Summary of Ronald Loftus Cummins
Ronald Loftus Cummins’ story covers his entire WW2 experience from his enlistment in 1940 until his discharge in 1946. His file comprises the very personal letters he wrote home to his wife along with his diary entries, and letters amongst his friends, which have been transcribed into a chronological narrative. This story is an unusually personal account of the events of WW2 in North Africa and Italy.
Ronald’s story has been divided into five parts, of which three are presented on this website. This section covers July to December 1942 when Ronald was captured as a PoW in North Africa and sent to Camp 59, Vario in Italy, via transit camps PG75 (Bari) and PG78 (Sulmona). Please contact the Monte San Martino Trust if you would like to see his entire file.
The full story follows, in two versions. The version in the first window below is the original scanned version of the story. In the second window below is the transcribed version in plain text.
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July to December 1942
[Editor’s note: the letters and diaries of R.L Cummins have been transcribed and integrated together so that his letters and diary entry for the same date can be read together.]
On 1st July Rommel, whose Afrika Corps was by this time exhausted and running out of supplies, attacked. Auchinleck counter-attacked on 2nd July. The battle lasted for two weeks and the 8th Army managed to hold the line.
2nd July 1942
MARCONI RADIO AND TELEGRAPH COMPANY OF EGYPT
NLT MAJOR CUMMINS MEF
TWO YEARS AGO TODAY PERFECT MEMORY SWEETHEART PETER FOURTH TOOTH LONGING FOR NEWS ALL LOVE DARLING PRECIOUS
On 5th July RLC and D Coy. Re-joined the Bn. at Mareopolis. The Bn. had sustained heavy losses, since Gazala approx. 300 men were killed, wounded or missing. They had hardly any equipment and vehicles, only one Coy. had Bren guns. By that point in the War they had been defeated in France and were the rearguard for the Dunkirk retreat, they had had to fight their way out at Gazala, then again at Mersa Matruh, suffering great losses. However morale remained good as the men knew that it was not the fault of their officers nor lack of fighting ability but purely lack of the right equipment to fight the highly mechanised and heavily armed German troops. Ed.
Letter No. 84 5th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own beloved sweetheart and Peter’s darling Daddy.
Nothing from you at all this week, precious, but I was much relieved when your Mummy phoned Billy W’s message. Shelagh and Daphne had had nothing either and so were very relieved. I suppose after all your Transport went again as you had to walk across the desert.
That must have been pure hell in all that heat. I am thankful you are light as these big, heavy men’s feet give out in no time. I hope yours weren’t much, darling. Evidently you have been re-equipped very quickly as we heard yesterday the 50th. was at it again taking prisoners and destroying tanks. I wonder what Brigade you have instead of the 150th? I do hope a good one and one that will come up to the standard of the 50th. and be a great help to you.
There was a picture in today’s paper of the “Auk” talking to some troops in the front line, unfortunately all were back views as I did hope to see your face. Every British infantry officer whose remarks are reported in the paper are all my Rabbit’s! It seems more hopeful today, thank heaven and we hear re-enforcements are pouring in and I do hope a hell of a lot of Grants and large guns. Here we sit in the garden having filled ourselves with tea and everything is lovely and peaceful and there’s my poor sweetheart in an absolute inferno. It isn’t fair. I should be with you too. A little, round, podgy bundle of nuisance getting in the way of everything but still Bunny beside Rabbit.
PR is on the lawn too in his pen having a grand time with my old straw hat. He has got hiccoughs and is talking to himself which is a grand mixture and produces miaous and sounds! Now he has got rid of the hat and is throwing the woosy bear about having got a firm grip on its bottom. He is making a sort of gurgling, blowing noise!
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Darling, I can’t give you the last APO statement as I have sent it back to Glover to ask him the explanation of the double income tax. One lot’s 1941/42 and the other 42/43 and you paid it all last year. It is quite beyond me and I thought perhaps he could clear it up. You’re certainly not going to have to part with two lots of tax if I can help it! It happened last month too.
We went to Church this morning and your name was read out which was lovely but instead of saying R.L. Cummins Mr. Dittmer said Ronald Cummins which was rather nice. He said, too, a prayer for all our men in Egypt and for General Auchinleck to lead you rightly. There was also a thanksgiving for Bunny Bickford who had come all through Burma and had just reached Calcutta and for Jack Norris, a village lad who was in the Hermione and is safe.
I went up yesterday, before a wonderful supper of grilled salmon, lettuce, buttered toast, strawberries and cream, we take the top of the milk, and some wonderful Spanish sherry which Mummy found one bottle of, it was a treat and did us good and we drank to your safe homecoming, sweetheart, to do the Church flowers and Mr. Dittmer was kneeling on a hassock cutting the hay in the church yard as not a soul in this village will do it and keep the place tidy for £12 a year! He thankfully left it and came in and chatted to me and filled vases and so on. We discussed mostly your battles, darling, and he said he thinks Tobruk was fifth column work. His idea is that in the general mix up of the retreat some Germans and Italians, who could speak perfect English and were dressed in British Officer’s uniforms, mingled with the crowd and when the time came appeared and issued wrong orders which resulted in the enemy breaking in. It was, apparently, an old trick of the Germans in the Boer War, they would cry “Cease fire” and the men did and in came the Boers. As the Germans once they have got hold of an idea, stick to it I wouldn’t be surprised. I did the vases with Canterbury bells and sweet William and a few ramblers and pinks.
We had rather a hectic day yesterday and my legs were thankful to go by byes at midnight.
First of all I had the ironing and hoovering to do as I hadn’t been able to do it Friday morning as PR was in a rage because it was raining and he had to go to bed in his cot and he yelled and yelled, till in desperation I put him in his pen. Then he was quite happy and good but had successfully finished my morning’s work off. Then we had our Sunday lunch yesterday and Mummy had a field day with spoons and forks and plates and Hope was there too so I washed up till nearly tea time, got tea and then PR, who had decided he didn’t approve of tomato for his dinner and had only eaten half of it, started to say he was hungry. I gave him a rusk which he thought was lousy and he spat it out. I do hope, darling, his manners will have improved by the time you come home or I shall be ticked off! Anyway, just time to gulp down some tea and then go out into a sea mist, drizzle and cut the flowers. I was looking and feeling like a sweep when Major Roberts came along the road and said ” you do look well” and roared with laughter, I told him rather coldly I always looked well however I felt and so he was a bit more hearty and stayed to have quite a long chat. Then “Bunny put on her smart frock” and I went up to the Church and to return a dish which Mrs. Dittmer had very kindly sent down with a lovely, open gooseberry tart on it for our lunch. Wasn’t it sweet of her? We did enjoy it.
Friday afternoon the family all rested after Peter’s morning effort and after tea we all set out to the Post Office and to do the rations and re-registering and really, darling, I was rather amused by a small incident I shall tell you about. On my way back, Granny and the pram having gone on slowly from Mullins’, a woman with two children stopped me and said something which I didn’t quite catch and it turned out to be “Have you heard from your hubby?” I said not since the 19th and that set her off and she talked about hers whom she
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said had been through Dunkirk and all through Burma and was now in India. Had I been asked to describe her I should have said a very respectable sergeant or sergeant major’s wife. Her voice was all you know, darling, but she was very pleasant. I couldn’t think who she could be but she knew me all right and said she had heard so much about me. I made a few more inquiries about her “hubby”-ghastly word- and it turned out he went out as a Captain and is now a Major! You could have knocked me down with a fevver. So we were meant to be Major’s wives together sort of thing. I have nothing against her, she was very nice but it sort of stuck in my throat, all old school tie and the rest of it!, that we were getting as democratic as all that. I, afterwards, discovered who she was, the wife of the borough man who does all the drainage and so on. He’s frightful, a great, big, bouncing, loud – voiced man and we had a row when he had to see the specifications for the alterations to this house and he didn’t approve of them and was fearfully troublesome, hurling his weight about. Actually we didn’t come into the row it was between him and the architect. He is, apparently, the Ordnance Corps. LAD. I am a fearful snob aren’t I darling?
Hope came over on Saturday and did some gardening. She thinks Terence is definitely on his way and doesn’t expect to hear from him till she sees him. She is lucky to be getting him back after only a few months separation. I hope she will produce a baby Tibbits this time.
She is going into Lyme Hospital to have something done which will help matters though the Doctors say there is nothing wrong with her. Did I tell you that the brother, Nigel, died before leaving the Cambletown? Isn’t it ghastly to hear that now after all these long months of hoping on. Apparently, Beattie, the CO, wrote from a prison camp to his wife and told her he was certain that Nigel was dead and she communicated with the Admiralty. He and Beattie were trying to get the wounded off after Nigel had lit the fuses and as far as they gather he was killed by machine gun fire from the shore. Poor girl, it is ghastly for her. She has left her son with her Mother and a nursemaid and gone to London and got quite a good job with the Office of Works and Buildings assessing scrap metal. I can’t think how she can bear to be parted from the boy. Terence will be heartbroken when he hears as they were very devoted to each other. What ghastly things do happen.
I must tell you, darling, what happened just before supper. I heard the most curious noise coming from upstairs and discovered it was Cuddles having learnt that he could swing about in his cot. It is hung on legs and we never knew it before. There he was, legs waving in the air, bedclothes all where they shouldn’t be, roaring with laughter. He thought I had come in to join in the fun and was fearfully pleased and we both laughed away and I tried, ineffectually, to tuck him in and then left him as happy as a king. Four people came in to see him after tea, Mrs. Hart’s two maids and old nanny who had come to return the two toys he left up there after his tea-party. He had thrown them behind the chaise longue, out of sight and though I had had a last look round I had missed them. When I rang up Mrs. Hart to ask if she had them she said in a rather proud housewifely voice “the verandah’s done every day, they would have been found before now” and then went away to look and came back laughing to say we wouldn’t think much of their cleaning! Mrs. Churchhouse was with them, she and “Alf” used to have the Anchor and she was a marvellous cook and the same families had been going to the Anchor for about fifty years to sample it. They all thought PR was lovely and he smiled, dribbling at them.
Mrs. Hart had heard from her daughter-in-law who had had a very recent cable to say he was all right and he said in an airgraph that re-inforcements were pouring in so that is a good thing. There must have been plenty of stuff there to re-equip you all so quickly. We had a very nice tea party up there. It has a lovely view and you can see the Cliff Guest House
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perfectly. Both Mr and Mrs thought PR quite the nicest baby they had seen for a very long time and “so well behaved and well brought up” I swelled with maternal pride. He did look rather a pet and was very sweet laughing up at them. It was quite like a procession going down the hill again as so many people passed and wanted to look at him. We stopped for Greta’s Mother to see him and she was thrilled as she never can get out here as she can’t walk much.
Mrs. Weld rang up on Saturday morning to say they were all right though it had been a very nasty experience. The bombs fell straight in front of the Council cottages, as you drive in to the village and uprooted a pylon, hence no phone and no electric light. Nobody was killed but there were several injured. The cottages were badly damaged, roofs and ceilings down, windows blown in and so on. Curiously enough those who had locked their front doors found them unlocked by the blast and vice versa. Her sister had a very narrow escape.
They have a lovely old house in the village and their bedroom ceiling came in but fortunately not the bit actually above the bed. There were lots of ceilings and windows out in the village and Mrs. Weld had the laundry one down and several windows out and the porch of the Chapel down. It was a raider being chased and it just chucked out its bombs. Mrs. W had lots of evacuee children there and some of the poor little mites were very frightened. The priest came down and comforted them at once and they all helped to restore order and opened their rest centre and so on. She had had another cable from Humphrey to say he was all right. Now she too has an account with Cable and Wireless and she calls Mr Ravenshaw Frank Philips and thinks he is delightful. She told me, too, she had heard from H that our tanks were grand as to armour but the guns in them were useless and the German tank’s guns were mounted on a swivel and so could fire in any direction but ours were immovable.
Apparently, the Matildas, Crusaders and Mallerthins [? Ed.] are completely out of date and the only ones any use are the Grants and they only had very few of those. He wished all our men could be given the proper tools with which to do the job properly instead of, as John Gordon puts it in today’s Express:” last year’s weapons to fight next year’s wars with”. How does all that bear out in the light of your experience, darling? Will you be allowed to write me everything you have done? I don’t see why not as, after all, the enemy know what you have done and it can’t help them. One thing I am very anxious to know is what on earth happened to those three hundred tanks which were seventy by the evening. It sounds like very bad intelligence or something. As far as one can gather from the papers “On active service” list it must have been RTR as there were a lot in these last few days. It is tragic.
I haven’t heard anything from Kit and so am much hoping Dick is all right too. Evidently the son of Major and Mrs. Roberts, who was the MO at Tobruk, had seen Terence in Alexandria as his cable to his parents saying he was all right was the same date as the one Terence sent Hope saying he was coming home. I am so glad he is safe as the poor mother was in a state. He was a jolly lucky man to get out as the Chaplain didn’t. I wonder what has happened to all those men who got stuck there and where they are now, poor devils.
Alison Rowe and a friend and Caroline are coming for tea on Tuesday, darling. I wonder if she is still so fat and can’t crawl. Mrs. Weld said Nicky weighed 20lbs. and could say “Dada” but she took that with a very large salt cellar! I say “dadad” to PR and he smiles so happily, he positively beams all across his face. I do hope that is the first word he says, sweetheart.
I went up a few minutes ago and there he was flat on his back, bed clothes all of and he stirred as I gently pulled them over him as far as I could and then crept away quickly for fear he would wake up. We have got to buy him some more nappies as the ones Bunny Baby had he has worn out and there are more holes than nappy and though Mummy is quite content
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with them because she doesn’t want to part with 12 coupons for anything as dull as nappies, she would rather buy him wool or something, Granny, however, has put her foot down with a bang. I am also thinking of writing to the Witney people to get an eiderdown and quilt for Cuddle’s, or rather Dawson’s, cot and if I am lucky I might get a pair of single, blue blankets as well which will do for PR later on. Everything is going to be “Utility” now and so many things are going off the market. However, darling, the Bunny family haven’t done too badly so far and have accumulated a good few things.
Did I tell you Daphne suggested coming down from Frome for the day? Apparently it isn’t far and she can do it in about forty minutes by train. She suggested lunch at the Bridport Arms or the Bull but Mummy said why not here as she is rather doubtful if they will feed casuals in hotels now. I remember the BA wouldn’t last year. By the way there was a fire there the other day to the thatch roof but there was no inside damage done.
Poor Granny has toothache and so must go to the dentist tomorrow if possible. Isn’t it rotten? Speaking of dentists, Major Cummins, seems to remind me of something. Well, well, of course. When are you going to one?!!! I think I shall send David a special message via Daphne, will you please take little Ronnie to have his toothies seen to and he can have a pint afterwards if he is a brave boy. You’re a funny little Rabbit, darling, you’ll face dive bombers, Germans, tanks, mortars, shells and goodness knows what else without turning a hair and yet mention the dentist to you and you’d rather crawl on your tummy jack and beg for mercy than go and see one!!!
Precious, an appeal came to Mummy yesterday from St. Dunstan’s and really I was so utterly thankful to have had good news of you the night before that I put in a cheque for five guineas as a thank offering. You know, precious, I look at it like this, on Thursday night Mummy wanted some letters posted to go off by the early post and I went down with the dogs and it was just striking ten, our hour, darling, when I got to the church on the way back and so I went in a left them in the porch and knelt down and prayed for my beloved’s safety.
Then Friday night came the message from Billy which was an answer to my prayer and Saturday morning the appeal. On the Thursday I made my request, on the Friday it was granted and on the Saturday came the chance to try and show my gratitude, but, darling, five guineas was a mere drop in the ocean to what I would like to have given. Five million and that wouldn’t be anywhere near like enough. I have so much to be thankful for, darling heart. St. Dunstan’s is such a wonderful cause too.
Darling, I have told you all that we have been up to this last week. I thought on Friday how it was the second anniversary of the day you first came here to sherry. All these days are so full of memories and I often stop whatever I am doing to picture you walking in at the gate or something else that we were doing together. One day it will all come back again and we shall be happy rabbits with our powder puffs wagging.
I could enlarge for pages on Churchill’s speech which wound up the debate in the Commons and I could go on and on about Libya and Egypt and what utter hell it is for us who love all of you fighting there, but you don’t want Brenda Bunny ad lib on all the things you know only too well about and the airing of views which you will be sick and tired of hearing. You will want to hear about your son and the garden and things like that to take your mind away from your awful surroundings, so precious, Bunny has done her bestest and forgive her if the war has come into it.
I haven’t, still, been able to get any films which is damnable. Joy hasn’t reported whether she has had any luck with Will R. Rose. Perhaps Rosamund will send the copies of the ones she took soon so that I can let you have those. Hider, the local photographer, was very
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gloomy and said he thought films would go off the market altogether, I am fed up as I wanted to send you lots now it is nice weather.
The roses, darling, have been heaven and we are about to have a lapse waiting for the second crop. The broad beans we are enjoying and also “bunny food” with lovely crisp hearts and the strawberries have been very good as you will have gathered, sweetheart. I wish you could have eaten them. The delphiniums are coming on very well and the ramblers will soon be properly out. It is a lovely place for Cuddles to be in, so healthy and airy, he has real pink Dorset cheeks now. Darling, it is too frightful you’re not able to see him, he’s such a poppet and it is so fearfully cruel you shouldn’t be able to rejoice in your very own, beautiful, little son. He is perfect in every way, darling, and so like his precious Daddy.
My very own sweetheart, it is beddy byes time and Granny will be shouting “Brenda, Brenda” Remember, darling, in the old days when she always called that when my bath was ready and we were very busy saying good morning to each other? Precious, I am praying for another very recent cable from you. Take all care, won’t you, always of yourself as your Bunny loves you with all her heart and you mean everything in the world to her.
God bless you my beloved and bring you back safely to me soon and keep you always in His loving care through all the dangers you have to go through.
Granny sends her love, very much of it, the dogs devoted licks and Peter all the love in his little heart to his precious daddy whose photo he pats gently and smiles at.
All my love always my adored Rabbit from your devoted Bunny.
Millions of X and hugs.
Drawing of Bunny family.
5th July 1942 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
You are in our thoughts every minute of the day, anyhow the news is good, up to the 24th.
Billy Watson is in Hospital, Mrs. Watson gathers Cairo, with bad feet owing to a long trek over the desert and he said in his letter all the others are safe and well. Mrs. Proud rang up a few minutes ago and she said Rachel had the same news but there was another officer in with him but didn’t give his name. She also said they had a 100 miles trek across the desert.
They must have been in retreat and out of it now. No, Peter Walton is still in Cairo from what his mother tells me, she had a letter from him the other day. Don’t worry, darling, about airing your views. You are not pessimistic and Ruth realises that and she only knows how anxious you are and knows how brave you are. We all sit and talk about you every night and thank God for you as you have brought such happiness to Ronnie. All the time he is out there he will be thinking ‘I must get back to Brenda, but I’ll be doing my best in the meantime’.
God bless you, darling, for bringing him that lovely thought. Brenda, if I could have looked the world over I would not have chosen a sweeter daughter-in-law. It has made all the difference to Ronnie knowing you are waiting for him when he comes back, you and Peter.
He loves his parents, and I hope, darling, I have been a good mother, but now I know he loves you best and I quite understand it. He will come back to you and when you get worried just think of the lovely reunion, just as I did after Dunkirk, when I found him kissing me at 2 o’clock in the morning in bed, when he climbed through the dining room window.
I think it was the most wonderful moment of my life. He looked like nothing on earth, unshaved and very grim and never even told us about his MC until Ernest Proud rang up the next morning congratulating us. Isn’t it like Ronnie.
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Yes, I feel very sorry for Ritchie. He did his best and, evidently, had not the equipment, and as you say referring back to Cairo for orders. Something went wrong and the sooner we realise it the better.
Sad to put Peter’s baby things away, but all the other things coming along will be just as thrilling, how I would love to see him, the photographs are perfectly sweet. He looks so alive and much nicer than Nicky. Con is thrilled at being a Godfather, he and Dorie came in today to say goodbye. They go off on Friday. They want Charlie and me to go up to Troon (Scotland) when they get settled. It will be in the lap of the Gods. they are sending various kitchen things, a present from Kirby Stephen, potato masher etc. all useful for kitchen use. So glad the early tea and dinner service arrived.
I am fairly fit now, hope your Mother is too. I don’t like to hear that her “back” is always with her.
All my love darling. Yours Granny M.
Airgraph No. 169 page 1 6th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own sweetheart RR.
I wish I could write you letter cards, they are so much more personal than these but, darling, you will have to pretend it is not photographed but really your Bunny’s writing. I had your airgraph 33 and letter cards 52 and 53 today so was terribly thrilled as it had seemed an age since I last heard. I was so furious with myself for having made you a cross rabbit and made you unhappy, my poor precious. You have got such a stupid little wife as you will have discovered over and over again and that was only one more classic example, but really, sweetheart, I am dreffully sowwy Bwenda Bunny and it is you to forgive me. It is me who feels like Cobber having been a naughty boy and coming for his pat, not you. I suppose to be accurate I should say Candy! As you will know I got myself in a fine old muddle but one thing I must comment on, my dream, and that is you’re a naughty, naughty Rabbit because you never told me you had been ill with piles. You poor darling, what absolute hell. They are such terribly painful things and you must have suffered so and you never said one word.
You didn’t want to worry me, darling, and it was very, very sweet of you but I would much rather know when things happen. That’s what I’m here for. sweetheart, to love and comfort you and after all we did promise ” in sickness and in health” didn’t we, precious? Now I am going over to another page so till you get it all my love, your Bunny XXX
Airgraph No. 169 page 2 6th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
Sweetheart, when you didn’t tell me you were in bed ill, how could I know and how could I realise that that was why I hadn’t heard from you at that particular time? Like after PR was born, I couldn’t think why you never wrote for a week, after your first letter card and when no explanation was forthcoming I did feel a bit hurt but now that you have told me the reason of course, precious, I completely understand. you see what I mean don’t you darling?
If I never wrote to you all one week and never mentioned why you would be worried too and wondering what had happened. You are a very dear, sweet rabbit to spare me as much as possible and I do appreciate it but would rather know everything, really I would. I tell you everything, every ache and twinge I have and in fact you know my whole life history since you went away and so please, please darling tell Bunny all you are up to always. I am rather wondering if you have had my cable as there was one on May 20th, an NLT, cancelling that airgraph 165 but you don’t mention having had it. It did occur to me that perhaps they weren’t getting through to you all right as I have sent you a lot. I will give you the dates of
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them since May 1st. and then you can check up, May 4th. NLT, May 20th. NLT, May 27th. NLT, June 11th. NLT, June 15th. NLT, June 19th. NLT, June 20th. NLT, June 23rd. Full rate, June 30th NLT. The one on June 20th was telling you to burn the airgraphs which you already had.
Airgraph 169 page 3 6th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
Great minds think alike, darling! I am so glad you did burn them, darling heart, as silly Bunny wished to goodness she had never sent them. It was maddening, part 3 never came with 1 and 2, though I am very glad I had put that little note on page 1 to say there were 3 pages and the 3rd. was the nicest. Perhaps you got 3 very soon afterwards and that cheered you up a bit. Oh darling, I could kick myself, I am awful. you were quite right when you said I wanted turning over and spanking hard. Hitting the nail on the head or rather the powder puff on the bottom!!! Your letter card about your leave came very soon after and I had issued the famous raspberries, hence the cable of May 20th then, darling, you will know about Shelagh having heard from Peter F and I would so much rather have heard it from you, my darling. You will know that too by now. Yes, precious, I had your letters written during March, 31, 32 and 33, airgraphs 22-26 and letter cards 46 and 47 and the cable.
I also have had, sweetheart, your letters 34 and 35 written during April and the letter cards 48 and 49 and airgraphs 26 to 29. darling, the one that I thought had taken 17 days to write was because you had referred to 34 several times when you meant 35 and I got muddled up! You poor precious, hearing about PR on the move at a halt. Anyhow it must have been a good halt! As to celebrations, I am sorry you didn’t have any proper ones either then or on your birthday. We will make some terrific ones when you come home to make up.
Airgraph 169 page 4 6th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
Darling heart, I adored the bit you underlined at the bottom of the page. It was too sweet. Bunny did feel all warm inside that you hadn’t been having a terrific whoopee with glamorous ATS that Sunday Express said Cairo was full of!!! Precious heart, you are all the world to me and I have gone and made you unhappy. you are so wonderful and you have done everything in your power to make me happy and it’s only me who caused a whirl and a terrific knock for my beloved rabbit and I hadn’t ought to have, poor precious. I promise faithfully I will never, never, never write like that again even if I get no news for ages and get ever so worked up, sweetheart. You must forget all about it. It is hell when I don’t hear from you, precious, and as you know I’m not very patient. You are a poppet to say you will write to me more, darling, you can’t possibly now as you will have such a packet on your hands.
If only I was with you. Evidently you couldn’t get me the cable away until the 19th, the one you said you were sending me about being crowned RR or the 23rd. being sent on the 12th. so I can quite see if cables are so hard to get away, the letter cards and airgraphs must be fearfully hard for you. Darling heart, please forgive me and send me a cable to say you have because I love you so terribly much and I feel a worm Bunny for having made you miserable.
God bless you, my precious, and take every care of that so very beloved self. How I wish I was with you, sharing it all. All the love in the world to you my own RR, your BUNNYXXX
8th July 1942 Not addressed.
My Darling Dream
Just got back after quite a hectic time and was able to go straight to the place Terence was. [Alexandria Ed.] So I got the enclosed which I do hope you will like.
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Piles of mail for me which I haven’t had time to open, everything is very rushed but it is grand to get good food etc. again.
Precious, I am writing a long letter to you now and will try and tell you all the news.
How I long for you to be with me, all the love in the world.
Airgraph 1 8th July 1942 6th. DLI MEF.
My Darling Precious.
At last I am able to write to you again after such a long time, I have tried to keep on sending cables and hope that they have done a little to ease the worry. Darling, when I arrived in there was stacks of your wonderful mail waiting for me, there is so much to say I don’t know where to start. Your PCs. from 97 to 110 give me lots of news, I am now within a few miles of Terence and will try and find him. Darling, it is wonderful to read your letters etc. again and to know that I can once again write to you. The Bn. got back here about 6 days before D Coy. I will explain in a letter, so if you hear of others hearing before you it wasn’t my fault, precious. I am starting on a letter card now and a letter. I have lost all my kit, I am afraid again more later. Please don’t worry, darling, I am fit and well and enjoying like hell the beer and food. This is just a note to let you know everything is OK, so all my love, darling heart, how I long to see you.
My love to all at Grove. Ronnie.
[Arrived 23rd. July 1942]
Letter Card No. 1 8th July 1942 6th. DLI MEF.
At long last I am able to write to you. I have done all I could to get cables away and I do hope, my dream, that they have done something to ease the worry. I am now within a few miles of Terence. Parts of the Bn. got back about a week ago before myself and D Coy., we were given a job which delayed us. There is so much to say, I don’t know where to start. D got back fairly complete, but I will go into that later, I am in fine fettle except for some sores on my hands which David is treating, one’s blood gets thin and a graze takes a long time to heal, but please don’t worry, darling, I am now enjoying life with plenty of beer and good food. They seem to have said a fair amount about us on the wireless some of it tough and we had some tough times but we gave Jerry some as well. Afraid I have lost a lot of things that were very dear to me, darling, in fact everything went except the suitcase and that only contained clothes and the large and small photo frame, thank heaven I have the latter.
All other photos, diaries, scrap book, books, wooden box, everything else has gone. I am heartbroken about it but I can’t do anything except claim and it is not the cash that I want.
When I got in there was tons of wonderful mail for me, thank you thousands of times, Darling, cigarettes for Coy., Penguins, pillow cases, writing material and books, bundles of papers, PCs. 97-110, letters 70-75 and cables. Also some from home, as I have said they are so full of things to answer I don’t know where to start. Glad the Majority pleased you, precious, I can’t understand why it took so long for you to hear as I sent word to you first.
Oh Darling, it is heaven to be able to write to you again, it is a long time now, afraid there will be a long gap. All my writing kit has gone so I am starting all from No. 1 again, your little red diary is such a loss. From your PCs. you seem to have got some of my cables which is grand. We have had one or two losses, darling, which you might as well know John Cathcart killed, poor lad, Duggie missing, Boyes Stone missing, my CSM missing, Bill Proud is slightly wounded but is going on well, otherwise we are OK. I am going to write to Mrs. Cathcart
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when I can find time. Well, darling dream, the second round is over, I think the third should about finish things and then home for me. Thank you, precious, for the wonderful things you write, your letters are life to me. I shall send a letter at first chance. I adore you. RR
[Arrived 22nd. July 1942]
10th July 1942 onwards.
Letter No. 1 10th July 1942 6th. DLI MEF.
My Darling Precious.
At last I am able to make a start on a letter to you. Since arriving back I have sent you two airgraphs and a letter card, also cables. Precious, your mail to me has been terrific, PCs. 85 to 113, letters 70-77, cables, parcels etc. I have given you particulars in my LC but once again thank you a thousand times, you can imagine what joy they were after so long without anything. I am so glad you have been getting my cables, if ever there was the slightest chance I tried to get one away. Darling, before going any further let’s forget all about airgraph 165 and my replies, we both said some very stupid things, but one thing I want you to know, precious, there were no glamorous SA’s on leave, it was very much a stag party.
Afraid I lost much that was near and dear to me in various places, precious, all my diaries, photos, scrap book, wooden box and contents, in fact every single thing except my suitcase of clothes. I am fed up, so much that I loved has gone, however some people lost everything so I can’t complain.
The wireless seems to have mentioned us quite a lot, too much, I think some awful rot has been talked, however most of us are safe and sound. Poor Cathcart was killed on 14/6/42 by a shell, he never knew what hit him, thank heaven. Duggie is missing believed to be a prisoner, Bill Proud got a slight wound, Wiggins and Boyes Stone are missing and Benthal is in hospital, otherwise all the others are OK. I will not go into the men but all the ones you know are OK except my CSM Wood who is a prisoner. I am only a few miles from where Terence was, I don’t think he will be there now but I will make some enquiries. It is heaven, darling, to get your mail, have something else but bully and to get beer. It must have been an awful time for you all but we are very well so there is no need for anymore. I have a few sores on me but they are getting better already and should be quite gone. Forgive pencil, darling, but all my writing things are gone, case, your wonderful little diaries, pen and everything, no more messages for Candy I am afraid unless you send her address.
Precious, I still don’t know where to start, I have such a bundle of mail it is almost too much to answer. So glad the majority gave you a thrill, the cable I sent you about it must have been delayed a lot as I sent it off a long time before BA, at a rough guess I should say about 24/5/42 but all the business out here played havoc with the mail, still it got to you which is the main thing. I am in a tent with Dick and George Wood, we have lots of chats at night about this and that. We have a Bn. mess again in which Sammy will talk shop, Mick had a very slight wound which turned septic the other day so he went into hospital but should be back any time now. Tim has a sore throat and Galloway, my other officer, is doing a course so once again I am running D Coy. on my own. Sgt. Dawson is now my CSM. We are busy enough with training etc. and this and that and the other but Mick and I did get time the other day to go into Local Vime [? Ed.] for a bath and a meal, I may be going in tomorrow again.
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Afraid this is going to be written in bits, precious. D Coy. is going into the town today, en bloc, for a few hours. George Wood and I are going in together, I am looking forward to the food and beer like anything, only hope we get away early as I have a lot of shopping to do. I have already made up a few of my losses, but I still have a lot to buy, some I can never replace, Dick is too busy to come. We are, at the moment, getting everyone cleaned up and paid out, they are very excited most not having seen a town for a very long time. Darling, I will have to stop, I have an inspection on, will write again tomorrow.
Just a few lines again, I am afraid, George and I had a grand time in the town but I did very little shopping except to get a parcel of cosmetics for you. I hope they will be all right.
I didn’t get in until 1.00 and we went straight for some beer and food, the latter was chicken, potatoes and peas, and then still feeling hungry we had cold ham and roast potatoes.
After this blow out we went and did a little shopping and then to the cinema, we saw a film called “A woman’s face” with Joan Crawford, quite good but rather grim. We got out about 6pm. and as we had to leave at 8.00 just had time for some more beer and a roast pigeon each followed by angels on horseback and then to the trucks to come back. I did enjoy it, darling, I forgot everything except you and just relaxed in it all. I was a pig over the food but it was so nice and I want as much good food as I can get to help cure these sores which are from a weak blood, so the more vitamins I can get into me the better. Precious, I have to recce a field firing course which D are spending the day and night on tomorrow so I will carry on tomorrow. I should have a bit of time to write then as far as I can see. The lads were very good yesterday, they hadn’t seen a town for long enough but they all turned up for the return journey and none of them were incapable, a very good show I think. Oh Precious, it is heaven being able to write to you again I did feel lost when I couldn’t.
Darling, I am writing this down within a short distance of the sea, which is most incredibly blue, we did our firing this morning and the lads are now bathing in the sea. I went in yesterday and may go in later on. I have all your letters etc. with me and have been going over it all again. Precious, you have a few points wrong but I am afraid I can’t give you the correct story because it might infringe the censorship regulations. It was all very rushed but no shambles, everything was organised and we gave Jerry some headaches on the way. I hope to tell you the whole story someday. I have a tent with me and it is very nice shade as at the present time the sun is very hot, it is a bit lonely alone but I have all your recent mail to comfort me. Darling, thank you so much for this pad and all the other things in the same parcel, it was a lovely one, and the Penguin books as well, I haven’t yet had time to read much but I will.
Precious, you asked me to tell you everything so I am going to tell you that I am in rather a low state at the present due, I expect, to the b——- desert which is the devil’s playground and also to the general small depression, I can’t work up any drive for anything, all I want to do is sit and do nothing. I am not the only one but it worries me a lot, so much which at one time I did without a murmur, now is a hard job of work. I am now so very impatient, a thing I have loathed all my life in anyone handling men, and I have to say if I am being honest that I am not the Coy. Comm. I used to be. The lads have taken my bad temper very well but it is a man’s job to get over it and sometimes I think it’s going to be too much for me. I have become so very critical of others as well when my own house could be put in order with
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benefit to humanity. I know what it is as I have said before the b—– desert, it is a devil which can catch you and then turn round and wreck you. Not, my dream, that I want you to imagine that RR is now a wreck, but I must admit the climate has killed a lot of my drive etc.
It is almost more than I can bear and has been haunting me so long. I want to get back to your arms and be reassured, I want to see you, talk to you and love you. Oh Precious, I am so lost without you, your letters are a great help but I want so very much to be with you in person. I once told Mummy that the woman I married would be the only woman who mattered in my life and I can see no reason to alter that view, it wouldn’t worry me if all other females were abolished as long as I could keep my Bunny. I roared, darling, when, you being very brave, said I might meet a SA girl. Precious, I have not the slightest interest in the Venus of the world, give me a beer any time, darling, you should know this by now.
