SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICERS' CLUB, 48 GROSVENOR SQUARE, W.1 As you can see by the above address I am at least out of Hospital and safely installed in this ‘home from home'. Since I last wrote I have had a letter from you and also one from Kay dated January 21st. Clara certainly seems to be doing well. I'm afraid I shall not know all my nephews and nieces when I return, which should not be many months now. I'm applying for my return passage tomorrow, and I have already been measured for civilian clothes which should be ready this week. I intend to have two photos taken; one in uniform, and one in ‘civvies' as a memento of my eventful life in England. I've been thinking of Home ever since I heard that I was no longer in the British army, and have made up my mind that when once I get there I shall settle down for good and get to work and also look for a Mrs Brian Wade. I do not think I shall bring an English girl back - but one never knows, does one?
The weather has turned chilly again and today after a long warming walk and, as I write this,I feel rather tired. I'm afraid I am slowly beginning to realise that physically I am not what I was, as I feel all washed out and weak-kneed, but that will improve I'm sure when I get back to Sunny South Africa, with you to nourish me with good wholesome food. No more news now, Mother dear, with heaps of love - Brian.
SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICERS' CLUB, LONDON 10th March 1918 Your two letters dated 23rd and 28th January arrived last week. As you can see I am still at the Club. I've had a fairly busy week and, I fear, have spent quite a lot of money. Things are so expensive now and even ordinary entertainments run away with an extraordinary amount when you total it up. Still, financially, I am fairly safe as I was rather careful while in France, and with field allowances, I was receiving eleven shillings and sixpence a day and required to spend very little.
Since I last wrote I have heard from the Pensions Department that I have been granted a Temporary Retired Pay at the rate of £175 per annum from February 21st to July 9th, 1918, on which date I am to be re-examined medically to see how I am in regard to a permanent pension.
I hope soon to leave for Home so I should be with you before long and I can be medically examined out there in July I hope. I have not as yet had a reply to my application for a return passage. It is quite possible that I may have to wait a month or so before a ship sails, in which case I shall seek somewhere in the country as a paying guest. London is no place today for an idle man in ‘civvies'. On Thursday afternoon I had tea with Mrs Godson and Doris, and on Friday had dinner with them, afterwards taking Doris to our Club dance. I enjoyed it thoroughly and Doris taught me the latest steps in the Fox Trot. Although I felt a bit giddy I enjoyed myself. She is a fine big girl now with a lovely voice which she is having trained in town, and hopes soon to make a name for herself as a singer.
Rex Godson is in France with the Royal Engineers, and Colonel is back in Canada and is serving as a Provost Marshal. In France he was wounded in the neck and I believe his voice is affected.
On Friday I paid a visit to Mr Ford. He seems very depressed and worried over air raids, rationing and business. I brought back most of my civilian underclothes, it being about all my pre-war stuff that is of any use to me now. I have already had one civilian suit made and expect a second one - a navy blue serge on Monday or Tuesday. I must complete my wardrobe on Monday with an overcoat and hat, and then only shall I be able to make my first appearance as Mr F. B. Wade after three years as a mere number in the Army.
Photograph 6: Doris Godson
I went to St Paul's Cathedral this morning with another fellow, an old School of Mines man, and this afternoon I am going out to Ealing to visit some friends of poor old Wallace Mileman.
That is all my news for this week, dear Parents. Love, - Brian.
SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICERS' CLUB, 48 GROSVENOR SQUARE W.1. 17th March 1918 Three years ago today I joined King Edward's Horse as a recruit and slept for the first time at Watford. Since I last wrote I have heard nothing further from the War Office as to when I shall sail. Tomorrow I intend to go round to the place to make enquiries: unfortunately I cannot tell you anything more definite. It may just happen that I get very little warning to embark, and it is more than likely that I shall not be allowed to cable on account of maintaining secrecy about the sailings of ships, so, if you do not get a letter written on the usual Sunday's date you will know that I am on the high seas. I shall probably be permitted to cable from the first port-of-call, so you may receive sudden warning of my being on the way to Home and Beauty.
