When my mother brought me home from the Simpson Memorial Ward at Edinburgh’s Royal Infimary, the house she brought me to was 2, Lovedale Grove, Balerno. In those days Balerno was a village outside Edinburgh, although it is now a suburb.
Although quite small, the house had enough garden to keep my parents occupied, and I probably ‘helped’ with my toy wheelbarrow.
When my Grandparents left Grove Farm at Box, where they had been farming, they moved in to 141, Lordship Road, Stoke Newington with my Great Grandfather, Joseph Lines. This was around 1925, and may have been prompted by the death of my Great Grandmother, Jane Lines (nee Fitzhenry) on 7th June 1925. They lived with Joseph and helped run G&J Lines, until he died in 1931. They rented The Cottage, 55, Anne Boleyn’s Walk, Cheam, Surrey for about 3 years, while they had a house built on Warren Drive, Kingswood, so moved in probably about 1934.
The house was named Pickwick, after the village near Box.
The family were still living there when I was young, though I do not have clear memories of the house. My parents lived in Edinburgh and we used to spend Christmas with my Grandparents, traveling by various means. One of my early memories is of a taxi ride through central London, and the lights of Piccadilly Circus – there was nothing similar in Edinburgh.
I have some 2″ Slides from my Aunt Fanny’s collection, which show Pickwick, which I have photographed to reproduce here.
My Grandpa (George E Lines), known in the family as Chief, and my Granny (Doris Joan Lines – nee Stevens), known in the family as Mouse.
When my grandparents moved to Rest Harrow the croquet set moved with them, and we all played croquet as children.
I do not wear a tweed jacket and a tie for gardening, I feel I am letting the family down !
Roger Lines, my father, went on to travel the world as a Research Forester, but this letter finds him in January 1953, right at the start of his career. The previous letter in my possession, written by him at the end of his first week in the office has him about to move into 27, Dalrymple Crescent, and this letter is written from there.
27, Dalrymple Crescent
I have been able to make enquiries in the Scottish Banks. They have no bank charges in the accepted sense, but charge 6d per cheque. With a current account you have to pay at least £2 per year, however few cheques you draw, but you can draw 40 per year without paying anything above £2. If I had £100 the bank charge would be less that £2. This has to be thought out however on a parallel with the Savings Certificate scheme whereby £100 means £3 per year interest. Thus the Lloyds system is fantastically expensive if you draw few cheques (as I would). According to your letter they first of all want to charge £2-7-0 per 50 cheques and then they expect you to have £100 in a credit account so that altogether they are getting £5-7-0 per year for doing practically nothing. Perhaps you would like to confront them with this.
I have today opened an account with the Edinburgh Trustee Savings bank so I won’t be short of ready money again. Whilst on financial matters, you wouldn’t care to be Dependents would you ? There is Civil Service scheme whereby aged parents can be helped out of a contributory pension scheme.
It isn’t one of these “something-for-nothing” schemes though. There is a more or less compulsory scheme for Widows and Children through which means a deduction of 1 1/2 % from salary which you pay even before you have a wife let alone a widow. I shall have to propose by saying “Will you join my Widows and Children’s scheme ?”
Can someone with great strength (Jennifer) and mechanical aptitude (Daddy) get my bike down from the attic and see what Tim has pinched from it and whether the tyres still hold up. I know the electrics don’t work but only I think there aren’t any lamp. It would certainly be very useful up here, especially at lunch time but I don’t know how much it would cost to send it up. Could you find out and let me have a report on its condition ? (This sounds like one of my Memos to foresters)
The glasses don’t fit very well so I am having them bent a bit by a local optician. When I’ve done this I’ll send this pair down to have the lenses changed.
p.s. What was in the Sunday Express ?
In the meantime will banks are sorted out I will get John Spears to pay a cheque that he owes me into your account.
As far as I am aware, my father did not use the Widows and Orphans scheme as part of his proposal to my mother, indeed I do not think they had met at that stage, although my mother was already friends with my Aunt, Jennifer, of the great strength – as they had met at Froebel College in about 1946.
I believe my parents first met at Lockley Lodge, near the Dale Fort field study centre in Pembrokeshire, although I am not sure exactly when – it had to have been after this letter in January 1953 and November 1955, when my father announced his intention to propose. It was his work for the Forestry Commission which took him to Pembrokeshire to study wind blow, and being in the area he went to his sister, Jennifer. She was staying at the Lockley Lodge with my mother, and Eleanor Grey – a friend of the Lockley family. Lockley Lodge is now the owned by The Wildlife Trust of West and South Wales, and is the place where you buy boat tickets to get to the island of Skomer, but in those days was probably owned by Ronald Lockley, a pioneering naturalist, who farmed on the island of Skokholm, and wrote many books – including ‘The private life of the rabbit’, used by Richard Adams to provide background for Watership Down.
