfortable evening in the overheated hut, feeling sorry for myself!

The next morning I still felt most peculiar and could not face the game of golf we had tentatively arranged the day before. I phoned Mrs. Dufton and asked if we could come to her house in the afternoon to listen to the symphony concert. She said certainly, so after lunch at the R.N. hotel we took a ‘backless’ to their house and were installed in the dining room by Ian, who left soon after with 2 or 3 friends. He and friends returned much too soon, nearly caught David with his hair standing straight up on end - I had just rumpled it! We had tea and left about 6:00 p.m. David came back with me to Queensbury to collect my night things and then we returned to the G.N. hotel and booked rooms there.

We had dinner there and who should be the first person I saw in the dining room - the C.O. !  She was there again for the other meals and what she thought I don’t know and hesitate to imagine - what was worse she met us coming down the stairs and me swinging my bedroom key gaily on my finger! After dinner we sat in the lounge again but could not talk freely because of 3 ladies in mourning who sat almost beside us, looking dismal and saying nothing - it seemed they were waiting for us to entertain them and we didn’t want to! David wanted me to lie on his bed and talk to him after my bath but somehow, though I knew there would be no harm in it, I didn’t feel I ought to, and when I insisted in spite of his efforts at persuasion poor David descended fathoms deep into the dumps, but I couldn’t back out on myself then. We retired to bed early and though I heard a tapping on the door between our rooms an hour or two later I pretended I was asleep and ignored it.

The next morning - our last of the week-end - David appeared to breakfast in a mood so glum I almost despaired of being able to ‘contact’ him at all and that would have made a miserable ending to our week-end. I pegged away with feeble jokes and teasing till at last he smiled and then came a laugh that did my heart good and set me chortling in sympathy. We laughed for a good couple of minutes and then all was well again and we were closer together even than before - it was well worth it and David thought so too.

Since he went away, after seeing me onto the train returning to a Queensbury Monday morning, I have missed him terribly. It seems that only half of me is left here, and I can neither concentrate nor settle down to anything. I long for his letters and I fear that his love is becoming so much a necessity for me that I cannot picture what I shall do if there is no possibility of his breaking with Isobel. A half-and-half arrangement would be frightfully difficult too now, because Isobel’s despicable threat to tell Mrs. Key about my friendship with Leonard has made me feel I can never again be serious friends with her, and how can I be friends with David and not with his wife, if they are to go on living together.

Gosh gosh gosh!

Goodnight!

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Thursday Nov 26th 1942

I’m much happier now than when I last wrote, though there has been little material change since then. In the realm of emotions and thoughts there has been a good deal of progress and things are beginning to become comfortably solid and reliable. The prospect of any settled married life between us is however as much in the air as it ever was. Yet during the past month or so we have probed deeper into each other’s minds and moods, and there has developed a wonderful sense of sympathy and love which binds us together so securely that I feel we shall never regret or forget anything that we have done and thought together.

The knowledge that I have helped David at a difficult time will always make me glad, whatever is to come, and the happiness and new understanding his love has given me is something that is wholly good and that nothing can spoil. Words are pretty well hopeless to express an emotion like love, but my heart is brimming over with it and the thought of this coming leave is causing me more joyful anticipation than anything I can remember since Christmas Eve when I was about 10 years old!

I wrote to tell Mum and Dad about it all in my home letter last Sunday and from then until I got their letters in reply on Wednesday morning I was in a state of anxious fretfullness that was almost unbearable. I should never have doubted that they would show, as ever, their ready understanding and love, but it seemed so much to expect after sending them a terrific tangle like a bolt from the blue. They are both indescribable darlings and the knowledge that they know everything that matters now, and that they are going to meet David in a week or so makes a tremendous difference to me - I feel almost as if I have just managed to come up to the surface for a much-needed gulp of fresh air after tussling for some time underwater.

I haven’t written to or heard from Isobel for weeks now, but after David has been to Ipswich he will be able to tell me what she is thinking now; I’m jolly keen to know.