Last Thursday I met Tom Hodgson again. He is convalescent in another Hospital in London, but hopes shortly to leave for a spell of two months convalescence at a Nursing Home. His heart is bad, they say, and I believe he will be given command of a prisoner-of-war camp later on when he becomes fit enough. Toly Holgate is on leave at present; Vic Jaynes went back to France last Wednesday. Today I travelled to Romford to visit Jock, who is still going strong - living in comparative luxury in contrast to my ‘Tommy' days of three years ago. Of course he is more than a Tommy now being a cadet-officer but all the same, he is in a ‘cushy' billet. I met the Howletts, Mrs Thorne's sister and spent the afternoon with them. They are very good and kind to Jack. I have seen some more of the Godsons since I last wrote. I had dinner with them again and have been about quite a lot with Doris who is a very nice, interesting girl. Well, Mother dear - Cheer O, and here's to our next merry meeting - as they say at smoking concerts etc. - Brian.
SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICERS' CLUB, March 25th, 1918 Still here. No news as to when I shall sail. Colonel Clark too is here waiting to sail. He thinks he will get away during the first week in April, so possibly I shall do likewise. I have spent a fairly quiet week, getting up about 10 o'clock - taking a stroll before lunch, sometimes in the Park when the weather permits, and sometimes along Oxford Street and Piccadilly. I went to "Yes Uncle", at the Prince's theatre on Saturday and enjoyed it immensely. I took a Rhodesian girl-friend, who had visited me several times when I was in hospital and brought me fruit etc. The enclosed snaps were taken by Doris Godson in Hyde Park one sunny morning and are fairly good - don't you think so? I have also had some other photos taken - one of me in uniform and one in my present garb as a civilian. They should be ready before I leave, and I intend to use them as ‘good-bye' cards to the friends I have left behind. I went to see Mr Ford this morning. He is as depressed as ever, and this morning's news made him rather more gloomy. What fine weather we are having, and what luck for the Hun! It has always been our misfortune to ‘push' in the rain and bad weather. The Devil looks after his own, all right! No more news now, Mother Dearest. Your loving son, Brian.
SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICERS' CLUB, Monday April 1st, 1918 Still here and still going strong. I have spent rather a quiet week, and still no news from the War Office about date of departure. A ship left last week but I was not to go on it as it was booked up. I am going round to the War Office tomorrow to see if I can buck things up a bit as I am getting sick to death of waiting and doing nothing.
What a blessing this Club is! It is certainly as cheap as living anywhere else in town - only 7/6d a day including meals and everything. It is situated in the best part of London and is so convenient for meeting old pals and for entertaining one's friends. Doris Godson has been a good companion to me this last week or so and has helped to pass the time quite enjoyably. We've been to the Opera and to the Savoy Theatre in the pit seats. The latter was her suggestion, and then on fine days we've been in the Park listening to the Band etc. Today she goes away to Dorset for a fortnight, so I hope my ship sails soon.
Last Wednesday I went to see poor Aunt Annie Winkley and Uncle Fred. Poor Auntie is an absolute wreck. She suffers from paralysis agitans and can hardly speak at all. I took her some flowers and she was as thoughtful as ever and gave me a book of poetry as a keepsake. Poor Uncle Fred looks very careworn. Before he could secure a night-nurse he did this duty as well and nearly knocked himself up. They have a nice house and garden, also green-houses, chicken-run and vegetable plot. What a pity they have no children for poor old Uncle will be lost indeed when Auntie goes.
Easter has passed off very much as usual. I went to Easter Service on Good Friday with Mrs Godson and Doris. It was rather mournful as the last week or so has been a trying time for most people - though the news is certainly better today.
Well, Mother Dear, that's about the extent of my news for now, and I hope I shall be on the high-seas before next Sunday or Monday. Love from Brian.
SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICERS' CLUB April 8th, 1918 Since I wrote last I have had three letters from you dated February 1st, 12th and 23rd. I have also been to the War Office again and also to Colonel Helbert, and I think I shall get away by the end of this month.
I have since had an invitation, through the Charge Sister at the Old Hospital, to go and stay with some people in Kent. It is a farm as far as I can gather, and these people have four children who are away at boarding-school, so they offer hospitality to two convalescent Colonial officers as their share in the War effort. I am leaving this afternoon, so will be able to tell you more about it in my next letter. I have spoken to my future hosts over the ‘phone, and they seem to be very nice. They wanted me to go down last Friday as soon as they heard I wanted to come.