I have managed to borrow a pen, darling. Sorry I did not write yesterday but we marched back from the sea, about 12 miles, and I had a lot to do when I got in. Some more sea mail for me, bundles of papers etc. thank you so much, precious, I have a wonderful bundle to read now but not much time to do it in. Dick and I may be going into the town in a day or so but we will have to see what Sammy says. You will be glad to hear that my sores are improving but my face still doesn’t look too good and I don’t want to send you a photo home looking awful, still I will see what I am like in a day or so’s time. Bill W, now 2nd. I/C, has done some very good drawings on our mess wall, hunting and fishing scenes etc. he is quite a good artist. Precious, I am sorry that this is such a scrappy letter but it has to be written in bits. From 12.00 until 6pm. is so hot and so much flying sand it is almost impossible to do anything, even sleep, so in snatches in the evening one writes when one can.
I think I will get this bit away to you, it has been on the stocks for a longish time. Dream, PR is going on a pace, I do hope more photos are on the way, I can’t get over the loss of all the others, I kept my diary only for you as well so that in future you could know what we had been doing and now it is all gone, all your letters as well. I am wondering whether to start again. Precious, how I wish you could be with me now but it is quite impossible, I would love to be able to tell you everything and to hold you so tight to me, how I long for this b— war to be over so that I can get back, at times the end seems so far away. Precious, don’t send me another 165, I adore you so much that it is impossible for any of the things you said to be true, remember you are my life, nothing else matters to me. Give all my love to wonderful Granny C and a hug for PR, all the love in the world to you, darling heart, my prayers join yours to help us be together again, how I long for it. RR.
[Arrived 14th. August 1942]
Letter No.85 11th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
Drawing of Rabbit Family.
My very own precious sweetheart and Peter’s adored Daddy.
It is such a heavenly evening, the sort of cool, clear, summer one that is so beautiful it brings a lump to one’s throat. Coming back from doing the Church flowers your Bunny’s eyes finally overflowed in the hall. The beauty of the garden and each flower spreading its soft scent to merge into the glorious smell of the English countryside and rose-time, all seemed especially poignant. It was the sort of evening I should have been wearing my red and white frock and you would have been in the drawing-room drinking sherry waiting for me, as usual late.
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Sunday Just as I had written that, darling, the Dittmers came in to admire our dinner service which is all arranged on the dining room table. It is absolutely super and I am terribly thrilled with it. It was good of your parents to give it to us, you will have had my card ages ago telling you that. As you know I had said a 29 piece set would be enough and now to have a 54 piece one and a present is overwhelming. I don’t know how to thank them properly, darling, words seem so inadequate. It was a bit of a gamble choosing it from the picture and it is far nicer than I thought it would be and I had thought it would be pretty nice! Did I tell you it is twelve of sweet, meat and cheese plates, nice deep ones, two vegetable dishes and covers, six meat dishes, small ones for war time meat and a terrific big one for our hams!
Then two sauce tureens and stands, covers and adorable ladles. Everybody who has seen it thinks it lovely. I am just longing to use it with you sweetheart. It came in a huge crate which I unpacked in the passage and I sent back all the packing papers and string as we are going to stack it all in the cupboard in the dining room. When we finally move, sweetheart, we shall have to have a proper packer anyhow to cope with everything as none of our glass is in a fit state to be moved as it is. Poor Mummy, when she sees all my belongings dotted round the house and all Peter’s and then all our home in cardboard boxes she heaves deep sighs and says there’s no room to move in this house! The dinner service I think will go with any room, darling, it is brown, gold and green, the gold is round the edge and then a band of green and the lines are in brown and the little dots. You can visualise it from my epic drawing in my last letter I hope! It looks rather unusual and both Mummy and I are overjoyed with it as you doubtless gathered, precious. It is sweet of your parents to have given her the early morning tea sets, one a primrose yellow for the top rooms and the other a very dainty, old world pattern, tiny flowers dotted about. She is thrilled with them and quite overcome at having such a lovely present. I had written asking your Daddy if I could have six soup cups and stands, two jugs for milk, pottery ones, a honey pot, a little basket which will do for jam, also pottery to match one of the jugs. I had told him about it and written it before I knew the dinner service was a present! Looking through the catalogue I though how useful they would be for us. I have also suggested having an early morning tea set to match the dinner service which we can use for breakfast and tea with the dinner cheese plates, of course, sweetheart, the Bunny family pays for all that if we can have it!
Now that everything is becoming utility, I though it as well to get in the minimum of everything for our home of the nice things. So far, darling, we have done pretty well. My plan is this, sweetheart, that I get what I can in the way of household things without touching the wedding present NSC. Whenever possible I will pay money into that so when we come to have our own home, darling, we shall have nice nest egg to spend on the home, like for decorating and installing all modern conveniences that will save as much labour as possible! I am contemplating a trip to Bridport tomorrow on the 2.15 bus to see if I can find anything more as there are various small things we still want, also Philip Grubb is getting married in October (!) to a girl called Audrey Young, another new cousin for you darling, and I offered him tankards as a present and he was very thrilled so I might be able to unearth some at the Jowitt’s antique shop, anyway it’s an excuse to go in there and see if there’s anything for the Bunny family! If I come back with a table or a chest of drawers or something Mummy will faint.
This letter hasn’t got on very fast as this morning when I had done the jobs and started it, it seemed suddenly to be lunch time and after I had washed up and labelled jam and lovingly put away the dinner service in the dining room cupboard with the wine! I felt rather worn and so went and had half an hour’s Dagwood on my bed. Greta was very keen to take Peter
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out so rather with me ‘eart in me mouf I said yes and she disappeared at 4pm in her Sunday best, fearfully thrilled. I sat PR on and he took no interest and then off they went. I realised a Mother’s pangs watching her ewe lamb depart and I hoped the time would go quickly till they returned. Honestly Darling, Bunny Mummy was in quite an agitation and I missed him frightfully. It was very good for me that he should go out and Greta is very careful and quite safe but it was with great relief that I welcomed them both home. She had taken PR to see her Mother and sister and they both thought him beautiful, apparently he showed off like anything! Then she walked him nearly to the Rowe’s. We know all Burton has its Sunday afternoon walk along there so I expect the pair of them had a wonderful time. We had our tea on the lawn and just as the cavalcade got back, in came Mrs. Wace to see him and so we talked babies hard. Her grandson is, apparently, huge. She didn’t go til 6.30 so PR was a bit late with his feed but he was very good and didn’t seem to mind and sat on her lap and was very social. He definitely likes company! Mrs Wace was telling us about a mad woman, very tall and dressed like a rag bag, who has come to Bridport. She walks about holding her hankie to her nose with an air of disdain and the other day Mrs. Wace went into Hodge’s cake shop just behind her and she turned and said ” For God’s sake woman don’t touch me” and up went the hankie. Mrs. W replied “I wouldn’t dream of touching you”.
Then the woman said to the assistant “Serve her first” so Mrs. W thanked her and remarked she was in a hurry as she had a bus to catch whereupon she turned round and said “I don’t care the hell that you’ve a bus to catch”. Everybody was giggling in the shop. Suddenly she turned round again and looked at three harmless women standing in a row waiting to be served and tapped Mrs. W on the arm and said “Look at those legs”. Quite mental. She walks about with a big stick too and hates children and Mrs. W and others are scared that one day the kids will laugh at her and she will go for them.
Yesterday, darling, was pretty busy Hoovering, ironing and putting the laundry away in the morning, Hope to lunch plus a very nice ice-cream, the second we have had this summer! and she helped me wash up afterwards and we gossiped hard. Apparently Doreen Cox has an enormous naval crown diamond brooch, about £200 worth!, which Donald has given her because the boy is at Dartmouth. Hope says it is so big it might almost not be real.
Also Donald is keeping his car for his work and Doreen has to have hers for shopping and going to Church. More like for going to the cinema and Askers, says she being a cat. Really, surely she could go shopping once a week with Donald and walk to Church. I think, darling, those people who can’t make small sacrifices like that when they haven’t anything that really touches them in the war are hopeless. Doreen has her husband, her home, her children and her comforts, and how. I feel a trip across the Atlantic in an oil tanker would do people like that a lot of good. Hope says it is incredible the number of people who are wangling petrol for their cars when they don’t need them except for pleasure and ease. Well, with things as they are at present, those two words oughtn’t to exist. The little things I buy for our home, darling, are from very dwindling remaining stocks in this country and none are going to be made in future or imported. Petrol has to be brought here. I am a little fire eater aren’t I, darling, but I think to do without the car now is the only decent thing to do.
After tea I picked flowers to do the Church and went along after PR was tucked up. Mr. Dittmer came in to help me fill vases when he was supposed to be cutting the church yard! I did them with ramblers and delphiniums mostly. When I had finished I knelt down in the little side chapel where we had Holy Communion before we were married, darling, and said a long prayer for my Rabbit. Mrs Dittmer was playing the organ and I had such a lump in my throat by the time I got up to go out it was with great difficulty I exchanged little
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pleasantries at the door.
Poor little Cobber has had a rotten time with this awful adder bite. He was lucky to escape with his life I think. It is between his throat and the top of his leg and was enormous. I was terrified when I first felt it and Marshall was very reassuring when he came out Wednesday morning. We think he must have got it down by the river when going with Mummy to empty the flower basket. Marshall was most amusing about his family, he has a daughter of 2 1/2 and a son of 6 months and they all go to bed like a Pullman coach, daughter, him, wife, son so as to have them all handy, if there is an air raid, to rush down stairs. When one wakes up and yells he says to his wife ” Is it yours or mine!” Typical Bunny family remark that, I can see us doing that in the days to come. Like the story of the couple who were woken in the middle of the night by the baby’s screams and she says ” Your turn Darling” and he says ” No, after all its half yours” and she replies ” Yes, but my half isn’t screaming”. Laugh sweetheart.
Anyway to go back to the poor L/Cpl., on Thursday he was terribly lame and I had another panic on finding a huge swelling between his toes and so dashed to the phone with PR in my arms. He loves it and bangs the receiver and coos. Marshall said it did happen, that the bite would break out elsewhere in sympathy, but that it was nothing awful. Poor little man now has this huge lump and two nasty places between the right front and back paw toes. He was in the last stages of depression and it must have been horribly painful. I was very worried about him. He sleeps by my bed now to comfort him. Now all three places have come up into heads and burst and he is oozing a filthy, yellow, slimy pus. I bathe him with hot water and Milton and it all looks quite healthy. He is so good and never makes a fuss, darling.
Remember Daddy Ronnie and his boils and Mummy Bunny’s gentle fingers?! I do hope it will all clear up soon. He is eating his food well which is a good sign now. He is always in the wars, he gets bitten by an Alsatian, I wonder PR ever survived that shock, Mummy nearly had a blue fit that he would appear on the spot! and then he bites a village child and now he gets bitten by an adder. Darling, knowing your loathing of snakes I’m thankful you didn’t see this effort on the part of your dog. Candy is sweet trying to comfort him and when the bathing process is going on, Cobber licks, Candy licks and I dab with cotton wool so it ought to be clean!
By the way, did I tell you I had written to the APO to ask why you are having two lots of income tax down in your statement and would they kindly explain. Glover wrote very nicely with terrific details all about how his own income tax was arrived at, but he couldn’t help me over yours. He is so kind. He also sent down a slip to say that your account had been credited with £5-11-1 per Barclays Bank Dominion Colonial Overseas Branch. Apparently you sent the remittance for credit to your account. Glover puts “Cheerio” at the bottom!
Your APO statement for June was: Pay £24-15-0, Family lodging £9-0-0, Total £33-15-0. Income duty 42/43 £1-7-6 and 41/42 £3-19-1. Field allowances £5, £3, £5, Total £18-6-7. Net amount £15-8-5. Reference 11/11/23. It has suddenly struck me, sweetheart, I very stupidly never gave you any of the reference numbers before so that if you wanted to query the statements your end you couldn’t very well. I am an ass.
I did up the kitchen things from Kirby Stephen this evening, coating them lightly with oil to keep them all right and they are now in the box room. It was sweet of them to send us them. We can now open the tins of Heinz tomato soup darling! I have also got half a dozen green and black, small check dusters from Barker’s and so has Mummy. They will be so useful.
She went to Bridport on Tuesday to the dentist and goes again this week, poor darling. I had
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a hectic time on the phone trying to get someone to do it and then someone to give her a lift in and finally got on to Margaret Lesser. She looks awful, darling, and came in Thursday morning to fetch a book to read as she went to London for two days in bed, she was so finished, and then to meet Charles at the Cumberland. She was going via Bournemouth and had to go to the linen shop and was going to see if she could get me any blue blankets and an eiderdown and quilt for PR as the Witney people have nothing. She said she had time to kill waiting for her train and anyhow had to go to the shop to get things for herself. She then returns to hay make but there will be no harvest this year as everybody round here has lost theirs through the weather. Poor woman, I do feel sorry for her. Talk about work, I can’t tell you, what she doesn’t have to cope with.
Whilst Mummy was out I made a huge Cornish pasty and a dripping cake as a surprise and left my ironing with the result I seem to have been ironing in odd bits all the week trying to catch up with myself! I was a bit “Alfred” over the cake again, that oven gets so hot without one realising it.
I think that is all our news for the week, Oh no, I forgot to tell you about the blackcurrants. A dear, old soul, who produced twelve pounds of gooseberries and was very taken with PR, suddenly arrived on the doorstep with a little basket of blackcurrants. Mummy had asked her if she had any and she had said no, the birds had them, but she went twice into Bridport for some as she knows we wanted them for PR and he had put both his little hands on her chest and she was so thrilled she felt she would do anything in the world for such a precious baby. Wasn’t it sweet? I was touched. She could only get 2lbs. and we found another lb. in the garden so Mummy made some jam. Altogether we have achieved 26lbs. this summer.
Not bad for war time.
We are now starting to agitate for somebody to do the boilers in the winter. I wonder if we shall be lucky or quite what will happen if we aren’t. Mrs. Bunny in dungarees again I suppose being cheered on by the milkman and “think of the muscle you’ll have by the time your husband gets back”!
Your Mummy wrote telling us about her and Ruth coming back from Darlington in the bus and being told to give up their seats to “war workers”, great hulking lads of 16 and 17. I was furious. The nerve of it asking a lady of your Mother’s age to stand and then threatening to put her off the bus. I blazed. I’m so glad she stood her ground and refused to budge, jolly brave of her. Poor Ruth had to stand while a lout of 17 took her seat. Fancy any self-respecting man taking a seat from a woman. What are we coming to? If I’d been there I’d have lost the famous Bunny temper, so perhaps it was just as well I wasn’t.
Darling heart, I pray I have a cable from you soon and an answer to the one to Peter Walton. They are, apparently, doing that trick, holding cables up for days before dating them and sending them as the one Terence sent Hope to say he was coming home was dated June 23rd and she got it the 29th and then had a letter card saying he had sent it on 19th and he was in Alexandria on the spot too. Yours of June 19th was heaven, darling, thank you very, very much. You are a poppet and how I love you. I long beyond words to be cuddled up in your arms, sweetheart. Now instead of putting Sans Origine they put Overseas and after that PLN whatever that means. Even Mr. Ravenshaw doesn’t know and thinks it must be Post Office hieroglyphics.
I have answered your letter card 53 in four airgraphs which you will have had by now. All sent to London in a sealed envelope. I wonder if they get to you quicker that way than through Burton PO. Anyhow it’s more private which is something. As far as I can gather from Daphne Joy, David and John Jackson took Tomlinson to Alex to hospital. I hope his arm isn’t
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too bad and B Watson’s feet are better. I haven’t heard anything more just these last few days about the 50th. Div. being in action, thank goodness. Nobody up north had had any cable after 19th. June so they, Daphne and Shelagh, were lucky. Darling, somebody did slip up over Bir Hacheim as it is obvious now you were at Gazala. That was a wonderful rearguard action but surely it was a thirty mile trek and not a 300? Hell anyway across that desert and I’m afraid you lost everything once again, except what you stood up in. Poor Rabbit. I hope my letters were burnt before you took to your tooties so that the Hun shouldn’t read them. You probably didn’t have time though. How I long to hear all about it from you, precious, and above all how you are. I’m so glad you got your watch back, just when you needed it too and it’s grand it’s going all right. I gave Hope your message about the card and Terence’s progress. Lovely that you had the letter all about PR from your Mummy to cheer you up, darling.
Sweetheart, I am now in bed with Cobber having a lick beside me and PR, full of milk, in his cot cuddling his pocky hanky. Darling, he sucks the woosy bear and it looks as though it had been left out in a thunderstorm. He has a lovely flat tummy through always lying on it and kicking which Mummy is always pointing out to me as an example. Mine, darling, is still fat and wrinkled. Mummy thinks I am past redemption! After all I said about keeping my figure before PR was born, I ought to be ashamed of myself, oughtn’t I darling?
So glad the little red diary was useful. It was the sort that would slip easily into a pocket. I still can’t get over seeing “Major” at the top of all you write and I always write it very carefully when addressing things to you. You are a poppet the way you say, in the airgraph 35, not to take much notice of your letter card and cable about my celebrated raspberry.
Just what I wrote to you after I had sent the damned thing. I was flurried and I made you flurried, in fact a whole lot of flurried rabbits whizzing around in circles! Mummy didn’t get any cable from you for her birthday, sweetheart, nor have your parents had one, as you mentioned you were going to send them off. It was just the night before you moved off wasn’t it, so of course you couldn’t do anything. I gave Mummy your message and greetings and she sends much love and many thanks. You made me very envious saying you were drinking a long gin and orange and water. It sounded luscious. It’s funny how things differ, here we are in beautiful England full of roses and summer and yet gin, you would be lucky if you got one bottle a month on the very quiet and as for oranges, darling, only babies get them. Then there you were miles out in an arid desert in terrific heat and yet you can have gin and oranges. It sounds all sort of mixed up, doesn’t it somehow. Like going to New Zealand and December being mid-summer. Tim, you mention being with you so I conclude he has taken Peter W’s place. I do hope he is doing well, I’m sure he will be as he was one of the old ones.
The bully stew doesn’t sound a very tempting meal! I’m sure in a previous existence I must have been a private who had endless meals of bully because for some unknown reason I can’t stand it. At least I eat it as last winter we often had it stewed or cold as there was nowt else for the meat ration. The family were thrilled with your airgraph, darling, written the same time as mine. How we all live for your letters and cables, we ring each other up whenever we have the slightest scrap of news. I do hope, precious, you have had some more mail of mine all right and that things are getting through, despite the battle, to you. So do I live only for the day when we are together again, sweetheart.
I adored it when you said you had been composing talks of love with me after getting the photos. Precious, you are a wonderful, beloved Rabbit. I too, talk to you and Oh, the blank here without you. It’s the same every day, the sun can’t shine properly without you and I
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live every moment longing for you. You are so sweet to me and you write so lovingly, darling bless you for all the happiness you give me.
How sweet your being called “Sir” by other officers. Doesn’t your chest swell slightly? You and Ruth are a fine couple, resplendent with crowns. I shall have to walk at a respectable distance behind you both! I haven’t had any more air mail letters from you, darling, since 35 on June 20th. There must be a lot on the way somewhere. The one you had written in Cairo hasn’t even appeared. They are taking a time. Precious, as you say, I will try not to worry about the sods here who don’t know which side their bread is buttered. I know it will be all your men who have fought who will make the peace and a new and better world for us all to live in with Tolerance, Patience and Love of Fellow men. You are so right, darling. What were you doing for five days alone with 4 privates? Bunny wants to know. My pen is dry and gasping almost and I have come to the end so Goodnight my love and God bless and keep you safe always. I love you with all my heart and pray unceasingly for your safe return, darling. Kiss and hug yourself from your Bunny XXX
11th July 1942 Major R.L.Cummins 6th. DLI MEF.
Well, once again I am back again safe and sound, only wish I was near enough to ring you up, also I have cabled B as often as I could so she will have given you the news. I had a terrific mail when we got in, and at the moment there is so much to reply to I don’t know where to start. Afraid it must have been a worrying time for you all, hearing about things on the wireless, however hope by now you have got my news. I got some wonderful photos of PR, Brenda etc. with Cobber. I lost all my other snaps so they were even more welcome if that is possible. We are quite busy but I am trying to write and answer all the mail I received but it is a big job. We are all (D Coy.) going into the local town this afternoon, it will be nice to get some iced beer and good food again, we have not had things like that for a bit. Afraid all kinds of things had to be missed, Auntie’s birthday etc. but it couldn’t be helped. Sorry to hear about Uncle Jack but poor old man, it was just as well. Well, darlings, must finish now, will try and get you a letter away soon. Take every care and don’t worry, I am very well.
All the love in the world. Ronnie.
Airgraph 2 12th July 1942 6th. DLI MEF.
My Darling Precious.
Another airgraph to let you know I am fit and well and enjoying life. I had a few hours in the local town yesterday but had no time to look for Terence, I hope to do this later. I got you a small parcel away, hope it arrives all right and the contents are useful. I got two cables from you, darling, yesterday, one in answer to my silly one on getting airgraph 165. Don’t worry, darling, it is all forgotten now. I have been reading all your wonderful letters and loved the photos in No. 71. All of you look perfect, it is grand to start my photo collection again having lost all the others. I am writing a letter, precious, to try and answer your mail but as I have said before it is hard to know where to start. I was with George Wood yesterday, Dick was too busy to go, we had a good tuck in to the food, and very nice it was. It is heaven to be able to write to you and to get your letters, we are very busy but I will try and get up to date with my news as soon as I can. The heat is rather great and the sand blows about a lot but we could be a lot worse. My sores are better but afraid I want to wait until they have gone before having a photo taken. Take every care, my darling, all my love to you and all at Grove and don’t worry please, there is no need. RR.
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[Arrived 24th. July 1942]
13th July 1942 Page 1. Grove, Burton Bradstock.
Thank you very much for your letter card. I had been meaning to write but had been hoping for some news from the Major- I haven’t got accustomed to him not being Captain any more! My last airgraph was June 13th and cable June 19th and both seem far too long ago.
Things are evidently taking some time to come through but both Mrs. Ovenden and Mrs. Joy have had very recent news. I do pray, unceasingly, that all is well with D.Coy. and that you haven’t had too bad a time, though the climate alone must be unbearable at this time of year. You fought a wonderful rearguard action from Gazala though it was first announced by the BBC that the DLI was at Bir Hacheim. The news seems a little better these last few days and I do so hope you are all having a well-earned rest away from it all. How I wish I could be there too. The Major will take care of you and you will take care of him and I’m sure that thought will comfort your family as it does me. I can hardly wait for the day when you are all safely home again.
The baby is very well and this evening when I was putting him to bed he pulled my hair bringing my face near his and then opened his mouth and bit my nose hard! He has four teeth, two top and two bottom front ones now and weighs eighteen pounds so is getting rather heavy to carry about. He still looks very like the Major but his hair is pure gold and is beginning to curl! He is out all day in his pram or play pen and has a lovely colour.
Poor little Cobber has been in the wars again, this time he was bitten by an adder just by his throat and it came up into a huge, hard lump. We think it must have been by the stream as we have never seen one in the garden. He was miserable for days and just lay in his basket and then went very lame and I found there were swellings between his toes in both his right front and back paws. Evidently the poison caused this. Now all three places have broken and he is oozing a horrible, smelly, yellow slime, but he is better in himself and eating his food.
I am so sorry for him as he still must feel awful and there is so little we can do for him. I think he is very lucky it isn’t far worse considering how very nasty an adder bite can be. I have decided he shall be promoted to Corporal now for bravery under great odds as he has never complained all the time, I hope you and the Major will agree!! When I bathe him with hot water and Milton my Mother’s little dog comes and licks him to comfort him, it is rather sweet. I’m afraid both dogs have done a lot of damage in the vegetable garden, digging up things, in fact we only had one tiny lot of peas! It is not really like summer here, it is cold and windy and often wet. The days start off beautiful and then cloud over about lunch time.
We have never had a summer approaching anything like 1940. I dare say you could do with some cool weather. I am longing so much for news and pray unceasingly for you all. The very best of good luck and look after yourself. B. Cummins.
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
34 C CW DCXA 39 44 OVERSEAS 25
NLT=MRS CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT DORSET
WONDERFUL LETTERS RECEIVED PRECIOUS MIGHT SEE TERENCE WRITING ALL MY NEWS
ALL MY LOVE DARLING HEART = RONNIE CUMMINS.
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15th. July 1942
MARCONI RADIO TELEGRAPH COMPANY OF EGYPT
TAXC642/S BRIDPORT 43 14
NLT MAJOR CUMMINS MEF.
OVERJOYED RECEIVED CABLE LONGING LETTERS ARRIVAL HOPE AWAITING TERENCE PETER
EIGHTEEN POUNDS CRACKING FORM ADDER BIT COBBER PROMPTED CORPORAL EXTREME
BRAVERY GRANDPARENTS PRESENTED LOVELY DINNER SERVICE GRADUALLY EQUIPPING
KITCHEN BLESSINGS SWEETHEART ALL HEARTS LOVE PRECIOUS.
Airgraph 3 17th July 1942 6th. DLI MEF.
My Darling Precious.
No mail from you for a day or so now but I am expecting some any day. Once again we are starting to get busy and find enough to fill our time. My sores are much better, darling, but afraid the face can’t stand a camera just yet, perhaps in a few days. The place we are in is a very dusty one and we spend half the day in a sand storm, still I can think of many worse places. The food gets better and better and the beer is as good as ever. Got a letter away to you the other day and I hope to complete another over the weekend. Darling, all your books and papers have been so useful, both for me and the men, you are far too good in sending stuff out to me. I must buy a fountain pen sometime, my beauty having been lost. Dick, George and I still in the same tent and still putting the world right before going to sleep each night. If only we could shorten the war!!
Hope PR is going on well and that teeth are not giving too much trouble. Love to Granny C and all in the world to you my darling. Will try and get a good letter away on Sunday. Please don’t worry we are quite enjoying ourselves despite the sand. RR.
[Arrived 3rd. August 1942.]
18th. July 1942
MARCONI RADIO AND TELEGRAPH COMPANY OF EGYPT.
TAX2205S BRIDPORT 24 17
NLT MAJOR CUMMINS MEF.
THRILLED RECEIVED THREE WONDERFUL PARCELS MATERIAL COSMETICS TRAPPINGS
SQUARE PICTURE ALL PERFECT SWEETHEART ALL LOVE PRECIOUS.
18th. July 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
72 C CW EU 10554 OVERSEAS 29 3 JULY
EFM CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT DORSET.
VERY HAPPY TO HEAR FROM YOU DEAREST AM FIT AND WELL FONDEST LOVE DARLING MY
THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU
19th July 1942 Middle East OCTU. MEF.
We have had rather a busy time lately owing to the flap and our cadets about to pass out (Gerund or Gerundive?) so I have not been able to send you anything but that last, rather
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scraggy letter which I hope you received. Actually this makes a grand total of three letters to you altogether, not a very good effort. I had some news of you via Pears and Lumley and am glad you are fit and well.
This is nearly the end of the first complete, course and now one is able to get a better, long range view of the place. After the first impression which was rather awe inspiring, I find that at least 75% of the airs many here possess is bluff. Once through this they are extremely nice fellows, but at first the knowledge that mine was a TA Division was usually taken into account. You lads have altered all that and the name of the DLI ranks as high as ever.
Tony Hartnell was here one day with Bill Robinson of the 9th and I was greeted by Tony in a tone which told me to expect good news, but which was very much the reverse. “Caldwell has been killed you know” he said. I did not believe it but said “How?” “Oh, he was badly shot up, evacuated and would most certainly die on the way to hospital”. Eventually I found out he had got the news from someone in the 8th. who had heard etc., etc.
Actually I know Doug is missing but from Bill Proud. I understand he was chased by a M 18 [? Ed.] when bandaging Sgt. Hall and that Sgt. Morris had been the last to see him when he was quite fit but running hard, in which case he may have either turned up since or be a POW. The same rumours are current here as circulated at home when we were in France, so if you could give any news of him I could clear them up. If there are any details I would let Father know in a private letter for he would be the best to pass them on with tact and give weight especially those giving rise to hope.
Yesterday I made a trip to Abbasia and made enquiries at 2nd. Tech. I found out definitely that Doug had not been evacuated to any hospital as wounded and was told that if he had died of wounds they would most certainly have known. Anyway as you knew John Heslop was all right, so I am sure Dougie is.
After this I went to the KRR officer’s shop to try and get those crowns for you. No luck I am afraid but I believe I went to the wrong place and am going again soon with Freddie Cole to a certain Mr. Nobbie Bucks. He is their (KRR) Rgt. tailor and made a beautiful forage ‘For and aft’ hat for Freddie for about £1.
Freddie is now up but still carries a nasty wound on his side which has not healed. I rang him up and spent the afternoon (Sat.) at Gezira. He should have been back at 7pm, but at 10.15 we were still swigging it back at Tommie’s bar. There was also a 7th. Tank Regt. chap there who was wounded and evacuated with Freddie. We got on extremely well due particularly to the connection existing after the Battle of Arras.
Have just written to Sammy and would like to write more but this is passing out week and we are very busy. I am just going out on a night scheme now so if I don’t get this off I never will. I will write more as soon as I can.
Bye the Bye. Just initial any letters forwarded to me as they come straight through and I will know you are all right and let Brenda know.
Well, cheerio and every wish I have goes with you. Yours etc. Peter. ( H.E Walton.)
[Duggie was taken prisoner. Ed]
Letter No. 86 19th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own beloved sweetheart and Peter’s adored Daddy.
You aren’t going to get my usual long letter, darling, because Bunny is feeling very sorry for herself. She has toothache!!! She even was brave yesterday and went to the dentist in Bridport but he couldn’t do much. Now, sweetheart, you shall hear all about it and I hope you will forgive rather a scrappy letter. I’m so sorry darling. I feel a pig over it but my face
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isn’t very pleasant. I didn’t say anything about it in the card I have just written because I don’t want to worry you and by the time you get this letter you will know I am all right again. As you know, precious, toothache is hell but it isn’t much really! I started with a slight discomfort on the gum above a dead front tooth which has had no nerve for quite seven years. I hoped it would pass off but it didn’t and so yesterday I trotted in to see the only dentist who happened to be in town and he wouldn’t touch it as he said drilling to open it up would make it worse and more inflamed and he thought it was a cold caused by the awful winds we have had and also being perhaps a bit tired. He painted it with some special iodine and said it might subside, however it hasn’t and today my face is swollen and I feel bloody, said she being honest.
Darling, now I am thoroughly ashamed of myself, I have just been listening to the news and the Canadian B Company representative broadcasting from the battle area and here I am making a terrific fuss about my own little gloom when you are going through such pure hell.
He was describing all the fighting in that inferno of heat. You poor precious, how you endure it I don’t know. I feel like burying my head with shame for having presumed to mention my tooth. I’m sure it will be better soon as it has formed a lump on my gum and looks as though it is coming up into a head and will burst. I wish it would then it would get well quickly. It is so maddening and I feel such a nuisance to Mummy as I have been in bed all day except for doing Peter and my jobs. I have also put off Daphne Joy coming on Thursday as I may pluck up courage and go over to Weymouth and see a good man there and have an X-ray and perhaps if he advises it have the two dead, front ones out. I know my dentist in Bournemouth hated my keeping them but I was very vain darling!!!
So perhaps you will come back to a wife with two false teeth! It sounds awful doesn’t it, darling, sort of clankety clank when one eats and a tooth glass full at night and two gaping black holes. Coo, I think I’ll get better quickly and never have them out. The picture I have just conjured up sounds too frightful doesn’t it darling? False teeth and a fat, wrinkled tummy, what a Bunny.
Poor Rabbit, I am awful, aren’t I ?!
To turn to something lovely instead, my dream, thank you again with all my heart for those quite wonderful parcels. They have given me such joy as I tried to tell you on the postcards. [These have not been found. Ed.]
The blue is too lovely, you were so clever to choose it for me, darling, and it is absolutely perfect. It will make a beautiful dress and pure silk too, I had almost forgotten what it looked like! I love the design, it is sweet. It has gone away into my bottom drawer to be made up when you get home, sweetheart, as my new trousseau for you. I go and pat it and it is such a lovely warm feeling that my very own Rabbit chose it for me all by himself. Mummy is so envious and thinks it’s quite beautiful. I bet you did have to pay for it, that sort of material is very expensive in peace time. You were very wise, precious, to do up the parcels yourself and take them to the APO as it prevented any hanky panky your end but I’m afraid somebody’s pinched the stockings in London where they had all been opened. My only hope is that you hadn’t written stockings outside any of them, that they are in a separate parcel which will arrive later. I think I am going to issue a complaint tomorrow, via the Burton PO, that they are missing. The creams and lipsticks are heaven too, sweetheart, just what I wanted and such a treat. Everything was the exact shade which was such a clever Rabbit. All those lovely skin foods are very difficult to get here as they use all the fats for munitions which is quite right of course, but I do appreciate them for my face!
Darling, will you hug and kiss yourself dozens of times for sending me so many lovely things?
How I wish I could thank you properly myself but that will have to wait, darling. The tin of
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talc powder I haven’t seen the like of for years, that is being kept for when you come back and I want to smell nice all over! I rejoiced over them, darling, so much, the US lipsticks were terrific and so lovely and tasty, the cases were most attractive too, I have never seen any like that before. You did spoil me sending me two darling. The cleansing cream and powder were perfect too, in fact everything is and you are a wonderful Rabbit.
You are terribly clever at carrying a colour in your eye as the silk square from Mosul will go so well with my wine suit having the wine border, I can make a turban of it to put on my head and be a smart Bunny. I loved the colours of it and also the horse trappings which are fascinating and will make the most lovely belts. No wonder you fell for them, darling. As for the picture, that was a dream. We have laughed so much over it and it shall certainly be framed. It is so clever and gave your Bunny a good laugh. The post mistress was quite overcome at my having three parcels on one day and I spread all the contents out in the drawing room and am keeping the outside wrappings addressed by my beloved. They are all with your letters sweetheart. There was a darling little note in the horse trappings parcel. I don’t know whether anything started out in the others but if so it got lost on the way. You were a poppet the way you said I should be getting some Cairo rock. Darling heart, I, too, am only living for your safe return soon.
I had a bumper week what with that wonderful cable which relieved my mind so incredibly much as not having heard anything from you since June 19th. my heart was knocking in my boots, wondering what had happened to you. You did send me an EFM on the 3rd. which came yesterday, they are slow. I do hope my cables to you are getting through all right. The NLT you sent of the 9th got here very quickly really and I was thrilled. I rang up your Mummy at once and they too were overjoyed, darling. We all just exist for news of you. I’m so sorry you missed Terence, of course he is, by now, halfway home, lucky man. I wrote and told Lumley’s Mother that I had heard from you and that you were all right as it would relieve her so much. I wonder which parcels you have had and whether you lost all your kit again. I am so longing for your letters telling me all your news and pray you are safely out of the battle having a well-deserved rest.