There will be almost enough to fill the rest of the book I should think next time I write!

Goodnight!

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Saturday Dec 12th 1942

Back at Queensbury again after 10 days leave and a stolen week-end at Chester (the robbery discovered, by the way!)

To do things in order (decently and in order - vide Miss Barry) - I got Hird to cover me on Saturday afternoon and Sunday and departed to Chester for the week-end though my leave, starting on Monday, hadn’t come through when I left. I changed at Stockport and got the wrong train there; had to get out and return to Stockport and try again. I caught the 8:20 train for Chester from Crewe at about 8:27 (the next was 10:20p.m.!) and David met me - about 1½ hrs late, and he had met about 6 altogether. He dodged behind a large man as he approached but I saw him alright and the joke stopped him being angry or peeved and our joyousness flowed naturally from the first minute. David had spent most of the afternoon searching for somewhere to stay and eventually had found rooms at the Peacock (he threatened a double room as the only thing available at the time!) We had supper at the Grosvenor Hotel and caught the last bus to the Peacock and then sat in the dining room by the fire and talked for some time before going to bed. On Sunday morning I had to ring up the D.A.D.M.S. about my leave and he was not a bit pleased to hear I was in Chester and not Queensbury and said he was afraid I’d have to return for Monday anyway as they could not get a relief. This put our plans all awry for it meant returning to Bradford soon after lunch. David decided to come back with me, so we gathered our kit, commandeered a taxi from across the street - we shared it with a lady who insisted on paying all the cost herself! - and after dumping our luggage at the station and finding out about trains we had coffee at the  B hotel and then walked round the city walls and down by the river. I had a fascinating lesson on gulls and sparrows and also some flowers (represented by withered stumps of stalks and a leaf or two in the park flower beds.) Then lunch at the same hotel and a comfortable and mostly private train journey to Bradford. We got in about 9:00 p.m. and had booked rooms at the Victoria Hotel. We had coffee and biscuits and chocolate in the lounge and retired fairly early. I had to get back to Queensbury for sick parade at 9:00 (‘actually’ 9:20) on Monday and David started off for London and Ipswich. Captain Welsh ‘phoned me during the morning and said I could go off after duty on Monday and take 10 days - gosh I was excited. I travelled home, Bradford - Bristol without changing and got in about 6:00 a.m. (I’ve never travelled all night before.) Mum and Dad weren’t awake, but I had just made some tea for myself and them too, as I was terribly thirsty, when they woke and I went in with the tea and sat and told them about David.

On Thursday David arrived and I met him - feeling a bit self-conscious in civilian clothes and sorry he wasn’t in them too. He was very frightened going up in the taxi but he very soon settled into the home atmosphere and suited it perfectly. Podge had been laid up with jaundice but luckily she was down by the time David arrived and was a great help in making for an easy feeling all round. David helped with washing-up and bed-making and shopping and played chess with Dad and music with Mum and Jo and me and we were all merry and laughing practically all the time. We did not get a lot of time alone together but the idea really was to see each other in company and from a different angle, and this we succeeded in doing and it was a success too - more than I had dared to hope. We walked round the Downs and Sea Walls, up by the Observatory, and across the bridge to Abbots Leigh (where we had a pitched battle with a gander and lost it ignominiously!) We visited the Copper Kettle more than once and had 3 concerts on following nights at the Colston Hall - they were excellent. We browsed in George’s and I got a Greek dictionary and a book by D.H.Hudson which David wanted (and which I have kept to read first!) and he got  me Housman’s Last Poems which I wanted.

David had to go on Tuesday evening and I saw him off with a heavy heart and not much of a beam of sunlight on the horizon. It seems Isobel is holding fast to the stalemate position and there seems no answer to it except migration to America and that is a big thing to face. Mums said she would rather I gave up David now completely rather than risk giving my love to him in vain and so perhaps missing happiness later on. She doesn’t trust David altogether - she thinks him too attractive and I think possibly a little unscrupulous. Dads said he liked David but he saw little prospect of our ever being married - a brick wall in front all the way! I feel I shall wait for this year which we had appointed and then if there is no advance and if I can still face the idea of saying it perhaps we will have to say goodbye. My love is very real and growing deeper and wider and saner and it would be a terrible waste if we both had to wither up such a wonderful sympathy as we have found in each other. Still, we’ll wait and see and hope.