I must close now and pack my remaining things and settle my account here at the Club. Love to all - Brian.
APRIL 14th, 1918 C/O P. MACKINNON ESQ. "HIGH QUARRY", CROCKHAM HILL, EDENBRIDGE, KENT Since last Monday I have been at the above address - just a week - and I am having a delightful time. The MacKinnons are a charming family. Father and Mother and four children. The eldest girl runs the home, and three younger ones, two girls and a boy are at present at home for their Easter Holidays.
The house is very nice and is in my opinion quite an ideal home. Mr and Mrs MacKinnon had it built to their own design and modelled it in the old fashioned style but included in it all the most modern conveniences such as central heating, hot and cold water and several bathrooms. My room is a ‘peach' - the bed is quite the most comfortable one I have ever slept in. Mrs MacKinnon insists that I am still an invalid and treats me as one. She brings my breakfast up to me in bed herself. I sleep so soundly that, as a rule, I do not wake until breakfast arrives on a tray.
The family is exceedingly patriotic and does without servants and many other things, and Mr MacKinnon brings back special items from town, such as kegs of salted herrings, and distributes them among the villagers who are rather restricted in the way of foodstuffs on account of rationing and their own lack of initiative.
The house, being perfectly modern lends itself to easier management. The floors are all of polished wood, both upstairs and down, and rugs are scattered about where they are needed. We all do the washing-up after meals - just like at the Beach, and sometimes at Sweetwaters, only better because of the hot and cold water laid on, and the sinks and draining boards, etc. An Australian officer had been staying here as a guest before I came but I did not meet him.
Last Wednesday we went down to Eastbourne for the day, and on Thursday we went to Sevenoaks which is not very far away from here. We were shown over the very old family seat of the Sackvilles - Knole Castle. It was highly interesting and full of beautiful antiques. The building has 365 rooms and 52 staircases, and the bed on which James I slept cost £8,000 alone.
On Friday afternoon we went for a picnic in some woods not far away. The weather was fine and sunny, and the view across Kent, Surrey and part of Sussex was grand. Saturday was inclined to be wet, and today it has been gusty but sunny in patches, and I amused myself by helping Mr MacKinnon to mow the lawns.
No news yet about sailing, and I am becoming more fit as the days go by. Love to all from - Brian
"HIGH QUARRY", CROCKHAM HILL, April 22nd, 1918 I am still staying with the McKinnons in Kent, but have come into town for the day only and am dashing off this letter from the Club in the hope that it may be despatched by post before I sail. As for sailing, I have had nothing fresh, but I feel that the time is drawing nearer. Mrs MacKinnon, when she knew that I was waiting for orders to sail for Home, pressed me to stay on with them until then, and I can assure you that I did not need much pressing as I am having such a pleasant time at "High Quarry". Last week was spent very quietly. We potter about the garden and take long walks in the surrounding countryside as the weather dictates, but for the last four days we have experienced horrible weather. Snow fell very thickly on Saturday night, so we spent yesterday indoors reading and listening to the gramophone.
I have just been to Selfridge's to have my hair cut. It is a marvellous store and very interesting inside in spite of War conditions. I bought some gramophone records to take back to my hosts and enjoyed wandering through the place looking at the goods displayed.
I am feeling very much better for my change of air, and am looking forward to the sailing date to arrive. Love - Brian.
"HIGH QUARRY", CROCKHAM HILL, EDENBRIDGE, KENT 28th April, 1918 Still another Sunday without further developments in the matter of sailing Home. I am still with the MacKinnons and enjoying myself and feeling so much better for the change and my Host's kind attentions, and as a result I can feel myself growing stronger day by day. I expect that by the time I eventually arrive Home I will look as well as ever I did, and people will ask why I am not in khaki. Sometimes I feel sure the Army Medical folk have made some mistake in recommending my discharge from the Army, but I am not losing much sleep over it, and I'm not going to tell them I think they are mistaken because (a) they wouldn't believe me and would probably suspect some ulterior motive, and (b) they would never admit to having made such a mistake.
