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The Townend Family Letters

Correspondence from the 1930s - 1940s between members of the Townend family
HPV + LJT Letters 1929 to 1932

1932 April and May

From HPV to Annette

S.S. Mantua
April 22nd 1932

My dear Annette.

I might well have written before: but ship is a lazy place and there is nothing doing to make news. Very few passengers on board but those, that there are, are for the most part pleasant. Army officers a lot of them. It is curious how they differ in looks ways and talk from I.C.S. or police. Interesting though – or perhaps for that very reason. I wish that I knew on what date you were to go back to school. As it is I have the feeling that Mummie may have told you all my news. I was amused when a man at Port Said addressed the Colonel as “Mr Tarzan”. Do you remember how they call people “Mr Macgregor” or “Mr Harry Lauder” or any old name? With very few passengers off our ship and with no ship besides ours in harbour there were not many people visiting Port Said and we had a whole lot of touts following us round and trying to sell us cigarettes, necklaces, walking sticks, rugs, flowers and all sorts of things. Down the Red Sea it was hot. At Aden where we arrived in the middle of the night some people went ashore and bathed in the pitch dark. A poor pastime I should have thought. As for me I stayed aboard and asleep. After Aden they rigged up a swimming bath but I bathed once only as I saw some of the second class passengers spitting in the water. Mechanics they looked. I have played deck quoits quite a lot and deck tennis a little but really have not done much. It is sticky weather and besides after doing nothing for so long I am a bit shy of playing games too vigorously.

Tomorrow at day-break we reach Bombay. My train leaves at 10. It is a corridor train with very nice carriages: bathrooms with hot and cold water and shower baths: a restaurant car: and a drawing room car. Very complete. And this time there will be only three passengers. But the whole train will have to go to Calcutta as there will be lots coming the other way next week. The train runs only once a week.

My dear I was very pleased with your progress last term. Keep it up but don’t overwork. And pay attention to drill dancing DIVING and exercise.

Much love, my dear Annette
ever yours

From LJT to Annette

10 Colinette Rd
May 8th 1932

My darling Annette

I was so pleased to get your post-card, especially as it was quite unexpected – and I am looking forward very much to getting a letter from you to-morrow.

It seems and extra-ordinarily long time since I said good-bye to you. It was tiresome that there was such a scurry at the station and appeared to be no one in charge of the party. However! Perhaps it was just as well as it did not give us much time to think about saying good-bye. Its hateful, having to leave you, my darling – but there it is! Its the penalty of being British and having an Empire scattered all over the world. We are luckier than most, because you have such a happy home with Auntie. it makes it much easier for me to leave you, knowing that you have got her. It will be such a joy looking forward to your letters every week. I am glad that you are good at writing letters.

There is not really very much to tell you about my doings. I have been busy, but it has been mostly rather dull shopping or seeing people, a good many of whom you scarcely know.

Mrs. Petrie took me down to lunch at Grantley to-day, to say good-bye to Uncle Frank and Auntie May. The garden at Grantley was looking so lovely – Its full of tulips, forget-me-nots and wall-flowers and the fruit trees are all in bloom – Auntie May asked after you and Rosemary and sent her love. If she is well enough this summer she wants to go over to see you, but of course she is not very strong, so I don’t know whether she will be able to manage it.

Christina is making some such pretty knickers and she has cut out the pattern for me and I am going to try to make some on board ship. She really does sew beautifully. I wonder whether you will ever sew as well.

Uncle Bous and Auntie Cecil took me to an amusing play called “The Queen’s Husband” on Friday night – and yesterday I took Uncle Roy and Auntie Eleanor to a very entertaining thing called “The Gay Adventure” –

Christina is just laying supper and there are some people coming in afterwards – so I shall have to finish this off now – Best love and a big hug, my Sweetheart – Mummy – Bless you!