My father and my mother went for a walk around the Deer Park at Wooltack point and discovered their common interests in nature. My father lured my mother to Scotland with a promise of ‘A buzzard on very telegraph pole’, which caused our car journeys round Scotland to be enlivened by shouts of ‘There it is’ when we spotted a buzzard on a telegraph pole.
My father, Roger Lines, had been interested in trees since he did his Scout Forester badge. He noted the trees he saw while serving in India, and after his return he took a degree in Forestry at Bangor.
He joined the Forestry Commission, based in Edinburgh, and wrote this letter home, a week after he started, which I think was in late 1952.
Dear M & D
Thank you for your letter with the ration book. Let me go through your letter. My office is now looking a little more lived in, with a cosy fire (much better coal up here) and my Alpine Calendar for 1940 on the wall. My IN tray is normally full and my OUT tray empty.
I have now formally started constructive work for the F.C. by having thrust onto me an expt (experiment) on the flushing of Spruce which has plants in a nursery at Tulliallan (just across the Forth from the Kincardine bridge). I have to get them planted out at NewcastletonRoxburgh in the spring. Unfortunately the labour for this comes from the hotel at Kielder which is closing at the end of the month, so it is possible that the expt will be shelved until next year. All the labour will be sacked and the Conservator has been to London to see if someone has just made a mistake. London told him there was no mistake so it means that the whole forest will just about have to close down. Its all mad as the cost of this would be terrific in terms of neglect, rabbits getting in, plants getting swamped with weeds etc. You cant get accountants to see this sort of thing though.
I have discovered after working here a week that office hours are 9 – 5.30 with 45 mins for lunch and 9 – 12.30 on Sat. Actually I thought they were 8.30 – 5.30 and have often worked til ten to six. Even so I dont feel exhausted at the end of a day as there is no-one to harry you and I get through more by doing it in my own time. I have spent quite a lot of time (office time, they are very good about that sort of thing) so far trying to find suitable digs.
I advertised in the local paper and got about twenty replies. Some were in Leith, too far away, others I visited and wasn’t impressed. The vast majority were in flats or tenements which are a great feature of Edin. These great grey granite blocks go up 4 or 5 floors and have a dimly lit main stair. Most are 100 yrs old but in reasonable condition. I went to see the Fergusons the evening I got your letter, but Nora had already gone down south. After they had gathered who I was (rather awkward) they were very hospitable and I have a standing invitation to go down and watch T.V. any evening when I am not busy. They also were very helpful in giving me advice about the digs letters I had received and finished up by giving me tea and shortbread. Having visited some more of the recommended ones I have finally got myself “bedded-down” with Mrs Harper 27, Dalrymple Crescent, Edinburgh 0. Phone Edin. 45574.
In contrast to the flats, this is a large single house set in its own garden, rather like some of the older houses in Sutton
Mrs Harper seems a reasonable person, well educated and with two chn. I am going to have a bed sitter about the size of the spare room. Large sitting room which I imagine I shall only use in summer. More later, I move in on Monday. £3-3. less lunch during week and reduction for time away. The point is that Dalrymple Crescent is a turning off Lauder Rd.
Weather so far hasn’t been to bad, not so much snow as fog and ice, but we have had nice days as well, and I seem to be getting on well with our Scots foresters (v. important). Office Staff is 13 including me but the chiefs are M.V. Edwards the boss, ex Burma, knows Darjeeling, highly intelligent little man. chn; John Zehetmayer English. Navy Lt & Oxford 5yrs in Research & one of the bright young men. 2 chn ; Faulkner, young ? 2yrs
This unfortunately is where the letter that I have ends – the final page has gone astray somewhere.
Better Coal – in those days Scotland was still a coal mining country.
I think he transferred down to Alice Holt and, as children we would go and see him and his family, and participate in “Nurdling” – where this YouTube clip seems a bit similar to what I remember – basically a kind of mad obstacle course.
Although it seems unlikely, I think the early Headquarters of Forestry Research in Scotland may have been in Lauder Road, I know they did not move into the ‘new’ offices at Sighthill straight away.
