Topic: 2 March 1942: To Hazel from Joan Dorothy McCauley

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In which Joan writes Hazel about her baby which is due soon, John who has suffered from the 'flu and is making a rug as well as trying to get back his ability to play the cornet, rationing, a freezing cold winter in London, cakes from New Zealand, friends who are serving in World War II and her decision to leave Levers to work at New Zealand House in London.

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C/- New Zealand House

415 The Strand, W.C.2.


2 March 1942.

Dear Haze,

Your letter dated the 26th November arrived the other day – the 26th February to be exact, so that means it took three months to arrive! Anyhow the main thing is that it arrived, and I hope this does the same.

I am sorry it has been so long since you received a letter – I felt sure that John had written since last May.

I should think your infant is just about due, and I hope you have your wish and it turns out to be a Robert John. I can imagine the whole family being delighted – will it be the first grandson in the Anderson family? You mentioned in your last letter to John – which by the way arrived safely a few weeks back – that Andy would cable John when the babe arrived, and so as no such cable has made an appearance, I guess the baby hasn’t either. The position at home must be very difficult as regards getting baby clothes, and buying the right clothing etc. as I can imagine how short such thing are at home. When I hear whether you have a boy or a girl, I will try and knit you something and hope it will arrive, as there is still plenty of wool over here, and I think I can still send parcels over, excepting food of course.

John is down with me at present, and has been for the past four days – he has a week’s sick leave, but isn’t very sick! How he manages to get away with everything he does, I haven’t the vaguest idea. He had a slight touché of the ‘flu and was bunged in hospital for eight days, and was discharged as fit to resume duty, but somehow he got them to agree to 7 days sick leave, and so is down with me having a gloriously lazy time while I work! Anyhow he is busy finishing a rug which he started to make about a year ago. He got so bored doing nothing when he first started in the R.A.F. – or rather after he had finished flying – that he decided he must have something to do, and bought the wool for this rug. It is a beauty too, the pile being a couple of inches thick, but it has been a long job, and he hasn’t touched it for about six months, but now he has got enthusiastic again and wants to finish it to leave with me in case he is moved, and also in case I move into a flat and want it. He has also occupied himself with trying to get back his ability to play the cornet. He has decided to buy one that has been hanging around the Mess for some while, and so is getting all keen again, and today I’ve had to buy him a spot of music – The Lost Chord, Holy City etc. – so he will be making some peculiar noises tomorrow down at the school. Luckily the music room is right at the top of the house, so the noise is kept away from the lounges. He has grabbed a fellow (who also is home on sick leave) to accompany him on the piano, and so I can imagine the two of them having a ‘rare do’ tomorrow.

We’re still in the midst of winter, even though it is the beginning of March, but although we’ve had such a hard winter, perhaps it will mean a good summer, and in that case I don’t mind so much. I see in your letter you sympathise with us as regards the weather, and believe me we need sympathy! For the past three months, if we haven’t had snow, we’ve had ice, and the icy weather is much worse, and the wind has been so piercing that at times one doesn’t know whether one own hands or feet, they get so numb with the cold. We have a long drive – often 1½ hours – up to town and if we start off cold, we’re just lumps of ice by the time we arrive at the office. Never in my life have I felt so cold as I have done this winter. I think John feels the same, but he would express it in richer terms I feel sure!

I’m sorry you didn’t receive a snap of John – we’ll see what we can do for you, as there are new snaps due any day now. I don’t suppose you’ll be able to let the proud uncle have a snap of the new arrival as films I believe are an impossibility to obtain in N.Z.

Like you, we haven’t heard back from Westie for quite a while, although a Xmas card arrived a month or so back, but without any address. It had been taken in Abyssinia by an Italian I think – I mean a photo of Westie which was enclosed with the card – so he had seen a spot of fighting. It would be grand if he could get six months leave over here now, as he deserves it after being in Africa for 2½ years. He appears to have grown a miserable line of moustache and I don’t like it a scrap – makes him look altogether different. John’s really suits him, but I can’t say the same of Westie.

This is quite a little while later, as I haven’t had much chance of finishing this and getting it posted. In the meantime John has written to you so I will send both letters together.

Which brings me back to Westie. We have heard from him since I wrote the above, but his letter was written last October and took over four months to reach us. It was posted in Brit. Somaliland, and on the back was a second post-mark of Bombay. So Heaven knows where Westie is now as he said he hoped to be away from Somaliland by February as he couldn’t stand a summer there. He was in hospital with dysentery when he wrote to us. John has written to him too but if I address it to Somaliland, it will just have to follow him to where he is, and will probably arrive in six months time. Still, it is the only thing to do.

I think I’ve mentioned before that all your cakes arrived safely, Haze, for which our combined thanks. You mention in your last letter that we have been getting too many cakes – well by now you’ll know you can’t send any food at all from N.Z. so we’ll be jolly grateful for what we have received in that line. I should think you’ll all have enough to eat at home, but you’ll need all you can grow and produce, as from what I can see you’ll have to be self-supporting in almost everything to save the shipping.