From HPV to Annette

c/o Grindlay & Co
6 Church Lane
May 11th 1932

My dear Annette

Two letters from you to be answered. Good of you to write so much. Continue: it is pleasant to get letters – and as to having nothing to write about, why, news of anything that you do is interesting at the other side of the world no matter how ordinary it may seem while you are writing it. Your historical sketches (after Uncle Bous’ patterns) were amusing

I’m Glad that the new bicycle seems to be a success. Certainly I didn’t much like the look of Auntie Dora’s: its shape was queer somehow. This one ought to be good for years of work.

All the family has written about Julius Caesar. I have not seen it acted but can well imagine how thrilling it must be especially if one has seen nothing of the kind before. Richard seems to have taken it more calmly.

The sketch of the rug is not very clear: it is rather too small to show the pattern. But I think I understand. Surely it will take weeks and weeks to finish a thing of that size.

The finding of Rosemary’s gramophone is not a thing to give unmixed pleasure to the household: for it made execrably squeaky noises sometimes. Your jazz band must have been amusing.

As for me I sit in office all day reading files – hundreds of papers: very dull. I have been out to tea twice and to dinner three times. But I’m not quite used to the heights and tire quickly

Much love

From LJT to Annette

S.S. Mooltan
May 13th 1932

My darling Annette

I was very pleased to get your letter on Monday – and Rosemary’s turned up alright with Nannie’s the following morning. I was very interested in all you told me about school and what you were doing. It was nice to get a little more news of you from Auntie Doris, who came to supper at Mrs. Petrie’s on Tuesday evening. She seems delighted with St. Monica’s – and I feel so glad that she is sending June there.

My journey so far has been most comfortable. I had to get up fairly early on Wednesday morning to catch my train. It was raining but the sea was quite smooth, which was a boon. M. and Mme Muret were waiting for me with their car in Paris. We drove first to Notre Dame, to see the mourning decorations which had been put up for the funeral of the French President, who, as I expect you heard, had been shot by a Russian assassin (Ought that word to have another s in it?). I was very glad to see Notre Dame again, especially as when I saw it years ago I did not know nearly as much about cathedral architecture and stained glass and so on, as I do now. After we had spent a little time in the cathedral we drove back to the Murets flat for tea. After tea Mme Muret and I went out to get some sort of a black hat for me to wear at the funeral the following day – as I had only a bright scarlet one and really could not go to a funeral in that. I did not feel it would be respectful. I got a dear little black had for about 5/-. The following morning the Murets had been invited to take me to the house of some friends of theirs, past which the funeral procession was to pass. We thought we had started in ample time, but the crowds were already so great that we failed to reach the house we were going to and finally saw the procession just from the pavement, standing in a thick crowd – so we did not get a very good view. It was impressive and interesting. Our own Prince f Wales came to represent England and the King of the Belgians was there and lots of other important people.

Practically everything was shut in Paris that afternoon because of the national mourning for the President – so we could not go to the Musée du Louvre to see the Venus of Milo and some of Leonardo da Vinci’s pictures as we had planned to do. Instead of that we climbed the hill of Montmartre and explored that funny artist’s quarter of Paris and saw the big new cathedral of the Sacred Heart, which crowns the hill and from which there is a wonderful view over Paris It was a grey morning – but a lovely afternoon in Paris – My train left at 7 o’clock and I was lucky in having a “sleeper” to myself – so I was very comfortable. We reached Marseille at 7.30 this morning and I was on board by 8 o’clock. I have a lovely cabin to myself. it is one of those cooled by cold air forced through tubes and it will be very interesting to see what it is like when the weather gets hot. It is really a 2 berth cabin – but there is no one else coming in to it – so I have the whole of the dressing chest and 2 cupboards for my clothes, as well as the wardrobe trunk. I bought such a nice folding travelling leather frame for the photos of you three children and it looks very nice on one of the little shelves above one of the bunks. It is glorious summer–like weather here and as I sit writing I can see that church up on the hill – Notre Dame de la Garde – with a big gilded statue of the Virgin on top of it. Do you remember it?

I have not bothered to go into the town. I got all my belongings unpacked and arranged this morning and then I went on to the jetty to meet Mrs Ferarid and her baby – She is old Mrs Hood’s daughter. Since then I have spent most of my time helping her. The baby is not quite a year old and a little pet of a thing. She came to me quite cheerfully – held tight hold of my necklace and stared hard at me.

