May 14/15, 1942: “…my greatest ambition is to get home to you…”
Wednesday, 13th May, 1942
1887416 Sgt. Leigh AA, RE
My Darling Sweetheart,
How long it is since I last wrote you. I don’t know but it is longer than it should have been. I am extremely sorry to keep you of all people waiting but I am sure you must know and realise that I have an excellent reason, so please forgive me darling. I must confess that I have been frightfully busy and working hard in the intense heat produces a tiredness which hinders all attempts to write but the smallest of letters. Since my precious you are worth far more to me than a few scrappy lines I just wait my opportunity.
I have been feeling somewhat fed up with myself these days as I hoped to get out of the blasted country very soon. The latest War office instructions have stipulated that nobody of a different arm of the service may join the RIASC or any different corps other than his own. I am afraid that rather left me out but I have just put in a further application for an OCTC with the British Army for a commission in the General List in a Movement Central or Transportation Unit. Apart from that I have been recommended for promotion to Warrant Officer Class II so I may pull Staff Sergeant at least. So dearest with a couple of irons in the fire at least, something should happen I trust. Naturally I am very disappointed as I hoped to go in a few days but that seems hopeless at present.
Life here is more or less the same. Of the last eight days, four afternoons were devoted to cricket, two to hockey and one to tennis. Apart from that lately I have had drill, physical training and small arms training, these taking place at 6:25am in the morning. When you consider I am working until 8:30pm sometimes and always until 8 o’clock every night and then have to get up at 5:45 am it is no joke. I have dinner about 8:30pm and I just feel like bed and more often enough I am there by 10pm. Can you wonder I am brawned off these days but I suppose I can and will have to lump it so with a cheerful heart. I find myself commencing a much delayed letter on a not-so-hot afternoon (only about 105˚F in the shade) before I get ready to start another evening of work.
Darling I am still terribly in love with you and whatever happens I shall always be so. I think it is about time I thanked you for your 80th Air Mail Letter dated 11 Mar and 2 PCS Nos 62 & 63. Again I thank you from the bottom of my heart sweetheart and I almost forgot, for the books. I hope to be able to read one or two soon.
Hey sweet if you was to walk in my office as you suggest and say “Good morning darling” I believe I would collapse, and I think it is a good thing for my health that it is impossible as I may peg out with the shock. Incidentally, I had rather a surprise the other day when I received a letter from Durham written by an ATS girl both Charlie and Eddie and I knew very well, she is evidently in the Middle East by now. Her name is Grace Newman and is a Sergeant. So if I bump into her one of these days it would be a surprisingly small world.
Thursday – 14th May, 1942
Last night I received a most wonderful letter from a wonderful girl. It was her 81st and dated 14.3.42. I had written a few letters to her and she managed to get three together and thus a lengthy reply resulted. Thank you my sweetheart for such a wonderful letter, it really cheered me up no end and I am sure I don’t deserve such loving words.
However, sweetheart, I will finish answering your last letter. I am glad you are working out in theory the various recipes by which you will be able to poison me — what’s the cookery book balled? “How to finish off newly wed husbands”? or “Kill ‘em quick.” One thing my young lady in your favour is for a long time now I have had to put up with a Sudanese cook and therefore the competition isn’t much but I do not think he would even burn a blackberry and apple pudding, if we had some blackberries, if we had some apples. Eating so many different horrible looking concoctions for so long has rather lended to train me in the right and wrong ways of tempting the palate, so look out for yourself little girl.
Whilst appreciating the fact that you cannot be trusted to risk the wastage of good valuable raw materials, you had better study hard and get the formulaes correct.
Naturally I would have sent you some flowers if I had been there to know that you were ill but whether they could have been daffodils I don’t know — just like me to send lilies or the like.
The book you mention I have never read but I realize you now know what I have been wondering — what about you having a dash to — The trouble is I have found once the dash is over it is a devil’s own job to dash back again. The “Female” of the species I have read, many moons ago and like you found it quite interesting. The title is certainly appropriate. So glad to hear the baby clothes and coming long fine — I suppose you are quite an expert at the job, at least I hope you will be — you never can tell. If you continue to be so rude over my snaps I shall have to forget you when I have snaps to distribute. To give you another chance I am enclosing some more for you.