How very much more hopeful the whole thing seems now, darling heart. We have held Rommel for a fortnight, we, said she, with complete presumption, I mean you, darling. It was quite wonderful that. I do hope he will be finished off for good and all now, by some other infantry not by you darling. The further you are away from the battle the better for me, sweetheart. I said in my card could you cable me NLT instead of EFM if you are allowed to as the latter are so slow and I am a very impatient person for news of you, darling. Remember Mr. EBF Osborn, ETC Mess, Alexandria. He is a great friend of our Mr. Ravenshaw and if he is as nice and helpful as him I’m sure, darling, he would be a blessing to you. Mr R wanted you to get in touch with him. He is very kind suggesting it.
I can’t answer in detail your lovely long letter about your leave, darling, as I have sent it to your parents to read. I thought they would enjoy it so much and it would cheer them up like it did me. It was a super long letter precious, and what a time you did have. Your description of your journey there sounded pretty frightful and what it must have been like coming back.
Then the awful Lt. Colonel coming up to you like that in the Continental. That was the limit. I was absolutely furious, darling, that anybody should have dared speak to you like that. I wish I’d been there. Awful for you having to stand up in a crowded dining room and have everybody staring at you and then to be ticked off when you had come in from endless months in the desert. By the way, when did you first get to the desert? Remember darling I know nothing about what you have been up to from you yourself after Feb. 3rd. when you
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were in Syria, excepting for your leave to Cairo. It seems a mighty long time too. I could quite cheerfully murder that Lt. Col. You poor darling, I bet he had never seen more sand than what is round Mena (? Ed.). It was a pity you never went out there. The bathing pool and gardens are a dream and so is the hotel. If you are in Cairo again, darling, you must make an effort and see something! You can be with “the boys” and drink yourselves into a stupor all and every day in any part of the world but you can’t see Mena or the Pyramids or the Citadel or all those wonderful Tutankhamun relics every day!!! You were very naughty, says a firm Mrs. Bunny, not to do a bit of sight-seeing and I’ll smack your powder puff for you!!! I bet you had some boils after all that and need some firm handling by me! Anyway, darling, you enjoyed yourself which was the main thing and it gave you a good break from your work and, as you say, you felt all the better for it.
The gent in the Fleet Air Arm never posted me my letter. It should have been here ages ago even if he was sent by sea instead. He has probably still got it in his pocket and will come across it one day. What was his name? I used to know some FAA chaps when I was young and gay and giddy!!!
Precious heart, Bunny is now going to have a nice hot bath and then cuddle down and go to sleep as it is nearly time to feed PR. I haven’t told you anything about him in this letter but he is a real dream and so good and sweet. It is cruel you can’t see him, darling. Darling, Darling, Darling Ronnie Rabbit, I love you so much. When I feel like this, all miserable, I long more than ever to creep into your arms and find comfort there and be held close to your heart and soothed and kissed better. I will write a long letter answering yours properly very soon, sweetheart, and telling you all about PR and the latest additions to the Burrow which are all rather finds. I do hope you will like them, sweetheart. Pray God it won’t be long before we have our Burrow. God bless you my precious and keep you safe and bring you home to us soon.
All the love in the world. Your very own adoring Bunny. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Drawing of the Bunny family.
Airgraph 4 20th July 1942 6th. DLI MEF.
My Darling Precious.
Two of your wonderful cables have just arrived, sent off on 14th and 17th. One was a grand, long one full of “potted” news, so sorry to hear about poor Cobber, you will no doubt tell me all about what happened in a PC, hope he wasn’t poking his nose into things that don’t concern him. I haven’t been in to the local town for a bit, we have been very busy, and so have been unable to search for Terence. I was sure he had left, by your cable it sounds as if he was headed for home, lucky man!! I am so pleased to hear that some parcels have arrived, there are still two on the way, some stockings and more cosmetics. It is nice to know they are safe and sound with you. I do hope there are some more photos on the way.
I can’t quite imagine in size what Peter’s eighteen pounds looks like. Well darling, I have got a few more things collected, but the loss of many very precious things hangs heavy. However I suppose I can’t complain. My sores are much better, I hope in a few days to be ready for a photo which I will mail to you.
Hope it will please you. I am expecting some more PCs. etc. from you, the two cables are all I have received for a bit now, there is some talk of something in tonight, it is now 3.30pm. I do hope there is. Still living in a tent with George and Dick and having lots of laughs, our main troubles being sand and flies. It is nice to get good food and beer again after so long.
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Darling, the next parcel I send is going to be a strange one, I was trying to think of things you find hard to get and think a parcel of a few of them would be just as good as cosmetics. I expect you are having that glorious weather we had two years ago, how wonderful it was.
Country Life has just reached me, I do love it so with such grand pictures of the country. As far as I can remember two years ago I would be about returning from leave and being very glad about it!! Well precious, nearly at the end, I do hope my cables etc. and these things are getting to you, I long for your letters. Hope PR is being good and that his teeth are not causing trouble, give him a hug from his Daddy. All my love to your wonderful Mother. Take every care, darling, it may not be so long now when we can use that dinner service. All love in world. RR.
[Arrived 6th. August 1942]
20th. July 1942 Pte. N. Lumley No. 4460624 6th. DLI MEF.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
I just thought I would write you these few lines to let you know that both the Major and myself are keeping well, hoping Baby and yourself are the same. We have got settled down again and everything is all right excepting for the sand which blows about something awful, making it very uncomfortable, however I suppose we mustn’t grumble. We are busy at the present, preparing for a big inspection which is coming off tomorrow and the next day and I have heard that D Coy. is representing the Battalion which, I think, is a very great honour and I know that the Coy. will not let the Battalion down and I know the Major will be proud as it holds the rank of the best Company and Commander in the Battalion. Well, Mrs. Cummins I will have to draw to a close now, hoping it isn’t long before this terrible war is over and everything was back to normal again. Lumley.
All love Darling RR.
Letter No. 87 22nd July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
Drawing of Rabbit family.
My own beloved sweetheart.
Just a very brief note with all the photos for you. The only ones I haven’t got are those of the pictures you gave PR but they will be following as soon as Hides has made some more copies. I have tried to remember what I had written on the back of those you lost, darling, so as to get them as near as possible.
Your letter card 1 came today and I sent you a cable this afternoon telling you how very grieved I was about your losses. Poor Cathcart, I wonder how it happened, you will be telling me in a letter. Even though we didn’t like the man, it is a precious, young life gone and I have been thinking all day of that pitiful little wedding. I’m glad now, sweetheart, we did do our best for them as even though when he did behave badly to you afterwards I rather regretted it, now I don’t. You poor darling having to write to her. I will try to get her address from Mrs. Luxton, Mrs. Wellington probably knows it, and will send her a line of sympathy.
I do hope, darling, that Duggie turns up or is a prisoner like your CSM and Boyes Stone. The War Office got properly muddled about Bill Proud as I rang up this morning and they hadn’t heard anything definite, your Mummy said, after the WO telegram and Leslie’s cable. I’m so glad he was only slightly wounded and is getting on well. Your news coming so quickly will relieve Mr. and Mrs. Proud very much. Duggie’s wife had heard nothing your Mummy said and she was going to ring Col. Walton and tell him. Darling, I know what you are feeling you poor sweetheart and I can’t tell how I long to be with you to take you close to my heart and
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comfort you after all the hell, both physical and mental, you have been through. You will feel those men’s going so much and being in a strange country and far from your family it will be hell for you darling. Words are so inadequate but you know my heart is with you always and that I would give anything to be with you my darling. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that you are safe and well, it’s just beyond words sweetheart. What have you been through? I keep wondering what you were doing to get sores on your poor diddies, which Bunny wants to kiss better, and to have been a week after everybody else when they had a pretty tough time. You must have been up to something behind the German lines.
Darling heart, you are wonderful to have brought the Coy. out, the best Company of them all, obviously chosen for that particular job with the most perfect Coy. Commander in the world. I love you with all my heart, precious. Thank God for your safe deliverance and may He always watch over you. Your Bunny XXX.
24th. July 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
39 CC CW EW 8607 OVERSEAS 21 7 TH NIL
EFM MRS CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT DORSET
ALL WELL AND SAFE PLEASE DONT WORRY ALL MY LOVE DEAREST
On 24th. July a warning order came from Brigade that the Bn. had to supply a Coy. ready to move at 2 hours’ notice. D was chosen having survived, up til now, almost intact. RLC was commanding and Lieut. Dennis was 2nd. I/C. They became part of a Composite Bn. under Lieut. Col. Sammy Battiscombe with a Coy. each from 8th and 9th and a support Coy. from 6th.
Airgraph No. 170 Page 1 24th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My beloved sweetheart RR.
I am sending this to tell you what I have had form you, darling, so that you will know more or less where you are as regards mail. Airmail letter cards No. 25 to No. 53 inclusive, with No. 51 twice. I mean two came each numbered 51. The last of those was dated June 11th.
Then they started again with No. 1, dated July 8th. Airgraphs No. 19 to No. 35 inclusive, with No. 30 missing and No. 26 twice, and then they started again with Nos. 1 and 2 of July 8th. and 12th. No. 35 was dated June 13th. Airmail letters No. 29 to No. 37 inclusive, the last dated May 10th. There will be more airmail letters on the way for me sweetheart. So you see from the above, darling, that there is a gap from June 13th., your last airgraph, til July 8th. That is 25 days to tell me all about, precious, which I am longing to hear. Now for cables, I will give you those you sent me from May 1st. May 9th. NLT arrived May 12th., May 21st. EFM arrived May 27th. June 12th. NLT ( this was the one about the Majority and conclude sent off by you in May) arrived June 16th. also that day came an EFM dated June 16th. Then June 11th. arrived June 19th. this was an EFM. June 20th. an NLT dated June 19th. ( this again I think you sent about June 11th.) Then July 8th. and EFM sent June 19th. July 14th. an NLT sent July 9th. and July 18th. an EFM sent July 3rd. and July 24th. an EFM sent July 7th. I hope that will help you, precious, a bit. The APO seems to date the cables according to its own ideas and not the date you handed them in. God bless sweetheart. All our love. Your BUNNY. XXXX
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Now to tell you what I have not had acknowledged from you. Perhaps you may have had some of them by now. Parcel sent Jan. 17th containing socks, toothpaste etc. Cable EFM sent Jan. 20th. (You won’t remember so far back) also cable sent Feb. 9th. Papers Feb. 10th, 17th. Sea route letter Feb. 19th. with khaki darning wool, papers Feb. 24th. Airgraph 146 sent Feb. 26th. Sea route letter all about PR’s insurance sent March 3rd. Mar. 4th. airgraph 148 and papers, Mar. 11th. airgraph 151, Mar.12th. papers, Mar. 13th. airgraph 152, Mar. 20th. papers, Mar. 24th. PC 45, Mar 27th. papers and book “Angling tales”, April 11th. PC 58, April 13th. PC 59, April 14th. PC 60, April 15th. PC 61, April 16th. PC 62, April 17th. PC 63, April 18th. PC 64, April 19th. AML 69, April 20th. PC 65, April 21st. PC 66, April 22nd. PC 67, April 28th. papers, May 5th. sea route letter, May 6th. papers, May 11th. airgraph 164, May 14th. papers, May 15th. airgraph 166, May 18th. PC 80, also parcel toothpaste, brush, razor blades etc. May 19th. airgraph 167, May 20th. NLT cable, May 21st. PC 81 and papers, 22nd. PC 82, 23rd. airgraph 168, 24th. AML 76, 25th. PC 83, 26th. AML 77, 27th. PC 84 and cable NLT, 28th. PC 85 and papers, 29th. PC 86, 30th. PC 87, 31st. AML 78. Now June 1st. PC 88, 2nd. PC 89, 3rd. PC 90, 4th. PC 91 and papers, 5th. PC 92, 6th. PC 93, 7th. AML 79, 8th. PC 94, 9th. PC 95, 10th. PC 96, 11th. NLT cable, 15th. NLT cable, 23rd. full rate cable, 30th. NLT cable.
Goodnight precious. All love BUNNY.
24th July 1942 Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland.
My dear Mrs. Cummins.
Very many thanks indeed for your 2 letters, it grieves me that I am so snowed under today that I cannot possibly manage a worthy reply, the reply you deserve after all the trouble you have been to give me so much news.
I hope I don’t need to tell you how relieved and delighted I am to learn that Ronnie has come through that terrible shemozzle safely. I hope a good providence will continue to keep him from harm.
Your dictionary must be a good one for I cannot detect a single error (I’ll read the letter again when I’ve a spare minute and if I find I’m wrong I’ll report later!).
I return the APO letter re: tax deduction it is a good letter and the explanation appears to be quite satisfactory. It appears that you do not see the actual form of assessment so you can only assume that Ron has been allowed all the deductions, wife, child and insurance premium. I think before you and I got to “know” each other (do we?) you told me once that Glynns attended to your I tax affairs. If you have a check on the actual amount of pay Ron received in the financial year 1941?42 you could, perhaps, get them (or the local tax office) to check up on the amount deducted. It would be difficult, I expect, for you’ll have to send the statements to Ron, and we have a record of the NET amount only (the amount actually credited to the account).
No doubt, if you cannot do anything about it, Ron will be able to go into it some day when all this terrible business is over and if he has been overcharged at all he’ll be able to make a reclaim.
Please do excuse this terrible scribble, it’s taken exactly 6 minutes, I’ll try and do better next time.
I reciprocate Peter’s kind wishes etc. but dare only to send kindest regards to his Mummy.
Yours very sincerely James E Glover.
I almost forgot, your account is either to sign, so you can use Ronnie’s signed cheques or have a new book, as you wish.
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Airgraph 6 25th July 1942. 6th. DLI MEF.
My Darling Precious.
Afraid I have not written for a day or so as I have been in bed with a nasty boil, you know where. David made me rest and I could only be on one side, it is very much better now and I hope to be up and about again tomorrow. As a matter of fact the rest has done me a lot of good as my sores are almost gone now, so please don’t worry. David has been very good, you know what I am like with a boil, Darling. Your wonderful letters 76 and 78 and PCs. 114 and 115 arrived the day before yesterday and were grand reading, also lots more bundles of papers and your parcel of toothpaste, toothbrush etc. nearly everything in the parcel was in use within an hour of opening, so you will see how useful it was, thank you a thousand times darling. Afraid the letter I wanted to get away has not got very far but I hope these will get to you in good time so you will know I am OK. As I have spent the last two days in my tent I have had some time to read some of the grand books you have sent and also to go through the great bunch of letters which arrived in your other parcel, the Penguins then go to the Coy. (on to the next sheet).
I loved reading all the letters, who is Jock, I felt quite “green” after reading my pet etc.!! Some of the people I didn’t know of course, but they were all very sweet letters. I haven’t been into the local town now for some time and as training etc. is heavy it might be some time before I can. Also, darling, if there is a small gap in letters don’t worry, it is for the usual reasons. I loved the letters from Auntie Norah. I feel ashamed I haven’t written to her, if you could find the time to drop and say I often think of her it would cheer her up a lot. Well, precious, it is nearly the end now, as I have said it may be a little time before I can write again but don’t worry. It is wonderful hearing all your news about PR he must be a darling only hope it won’t be long before I see him. All my love to Granny C and all you see who I know. Take every care won’t you darling and don’t worry I am going on very well. All the love in the world my darling. RR.
[Arrived 11th. August 1942].
Letter No. 88 25th July 1942. Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My beloved sweetheart and Peter’s precious Daddy.
Gunner Smith is entertaining on the radio, Granny is knitting PR’s white suit, Candy is in her basket and Cobber under my feet and I am at my desk writing to the most wonderful Rabbit in the world. I still feel quite overwhelmed at the thought of all you have been through, precious, and all the ghastly dangers you have been in. It must be an incredible tale and I am longing to hear it and do hope there is a letter on the way telling me all about it. Major Syson suggested cordite burning from demolition work when he heard about your hands and Mummy, before that, had said burning. I do wonder what caused them. You must have been through hell, darling. How I wish I’d been with you to share it all and look after your poor diddies. I’d have lit the charges or whatever caused the burns or sores. As you said in your airgraph that you wouldn’t have your photo taken till they were well, I conclude you have them all bound up. My poor Rabbit. Writing must be very painful but yours is as dear as ever. I can’t tell you what heaven it is to hear from you again. Darling heart, I do pray you will be left in peace for a bit now and not have to go back into the inferno of a battle.
I’m afraid you got an awfully mingy letter last Sunday when I was in bed. I’m so sorry, sweetheart, do forgive me. Actually the abscess burst on Monday evening and instant relief
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came. It poured out filth and pus and mess and went on doing it for several days and now is quite all right again, thank goodness. Tuesday I sent Daphne a telegram saying come as the tooth was better but unfortunately she couldn’t because her nannie was rather rotten after being vaccinated against the small pox which isn’t far away from them at Swindon. It was a shame as, apparently, a ship came from the Far East to Scotland and there was a case among the crew and they let all the passengers go to their homes and of course spread it all over the country. There must be something very wrong somewhere over that. Anyway Daphne hopes to come Tuesday when we shall gossip our heads off about you and David.
We had a super piece of salmon for her last Thursday which we ate ourselves. I am so looking forward to seeing her, darling. We have long gossips on the phone and have terrific bills as a result, still it’s worf it!!!
Now, sweetheart, to try and tell you what we have been up to the last fortnight, darling heart. Well, last Thursday this b—- tooth started up and we had Diana Richardson and her sister Brenda and David Lesser to tea. Brenda R is a big, bouncing, rather common looking girl but handsome. She is very bright and we had a cheery tea party on the lawn with one eye on menacing, dark clouds and pretending it was nice and warm when really there was a gale blowing. David ran about quite happily and though he is a sweet child, he looks as though he wants cuddling and loving! Sort of odd, starved, puzzled look about him which is very pathetic. Of course Mother has so much on her shoulders with that farm that she hasn’t time for her babies. In fact the little girl gets so bored there that Margaret is thinking of sending her as a boarder to school next term as she is very happy there and is occupied all the time. It seems awful at only 4 1/2. She is a real town child and the country holds nothing for her whereas the boy loves it and is perfectly happy. Margaret came to fetch them all and brought PR a tin of Johnson’s baby powder. A great find. David was being sweet with PR playing with him and running round the pen and PR was most intrigued and I’m sure wanted to be up and doing it himself.
Sunday morning Bedtime came with a rush last night, darling, and I have just glanced at the Sunday papers and now am doing what I like best, writing to you. Darling, to go back to last week, Friday was rather a black day with my tooth getting wus and wus and Saturday I went in to the dentist as you already know. I forgot to tell you that Margaret Lesser went to Anderson and Macauley where we got our linen in Bournemouth but she couldn’t get a thing we wanted. I had been in touch with the Witney Blanket Co for a pair of blue, single bed ones for PR when older, but they only had one, however they wrote afterwards saying would rose and peach be any good, so having heard from Margaret that the new blankets would be part wool and part substitute, I sent a telegram saying I would have one of each.
They are slightly imperfect, which of course they had told me about, but are the pure, Australian, merino wool and so beautifully soft, being warmth without too much weight.
They cost rather a lot, darling, nine guineas the two pairs, the rose were 70″x 90″ and very much the same colour as mine on my bed and the peach were 60″x 80″ which will be grand for PR’s cot when he is older, they are a very nice, light colour. Altogether I was very pleased with them, darling, the rose were 53/6 each and the peach 41/- but I think they were worf it! I read in today’s papers that the merino blankets are fetching £5 each in London, the demand is so heavy. I thought of having some of our white blankets died rose and peach to match by Pullans and at the same time could get the double ones dyed blue to match our blankets. Anyway that will wait. I did them up with special moth stuff that you sprinkle on and then wrapped them in a sheet and put them in the blanket box in Mummy’s room so they should be all right. What fun it will be when we can unpack and use them.
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The previous Monday I had a shopping do in Bridport, it was rather fun as I got lots of things we wanted in my hour and a half and came back laden on the bus and had to stand to West Bay whilst children and men sat. It’s everybody for himself nowadays to some tune. We’ll take jolly good care to bring up PR properly. Anyway turn from what is unpleasant ie. the bus behaviour to what is lovely ie. the stocking of the future Burrow. I started off at Lewis’, the china shop. At first glance it seemed to be all a gift from Bridport and the whole place looked so bare, however after a few walks round I was able to separate the sheep from the lambs and was rather triumphant. This is what we now possess, darling, a large, blue glass vase with bobbles in it 6/11, a small vase like one of Mummy’s with a tear in the base, the sort that will show off one or two choice roses on the mantelpiece 6/6, and a larger, rounder glass one from Czechoslovakia 4/6, cut glass it was. It was all old stock so there was no purchase tax!!
[There follows drawings of the things she describes. Ed.]
These above, darling, are from left to right a plain glass water bottle and tooth tumbler for a bedroom, a smart cut glass one and rather an attractive shape and the x is my idea of how to draw cut glass !!! the funny looking small thing is a stuart cut glass cream jug and the round thing a fruit plate, white with a coloured border, there are six of those and they are in green and rose borders. Then I invested in some utility ware for the kitchen, it is really awfully nice, I’m sure Lewis’ must be mistaken as it doesn’t look the least like Utility, it is ivory in colour and has a small self-coloured border, rather like what the edge of a tart looks like when you have gone round it with a fork before cooking it! We have in that four cups, four saucers, four small tea-plates, four medium plates, four large plates, one medium and one large meat dish, a medium tea-pot and four very nice jugs of various sizes which you can get your hand into. They will be so useful for milk and the large one can trundle down to the local to get you your draught bitter, sweetheart.
Then I got six small saucers, Wedgewood design for use in the larder. We find here we want dozens for sticking left-overs on and they are very useful in the kitchen anyhow. We don’t want to use our best dinner service that way so that’s why I got the utility and anyhow we can have our breakfast and tea off it till we get a proper set. A nest of bowls, three small, three medium and three large, plain white for kitchen use, three egg cups very dainty, darling, and all they had, white with a tiny gold rim and rosebuds! Six sherry glasses, cut glass 1/9 each, foreign. We have only five of those green ones and we did want some more.
They are very nice. Two round, small, kitchen butter dishes or for sticking bits of chutney etc. on, a preserve jar for pickles or anything, very nice cut glass. It’s a good thing I’ve written the descriptions by the drawings as otherwise you wouldn’t know what they are! Then some glass dishes for salad and junkets and things like that, oval shaped and three sizes, a large, earthenware casserole for stew and hotpot, a kitchen pepper, salt and mustard set with green tops and I really think, darling, that’s about the lot from there! They aren’t going to make much utility stuff I believe and this had just come in so I was lucky. Mummy was thrilled with it and thought it frightfully nice. That all came out in an enormous packing case last Saturday so I unpacked it and put it away in the dining room cupboards to try and forget my mouth! I do hope you will approve sweetheart.
Then I went along to Bazeley’s , the ironmongers, and got the following: a large sieve a wire one, one of those implements for getting fish or eggs out of a pan with a long green handle and bars along it! Four chromium-plated, kitchen teaspoons, three desert spoons, three table spoons, a pair of carvers, a small carving fork and a most imposing looking knife for Rabbit to carve the Sunday joint!, a fearsome steel with a green handle and a sort of shield
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rather like a rapier in the olden days which sent Granny into fits of laughter and she suggested we keep it in the hall to frighten away the Germans with if there was an invasion.
An egg beater, the sort of thing with a handle you turn and it makes a whirring noise, a vegetable knife very small for scraping potatoes etc. with a red handle and another large kitchen knife. Then, having found no more there, I tripped along to T White’s and got a knife box for the kitchen, a wooden box, darling, with no lid and four partitions for spoons etc. and lined green baize and also four kitchen forks there and three brushes, a scrubbing one a, a smaller one for draining boards etc., a grate brush for black leading and a shoe brush, four, sweetheart, I’m sorry. Also a super vegetable rack which we are lending to Granny for the present as there really isn’t room for it, it is cream painted with a green edge and lettering ” Vegetable rack” and has three tiers, the top is divided into two partitions, it is rather like shelves with no back, but they are deep so will take plenty of things. It is about 3ft x 2ft.
I think, darling, at that point it penetrated my consciousness that it was 3.55pm so I scuttled into Glenning’s for some salmon and then saw my bus at the PO and so tore across to the Museum near the cinema to get on it there, laden with trophies. I forgot to tell you I also went into that shop on the corner just above Smith’s, where they have toys and mostly children’s things and I got PR a rubber toy for his bath which he now delights in banging about, it is quite small and he can get his diddy round it, also a rattle with a woolen jacket depicting the Union Jack which he sucks and all the colours run. It looks like a small croquet mallet and has something inside it which rattles like anything, much to his delight. I also got a golliwog and a doll, the latter has just been done up for Diana Ferens’ first birthday on 29th and is in a gaily coloured frock. The [blank] will be going to one of Peter’s boy friends!
On the bus I met Isa for the first time since her fiancé was killed. She really is wonderful and was very bright and chatty. She looked far better than when I caught a glimpse of her in Bridport but is very grey, meeting her alleviated the standing! She is very thin but looks well and is working like a black. Despite being an inhabitant of Eire she has been called up and so for the time being is doing a course at St. James’ Secretarial College which has evacuated itself to Bridport. She goes there five days a week from 10 til 3 and Saturdays gives the house, most of which she has shut up, a weekly clean. She has no maid and had one who stayed two days and then decided she didn’t like Swyre. So she has a grand cooking on Sundays and Wednesday night and leaves her Uncle his lunch ready having got up at 7 am and got breakfast. He has cold meat or chicken or something every day and salad and rhubarb! One thing it keeps her mind occupied, but as soon as she finishes her course she will be put on to part time work for the war. I said on a card, darling, I am sure she would love an airgraph or something from Tim. She remembered him very well and was interested to hear he was with you. I remember how he admired her. She is very brave and has had a hell of a time and I’m sure she’d answer it if he did pluck up the courage. She’s a nice girl.
Of course I never suggested it to her! She came to tea the next day and was telling us how she had been over to Ireland for a month in March and had been searched from top to toe before leaving England. She said it was quite incredible there how the shops were stocked with sweets, she kept thinking they were dummy boxes! Also to see headlights and lights in towns. She couldn’t believe it wasn’t fairyland. PR was sweet with her and sat on her lap and coo-ed.
Did I tell you in a card your Daddy wrote saying we could have the six soup cups and stands and the early morning tea set to match the dinner service and a sort of Italian – or perhaps I shouldn’t mention that word, anyway it’s what it was called in the catalogue says she
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excusing herself – basket for cakes and things. They should arrive next week, so darling, you will be getting more descriptions and peculiar drawings!
We have just had our lunch, precious, fish paste salad and bread and butter, treacle tart with very little washing up to do as it was Sunday and we are all on our various beds! PR out in the yard so that he can be pulled in quickly if it begins to rain and it certainly looks ominous enough.
Granny had lots of tins that at one time had Dad’s cookies in them. Those were heavenly biscuits, Bunny used to guzzle them by the tinful. Most of hers were empty unfortunately and as she had said I could have them, on Friday I washed them all properly and put them out in the garden to dry and have now packed them away with the rest of our belongings.
They are awfully nice and will make super tins for rice, tea, sugar etc. for the kitchen. They are round with round lids which are about 1″ deep and are cream with a mauve, narrow band round the tops, very smart. We now have six and she has three more which I have my eye on as soon as they are empty. You could, in peace time, get the labels by writing to the biscuit company and they had them for everything but that will now be a little job for Daddy Rabbit! Mummy has all her tins already, blue ones, so she doesn’t want these. I get so thrilled, darling, over everything for the Burrow. We are getting on aren’t we?! I caught sight of a pair of kitchen scales in Cox and Humphrey’s which I might get as they are very necessary. I discovered I had three table clothes, a blue, a yellow and a green which I had forgotten about. I believe I had one at Cullompton to embroider but didn’t get far with it! They will be grand as you can’t get them now and one day I will set to and do them as I laid in a good stock of silks last autumn for embroidery. If it is as good as my drawing they’ll be some clothes!!!
When I went to the dentist there was no time to have any lunch, not that I felt like having any, in the town as I didn’t get out till 1.30 and my bus was at 2pm so I went into the Jowitt’s shop and had a look round, really for a wedding present for Philip Grubb.
Unfortunately the tankards that would have been perfect for them, one of the pair had been sold and the rest didn’t match so I found a rather nice decanter, though I don’t suppose the poor dears will have anything to put in it. it is a heavy, cut glass one, not X !!! and was price 15/- which was about right. I told the woman to keep it for me. There was also nice old glasses with green tops and white bottom, or rather ordinary glass, and were round sherry shape. They were very nice and they wanted 25/- for them. I did not buy them but am wondering if they are still there if I will as they would go with the green decanter and would look nice with our green dinner service and also the carpet! Aren’t I a one?! Two things I did absolutely fall for but was strong minded, though how I got myself out of the shop without saying I’ll have them I don’t know. They were two Bristol glass bottles one, the larger marked Hollands in gold lettering and the other Kyan. They were, to my mind, fascinating but I thought they were not strictly necessary for the Burrow and I ought to refrain and not spend money on luxeries (sic), haunted by the memory of the poster entitled ” Would you swim for it?” depicting a fat couple on the pavement looking across the road at another shop on which was written “Luxery goods” and instead of the road there was water and a whale swimming along at the back with a swastika on him. There was another, to me even more haunting, cartoon in the Daily Sketch which you will be seeing, sweetheart, and it shows a soldier in the desert with a huge meter on his back, sweating under its weight, and underneath is written “Where your meter registers”. We do try to be careful here, darling, and have shallow baths, Granny sees to that, Bunny is not self-disciplined and is therefore self-indulgent but is trying to get used to a teacup in the bottom of the bath. Granny read
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somewhere you shouldn’t have more than 5″ all told in your bath and she almost gets a ruler out to it. We sit and work and write in the window seats so as not to have to put the light on in the evenings. Of course a lot of washing goes on as Cuddles has all his pants, but he is improving and now has seven to ten nappies a day.
Darling, you will wonder what on earth the box-room is getting like stacked with our things. there must be a lot of stuff there but it seems to go into a small space. The soup cups are going to be rather difficult to know where to store as I have filled the available dining room cupboard with the other china. We shall find somewhere though but I expect Granny will tear a bit more of her hair out!
This last week has been really rather a quiet one, I have rested every afternoon to get over the tooth quickly and have been trying to catch up with all my letters and did manage to get quite a few away. One day I did eight and two postcards! Not bad. I kept indoors for a few days as there was such a wind and the dentist had told me to keep warm.
Hope came over yesterday and brought your album which will go off tomorrow with this. She is going up to London next week, actually Sunday 3rd. to have something done in the hopes she may have a baby. The doctors have told her there is nothing wrong and that it is not at all necessary but it might just do the trick, especially psychologically. I do hope she does achieve it. I do envy her having him back, she is lucky. To think that in less than six weeks’ time they will be together again after only eight months apart. We have had nearly double that now, darling, and will have by the time you get this. She was very brave during all that anxious time so she does deserve it richly.
Phyllis is being rather a thorn just now. She has got this fixed idea she wants to shut up their house and go off and do a full time war job. Her maid is being married and then gets called up into a factory and she is horrified beyond words at the thought of looking after their small flat and cooking herself and she says she won’t do it. So far John has refused to let her go off as long as they had the maid and she has done her YMCA work on certain days a week. Now she proposes to go and live in a hotel or “digs” and we suppose John, when he has put in a hard day’s work at school and his police work, either goes back to a hotel bedroom or a room full of chattering old ladies or an aspidistra in digs. What fun. It seems to me those who have their husbands and their homes don’t want them and those who haven’t long unutterably for them. I can see myself leaving you and going off to a job – I don’t think! Joy, as Mummy has pointed out to Phyllis, manages to look after her husband and her home, with the help of a problematical daily char for a few hours in the morning, and to do war work in her free time and do all the cooking and the shopping and lives very comfortably too for the war time. I don’t blame John at all if he says to Phyllis, all right if you go don’t come back. Really, darling, I sometime wonder what she married for, it apparently wasn’t to have children and is now seems as though it’s not to make a home for her husband. Here am I longing to have him safely home and swarms of children, it makes me furious.
The Baby Rabbit, darling, seems to be growing up so fast. His baby bath and basket gone, his first clothes all put away and his second getting too tight for him and too small in the arms.
Granny thinks it is all the vitamins he has. I don’t think I’ve given you a resume of what he eats lately. 7.30am. having been padded with bibs, mackintosh bibs and a dog bowl, striped! we drink our juice out of a cup. it is either black currant or rose hip, oranges don’t seem to appear nowadays. I have my early tea then too and so first Peter has a drink and then his Mummy and so on as otherwise he wants to gulp it all down at once but gets so intrigued watching me. He has about a tea cup and a bit and is really very good at drinking it, except
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when he gets excited and bites the cup! Then he goes to Granny for a cuddle whilst Mummy clears up and then he gets popped back to bed with some toys. Did you as a baby have a passion for lying on your tummy? He has. Last night he went to sleep from 7pm. to 11pm. on it! He was so surprised when he woke up the wrong way up. He is always on it, in his pram and everywhere.
When we have our breakfast – OO, I jumped then a bomb dropped somewhere and we shook – he comes into Granny’s room and lies on the floor or rather rolls all over the place at high speed. He sometimes gets a teaspoon of honey with resultant stickiness everywhere.
He has his toys scattered round him and is most determined, if he gets tired of one he will pick it up and jutting out his jaw he sweeps it behind him, throwing it away. Whatever he wants, darling, he can reach and today we noticed how he was pushing on his toes when he wanted to move and was quite getting the crawling idea though he wasn’t actually crawling. He pulls the plug out of the bath now, in which he also lies on his tum, and kicks furiously and what’s more he puts it back! He adores his bath and when the moment comes for him to be lifted out he roars with laughter and starts kicking. Granny and I watch him and splash him and laugh at him and we are always saying “if only Ronnie could see him now” or ” wouldn’t Ronnie love him”. It is a shame darling, I can’t imagine what it must feel to be the Father of a child you have never seen.
He gets his face done on my lap before his bath and dried and dressed there afterwards and we have all sorts of little cuddles and laughs and loves and games, plus Granny sometimes.
He is such a poppet and is very ticklish and roars with laughter if you cuddle your face into his neck or under his chin or in the small of his back. We have great fun together. Then he goes into Granny wrapped in all the paraphernalia of towels and bibs to have his breakfast which is Farex, a cereal which is mixed with milk to a thick cream and which he has off a spoon. He then has milk to drink from a cup. When he has filled himself with that, which he does to the accompaniment of Granny singing, he comes back to Mummy for a grunting session on the pot. She, in the meantime, has been down to see if there is any mail from Daddy and if so is all smiles and happy. He. PR not Daddy!!!! was very naughty for some time and would wait til he was out in his pram, under the apple tree, before going in his pants but I am hoping he has got out of that. He suddenly started and refused to be broken from the habit for ages. Within two seconds of being in his pram he is on his tum with his head down over the side. he can see so much more that way and is always so interested in what is going on round him. We have to net him in very securely for fear of him falling out.