I am writing letters hard now, as the little post office on the quay shuts at 4.30. I am sorry it will be so long before you can get another letter from me. We take the best part of a week to get to Port Said and then letters from there take the same time to get back so it will be about a fortnight before you can hear frm me again. I shall have to wait still longer for my next letter from you!

Congratulations on getting another French prize. I am really very pleased that you are getting on well with French. I wonder how you will do when you have to try the “intermediare” in the Autumn. I hope you will be able to read this letter. I am writing very quickly as I have a lot of letters to get off. If you get a chance will you give Miss Capstick my kind regards and many thanks for her nice letter?

Best love, my darling – I still don’t realize that I am really going so far away. It is the greatest comfort to me to feel that you are at such a nice school and have such a happy home with Auntie.

Lots of hugs and kisses from Mummie.

From LJT to Annette

S.S. Mooltan
Between Sicily and Port Said
May 16th 1932

My darling Annette

We have only been at sea 2 ½ days and yet it seems a long while and we have settled down to the little world of board-ship life and are busy sorting ourselves out and making friends. I have been adopted by a nice old gentleman – older than Mr Hood – who is going out to visit a married daughter in Australia. He asked if he might sit next me the first day at lunch and then got his place at table settled beside me. He is a nice old fellow and interesting to talk to and I am glad to have him for a friend. I spend quite a lot of time helping Mr Hood’s daughter with her baby “Susan” – who is a dear little creature 7 months old. It seems quite funny to be dealing with such a little baby again.

We are having the most perfect weather – neither too hot nor too cold. I have been busy getting all sorts of jobs done, such as packing away thick clothes and getting out thin ones. Ironing my cotton dresses – washing my dirty clothes and so on, because we get to Port Said the day after to-morrow (quicker than I expected.) – and after that I expect that it will be very hot and I shant want to be down in my cabin more than I can help. it is not cooled by fans but has three cold air tubes blowing into it – and it is rather fun switching them round in whatever direction one wants. My cabin is so big that I am able to do my exercises in it every morning. Its just high enough for me not to touch the ceiling when I stretch my arms above my head and wide enough for me to stretch my arms sideways and swing round.

We actually left Marseilles in fog and there was quite a thick white mist over the water till about 10 o’clock the first morning and the fog syren blared out every few minutes but it cleared into a lovely day. We passed through the straights of Bonifacio late in the afternoon. Its a pretty passage between the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. Corsica, especially looks very wild and I don’t wonder that it is full of brigands. Yesterday we went through the straits of Messina. Just on the West side of Scylla and Charibdis there were three three masted sailing ships with all their canvas spread and they made such a lovely picture. They are picturesque things! It was very lovely going through the straights and I did very little reading or sewing as my eyes were much too busy looking at the lovely mountains. We had passed Stromboli early in the day – just at lunch time. Do you remember the curious volcano sticking up out of the sea, with its pall of smoke from the crater hanging above it – and its sides covered with vineyards and little white houses? I can never how imagine how people can live happily on the slopes of a volcano like that. To-day there is nothing but empty blue sea round us – so I have not felt that I have been missing anything by spending the morning “below deck” (I suppose one should use that expression rather than “downstairs” when one is on board ship.)

The second son of the ex-king of Spain is on this boat. he is being trained in the British Navy and has just left Dartmouth and is going out to Colombo to join his first ship. He is a tall dark young man – very simple and unassuming and friendly with everyone. it rather amuses me, because there are two young soldiers on board, going out to join their regiments in India – who seem to think themselves too good to speak to anyone while this young man who is descended from a long line of famous kings, does not seem to have an ounce of conceit. it just shows how silly that sort of thing is. I noticed some of Prince John’s luggage in the baggage room this morning and it was just marked “Juan de Bourbon”. It must be rather exciting to bear such a famous name and feel that ones ancestors fill so many of the pages of European history.

I like having your photo where I can see it in my cabin and think about you a great deal. Remember, in your letters, I love to hear what books you are reading and what work you are doing – as well as the special things like lectures and parties.