I am getting keener every day on reaching Home, and on fine mornings I sit out here in the rose-garden (the roses are not yet out, but it is the warmest spot), and read the newspaper and then while smoking a pipe I find myself building day-dreams about things at Home, and my thoughts all seem to gravitate around Sweetwaters. I suppose this lovely place subconsciously suggests Sweetwaters for there is a resemblance (except for the house, of course). "High Quarry" is situated on a hill (like Sweetwaters) and has a grand view, but the valleys are more rounded and the dwellings and trees less stark, being mellowed by the softening influence of age and environment.
Well, Mother Dear, I could ramble on like this for some time but as you are not here, I'm afraid it would fall rather flat, so, hoping that I may arrive Home before, or by the same ship that brings this to a close. - Brian.
"HIGH QUARRY", CROCKHAM HILL, KENT Sunday, May 5th, 1918 Last week's mail brought me three letters from you dated 12, 19th and 25th March respectively. They were very welcome as it seemed ages since I last heard from you.
I went to town on Wednesday last with the MacKinnons, who were sending the three youngest children back to school after their Easter holidays; we all had lunch together at Euston Station, and after their train had left, Mrs MacKinnon and Jean, the eldest girl came back with me to the Club for afternoon tea. We were served a nice tea, and by a stroke of luck managed to get some cherry cake with real cherries in it - quite a rarity nowadays as fruit for cakes is quite scarce, in fact it is almost unobtainable.
While in town I called to see Colonel Helbert of the S.A.T. for news about a ship. He says there will be one about the middle of the month, so cheer - O! - I'm almost outclassing the Prophet Job in the ‘patience stakes'!
I got the pound of tobacco from Jack, but let him keep the cake, for in the circumstances he has more need for it, for I hope soon to be back where cakes are not so scarce, and where one does not have to think twice about helping oneself to butter or sugar. Saccharine has quite come into its own importance now, and today when we went calling on some neighbours, saccharine tablets were handed round in the place of sugar. When in town I always carried a small bottle of it in my pocket: not that I have a sweet tooth, but rather for the novelty of it all.
I am busy building a goat-stable for the MacKinnons, constructed from slabs and off-cuts from a local pine-plantation now being cut into planks for the war-effort. The children have two goats (nannies) and two new kids, and they yield about a pint and a half of milk a day. The milk makes very nice cheese and is quite a useful addition to the supper table now that butter and cheese are rationed.
This War has made a lot of difference to England, and the English people are meeting all emergencies in a much better spirit than one would have thought - better, I think, than we ‘colonials' would do, with all our make-shift experience.
The rationing of food has put an end to grumbling and greed and has actually brought items on to the open market that were unobtainable before. Housekeepers, too, know just how much they can get, and adjust their recipes accordingly. The old family spring-balance has come into greater prominence than before, and must be almost over-worked in well-managed households. The butchers groused a bit at first, but that was mainly because their grasp of simple arithmetic was about as rusty as their scales were inaccurate.
Well, Mother dear, I expect this letter and I will be fellow-passengers, at least that is the hope of your loving son - Brian.
"HIGH QUARRY", CROCKHAM HILL, EDENBRIDGE, KENT 12th May 1918 No further news yet. Whoever would have thought last February that I would still be in England in May! - particularly since May 9th, your birthday three days ago. I thought of you with love on that day, and if it is not too late now, I wish you most sincerely "many happy returns".
I have been busy all the week building the goat-stable I mentioned in my last letter. On Saturday last I drew the plans - Sunday was wet - and on Monday we pegged out the ground, and the gardener (part-time) dug the foundations, and the same day the stable took shape and grew. Today it is complete except for the concrete floor. It is constructed of off-cuts and edge slabs from a near-by saw-mill where Portuguese military labourers are employed in cutting down the lovely old pine-woods for timber for war-purposes. Their work is spoiling the lovely wooded appearance of the rounded hill-tops, and the local inhabitants are rather grieved - but, War is War!
I am finding the goat-keeping a very interesting hobby and have been instrumental in putting it on a more economic and technical basis. I drew out a graph of the recorded milk quantities, and in the evenings, after milking-time there is quite a rush to fill in the graph, which I am pleased to say, is steadily rising: possibly because the weather is improving, the grass is growing greener and more nutritious, and maybe the goats living conditions are better. Two of the nanny-goats are ‘in milk' - named Nanny and Natalie - the latter name at my suggestion. ‘Natalie' was bought at the local cattle-market by Graham, the MacKinnon son, a few days before he returned to school. She was in wretched condition, but is steadily improving both in health and yield. Tonight she gave 0.9 pints. ‘Nanny' gave birth to two kids about a fortnight ago, and gave 2.6 pints today and the kids are doing splendidly. They are both she-kids and we have named then "Nade" and "Intombi". They are very attractive. They skip about one's legs, and actually crawl on to Jean's shoulders when she milks their mother.