That net is a blessing. About 1pm. he usually decides he would like to join us for lunch and so comes into his pen and plays with his toys, or rather pulls them to bits. The poor white rabbit’s head is hanging on by a thread now. He also says bababa to everything and I firmly say Dadada! At bed time now, darling, when I take him into the nursery to put him in his cot we pick up Daddy’s photo and kiss it and say “Dada” and then he pats it or opens his mouth wide and puts out a long, pink tongue and licks it smiling and coooing happily! The next stage will be a proper kiss. At 2pm Granny gives him his lunch of four Allenbury’s rusks or beetroot or spinach and broth and sugar! That he laps up and goes onto his pot again and then out for another sleep from about 3 to 4pm. when he joins us again about 4.30 in his pen for tea. From 5 to 6 he likes to feel he is the centre of everything for his play hour and we play funny games with him and chat to him and then it is bed time and more Farex and milk.
He gets his face, hands and bottom washed then and his nightie put on and looks a dream. He then sleeps til 11pm. when he has his only bottle of milk, it is usually a very sleepy Baby
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Rabbit then who gets furiously indignant if his bottle isn’t put in his mouth the instant we are in the bathroom. He refuses to sit on his pot as he is generally dry when I pick him up, I find it is a race as to whether he finishes his bottle and I get him safely on the pot or whether I get flooded! He then snuggles down again and we say prayers together, his diddy in mine, and then Mummy kisses Daddy again for him and so to bed. We have a game now which consists of burying both our faces at once into the drawing room cushions, it is huge fun and very amusing. Of course the cushion gets covered with dribbles which we hope Granny won’t see. I must tell you, darling, we had just had tea, by the way it is now after supper, and he was on his rug in the garden when he suddenly pulled himself along with the proper crawling motion. We were all so excited that he had achieved it. There will be no holding him now. Mrs Robarts came in and chatted, she had heard from her son who is where Terence was. He lost everything too at Tobruk. I wonder if you will come across him.
Darling heart, it fascinates me to look at the BR and wonder what he will be like when older.
He is so quick and intelligent and misses nothing. Mrs. Robarts was telling us that her daughter, who is married to an RAF man, has two sons, one born August 1940, one born September 1941 and is going to have another in February so she will have three under two and a half! I would love another one as it would be such a companion for PR so I am thinking of writing to Sir James Grigg asking what the War Office proposes to do about the declining birth rate in the British Isles and what about the future generations if all the Fathers are kept for years in the Middle East. I wouldn’t mind doing it just to see what sort of an answer I’d get! It would probably be opened by one of Ruth’s young ladies doing security, then we would never live it down!
Granny Cecil is bearing up very well, darling, thank goodness. She gets very tired but her grandson is such unutterable joy to her that he transcends everything else. She just lives for him and I’m sure she loves him more than all of us put together!!! I’m so thankful she is so devoted to him and that he is such a pet as it has given her a lot of happiness. I only wish I could take him up to see your parents, darling, but the journey is such a nightmare. No food is provided on trains now so you have to take all yours and the child’s and there are no porters at all so you have to heave everything yourself and you aren’t allowed to take more than 100lbs, no extra for a child. Marshall was telling me he had to go up to London shortly before he came out to see Cobber and at the time he should have arrived there the train was sitting in a siding outside Westbury and there was a woman with a baby and poor little mite screamed it’s head off all the time. Marshall couldn’t get a seat either coming or going.
I still have your warrants and Rosamund told me now that the Army will only issue you with one and you have to say why and wherefore of your journey in writing. It would be such an undertaking, darling, and I fear I am disappointing them very much by not going though they haven’t said a word, poor darlings.
Rosamund had a pretty nasty experience too. When she came here she was on her way from Cornwall to Scotland to share a house with an old school friend who had a daughter and whose husband is also a POW. When she arrived her friend said to her as soon as she stepped into the house said “Have you left Penzance for good and if so where are you going to live?” This was after she had written to R asking her to be her guest for a fortnight and then to PG afterwards and making all the arrangements, I suppose the friend suddenly changed her mind. R didn’t say anything as it was all so awkward and she has written to find out if she can have their own house in Rugby back as they had sub-let it. Fancy going all that ghastly journey with all one’s belongings, pram cot etc. to be welcomed like that. Awful for her, I do feel sorry. I should have tackled the friend had it been me! Yes, says RR I know you
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The garden is frightfully dried up, darling, and if the drought goes on we shall have no winter vegetables. It is such nasty weather as it is cold and overcast and very windy and yet dry. If only it would rain and get it over with or be really fine so that one could sit outside and enjoy it. PR always has to wear a jacket. Our heavenly 1940 summer has never been repeated since you went away precious. You will have to hurry back, sweetheart, and then we shall have lovely weather again. The ramblers look beautiful and are very cheerful as are the clematis or whatever the plural of that is.
Now, sweetheart, to answer all your lovely mail and to tell you once again what heaven it all was. First of all the EFM cable July 7th. which took so much longer than your airgraph. It was a very sweet one and thank you precious. You will know how well the airgraphs and letter card have come through, my dream. I’m afraid the cables, like mine to you, take such an age to come that they don’t have the reassuring effect they should, that is the EFMs. The NLTs. are much quicker. With the EFMs. one gets so thrilled and then to be told the date was three weeks ago when they are telephoned through makes one feel that anything might have been happening in the time it took to come. It is very slack of whoever is responsible for the cables that they should take so long. I’m so glad you had such a lot of mail from us all when you did get in, darling, and especially the pillow cases which will replace the lost ones and make you feel at once ‘ well that’s a little bit of home’. I wrote to your Aunt Norah to tell her they had got to you all right. She will be so glad. By the way, I meant to tell you that I have ordered “A last train from Berlin” by Howard K Smith for your Daddy’s birthday. I hope he will like it and find it as interesting as the review in the Sunday Times, which you will be getting, made out.
Yes, it was very worrying when others got cables and both Shelagh and Daphne rang me up and told me David and Dick were safe and nothing came from you. The only consolation, if one can call it that, was that nobody at Bishop Auckland had heard either. I can’t tell you the relief when I did get your cable, sweetheart. It was wonderful your saying you might see Terence, I’m so sorry you won’t. I am just longing for your letter telling me all about your doings. I wonder how you are getting on with the replacement of your kit, I will do my best, darling, to send you out all what I call the Bunny things again. I only hope I shall be able to find them all as things are so scarce now.
I bet you are enjoying the beer and food and how you deserve it. I’m so glad it is good, darling, and there is plenty of it. Long may it continue. I wish I could cook you a cauliflower cheeses and send Brighteyes up to the pub for some lovely, cool bitter. I’m so thankful that you are feeling all right despite the sores darling. Oh Precious, if only I could put my arms around you. You are a naughty boy sending me a parcel, I wonder what it is, do you know you sent it on July 12th so if it takes the usual three months it will arrive for our wedding day, sweetheart. How wonderful. I am longing to see what it is. You will have two lots of photos like the ones in No. 71 as I sent a second lot on Thursday in case you had lost those too. I do hope, my precious, there is a photo of Major Cummins MC on the way to me by now. I am longing to show you off complete with crowns and suntan. So glad George Wood is all right as you say you were with him, I think I met him. I hope you will have many more pleasant visits into the town with Dick and the others.
What amuses me rather, darling, and is a little joke which I’m sure you will enjoy too is Major Ferens did manage to mention you in his airgraphs home but otherwise it was pure, undiluted Major F v Rommel sort of touch. You give me no details about yourself which I am aching for and you never grumble which is so wonderful and when you remark about the
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dust storms and weather, which must be pure hell, you say “we might be much worse off”. I do admire you darling, I’m always full of grumbles about washing up and shallow baths.
Damn lucky surely, darling, if MF’s truck had had a direct hit should he have been there to tell the tale after? We all know, precious, he would win the war on his own, don’t we?! Daphne and Shelagh have no use for him at all so I should think it is extremely probable neither have David or Dick. I only hope he showed up a bit better this time and wasn’t so keen on getting back.
You were utterly wonderful getting most of D back, sweetheart, but then you would. You never mentioned Lumley which I had so hoped you would as I wanted to write to his Mother again to tell her he was really all right but as you haven’t said anything about him, I’m sure he must be. When looking at the photo of D Coy. Mummy said of your CSM the moment she saw his face ” he’ll turn up all right”. I bet he does too and Duggie. Boyes Stone I’m not so sure of, poor chap, as he isn’t nearly so tough as the other pair. Anyway, darling, I do pray they all turn up safely. I have written to Mrs. Luxton to ask her if she knows Mrs. Cathcart’s address as I will write to her, but before doing that I am rather anxious to know if the casualties have come through from the War Office as it would be awful to write if she hadn’t heard poor girl. It is very sad.
Darling, the 50th. Division was the only one mentioned for ages on the wireless, every news we heard it and one’s blood ran cold. The Telegraph had a bit in it that the Germans and Italians at Gazala would never forget the night patrols of the Durhams. I remember you practising them, sweetheart, how well all your hard work and patience in training those men has repaid you. I bet you gave the Jerries a good many tough times. I can think of a good many of D Coy. whom I should definitely not like to be the wrong side of a gun of. Coo, I’ll say not. Little brighteyes and Corporal French and Clegg and Wilson and Foster and Hanson, yes there are a good many. Cowe I feel, when the situation had been explained and had duly penetrated, would wave his bonnet in the air, grab his trusty bayonet and bound forward yelling ‘The Campbells are coming, or something, kill the lot and look round slightly startled and wonder what to do next. He was a good lad.
Darling heart, I am very, very sad you lost all your possessions but all that matters to me is that you should be all right yourself. The others can be replaced, not of course the same as those you had grown fond of but you shall have them all again precious. The cigarettes for the Coy. arrived at the right moment, you could hand them all out as a treat with our blessings to all those gallant boys. I wonder if I can get you another red diary, it is a bit late in the year for this year and a bit too soon for next but I’ll do my very best, likewise for a writing case though that being leather is fearfully difficult. Still Bunny will try.
Glover sent me a pass book. I have never had one in my life and in it was written the sum of £64-1-1 so evidently that is what you have in your account. Glover said he expected I would be running out to buy more pots and pans so I replied saying I would try not to spend it all at once. HaHa! I think, darling, everything seems to be in order as regards £-s-d. I’m so glad you approved of everything we had done. It is a load off my mind as I do hate arranging things without you precious. The allowances, as you will know, are being paid through all right by Barclays. I’m sure you ought not to do that, darling, and wish you would keep it for yourself to enjoy it all. After all you draw so very little from your account so I think you should, most certainly, keep that £7 a month. We have plenty here and can manage very well and I can’t bear to think of you being short of money. As your Mummy so rightfully says what does it matter what you spend as long as you enjoy yourself, sweetheart. Look at all those lovely things you sent me home too. By the way I had a form from Glover about your
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field allowances. Apparently the Army Pay Office now has a new scheme by which instead of the deductions being made from your pay every month and appearing on your pay statement they will be made from your private account. The Army says the details take such a long time to come from the Middle East, therefore say your drawings for this month of July won’t reach them until October and then would appear in your November statement.
All rather involved, darling, still perhaps you will understand. So instead they are going to pass all details of what you draw as they come in or to Glover and he copes with them. As far as I can gather you draw your end what you want, the details trundle home by long sea, the Army Pay Office pays in your whole monthly pay to Glover plus allowances, plus the details having completed their trundling and then I gather all is well. I suppose it resolves itself into your drawing what you want direct from your bank and not via the APO, but I may be wrong. It is evidently a form which is going the rounds as it was all printed so no doubt you will be able to find out all about it your end. My explanation is so garbled, it is enough to give you a headache. I think my problem is I don’t understand it myself. I had to send Glover a written authority saying this was in order. He wrote asking for it, the letter is in the bundle on the way to you by sea, and said would I just write the authority and no more as it had to be filed and any news would I put on a separate sheet. This was, of course, too much for me, so I wrote out a beautiful letter saying I thought it would be so nice if his dear bank paid your pocket money for you and I wondered if you would spend it all on suckers or peppermint lumps and all sorts of idiotic remarks – yes, darling, I am quite, quite mad – and then I wrote the proper, formal letter and hid it under the sucker one which ended up with a X from Peter for Mr. Glover and love from Peter’s Mummy – so poor man will have a fit so don’t be surprised if your account is suddenly cancelled by him darling!
About your income tax. the answer came from a Lt. Rowland which I sent to Glover to make sure it was all correct. This gent said the amount you had had to pay last year amounted to more than had actually been deducted from your pay each month and so you had to have a double amount deducted each month now, one for this year and one for what was left over from last year. Really they do go out of their way to make life difficult. He said if I wanted to know any further details I had to write to some income tax laddie somewhere in Blackpool or something so I expect Glover will tell me what to do now. We shall have to make him a presentation after the war. I’ve just had a brain-wave, when Glover sends the letter back, I’ll send it to Glynn Mills as they coped with the returns and they can get going if there is anything to get going on. I am still very suspicious of your having to pay a double lot, darling, despite Lt. Rowland.
Yes, darling, the £5 odd did come through all right from Barclays, left over from your leave and so far one allowance £6 and something. So glad we are drawing the correct family allowances, I feel like applying for Cobber Cummins too after all he’s a very important member of us. I was very relieved you did approve of the joint account idea, it seemed rather a cheek to me at first, my butting in on your private affairs, darling, and you promise me you will stop it whenever you want won’t you? You will probably stop it at once when you have read the beginning part of this letter and all the blankets and china and glass I have been buying. You’ll say to yourself she’s not to be trusted with money in her pocket which is only too true! I think though, seriously, we shall be all right for October when the B R’s insurances are due and I will pay them from that money accumulating in your account and if there is any over will put it into NSC. Darling, the reason you had such a big balance last February was because your parents paid in close on £50 for Peter’s expenses and I never used it as I had saved enough from your monthly allowances, remember darling? I told them
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all about it. I will do as you say and leave £10 in your account for a wet day, or whatever it’s called, and buy NSC every quarter with the residue. Glover said to send the pass book every quarter so they could be done at the same time. The September quarter we wouldn’t be able to have any NSC as there will be the £50 wanted in October. Anyway, darling, I will do exactly as you say, it sounds perfect to me. Being a Major you will be getting more pay too so that will all help towards the Burrow! So your figures in letter 36, written when you were a Captain!, are wrong as you say £40 a month including all your Cairo Barclays allowances will be going into Glover. It will really be about £50 a month won’t it? I should suggest, darling, you have £20, I and PR £16 and the remaining £10-£14 for savings and insurances.
How about that? I have managed to make Granny take a cheque at last and so have paid her up to the end of June. She fought me over it for months but I knew you would wish it darling. Out of the rest of the £16, after I have paid her, I can be getting the Burrow’s interior together. You are quite right we should certainly have a nice little nest egg, darling.
I haven’t paid in any more to either our or PR’s NSC since you had the last details. I promise you, precious, I will pay for things out of our money for the Burrow. Glover never sent me a cheque book so I enquired as I have only three signed ones of yours left and I want to keep those as I love looking at your name at the bottom! Yes, darling, it will be heaven planning and furnishing our little home. Pray God we have it soon. Your letter about our fortunes was so clear, darling, how well you do write, so simply expressed, not like me all round the mulberry bush and back again. The trouble is being so vague myself I can’t pass it on clearly and concisely to you. Well, I think, darling, that has answered all you wrote about and told you the latest on our financial front. My darling, it is sleepy time for Mrs. Bunny but before she must tell you how much she loves you and how utterly, terribly thankful she is that her beloved sweetheart is safe and sound. Precious, the indescribable relief of it. I pray you don’t have to go back into all that but, darling, if you do, know that I am always by your side and that my prayers and my heart are with you. You are my world and I thank God that He brought you safely through all those perils of May and June and the beginning of July and may He watch over you unceasingly and keep you safe in His loving care and one wonderful day bring you back to me and to your dear parents who are just living, like me, for your safe return. Take all care of your precious self, sweetheart. How I love you and all I can do about it is to write it in blue ink on white paper but the day will come, darling, when I shall be able to say it to you again and please God may that day come soon. God bless you sweetheart.
All my adoring love to my precious, your own Bunny.
Millions of X.
Drawing of Bunny family.
On 26th July they arrived at El Dakar. Ammunition was issued and orders given for the attack. The objective was Sanyet el Miteiriya and the ridge running north west. The Composite Bn. were to take the ridge, known as “Ruin Ridge” as it was so strongly held by German and Italian forces and was surrounded by a mine field. The Bn. was to take the south eastern slopes and the Australians the north eastern, if they succeeded tanks would come through and drive the enemy back out of Egypt. South African troops were to clear a path through the mine field.
27th. July 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
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117 C CW OVERSEAS 26
EFM MRS RONALD CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT DORSET
LETTERS AND PARCELS RECEIVED MANY THANKS ALL WELL AND SAFE MY THOUGHTS ARE
WITH YOU. RONNIE CUMMINS.
Early on the morning of 27th. July the Bn. was ready for the attack which was then delayed and they had to wait for the Allied barrage to proceed and even then the order to advance was not given. When it came the advantage of surprise had been lost and the enemy were on full alert and waiting for them. The South Africans had been unable to clear the mines due to heavy enemy fire. Under deafening fire the two forward Coys. Band D were led by Lt. Col. Battiscombe across the mine field, many fell. Finally 200 yards in front of the enemy they charged firing rifles, Tommy guns and Brens from the hip and cheering and shouting. The enemy started to retreat and D Coy. gave chase and rushed the post with bayonets and took prisoners. A Corporal took 28 German and Italian prisoners back to HQ. D, meanwhile, got separated from the Bn. and contact was lost. (Of the 97 men of B Coy. only 35 reached the objective, no figures for D.)
With no support the Coys. on the ridge had no hope of survival. D Coy. was on its own, they had no food or water and no tank support. They lay flat on the sand hoping not to be seen but soon German tanks had their position and began to fire on them, many were killed or wounded and the others were forced to surrender.
Afterwards many felt the whole attack had been a total waste of men and they had been sacrificed for nothing
Airgraph 171 27th July 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My darling sweetheart
This is going to go off by the same post as today’s card 136. to see which gets to you first.
Let me know so I can concentrate on the quickest, precious. A letter today from Sheila Potter to say she had had a son last Tuesday at Preston. I am very pleased but Mummy and I were struck by the lack of maternal feeling expressed, she was almost ,ore interested in her flat tummy than the son and heir. I suppose I am so fearfully proud of PR I duly expect all other Mamas to be the same and adore their babies. Daphne Joy is coming over tomorrow, I am so looking forward to seeing her, we shall have a lovely, long gossip about you and David. Your Daddy wrote that the china was on the way from Hill Ouston and it came this morning so we are now more or less complete, darling. It is lovely, an early morning tea set and six soup cups and stands, to match the dinner service, and such an attractive basket, china with a handle, for cakes and biscuits. We don’t know where it is all going! I am now, again, on RR’s income tax, it first went to the Pay Office and then to Glover and he suggested Glynns to verify it all. We do have fun, me and the I T people! PR has almost got another tooth through but is being very good and sweet over it. A parcel went off to you today, the album, and a bundle of papers tomorrow. God bless sweetheart. All the love in the world. Your BUNNY XXXXX
27th July 1942 Nornay House, Blyth, Notts.
My dear Brenda,
How sweet of you to write and tell me the pillow cases had arrived at such a moment to cheer dear Ronnie up. My gift would have been so little if you had not put all your love and work into it and sent him what he wanted.
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You are a brave dear, and I am so looking forward to seeing you, Ronnie and Peter when the glorious day arrives when you are together again. My thoughts are constantly with him out there manfully doing his job of work. Surely good will come out of it all in the end.
I pray daily for him, in some ways he is like his Uncle John, and is very dear to me. I do hope his sore hands will soon be better and that he is not in this latest battle.
So Peter is putting on weight and got 4 teeth, how exciting, but it’s amazing how quickly they grow! What a darling and comfort he must be.
Yes, all is well with me. My faithful maid is away and I have been alone, except for Pussy, for a fortnight. She returns on Thursday and I shall be glad to see her if only to cook meals and wash up!! I live in the garden fascinated with the tomatoes, cucumbers and marrow! I have peas and potatoes and none ever tasted so good!
I hope your Mummy is well.
With much love and do let me have news from time to time.
A kiss to Peter.
Your affectionate Aunt Norah.
31st. July 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
166 4.10 BBR 14
CUMMINS BURTON BRADSTOCK 61 DORSET.
DELIGHTED YOUR NEWS THANKS WRITING SHORTLY
Letter No. 89. 1st. August 1942 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My own precious sweetheart and Peter’s adored Daddy.
Your Daddy’s birthday and I put through a call at 7pm but so far it hasn’t come through yet. PR had a celebration by producing yet another tooth so he now has six in all, isn’t he clever?
Not yet nine months. I had a gossip to Shelagh last night about Dick and congratulated her for him! She was very thrilled and said she wished to goodness he would get sent home to collect it from the King. Do tell me the whole story, darling. She seemed to think he had been with you on your special job with D but I think she’s got it wrong as you never mentioned him and also she had a cable long before I did. She said it was only guess work.
She said, too, he had had HQ Coy. since Jan. and was acting Major. Mummy says that is a courtesy title and that he wouldn’t wear the crowns, then again Shelagh seems to think he is a proper major. Do tell me, darling, I have got all mixed up about who is who in the Bn. now.
She was on a weekend at her home in Hampstead. (Harry Moses writes that Dick became a Major and was awarded the MC on July 30th. Ed.)
I had a telegram from Peter Jeffreys saying “Delighted your news, many thanks, writing shortly”. Wasn’t that nice of him? I have sent him several letters lately but had had no reply, not that I really expected one as he would be very busy and men aren’t partial to letter writing outside their nearest and dearest!!! I knew he would like news of you all as I got it. I sent him a card this morning telling him about Dick and then at 10 am your airmail with the enclosure for him came so I have written a note and done it up ready to go. He will be so glad to hear from you darling. I suppose he is still with the 70th. Bn. at Heighington.
We are in the throes of making nightshirts for PR. He has completely grown out of his present ones which are plain white Vyella. Mummy cut the new ones out and I machined the seams on the famous Singer and then we have been sewing hems etc. together. They
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will be very sweet, two pale blue and two white Vyella with rosebuds!!! I evidently bought them with an eye to Felicity. Looking back on his layette, it was all so feminine and dainty that it now strikes me how, when the thought did occur to me, that no Bennett could ever produce a boy! I think I thought we would always have girls, not that I thought much either way as long as it was Ronnie’s baby, alive and kicking, but there must have been a subconscious something in my choice of woollies and materials! When he is older I shall never dare tell him that he was put into rosebuds he will be furious. As it is he will look very sweet but rather out of place as he is such a real boy. We are making them very large so that there will be room to grow, and they are quite plain with an opening at the back of the neck. The other ones hardly went across his chest and as for his sleeves they were up to his elbows. We want to get one finished so that he can go into it on Monday night. I have more leisure to get at it as the gardener is sufficiently recovered to come and wash up the lunch and tea things. He is still off all his ordinary work but is glad to have a light job like that to do to keep him occupied and to earn a few coppers. So I was able to get at the nighties in the afternoons. The Singer is such a blessing and so nice to work with. I still get myself into frantic muddles threading it etc. and have to get out the diagrams in the book of words and scratch my head. I never could understand any form of machinery.
We are now the proud possessors of a colander, Bazeley’s man came out yesterday for orders and so I said hopefully what about one, knowing they hadn’t been seen for months, and today out one came, it is very nice, white with the usual holes(!) and a blue rim and medium size. Just what we wanted, sweetheart, so another package has gone into the box room!
Aunt Betty (the LDV one remember darling?) sent an adorable white rabbit for PR. She had been making one for their Peter and thought ours might like one to cuddle and bite. She has made it beautifully and wasn’t it perfect of her to choose a Rabbit of all animals? It is white, knitted, with two black, satin eyes and real floppy ears and quite large. It is lined with Kapok so you can take off the woolly cover when it is soiled and wash it and put it back. I have put it away for the present as PR has plenty of toys just now but it will be lovely for later on. I do think it was sweet of her. Did I tell you Dorie sent a play pen rug, blue and white with animals on it which Dawson had had, it is Turkish towelling and just the same as the one Aunt Blanche gave him. He needs two as with his tea time rusk, which he smears all over his face, diddies, clothes and rug, they get grubby quickly so it is one on and one at the wash.
He is rather a dirty eater, darling! The first time he had the rusk he knew just what to do with it and held it firmly in his diddy and put it in his mouth and has a bite but then he decides he will see what it looks like so spits it out all chewed up and it rolls down his chin and on to the rug and he prods it with his finger and then picks it up and puts it back or rolls on it! You will say I am bringing him up badly, darling!
Did I tell you that last Sunday [the day before he was reported missing. Ed.] Mrs. Robarts called me and said she had the address of the Vatican Information Bureau which gets the list of all prisoners of war very quickly and if you apply by an air mail post card for news, it must be next of kin or the clergy, then they make enquiries and broadcast the result. There are voluntary helpers in this country who listen in to the broadcasts and then inform the relatives over here. She gave me the address which I sent on with all details to Mrs. Duggie as I thought she might be glad of it. I do hope it will produce something for her, poor woman. I’m sure both Duggie and your CSM will turn up. It sounded a wonderful Bureau and they appear to be able to get information which the War office doesn’t. Ruth said, when she last wrote, the casualty lists coming in were fearfully old ones. They seem to be very slow
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about it up there. I have written to Mrs. Cathcart, poor girl. It was hard to know quite what to say so I made it short and as sympathetic as I could. Shelagh seems to think she has a baby but you have never mentioned it so I think she’s wrong. Mrs. Luxton was very sorry about it and got her address from our Mrs. Wellington Boot who had a daughter in February, just like her Daddy but then we never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. WB so I can’t say what she looks like. Peter Luxton is, apparently, just as mischievous as ever.
Spuddles has gone and two kittens have replaced him and Peter threw one into the pond but fortunately Kenneth was there and grabbed it out in time and it is none the worse. Peter now rides in a little car and looks a fine little boy. The last people had left them months ago and she had been very lonely but now she had a Capt. and Mrs. Gow, he was at the Ordnance Factory near there. They had a tough time when Exeter got it and she was so scared she ran across with Peter to her friend as she was alone in the house. The husband is stationed at Didcot. This will amuse you precious, and I wonder how much truth there is in it! She said ” the blonde who was at the hotel and married the officer ( meaning Shelagh of course) has gone away and is now a brunette”. Darling, how shattering if it’s true. Fancy Dick coming home thinking he was going to see the golden haired wife he had left behind him and instead confronted by a black haired one! Shall I try that!!!? I don’t think, somehow, fair hair would suit me!
Hope rang up tonight, she is going off to London tomorrow to have this operation done.
Apparently he may be home earlier than was expected as everybody else has been arriving sooner, about three weeks, so she is coming home to wait about the middle of August. She is lucky. She is going to have the thing done on Monday or Tuesday. I gave her all your messages, darling, and she was very touched at the thought that you would have gone to Alex had you known just so as to be able to reassure her he was all right. I told her, too, how you had sent soldiers down to ask for him. She was very pleased to hear your report of the hospital being so good. I suppose you mean the 64th. General. That’s where he was.
It was very curious your meeting the man from the 12th. Lancers who knew Dick Truman.
I’m so glad you sent him a message, darling, he doesn’t get much interest taken in him. I am very much wondering what has happened to him as I haven’t heard a word from Kit, nor from him, and I think he would have written an airgraph if he had got out all right as he would have found some of mine waiting for him. I wonder if he got stuck in Tobruk or something frightful or was in that ghastly 230 tanks lost, I am rather worried about him. It was odd, too, that you said they were very near you and that you hadn’t had time to look him up as it might take a whole day. I wonder so much about all that went on, but it is impossible to fit all the pieces into the jigsaw now. I am so longing for your letters telling me all about it darling. I haven’t heard anything lately from Mrs. Weld about Humphrey either.
Mr. Dittmer came round on Thursday and showed us the most extraordinary photograph darling. I must tell you the story. A patient of Dr. Joy in Bridport was a very nervy woman and he could make no headway with her condition of mind. Then he discovered that she was, or had been in the past, very interested in photography so he suggested, as an occupation and to try and take her mind off herself, that she should go into the country with her camera and wander about taking anything that struck her fancy. This she did and got a little better. One day she was walking through a copse with her camera all ready in her hand to take a photo when she tripped and fell and it shot out of her hand. She heard it click as it struck the ground and so naturally wound off that particular one thinking it would be no good. When she had finished the whole film she took it to be developed and when calling for the prints the photographer said “How did you get that very beautiful picture ?” She
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wondered what he meant and then he showed it to her. Mr. Dittmer had been given a copy which he showed me and I didn’t see it at first until he had pointed it out, it is rather like one of those puzzle pictures you have to look for a face in them which isn’t at first glance obvious, well when he did it is really most remarkable, it is the most beautiful face of Christ.
It is just like the picture of him in Mummy’s room. Now, that only happened about five weeks ago and is perfectly authentic as Mr. D. got it from Dr. Joy who was so struck by it he had a lot of copies made. I wish I could get one to send you darling. It really is a miracle and needless to say the woman got quite well immediately.
Now, darling, it is Bunny’s bed time. The call hasn’t come through yet but we must go up for me to have my bath and give the BR his one and only bottle of the day. So goodnight my beloved. I adore you.
Sunday morning. Just time to write a few more lines before going to Holy Communion. I finally got on to your home last night but there was no reply and the same this morning so I think they must have gone away for the weekend. There was a terrific thunderstorm at about 4am and also another invasion, so Greta says.
Well, darling, I didn’t get very far and it is now after lunch which we had indoors as the grass was so wet outside. We had cold veal and salad and syrup tart. Lovely. The BR was in his pen and my goodness can’t that child reach things, he won’t be daunted either and goes on til he gets what he wants through the bars of his pen, today it was Candy’s bowl and a fork from the trolley. He can now get on his knees and kneel but with his diddies on the ground. He is a poppet. He is awfully brave too and when he bumps his head, as he often does on the pen or anywhere, he never cries and we hear the most prodigious cracks. He just looks surprised for a minute and then carries on quite happily. I think that is a very good sign for his future.
We train ourselves not to rush at him every time he hurts himself as, don’t you think darling, the knowledge that we think he might cry and the resulting cuddle if he does, is rather inclined to make a child into a cry baby? I think it’s better to treat bangs as ordinary happenings, unless of course they are really bad, and take little or no notice, very hard for adoring Granny and Mummy though!
It was so lovely, darling, your name was read out in Church in today’s list. I love being there that day, it is the first Sunday in the month. I say my little prayers for my precious Rabbit and feel others there are saying them too. Greta stayed here while we went and she loves to read the papers. She said PR had been very good all the time, bless him.
Last week Greta said to Mummy, very nervously, “could you pay me by the hour now please” Mummy then talked to her and found out that her Aunt, our milkman’s wife, had been up to see her mother and had asked what Greta did here and said she ought to have 8d. an hour which is what Miss Codrington paid her when she went there whilst we were away. She started here at 5/- a week which the Dittmers said was plenty for a fourteen year old and now she was up to 8/6 a week. She never has any rough work to do as Mummy thought it wasn’t good for her being so young and she just does PR’s washing and mops and dusts. Old Mrs. Williams comes and scrubs and polishes and she gets 9d. an hour but then it’s real hard work. Greta does her own work very well indeed and is always so willing.
Mummy said it wasn’t the money she grudged, it was being asked for it because of the Aunt’s remarks. Apparently Greta’s mother thought 8d. too much and she had been a servant. She now gets 12/- a week which means £34 a year and she’s only just fifteen. Still Mummy knew that if she didn’t give it to her there are dozens of people here who would give anything to have her as labour is so scarce. Mummy’s plan was to go on raising her gradually like she had done and she was going to give her 10/- a week now. The other day
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between us we gave her a 15/- NSC as she had been here a year and we give her money at Christmas and a 15/- NSC for her birthday and she has a large cup of milk and bread and marge and jam or cake when she is working and every day goes home with garden produce and little bits of things and they have all our scraps for their chickens so she didn’t do badly.
Of course all these women here have more money than they know what to do with and I suppose natural for the child to want to get in as well while the geese that lay the golden eggs still have the money to pay out. Do you know she told me her sister who works in the factory put some money aside, they all did there to enjoy the August Bank Holiday, and that she had only been doing it for quite a short time and on Friday she drew £8-10-1, £3-10-0 she gave for a pair of fleece lined boots for her Mother’s birthday and she put a £1 in each boot. All very nice but it shows how girls of her type nowadays are making money that she can give her Mother £5-10-0 for her birthday just like that. I think it’s very sweet and all that and I’m so thankful she gave it to her Mother, but it gives you an idea of the amount of money these people have to play about with. If wages are brought down after the war how will they react to going back to the old scale? The Government say the workers’ wages must go up according to the scale of living but the same doesn’t apparently apply to the troops wives.
I must tell you about Daphne’s visit darling. First of all, don’t ever tell David or her will you, but I always thought she was very fair and my remembrance of her is that, instead of which a tall, dark girl got out of the bus in sun-glasses and it simply didn’t penetrate for a bit! A lot of people got off so I was busy giving good mornings all round whilst trying to pick her out and when I saw this tall brunette was the only person who could be Daphne I rushed forward with outstretched hand and prayed it was and it was!!! I can’t think why I thought she was fair. I took her straight into the Anchor and we sat in the corner and gossiped and drank gin and limes and beer! She had been there often with David and so felt rather heartbroken. There were several other people there too but quite regardless we had a discussion about Victor’s wife and she said how ” whisky and make it a double” was the most perfect description of her and she didn’t wonder that she never had been produced before. She was telling me how one evening after going to Askers, she and David and some others went down to see you at the Cliff Guest House and played vingt et un and the batman made them scrambled eggs and there was a piano and a crowd of people. The idea had been “we must go and see Ronnie” but Ronnie wasn’t there having been out with a certain Miss Bennett. Do you know who that was darling? I simply can’t think! Anyway you duly appeared and on went the party. She was, apparently, living at Crewkerne most of the time which was her old home and very convenient and then she used to come down and lunch with David at the Bull or spend a weekend at Litton. Her Michael was only a very few months old then. David has sent her a parcel too with make-up in it, she is longing to get it.
I was telling her about all my lovely ones and how the stockings hadn’t turned up but now, as you will know, they have sweetheart. I haven’t dared unroll them, they are so beautiful and thin, I am afraid of my rough hands catching them. They are going to be cherished until you come home and then I shall wear them to welcome you in and in the blue and white frock.