My Father, Roger Lines, managed to land his dream job of working for the Forestry Commission in Edinburgh, after gaining a First Class Honours degree in Forestry from Bangor.
He wrote home after his first day at work (I will update this if I can work out when that was), to update his parents.
Just a few more words to let you know how things progress.
Work. Seemingly should prove fascinating, I can pick my own field within limits, people I have to work with are most kind & helpful. They abhor red tape and no one has ever mentioned such a thing as working hours yet. They are approx 8.30 to 5.30 but no one worries. My pay should be about £635 p.a. and on my numerous trips I get 3 7/6dper day on top of my normal pay.
Car I shan’t need to buy one or use my motor bike as there is a brand new Hillman with glistening paint on tap, but I shall need to be able to drive it sometime.
I am going out tomorrow to a meeting of all the Conservators & some D.O.s of Scotland so I shall be in a unique position. Half my job at first is to get on the right side of these boss men as they can make life difficult if by annoying them you have to go through official channels.
Digs Mr Gray cannot have me, its all a big mistake as he has two chn. to look after as well. He has given me an invite to come up tho’
I shall definitely be coming down in July as we have a conference at Alice Holt then, but may possibly come down before. I don’t really know yet.
My boss M.V. Edwards has invited me to tea on Sunday. Another couple who are staying here have also invited me up their new house when they are settled in so the old charm is being brought to bear.
I have my own office with chair, table IN & OUT trays, telephone and blotter but nothing else.
Alice Holt is the Southern research institute of the Forestry Commission. My Grandparents would later move to Medstead, not far away.
There has clearly been a plan that my father would take lodgings with Mr Gray, but these seem to have fallen through, which is why he is staying at the Atholl Hotel for the time being. This hotel does not appear to be around any more, but I suspect was chosen as being available, and probably cheap.
I remember my father did ride his motor bike all round the country, visiting forests and meeting the local lairds, as Forestry was part of the governments plan to combat depopulation of the countryside by encouraging planting of forests.
My Uncle Tim wrote to my Father on 4th August 1953. Tim is writing from 3, Liebfrauenweg, Bonn (OSM), and my father was living in Edinburgh by then.
Auslandsamt der Universität,
Dear Roger, this will take the form of a supplement, or perhaps errata to my last letter. As before I shall only deal with what might be of technical interest to you, and will describe my other doings in a letter home.
I was rather dubious when they told me that goats rubbed the bark off the young trees (as reported in my letter) so I checked up and found they use the same word for deer, so they do have deer here.
First general remarks with no particular connection between them, and in no particular order.
During the war apparently a great deal was taken out of the German forests while very little was put back – I expect it was the same in Britain. One often sees tree-stumps about 6 ft. high round here – it means that they have had the top knocked off by a shell or bomb blast. In fact our sickles have often struck bits of shrapnel and occasionally remains of incendiary bombs etc. Quite a few of the stumps are charred. I am also informed that they had a number of V.1‘s round here (when I speak of here I mean Prüm) and you frequently see great gaps in the woods. Apparently the steering used to go wrong, and they landed sooner than intended.
They have quite a lot of oak here, both the ordinary (European ?) and American Red Oak, which I am told grows more quickly but is consequently not so hard. After the oaks are a few years old they plant beech between them – something to do with keeping down weeds, I believe. The oaks are planted pretty close together – I forget really but I think they were only about 2 feet apart.
There are some rather fine beech woods round here, and natural regen is definitely practised with these – I believe it works out at 2 beech generations to 1 oak generation – I hope you see what I mean.
They have Japanese and European larch also. I have a note about lice and fleas, but I’m not sure if it fits in here. Is larch vulnerable to these horrors ? They have winter and summer limes, they have a flesh-eating plant called ‘Sonnentau‘ (I haven’t seen it) on the nearby Schneifel (I don’t mean they cultivate it !), they have Douglas-fir, of which more anon, and they have a tree with a name like Weimutzkiefer (Weimutz fir) which is also American and grows fast, but I gather it gets diseased rather easily.
I said in my first letter that erosion was quite a problem, but I’ve since been told that it’s not so bad, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to take your choice.