Goodnight!

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Sunday December 20th 1942

Before I leave Queensbury I want to record a bit about it, or I shall forget it later on. Recently my writing has been so much in the realm of personal feelings and relationships that the background of daily work has been omitted from the picture. Yet I have learnt quite a lot and met a good many people recently - there are many advantages in being pulled into the army, and Hird and I agreed the other day that we certainly did not regret it having happened.

Queensbury is a largish mill town typical of all Yorkshire mill towns, but perched up 1100ft and much too bleak and exposed for a hutted camp really. The school consisted of about 600 A.T.S. - about 150 or so permanent staff and the rest trainees coming for either 3 weeks as S.B.O.s or 6 weeks as I.P.O.s . There were about 12 - 15 permanent officers and the mess was a jolly and usually very smoothly-running affair. I settled in quite easily and was soon on friendly terms with all of them, though intimate with none. The officers changed so rapidly that after being here less than 5 months I am already almost the oldest inhabitant. Perhaps the one I knew and liked best was Johnnie, and that only because she was a companion-loving, sensitive and lonely person who needed someone to hang on to and who related me as a suitable prop. But she was very quick-witted and entertaining and I liked her well, especially during the last few days of her stay here when she was ill, had fainted and cracked her scalp open and I had to look after her. Smithy - the messing officer - I also developed a soft spot for. She was so transparently straight-forward and a rather muddle-minded and kindly person who accepted all things, albeit with a good deal of mumbling comment on occasion. One could (and did) rely on her to do all the little odd jobs you didn’t like to ask anyone else to do. Her bedroom was next to mine in the end Nissen hut and she made a good ‘stable companion’ as she termed it.

Of the others there is little to say and nothing worth recording (though that rarely deters me!) The new C.O. - Mrs. Hollis - was showing promise of being a really interesting and unusual person and Tansley-Witt who had only newly arrived on the scene, also attracted me, but they have both departed now to Strathpeffer and I shall not be able to get to know them after all.

At the moment the school is practically empty - about 20 people are here, half A.T.S. and half incoming Signal Corps people. The place is upside down and sleeping in the old company offices  and feeling quite out of place. There is no work for me to do and I feel restless and listless too. My new job is to be at the C.R.S. at Stafford Rd. and that is a pleasing prospect.I shall be working with Capt. Walsh and I like him very much and he likes me too I think. He is a middle-aged, odd-looking dark man, very efficient but not coldly so; in fact he is very kindly and has a good sense of fun and doesn’t stick too firmly to red tape - at least he knows when it is safe to ignore it!

I am impatient to get settled down in my new billets - probably the A.T.S. officer’s mess in a converted house near the C.R.S. I must stay on here though until the new M.O. for the Signal Corps arrives next Thursday (Christmas Eve!) though I may wangle it that I live at Halifax and come in here each morning when necessary. Then I could get used to the A.T.S. officers before Christmas - otherwise I’m going to have rather a miserable Christmas this year I fear.

It isn’t lunch time yet, so for a change I shall have to say - 

Good morning!

Categories
1941 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1941

by Margaret Taylor, age 26-27 years
January - November 1941

Meg qualifies as a Doctor, and starts her first job as House Surgeon at Queen Mary's Hospital for children, Carshalton. This is still in the era before the N.H.S. was formed in 1948. Later she gets promoted to A.M.O.

She shares her assessments of colleagues, often without holding back (after all, this was her private journal).

  • January 1st 1941 First job after qualifying - Trying to assess her new colleagues, their characters, motivation and what they think of their new recruit.
  • June 18th 1941 Promotion, salary increase and more thoughts on colleagues.
  • June 22nd 1941 A well-meant but unneeded morality lecture!
  • November 20th 1941 Death of a colleague, moving to medical side.