Really, darling, I can’t get over how clever you are to get my exact size and those perfect shades. I adored your little note with them, it was too sweet. You do spoil me, darling, both by loving me and giving me such beautiful presents. You are such a precious as you go on telling me you love me and writing such heavenly Rabbit- Bunny things, you haven’t got all husbandly and “dear old girl ” sort of thing. You can never tell me enough of those precious words, I hug them to my heart and cherish every one of them. I’m a very silly person,
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darling, and need to be reassured a lot and told I am Rabbit’s Bunny and you are so wonderful the way you always write just what I need most. I love you so much my sweetheart. Thank you once again with all my heart for sending those heavenly parcels.
They have given me such joy and it is so perfect to know it is what you, yourself, have chosen for me. Hope is fearfully envious, she says Terence has no idea what to get her as a present and as for the right sizes and shades, well it would be completely beyond him. She says will you please take him on one side and give him some lessons when you come back. She nearly fainted when I told her you had got the right size in stockings. Your Mummy, too, is very impressed, darling, and says fancy Ronnie buying powder and lipsticks, how terribly clever of him. So, darling, chalk it up that you are a very wonderful Rabbit.
To go on about Daphne. After we had bemoaned our fates at being separated from you both we came home to lunch. I told you in a card about PR distinguishing himself with the day’s dinner all over him and then his dirty pants and Cobber’s attention to her attaché case.
It was a heavenly day and so hot we spent it all out of doors. After lunch, which was a fish roll which has lasted us all the rest of the week, we sat and talked and I showed her all the photos you had sent me and she showed me Michael and Richard who look adorable. She was telling me how she simply hated Mick and how David had told him off most effectually as Mick was damn rude to him just after he had been bitten by a scorpion. Ever since Mick had been very polite to David! Apparently the “officers having rows” back in the winter story was also told to Alma Jackson and Co., and Mick was always making himself very unpopular.
He also dropped a terrific brick by telling Peter all about Candy’s activities when he had no business to at all and if he’d been found out there’d have been hell to pay. He is an ass. We both decided as soon as the war is over and you have to do some occupying of enemy territory we shall be over like flashes of lightening to join you, complete with babies and baggage, even if it’s in the desert. Apparently Mrs. Burrough is doing her best to join him in Nairobi. He has been there ever since he left Cattistock, having a whale of a time. She wants to go out as a nurse which she is in Weston. He is doing his best his end but so far the War Office won’t play. I asked Daphne about their marriage, you remember darling how Peter Jeffreys offered him a week’s leave and he said forty eight hours would be quite enough thank you and how Peter J though he was joking, Daphne says she can’t understand it as they are very devoted to each other and that Babette Burrough had a week’s leave and they all though what a shame it was poor Dick was only given 48 hours and that she came down and stayed with him in Litton the rest of the week and Daphne was there too. I said how when they had taken our room at Cattistock and they said goodbye and a few minutes later she came into my room as bright and cheerful as anything and we couldn’t understand how she could be like that when she had just seen her husband for the last time for ages. Daphne said she was half French and had also been on the stage a lot so that possibly explained it and it was iron self-control. They are, apparently, great friends and meet very often in Bath for lunch and she says Babette is a most charming person and could have married anybody she is so attractive, and she couldn’t really think why she had married old Dick as, though he was very nice, he was very dull really. We had tea and then after taking one photo of her holding PR it was time for her to go. She brought him a lovely toy, a chintz horse with a red, woolly mane and tail. Heaven. We call him Rufus and he is a great joy. It was sweet of her.
She hardly seemed to have arrived before she was gone. I do hope she will come down again though it is six hours travel.
Daphne showed me a photo taken by Billy Watson I think she said and he did look years older and much thinner. She said he had dropped a lot of weight. He didn’t look the same
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David at all and that was before the battle. I suppose it is the heat that tells so much more on fat men than on thin and I expect Tom Black looks quite different too. She herself looked well but a bit harassed, I think she finds coping with David’s locums and the house and all the problems that crop up a bit wearying and no wonder. She was very cheerful and looked very pretty. Tell David that but not the bit about being a bit harassed. She was telling me too she had to pay her daily woman a £1 a week for three hours work in the morning and the washing up in the afternoon. She said how they’d got you under their thumb completely as if you didn’t pay them what they wanted plenty of others would.
Darling heart, I was lucky last week, darling, getting your undated EFM, I wish to goodness it had been dated. You said “Letters and parcels received, all well and safe, my thoughts are with you”. A lovely cable, darling, thank you so much. I do wonder when you sent it. It is so much more helpful if only they would date them. Then I had your airgraph 36, it was dated by you June 19th and the APO date was July 3rd. It has taken a time. You are a precious when you said you are well and happy and also the bit about the amusing nights. I want to hear more about them. It was so sweet of you to remember our June 30th when you were in the midst of the battle. It was wonderful your getting an airgraph away at all.
We certainly did hear a lot on the wireless, grand work on your part and all the troops but the general outlook seemed to get worse and worse. Thank goodness there is a lull at the moment, long may it last. I heave a great sigh of relief at every news bulletin when nothing has transpired. Anyway Rommel hasn’t yet got to Alexandria and he thought he would have by now. I am so glad you are standing the weather all right but you must have got very thin sweating so much and going through all that. What do you weigh now precious? I can’t make out how you were able to receive mail from me on June 19th and get me cables away and airgraphs. The APO must have been right in the front line. Your writing was jolly good for a wind and on your knee. Darling, I am so thankful you have forgotten that wretched airgraph of mine, you are too good to me. You can spank me good and hard when you get back for it, darling. I’m very glad you got Tim as 2nd.I/C and that he was in good form. Give him my salutations. Granny thanks you very much for your birthday greetings and PR returns the gurgles. I pray you are all right when you say you have a feeling it won’t be long now. Darling heart, every day is spent longing for you back. I live for your cables, darling, and was very reassured when you said you would cable whenever you could, even though I knew you would. I am very pleased you are getting my mail all right, the post cards seem to be reaching you quickly and giving you little bits of news.
Now, darling, your wonderful letters. I had seen the bit in Life about the Garrett brothers. It was extraordinary. Do you think he would have made a good husband for Ruth? I wonder what the fighting Frenchman with the flowing cloak and no English is like?! They had a time of it those two brothers, the story was very interesting. Now I know why you referred to you walls with our photos on them. I couldn’t think why you had walls and a bunk. You may remember my commenting on it darling. It was a wonderful drawing and you certainly seem to have made yourself very comfortable, it will have been cooler than above ground and also safe from air attack. Ronnie R’s Burrow, darling, I wish I had been there with you. Did you get Cowe and French to dig it for you? Happy memories. All your own belongings dotted about as you liked them all comfortable darling. It was lovely and thank you for drawing it so beautifully. I love being able to visualise where you are like that, I wonder where you are living now. Daphne said David had told her proper buildings and Billy Watson was decorating the walls with bird drawings.
Granny sends you a special message and that is that she doesn’t expect an answer to her
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little notes to you as she knows how busy you are and that you’re not to worry about it. She was so thrilled about your Majority as I was darling. Thank goodness you approve of the Hoover, I hate buying things without you there to help me. I get nervous in case they aren’t all right. As you say it will be a great help as they will be so rare. Let us hope and pray you will hear its hum soon. I had no idea Lindrea and John Chapman had gone to the Indian Army. They do seem to chop and change about. I wonder how they like that.
Darling, I was very interested in all you wrote about Cathcart. We are wondering very much whether his nerves and inferiority complex combination had anything to do with his being killed. He was indeed a strange character, poor man. You did your best with him and he had his little bit of happiness before he left. Do you remember his making that remark to you before he got married? Poor girl, it is far harder for her, the one who is left alone.
After May 20th. I read some of your letters written when you were at sea. How miserable you must have felt knowing every mile took you further away. The next journey you have will be bringing you nearer and nearer thank heaven. Daphne and I were talking about that ghastly May 20th and she described it perfectly and said it felt like having an operation without an anaesthetic.
Darling, I must tell you I have had no letter from Terence. He is like you he only writes to his wife! so you don’t have to feel you have to write to Hope. I give her all your messages and she gives me Terence’s.
I never pass our familiar spots in the village without thinking of you, darling, and those wonderful times together that summer and winter. Darling, it is me to thank you for marrying me, you have given me so much happiness and I never can repay you for it all. You are right being married is so perfect and even though you are miles away from me, still we are close as can be in spirit and it is that that carries us on through all the weary separation.
It was curious your writing that about love for one’s parents being a different kind as your Mummy wrote the other day and she was saying how now you love me best. I wrote back and said that I was sure you didn’t feel that as I knew how you loved them and that your love for me was quite a different one and that my marrying hadn’t altered my love for my Mother, in fact it had deepened it as I had so much more understanding now I was married and we had a son and that I was sure it was the same with you.
It was very nice of Bill W to give you his great coat crowns. Have you ever forgiven him for taking me to look at the moon at Askers?! I always bring that up don’t I darling. What a shame that when you had the drinks you couldn’t get the people to celebrate your crowns. Still you may have achieved a joint one with Dick now for his MC too. Poor Bill Proud, he must have felt awful about Rachel and you too, darling, knowing her so well. I do hope she will have another, it was a ghastly tragedy and nothing seems to have been done about it. Poor girl how she must have suffered and him too. As you say, as if the war wasn’t enough to bear.
Darling, this letter has got stopped this evening. I was feeding PR at 6.30 when there was the equivalent of a German shelter conversation a la N. Gubbins. He looked a bit surprised and Candy flew up stairs to her sure refuge in time of trouble ie. under Granny’s bed, Cobber and every other dog in the neighbourhood barked their heads off and Granny never knew a thing about it. I had just put PR into bed when old Mrs. Brown came in, a bit shaken poor old dear so we gave her some sherry, and asked her about her boyfriend William who is down here and she cheered up. So we were a bit late for supper and then I was settling down to write again when she came back. It was sweet of her she wanted to warn us to be on our guard and she said she wouldn’t rest until she had been in as she had seen somebody
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who had told her all about it. It was, apparently, a single raider and he bombed and machine gunned West Street, Whitemore’s in South Street, the road’s impassable and all the windows out everywhere and fire somewhere behind Whitemore’s and Cornick’s, you know, darling, opposite Lloyds Bank, and some killed and wounded. Perhaps it was trying to get the mills or perhaps sheer devilment. Mrs. Brown got it from a woman here who was passing through at the time so I suppose it’s all true. A very good thing it was on a Sunday when there were few people about and not a market day. It seems to have been a pretty good mess. We are doing a lot to the Germans so have to expect a bit back. Poor old town, it is a shame. By the time I had taken Mrs. B home it was bed time, so I am writing this when the rest of the house has gone Bye Byes, including Cobber who now always sleeps in his basket by my bed. Sometimes he scratches in the middle of the night and collects a fearful raspberry for waking me up, poor little man. I think he feels it’s like old times a bit to come to bed with his Mummy. I’m afraid both dogs have been set on one side now PR is here but they are very good. It is very hard on them.
I’m so glad you did have a bit of a binge, in bits and pieces though, when PR was born. Really it resolved itself into lots of small parties so you had lots of celebrations and knowing my Rabbit a few hangovers too! Still, darling, they were in a very wonderful cause. I’ve forgotten what a hangover feels like it’s so long since I had one. Sometime before you left in fact. Never mind we’ll have a colossal one when you are home.
Yes, darling, I have checked all the lists you gave me of what you had sent letters 31 to 39, airgraphs 22 to 32, No. 30 has never turned up, letter cards 46 to 51 and all the cables, four NLTs. and two EFMs. I’m afraid airgraph 30 won’t turn up now [it didn’t. Ed.] I can’t think what happened to it. They were all wonderful letters, darling, and gave me terrific joy, thank you precious. The cards of wool and insurance particulars took their time to reach you. I’m so glad, darling, you approve of the latter. You will know by now Barclays of Cairo are paying the allowances through all right. I see you say your promotion means another 12/6 a day, just over four guineas a week, very nice I’m sure darling.
I wish I could hear you and Dick talking about old times together. I bet you nearly howl. We will make up for it when we are together again, darling, when is that day coming? How I live for it. Precious, my back is all right again, I had forgotten I had twisted it till I read your letter! Do tell me how little Lumley is, I don’t seem to have heard about him from you or himself for ages. I’m sure he does your housework beautifully and polishes everything and still buttons your coats! He will be very proud of being batman to a Major. It must a funny feeling, as you say, being saluted all round but very “gratifying”! Your long hair won’t go very well with the crowns. Does it almost cover them?! You will have had it cut by now anyway, darling, and be a slick Rabbit again, very much plastered down. You were naughty to have a boil on your PP darling. Perhaps David would give you a tonic like you had before to clear the system of impurities. Do ask him sweetheart. WHAT ABOUT YOUR TOOTHYPEGS?
You know you fighting men have wonderful spirit. Your telling me about the men discussing their leave and beer outside your dug-out, there stuck right out in the desert with very little comfort and away from home and yet they keep cheerful. Also your saying how you were going to make the world safe for PR and all his lot to grow up into. You don’t grumble or grouse, you always see the highest motives in everything and I do admire it. Yes, I pray too that when PR is grown up there will be peace on earth and for his lifetime and also for his childhood, sweetheart, safe with his Daddy to guide him along the right path. I long to know all your plans and dreams for him, they will be wonderful. He hasn’t started to talk yet so hurry home, darling, to be in time for when he does. I loved the way you said he was going
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to be brought up to be independent of modern conveniences. I know just what you mean, darling, you don’t want him to grow up soft but is sounded rather as though the Burrow was fated never to have a pull-and-let-go!!! Darling, as long as I have you back I don’t care if I have no comforts. They are not necessary to happiness. You are so right when you say one is liked on one’s face value by those who matter. This war will teach a lot of people that.
Well, precious, it is not the post Corporal waiting for me but the sleep Corporal so I will say goodnight and God bless you and keep you safe and bring you home to me soon. I love you with all my heart beloved. Your own BunnyXXXXXX
August 4th 1942 Major R. Ovenden. 6th. DLI MEF.
I find this a very difficult letter to write for, as you will have heard before you get this, Ronnie is missing.
As I believe he had told you he hadn’t been very fit just recently having a number of desert sores which wouldn’t heal but we were back behind having a rest and the whole thing seemed to come to a head with the most enormous boil on his seat which on bursting seemed to clear everything up and although that wasn’t quite healed he was better in himself than for some weeks. We were as I say, resting, when on July 25th we received orders for an operational move in a hurry and Sammy went off that day and we followed on, on the Sunday. It was only half a day’s run we had to go and we were met the other end with the news that the men were going into a night attack the same night. The secret had been well kept and we duly formed up without any trouble and shortly after two on the Monday morning the attack went in. I saw Ronnie on the staff line at the head of D Coy. and he was very cheerful and confident although we knew it would be a sticky job.
Shortly afterwards we were through the enemy minefields and bumped into a German post. D Coy. went in with the bayonet with Ronnie at their head and quickly cleared things up and that was the last I saw of him. I should think that bayonet charge will go down in history and if you read in the papers of a particularly fine effort you will know that it is D Coy. they are talking about. The forward companies went on at good speed and I am certain that they reached their objectives. The enemy, however, cut in behind them and cut them off and my rear party were unable to get through. The enemy position turned out to be much stronger than was suspected and all our efforts to get through to them next day were unavailing. I think they must have been forced to surrender about midday on the Monday, but that is only surmise based on the amount of ammunition I knew them to be carrying. I know you will understand that I cannot put fuller details on to paper.
I have made very possible enquiry from the odd stragglers and stretcher bearers who did manage to get out and they have all insisted that quite late in the proceedings Ronnie was all right and unhurt and so I think we may both hope that he is safe and sound even if he is, pro tem, in enemy hands. If I do hear anything further I will write you straight away. Sammy and Dick Dennis are also missing from the same operation.
With regards to Ronnie’s things I hope they will all come back to you through the official channels but to be on the safe side I have taken out the big photo case that he used to carry about with him and also a little present he had brought for you and will send them myself. The little photo case he must have with him.
I would wish to offer you all the sympathy in the world in the anxious time you will be having but am certain we shall soon be hearing that he is safe but a prisoner.
May you hear very soon.
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Yours very sincerely. Dick.
5th August 1942 Capt. D Joy RAMC. 6th. DLI MEF.
My dear Brenda
I have waited a short time before writing to you in case we could get any further news about Ronnie. Please don’t worry too much about his safety. I feel quite sure that he is safe. I have questioned everyone who could throw any light on things and when last seen he was perfectly all right. He did a great ‘job of work’ and led his men magnificently. If I hear anything more I will write to you immediately.
I am afraid some times there is a delay of weeks before anything is heard of people but don’t give up hope as it is not only me but all of us think he is safe.
Daphne has written that she hopes to see you soon and I hope that she will be able to get down to BB. I have had photographs of both Michael and Richard, they seem to be growing at a tremendous rate. I do hope your infant, I suppose though by now a young man and an infant no longer, is getting on well.
Hoping that you will hear good news shortly.
Yours sincerely David.
11th August 1942 Forshem, Fleet, Hampshire.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
I’ve been thinking of you and Mrs. Joy so much these last 2 months but had very carelessly not kept your addresses. I’m afraid I have no reassuring news, on the contrary, I heard yesterday that Sammy was missing. There was an official confirmation and unofficially I heard from Mrs. Clarke (her husband has just got command of the 9th. Bn.) that her husband had written on July 31st. to say that Sammy and a great many others were missing and he’s heard Sammy was wounded in the stomach. Apparently it was a night attack and we captured our objective but the tanks, supposed to be supporting, never turned up and after we’d exhausted our ammunition, most of us were taken in the German counter-attack. He writes that we put up a marvellous show. I am so sorry and do hope you have been luckier than me. It is too miserable and as you say more so when you know that they weren’t quite AI. Anyway I think the DLI have put up a wonderful exhibition all through the campaign. Sammy wrote in one of his old letters of July 4th that he felt tremendously proud of all the officers and men. They’d all kept their heads and showed such spirit and pluck.
I’m delighted David Joy was safe up to date, do please tell Mrs. Joy so when you next write and please let me know what news you get of your husband. I wish I could do something to help but there’s nothing one can do except hope and pray. Your small son must be angelic now and I expect he is the best consolation and comfort to you. My two are in very good form and keep me well occupied.
Do you ever hear from Peter Ferens, I wonder what news she has.
In one or two of Sammy’s old letters he describes the most hair-raising escapes. After Gazala, about the end of June, they apparently broke through the enemy lines on two occasions. On one occasion, for instance, Sammy’s truck was first of all bogged in deep sand, the next set on fire underneath him and a third hit in the petrol tank and they kept on driving into slit trenches in the dark and all this in a hail of bullets etc. I certainly think the 50th. have had their fair share of fighting.
I am sorry not to be of more comfort but here’s hoping for the best.
Yours very sincerely. Karin Battiscombe.
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14th August 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
S 2.20 LIVERPOOL 14TH.
IMPORTANT HAND DELIVERY BRIDPORT
MRS B CUMMINS BURTON BRADSTOCK
REGRET TO INFORM YOU OF NOTIFICATION RECEIVED FROM MIDDLE EAST THAT MAJOR R L
CUMMINS MC THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY WAS REPORTED MISSING ON 27TH. JULY
1942 STOP LETTER FOLLOWS STOP UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR
Letters etc. marked with * were returned by the Army on 8th. April 1943, in their original envelopes and many of them unopened. The letters etc. written by BPFC were returned with his personal effects. Ed.
15th. August 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
6.40 FOURTEENTH BISHOP AUCKLAND
MRS. CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK NR BRIDPORT.
DARLING OUT THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU WE KNOW YOU WILL BE BRAVE.
Saturday [15th August ? Letter undated. Ed.] 198, Queens Gate. SW7
My thoughts are with you all the time and I know you have both courage and faith to carry you through until we get more news.
I have been on to the Casualty Section and they have had no further news since the first which you have. They are letting me know immediately anything new and I will ring you up or wire at once. They said that there was every hope, otherwise they would have presumed that more news would have come through by now as deaths were being received more quickly than prisoners of war. As they were all together I’m sure they would have been taken in a batch. Poor old 6th. they have had some sorry times, but how proud we are of them and Ronnie would hate to think we had given in. I feel so sure inside that he is all right as I do feel things about him and have never had that awful depression when one knows something has gone wrong.
I only wish I could be with you or the Parents, but it is not possible now. Katherine has gone to take over a very important job for a month and therefore I must be tied to the office.
Anyhow I feel that being with the Parents we would talk about it and perhaps worry much more, as it is we’ve got work to help us out. When we hear that he is a prisoner at least we’ll have no more anxiety when there is an action on. Mick would be out of it, he always is.
Bless you, darling, and I am sure that your faith will carry you through. My love to your Mother and Peter and specially to you and I’m praying that we’ll hear news very soon.
17th August 1942 Fleet, Hants.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Thank you so much for your letters. I’m frightfully sorry to hear that your husband’s missing
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too but I feared he must be when you hadn’t had any reassuring cables. I do feel for you in that his last letters were so depressed, it’s awful when one knows that they are miserable and one can’t be there to console or comfort. Don’t I know it? Sounds all wrong that he should have taken part in this attack but from what I’ve heard of your husband it would have been very difficult to make him stay behind.
And we must take some comfort from the fact that they they’ve evidently fought to the last and made a jolly good show of it. I somehow feel they’ll be all right, you know, though we may have to wait weeks before we know and it is absolute hell however on may try and philosophise. It’s a nice thought that they may be treated by our own Doctors if they are wounded or ill but we’ll hope your husband, anyway, is just tired. And rest is one of the things that they will have in a POW camp.
I wrote off at once to the Vatican as you suggested and I’ve also asked a local grocer’s assistant here to look out for our 2 husband’s names as he listens to the Vatican broadcasts and it’s much too short a wave length for our set. So we’ll hope sooner or later to get some news. I’m expecting any day to hear from Brigadier Percy and also possibly from Andrew Clarke again. I’ll let you know anything I do hear.
I expect, like me, you manage to get through the day all right but the nights are not so good. One’s imagination runs away horribly I find, and it’s so silly as they are probably quite all right by this time.
I’m afraid they were all rather depressed, rather naturally, at having to withdraw all the time. Sammy always tries to sound as if he is happy but even he said he was feeling terribly homesick in one of his last letters. It must end soon however hopeless it looks, it just can’t last much longer I feel and I pray hard for some miraculous collapse like in 1918.
I believe you must know Eileen Sanctuary, she was at school with my elder sister and we’ve known her for years. She mentioned in a letter someone whose husband was in 50th. Div., I though at once it must be you!
We must keep going and just hope and pray hard.
Yours, very sincerely, Karin Battiscombe.
19th August 1942 Forshem, Fleet, Hampshire.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
A very hurried letter as I’m off to Instow tomorrow with my little girl for a fortnight, but I’ve had a letter from Andrew Clarke today, sent August 7th.
About the actual battle he says “I will tell you what little I know. The 69th. Brigade were short of men in one of their Bns. and we were asked to make up a Composite Bn. under Sammy, most of it was the 6th. but both 8th. and 9th. sent 1 company. They went forward on Sunday morning, 26th. July and found they were booked to take part in a big attack that night which the tanks were to exploit in the morning. Sammy led them himself through a gap in the minefields and all went very well. They took their objectives and many prisoners surrendered. When dawn came our tanks were to advance but something stopped them moving off. We can only surmise different suggestions, such small fry as myself haven’t been told. Meanwhile poor Sammy and Co. must have run out of ammunition awaiting them.
Ronnie Cummins got out of a bed of piles to go with them and the Bn. lost Ian Pitt and Lindsay and virtually the cream of my old Coy. The 9th. lost Hartnell and Donnahue and about 40. I’m not certain about the names of the 6th. The whole show on the part of Sammy and Co. was undoubtedly a great success if only there had not been that wretched finish to it”.
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Those are his exact words, though I’ve left out a few remarks about Sammy. He also mentions Dick Ovenden as acting CO while Bill Watson is in hospital so he’s all right.
I must say I have the greatest difficulty in not crying, it seems such a pathetic shame that they should have been so let down. However, one must trust that everything is ultimately for the best though we can not understand it at the time.
Yours sincerely Karin Battiscombe.
My address will be: Two Bridges, Instow, North Devon.
19th August 1942 Major R Ovenden. 6th. DLI MEF.
Here are the photographs I promised to get back to you together with a small present Ronnie had brought you. You will see I found the other small one after all, it was in his little haversack as though he had meant to take it with him but had had to throw the haversack off.
There is still no news but I pray you may have heard before this reaches you. I can’t help feeling that he is all right and can only hope that the news will come through quickly.
Yours very sincerely. Dick.
20th. August 1942 The War Office, Casualty Branch,
Blue Coat School, Church Road,
In confirmation of War Office telegram of 14th. August 1942 I am directed to inform you, with regret, that a notification has been received from the Military Authorities in the Middle East that your husband, Major R.L. Cummins MC, The Durham Light Infantry, was reported missing on 27th. July 1942.
No further information is available at present, but all possible enquiries are being made and any further information received by this Department will be sent to you immediately. Should you receive any card or letter from your husband or should news of him reach you from any other source it will be appreciated if you will at once forward it to this Department.
In the meantime I ask you to be good enough to notify this Office of any change of your address.
I am, Madam,
Your obedient Servant.
ADVICE TO THE RELATIVE OF A MAN WHO IS MISSING.
In view of the official notification that your relative is missing, you will naturally wish to hear what is being done to trace him.
The Service Departments make every endeavour to discover the fate of missing men, and draw upon all likely sources of information about them.
A man who is missing after an engagement may possibly be a prisoner of war. Continuous efforts are made to speed up the machinery whereby the names and camp addresses of prisoners of war can reach this country. The official means is by lists of names prepared by
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the enemy Government. These lists take some time to compile, especially if there is a long journey from the place of capture to the prisoners of war camp. Consequently “capture cards” filled in by the prisoners themselves soon after capture and sent home to their relatives are often the first news received in this country that a man is a prisoner of war.
That is why you are asked in the accompanying letter to forward at once any card or letter you may receive, if it is the first news you have had.
Even if no news is received that a missing man is a prisoner of war, endeavours to trace him do not cease. Enquiries are pursued not only amongst those who were serving with him, but also through diplomatic channels and the International Red Cross Committee at Geneva.
The moment reliable news is obtained from any of these sources it is sent to the Service Department concerned. They will pass the news on to you at once, if they are satisfied that it is reliable. It would be cruel to raise false hopes, such as may well be raised if you listen to one or other possible channel of news, namely, the enemy’s broadcasts. These are listened to by official listeners, working continuously day and night. The few names of prisoners given by enemy announcers are carefully checked. They are often misleading, and this is not surprising, for the object of the inclusion of prisoners’ names in these broadcasts is not to help the relatives of prisoners, but to induce the British listeners to hear some tale which otherwise they could not be made to hear. The only advantage of listening to these broadcasts is an advantage to the enemy.
The official listeners can never miss any name included in these enemy broadcasts. They pass every name on to the Service Department concerned. There every name is checked, and in every case where a name can be verified, the news is sent direct to the relatives.
There is, therefore, a complete official service designed to secure for you and to tell you discoverable news about your relative. This official service is also a very human service, which well understands the anxiety of relatives and will spare no effort to relieve it.
[This explains why I do not have his first letter to Mum. Ed.]
20th August 1942 70th. Bn. DLI, Barnard Castle.
My dear Brenda
I don’t really know what to say. You know what I think and that I pray.
Poor you. You girls always have the sticky end of the stick; watching and waiting.
But the sun will shine again, and right strongly on young Peter for whom all this agony and sweat and tears are being endured.
The old Sixth Bn. has certainly borne the heat and burden of this war so far. I ought to have stayed with them, you know. But I suppose I sulked when they kicked me out from command.
But it’s no good rambling on.
Tell me any news and know that I share your hopes and fears, be of good cheer.
PS I’ll bet old Ronnie put up the hell of a show again anyhow.
21st August 1942 Burton Bradstock PO.
Dear Mrs. Cummins
In reply to yours of today I write to convey our sincere hope that your husband may be a prisoner of war. It is a terrible war and the sorrow and sufferings it is bringing on the world is really tragic. I will send any telegrams direct to you from now on. It is a great blessing you
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have your little son to take you from worrying too much.
With best wishes for good news soon.
Yours sincerely C L Swoffield.
21st August 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
190 4.5 BLYTH NOTTS 11
CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK
MY LOVING THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU
22nd August 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
17 5.40 OXFORD 37
CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT DORSET
TERRIBLY SORRY HEAR YOUR NEWS DO NOT WORRY TOO MUCH SO MANY HAVE BEEN
TAKEN PRISONERS FEEL SURE YOU WILL HAVE GOOD NEWS SOON MY THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU MUCH LOVE KIT.
Sunday [23rd. August ? Letter undated. Ed.] 198, Queens Gate. SW7.
Thank you for your letter. I am feeling very confident today as I have located the actual girl who deals with the POW casualties the moment they reach London. She tells me that the names are now coming in for people missing about the same date and though it varies a great deal she thinks we should hear soon. The moment they reach her office she is ringing me up, so I will hear before they even get to be put in to the nominal rolls for telegrams. She also said that the killed and wounded come in sooner, as they don’t have to wait for the POW camp number etc, so I think we can feel that good news will come soon.
Mummy writes very cheerfully and letters I have had from people at home say that both she and Daddy are splendid so I am very relieved.
The fiancée of a great friend of mine has been missing since June 30th. and once I’d got on to the POW girl I asked her for information and she had just had the list with this man’s name on it, so it shows that they take a long time.
I’ve been very gay this week and been out every night. All the people I know seem to have come to London at one time, however it has been a good thing as I haven’t had time to worry so much.
Bless you, darling, and give my love to Granny Cecil and Peter and lots to you and chin up.
Your loving Ruth.
24th August 1942. Campo 75. PM 3450 Italy.
I am sending this to you, I have sent letter to B, do hope you did not have long worry re missing. I am very well and with Sammy and others I know. This is transit camp, we move soon. I told B to get on to Red X re parcels, clothes, cigs, choc etc. but to wait for new address. I think so often of you all, don’t worry will write as often as allowed. All love Darlings. R. [Campo 75 was in Bari. Ed.] New address Campo PG 78, PM 3300, Italy.
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The Germans had made an agreement with the Italians that any Allied prisoners of war taken in North Africa would be handed over to the Italians once they had left the battle area. Ed.
From British Prisoners of War Relatives news sheet. No. 27, July 1942.
Camp 78, Sulmona.
Camp situated in the valley of the Abruzzi mountains, and consists of one story concrete buildings, and is divided into five compounds.
Reports stated many improvements had been made for the winter in drainage, heating etc.
Prisoners sleep in dormitories in well-sprung iron beds, and have made lockers for their personal belongings. Every prisoner has two blankets.
Sanitary conditions are good, and hot shower baths, so that each prisoner can have a bath a week.
Good infirmary where patients are looked after by Italian and assisted by British doctors.
Clothing situation good.
Prisoners do a lot of washing.
They do not work but help in the management of the camp, and are making a sports ground.
Canteen but not well supplied.
Protestant and Catholic services held in the camp and a chapel has been built.
Each compound has its own organisation and forms a complete little camp in itself.
Study classes have been organised.
The morale of the camp seems high.
25th August 1942 As from: Epsom, Surrey.
My dear Mrs. Cummins,
We feel sure that your husband is a prisoner, and have written our son in Alex to try to find out. May you soon hear, the anxiety is awful.
Major R Cummins, the Durham’s is correct isn’t it? Jack might be able to get some news and he will do his utmost I know, he is like that. His last letter was August 4th, so he was then in Alex and would have wired had he left.
It is a dreadful time for the whole world, just ghastly.
Keep your spirits up, God will bring him back I am sure and I pray for him, so much is wrought by prayer. You are a plucky girl and that is what he would wish.
Don’t reply unless I have his regiment wrong or something. Cables take as long as Airgraphs, or I’d cable Jack.
God bless and keep you.
Yours sincerely. Eva Robarts.
We return on 31st.
26th August 1942 Lieut. Colonel W I Watson. 6th. DLI MEF.
By now you will have received official notification that Ronnie has been posted as “missing” in the last show in which the Battalion took part. I was away at the time and have only just come back from a course and taken over command, otherwise I would have written to you sooner.
Despite numerous enquiries nobody seems to be able to give me much information as to
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when he was last seen. It is thought he was wounded in the leg which cannot have been very serious for he was seen approaching a German tank; revolver in hand. I do so hope you hear some cheerful news. If I can find out anything more I will let you know for you must be passing through a very trying time.
I hear everyone spoke very highly of the Battalion which was even praised beyond measure by the Australians so it must have been good but I only wish Ronnie, the Coy. and a few others had been able to get away. I certainly wish I had his help now.
Yours very sincerely.
W I Watson.
27th August 1942 Appledore.
Very many thanks for your letters and Major Hart’s interesting account. Nothing yet from Brig. Percy. I do so hope your husband is not wounded, sounds a jolly brave show his bayonet charge. How I pray all is well with them as they deserve it. I’d love to have stopped off at Bridport if it hadn’t been for Aurea, but too difficult with a child. Am writing this on the beach, lovely day today. Aurea adores every moment. I wish I could forget the horrors for a bit but it’s terribly difficult, especially as they practice invasion exercises here all the time. A most war-like scene. Let’s go on exchanging any information we have and keep of good cheer. I am sure all will be well. KSB.
31st August 1942 Campo PG 75, PM 3450. Italy.
My Darling Precious.
My 2nd letter, I only wish they could be longer. I have so much I want to say, I long to be able to write all day but I can’t. We are still in transit camp so I can’t give you my final address, but if you send things here they should be forwarded. Sammy and I are still sharing together, and others I know are near us. Duggie has gone to another camp and Lumley ( very well) has come here. We are getting lots of fruit, grapes, melon etc. and the Red X parcels are very good. I think you can send only limited parcels but cigs, choc, hankies, socks, pullovers, books, needles, thread etc. and all small things are very useful. I have been able to get a few things, but warm clothes will be wanted soon. I think they issue some.
It is a funny life, my dream, I plan works, houses and all kinds of things and dream so much about you all and what we will do after I get back. We are quite comfy and really can’t complain. Darling, could you send some photos, I have nothing except my watch (broken) and cig. case which are personal and I long to be able to see your face. I was lucky to be able to get hold of a cable form yesterday, hope it gets to you. I do pray you did not have too long in which to worry about what happened to me and that cards arrived soon. I am quite well, darling, and my sores are almost clear. When I get settled I am taking up various subjects, only wish you were with me now, there is so much we could plan together.
You will be glad to hear I am learning to spell, I have also made myself a pack of cards and play patience at odd times. Well my dream, the end again, how I long for your letters to hear how things are going. How is PR, he must be quite big by now. All the love in the world, my darling, let’s hope it won’t be long now before we are together again. My love to Peter and Granny Cecil, don’t worry I am quite OK. All love RR.
[This was a transit camp at Bari. Ed.]
[Arrived 30th. Nov. 1942]
31st August 1942 The Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland.
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My Dear Brenda.