Do you remember last time we came home how rough it was going through the Straits of Messina and how sick we all felt? It was such a contrast this time, with the sea like glass and such a gentle breeze that one did not need a hat or coat when one was sitting on deck.

I have a whole list of letters to write before to-morrow evening and I know I shall waste a lot of time to-morrow staring at Crête and wishing I could land there and go to see the excavations at Minos – where they have unearthed the famous palace of the Minotor. There is always something very thrilling about Crete to me –

I hate to think it will be so long before I can get a letter from you. My thoughts are with you so constantly – and I don’t feel in the least as if I have left you behind. In one sense I don’t think I have – because after all its people’s minds that keep them in touch with one another, is’nt it? We can do that by letters – Best love and heaps of kisses, my darling


From HPV to Annette

May 17th 1932

My dear Annette.

No letters by this week’s mail. They must have missed the post: which is disappointing. This week has been very like the last. Office all day till five: no tennis: no walks: I don’t seem to find time for them. Today I went to see John. He was just going to bed. Very cheerful. Full of talk and leaping about. He is positively acrobatic. I taught him to pedal his tricycle-thing backwards and he was pleased: he backed it thump into a table. Uncle Harry has been drawing pictures on letters for him: but he hasn’t much idea what they are about. He told me that a tennis-match was “people digging up roads”. Not a bat shot as you’d know if you saw the picture. I met him in the road the other day and made as if to pass him, just to see what he would do: he said “Herbie” in a very small voice but when I stopped cheered up and told me he was going to have a swing: then he said to a little girl “Anne Herbie!” full of excitement, but Anne was quite unmoved and wouldn’t even turn her head.

Has the swimming bath opened? I wonder if you are diving. I’ve been reading through those articles on diving and wishing that I was near a swimming bath. But it might have been better to leave them for you and Richard to read. Which of you will learn to dive first? And best?

There was an earthquake here today at 7.30. Everyone very excited: except me. I didn’t notice it at all. It couldn’t have been as bad as people say
Much love

From LJT to Annette

S.S. Mooltan
In the Red Sea

May 20th 1932

My darling Annette

The voyage is slipping away quite quickly now. We reached Port Said at 2 o’clock in the morning and left again at 7 in the morning – so I did not go ashore. A party of young men including Prince Juan of Spain wanted to buy topis – so they stayed up and went ashore in their evening clothes. The Prince came and sat next me at tea the following day and told me about it. They seem to have stayed ashore till it was nearly time for the ship to sail and he said he thought they must have looked very funny coming on board in broad daylight, in evening clothes and topis!

It took us just 12 hours to go through the Suez Canal and it was most beautifully cool – really a lovely day, with a cool caressing breeze. Yesterday – our first day down the Red Sea was also cool and pleasant. To-day it is much hotter and more humid – but still not as bad as I expected. I am sitting under a fan in the Saloon and am quite cool and comfortable.

The swimming bath was filled after we left Suez and I think I was the first person in it yesterday morning. It was delicious. We have all been very busy playing the deck games competitions and I have been playing a lot of ordinary deck tennis as well, so I am getting plenty of exercise.

The old gentleman who adopted me so gloomily directly he came on board, is really becoming quite a nuisance. He will not leave me alone at all and wherever I sit or walk he comes too. He tells interminable tales, not as a rule very interesting and very often he tells the same one two or three times over – which really gets rather boring – but I don’t like to be rude to him or hurt his feelings, because he is so old. It is rather awkward.

I got a letter from Dad at Port Said – written from Darjeeling. He was very pleased to get letters from all of you and says he enjoyed them very much. He stood the hot journey across India and three or four busy days in Calcutta very well.

We were greatly entertained last night by a very long lean black cat – exactly like a miniature panther, who generally lives on the boat deck. Last evening after dinner, it suddenly sprang in through one of the windows of the saloon, where we were sitting – walked majestically across the room to a palm standing in a pot, and began solemnly eating the leaves! They looked extremely dry and tough, but the cat eat several – and gulped a bit and then departed in the same way as he had come! Now have you ever heard of a cat eating palm leaves before? In the ships’ library I have found rather a good History of India, which I am reading. It is interesting – but very closely packed with facts. it is very difficult to follow or remember at all, the unnumerable invasions by Mohammaden Conquerors and wars between kings of different parts of India, which took place between about 900 A.D. and the coming of the Moghuls led by Barbar early in the XVIth Century.