Friday – 15th May, 1942
Last night I received another PC No 64 dated 29 April – thank you again sweetheart. It was my intention to carry on last night but I went to the flicks for a change as today from 1:30pm until 8 o’clock tomorrow morning I am on duty. The picture was not much and when I tell you that Mae West was the principle star you know what a lousy show it really was. Still we always say we pay an accer for the pictures and 5 accres for the fresh air. To you it must be very strange to go to the pictures for the fresh air. Actually the relaxation is well worth it whatever is on.
Now I will share to snaswer your lovely 81st letter which was written after receiving three of my feeble efforts, though you appeared to enjoy them. When writing you a letter I always remember the letter you received from the chap in Scotland and always fear the thoughts of your remarking on my letter as you did his, not that I could write such drivel although at times I must come a pretty close second.
Darling I sometimes wanter myself whether my mentality has been effected by this confounded country so please excuse the mistaken date but I was completely unaware of the error and I am surely not wishing the date to really be put back not as every minute nearer means so much to me. The days coll(?) on and still it seems a devil of a time to wait but I suppose it is one day nearer, though a hell of a long day it seems at times.
The remarks you make about inebriated conditions of some people at Christmas do not effect me and I will therefore ignore them knowing them to be entirely false — so what?
Darling although I said we could be married any moment you say but I did have in mind these few months when we should be buying and preparing for the great day. They should be the happiest of all time. When we shall be planning for the future and at the same time being passionately in love. My great love for you prompts me to say that I would marry you when even you washed(?) and the sooner the better. So darling sweet, we can look forward to that great day and other great days to follow. When we shall be in each other’s arms never to be separated.
Well dearest before I get down to some more serious work I am going to try to complete this letter. In this moment I am on duty on a Friday afternoon and with a short break shall be here until tomorrow morning so I shall catch up on some back work and correspondence if I am lucky. Whether the Christmas fare here was better than yours or not you know which would I should have enjoyed most. So it was I had to make the best of a bad job and hope for the best next time. The Christmas I do spend with you next I hope we are married as then it will more than repay the number I spend away from you. Nothing more ideal than to spend a Christmas in front of a nice fire with you in my arms making love to you. I think I will stop romancing because it does not improve my mental state any and I may find myself suffering from homesickness and that wouldn’t improve the war effort.
Though I said possibly that I had two days off, I may have omitted to say that I visited the office for good long periods on both days so miss prim(?) don’t think you the only one that does any work around these parts.
What’s the idea of “charpoy” I happen to know it is a word in under used in Judea for bed but where the hell did you get it from? You seem to forget that the language spoken here is Arabic, good Sudanese Arabic and such foreign talk which incidentally puts me in mind of an old retired Colonel trying to show off. Actually I very often use Arabic words when speaking English and somehow it is just natural. As for the language itself it is very difficult without proper [?] but I always seem to make myself understood.
What mother told you I suppose is not my business but I feel sure it is something I don’t even know myself. Whatever it was I wish she had not made you unhappy, but knowing mother as well as I do I cannot say such as I know she never means anything but well. Please forgive her darling and me too because indirectly I was responsible. I am sure I could sooth you without adding piano playing to my accomplishments and it I can’t, I will just take a walk until you cool off provided I don’t get a knife in my back first. The radiogram [Note 1] is an excellent idea but artificial for the purpose but it will help.
Do you honestly believe I would allow you to put me under the bed, my own bed at that — you have got a nerve — there is plenty of room for two and I should know and on second thoughts I am thinking it will be you who will be sleeping on the boards. I like my sleep too you know. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you was the kind of girl who argued all night which side she was going to sleep on and finally slept in the middle. For all this you are a darling and I could not help giving way to you whatever it was. Another parcel! I really do think you are silly because you are being too good to me but how could I be angry with you. You are the best girl in the world. I am sure and beyond anything bad I can think up to call you — what a disadvantage I am put to.
So you [?] Glouer name, I must say you are getting along fine what ever [?] have you by now — the Duchess of [?] I suppose.
The commission business has fallen through or so it looks at the moment an area of the latest War Office instruction but I live in hopes. I have been told to await results and it anything comes of it I shall put in for a British Army Commission where the pay is not half so good and the income tax terrible. If I should on the other hand be lucky, it should only be for the duration of the war.
I think dad’s suggestion that the [?] League is a football team is brilliant, if only they were. What a difference. Snowee who is now a pukka Lieutenant has a commission in movement (and is on the General List [he doesn’t get corps pay]). I like Lockert very much and in view of the fact I am still playing regularly despite the heat rather bears it out. If that “49th Parallel” [Note 2] should reach here I will go and see it because if your liking it and from what I have read in some of the papers sent are.