I have been on the point of writing to you several times since I received Ruth’s confirmation re Ronnie. I had heard so many rumours that I felt I couldn’t approach Col. Cummins, for I knew how knocked he would be and then, after receiving Ruth’s letter I ran into “Pip” Cummins and he told me the same thing. I was for writing to you at once, but I felt that I couldn’t. No words of mine could bring comfort and hope to you, I knew, and so I just hoped that the better news that you must be praying for would come before I had to write to you at the month end.
So far as I know you are still in suspense but I feel sure that ere long you will receive the glad tidings that all is well and that, at the end of this awful war, you will be re-united to settle down to a life of love and joy.
Believe me, Brenda, when I say that I pray constantly that the good news will come to you as quickly as ever possible. Though I have never met you I feel that you are far too loving and devoted a little wife to be hurt. All will be well soon I am sure.
Yours most sincerely.
James F Glover.
30th August 1942. Two Rivers, Instow. N.Devon.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I have at last heard from Brigadier Percy, no new facts though a slightly different version as I’d half expected. Being higher up he’d try and cover up any suggestion of a blunder! Here it is:
“On 25th. July we were given very short notice to provide a Composite Bn. to go up to the line and join another Brigade for an operation. Sammy went off in command with HQ and one Coy. of his own Bn. and a Coy. each from the other two Bns. On the same day I had to go up on another job but I am told they got together and all went off in a great herd. In the early hours of the 27th. they went into a night attack in co-operation with other Bns. on their right and left. In the early stages all went well and the first objective was captured including a number of German prisoners. The leading Coys. went on to a second objective and it is reported that Sammy was wounded during this stage. Unfortunately the Boche came to life behind them and touch was lost with the leading Coys. When the time came for the supporting guns to go forward they could not get through and as a result very few of the leading rifle Coys. got away. For this reason and also, of course, owing to the darkness we have practically no information about what happened to the leading Coys. but presume they were counter attacked at first light, probably by tanks, and as they had no supporting arms they had to surrender——–“.
I wonder whom to believe, Percy or Andrew Clarke, however it doesn’t much matter as the result is the same. I am sorry it should have been your husband’s Coy. but I suppose Sammy picked him because he thought him the best. Anyway, you know they did go under fighting a proper battle unlike some who unfortunately get captured without doing anything at all in the most pointless way. I suppose we must just take consolation in that fact and if only they turn up in Italy, I believe they don’t have at all a bad time. But I’m told if badly wounded they get sent to Germany so I do pray neither of them have a serious wound.
When I go home I am going up to the “Wounded and missing” place in Belgrave Square to hear if there’s anything more one can do and I’ll let you know. We’re returning to there on Tuesday week.
Yours ever. Karin Battiscombe.
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3rd September 1942 Capt. HE Walton, MEOCTU. MEF.
You will probably think me a funk in not writing for so long, but then I thought it would be best that way. Now I am compelled to write to ask if you have any news of Ronnie.
Your telegram came during a break in last OCTU course and I had intended to go up and see the unit during the weekend to get definite news of them. Fortunately, perhaps, I was laid up for two days with tonsillitis and had I gone I should have been extremely miserable for I would have arrived to find they had gone into battle.
Following this I began to hear rumours that Ronnie was missing and was torn as to how to answer your telegram. Freddie Cole, who was then in hospital, thrashed it out with me and we both agreed that not to reply was the only course. You may never forgive me for not doing so but I could not say Ronnie was all right. I knew he was rumoured missing but did not know definitely and as happened in France rumours are nearly always quite wrong. If I said I did not know anything it would be a lie and if I didn’t you would read between the lines knowing that I had been writing to Ronnie and, being fairly near him, should know something. So, Brenda, I thought not writing for a bit would be best and in the meantime there might be better news that Ronnie had turned up.
Some days before the battle, which I understand from many sources was the finest thing the Durhams have ever done, I wrote a long letter to Ronnie. I am pretty sure he would get it and have been wondering if the reply has been held up by the censor, but I fear he would not have had time to reply. However, as one of Lumley’s letters to Pears took so long to arrive, (it came just before I went in to hospital a month ago) and as there have been no letters for me for six weeks, there may be one for me from Ronnie somewhere. If I can persuade Pears to let me have it, I will send it to you when I get out of here but he let me read it and it gave little news.
The unit had been out of the line just before Ronnie was missing and Lumley had written then. It said they were all in excellent health and described the showers they had been having. Ronnie had been having some trouble with boils or piles and David Joy had wanted him to go into hospital, but he was the only officer in the Coy. at the time and Ronnie was D Coy. If only I had been there he could have gone to hospital, but I doubt whether he would have even then.
Well, Brenda, one thing I am sure. Ronnie will be a prisoner. There have been absolutely no rumours that he has been seriously wounded or anything and if that has happened to anyone there are always hundreds of details and stories to that effect but there have been none of any kind, only that he is missing and of course the official publication.
Unfortunately I have only one letter from him but I expect he will write soon from Italy or wherever he is if they allow them to write anywhere else but home. Please give me his address as soon as you get his first letter and in your reply, if you have room, could you send a message asking if he got my letters and of course sending my wishes.
I have written recently to Freddie who has come out of hospital and when I last saw him he said he would write as soon as he got back.
Give my love to Peter and don’t worry. Dick Ovenden (MC) who I hear is with the Bn. may be able to send you some news.
Yours very sincerely Peter.
PS Hope you can read this. Am flat on my back for 3 weeks with Diptheria. Must have had it months, no wonder I have been off colour. THIS LETTER IS FUMIGATED BEFORE LEAVING
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11 Cavendish Square, London WI.
The Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness the Pope has requested the Apostolic Delegate in Great Britain to send you the enclosed message which was collected by the Pope’s representative when he visited Prisoner of War Camps in Italy. If you would like to reply please write out a short message ( 25 words in addition to the name, camp and number) and send it with a 2 1/2d. stamp to:- The Reverend Secretary Vatican War Enquiry Dept. of the Apostolic Delegation, 11, Cavendish Square, London W.I. to whom all enquiries should be sent.
27th August 1942 Appledore.
Very many thanks for your letters and Major Hart’s interesting account. Nothing yet from Brig. Percy. I do so hope your husband is not wounded, sounds a jolly brave show his bayonet charge. How I pray all is well with them as they deserve it. I’d love to have stopped off at Bridport if it hadn’t been for Aurea, but too difficult with a child. Am writing this on the beach, lovely day today. Aurea adores every moment. I wish I could forget the horrors for a bit but it’s terribly difficult, especially as they practice invasion exercises here all the time. A most war-like scene. Let’s go on exchanging any information we have and keep of good cheer. I am sure all will be well. KSB.
5th September 1942 Major RL Cummins Campo 78 PM 3300 Italy.
Address now PG 78, PM3300 send parcels clothes books chocolate cigarettes. Letters here am well comfortable. Sammy here. Longing for letters photos. All love world Darling.
[This Camp was at Sulmona. Ed.]
6th. Sept. 1942 Capt. HE Walton MEOCTU. MEF
At last there is some news from the Bn., though not very much, but everything should become clearer soon when Freddie Cole writes. Today the first letter for some weeks arrived, from James Chapman. I think to do justice to Ronnie’s magnificent example I had better copy it verbatim and although much of the letter concerns himself only you will know that I have given you all the news. There are clues in it also which you can follow up as James mentions a number of officers you know and from their views you may be able to collect scraps of information which, when pieced together, will tell the whole story.
Copy of James ‘ letter.
20th August 1942 Capt. J H Chapman MEF.
I thought you might like to know a few facts about the old Batt. so hence the reason for this scribble.
I suppose you heard about the ! doings ! really I am terribly sorry about Ronnie, you know he was more or less ordered to stay behind due to the fact he was unfit. (He had his old trouble of boils and desert sores). He said he was not going and when Sammy left on the advance party he expected another officer to come up and command D Coy.
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However old Ronnie rallied all his forces and went forward with the boys and what did he gain by it?? Nobody can tell me anything definite about him. However I am sure he is OK.
Same with old Sam, no one knows anything definite about him. We also lost a lot of the old D Coy., nearly all the Sgts, not Dawson who is now CSM, he was on a course at the time. Wilson, Glendenning, Graham, Sgt. French is now with the Coy., he was transferred from the Carriers.
You would not recognise the Batt. now. Bill Watson is Lieut. Col. in command. Dick Ovenden MC !! is 2 I/C (at the moment), Derek Tomlinson; Adj. I was acting for a long time!! I am now with the mortars again although I expect to go to D Coy. as 2 I/C/. George Wood is commanding D, Wilmot C and Maurice Kirby Support Coy. Freddie Cole is back with us again and in command of Carriers. We still have the boys left Terry (Lindrea), Redway, Ireland and yours truly!! You may have noticed they have promoted me to the exalted rank of acting unpaid Captain. From that you can judge for yourself the state of the Batt. We have an awful lot of new officers. Two came from your OCTU platoon, namely Pringle and Bluitt both very nice chaps and spin a very good yarn about old Peter Walton!! The remainder
of the officers have all come out from England and some good and others not so good, however we have been very lucky and got quite a good crowd. Must close now Peter, please excuse this awful disjointed scribble. You know as well as I do I never was any good at writing letters.
I will be pleased to hear from you when you have time Pete. All the boys send their regards. Hope to see you sometime soon. Cheerio, Yours aye, Jimmy.
Well, Brenda, that is everything I know about them so far. Pringle and Bluitt were excellent chaps the former got the Allenby prize. I wrote to Victor Yate recommending them and I believe mentioned Pringle to Ronnie as they would have made excellent officers for the Coy.
From what I have read about Ronnie, it is an example the “Sixth” will always remember and as no one has any news of him he is sure to be a prisoner. In France, at Dainville where we first came under heavy shelling and were held up by it, a rather “windy” village cross roads, Ronnie was the first to walk thro’ the stuff and lead the Coy. on as leading man until there was a lull and space where it could be reshaped. This attack would be done in darkness and/or in thick smoke and in any difficult parts Ronnie would be at the head as he was at Arras. Now at night or in smoke it is quite easy for you, if you are the first man, to get through because the enemy are surprised, when those behind get stuck——— This is only surmise but in that case he would find himself in the midst of their lines and get captured.
That is the only explanation I can see for no one knowing anything about him, so don’t worry too much. No news of Douglas yet either. Yours Peter.
Written on the side of pages 1 and 2 is: NOTE FOR CENSOR. Maj. RL Cummins MC was officially reported missing about Aug 5th.
Written on the side of page 3 is: NOTE ADDED on side that Ronnie was reported missing officially about Aug 5th 1942 as censors have to check before passing otherwise which takes time.
6th Sept 1942 Pte. N. Lumley. PG 75 PM 3450 Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
Just a few lines to let you know that both the Major and I are keeping well, hoping you and
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the Baby are the same. We manage to get a parcel and cigs. each week to which we are very pleased to receive. Well, I will have to close now so keep smiling. Lumley.
7th Sept 1942 PG 78. PM 3300 Italy.
My darling precious.
You will see, darling, by my address that we have moved again and are now in a very beautiful part of the country and much more comfortable, Sammy and others are still with me, but I left Lumley behind I am afraid. I can’t say if we are to be settled here but I am going to take it that we are. Once again, my dream, I am going to repeat the kind of things which would be very useful. I understand that they can all be sent out. Pullovers, hankies, socks, shirts, choc, cigs, needles and thread, books etc. I am sorry for asking, darling, but I can do nothing else, shoes from home would be useful as well. Red X should be able to give you instructions in size and weight. Well, precious, the life is getting more settled, there is no doubt we are better off now in everything. I sleep in a room with 30 others, a mixture but we manage to fit in very well, now I am going to study a bit more and read as much as I can. I dream so much about you all and what we will do after I get back, it is hell not hearing about how things are going with you but I will just have to wait. I sent another cable yesterday with my new address, hope you have it by now. Send some photos, precious, as I said I have none. I am longing to hear about PR as well, I do hope he is being a good Rabbit.
I have a PC left but I am sending it to Mummy, she will send it on. Once again the end, Darling, keep your tail up, it may not be long now and we have such heaven to look forward to. I am happy and well. All love in the world to you all. God bless. RR.
Arrived 19th. December 1942.
8th. Sept. 1942. Fleet. Hants.
Bad luck, your letter did not get here in time despite the exertions of the local postman who arrived very red in the face on his bicycle, so I am told. It is sickening as I could easily have gone to both places. Now I’ve sent off both together by post. I thought your letter to Anthony Eden too good not to use. You’re most business like!! but you must let me know if he uses your cheque as I insist on paying some of this, ridiculous for you to do it all.
I went to Belgrave Square and was interviewed by a very sympathetic middle-aged lady, Mrs. Edwards. She couldn’t have been nicer and started off by reading an extract from a letter written by an officer who was wounded and prisoner subsequently re-captured by us.
He wrote that the medical treatment was first class and altogether the Boches had behaved as real gentlemen to him and all his fellow prisoners. I must say she took all our particulars, including telephone numbers and will let us know any good news at once. She doesn’t believe in listening to broadcasts as she says they have professional listeners-in all taking down names. She wanted your husband’s date of birth so would you send it to:- Mrs. Edwards, Wounded and Missing Dept., British Red X, 7 Belgrave Square. SW1.
As regards the batmen I couldn’t do anything as I hadn’t the wives addresses and the enquiry has to come ostensibly from the next of kin so I enclose herewith a list of questions and information required. Perhaps you could fill it in or get the wife to do so. I feel very ashamed that I do not know “my wife’s” address. Mrs. Edwards said we should probably hear in about a fortnight but it might be longer. They had just this week heard about a man missing in Crete 16 months ago! Wouldn’t that be frightful.
I meant to go on to “The Prisoner of War” place but Mrs. Edwards told me not to as they do
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not like one to unless it is definitely established that they are prisoners.
I have heard from a friend whose nephew has just arrived in Italy that one can send one parcel every three months, not to weigh more than 10lbs. They suffer from the cold in Italy as they are put in old houses without any heating, so warm underclothes are the first thing to send, 2 vests, 2 shirts, 2 pants etc. Apparently over-clothes are supplied by the Red X and then in the second parcel one sends a blanket and that private parcels are, of course, repacked by the Red X people. Books and cigarettes and sweets have to be sent through a shop. I shall want to send the whole of London once I hear! Anyway the red X will send us all details at once including a map with the prison camp clearly marked. I believe it is all very efficient and it will be too wonderful to hear they are safe there even if they are a bit bored.
Churchill’s speech today fills me with hope again that this ghastly war may be over next year and that it wouldn’t be too frightful for them.
It is very queer that you never heard from anyone but David Joy, I suppose it’s because there is no CO. In the ordinary way Sammy would have written you by now, but I should have thought Bill Watson as 2nd. in command would have done something about it.
However I don’t believe anyone could have done more to get information than Audrey Clarke.
As regards their belongings, I do know someone who will attend to it but I wonder if one should try and get home clothes and things or just leave them there for the time being.
Sammy’s letters etc. I believe they have already sent off. I must admit I do not look forwards to getting them, the thought of it makes me want to weep.
It is a comfort that there should be two of us in the same boat. I don’t honestly think any of our efforts are going to avail much but it is a consolation to try and do something instead of just waiting. I pray we shall hear this month that they are both in Italy. Do let me know what answers you get, I’m very curious.
Yours ever. Karin [Battiscombe Ed.]
On the back of the envelope she has written: Forgot to say, was advised to buy the Catholic Times, comes out on Fridays and has lists of prisoners.
9th. Sept. 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
6.50 8TH. LIVERPOOL OHMS 44
IMPORTANT HAND DELIVERY MRS B CUMMINS BURTON BRADSTOCK NR BRIDPORT
OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION RECEIVED THAT MAJOR R L CUMMINS MC DURHAM LIGHT
INFANTRY PREVIOUSLY REPORTED MISSING IS A PRISONER OF WAR. LETTER FOLLOWS
UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR.
9th. Sept. 1942
POST OFFICE GREETINGS TELEGRAM
CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT
RONNIE PRISONER AND WELL.LOVE RUTH.
POST OFFICE GREETINGS TELEGRAM
CUMMINS BISHOP AUCKLAND
RONNIE PRISONER AND WELL WRITING LOVE= RUTH
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POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
151 5.30 DL/T 14
CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT
MANY CONGRATULATIONS WE SHALL NOW SET ABOUT RELEASING HIM. PETER.
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
4.47 LONDON R 10.
CUMMINS BURTON BRADSTOCK DORSET 61
WE REJOICE WITH YOU= HOPE AND TERENCE.
9th Sept 1942 198 Queens Gate SW1.
I am so very glad for you. I don’t know if you got my wire or the official one first. They rang up to tell me and said they were letting you know at once, but I had to send mine off as I was so thrilled. The wonderful relief of knowing that Ronnie is safe is more comforting than anything I could imagine. I’m sure he will be awfully cross about it but I’m glad. Now we know he will come back to us safely. No more daily anxiety every time we read of action.
Once we get his address and he gets settled into a prison the letters are quick. I get them from Bill Surtees in under the month and he gets mine in the same time.
I expect we will have to wait for some time before we get a letter from Ronnie as they will be moving into different camps, but now we know it is so much easier to wait.
You have been so splendid, darling, and Ronnie will be very proud of you. I was sure that your faith and courage must be rewarded.
I hope young Peter is being good and realises the marvellous news. Have you been able to take any more photos?
I’m being very busy just now, but hope that after 20th. I can ease up a bit. I expect to start touring then which is not quite so wearing as office work. I may even manage a night at home.
I want to catch the post. My dearest love to you all and I know you will have a much better night’s rest now.
Bless you darling. Ruth.
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
DARLINGTON DL 16
MRS R CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK DORSET
WONDERFUL NEWS REJOICING WITH YOU HAVE CABLED PETER
LOVE OLIVE WALTON.
Cutting from the Times dated 12th Sept 1942.
Major R.L. Cummins MC, Durham Light Infantry, previously reported missing Egypt, July 1942, now officially reported prisoner of war.
Also one in the Daily Telegraph on the same day.
12th Sept 1942 Comite International de la Croix- Rouge
Agence Centrale des Prisonniers de Guerre,
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55, Pall Mall. SW1.
Dear Mrs Cummins,
Many thanks for your letters of September 7th and 10th and for your generous gift of 5/-.
I am so sorry that we were not able to do more to help you, but I am very glad to hear that you and Mrs. Battiscombe have now heard definitely that your husbands are prisoners of war. May I suggest that you both should get in touch with the Prisoners of War Department of the British Red Cross, St. James’ Palace, SW1. who will give you all the necessary information, labels etc. for sending off next-of-kin parcels. I also suggest that you may care to contact the Prisoners of War Relatives Association, Bank Chambers, St. James’ Street, SW1.
If at any time we can help you in this Delegation, we shall of course be only too happy to do so.
12th September 1942 The Under-Secretary of State,
I am directed by Mr. Secretary Eden to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 7th. September and to express his regret upon hearing that your husband Major R.L. Cummins and others were reported missing on the 27th July near El Alamein in Egypt.
2. I am to explain that all notifications of the capture of a prisoner of war received from the enemy Government either through the Swiss Government, the International Red Cross Committee or any other source are transmitted immediately to the Casualties Branch, War Office, Curzon Street House, Curzon Street, WI, by whom the next of kin are immediately notified. As lists are not usually passed through the British Legation at Berne, it is unlikely that the Legation would be able to help you. A copy of your letter and of this reply has been forwarded to the Casualties Branch in order that the particulars may be noted.
3. There is, however, one other source of information regarding prisoners of war. The Vatican has established a Prisoners of War Information Bureau and the Apostolic Delegate in London undertakes to forward to Rome enquiries received by him from relatives in this country. I am accordingly to suggest that you communicate with his secretary whose name and address are:-
The Reverend Father Daniel Cashman,
Wimbledon SW 19.
4. I return the cheque enclosed in your letter.
I am Madam, your obedient Servant. M R Roberts.
14th September 1942
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his compliments to Mrs. B. Cummins and by direction of the Secretary of State acknowledges the receipt of her letter of the 9th. instant which is receiving attention.
Foreign Office, SW1.
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14th Sept 1942 PG 78 PM 3300 Italy.
My darling precious,
Again I am able to write to you, how I wish I could spend my whole time doing so, I have so much I want to say. I am still very comfortable and feeding well, Sammy is in charge of our mess and I am Mess Sec. and so have quite a lot to do but it puts in the time, they have also quite a good library here which I have been visiting a lot. On Monday I am starting on Book-keeping and Co. Law to keep my hand in so I should have quite a lot to do. I am not going over all the things I asked you for again but I have got two others, a shaving brush and a fountain pen, once again forgive me for asking for so much, my dream, but I can do nothing else. I spend so many happy times thinking about you, precious, and wondering how PR is getting on, how I long for your letters, perhaps it won’t be long now. Afraid we will both feel far more cut off from each other than before and I do miss those lovely letters which I used to get. Afraid I worry myself about how you all are but I suppose I shall have to be patient until I hear.
The weather is superb and we are in a beautiful part of the country, I only wish you could see the view my dream, it is perfect. I haven’t made many new friends yet, we are all a little shy still but no doubt time will tell. Darling, I do deplore this separation but we must keep our tails up. Do get me some photos out, I miss them so much, if only I had known I would have made certain I had some with me. Well, my precious, the end again, give my love to Granny C and kisses and hugs to PR. All the love in the world to you, we will try and make up for this when I get back, it will be almost too much to be with you again. Take every care won’t you and God bless from your own Ronnie R.
[Extracts of this letter were printed in “The Prisoner of War” Vol. 1 No. 7. November 1942. Ed.]
[Arrived 7th. October 1942.]
14th Sept 1942 Fleet, Hampshire.
I find the local queen bee of the P. of W. Association lives a few hundred yards away so I am overwhelmed with instructions and information of all sorts.
The main thing for the moment is that we can write now even before hearing their address, to the following address:-
Rank, Name, Regiment and Number.
British Prisoner of War,
C/O Croce Rossa Italiana, 6 Via Puglie, Rome.
I’ve just written both sides of one large piece of note paper and am sending it airmail for 5d. Heaven knows if it ever arrives but it’s wonderful to be able to write to them at all I find so thought I must let you know in case you hadn’t heard.
They are only allowed to write three letters and four postcards a month and minute ones at that and one is asked not to write more than once a week. I am longing to hear if Sammy is all right or in hospital or what but we have undoubtedly been lucky compared with lots.
No more news as I am still in the middle of letter writing, so are you I expect.
Yours ever Karin.
15th September 1942 The War Office,
Curzon Street House,
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In confirmation of War Office telegram dated 8th. September 1942, I am directed to state that information has been received that Major R.L. Cummins, MC., The Durham Light Infantry, previously reported missing, is now a prisoner of war.
It is regretted that no details are yet available regarding your husband’s address but as soon as any further news is received you will, of course, be notified.
It would be appreciated, however, if you would be good enough to forward any information which may come into your possession concerning your husband’s location, welfare, etc.
General enquiries about prisoners of war and the treatment to which they are entitled may be made by letter to the above address or in person at the Prisoner of War Enquiry Centre, Curzon Street House, WI (Open 10am. to 6pm. Monday to Friday, 10am. to 1pm. Saturdays).
A leaflet is enclosed which indicates the procedure for communicating with prisoners of war and particular attention is drawn to paragraph 4(iii) in view of the fact that no camp address is yet known for the Major.
Your husband’s personal number is 51447.
I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant.
G. T.H. Rogers.
15th Sept 1942 Capt. D. Joy, 63rd. General Hosp. MEF.
My dear Brenda,
I was delighted to get the cable from Daphne and yourself. It was marvellous to get the good news although, as I told you in my last letter, I was very hopeful that Ronnie was safe.
It must have been a tremendous relief to you. I hope that you will hear from him soon.
I would have liked to have sent you a cable at once but I am afraid it was impossible as we aren’t allowed to send cables containing official news about casualties.
I was very glad that you had seen Daphne. She probably showed you the latest family photographs. I have just received a book of them and they have come out very well. Michael seemed most smiling. When people tried to photograph me at that age I am afraid I always made it obvious I did not enjoy it.
I now have an interesting job and I am working in the fracture wards here. It is very comfortable and a pleasant change for a time. It is pleasant to be clean for once!
Yours very sincerely, David.
17th Sept 1942 Campo PG 78 PM 3300, Italy
My Darling Precious.
Still well and comfy, got Red X food parcel yesterday choc. very nice. Have been issued Battle D, it will be very nice when cold comes. Am longing for first letters it seems years since I heard from you. How is PR, let me have photos of you both, I do so want them. Am getting books now from library so can keep amused. Afraid so short. All love in world my Darling. Ronnie R.
17th Sept 1942 Staindrop, Darlington.
I feel I must just write to tell you how thankful I am to hear that Ronnie is a prisoner.
Peter and I have thought of you so much, I’m afraid you must have been through hell
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waiting for news. Time seems so long and news is so slow.
I’m afraid it’s bad enough for you having Ronnie as a prisoner but it must be such a relief to know that he is out of that ghastly fighting. Your Peter sounds too sweet and he must have been such a comfort to you all this time.
I do wish we could come and see you both.
I am so terribly lucky to still have my Peter in this country, I’ve felt certain so often that he is bound to go abroad! but so far I’m lucky.
I do hope you will hear from Ronnie himself very soon. Please remember me to him when you write.
Yours ever. Philippa Jeffreys.
17th Sept 1942 Burton Bradstock Rectory.
My Dear Brenda,
You are a naughty girl but at the same time I do appreciate your very kind letter of thanks. I do not deserve it, for after all, I only did my job! It all seems like a nightmare now and we did so feel for you in your time of grave anxiety. Thank God that is over. You can now take up your life and begin to plan again for the future. You will have much to do to keep Ronnie cheerful and more or less contented.
How thankful we can be that prayer can leap space and we can still uphold him in captivity.
Try and keep cheerful yourself, pray hard, believe firmly and you will have your reward. We shall continue to bear you and Ronnie up.
With our love. Arthur Dittmer.
17th Sept 1942 British Prisoners Of War Relatives Association,
16, St. James’ Street. SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
In reply to your letter of 14th September, I have pleasure in giving you the following particulars.
The Association operates as a link between the relatives of the prisoners of war and all departments and organisations concerned with the welfare of British prisoners of war in enemy hands, both military and civilian.
A monthly News Sheet is issued to the members, containing general information and extracts from prisoner’s letters. The subscription for full membership is 12/- per annum. I enclose a copy of our July News Sheet.
LETTERS TO PRISONERS OF WAR IN ITALY
Letters to Prisoners of War in Italy should be addressed as follows:-
PRISONERS OF WAR POST
SERVICE DES PRISONNIERS DE GUERRE.
Service No. Rank. Name.
British Prisoner of War
Campo Concentramento Prigionieri di Guerra,
Name of Camp.
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Name of Province
Up to the present Prisoners in Italian hands have not been given Prisoner of War numbers, and the service number should, therefore, be used as shown above. Printed forms have not so far been provided and the Prisoners write on ordinary note paper.
If the prisoner is known to be in the transit camp at Capua, letters may be addressed as follows:-
PRISONERS OF WAR POST.
SERVICE DES PRISONNIERS DE GUERRE,
Service No. Rank. Name.
British Prisoner of War.
C/O Croce Rossa Italiana,
Via Puglie 6,
Unmounted photographs or snapshots of a purely personal nature may be enclosed in letters to Prisoners of War, but no other pictures or printed matter of any kind. Any enclosure may cause the letter to be delayed for special examination.
ENQUIRES AND MESSAGES BY CABLE.
The regulations of the Censor do not permit cables to be sent direct to Prisoners of war, but in urgent cases the prisoners of War Department will, by cable, make an enquiry, or send a message to a Prisoner through the International Red Cross Committee at Geneva.
17th. September 1942 The Times Book Club
42, Wigmore Street.
London W I.
In reply to your postcard of 12th. Sept. we have pleasure in enclosing herewith in the form of a circular letter, full particulars of our Overseas Service under which books may be sent to Prisoners of War.
The following magazines may also be sent at the prices given:-
STRAND…………………15/- per annum, post free.
Certain periodicals of professional interest, also dealing with art, sports, hobbies, trade etc., can be supplied, and we shall be pleased to give particulars of any desired.
We would mention that the undermentioned volumes may not be sent to Prisoners of War:-
(a) Books of a political or controversial character.
(b) Books giving suggestions of any kind of escape.
(c) Scouting books. (d) Books by Jewish authors.
(e) Books giving directions for making mechanism for the transmission of messages, or for making invisible ink.
(f) Newspapers and periodicals with certain exceptions.
(g) Books on aircraft.
Copies of our latest lists are enclosed, and we await your instructions which we can assure
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you will have our careful attention.
for The Times Book Club.
[There is more on this, the circular etc. Ed.]
19th September 1942. Nornay House, Blyth. Notts.
My dear Brenda
I was awfully pleased, dear, to have your sweet letter. Your mind (and mine) is now at rest having heard that Ronnie is a prisoner. He’ll hate lots of inactivity, but he is out of it after three years of fighting. I saw the announcement and cut it out in the Times.
When you write do give my dearest love to Ronnie, I am quite content if he thinks of me occasionally and am looking forward to the day when he will bring you and Peter to see me.
And how is Peter? What a joy he must be to you, darling, and how Ronnie must long to see his baby boy.
It is a wet morning, so I am spending it answering no end of letters, they accumulate so. The garden is beginning to look very bare as the crops are gradually getting harvested! and it has all been great fun and kept me busy and occupied.
I belong to the local WVS and do a little one way and another as we have soldiers training (some have been here since Dunkirk).
The officer’s mess is next door and we have sent vegetables in and they have returned the compliment and sent us a stone of pears out of their orchard.
The local farmer has allowed me to go into his flax field at the bottom of my paddock and blackberry. I’ve gathered about 17lbs. of lovely ones, which will be very useful in the winter.
I hope Peter and yourself are well. How many teeth has he now? How quickly time flies, he will soon be a year old, won’t he?
With my dearest love to you and a kiss to Peter.
Your loving, Auntie Norah.
21st. September 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
216 CW DCXA 3226 OVERSEA 25 18
NLT. CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK DORSET.
AM FINDING OUT ALL I CAN ABOUT RONNIE WHEN I GET INFORMATION WILL LET YOU
KNOW IMMEDIATELY LOVE DICK TRUMAN.
Various interesting information sent by The British Red Cross on 22nd. September all with the same heading.
BRITISH RED CROSS SOCIETY and ORDER OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM
PRISONERS OF WAR DEPARTMENT
St. James’ Palace
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We have been informed by the War Office that it is no longer permissible for uniform (i.e. greatcoats, service and battle-dress) to be purchased for prisoners of war of any of the services.
There is no objection, however, to the dispatch of uniform already in your possession, and therefore if at any time you wish to send the one parcel of uniform only which every officer prisoner of war is allowed, we will send you a label so that you may do so.
No coupons will be issued with this label, however, and we must draw your attention to the fact that the coupons issued with the labels for the quarterly next-of-kin parcels must not be used to buy any of the articles enumerated above.
The weight of this parcel should not exceed 10lbs. It may be sent in addition to the quarterly parcels.
Overleaf will be found a list of typical contents of standard food parcels dispatched from the Packing Centres of the Organisation.
These parcels are addressed to the International Red Cross Committee at Geneva, for distribution among the prisoners of war. Donations towards their cost (approximately 10/- each) are most gratefully received by the Prisoners of War Department, St. James’ Palace, London SW1., or by the Scottish Red Cross Society, C/O Messrs. Mitchel and Smith, 163, West George Street. Glasgow C2, but parcels are provided for all prisoners whether contributions are sent on their behalf or not.
TOBACCO AND CIGARETTES ARE PACKED SEPARATELY
EVERY WEEK, BUT ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE OF THE STANDARD PARCEL.
THE FOOD IN THE PARCELS IS SPECIALLY PLANNED TO SUPPLY WHAT
IS LACKING IN THE RATIONS IN THE PRISONER OF WAR CAMPS IN EUROPE.
CERTAIN FOODS ARE VITAMINISED
Typical Contents of Red Cross Standard Food Parcels
1 Tin biscuits, such as Service Ration, Healthy Life, etc.
1 Tin cheese.
1 Packet chocolate.
1 Tin fish, such as herrings, pilchards, sardines etc., or bacon or sausages.
1 Packet dried fruit, such as dates, prunes, raisins etc., or 1 tin pudding, such as apple, treacle, creamed rice etc.
1 Tin jam or marmalade or syrup or honey.
1 Tin margarine
1 Tin cold meat, such as ham and beef roll, galantine, pressed beef etc.
1 Tin hot meat, such as curried mutton, minced steak, steak and tomato pudding etc.
1 Tin milk.
2 Bars sugar.
1 Packet tea.
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1 Tin vegetables, such as beans, carrots, peas, spinach, etc.
1 Tablet soap, unscented.
And one or more of the following:
Meat or Condiments
and other articles as available.
PARCELS FOR PRISONERS OF WAR.
(1) Food Parcels
The aim of the Red Cross is to provide each British and Dominions prisoner with a weekly standard food parcel (weighing 11lb. including packaging) or with its equivalent in food consigned in bulk; and also to build up a reserve in Geneva. The parcels packed in Great Britain are supplemented by consignments from the Dominions, India, the USA, Argentina and Brazil.
In 1940 it was found necessary to give up the original system of addressing the parcels to individual prisoners, and they are now sent to the International Red Cross Committee at Geneva to be forwarded to all the camps in Germany, German-occupied territory and Italy in proportion to the number of British and Dominion prisoners of war interned in each. They are addressed to the British Camp Captains for distribution amongst the prisoners, and it is not possible, in any circumstances, to address one of these parcels to an individual prisoner.
Among the advantages of this system, the following are some of the most important: (a) It does away with the delay entailed through a personally addressed parcel having to be forwarded from one camp to another, if the prisoner should have been transferred after the dispatch of the parcel from England; (b) It means that new prisoners will get their share of parcels as soon as they reach a camp, without having to wait until their address is known in England and their names have been registered with this Organisation; (c) If any parcels should be lost in transit, the remainder can be fairly distributed among prisoners.
The parcels packed in Great Britain are collected from the packing centres by the GPO and dispatched to Lisbon. They are conveyed from Lisbon to Marseilles by sea and from Marseilles to Geneva, and Geneva to the camps by rail. The transport from Lisbon and Marseilles is arranged and paid for by the War Organisation; and the International Red Cross Committee supervises the journey from Lisbon to Geneva.
(2) Tobacco and Cigarettes.
Tobacco and cigarettes, on the basis of fifty cigarettes per man per week, or the equivalent in tobacco, are sent to Geneva by this Organisation and are forwarded by the International Red Cross Committee in the same way as the food parcels, for distribution in the camps.
Relatives and friends may also send tobacco and cigarettes duty free direct to prisoners of war through retailers. Most firms hold permits from the Censorship Department for this purpose, or can make arrangements for the order to be executed through their wholesale
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suppliers. The parcels are sent direct by post addressed to the prisoners by name, and do not pass through the hands of the Red Cross. The minimum quantity which may be dispatched is 4oz. net.