I managed to visit the plant garden during my last day in Prüm. It is surprisingly small – I should imagine only 70 yds x 40 yds or less. It lies in as much of a dip as can be found round here, is is surrounded by a wire-netting fence about 3’6″ high. As I’ve already said, most of the plants come from Halztenbeck when one year old and are replanted in the Pflanzgarten. Only half is being used, the other is full of lupins. (I forget if I’ve told you, but these are about the only thing we leave standing when we go at our larches/spruces/pines/firs). They cant grow from seed here as it is over 500 meters high and during the winter the ground freezes up. The soil round here is primarily clay, whereas I’m told you need a sandy soil for seeds. As it is always pretty damp here it is especially good for spruce, as they can draw in the moisture through their needles as well as their roots. (Does that sound like spruce ?) The wire netting is primarily to control the rabbits which make a nuisance of themselves during the winter. I know this contradicts what I said in the first letter, but these things seem to depend on whom you ask.
In the Pflanzgarten the Douglas Firs are protected by a wiry sort of shrub which the Germans call “Ginster“. It is unfortunately not in my dictionary and I have no idea what it is in English; we have any amount of it in the plantations in which we work. I gather that its seeds, owing to their high oil content, can lie several years in the ground and then come up again. They are draped over the Douglases and protect them form too much snow and wind. The Douglas firs are supposed to grow twice as fast as the spruces (?), and I saw one wood of 50yr. old Douglases. I was told twice, but I think there must be a mistake somewhere, that Douglas-fir costs DM.160 per kilo. They say it is fine for floors and other furniture.
The young plants are actually planted in the Pflanzgarten with the aid of metal strips with notches at regular intervals. They look roughly like this:
The insides of the notches are covered with rubber to protect the young stems. The notches are 5cm apart for spruce (?), 7cm for Douglas and 10cm for larch. The distance between the rows is 20cm for the larch and probably corresponding distances for the others. A shallow ditch or furrow is of course made first, then they stretch a piece of string to facilitate alignment.
I forget to include in my list of pests the most persistent of all – the horse-flies. Whatever damage we may have inflicted upon them in Switzerland has certainly been well and truly avenged. Their mortality rate is still pretty high, but in general they draw first blood.
Well I suppose Edinburgh is by now preparing itself to justify its title of cultural capital of the world, and I expect you are more interested in ordering tickets than reading about spruces question-mark and I can’t say I blame you. Has M. or D. told you about my first and true camera love. They say they are going to give it to me for 21st. Whoopee !
Tim remembers that summer, as in recollection the sun shone every day.
He had been in holiday on holiday in Switzerland with my father, Roger, in the second half of June 1953. Tim for two weeks, and my father, who joined the Forestry Commission in 1952, so would have had limited annual leave, only for one week. They stayed in a small Gasthaus in Winderswil, and walked most of the local hills. Tim used his RAF boots and nearly wore them out. Tim did his national service in the RAF. They worked out that horseflies like to follow you up a mountain and attack you from behind, so they countered this by walking up backwards, which – precipices excepted – mainly seemed to work.
Many years later, in 1969, I went, with my parents and siblings, on our first foreign holiday. We stayed with Tim, at his flat in Geneva, and then camped near Interlaken. My father, possibly not trusting us to handle precipices, did not let us in on the walking backwards method, but we remember the horseflies, which did their best to attack us between our campsite and swimming in the lake. We were there for the first Moon Landing and heard the news on the radio.
In July 1953 Tim moved on to Prüm in the German Eifel for 4-5 weeks, where he joined a sort of International work camp for young foreigners, purportedly helping to revive German forestry. This was after his first year at Cambridge and because he was supposed to be studying German he thought it was time he learnt some. They were a group of 15 or 16, all Europeans Tim thinks – he was the only Brit – and they stayed in the local youth hostel. Tim can’t remember what they were supposed to be doing, but they slashed away at everything and he knows they thought they’d set the German forests back by a decade or so. They were a nice bunch and a couple of the Swedish girls came to the UK later and stayed with the Lines family for a bit at Pickwick.
Tim went Bonn next where the university was running some sort of course for foreigners. Tim remembers that he liked Bonn, which of course was then the capital of the FRG, and he bought his first camera, a Paxette, a modern[ish] 35mm job quite unlike his mother’s bellows-type folding Kodak. In those days you could only take £50 out of the country, so it wasn’t bad to have spent 2 weeks in Switzerland, four or five in Prüm and two or three in Bonn, plus the fares to get from one to the other, and still be able to afford a camera. Tim does still remember my resentment at having to pay what seemed an extortionate sum for laundry in Wilderswil.
Then in the last week of August Tim joined the family [who exactly and how did we travel? Train or car?] for a fortnight’s two-centre holiday in Austria, again mainly walking or probably strolling. First week on LakePertisau, second week in Oetz.