I woke very early this morning – just after 5 o’clock and read till a quarter to seven, when the stewardess brought me a cup of tea – Then I had a long bathe and now at 12.45 I am feeling so sleepy! I suppose its the hot sticky weather and perhaps staying in the swimming bath a long while this morning. I think I shall retire to my cabin this afternoon – turn one of the tubes of cool air on to myself and have a good sleep. The little baby Susan is quite well and happy again. She grabs my necklaces so and broke two of them, that now I try to remember to take them off, before I pick her up!

We are supposed to be getting into Aden about 9 o’clock on Sunday morning – so I am afraid it will be too hot to go and bathe like we did on the way home. That was nice, was’nt it?

I hope the term is going well. I am longing to get letters from you all the week after I arrive in India.

Best love, my darling and lots of kisses

P.S. I thought you might like this pc of the ship.

From LJT to Annette

May 24th 1932

My darling Annette

It’s empire Day and I think the hottest day we have had so far. I wonder what the weather is like in England and whether you are having a holiday to-day. Our last day down the Red Sea was very very humid and we all sat about and dripped. I bathed for as long as possible both morning and evening. We passed Perrim – the island near the mouth of the Red Sea about 9.30 in the evening and soon after that, as we turned the corner towards Aden, we met a lovely cool breeze. I did not land at Aden as we got in there at 2 o’clock in the morning and left at 10. Our first two days across the Indian ocean were very pleasant – but to-day the wind is right behind us and there does not seem to be the slightest breeze anywhere on deck.

May 25th
My pen ran dry yesterday and I was too lazy to go down to the cabin to refill it – so must finish your letter to-day. The weather is just the same and I suppose it will go on the same till we get to Bombay to-morrow evening. I played games after tea last night and then bathed – and I spent a happy hour in the swimming bath before breakfast this morning.

I heard rather a good thing the other day which I think will amuse you. It is the modern child’s version of “Twinkle, twinkle little star” and goes as follows

“Scintillate, scintillate globule pacific
Fain would I learn thy nature specific
Soaring above in ether capacious
Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous”.

Dont you think that is rather clever?

Its really too hot and sticky to-day to feel much inspiration for letter writing and the days on board ship go by one so like the next that there is not much to make letters out of – so I think I shall just leave you with a short letter this week and hope I will be able to do better next week, either from Darjeeling or from Calcutta.

Best love, my darling and lots of kisses

From HPV to Annette

May 25th 1932

My dear Annette.

Just a line, because I’m very busy and very tired this morning. There has been a terrible rush of work for the last few days and on top of that I had to go to a dance last night. I was too tired to dance but had to hang about till half past one and so missed sleep.

Last week’s letter hasn’t turned up at all. It must have been lost in the post. But this weeks telling about your last week at home has reached me. Your mother’s letter: not one of your’s, oh you miscreant!

I have seen Miss Pearce who sends you both her love. She looks very well. But otherwise I have no news – except that I see John occasionally: he is growing very fast.

Much love my dear to you and to my dear Rosemary. You must tell her about his letter


From LJT to Annette

1, Ballygunge Park,

May 30th 1932

My darling Annette

Moving quickly from one place to another always makes it seem as if a long time has passed and I feel as if it is ages since I wrote to you. Likewise now I am back in Calcutta, it does not seem a bit as though it is more than two years since I went away.

We got into Bombay about 6 o’clock on Thursday evening. Luckily they had had rain there and it was passably cool. The Imperial Mail train from Calcutta was drawn up in the station on the pier when we arrived and we were told that it would leave at 10 o’clock. I made all my luggage and keys over to Grindlays man – and stayed comfortably on the boat – where I had dinner and then strolled along to my compartment, accompanied by various friends including the ship’s doctor, who came to see me off.