(3) Cost of Parcels.
The cost of the food and tobacco and cigarettes provided for each prisoner every week is approximately 10/-, not including freight. The parcels are sent out for all prisoners, regardless of whether contributions are made on their behalf towards the cost of the parcels or not. Donations towards the cost of the parcels are, however, most gratefully received, although it is not possible to address any parcels to prisoners by name, and extra parcels cannot be sent on account of payments made.
Cheques or money orders should be made payable to the Red Cross and St. John Fund, Prisoners of War Account.
Clothing (including greatcoats, battledress, underclothing and boots) is packed and dispatched by this Organisation to the International Red Cross Committee, to be forwarded to the camps for distribution among prisoners of war of all ranks from the three Services.
(5) Next-of-kin Quarterly parcels.
Owing to the regulations of the Censorship, no food besides that in the standard parcels may be sent to prisoners of war, with the exception of solid slab chocolate which may be included in the parcels of extra clothing and other articles which their next-of-kin may send to them once a quarter through this Organisation. The parcels usually take several months to reach the camps. Full instructions about their contents and the method of dispatch are sent with a label and special clothing coupons to the next-of-kin every three months.
The parcels are sent by post, and once they have left the Red Cross Packing Centre they are the responsibility of the Postal Authorities.
(6) Invalid comforts
Parcels of invalid comforts and foods for the sick and wounded are sent to the International Red Cross Committee at Geneva to be forwarded to the camps and hospitals in all enemy territories for general use. In certain circumstances, the next-of-kin may periodically send parcels containing medical comforts to individual wounded prisoners, or those who have been ill; but this can only be done by special arrangement with the Invalid Comforts Section of the Prisoners of War Department.
(7) Educational books
The Educational Books Section of the Department send books to form libraries for study in the camps, and also dispatches books and study courses to individual prisoners, to enable them to read for examinations or to study subjects in which they are interested. Enquiries should be addressed to the Secretary of the Section at the New Bodleian Library, Oxford.
(8) Indoor Recreations, Books, Games, Sheet Music and Musical Instruments.
The Indoor Recreations Section of the Department send supplies of the above to all the camps for general use, but relatives and friends may also send them to prisoners of war through shops. Most leading booksellers and stores hold permits from the Censorship for this purpose, or can make arrangements for the order to be executed through their wholesale suppliers. The books etc. will be dispatched direct by post to the prisoners in individually addressed parcels. If any difficulty is experienced in placing an order, application for assistance can be made to the Indoor recreations Section of the Prisoners of War Department.
The Section can arrange to forward a prisoner’s own musical instrument to him, at the
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sender’s risk, subject to certain restrictions as to size etc.
(9) Sports Equipment.
Equipment for Outdoor games is sent by the Red Cross to all camps.
INFORMATION ABOUT LETTERS FOR PRISONERS OF WAR IN GERMAN AND ITALIAN HANDS
(a) There is no limit to the number of letters that may be written to Prisoners of War, but it is well to remember that, as they all have to pass through two censorships, the greater the number sent, the greater may be the delay in delivery.
(b) Letters should be written as clearly as possible, should deal with personal matters only, and should not exceed both sides of one sheet of notepaper. The writer’s name and address must be written on the back of the envelope, but if the writer is serving in His Majesty’s Forces, the name and address of the unit must not be given, but a private address substituted. The name and camp address of the Prisoner should be written on the letter as well as on the envelope. The most recent address sent by the Prisoner should be carefully copied.
(c) Letters to Prisoners of War may either be sent post free by the ordinary Prisoners of War Post, which means that they are conveyed by sea to Lisbon and from there to Germany or Italy airmail; or all the way from Great Britain by air, in which case they should be marked “By Air Mail”, and require a 5d. stamp. Letters should be posted in the ordinary way and not be sent to the Red Cross to be forwarded. A special air-letter card for use in communicating with British Prisoners of War and interned civilians in German or Italian hands is now obtainable at the principal Post Offices. The cards cost 3d. each and, posted in the ordinary way, will be carried by air-mail to Germany or Italy. They may be sent to Geneva to be forwarded to Prisoners of War (see paragraph 2 (b) below) and to prisoners interned in neutral European countries.
23rd. September 1942 Army Pay Office, Manchester 13.
Consequent on receipt of information that your husband has been reported as a Prisoner of War, I have to inform you that the allowance in issue to you while he was reported as “Missing” is no longer payable.
The issue of full pay and allowances to your husband will be resumed as from the date of the above allowance to you commenced, and, after adjustment of the sums paid to you while he was “Missing”, payment of arrears due to him will be paid to his Bank Account at an early date. Thereafter, pay and allowances will be issued in the normal manner to his bank at the end of the month.
I may add that Officer Prisoners of War while in captivity receive, according to their rank, advances of pay from the detaining power. These advances are charged by me to your husband’s account each month before making payment to his Bankers.
for Officer in Charge, Army Pay Office.
25th. Sept. 1942
DORSET WAR ORGANISATION
BRITISH RED CROSS SOCIETY AND ORDER OF ST. JOHN.
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I have been informed by the Headquarters of the Red Cross and St. John War Organisation that your husband is a Prisoner of War in Italy.
In addition to the weekly parcels sent to all Prisoners of War by this Organisation, next-of-kin parcels can be sent quarterly, for which you will have received a special label. If you want any advice or assistance with this parcel and you apply to our representative:
Mrs. Perkins, 8 South Street, Bridport, she will do all she can to help you.
Lt.Colonel, Hon. Secretary Dorset War Organisation.
26th September 1942. 58912 Capt. G.L. Wood MC 6th. Bn. DLI. MEF.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I return herewith your snapshots, letters and cards of Burton Bradstock [postcards of views of the village and on the back Mum had written little messages. Ed.]. The other contents of your parcel I divided among some of the old men of Ronnie’s Company, I know Ronnie would approve of this course.
May I take this opportunity of saying how sorry we all were at Ronnie’s disappearance but how relieved we were to hear that he was a Prisoner and unharmed.
As consolation you know that your husband should return safely after the War to see that ‘Bonny’ son of yours of whom Ronnie is so proud.
My best wishes for your future happiness.
Yours sincerely Leslie Wood.
28th September 1942 War Organisation of the British Red Cross, POW Dept.
St. James’ Palace. London SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
Major R.L. Cummins.
Your letter of the 14th September has just reached this Department, as we deal with all correspondence about prisoners of war. You will by now have received our letter of the 22nd. September enclosing our leaflets and we hope that you have found these helpful.
We are sorry to hear that your husband was suffering from piles, and we are making an extract from you letter and sending it to our Invalid Comforts Section who will write to you direct.
We hope that you will soon receive a letter from your husband giving a camp address, to which letters and parcels may be sent with confidence.
E M Thornton.
29th September 1942 Capt. J R Heslop. Stalag 9B. Germany.
Dear Auntie Mary.
I hear from Joan that Ronnie is missing. I am so sorry, I know how worried you must be, all of you, but I am sure the news must be better now. I have had no letters for some time so I haven’t heard any later news. I expect letters will come through in a day or two. I am looking forward to seeing Brenda and the baby soon. Don’t let it worry you too much. All my love.
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[John Heslop was RLC’s cousin and was captured by the Germans in France in May 1940. Ed.]
30th. September 1942 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
How wonderful to have news so soon, we have been very lucky. I expected to wait for at least another month.
I have heard such wonderful things about my nephew. He must be perfect, in fact the Grandparents say he is perfect in every way. Both agree that he is the loveliest child they have ever seen. We talk about you all each night. I wish so much that I could see you, I go on hoping that I can snatch a 48 hours, but it never seems possible.
Mummy has a pair of velvet slippers for PR which we will send off tomorrow. They are the only ones she could get.
I am so glad to know that you look so well in spite of what you have gone through. Darling, I thank you so much for the happiness you have given to us all. That was my one comfort through this bad time. I feel that whatever happened at least Ronnie had known supreme happiness and I know that the thought of you and Peter will keep him going until he comes home. As for the Grandparents, you have given them a new life. Bless you for it and for what you are.
I’m being very lazy and having nothing to do or no arrangements made for me. It is so lovely to just sit.
My love to you all. Your very loving. Ruth.
30th September 1942 Fleet, Hants.
Your letter came this morning with all the most interesting enclosures. It does, at any rate, seem as if it was a really good show and your husband must have been splendid. I do hope he is put up for something, though it’s a bit tricky as no-one came back to tell the tale. I wonder if you’ve heard from him yet, I do hope so. I’m longing to get other letters and PCs. from Sammy, really telling me something, but it’s heaven to know he must be quite well anyway. I’m very grateful for the tips about the forage cap as I hadn’t thought of that. I’m trying to get a special, lightweight, fleece blanket for POWs. but I am not sure if there are any to be had. Fortnum and Mason’s are sold out, I’ve not heard from Harrods yet. Mind you go to the local packing centre, they’ve all sorts of odd things and can help you pack properly.
I do apologise for my writing but I’ve almost got cramp, it’s awful how kind people are isn’t it? and I’ve simply no time or energy. I quite agree with you, I felt more exhausted after hearing they were all right than before. Pure reaction of course.
Poor old Bill Watson, he must feel a bit overwhelmed I’m afraid. I hear Andrew Clarke’s batman was killed the other day so they are still at it!
Lots of thanks, Karin.
1st October 1942 PG 78, PM 3300, Italy.
Hope you have had news from B about me, have written as much as I can to her. Am well and comfy, good food and beds so we can’t complain. Sammy and Dick Dennis are with me. I have asked B for various things, afraid it may be a wait before I get them. I am longing for my first letters, it is 8 weeks now since I heard. I think so often about you all, take every care
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won’t you and don’t worry about me I am very fit . All my love darlings, will write soon. Ronnie.
2nd October 1942 British Red Cross, POW Dept. London.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
Major R.L. Cummins
Thank you for your letter of the 29th. September and we are pleased that a camp address has been received from your husband. Camp 75 has mainly been used as a transit camp, and you may, therefore, prefer to wait until you have heard from your husband again before dispatching parcels, although we understand that parcels sent there should be forwarded by the Italian Authorities, if prisoners have been transferred.
We are enclosing the necessary label for a Uniform parcel, but we must strongly advise that this parcel should not be sent until a more permanent camp address has been received, as only one Uniform parcel may be sent during the whole course of an officer’s captivity, and there is an added risk that it may be lost if it has to be forwarded from one camp to another.
In the past many next-of-kin of prisoners have sent forage caps and we have generally understood that these have arrived intact.
Thank you for sending full particulars of your husband and yourself and these are all contained in our records and you are registered as his next-of-kin in this Department.
We hope that it will not be long before you receive letters from your husband giving you a camp address to which you can send letters and parcels with confidence.
[There is various stuff relating to parcels and coupons. Ed.]
5th October 1942 PG 78. PM 3300 Italy.
My darling Precious,
Once again I am able to write you, how I long to be able to write a good long letter. Things are going on much the same and we are still comfy. Letters are coming through now in ones and twos, so far I have not got one but I am living in hopes every day, it seems years since I had news, only wish I had all the letters which must have arrived in Egypt for me. Parcels will take much longer I am afraid, but they will arrive in the end. Don’t forget the choc, my precious, you can, I think, send unlimited supplies. I told you in my last letter that I shall go on drawing Major’s pay, thank heaven, so you should be OK as I don’t draw much here, about £15 a month. We had a guest night last night with a good dinner, I, as Mess Sec., gave the toast of the King, we had a small issue of Marsala, it was all good fun. Work still going on well, I am thinking of writing a rough diary from the start of the war. Precious, could you send me again all the very precious dates which you put in the last, little, red diary you sent me, I would like them. Weather is still good though getting a little cold at times but our Battle D is nice and warm. We have some N Zealanders with us but I can’t remember the names of your relations to ask if they know them. Well, darling, it is getting very near Oct. 12th. again, how I wish I was with you, we must go on praying hard, I shall be drinking your health that night if it is only in tea. Time can only increase the longing to be with you again.
PR too is getting on for his first birthday, I had so wanted to send him his first birthday present, but it cannot be, you will have to do it for me and give him his Daddy’s love. Do send photos, I do so want them. Well, nearly the end again, please don’t worry about me,
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Bunny, I am doing very well and my health is good, once I can get your letters again and know you are OK I shall be quite happy. Love to all at Grove with kisses to PR. To yourself everything in the world, I live to be back with you again. Ronnie R.
[Extracts from this letter were printed in “The Prisoner of War” Vol. 1 No. 9 January 1943. Ed]
[Arrived 6th. November 1942.]
7th. October 1942. British Red Cross. Invalid Comforts Section.
14, Carlton House Terrace. London SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
re: Major R.L. Cummins
As I expect you know we in this Section deal with the dispatch of Invalid Comforts to prisoners of War, and I was so sorry to hear from St. James’ Palace that you have been so anxious about your husband.
I note that you would like to send him some PERCAINAL ointment, and I find we can obtain this, so would you please let me have your husband’s address, and we will arrange to send this to him by Air Mail.
We send such large quantities of tonic foods and remedies to all the Hospitals in Italy that wherever he is, the medical officers would be able to let him have a suitable remedy for his complaint, and also building up foods.
I feel sure that in due course he will tell you this too, and the moment you get his camp address, would you very kindly get in touch with me again.
Muriel Bromley Davenport.
Hon. Secretary, Invalid Comforts Section.
9th. October 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
121 9.53 BLACKHILL 13.
MRS CUMMINS GROVE BURTON BRADSTOCK BRIDPORT
RECEIVED LETTER FROM NORMAN SAFE AND WELL.
10th October 1942 Catholic Times, 33 Chancery Lane, London WC2,
This morning the VATICAN RADIO broadcast the following message on behalf of Major Cummins, R.L., 51447, Camp 75, P.M.3450, Italy:
Am fit and well, darling. Have written. Longing for your letters. Sammy and Lumley with me.
All my love you, Peter and all at home.
10th October 1942. Wayside, Chipperfield, Herts.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
This message was broadcast this morning from the Vatican and is for you:-
“Am fit and well darling, have written, longing for your letter. Sammy and Lumley with me, all my love to you and Peter and all at home.” Major R.L.Cummins.51447. Camp 75.
PM 3450 Italy.
Very sincerely, Gladys Gough.
11th October 1942 Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
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Yes it was your call after all. They rang me up 2 minutes after we’d finished to say that my call was now through and were very indignant when I said I didn’t want it now! I am so sorry but it must be easier to get through from your end.
Thanks awfully for your letter. I was up in London on Friday and I’ve come to the conclusion that Sammy must have thought it was a wireless message he was sending and actually it was one of those 25 word messages through the Apostolic Delegation. I talked to a charming Nun about it and incidentally I sent off one of those messages to Sammy but I don’t think they’re much quicker than a letter, so not much point.
I got a blanket (very nice) at Harrods £2.7.0. you ought to get one. I did not get a DLI forage cap as they were £3 which I thought ridiculous. Also Sammy may get one from his friend in Cairo. I sent him an ordinary khaki one which i thought he could pass on to someone else if he found he had 2. What a business it is.. I’ve not yet sent off any parcels as I never seem to get everything collected together but hope to do so tomorrow.
Aren’t the Huns unspeakable? It makes me feel quite sick but I hope and trust the Italians will just talk and not act as I know they are pro British on the whole. I do hate to think of our men being helpless, though, in their hands. I’m very vacillating, one moment I feel quite cheerful and thankful to have them there safe and sound, and then the next I feel how awful it all is and if the war goes on for years how frightful it will be. Do you feel like that too? It is a great comfort talking to you, I quite agree, as we couldn’t be more in the same boat.
I’d love to get their old letters. wonder if they’ll ever turn up. I wonder if they have heard from us, I do hope so.
I’m sending Sammy a pair of walking shoes, a pair of those indoor cum bedroom slippers and, if weight permits, a pair of gym shoes. But I think we should send the maximum amount of chocolate, even rather than an extra shirt. I’m sure food is the tricky thing.
Well, my dear, haven’t time for more but we’ll ring up again and this time I will make sure I get you first. You’ve passed me at the post twice now!
Yours ever, Karin.
Sounds as if I only mean to send shoes!!!! but I’m sending 3 shirts (Vyella), 2 pants, 2 vests, 3 socks, cardigan, scarf, gloves, blanket, 12 hankies, tie, tie pin, housewife, toilet things, forage cap, small bath towel, and if weight permits a battle dress, in 2 parcels of course.
12th October 1942. PG 78. PM 3300 Italy.
My Darling Precious,
You will see the date on the top, it is perfect that I can write on such a wonderful anniversary. First I am going to tell you how I celebrated. Last night we got our weekly wine issue, it is like dark sherry and we get about a large wine glass full each, however I bought another issue from someone and was able to toast you in good style. I wished for so much while drinking it and so much about you all at home. After our evening meal Sammy and I went to a concert which was being given, which was quite good. I have managed to save for today a little cake and choc and so will be able to have a party, in fact you and I are going to sit down to a nice tea this afternoon together, it makes it perfect that I can write to you as well. You will see, my darling, I have been able to do things in quite good style. I am praying that next year we will really be with each other. Thank you again and again, precious, for marrying me and making life so perfect, you know I would love to give you all the kisses in the world. God bless you my dream. And now, I’m afraid, to more staid affairs, could you let me know just what the Army is paying me, at rates per day etc. I am not quite sure and want to know if they are correct, our messing costs us about 4/6 a day which is rather high.
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no news from any of you, I feel certain I will get a letter this week, I do hope so, it is hell waiting and wondering if things are all right. Well, darling, I am very fit and still comfy, it is getting colder but I am quite warm so far. A pair of slippers would be useful if you can manage some time. Give my love to all at home, darling. I am longing to hear about PR, he will soon be I yr. old. Take care of yourself, won’t you darling. We will be together again soon. All love Ronnie R.
[Arrived 13th. November 1942.]
12th October 1942 Next-of-kin Parcel sent by BPFC
Shoe bag contains: Black brush, I small tin white cream, 1 large tin black, 1 pr. leather boot laces.
Sponge bag, khaki contains: Razor and blades (7 o’clock) in black case, badger shaving brush, 2 sticks Yardley’s shaving soap, 1 blue flannel, 1 white towel, pins (safety and ordinary), chamois leather, scissors (nail), needle case, envelope containing assorted buttons, 1 reel linen thread, 1 reel silko, 1 length narrow tape, 1 ball khaki mending wool, 2 balls fawn, 1 ball grey, 1 ball dark grey, 1 sponge, 1 doz. extra razor blades, 1 Gibb’s toothpaste, 1 refill, 1 Tek tooth brush, 2 shampoos, 1 nail brush, 1 hair brush, comb and steel mirror, 1 leather cigarette case.
Red slippers, pipe in soft case, tobacco pouch, bracers, 1 pr. woollen khaki gloves, 1 fawn scarf, 4 handkerchiefs khaki cotton, 2 pr. Viyella khaki socks, 1 pr. grey woollen socks, 2 Viyella khaki shirts, 1 Viyella tie, 1 khaki woollen Balaclava helmet, 1 woollen vest with short sleeves, 1pr. woollen pants, 1 grey woollen long sleeved jersey, 1 fawn woollen polo neck jersey, 1 pr. pink flannel striped pyjamas.
November 9th Uniform only parcel.
Service dress jacket and slacks, Battle dress blouse, Breeches.
12th October 1942 British Red Cross, Invalid Comforts Section.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Re: 51447, Major R.L. Cummins.
We have received your letter with regard to the Percainal ointment which you wish to be sent by Air mail to your husband; we will procure this immediately and send it off at the first opportunity.
With regard to the Invalid Comfort parcel you mention; I am very sorry to tell you that we are now no longer allowed to send these without the Doctor’s recommendation, as we have sent instead very large bulk supplies of invalid foods and medical remedies, which are in the charge of the Senior Medical Officer, who will issue what is needed to any man who applies.
This has been found to be the fairest method of distribution, as it seems that some men who were in fairly normal health had been receiving our Invalid Comfort parcels, and this naturally caused some dissatisfaction.
We have, therefore, sent out very large supplies, and if your husband is in need of anything extra in the way of tonic foods or medicines, I hope you will tell him when you are writing to apply to the Senior Medical Officer and ask for what he needs from the reserve stores.
Thank you so much for sending us the stamps to cover the cost of our corresponding with you.
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We will let you know the cost of the ointment and air mail postage later.
Muriel Bromley Davenport.
13th October 1942. The War Office, Casualties (PW)
Curzon Street, London W1.
I am directed to inform you that the following message was broadcast from the Vatican radio on 10th. October at 08.37 hours and was addressed to you.
From, Major R.L. Cummins, MC.
“Am fit and well, darling. Have written, longing for your letter. Sammy and Lumley with me.
All my love to Peter and all at home”
Camp No. 75 PM 3450. Italy.
No official confirmation of this address has yet been received in the department but there is no reason why it should not be used for communications to Major Cummins.
I am Madam, your obedient Servant,
G T H Rogers.
14th October 1942 Capt. H E Walton, MEOCTU. MEF.
I have just received my first batch of mail for many weeks and have read the grand news that Ronnie is safe. I knew he would be, and I do hope my rather clumsy letters did what they were intended to do, keep you going till there was news and not make you start to imagine every kind of horrible thing which is what I feared they might do.
I don’t know, of course, where he is yet but I hope they are all together and in Italy in which case you will probably have them all back before you expect; when the second front opens. One of our officers whose brother is a POW in Italy says they are well looked after but more frequently because they become popular with the local inhabitants!
Thank you very much for the AGs. re: tankard, I am glad you like it. I wonder if Peter will be able to celebrate his first birthday on Nov. 12th. by drinking from it! to Daddy, and many happy returns to Peter Ronald from “Uncle Peter”.
Yours very sincerely, Peter.
15th October 1942 Vatican War Enquiry Dept. 11 Cavendish Sq. London.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I enclose herewith another form for the 25 word special message you wish to send to your husband. As you may imagine, there are some thousands of these waiting to be forwarded, but it will be in order if you care to send one of these messages once monthly.
With God’s blessing.
Yours sincerely, pp Mother Joan.
16th October 1942 Finsbury Circus, EC2.
Your parcel has been dealt with, soap and plain chocolate included in addition to the 1/2 lb. free gift chocolate.
pp. Manager next-of-kin parcel centre.
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16th October 1942 Red Cross and St. John War Organisation,
POW Dept. St. James’ Palace, London SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
The Editor of “The Prisoner of War” thanks you very much for kindly sending us news of your husband. We were very interested to read the extracts from his letters, and if you care to send us any further letters or photographs that you receive from him, we shall always be very glad to see them.
We hope that you saw news of Sulmona camp in the October issue of the journal, and that the journal is proving interesting and useful.
pp The Editor.
21st October 1942 Invoice from the Times Book Club for the Argosy and Countryman to be sent to RLC in Italy.
24th October 1942 The War Office, Cas. POW. Curzon St. London.
I am directed to thank you for your letter dated 14th October and for the information therein.
As Camp 75, PM 3450 is a transit camp for British prisoners of war the address which you have received direct from Major Cummins and which is a permanent camp is considered more recent. You are therefore advised to address letters and parcels intended for your husband to Campo 78, PM 3300.
You are assured that as soon as any further information is received you will be notified.
I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant, G T H Rogers.
25th October 1942 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling Brenda,
Your always looked for letter arrived safely with copy of POW Magazine, which I return. Now about cigs and baccy for Ronnie, your idea is grand and I am writing to the British Am. etc. commonly called BATs for forms (if needed). As this will take a few days will you start the arrangement by doing the 1st and 2nd week of each month i.e. Nov., Dec., etc. and I’ll take on the last 2 weeks, if they don’t send a special form I’ll have one printed with all details on so as to save writing out an order each time and all that will be necessary will be to fill in the amount enclosed and date. What do you think, also I propose having some note paper printed with Ronnie’s name etc. on and our own also and of course a supply for you.
I’ll also print envelopes with Ronnie’s complete address on except the No. 78 and 3300 and on some your name and address and some for ourselves, as writing all that stuff every week is too much like hard work. I’ll leave out the numbers in case he may be moved which I hope won’t happen. I give you a rough idea of what I mean on the enclosed sheet. I am writing to the Red X to ask if this is in order, I hope so as it will save a peck of time.
We are sending the Red X at least £1 per month and I think you are too generous to Lumley, I think if you sent 10/- a month to the Red X on his behalf is ample, though I hope you don’t mind my saying this, and if we send £1 per month you need not send more, that makes £2 per month for Ronnie’s parcel. As regards Lumley’s cigarettes, 400 a month is ample as his family will certainly send him some and he, too, will get 50 per week as a ration, so he won’t
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do so badly and we are sure to send him odd lots too.
All the previous part of the letter seems to be about cigs. etc. and nothing about your trials at the dentist. Hope everything will soon be right and that you haven’t suffered much, you poor lass.
I expect you will find Peter almost walking when you get home. I have to finish now as it’s supper time in front of the breakfast room fire.
My dearest love, honey, to you and all and a kiss for Peter.
PS I am thankful Ronnie is not taking part in the present battle now in Libya. I know how anxious you would be and me, too, always living on the edge of a live volcano. I hope your Mother’s cold is better when you get back home.
I have written to Mrs. Lumley today and sent her 20/- towards a parcel for Lumley. I’m sure I have forgotten something but cannot say what.
27th October 1942 Comite International de la Croix-Rouge,
Agence Centrale des Prisonniers de Guerre,
London Delagation, 55, Pall Mall. London. SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Mrs. McCready is on sick leave and your letter has been handed to me. Unfortunately, I am afraid there is nothing we can do to bring together your husband and his batman. It is entirely a matter for the Italian authorities to decide and does not come within our jurisdiction.
I have asked the Delegate, here in London, whether we could intercede and he has confirmed what I have written to you above. I am so sorry to have to disappoint you.
29th October 1942 PG 78 PM3300 Italy.
My darling. Just a few lines to let you know that I have had your perfect two letters of Sept. 9th. and 10th. I am so glad that you know I am OK. We are off to another camp today, Sammy, myself and four others, new address is PG 29, PM 3200 Italy. Will write as soon as I can, what heaven it was to hear from you, my darling. Take all care and all love in world.
[Arrived 29th. March 1943]
31st October 1942 PG 29, PM 3200 Italy.
My darling precious, We have arrived at our new camp, the address as you will see is PG 29, PM 3200, Italia. I know one or two by sight but that is all. All senior officers and I feel very like a new boy at school. However things seem comfy so no doubt we will soon settle in. Sammy still with me and both well. Letter coming as well. Take all care, all love in the world my darling. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 2nd. Feb. 1943]
31st October 1942PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
[Digital Page 85]
My darling precious.
Well, we have arrived at our new camp, Sammy and I and three others, none of whom you know. It is in a lovely part of the country but we all feel rather like new boys at school. They have small rooms and I think I shall be going into one with a Col. Stray, who was at the last camp with us and a Col. Dean who is an old member here. I don’t know them very well but hope to soon. It is all a bit strange, precious, and I was very sorry to leave my friends in the last camp but it can’t be helped. The weather is much colder but with Battle Dress I am quite warm and I have now underclothes as well so can’t complain. Afraid I will have to wait for a bit for any more of your wonderful letters, how I am longing for them and the ones from Daddy and Mummy. I get all kinds of worries about you all, quite unnecessary I expect.
I have met the J. Maclean you mentioned, he seems a very nice chap, will let you know more later. How is PR, my dream, it is getting very near his birthday now, I am praying hard I will be back for his next one, I think it seems certain. These are so short, I am afraid I have never had the chance of asking about Granny C, I do hope she is well, give her my love and thanks, once again, for looking after my precious wife. Well, my dream, nearly the end. Take every care, won’t you. I am sure all this will soon be over and what heaven it will be to be all together again, it is like some wonderful dream to think about. Lots of hugs, my precious.
Don’t worry, I am fit and well. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 20th. Feb. 1943]
31st October 1942 Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
Aren’t you getting wretchedly impatient or have you, by any chance, heard any more from Italy? I’ve had nothing apart from Sammy’s first printed blue card in which he crosses out “I am wounded”. And also his so called wireless message which was, as I expected, one of those 25 word messages read through the Apostolic Delegation. He wrote it on Sept. 5th so it was frightfully old. He ends up “Ronnie Cummins here too”.
I do wonder if, perhaps, after all he wasn’t wounded, it would be marvellous as I do feel they have a far better chance if they start off without having lost a lot of blood.
Have you seen all the articles in the newspapers about a separate peace with Italy, or invasion of Italy etc. etc. I am full of wistful thinking that perhaps we might get them home even before the war is over.
Isn’t this chaining business disgusting? I do wish we hadn’t replied by doing the same, but anyhow, I hope the Italians will not follow suit. I don’t think they will as they have as many of their own in our hands.
I also saw in an evening paper that British officers in Italy are allowed to buy their own food on the basis of civilian rations. Not very big rations I suppose, but sounds more exciting than being handed out potatoes and spaghetti every day. I do long to hear from them again and I wonder so if they are very cold. I’m afraid our parcels have no chance of arriving before January.
Whenever I feel cold (quite often these days) I think of them and wish to heaven we could do something about it. But at all events I am too thankful; for words not to have them in the present shambles. Very selfish and unpatriotic, but there it is.
No more but I felt I must sit down and let off a slight moan. Perhaps if I send this we shall both hear by the next post!!!!
Hope all is well with you and Peter.
[Digital Page 86]
Yours ever, Karin
The following are descriptions of the camp from various sources. Ed.
ITALIAN P.O.W. CAMPS
VIANO, near REZZANELLO. CAMP No. 29/3200
The location of this camp is roughly in the triangle Savona, Piacenza, Parma.
On the occasion of the last visit to this camp there were 170 officers (148 English, 1 Canadian, 17 South Africans, 3 New Zealand, 1 Polish) and 62 other ranks. Total 232 Prisoners.
The camp has been in existence since May 1st. 1942, and some hundred prisoners were recently captured.
It is installed in a large building with several wings, surrounded by courtyards, which was previously used as a Holiday Home for Seminaristere. The situation is very lovely on the foothills dominating the plain. It is a healthy region and out of danger.
The quarters are suitable, although without luxury. The lighting, ventilation and arrangement of beds are satisfactory. The camp, however, would appear to be overcrowded, two or three officers occupying one room which appears rather too many in the case of senior officers. The prisoners are anxious that at least some of the oldest officers should have comfortable chairs in the bed rooms and carpets on the flag stones. The rooms can be heated by the customary wood-burning hearths. There is central heating on two floors and hot and cold running water in the rooms. In addition the prisoners have installation of taps and lavatories which are sufficient in number. They have four showers and two baths.
The other ranks are also well housed, with three double-tiered bunks in each room. The sanitary arrangements are good.
The Camp kitchen is satisfactory. No officer or soldier had any complaints to make. The prisoners prepare their meals to their own taste. The canteen is well supplied. The profits entirely revert to the soldier prisoners.
The prisoners do not complain of the state of their clothing. They are anxious to have half a dozen overalls for the cooks.
Three prisoner Medical officers work with the Italian Doctor and an Italian male nurse. The equipment is good and the work is not hard, the general state of health is excellent. The supply of medicants and specialties is not altogether adequate. The prisoners would be glad to receive anaesthetics for dental extractions.
There is a Chaplain, a New Zealander, a Methodist. The prisoners would prefer to have a Church of England Chaplain.
The prisoners enjoy the open air in a courtyard shaded by trees and there is a small courtyard without trees which is reserved for games. Five times a week walks take place in groups of 55 prisoners. Thus every prisoner can go for two walks a week. In addition two supplementary walks are allowed to the Chaplain, the three Doctors and to some invalids. Games and cinemas have been organised and a room has been arranged as a Library and lecture room. They have about 250 books and more are expected.
The mails are not too good in regard to prisoners from Malta and the New Zealanders. 1100 parcels form the Red Cross arrived in the camp on June 25th. 1942. The prisoners reckon that 5% of the individual parcels are missing. At the moment they have a reserve of half a parcel per man.
[Digital Page 87]
The discipline in the camp is excellent, and the interview with the Camp leader and his assistant took place without witnesses.
This camp can be considered as satisfactory from every point of view.
[This is dated 29/9/42. Ed.]
DESCRIPTION OF CAMP 29 WRITTEN BY ADMIRAL
SIR WALTER COWAN WHO LEFT THERE ON MARCH 6TH.
Camp 29 is in good farming country in N. Italy, 3 or 4 miles away from any town (Viano) and about 12 miles from Piacenza, well up above the plain of Lombardy. On a clear day there is a lovely view of the Alps, 70 miles away. The building is normally a training school for young priests or monks. It is a rectangular arrangement of corridors with small rooms, stone floors and no fire-places. The corridors are warmed with terra-cotta stoves burning wood, the supply of which is very limited.
To each corridor there is a wash place, a row of about 8 basins and one bath. Also there is another place with 4 rather primitive WCs. and one urinal to each corridor. The water for these and for washing was never enough, especially in the summer, and in consequence almost always there is a smell of drains in the compound used for exercise and for sitting out in warm weather. This compound was 13 times round to the mile. Washing in hot water was by means of shower baths, perhaps once a week, but no certainty ever of hot water.
The number of officer prisoners in the Camp was about 190 in the four corridors as I have described. There are generally 2 in a room and every one has a proper bed. There is a large mess room, just big enough for the numbers, and 2 or 3 ante-rooms with tables, benches and chairs. The kitchen is small but there is almost always enough food, mainly owing to the wise administration of what the Red X supplies. Parcels used normally to arrive twice a week. Red X parcels were issued once a week as a rule, but now and then once a fortnight, and nothing in that way ever a certainty. Letters normally every day, also the Italian newspapers. There was an Italian cinema 3 times a week. It seemed to me there was no lack of cigarettes, but I do not smoke so perhaps I am a bad judge, but I seldom saw anyone through the day who was not smoking.
Exercise is by way of walks in droves of 70, about 4 miles taking 2 hours altogether. These walks are rather at the caprice of the Italian officers and I doubt if any single officer averaged more than 2 days a week like that through the months. Quite often it was too wet under foot for the Italian guards or their officers were on leave or had other duties. There is a back yard used by the British batmen for washing clothes etc. and the officers could there play “volley ball”, a most valuable means of getting a good sweat in a short time.
Every sort of lecture went on every day and to almost all of them everybody went. Then once a week, after dinner, there would be a very cleverly prepared digest of the week’s news as gathered from the Italian papers, and another as gathered from the private letters of as many as were good enough to contribute items of general interest, and so very many did. News about fox-hunting, farming, racing, Parliament, well known public men, high service appointments- every sort of varied facts and to be of interest to every sort of mentality. Such a lot of them in real life were not soldiers at all that it made the whole community a much larger reservoir of varied interests than most people would ever foresee.
Then there were debates now and then on may unexpected subjects; one initiated by an old Etonian to urge and prove that public schools should be done away with – tremendous interest and clever argument. Another in defence of fox-hunting (by a Northumberland Blackett). Another urging that divorce be made more difficult.