My father, Roger Lines, wrote to his sister, Jennifer, probably about 1939. She had been at Croydon High School, and was evacuated to the home farm of Statfield Saye at the start of the war.
How I envy you on having nice dinner and no homework. Michael and I have been writing a play for Christmas which you are going to be in. It is very cold here and the wind is whistling through the trees and blowing down the leaves. Tim pinched his fingers in the coal tongs and started to scream with anger and then he started to cry & say “Those silly tongs !!” Love from
This was probably written in the autumn of 1939, as Jennifer was probably one of the girls who had been sent away to safe districts before the whole school moved. From the description on the school web site
When Miss Adams arrived to take over the leadership of the school, the Second World War had begun. She had just evacuated the Queen Mary High School from Liverpool and travelled to Croydon to find not 800 but 54 pupils, for many girls had been sent away to safe districts. Miss Adams had to act quickly to preserve the life of Croydon High evacuating part of the school to Eastbourne and part to Llandilo in Wales.
The play was probably “The Green Gang” – one of several Family Dramas written by my father (some with Uncle Michael). The programme can be seen on the Family Dramas post.
The reverse of the letter has the tail end of a letter from my Grandmother to Jennifer, but unfortunately I do have the rest of that letter.
lot of time and trouble. Have you seen any warships ? We could see dozens of balloons from our drive this morning, but they disappeared later. They were over Croydon. I haven’t heard where Jean Brindley or Sheila are going to school, or seen them.
Rufie sends lots of licks and little gentle bites.
Lots of love from Mummie
Jean Brindley had been a friend of Jennifer’s since they were about nine, and they ended up going to teachers training college at Roehampton together. Jean was in the same house at Froebel as my mother, which is how my mother and Jennifer met.
On 27th September 1953, my uncle Tim wrote to my father to describe the time Tim and my aunt Jennifer spent with their brother, my uncle Jeremy in Poole (OSM).
My father would have been working as a Forester in Edinburgh at the time.
M insists that I write a page to make the envelope seem fatter. I don’t think you’ve heard about the adventure Jennifer and I had last W/E. I went down to Poole on Friday night, met Jeremy all right and spent most of the evening in the Poole Yacht Club, drinking and soaking in the nautical atmosphere. Saturday morning we took the DYC launch1 along to the club to fetch some ballast which they had used in an attempt to sink the Hornet in its safety tests. Great iron bars, ½ cwt I believe, tho’ they may have been 1 cwt. Anyway we took these back to the yard and even in the launch (a huge battleship of a thing) we got pretty wet – an accurate omen for the future! From there we went to the station to meet Jennifer, did some shopping and then had lunch. After some preliminaries we got the Hornet launched and we were away! After about 2 ½ minutes Jennifer lost her balance as the Hornet heeled over, which made her heel over even worse – then I lost my balance and the next thing we knew was that we were swimming around Poole Harbour while Jeremy, who knew what was happening, had simply done a sort of log-rolling act as Panic went over and was most unfairly still dry. While the boat was approximately in this position
Jeremy begins the salvage operations with: ‘I think the first thing to do is to get the sails down’ – this when they were several feet under water ! And he proceeded to do it. Then with a bit of clever balancing the whole boat turned right way up again and he commenced bailing with an action reminiscent of Sam2 digging. All this time Jennifer and I were holding the bow into the wind. When she was about half empty (Panic, I mean) Jeremy stuffed the spinnaker into the centre-plate housing to keep the water out – this is apparently normal practice and is the chief purpose of carrying a spinnaker. When he had completed bailing we got back in (actually Jen. and I bailed the last bit – the last bit of all is done with the rubber one to save the varnish) and we could assess the damage. This was fortunately negligible. Jennifer had rescued a plimsole as it was floating away on the billows and the only thing broken was the wooden pennant from the mast head.
We then went for a sail which was most enjoyable despite our wet clothes (fortunately the water had been surprisingly warm) and I had a go on the sliding seat
(another diagram) Actually there was a rope to hang on to, but I can’t draw ropes. Jeremy said that on the Round the Island Race a friend of his spent a good deal of the time two feet below the surface (when the boat yawed over) and they hardly saw him throughout the race because he was in a thick cloud of spray! 3
After hauling up Panic and getting some dry clothes on, we had a meal and went to see Genevieve in Poole. Quite funny, but really only one joke. Have you seen it ? (The film I mean). We also saw a thriller which was quite funny because we missed the beginning and were continuously greeted by such hilarious lines as :’So that’s how he knew the tea-pot !’ etc. etc.