Today we went to afternoon tea at some neighbours and saw the most interesting private garden I have ever seen. It is situated on a hill-slope, and the owner has created a first-class rock garden. One came upon unexpected pools with mossy banks at every turn, and the overflow water was made to trickle prettily over the rocks and between the ferns. Three hydraulic rams pumped the water up to a reservoir from where it is gravitated through the house and gardens. The owner of the place is so keen that he bought up three adjoining farms in order to keep his view intact.
Well, Mother dear, "patience" is still my watchword. I heard from Jack yesterday. Love from Brian.
H.M.T. "GALWAY CASTLE" OUTSIDE CAPE TOWN, 26th June 1918 At last, after a month I am able to write to you again - but this time I am able to give you much more definite news. We should reach Cape Town on the afternoon of the 26th, and should leave again for Durban on or about the 30th June. That means that we should arrive there about the 6th or 7th July.
In my last letter from you, you told me that Dad was ill. I hope by now that he is fit enough to bring you, Mother dear, and Kay down to Durban to meet me.
Should you, by any chance be unable to come down, let Fred know, and he will, I'm sure make his way down to the Docks to meet me. We have had a very peaceful voyage up to now with sea as smooth as glass most of the time. Today, however, the time is beginning to drag and the sea is quite rough and is making the old ship roll and creak quite a lot. For accommodation we are rather packed, but as a lot of fellows are disembarking at Cape Town, the voyage round the coast should be more comfortable, and I should be able to have a cabin to myself. All the news when we meet in about ten days time.
AT THE Y.M.C.A. DURBAN Friday July 19th, 1918 Dear Dad, I got here safely (from Pietermaritzburg.) on Monday though the train was 1 hour 50 minutes late on reaching Pietermaritzburg.
I went round to the Federal Hotel and saw Mr King who has promised to reserve a room for you for August 1st. Nelson met me on the platform when the train arrived. He is looking fairly fit, and is down here on six month's sick-leave on account of his heart which was strained when he was gassed on the Somme battle-front.
We went to Warner Beach on Wednesday and spent the night there. Mrs Palmer and Winnie are very much the same as ever. They have quite a nice cottage standing on ten acres of ground. Mrs Palmer says they are thinking of selling a portion of the front of the land. Dad, when you come to Durban, you should also visit Warner's to see for yourself. The land is in a good position being near the road, railway and beach.
I saw the Lamberts on Thursday, and met Mrs Boyle yesterday on the Beach. I am having quite an enjoyable time here and am not "overdoing it". I hope you are all well. - Brian.
P.S. Mr Bradley sails today for German East Africa.
HUT NO. 32, AMANZIMTOTI, August 6th, 1918 No doubt you wondered where I had got to today when I failed to see you off on the train, and when I did not ‘phone. The fact of the matter is that Nelson and I got a chance of prolonging our stay at the coast and at the same time of enjoying ourselves, so we grasped it, and here we are.
We left Durban by the 6.30 a.m. train today for Amanzimtoti to stay in a hut on the beach, owned by three girl friends of Nelson and Fred; two of them being the daughters of the Port Captain (Durban). They were wanting some additions made to their hut, and, as they had all the materials on the site, Nelson and I offered to do the rough carpentering for the job. We employ an umfaan to do the housework while we do the building construction. We intend to remain here until after the week-end, and will probably return to Pietermaritzburg by the mail train.
We walked to Warner's this afternoon and saw Mr Lambert who was hoping to see you both.
The weather is not quite of the best, but it remained fine most of the day, finishing with a downpour which has ceased as I write this. I hope it has finished definitely. I hope you both enjoyed your stay in Durban and reached Home safely. - Brian.
P.S. Please send any letters for me on to Fred who will forward them on to me by the quickest means.
EDITOR'S NOTE: On the 11th November 1918 the Armistice was signed, bringing to an end the First World War.
Published: 1 October 2007.
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