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January 1st 1941

Again I have neglected this book for months. But there is not an awful lot to add, though my life now is very different from when I last wrote.

In November I passed B.S. and so became ‘duly qualified’. Staynes, Wilkins and I applied for the junior anaesthetist job at R.F.H. and Wilkins was appointed. I was a bit depressed at the time but applied for the H.S. job at Carshalton which I had heard was vacant several weeks before the results came out. I had very little hope that the job was still open, but hoped that there would be another one soon.However Dr. West rang up the following day and I arrived here about three days later - having registered and joined the B.M.A. on my way down through London!

A first job I knew would not be easy anywhere, but I knew I should enjoy myself here better than anywhere, for I knew and liked the hospital and knew that the residents were bound to be nice people. I am enjoying myself here very much, and could ask for no kinder work-mates than I have. But there are also a good many bleaker moments when I long to get away from it all, for no special reason; I am always inclined to feel that I am a ‘misfit’ and an outsider in any community. I don’t ‘mingle’ easily or let fling wholeheartedly as many people manage to do when living together. Anyway I don’t think the others dislike me, though they are older and more adult in their activities and outlook - so sometimes I do feel left out, because I don’t sympathise with them.

Dr. Thornton is the only one who was here when I came down in January. He is a loveable little Yorkshire man who is teased unmercifully and thoroughly enjoys it. He is very kind to me and I am missing him now he is away on holiday. Dr. Colwin is middle aged and an outspoken gentleman. I think I like him, though he can be very prejudiced and rude, and he is behind the drinking parties which have been an estranging and depressing influence for me just recently. Dr. Key is not yet sized up in my mind. Outwardly he is a quiet, highly strung and kind person but occasionally he shows himself to harbour ill will and criticism which is vented behind the culprit’s back. I never feel I quite know where I am with him, and whether he thinks I am an awful fool and nitwit whom one must needs be kindly to. Dr. Last is an elderly gentleman who is in the mess but whose interests are outside it, and he is seen mainly at meal times and when he is in search of someone to be on duty for him while he goes out. I think he is a harmless old man and in his rather slap-dash way an astute clinician. But he does eat noisily!

Dr. May is unpopular here, chiefly because she is very tactless and rather staid and slow. But really she is very well-meaning and kindly, and keen on her work.

Dr. Ritchie is of the ‘modern school’ and a gay spark, but she is a first-rate children’s doctor and a sympathetic personage. Dr. Cordin is Scotch, I think, or partly so. He is attractive, well built and cheery, but his sense of humour is of the lowest and he was roaring drunk the other night when he and Bruno invaded my bedroom to wish me a Happy New Year. I want to like him, for he is fundamentally nice I think, he plays music well and loves it, and he is excellent with children and very fond of them. But his low humour and his like of drink are repugnant to me and I end up with mixed feelings, but an inclination to give him the benefit of the doubt. Bruno, Dr. Angleman, is a square little Jew, clever and quiet usually, though he follows Dr. Cordin’s and Dr. Ritchie’s lead when there is fun afoot. He gets teased continually about girls, but is quite innocent on that score I’m sure, and too shy to push himself without encouragement - moral or liquid.

I wish frequently that there were some girls of my own age and outlook here for company, but even at the best of times and with full opportunity I often withdraw into privacy rather than join any party that is going on, so maybe it wouldn’t make much difference.  Mr McKeown I haven’t mentioned yet and he is the person I have most to do with, for I work in the same wards as he does and we do all the ward work and routine operating together., He is a little Irishman, not out of the top drawer but as kindly and sympathetic and helpful as any H.S. would wish. Whether he regards me as an incumbens to be carted round in his shadow, or as a companion in arms, or as a nuisance which is unhappily unavoidable I really can’t discover, but he treats me very kindly and I am happy helping him and never mind bothering him for help or consulting him over difficulties however trivial.