I can never see myself being a mighty major, not in this century so calm yourself. I would sooner be a private in the Home Guard and with you by my side than be stuck in some mosquito infested dump with a few shining crowns and kips [Note 5] on my shoulders. Always remember sweetheart that my greatest ambition is to get home to you and whatever I do it will always be [?] an that one aim. So from now on you never need fear that I shall do anything that may detain me away from you longer than necessary.
Rather amusing to read it is a crime to throw a coffee paper away and my only report is that you are lucky to get coffees. Honestly dearest I am now fully alive to the fact that I am much better off than you in the matter of [?] as most of what we get is produced on the spot, even though it is not half the quality. I am sorry if my 46th letter did not appear as if I was in the best of moods but I expect it was written during a hot spell as I had been working too hard. I still owe Daphne a otter and somehow I never bring myself around to writing one so I shall soon have to because she ranks pretty high on the priority list. Anyway please convey my love and best wishes and say I am writing soon and shall enclose a paragraph (your permission is taken for granted in this case).
I am glad to know you play tennis as I am pretty keen on the game. I am very keen on sports from cricket and hockey down to shove-halfpenny [Note 3] and Ludo [Note 4] but I fear I am not such good at any, except, perhaps shove-halfpenny and Ludo (where I can cheat occasionally).
Well darling I think that just about answers your letters and cards and I leave you to judge whether I have done so adequately. It is now 3:15pm and rather sticky the sun still burning away. Where I am now sitting is a quiet room overlooking the river and only the Duty Officer, who worries me little, is present. It is an ideal time to write and write but eventually one tires and very quickly, too. I wish it were cooler now, I could write reams.
Tonight I shall be busy on official business so if it is cooler, and it seldom is, I shall not be in a position to write much more.
That is the one snafu about this place. It never seems to cool off during the night. I am enclosing a small list of shade temperatures as they were in April and they are by no means the highest. The sun temperature is over the 200 mark and I can quote that from a medical report on the river many miles north of here. So frying eggs on the pavement could be done in a comparatively short time, provided one had a pavement.
A cutting, “Cairo magic,” which I took from a South African paper “Springbok” is rather true and although I have never been a victim I have seen it done. For your guidance. Saareeda — good morning, afternoon or evening. Yallah — scram, piss off. Shafte, or as pronounced here Shufte — look, see here what I’ve got.
Two of the enclosed snaps were taken last year but they may come in handy for the album. Our tennis court is not so good as it is looks, I am seated on the side waiting for a game. If by chance I have sent these snaps before, please give them to Flossie as I understand she has an album, too.
So darling I will close with all my love and promising I will not keep you waiting so long for the next letter.
Keep the chin up,
Always your sweetheart
1. A Radiogram was a piece of furniture that combined a radio and a record player.
2. From Wikipedia: 49th Parallel is a movie released March 5, 1942. In the early days of World War II, a German U-boat is sunk in Canada’s Hudson Bay. Hoping to evade capture, a small band of German soldiers led by commanding officer Lieutenant Hirth (Eric Portman) attempts to cross the border into the United States, which has not yet entered the war and is officially neutral. Along the way, the German soldiers encounter brave men such as French-Canadian fur trapper Johnnie (Laurence Olivier) and soldier Andy Brock (Raymond Massey).
3. From Wikipedia: Shove ha’penny is a pub game in the shuffleboard family, played predominantly in the United Kingdom. Two players or teams compete against one another using coins or discs on a tabletop board.
4. From Wikipedia: Ludo is a strategy board game for two to four players, in which the players race their four tokens from start to finish according to the rolls of a single die. Like other cross and circle games, Ludo is derived from the Indian game Pachisi, but simpler. It was introduced in 1896.
5. British people use kip to mean either a nap or a longer sleep; it can also mean the idea or act of sleeping, as in “Will you be quiet? I’m trying to get some kip in here!” It can also be a verb: “They kipped down for the night.”
I attempted to find information on the fate of Sgt. Leigh, but was not able to quickly or easily find an answer. I did find, however, an expired Ebay auction that listed THREE letters of his. The envelopes included Miss Langridge’s address in Haslemere Surrey. The cancellation marks were from the Advanced Base Post Office in Baghdad. Two of the letters were dated September 1944 and January 1945. Here’s hoping that if Mr. Leigh lived to early 1945, that he made it through the end of the war!