[Digital Page 88]
One thing that astonished me was the way in which the days rather flew by, owing, I think, to there being no horizon, no terms of weeks or months to live down and count the days of.
The life is rather that of the cow in the field, but every day full of hope and every now and then an abnormal wave of it. A number of them were writing books of one sort or another, and also were becoming really good picture painters. One, George Fanshaw of the Bay’s, the polo player, almost a second Lionel Edwards, and a very good lecturer on anything to do with horses.
As to clothes, everyone after perhaps four months of rather hardship that way, generally acquired enough, either by buying from the Italian shops who periodically were allowed to bring what they had into the camp for sale and to take orders for, also boots like that, but baddish and very expensive, or their brother officers who had been longer in the camp and would give into a general collection this garment or that. There was a lot of very great kindness and self-sacrifice like that. I must ever remember the infinite and unfailing kindness in those ways that were shown to me. My own chief longings when first I got there were for a pair of thickish slippers and a pair of trousers.
There was a canteen which, from time to time, and sometimes after many weeks ( you would ask for something, perhaps razor blades or safety pins or shaving soap or anything like that) you could get small necessities and almost always odds and ends to eat, sweet things mostly, and fruit very often. All my time there was no lack of fruit, it was one of the best features. Eggs were not often available, 4 in 9 months while I was there, though there were turkeys and hens and geese and ducks wherever you went and far more than about the average countryside at home. On the average at this canteen each of them could get about one and a half tumblers of drink a day. Marsala or Vermouth or that red wine, and there is no doubt it was of the maximum value and virtue in making glad the heart of man, as the Almighty put it into the world for.
About three times in the night every room would be visited by the guards, and also three times each day, at uncertain times, they would all be fallen in and mustered. After every attempted escape there would be a most rigorous search of everyone and everything which would take many hours. One understands it to be far harder to escape from Italy than from Germany.
There was a most ample supply of every sort of books and really good ones. I left behind, I should think, at least fifty.
The Commandant is a gentleman and he and his officers are invariably well disposed towards them all.
There is an Italian Military Hospital a few miles away where they send anyone who is at all seriously ill. It’s not bad but not so very clean or sanitary. The Italians are like that.
In the Camp there was, when I left, 3 or 4 British Army Doctors and in general charge an Italian Army Doctor who is also a fair amateur dentist.
There were also 3 British Army Chaplains, 2 C of E and one Non-Con. A Catholic Chapel is also in the camp.
Colonel The Lord Clifford of Chudleigh writes:
The camp was originally a seminary built to accommodate 60 to 80 priests and held 250 POWs. It was a Senior British Officer’s camp.
Red Cross parcels arrived regularly and were distributed on Fridays. There were courses run in a variety of subjects and one taught the subject one knew. Also lectures in politics, psychology and religion.
[Digital Page 89]
The escape committee made a receiving set.
They did Scottish reels in the winter to keep warm.
An Italian Cavalry Marquis was Commandant.
The attitude of the guards changed as the Armistice approached.
Major A.O. McGinlay MC writes:
They had a camp newspaper and radio.
Everything was valued in cigarettes and there was a very active exchange market.
Lots of gambling went on and huge sums changed hands by way of postcards being sent to their Banks asking for sums to be credited to the accounts of those they owed money to.
They had a cinema and needed the amplifier for the radio so made cardboard and material copies of all the components and unless it was film night they could use it whenever they wanted to.
There were lots of tunnels and everyone had Red Cross parcels and warm clothing ready should escape be possible.
From “The Prisoner of War”.
Viano, Camp 29. A new camp for senior officers. It consists of stone buildings and was built as a summer home for students. There are mess rooms, reading and games rooms and a canteen. One courtyard has been turned into a sports ground and vegetable garden, and the other is used as a rest ground for the prisoners. Up to the date of the visit no Red Cross parcels had arrived, but some had been borrowed from a neighbouring camp. Sanitary installations were said to be satisfactory. There are an Italian doctor and four British chaplains in the camp. (Visited June 1942)
From British Prisoner of War Relatives Association News Sheet.
PG 29/PM 3200. New prisoner arriving. Undated.
F and I have now moved into a room facing east with a marvellous view. The early morning sun is lovely too, and usually gets me out of bed by 7.30 or earlier for my early coffee.
Breakfast is about nine. In the forenoon I try and learn Italian. Usually read in the afternoon and play some energetic game in the evening after tea. Lunch is at 13.00 and supper at 19.30. Read after supper and bed about eleven. And of course there are other things to do, walks two or three times a week now from 7.15 to 9.15 before it’s too hot. And I have a small part in the internal administration.
We are barely worried at all except for two or three roll calls a day. New prisoners are now filling the place up. Red Cross parcels are coming regularly. Red Cross have now given me 2 shirts, 2 long pants, 2 vests and 2 pairs of socks, all thick. Our movies are a great success. Curiously the first one was directed by Cdr. Anthony Kimmins. The speech is Italian of course but some songs are English. We have them twice a week.
2nd November 1942 PG 29. PM 3200. Italy.
My darling precious.
Well, we are getting settled in by degrees As I said in my last letter I am with Cols. Stray and Dean, not bad chaps but I must say I miss like hell the crowd at the last camp. I got to know them well and we had some amusing times, however here I am so must make the best of it.
I am longing for some more mail from you, it’s about all I can live for, I expect there is some on the way from the last camp, it may be a bit before you get my new address. Sammy is
[Digital Page 90]
still in good form, we are both wondering how B. Watson will do as CO, he and Mick will fight. I wonder if you have got any of my first letters with their many “please sends” in.
I have managed to get some of them, precious, but most things are hard to get and are anyhow expensive. I would like a pair of pyjamas if you could manage them, old ones will do, but I am sleeping at the moment in a vest, but don’t worry I am quite warm. I have not yet started any study here, but am attending any lectures that are going, some most interesting. Must admit I am much more bored than I have been up to date. I am afraid, darling heart, I haven’t written home for a bit, they will see these I expect and I only get one a week. I do pray so often that they are all right, I get so worried about them sometimes.
I am so looking forward to your next photos, I hope there are some of you, I do so want to see your adorable face again, it is a long time since I did. I feel sure you can write more than one page in your ordinary letters, they were getting ones 2 or 3 pages before. All my love and prayers, my precious, I am sure it won’t be long, there is such heaven to look forward to. Love to PR and all at Grove, Mummy, Daddy and Ruth. All take great care. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 23rd. Feb. 1943]
5th November 1942 PG 29. PM 3200. Italy.
My Darling Precious. Another few lines to let you know I am fit and well, still no more news from you since your first 2 letters, but I am expecting more any day. Weather is a bit cold but we are quite warm so don’t worry. Cigs are short, darling, hope some on way. PR will have had birthday when you get this, do send photos of him and you. Give love to all at home and take every care, won’t you, don’t worry we are quite OK. All love in world.
[Arrived 2nd. Feb.1943]
9th November 1942 PG 29. PM 3200. Italy.
My darling Precious,
Once again I can let you know that I am fit and well. Still the only letters I have had have been yours of Sept. 9th and 10th but I live in hopes each day. Sammy has got some from Karin sent as late as Oct. so no doubt mine will arrive any time. Well, my dream, life goes on much the same, as I said before I am in a room with a Col. Stray and Col. Dean, both much older but nice. I spend a lot of time just thinking about what we will do when I get back, the weather is good at the moment and the country side reminds me so much of those very perfect days when we went to Bickleigh and our little runs in the country. I only wish your letters were more frequent, two in nearly four months is not much and I am afraid I worry about how you all are. I do pray Daddy and Mummy are well, it is hell being shut away from news like this. I am managing a certain amount of work, but somehow the opportunities don’t seem quite so good here as at the last camp. Still I am able to keep my mind busy which is the main thing. Darling, I do hope Granny C is well, give her my dear love and thank her again for such a perfect daughter. And PR I expect he is able to say quite a number of words now, above all, my sweet, do send as many photos as you can, you can’t imagine what heaven it will be for me to see your adorable face again. Well, my dream, nearly the end again. Take every care, I am sure it will not be long now and then we can make up for all this. I am longing for your news, perhaps tomorrow I shall be lucky. All my love to you and all at home. I am fit and well so don’t worry. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 19th. Feb. 1943.]
[Digital Page 91]
10th November 1942 Clarence, Bisop Auckland.
My very dear Peter.
This letter is first to wish you many happy returns of the day, that is Nov. 12th. you perhaps won’t remember much about it but, believe me, it gave tremendous pleasure to a lot of people amongst them the writer and his wife, so we send you our greetings and good wishes. The rest of the letter is to apologise for the delay in sending you our humble present but the maker has not quite finished the work, but it is coming and we hope you will like it.
Your initials PRC are painted on the (nearly wrote barrow) present and I believe it is painted in the regimental colours of that famous regiment the DLI in which your Daddy serves.
The initials are painted so that you will not make a mistake and try and wheel the large garden barrow.
God bless you honey,
Your Granny and Grandpa.
12th November 1942 Apostolic Delegation, London
You may write your messages on ordinary paper, so long as you always repeat the necessary particulars, rank, number etc. Thank you for your kind words of appreciation of our work.
pp MM Joan Sec.
12th November 1942 PG 29, PM 3200. Italy
My darling precious. Two more perfect letters from you, making 4 up to date, last 2 were Sept. 24th. and Oct. 12th. What joy they have given. So little room to reply. Glad Mummy and Daddy looked well and I loved all about the chair and rummers.(?.Ed) I am hoping that you have had some of mine by now. I am well and comfy so don’t worry. All love in world, darling, to you all at home. God bless Ronnie R.
[Arrived 14th Dec. 1942.]
16th November 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious,
Great joy last week when I got two more of your letters, one sent off Sept. 24th. and one Oct. 12th., this makes four letters I have had from you now and there must be many more on the way. Your letter of 12th. was a sweet one, precious, I think there can be little doubt now that we will spend next year’s together. I am so glad Hope has at last managed it, if you see her give her my best congrats. Well, darling, things go on much the same here, the weather is rather cold and we are having lots of rain. As I said before, somehow I am not getting as much work done as at the last place, but I am learning some things. There do seem to have been some changes in the 6th, I thought Mick would work that job in the end.
Afraid he and Billy would never work well together. Old Dick deserves everything he has got, he did very well. I have not heard from Mummy, Daddy or Ruth yet, I do hope they are all right. I was glad to hear they had been down to see you. I haven’t heard anything about Lumley for a bit, he is quite OK and in Italy. Sammy is in good form and finding lots of people he knows here. Dean and Stray are both fishermen so we have plenty to talk about. Well, my Darling, the end again. All my love to PR and Granny C and everything in the world to you. I don’t think that perfect day is far off now so until then take every care of your precious self, don’t worry I am fit and well. God bless and all my love darling. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 23rd. Feb. 1943]
[Digital Page 92]
16th November 1942 Red Cross and St. John War Organisation,
POW Dept. St. James’ Palace, London SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Thank you very much for kindly writing and sending us the extracts from your husband’s letter. We are particularly glad to get news from the Italian Camps as we are greatly dependent on the next of kin for this. Should you receive any photographs or further interesting letters we shall be very pleased to see them.
The Editor of “The Prisoner of War” hopes that the journal is proving interesting and helpful.
pp The Editor.
17th November 1942 14, Finsbury Circus. EC2.
Your Parcel has been received and dealt with.
pp. Manager Personal Parcels Centre.
19th November 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darlings. I have just got your first letter of Oct. 11th. it was grand seeing your writing again and to hear you are well. I am longing to hear more about your visit. I got a letter from B with two more photos in the other day, both perfect. Hope my letters are arriving. I am very well and comfy so don’t worry darlings. I think so much about you all, take every care. All love to Ruth and you both. Ronnie.
23rd November 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
I am afraid with the exception of a PC or two I haven’t written to you for a long time, you know the reason and no doubt B has given you all the news. I did so love getting your first letter the other day, dated Oct. 11th. I had been longing to hear how you were getting and now my mind is eased. I think so much about you both and Ruth and wonder how you are getting on, that your letter was a great joy. I have had quite a few letters now from B, she gives me all the news, Peter seems to be doing well and the photos I have had are perfect.
I am so glad you were able to go down and see them, only wish I could have been with you both. Well, darlings, the days slip over, I find various things to keep me occupied, only wish I had some books on my job, or even fishing, you would laugh at my sewing etc. but I am becoming quite expert. I am still in a room with a Col. Dean and Stray, you won’t know them but we are quite comfy. I must admit I never expected to be in the same boat as John, however there it is. Sammy Batts is with me, also one of the McLaren boys. Well, the end again, I am afraid I think so much of when we were all together. Take every care of yourselves, won’t you. I have so many wonderful things to come back to. Give Ruth my love, won’t you. All the love in the world to you both. I don’t think it will be long now. Ronnie.
23rd November 1942 Next-of-kin Parcels Centre. POW Dept. of the Red Cross.
14, Finsbury Circus. London EC2.
re: Major R. L. Cummins.
We have received the parcel for the above prisoner of war and it was dispatched on the 17th instant, with the breeches enclosed.
The articles mentioned may also be included in your next quarterly parcel.
pp. Next-of-kin Parcel Centre.
[Digital Page 93]
Apostolic Delegation, Vatican War Enquiry Dept.
11 Cavendish Square, London W. 1.
Archbishop William Godfrey, Apostolic Delegate in Great Britain, has much pleasure in sending you the enclosed message received for you through the Secretariate of State of His Holiness the Pope.
The Apostolic Delegate is happy to have the opportunity of wishing you a very happy Christmas.
23rd November 1942
Secretariat of State to His Holiness.
Sender Cummins, Ronald Loftus
Rank Major. No. 51447.
Camp No. 29 Military Post. 3200
Addressee Mrs. Ronald Cummins
Town Burton Bradstock
County Near Bridport Dorset
Message (10 words – Season’s greetings only).
ALL MY LOVE DARLING FOR CHRISTMAS AND THE NEW YEAR. RONNIE.
[Arrived 22nd December 1942]
26th November 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
Darling Precious. Received your letter card no. 3 on 21st. Great joy, so glad all well and that you have heard about Lumley. I sent last letter to Auckland, had not written for long time. Am very fit, darling, and look so often at 4 photos so far received, longing for more. I am hoping more mail this week. Take great care, won’t you precious, love to you all, chins up and God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 11th. March 1943]
26th November 1942 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. Just a few lines to let you know I am all right, hoping Baby and yourself are the same, also that you have heard from the Major to say he is all right too. I am still waiting patiently for a letter from home so here’s hoping it isn’t long. Cheerio. Lumley.
30th November 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious.
No more letters from you for a bit now, there must be a hold up somewhere. I got one from Ruth dated Oct. 26th. from which it sounds as if you have heard from me. I do hope this is correct, she was on a course and was enjoying it, perhaps the next thing will be Lieut. Col.
Well, darling, life is about the same for us, the weather is a little colder but don’t worry I am quite warm, so far none of your parcels have arrived, I am sure they will be perfect when they do. As a matter of fact I don’t think it will be til the New Year before they come. It is a trouble about this writing business, our letters are censored before leaving so like you, precious, I find it rather hard having to curb my language. Ruth was saying PR can almost
[Digital Page 94]
walk now, a great feat at his age, how I long to see him. I do hope now you have sent some more photos particularly of yourself. So good of Dick to deal with my kit, only wish I had the small photo frame. Glad parcel reached you and that Dick sent on the stockings. I wonder what he did with the pampas!! Remember last Christmas parcel. Precious, I could write reams if it were possible, it will have to wait until I get back which I am sure won’t be so long now. Take great care of your precious self and give my love to Granny C and PR and write often as you can, Darling, I live for your letters. Tons of love. R.R.
[Arrived 22nd. March 1943]
30th November 1942. The Times Book Club, London W.1.
Invoice for the following dispatched to RLC at PG 78. PM 3300.
Harvest of the Moor.
I’ll tell you everything.
Pride of the Valley.
Saint goes West.
Also : 12 months subscription to :-
I novel monthly under service 1.
1 Non fiction monthly under Service 11.
Postage and guaranteed delivery included.
November 1942 – October 1943.
Printed in “The Prisoner of War” December 1942.
Viano. Camp 29. The number of officers in this camp has been increased since the last visit, causing somewhat over-crowded conditions. Stoves have not yet been installed, but supplies of wood and fuel are in stock. Mail and parcels are arriving well and clothing is satisfactory. The water shortage will improve as the summer ends. A cinema has been installed in the camp and the prisoners go for walks at least twice a week.
3rd December 1942. PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious. No more news from you for a bit now, I have great hopes each day.
Weather cold but fine and sunny. Got a letter from Ruth about a week ago, sounds as though you had heard from me. Life still goes on the same, spend a lot of my time planning for the future, what heaven! Darling, please don’t worry and do take care of your precious self. R.R.
[Arrived 23rd. April 1943]
3rd December 1942 The Times Book Club, London W.1.
Dear Madam, Thank you for your letter of Oct. 26th. Please accept our apologies for the long delay in replying to it.
We have noted your instructions with regard to the books sent to Major Cummins. We sent 1/- over the £1 last month and will send as near to the amount of 19/- for the next dispatch as we can.
We trust that this will meet with your approval and the Services and Standing order give every satisfaction.
Yours faithfully for The Times Book Club.
P.S. Invoices enclosed for your information.
[Digital Page 95]
4th December 1942 The Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland
My Dear Brenda,
Very many thanks for your nice long letter.
I wish I had time to send you an equally long one in return, not only am I very busy but my hands are too cold to hold a pen properly. We’ve landed into winter all too suddenly.
I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the country but it’s dreadfully cold here. The frost has not given for 2 or 3 days, 14 degrees Wed. night, I’m told, and I believe it for I was fire-watching that night (an upstairs room next to the bank). I was fully dressed even to my collar and had 3 blankets over me and my camp bed was within 5 feet of the fire and yet my back was frozen. I was so cold that I packed up at 5am and came in here and put on the electric radiator in my room and worked til 8 and then went home for a wash and brush up and something to eat.
Glad your news of Ron is good, let’s hope we “take” Italy soon and free all the lads!
I don’t know what the two Barclays credits in July were all about, the usual APO credit came in July I see. If you have any idea that further sums should have been remitted and wish to make enquiry, I see we received the credits from Barclays Bank Ltd., Dominion, Colonial and Overseas Branch, 29 Gracechurch Street, London EC3.
With regard to the non-deduction of tax from October pay it may be that it was “overpaid” to the extent that none was deducted and then the credit came in November. (I’m only guessing, it’s beyond me but will probably be OK.)
I think the £8-4-1 advances of pay will be correct. Whilst Ron was free he would no doubt draw the same amount each time in piastres or lira or whatever the coinage was in the place where he happened to be and that would be converted into the sterling equivalent by the APO and there would be little fluctuation in the rate of exchange.
This seems to cover the points raised in your letter. I hope you will have your nice new teeth in when I see you or you will completely spoil the mental picture I have of you. (I’m only an old man but I should hate any one to see me minus teeth, I’m bad enough even with them, but I cannot help that).
Glad Peter is still thriving, hope you are now very well too and that you’ll continue to have very good news of Ron.
Yours very sincerely,
James F Glover.
X for Peter and his Mother.
Mr. Proud told me yesterday of a remarkable coincidence regarding his younger boy, Bill. You will no doubt know that Bill is a magnificent cricketer, Winchester, Oxford Blue, Durham and Hampshire. His father told me that he is somewhere Baghdad way and is sharing a hut with Hedley Verity, the famous Yorkshire and England bowler. Bill will be delighted I know, he is a grand lad. [This was written on the side of the page. Ed.]
7th December 1942 The Times Book Club, London W.1.
Referring to your recent order, we regret to inform you that the under mentioned books are temporarily out of stock at the publishers and no date can be given as to when further supplies are likely to be available:-
Little Grey Rabbit’s Washing Day, A. Uttley.
“Assignment to Britain”, Macinnes, “Peter and Co.”, Heanley and “Desert Army”, Buster are
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not yet published. Your request for these books has been registered and we shall have pleasure in forwarding copies as soon as they are ready.
A statement of your account will be sent under separate cover.
In reply to your further enquiry, we beg to say that, so far, parcels for prisoners of war in Italy are accepted for transmission.
Yours faithfully for The Times Book Club.
10th December 1942 PG 29, PM3200, Italy.
My Darling precious. Still no news from you but I got a letter from Mick’s Mum and also a mag. “Countryman” from Ernest Taylor, Mother will tell you who he is, very kind of them both. Life goes on just the same. Nearly Christmas darling, how I long to be with you and PR and everyone. Will be I’m sure next year. Take all care, precious, you are ever in my thoughts. God bless and love to all. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 14th. April 1943.]
10th December 1942 Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
I am annoyed I didn’t send 6 as I first intended to, if only I could have known. I’ll take your advice and wait til after Xmas to send another lot. For goodness sake don’t bother to send me stamps! I’m so glad Peter is well supplied for the time being anyway. I wonder if Greta has returned full of apologies, she seemed such a nice child but that class is simply impossible, we’ve had the same experience ourselves lately.
The diary was interesting, wasn’t it, but I noticed that Ronnie’s name was not much in evidence, very remiss. But perhaps he went to bed ‘too’ early!!!!! as most of the incidents seem to have taken place in the evening.
When are we going to have another letter? I’m longing to hear that they have had letters from us, then I shall feel a little happier. By the way, 3 officers have just arrived in England from the camp where our 2nd. Bn. all went in June 1940. Bobbie Simpson ( then Colonel) organised the escape and 30 got out. So far only these 3 have turned up and they got to Gibralter. Rather amazing and, of course, lovely for relatives of the others as they are full of first-hand information. German food rotten, Red X parcels very irregular. They say that the German troops hate their officers even more than we do! In this camp 130 at a time have been taken off for a fortnightly period to be handcuffed 12 hours in the 24. Too ridiculous but that perhaps will stop now, when shackling is off, at last.
The POW bring and buy sale made £212 and the whist-drive (tickets 1/-) made £21.10.0. I’ve not heard the result of the flag day, but pretty good I should think.
I’m not sending any Christmas cards so in case I don’t write again before, the very best to you and Peter and your mother and may next Xmas be very different.
Yours ever, Karin.
11th. December 1942. Red Cross and St,. John War Organisation,
POW Dept. St. James’ Palace. London SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Thank you very much for kindly writing to us and giving us news of your husband. We are most interested to read his letter, and it is nice that he was able to celebrate your wedding anniversary, if only with a glass of wine and some cake.
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We shall always be pleased to have further news of him, should you care to write to us, and are delighted that the journal is proving helpful and interesting.
pp The Editor.
14th December 1942 PG 29, Pm 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Still no more letters from you since Nov. 21st. which is a trouble, only hope mine are getting to you all right. As I told you in my PC last week I received a letter from Mrs. Ferens and a mag. “Countryman” from an Ernest Taylor, Mummy will tell you who he is, it was very kind of them both to bother. Also an amusing but annoying parcel, my name was on the list as having received a parcel of cigarettes, however when I went to get it it turned out to be a tube of some kind of ointment packed up in a box which had contained a pipe. All my thrills of cigarettes is dashed!! Don’t know who it was from, Darling, as there was nothing inside.
Well, my Darling, we are getting on towards Christmas, we are having a few festivities here, as much as we can manage, you know where I shall be in spirit if not in person. I do pray, my dream, you and PR and everyone have a good time, it seems so disheartening not to be able to send you anything even a cable, still wait till next year, we will make up for it. The time is going a little quicker now, I have quite a lot to do so that helps. Weather not quite so good but some lovely warm days, quite unlike Christmas. Well, Bunny, the end again, how short they are, but these letters can at least tell you once again that I am living only for that wonderful day. Love to Granny C and PR. I am longing for more photos. Take care of your precious self and God bless. I am quite fit and well. Love Ronnie R.
[Arrived 19th. Feb. 1943]
15th December 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
33 10.30 BURTON BRADSTOCK WE 38
TELEGRAPH LETTER MRS CUMMINS 2 CLARENCE BISHOP AUCKLAND DURHAM
RECEIVED CARD FROM RONNIE WRITTEN NOVEMBER 12TH NEW CAMP ADDRESS PG 29 PM
3200 VERY WELL COMFORTABLE HAD FOUR LETTERS FROM ME TRIED UNSUCCESSFULLY
PHONE YOU LOVE BRENDA CUMMINS
17th December 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious. A grand mail last Monday, a letter of Nov. 11th. from Daddy, L. cards from Joy and Phyliss, your letter of Nov. 1st. and four L. cards from you Sept. 28th., Oct. 8th. and 20th. and Nov. 12th. as you can imagine it was a terrific thrill. I am longing for letters with photos. I am well and comfy, my darling, so don’t worry. All love to you and New Year blessing. Your Ronnie R.
[Arrived 20th. Feb. 1943]
17th December 1942 10 Sparacacre Gardens, Bridport.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I think of you very often and wonder what news you have from your husband. Our dearest friends, who retired just when we did, have heard that their only child is missing in Libya since Nov. 2nd. It is all too awful.
My Jack has been sent to the port at Tobruk to re-start the hospital there!! He went for the
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first time by road and he says the masses and masses of Hun material of every possible kind strewn about everywhere testify to the overwhelming defeat our men inflicted on them. Tobruk is in an awful state after all the bombing and they left it filthy. The harbour is blocked with wrecked Hun and Italian ships. However, we shall get it all right.
How is baby? Also your Mother. Forgive writing but am in bed. I’ve not been well for some days.
Hoping your Xmas will not be to sad a one.
Yours sincerely, Eva Robarts.
18th December 1942 Ashbury House, Kemerton. Tewkesbury.
My dearest Cissy and Brenda,
We are not sending Christmas cards or presents this year, so this comes instead with much love to you both from Eve and myself. How much I wish I could see you both, not to mention Peter who I hear is perfectly sweet. When will this war end and let us all have some fun again! Still, the news seems better at last. I do hope you hear frequently from Ronnie and that he is well. All the prisoners in Italy seem all right, except that they are very glad to get their food parcels, which is hardly surprising to anyone who knows Italy.
You will be wondering why you are thus honoured with a typewritten letter. I am coming over two afternoons a week to Alessina Davey to help her with her correspondence. She is deep in Women’s Institute, part time landworkers etc. etc. and there is always a lot to do. As it happens, she is out this afternoon and I have finished all I can do for her, so I thought I’d better practice my very rusty typing by writing some letters.
I had my calling up interview a little while back, when I discovered to my horror that no voluntary work is counted at all, neither are you supposed to have a home if you are tow unmarried females. I was quite sure I was going to be made to do half time work, but I imagine they could devise no means of getting the villagers from their place of residence to work, as the bus services are most inadequate. Anyway, I was told to remain in my present employment, pending further review. Thank goodness for that, as I am worn out as it is.
My paying guest and her dog moved out last Friday, after two years all but a week. We miss them most terribly. Never give your heart to someone else’s dog. It is a great mistake. At the same time it is rather nice to have the house to ourselves for a change, and although I was very fond indeed of her I found it is a bit trying to have someone who was doing nothing whatever except a Group Savings which took 1 1/2 hours a week. She is lucky enough to have gone home to an excellent maid who waits on her hand and foot.
How are you off for service now? As little as everyone else I suppose. I am still lucky with my maiden who comes half days, but as she is well over 18 that cannot last long.
Eve is still hard at it at Ashchurch. She does not like it half as much now it is American, but I am glad to say she is happier than she was. She now has a young, married from Overbury who works with her. She is more her age and has the same sense of humour so they can murmur to each other all day long. It is a great relief to have one person of one’s own class!
We went to a dance at Ashchurch about three weeks ago. We were fetched in a magnificent Humber Snipe, petrol no object, dates being fetched from Worcester and Cheltenham, while we can’t even meet a friend at Bredon Station. Our escort is a nice middle aged man, and he looked after us beautifully and did we eat? But the rest of the company was beyond description. They are an awful crew and they chose girls to match. I cannot think where they found them. We actually saw the Colonel Commandant bite his pet young lady’s ear in the middle of the bar! And the most successful maiden wore a long black skirt and black bust
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bodice! She was a riot. Especially when her navel showed. Individually I quite like Americans but in a bunch we found them very trying.
By the way, do you know the latest description of a pair of knickers? One Yank and they’re off!!
With that I think I had better go and catch my bus. Tons of love, and all good wishes.
18th December 1942 Barclays Bank ( Dominion, Colonial and Overseas)
29, Gracechurch Street. London EC3.
Major R. L. Cummins MC.
We have received your letter of the 15th. instant and in reply would inform you that we shall be pleased to assist you with regard to the account of your husband with our Cairo branch.
It occurs to us, however, that you may wish any balance to be transferred to this country and we, therefore, trust that the following information may prove useful in this connection:-
The balance of an account of a prisoner of war with one of our overseas branches can be transferred to this country, and any of the following methods may be adopted:-
The person in whose name the account is held may write direct to our branch concerned giving instructions, or alternatively, send his instructions directed to our branch through the medium of a friend or relative in this country. In the latter circumstances, if the letter is then forwarded to us, we shall be pleased to re-direct it to our branch concerned.
We appreciate that letters from prisoners of war are limited in number, and also subject to loss in transit, and, therefore, we should be pleased to arrange such a transfer without the authority of the prisoner of war on receipt of the enclosed form of indemnity duly signed by a bank.
If the last method is used the transfer could be affected by cable at a cost of 8/4d. to cover the onward message. The cost from the inward cable is normally deducted from the balance remitted, but should it transpire that there is no balance available with our branch the amount thereof would be claimed from the bank through whom the instructions were forwarded.
An alternative method of transfer, if instructions are received through a bank is by airgraph, and the cost in this case would be 8d. for the outward message. The time taken for funds to be received in this way is approximately five to six weeks.
Upon receipt of your reply we will give the matter our further attention.
21st December 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
So much to say so little space. Had a wonderful mail last Monday, darling, letters from Daddy, Mummy, Joy, Phyliss, very sweet of them and 5!! from you, what heaven. I was lost to the world for a bit. You have done wonders with cig. and tob. parcels, my precious, don’t really need any more uniform, in fact don’t worry too much except for cigs. Blades, hankies etc. pyjamas and shirts will be most welcome and a thousand thanks. Longing for letters with 6 photos in each, perhaps come next week. Don’t send novels, books on Gardening, Printing or N. East the best. So sorry to hear about abscess, my precious, do hope all cleared up now, adore you even if new teeth protrude at 45 degs. I realise now what ointment was
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for! many thanks. Afraid my letters are not getting through very well, just have to put up with it. How I love your description of PR birthday, darling, I have reread it many times, must say he has been very lucky, he is going to be the rich member of the family by the time I get back. He does sound a dream, I long to be able to see him, will next year I’m sure. Glad you are able to get things for the house, darling, things will be a price after the war. Save for a bit when I get back! I have various ideas in mind. Let me know if pay is OK, it should be. Life goes on much the same here, darling, am keeping occupied, warm and well so don’t worry.
Love to all at home, think Felicity will arrive before 18 months the way things look. All love in my heart, precious, hope you have good Christmas, wish I could be with you. God bless, your Ronnie R.
[Arrived 19th July 1943]
23rd. December 1942
POST OFFICE TELEGRAM
117 9.35 BURTON BRADSTOCK WE 36
TELEGRAPH LETTER CUMMINS 2 CLARENCE BISHOP AUCKLAND
RECEIVED VATICAN MESSAGE SENT NOVEMBER 23RD IN OWN HANDWRITING SAYING ALL
LOVE DARLING FOR CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR RONNIE LONGING OPEN YOUR PARCEL ALL
OUR LOVING WISHES = BRENDA CUMMINS
24th December 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious. No more mail from you since the last lot, but I live in hope each day.
We are getting ready for best Christmas festivities possible, you know where my heart will be. I do hope you all had a good one. Am fit and well so don’t worry my darling. All love in the world, take care of yourself. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 23rd Jan 1943.]
28th December 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious.
I received 2 days ago your letter card sent off on Nov. 19th. and two large photos sent on Nov. 26th. You don’t know what joy they have given me, it is perfect to have one of all the family. I am going to mount them and have them on the wall of my room. I gather three were sent, no doubt the last will turn up soon. I am afraid the two letters containing 6 photos each which you sent off on Oct. 9th. approx. have not arrived, it looks very much, darling, as if they were goners, we will just have to hope. Your LC and photos were a lovely Christmas present and just what I had been longing for. While on the question of presents, could you manage to send me a hair brush do you think, I have been only using a comb, but I would like a brush if it is possible. Well, my dream, we have got another Christmas over apart, we had quite a good time considering, what with our Red X parcel, concert etc.
Up to Christmas eve there was no sign of snow but we had a thin cover during the night and woke up to it on Xmas morning. I am longing to hear all about what you did, afraid it will be a few weeks before I do. Glad to hear Karin has been to you for a weekend. These things are so short I want to write reams to you. Remember our two Xmas dinners 1940 and our drive home to Cullompton!! I do hope and pray you are taking every care of your precious self, don’t worry about me I am quite well. My love to you all, I am sure 1943 will see us together again. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 21st. July 1943]
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29th December 1942 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. Just a few lines to let you know I am all right, hoping every one of you are the same. We had a very nice Xmas everyone being satisfied, although our thoughts often travelled to home. Cheerio for now. Lumley.
30th December 1942 Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland.
My dear Brenda,
Sorry for delay in replying to your letter, but this was unavoidable. Indemnities are rather important documents and can only be given by the Head office of the bank, not by a branch official. I therefore had to submit full particulars of Ron and the circumstances of the case, and the Indemnity has been returned to me signed, today. I have sent it off to London, as you request with your letter attached. ( I hope it brings you thousands!!!) Barclays letter to you is enclosed herewith.
We are in the throes of audit work now, working late every night this week. Hope you’ve good news of Ron and trust you and Peter are very well and happy.
The very best of wishes for you all for 1943.
Cheerio. Yours very sincerely.
James F Glover.
Chris’ (my daughter) engagement has been “off” for many months now, she and Jack still write and are good friends but all is finished so far as anything serious is concerned. She has recently been “sought after” by a Bp. Auckland chap whom we know very well and they have decided to become engaged tomorrow, New Year’s Eve. (She’s 27.) This is a little inside information for you just in case you might, some time, be asking how Jack is getting on in Alexandria, you have done so on one or two occasions.
31st December 1942 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious. Received today two letters with 6 photos in each, they are perfect, very thrilled. Also card from Ruth (Oct 9th) My number of photos now growing, how I love them. No parcels yet, could you send a good hair brush. Nearly 1943, when I am sure I will be back. All love to you my darling and PR, he looks a grand little chap. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 6th. May 1943]
31st December 1942 Barclays Bank ( Dominion, Colonial and Overseas.)
29, Gracechurch Street. London EC3.
Re: Major R.L. Cummins, MC,
We acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 21st. instant, the contents of which have been duly noted.
We have communicated with our branch by airgraph and will revert to the matter on receipt of their reply. Kindly forward us the sum of 8d. to cover airgraph charge.
F P Baxter. Manager.