Dr. West, the presiding giant of the casualty, is an odd man, fundamentally very nice and certainly very able, but he has his moods and he has his idiosyncracies, to which all must comply. He thinks and acts sometimes exasperatingly slowly and occasionally quite illogically, but you can’t help liking him and wanting to be in his good books rather than his bad ones.

I’ll write again soon. Goodnight!

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June 18th 1941

I meant to write again soon but as usual left it longer than I intended. Anyway there is not a great deal to add. I am still at Carshalton, and just embarking upon another term of office here, and the prospect gives me great joy. I have never been happier anywhere than I am here; both the work and the daily life I am enjoying tremendously and now summer has really started and it is scorchingly hot at last, I feel like singing all day - though mostly I moderate it to a whistle to save the others unnecessary discomfort!

After I had been here 6 months, I still wanted to stay on, and would cheerfully have renewed my H.S. job, but Dr. West and Dr. Key arranged that I would be promoted to a Grade II A.M.O., jumping my salary from £120 to £250 a year and that was grand. But thank goodness I have not become completely mercenary yet and I said I would rather stay as H.S. on the old basis than get a budge up and be given no practical work in the theatre on Mr. Lambimunde and Mr. Yeter Bell’s cases, which are the most interesting in the hospital to my way of thinking. They arranged it that I got my cake and ate it too, for now I am doing the same work, but am nominally (and monetarily!) on a Grade II standard. I am not sure what will happen in August when Mr. McKeown’s EMS contract is renewed, for he may leave or become part-time here , and that would mean more work, but it is quite uncertain as yet.

The mess has changed quite a lot since I came. We have had several locums:- first Dr. Bradwell, who lasted only a few weeks, and whose departure did not fill my heart with anguish, then Dr. Stewart, who came at the same time but stayed about 3 months, and whom I liked very much and still miss. She was small, dark, pretty, very good company and cheerful and original. She lives in a flat in Chelsea and I sometimes go and visit her there. One dayI am going to down to her house in Ewhurst near Dorking. Then Shumball came here for about 3 months; she was pregnant , and when she left baby was only a few weeks away. I never liked Shub. overmuch at the time but after living at close quarters with her I now like her a good deal, though she is certainly an odd person and takes a lot of knowing. ‘Casual’  is the word that fits her better than any other, but I think her clinical work was definitely good and her heart was in the right place, and she would be a good friend (which is the true test of any character.)

These three have thus come and gone, and Dr. Ritchie and Dr. Cordin have both gone too - to join the R.A.F. - staff capacity only! - and good riddance to them say I, though that sounds worse than I meant it to. They didn’t really fit in, they were too blasé, too darn lazy and too sophisticated for the rest of us, and the air is healthier now they have gone. I wonder if they will get married; I rather expect they may.

Dr. Colwin has moved to the Downs as their M.S. but he comes in here often and still has cases under his care in hospitals. This occasional Colwin dose is all right, concentrated Colwin is definitely all wrong  and I find it rather nauseating.

Additions to the mess who are still ‘with us’ are Dr. Ewards who has been here less than a week and Dr. Ahern who arrived tonight. Dr. Edwards is typical R.F.H. and I fear rather uninteresting though not at all a person to dislike - in fact rather tepid altogether. But it is too early to judge and maybe I malign her.

Dr. Ahern looks all right but his misdeeds have raced him here and I expect him to reveal a strong tendency to liquor fortes and maybe some other vices, but there is no hurry to label him yet either.

My views on the ‘old stagers’ haven’t changed much. Perhaps I would add that Dr. Thornton can be an old and very exasperating fool over clinical cases, but that doesn’t affect his resident assets. Dr. Key has been extremely kind in heaps of ways and I owe him a lot for getting my promotion. Yet I still feel that his manner does him more than justice and he is not completely the frank great-hearted gentleman he thinks he is - but then he is not far short of it most of the time so I like him quite sincerely. Dr.McKeown I like more and more , the better I get to know him; there is nothing but kindness in him.