I realise how difficult it must be getting clothes at home, Haze, and I have every sympathy. At least you’re not rationed, but can get them if the shops are stocked. I knew the price of nappies had gone up here, but to only 10/- or so. Prams here are very difficult to obtain, and are standard types without any springing, or very little, and not the beautiful works of art we used to see about.

We have been wondering quite a lot about Bill Ellis, as have had heard conflicting reports of where he is, the last news being that he was on his way overseas.

I am very glad that Andy is really liking the furniture business – it was such a complete break from chemistry. I’m wondering how you are getting on for the timber necessary for furniture making. I should imagine there are no houses being built, and I should think that would also apply to furniture-making. Here furniture – even second-hand stuff – is very difficult and expensive to buy, and lots of places say there is no more being made.

Thanks for the news about stockings and the price thereof. What a blow to have to pay 12/3d. a pair – I’d rather go without! Anyhow, you’ll have no choice now I suppose, and with winter approaching you’ll all be going around in slacks or knitting yourselves stockings, although I hear that wool is very scarce indeed. We had a letter from Mrs. Westwood, the other day, and she said that Lloyd had asked her to make John a pair of socks, but she had had to wait quite a while for suitable wool. I feel so sorry, as she must have had a lot of trouble over them, whereas wool is still comparatively plentiful although rationed. The socks haven’t arrived yet though.

Glad Rae did receive my letter. She doesn’t care for letter-writing much I know, and has very poor ideas of her ability as a letter-writer. I think Rae has most wrong ideas as regards her ability as a conversationalist and writer – she want to pat herself on the back a bit and then she will be alright. If she keeps on telling people she can’t write, she’ll make them believe she can’t, when she has a good style. Don’t tell her that though! I think John has also written to Rae in his last big effort at letter-writing.

I hope Eric’s brother in Libya is still alright. It is very worrying to have a member of the family so far away, without much news coming through. I think all the N.Z.ers and Aussies abroad are wishing they were back home in case a need arises to defend their own homes. I can imagine the thrill the pilots in Australia are getting at being about to have a crack at the Jap. invasion fleets, and so far they seem to be pretty successful.

I am soon leaving Levers to go to N.Z. House to work. I have felt for a long time that I have been doing absolutely damn-all towards the war effort sitting here trying to look busy when I’m not, and so I am going to N.Z. House to do some important war work, or so I hope. I am ready for a change, and quite prepared to work hard if it is worthwhile work. It is rather a blow leaving the School at Weybridge, as on the whole I have been happy there, and have had nothing to worry me as regards rationing, heat etc. and it is in a lovely neighbourhood. Still I’d rather be doing something useful and having less comfort, although I’d like both!

Cherrio for now. Joan [signed with a handwritten note] PS, will send snaps in next letter.


[NOTE: Correspondence received from Bob Anderson on 12 January 2013 - Yes, the baby was me! It seems everyone knew what I was to be called before I was born (assuming I did turn out to be a boy!). I was actually born about a couple of weeks before the letter was written. Westie (surname Westwood) was a long standing friend of my parents and John Glen McCauley, whom they may have met when they all worked in Wellington before the war. He was talked about a lot but I don’t remember him ever being referred to by one of his Christian names that I now believe to have been Lloyd George (it’s no wonder he preferred to be called Westie!). I think he still lived in Wellington after the war and so we didn't see much of him in Wanganui when I was a child. I think I probably met him briefly but can't really remember the details. The "Eric's brother" in Libya referred to is my uncle Ian Charles Anderson -- I am in frequent contact with his eldest son, John, who is very interested in the Anderson family history, and done quite a bit of work on it himself, and who now (with his brother Geoff) runs the family furniture business in Wanganui. I do remember the "Bill Ellis" referred to very well. He and his mother (who was a nurse and always referred to as Muv for some reason) were friends of my mother and John from their time in New Plymouth. His real name was Henry Ellis and he subsequently worked as a reporter with the Auckland Star newspaper. Bill married quite late and he took his new wife to London when he won some sort of scholarship to work abroad. Sadly, she contracted pneumonia in the cold, damp weather of London and died. Bill came back to NZ but never really recovered from his wife's death (for which he blamed himself) and he too died at a young age. We kids thought he was really cool (in today's jargon). I remember he had a red Triumph TR2 sports car that we loved being taken for a drive in and used to make us interesting toys, like the "tank" from a wooden cotton reel, a slice of candle, a rubber band, a nail and a tack! I have just checked the NZ death records and there are a number of possible Henry Ellis's recorded but the most likely one is a Henry John Ellis who died in 1958 at the age of 38. John learned to play the cornet in NZ and had actually been quite proficient at it and other brass instruments by all accounts. I remember my mother kept the cornet that had belonged to him in NZ in a window seat in our house in Wanganui. I don't know what became of it. I do, however, own a silver medal awarded to John in 1931 for playing the flugel horn at some competition in Hawera].

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2 March 1942: To Hazel from Joan Dorothy McCauley

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2 March 1942: To Hazel from Joan Dorothy McCauley by Debbie McCauley (Tauranga City Libraries) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License