Sunday morning there was a race in Poole Harbour. It was too rough for the Hornet (there was a very strong wind and it didn’t lessen all day), but Jeremy said people needed crews and so we all found ourselves in different boats. Jeremy was with a friend in a Snipe, Jennifer with a man in another Snipe and I was with 3 others (including another hopeless type) in an 18ft National. We had a very enjoyable sail, tho’ rather a wet one! Twice round a not very long course. Jeremy came in 2nd. I’m not really sure where Jennifer and I got in – nobody really seems to care where they come in, a rather nice aspect of sailing. All the yachting types then held a post mortem and then went off for lunch. We had sandwiches at the club and stayed some time on the starting balcony, where they have a marvellous pair of binoculars on a stand. There was a terrific wind flowing and nearly carrying us off.
Later we went to Sandbanks by bus and had a very nice time there, coming back in a large motor-boat at least 35ft long, I should think, but by the time we got to Poole we were very nearly wet through again. We returned home the same evening.
Here endeth the chronicle of Poole.
I have bought a developing tank – it’s a Paterson 35. Rather ingenious and nicely made. The spiral is made in 2 halves which can turn in relation to each other. They each have one or two teeth which engage with the perforations in the film – thus it works on a ratchet system and makes the film very easy to load, simply by oscillating the two halves of the spiral. I tried with a film in the shop and it works quite well. If also has one or two refinements which I needn’t mention. Haven’t got room for any more and anyway this must go in M’s so I’ll just wish you all the best for your car? and Cheerish from Tim.
Tim was clearly not put off sailing by his dip, as I remember he had a Sunfish, which he sailed on Lake Geneva. The Swiss regulations were strict and when the boat was inspected it had a have an anchor and similar items.
Jeremy has sent me a picture of Panic.
This picture was taken by Tim of Jeremy and Jennifer preparing Panic for launch.
Jennifer had probably come down on the train for the weekend, from her first teaching job at Ealing.
Tim was 21, and might have been staying at Pickwick with my Grandparents, having finished his degree at Cambridge.
My father’s older brother, Michael was probably in London, married to Fanny, and working at Philips
DYC is the Dorset Yacht Company, where Jeremy was serving his boat building apprenticeship. The company was founded in 1938, and still exists, through its history(and more history here) it has built sailing and motor yachts, including, in the 1960’s the offshore race boat Spirit of Ecstasy, one of a number of boats designed by Arthur Hagg (who was also an aircraft designer). DYC also build HMS Wrentham, a Ham Class Inshore Minesweeper in 1955. The company was also notable for a court case “Dorset Yacht Co Ltd v Home Office” in which on 21 September 1962, ten borstal trainees were working on Brownsea Island in the harbour under the control of three officers employed by the Home Office. Seven trainees escaped one night, at the time the officers had retired to bed leaving the trainees to their own devices. The seven trainees who escaped boarded a yacht and collided with another yacht, the property of the respondents, and damaged it. The owners of the yacht sued the Home Office in negligence for damages.
Jeremy had moved on by this time to work for Thornycroft. While at Thornycroft he was also doing evening classes to broaden his range of skills.
Earlier that summer I had sailed PANIC with two friends from Poole to Cowes for the Round the Island Dinghy Race organised by Tiny Mitchell. We had about 200 starters, some took 2 days and camped on the southern shore of the Isle of Wight. We had a fantastic sail up to Cowes with a good Northerly breeze so a relatively flat sea, we did Poole to Hurst Castle in 2 hours and about another two to Cowes, we also had on board the launching trolley and a suitcase! The race itself was in fairly light conditions, 60 miles so it took us about 12 hours. They have never had another similar as Health and Safety would go bananas! I remember nearly going to sleep on the sliding seat until the helmsman dipped my head in the sea!
F.G. (Tiny) Mitchell was Vice Commodore of Royal Corinthian Yacht Club from about the 1930’s
Jeremy’s early boating experiences
My interest in boats really started with holidays in Cornwall where I was fascinated by the boatbuilder Percy Mitchell at Portmellon near Mevagissey. We did go rowing on the Thames a few times and before I left school built an 18 foot canvas covered canoe which my friend Brian Culliford and I paddled down the Mole camping each night on the bank. When I started my boatbuilding apprenticeship in Poole I bought a 12 ft sailing dinghy in Christchurch and sailed it round to Poole. It seemed the natural thing to do as no one had cars or trailers in those days! It was called seamanship! After that of course my life was full of boats. I built PANIC in Poole, she was a Hornet with a Sliding Seat, the latest in those days.