Dr. Last is oddly conceited, but rather a dear; Dr. Mobel I can’t fathom at all; Dr. May is an exasperating chatterbox, but quite entertaining if you can bear to listen. Bruno is nice, but I fear I can’t like him as much as he wants me to! Dr. West I have a hearty respect and liking for.

That’s about the lot and it is after midnight so - Goodnight!

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June 22nd 1941

I must write a short note tonight to record a poorly camouflaged moral lecture given to me by Dr. Key this evening! He really is rather a dear to take enough interest to want to keep me onb the straight and narrow path. I had known all the afternoon that he had something he wanted to talk to me about, for he kept asking me what I was going to do and was I going to sit out in his garden.

Anyway I went into his house with Dr. and Mrs. Last to hear the news and Mr. Churchill’s speech to the nation (incidentally Germany invaded Russia today!) and he said ‘don’t go’ when they went, so I fetched my sewing and settled down, ostensibly to listen to the music on his wireless, which had just been newly plugged in and set in working order.

After a good deal of chat about nothing particular we delved a bit deeper into abstract things, as we usually manage to do if left for any length of time. Cunningly weaved into the generalities I received the information that Dr. Ahern is engaged, that he believes firmly and unalteringly that woman’s place is in the home, and that he would not be troubled by a filthy house to live in, he would not even notice it! All this, I fear, was prompted by the fact that I have been sitting at the small table with Dr. Ahern alone for lunch for 2-3 days, that we have chatted freely and amusingly together, and that on his second day here I went with him into Sutton to get some tennis shoes! I am feeling well and truly abashed now, and am wondering if everyone thinks I have been throwing myself at the fellow’s head. I shall have to be awfully careful I can see, everyone gossips so much for so little reason. Actually I had thought he was quite nice, but beyond that I hadn’t ventured, and he is not a person I think I would ever want to marry, as he is too rough and too Irish.

I didn’t show Dr. Key that I saw through his gentle little plot, and whether he thinks I did or not I don’t know. I am grateful to him for bothering to act the role of guardian; I wish I could let him know I am grateful but that would be a ticklish job!

How very complicated!

Goodnight! 

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November 20th 1941

Dr. West died tonight. He had a ‘stroke’ on Monday, and did not regain consciousness at all. It has shaken and depressed us all profoundly, and we can’t forget the tragedy of it wherever we go or whatever we are doing. The whole hospital is running on the soft pedal, though work proceeds almost normally and outwardly there is no change.

It seems incredible that there is no longer Dr. West - “the Fuhrer” we nick-named him recently - to consult about our own more difficult or worrying cases, and nobody to walk with short little strides past the dining room window punctually at 9:30 every morning. His inimitable little notes and copies of his letters to parents are scattered profusely amongst the children’s notes, and they bring his dry sense of humour and his great simple humanity very vividly to mind. His notes were his speciality and nothing could be more characteristic of him.

Four days ago he was having meals with us and everything was pleasant and settled. Now we shan't see him any more; Mrs. West and the boys are left alone, a family with no head to it; and there are many changes brewing for the hospital, and they mostly sound most unattractive.

We are bound to get another superintendent shortly I imagine - Dr. Key, after coping valiantly with floods of work for a week or two will have someone from outside planted on him over his head. I only hope it is someone nice - not Dr. Colwin, who is most difficult to get on with and who rubs Dr. Thornton, Dr. Ahern and Dr. Key the wrong way; and not a surgical man who would rob Mac. of his job.

I am swapping over to the medical side in a week or two. In many ways I shall be sorry, for I thoroughly enjoy working with Mac, and Mr. Lambrinudi and Mr. Yates Bell are jolly nice to me too. But I think I ought to learn some medicine while I am here and if I don’t change now I never will. Broughton is probably coming as H.S. - I wish it had been almost anybody else, but it can’t be helped!

I’ve got my tenth lecture tomorrow, and it is very late so

Goodnight!