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!
- Thursday January 29th 1942 Still at Carshalton. No longer on the surgical team, looking after the children's wards.
- Sunday 10th May 1942 The responsibility and strain of caring for terminally ill young children leads to an emotional outburst. Comforted by Dr. Key
- Tuesday July 14th, 1942 Called up to the Royal Army Medical Corps - and an unexpected declaration.
- Saturday September 26th 1942 Induction at Aldershot, first meeting with David Holland.
- Sunday September 27th 1942 an outing with David Holland
- Wednesday October 21st 1942 Meeting with David and his wife at Betws-y-Coed and exploring the idea of a "Triple Alliance".
- Friday October 23rd 1942 More time at Betws-y-Coed
- Sunday November 8th 1942 Another weekend with David
- Thursday Nov 26th 1942 Wondering about David and his wife
- Saturday Dec 12th 1942 David comes to Bristol and meets Meg's parents
- Sunday December 20th 1942 About Queensbury Camp
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.
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!
- spica A hip spica (pronounced 'spy-kah') is a type of cast used to keep the hip or thigh still.
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.
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!
RAMC - Royal Army Medical Corps.
Saturday September 26th 1942
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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 -
One reply on “Meg’s Diary 1942”
Funny to hear about the complicated romantic situation young Meg was in, as I had no inkling that she had experienced such things in her youth!