Looking back on our trip up to Cowes, it seems madness today as with a good Northerly it would be France next stop if anything had gone wrong!
Jeremy and Brian’s trip down the Mole was probably in 1946, as Jeremy went to Poole in 1974. He remembers that they ran out of water, so had to drink water out of their handkerchiefs, and notnot surprisingly had upset tums for a while!
By an interesting co-incidence Brian (Bryan John) Culliford, like my father, went to school at Whitgift, and then went on to study Forestry at Bangor. Unlike my father, he then went on to work for the Metropolitan PoliceForensic Science Laboratory. As described in his Obituary, he went on to discover a number of important techniques and worked with Universities and other police forces. He was awarded the Adelaide Medal for his contributions to Forensic Science.
As Jeremy says
My father proposed to my mother on Westminster Bridge so that he was in a convenient place to throw himself off if she said “no”. Fortunately she said “yes”. I think the actual proposal might have been on Christmas eve 1955, as my father was in Scotland and my mother in England for most of the run up, however they were clearly keeping in touch, not only with each other, but with the wider family and some of the letters have been preserved.
My father wrote this postcard in Tarbert Waiting Room (B.R.) on Thursday 10th November 1955, to send to my mothers parents.
Dear Mr and Mrs Box,
By now Jane will have let you know our intentions. As I want to ask Jane to marry me to her face it is rather premature to ask for your reactions, as we shan’t see one another till Christmas Eve. That I love Jane more than anything else in the world will, I hope, be apparent to you. You probably also realise that I cannot offer her riches, though I think I can promise that she will not starve. Fortunately she and I think alike on the essentials, and our love hasn’t blinded us to the demerits of the other. Its just that one half of my life now lives 400 miles away in the South. I hope you will forgive this scrawl and the muddled midnight thoughts.
With Love to you both
The plantations on the st. are Nevis Forest (F.C.)
My father’s family must have known what was going on as my Grandfather, George Lines, wrote him this letter.
Wednesday Nov. 9th
My dear Roger/
This is certainly a Red letter day ! I am delighted at your news (however much under a hat at the moment).
Frankly I have always had a tender regard for Jane & admire your taste. Having known her a
than you have – I’m sure you’ll both the very happy. While I think you’re a very fortunate chap, I can’t help feeling that Jane will have a very sweet lad, Mummie and I feel very happy about it all.
We are all very thrilled at the idea of the house hunting – I can let you have the money back any moment you like.
Won’t stop for more now as its rather late but
with much love
Yours ever Daddy.
My aunt Jennifer, his sister, also sent her congratulations.
We are feeling so delighted with The News. I really couldn’t be more pleased, I’ve always liked Jane so much. I’m afraid I can’t help spreading your engagement-to-be about, so if you really want it kept a bit dark at the moment you’d better let me have a list of those not to be told, or the “real thing” will be a bit stale!
If you could send me a note again of what you spent on Nora and Marjorie I would be pleased to settle up with you before I begin thinking of your wedding present!
We have been much amused at all your financial arrangements, and Daddy is still puzzling over your Income Tax.
The Fiat should be very smart for you at Christmas, (or are you bringing the S.8. ?) and I’m looking forward to having it back. It should be ready before the weekend. I have been going in Miss Large’s S.8. every day and I’m afraid I shall miss the heater.
Don’t write specially, but if you could tell me about the money when you send your washing or something I will get a warrant for you.
Heaps of love,
Nora and Marjorie were college friends of Jennifer’s at Froebel, also housed in The Row, whereas my mother was in Templeton. Nora was from Edinburgh and she and Marjorie were in year below Jennifer and my mother.
The reason Jennifer would miss the heater in Miss Large’s Standard Eight, is that her Fiat did not have one. At some point her brother, Jeremy, put a funnel behind the radiator with a 2″ hose to the inside. In the summer Jennifer would put a duster into the pipe to turn it off. The main modification Jeremy made was to put an alloy pudding basin over the distributor, as previously, when it rained the car stopped. It worked very well.
The car had a starting handle, and was nominally a two seater, but had a “kind of shelf” where two further passengers could perch, although all passengers might need to disembark if a steep hill was encountered.
Miss Large was head of Juniors as Ashford, the second school Jennifer taught at, and was giving Jennifer a lift to school at this point.