The first night in the train was cool and comfortable – but the following day was rather like living in a furnace. We had to shut up the dark glass windows quite early in the morning. Very soon everything that one touched became hot – the cushions on the seats – the glass of the windows the wood of the table and ones own clothes. Luckily the train was very empty and I had a compartment to myself, so I was able to have the two fans playing on to me and wear as few clothes as I liked. Really I did not mind the day too badly. I went along to the refreshment car for lunch – which a good many people did not and I spent most of the rest of the day till evening, reading and sleeping. I again slept quite well and woke the next morning, to find it much cooler. We cot to Howrah (Calcutta) at mid-day (12 o’clock) and Uncle Harry and Auntie Winsome had both very kindly come to meet me and drove me straight back to their nice new flat in Ballygunge. Henry, the dog, greeted me with affection. Auntie Winsome has had him “plucked” and he looks so funny and quite slim with a short coat.

The Club. Darjeeling – June 1st

Uncle Harry and Auntie W. came back from a tennis party just as I got to the bottom of that page and I have not had a chance to go on with your letter till now. I stayed at home on Sunday afternoon to sort and repack my boxes. Uncle Harry and I spent Sunday morning house-hunting – and I did various jobs on Monday morning and then looked at several houses. There is one delightful one in Alipore which we should love to have, but it is rather expensive. I am trying to get the land-lord to reduce his rent a little. I do hope he will. If he does we shall take it from July 1st.

I finished off my packing on Monday afternoon and then Auntie W and I went to see a very exciting football match with Capt. Turbett. Do you remember him? He had dinner with us on our last Xmas in Calcutta – He asked after you and Rosemary. I found myself sitting next to Mr. Kaye who went home on the Moloja with us and took us out to lunch in Marseilles. Do you remember him? He also asked after you.

The Darjeeling mail now leaves at 8.40 in the evening, which is a much better time – as one can have dinner comfortably before one leaves. I slept quite well till 4 o’clock in the morning and then could not go off to sleep again. It was very interesting passing Jalpaiguri and seeing all the places that we know so well. Several of the elephants were in or near their Pil karna (stable) and I think I recognised Ban Raj and Jamuna. It was raining when I woke and pouring when I got to Siliguri. I did not wait for breakfast there – but got straight into a car and was up here by 9.30 in spite of the fact that it was pouring cats and dogs all the way up. Everywhere cascades of coffee-coloured water were galloping and foaming down the mountain sides. Just above Kurseong a cascade was foaming onto the road and then running down it for a couple of hundred yards as quite a deep stream. My car went through it, rather like a motor boat through a choppy sea – with clouds of spray flying over the bonnet.

Dad is looking very well but I am not sure that he did not overdo it a little when he first came up. He was asked out to a great many dinners and dances and things.

Darjeeling looks very much the same and most of the coolies and pony and donkey women and boys are the same and all grin and salaam to me. Mogul, who is working in Calcutta came to see me and asked tenderly after you and Rosemary. Blum Das is up here with Dad and seemed pleased to see me. He also is full of enquiries about you.

It rained most of yesterday and is pouring again this morning – so it looks as if the Monsoon has broken early this year.

Yesterday morning I unpacked and arranged all my things. We sat along time over lunch, talking to friends (Mr. Fawcus was one of them). Then I went along to see John and Nannie and take them some things from Auntie Winsome. John has come on a lot and talks so well and so sweetly now. After that I called at Government House and then went up to Rockville to enquire about rooms for Uncle Harry and Auntie Winsome, who think of coming up for a few days later in the month.

By the time I got back here I felt so sleepy that I lay down on my bed and went sound asleep for an hour – waking just as Dad came back from office – so we had tea and went for a walk before dinner.

x x x x x x x x x x

Another interruption – a visit from Lovey this time. She is looking so well and of course asked lots of questions about you. She is coming to tea with me at the Club on Friday. I must hurry up and finish this letter as I have several more to write before the post goes at 1 o’clock. It is nice being with Dad again. He looks well and seems cheerful. I’ve lots more to tell you, but it must wait till next week.

Best love and lots of kisses from Mum