My father had a Standard Eight, which he probably needed as he travelled the cournty a lot , looking at forests, though earlier he had used a motorbike, and in those days he could also reach places by train.
Jeremy cleaned my father’s Standard Eight at Pickwick on the morning of my parents wedding.
He was initially send for Officer Training in Northern Ireland, but was not bossy enough, so was sent to train at Catterick as a Radio Mechanic (Signalman). He was in the General Service Corps from 1st June 1944 to 15th November 1944 – this may have been when he was training. He was transferred on 16th November 1944 to the Royal Signals, where he remained until 4th February 1948.
He sailed to India on the Empress of Scotland, which had been Empress of Japan until October 1942, when she was renamed. (My notes say renamed to Princess of Canada, but I suspect this is because she belonged to Canadian Pacific).
I am not sure of the date order of some of these snippets as they come from notes from conversations with my mother, rather than some documented narrative.
He was responsible for the big transmitters which covered all of India when he was attached to GHQ in Delhi.
He spent some time at Quetta, up in the hills.
Tim thinks he may have been at Simla as well.
He fell off a 30′ bamboo ladder while putting up Christmas Decorations and received a scar, which was his war wound.
He went to a Gandhi meeting.
He met Pamela Mountbatten, daughter of Lord Mountbatten, serving coffee in the canteen.
He became a Methodist in the Army, as he had to attend services with some denomination, and they had the best singing.
On being sent to a senior officers house, to mend the radio there, he, along with two Indian servants, was offered refreshments, and in the interests of equality, took one of what looked like a couple of pastries, rather than the nicest looking western cake. It turned out to be a curry puff, and the experience left him with a suspicion of curry from that time on.
He also went trekking in the Himalayas with Martin Grey ? and employed porters to carry luggage.
Discharge and return home
His release from the army is dated 20th November 1947, but as he did not leave the Royal Signals until 4th Febuary 1948, I supect it took him this long to return to England. He told me he spent a long time, with many others, in a holding camp in India waiting for space to be available on a ship.
According to Tim
Pretty sure he didn’t return home until demobbed, and when he did he brought chocolate with him, probably unobtainable in the UK and anyway rationed, but in the Indian heat or perhaps on the boat it had all melted and resembled Aero when it re-congealed.
My father wrote several letters home, some of which have been preserved, and these give some information about what life was like.
He also wrote a letter to the BBC, through me, around 31st December 2005, which I reproduce here.
Dear Sirs, I was recently watching a TV Program inviting people to write in or relate their War Time experiences.
I was called up on my 18th birthday and reported to the Beds and Herts camp. I was then posted to Northern Ireland (thankfully more or less peaceful then).
I enjoyed this period and got to know and like the Ulster folk. I was then posted to Catterick Camp to train as a Radio Mechanic. This lasted about 15-18 weeks. My next posting was to GHQ signals in Quetta (Balochistan). Unfortunately I fell onto a concrete floor of the Barracks and thus spent my first Christmas in Quetta Hospital.
Our boat was the first to go to India after the war ended1 and we were not sure whether the Japanese submarines knew that the war had ended.
At Quetta I had the amazing luck to be present at the last Tribal Durbar (which had gone on unchanged since the rule of Queen Victoria.) The Durbar is held out in the desert so no tribal chief is able to take precedence over the others. The first day of the Durbar is devoted to ceremonial. The Governor General is in full Diplomatic dress, his chest is covered in gold braid and his silver sword gleaming. Each chief bows to the Agent to the Governor General, representing the Crown (George VI at the time). The Indian Army laid on a parachute drop – no doubt to impress the local tribes. The next two days were given over to local sports such as camel, horse and donkey racing, tent pegging etc. It was quite obvious that these second two days were for fun, and quite subsidiary to the first day. That is why they were all gathered together here.
From Quetta to Delhi by train I saw quite a bit of North West India, and later managed to have three short holidays in the foothills of India, as far North West as Sandakphu (13,000 feet) and saw much in the way of Buddhist temples.
I was in Darjeeling when Indian Independence Day took place with much celebration as this area is largely Hindu.
I greatly enjoyed my time in India and fortunately escaped the worst of the communal violence. It was only many years later that I read a full account. During this period when I was back in Delhi I went to one of Gandhi’s Prayer Meetings and was able to take photographs of him quite close up.
Shortly after this I was posted to Deolali Transit Camp and so back to Britain after two and half years in India.
The first sailing of the Princess of Scotland, to go to India after the end of the war was: