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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 September

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
Sept 1st 1932

My darling Annette

It has been great fun getting your letters about Camp and about the holiday doings at highways. It was really a bit of bad luck that the one wet week of the holidays should have been that when you were in camp. It must have been great fun having such lovely hot weather later and being able to spend half your time in bathing dresses. I wish it had been like that last year when Dad and I were home.

This letter should just catch you before you go back to school. I hope you will have a good term. I suppose the little Gurners will all be in the junior school; so you wont see much of them. I have been asking Rosemary to be as kind to them as she can. Linette and Auriol are really very tiny to go to school.

We have had rather a hot sticky week. There has not been a great deal of rain and what there has been has generally come down in violent showers like cloud bursts in the evenings. I have not been doing anything very exciting though lots of quite pleasant and interesting things. I took some of my Guides to compete for a special prize for Ambulance work at Guide Headquarters on Monday – and while they were there I went to Jeanette Janvrin’s 1st birthday party. She had such a pretty cake, with one candle in the middle and a wreath of yellow crystallized pears with gold leaves round it. Jeanette looked such a pet in a little cucumber green organdi frock, which went awfully well with her aubern curls. She is a darling baby – always so cheerful. When I got back to the Guide Headquarters, the exam was just finishing. We waited while the marks were worked out and to my great delight my senior patrol leader came out top and won the broach – so I took them back to school in great triumph.

I have another Guide job on early to-morrow morning. I am going to be Examiner for the Child Nurse Badge. We have a large celluloid doll, the size of a baby and the girls have to bath it – dress and undress it – make bottles and generally show that they know how to deal with a young baby.

I spent a very happy evening in the Agri Horticultural Gardens with Mrs. George Morgan yesterday. I always take a note book and pencil with me and I learn a lot from her. The gardens are looking awfully pretty now. There are so many flowering trees and shrubs in bloom and lots of things with lovely varigated leaves.

Dad and I were pleased to hear that you had been playing tennis and from Richard’s account it sounds as if you have all made a good deal of progress. Its nice of people to let you use their courts.

I cut the little poem, which I enclose, out of Sunday’s paper, as I thought it rather clever and amusing, and thought you might like to see it.

Dad has been tremendously busy all the week with this huge Municipal Bill, but thank goodness, it finished yesterday – so now he will not be working at quite such a terrific strain – though his job is a heavy one at any time.. He has been making a lot of speeches in Council this week and I believe he rather enjoys matching his wits against other people’s in debate. He has been tired each evening when he got home, but not more than is natural after such heavy days work, and I think he is really very well. It will be nice when Council finishes in about a week’s time – and then we shall soon be getting away to Darjeeling.

Daddy and I went to buy our marching boots for the trip we are making into the mountains of north Sikkim in October. Now that I am beginning to think out the details of what we shall want for the trip, it seems to bring it quite near and I am getting so excited about it. Dad is getting quite interested too, when he has time to think about it.

I must get on to Auntie’s letter now – Best love, my darling and lots of love and kisses

Dad sends best love and is so sorry he really has not had a moment to write.

From LJT to Annette

14/1 Rowland Rd
Sept 8th 1932

My darling Annette

All my thoughts are upset this morning because we had a theft in the house yesterday. One of the bathroom doors from the sweepers staircase was left open by mistake and somebody got into the bedrooms, I think when a friend was having lunch with me – and took most of my dressing-table silver – which is very heavy and good and was given me by Uncle Bernard as a wedding-present – also Daddy’s precious gramaphone and a small silver wrist watch off his dressing table. I am awfully sad about loosing the things and have practically no hope that we shall ever see them again. Now I must try to pull my thoughts to-gether and answer your letter.

To begin with this is the first letter you will get from me at school – so I send you my best wishes for a happy and successful term.

Thank you for your last letter and the pattern of the frock. It is sweet stuff, I think. I have two frocks of the same material and it is wonderfully useful because nothing crushes it.

Your last letters told a lot about Auntie Mays picnic and it sounds as if it must have been the greatest fun. Auntie Do sent some photos but unfortunately they are not very good. However – they give some idea of the place and of how you have all grown.

Last Tuesday, at very short notice, I had to take over charge of a big Rally of two Guide Companies on the occasion of the Provincial Commissioner coming to give Warrents and badges. I had never given the commands for making a big horse-shoe before and had only once seen it done, but we got through without any mistakes and fairly neatly and the whole rally went off well. I wonder whether you have done your firelighting and tracking tests yet. The fire lighting is one of the most difficult I always think. Sometimes one really does have bad luck with the matches.

We have had patchy weather this week – some very sticky stuffy days and some quite cool ones. I have been quite a film fan this week. Mr Jones took me to see an amusing French Film, called “Un Soir de Raffle”- “raffle” meaning a police raid. There is a lot of boxing in it that was very exciting – and I was glad to find that I had not forgotten my French and could follow what was said quite well.

On Tuesday Major Meade took me to see a murder and detective thing, called “Room 13” – which I did not care about very much and last night Mr Fawcus took me to see Greta Garbo in “Mata Hari” – which is a play about a woman spy in Paris, during the war and which was well acted and tremendously exciting. “Council” finished its session yesterday – and it is a great relief to Dad and the other men, to feel that they are free of it for the time being. Dad goes off to Ranchi to-night and will be back on Sunday and then we go off to Darjeeling on Monday evening. Much as I have enjoyed the two months down here, it will be nich to be back in the cool air of the hills.

My mind has been much taken up with plants and flowers this week. I spent an afternoon in the Agri Horticultural Gardens with Mrs. George Morgan and on Tuesday I went there again with her before breakfast and back to breakfast with her. I am learning lots of things from her. I have also been studying two books on the “Beautiful Flowers of Kashmir” which have been lent to me – in the hope that they will help me with some of the flowers on the high mountains at our end of the Himalayas. I have learnt a good bit and made some notes out of them – but the three particular plants which I saw up near the Jalap La Pass and specially want to find, I have not seen any mention of. I wish they would not give flowers such long Greek and Latin names.

I met Mr. Ballaidie the night before last and he told me that José has left St Monica’s. He says she was not strong enough to bear school life. I suppose its really because she is so odd poor child. I feel very sorry for her and for her parents. It must be very sad not to be able to keep up with other people.

I am longing to hear how Francesca Linette and Auriol settle down.

Oh listen! Do you want anything special for your birthday? If so will you write and tell Auntie? I am sending money to her and you can do just what you like and have the money instead of a present if you prefer.

Best love, darling and heaps of kisses from

From LJT to Annette

The Club
Sept 14th 1932

My darling Annette

The last batch of letters from home, telling about the heat wave and your bathing parties and sleeping out in the garden were most amusing. I expect you rather enjoyed the heat out in the country – but it must have been very trying in London and big towns. Dad and I laughed very much over your account of Mr Pym looking round for a nice place to sleep on and choosing a different person each night. Its splendid news that rosemary can swim by herself. Once she has got the confidence she will go ahead alright. Those big rubber walruses and other animals are great fun in the water. I don’t suppose you remember that they had a lot at Mount Lavinia, where we went to bathe when the ship stopped at Colombo the last time we came out to India. Do you remember anything at all of that voyage? It would be interesting to know whether any impressions have remained and also how much you remember in any detail of the journey across India and the voyage home.

Both Dad and I take a great interest in your doings with the farms. Did you make the church, houses and shop for the village yourselves?

We had great luck in having a really beautiful morning for our journey up here yesterday. Looking out of the train window a little before we reached Jalpaiguri, I saw the snows, perfectly clear and rose pink in the light of the sunrise. We had an open car in which to drive up the hill and had the top put down – so that we could enjoy the air and the sunshine and see all the lovely views. There are a lot of pretty flowers out just now. A charming shrub is flowering everywhere from the foot of the hills up to about the altitude of Kurseong. It is a mimosa of sorts and has, what I believe in botanical parlance, are called “racemes” of flowers which come out bright pink and gradually fade to white as the flower gets old – so one has flowers varying from deep pink to white in each spray of bloom.

Dad and I waited to have our proper breakfast till we got up here. We found poor Mr Shebbeare laid up with gout in his foot and spent quite a long time talking to him. Later in the morning, while I was unpacking my boxes, Lovey came to see me – and was most interest to see the copy of your last term’s report, which I have and your’s and Rosemarys last two letters, as well as the photos which Auntie Do took. She asked lots of questions about you both and asked me to send her love to you.

Its nice being up here again. We went along to the Club in the evening and saw lots of old friends. Dad and I have not started this morning, but from to-morrow we are going to get up early every morning and go for a walk round Birch Hill or somewhere of the sort, to get ourselves and our feet into training for the walk up into Sikkim in October. Do you remember how you came round Birch Hill with me when I was getting my boots broken in for the Tibet trip?

I am going to be very busy the next few days. A friend of mine has just come back to the Bank here and his wife has not come out with him. He was saying rather sorrowfully last night, that he is working so hard that he has no time to unpack all his household belongings – curtains – linen, glass and china and so on – so I have promised to go and do it for him and I think it will probably be three for four days work. I have undertaken some Girl Guide work too – and have the buying and packing of our stores for this trip, to do – so I don’t think I shall find time hang heavy on my hands for the next few days.

By the way, you wont forget that Auntie’s birthday is on the 18th October and to get permission to write to her for it, will you?

I am glad that you liked the Forsyth Saga. They are splendid books – and later on, when you are grown up and read them again, I think you will like them even better.

Best love, my darling and lots and lots of love and kisses

From HPV to Annette

Sept 14th (?1932)

My dear Annette.

In a rush, as always. Fate conspires against my getting any work done in peace. Two days lost last week by having to go up to Ranchi for meetings – that was work too of course: but only three or four hours actually went on work and if I had stayed in Calcutta I should have done three or four times as much. Then again yesterday was a washout. We came up the hill by nine o’clock, not having waited for breakfast at Siliguri: and I went to office in the morning – but none of my papers were unpacked. The afternoon was wasted, though, for I simply could not keep going and had to lie down and sleep. Three nights out of five in the train: I suppose that I had gone rather short of rest.

At Ranchi there are lost of rickshaws – much smaller than Darjeeling Rickshaws and not upholstered: all bright colours, red, blue or green. Not at all comfortable I should say. But it is not much of a place: a very long and rather dirty bazaar and scattered houses with compounds too large to be kept neatly. Round Ranchi is very pleasant country; rolling hills, forests, rivers dashing down among rocks and bright yellow sand. And stumpy hills 500 or 600 feet high sticking up suddenly like rocky anthills here and there.

I must see to getting back some muscle before I try this fortnight’s walk in Sikkim: having taken no exercise for months I am flabby. Scandalous: lucky that I have not gone to fat though

Much love

From LJT to Annette

The Club,

Sept 18th 1932

My darling Annette

The exciting news of how well Richard did in his School Certificate exam, reached us by Air Mail on Thursday. You can imagine how thrilled and pleased we are! I thought he would very likely get through the exam, but I never for a moment thought that he would get seven “credits” out of nine subjects. I suppose you will be going up for the same exam in a few years. Most people seem to do it now. Many thanks for your letter which has just arrived. It was the one telling of your wet picnic at Coptfold with the Baddeleys. Auntie’s letter had a few photos in it, which are very amusing. I must say the row of you standing on the diving board, makes you look a stalwart troop.

I am very pleased and happy because I have had a horse lent to me. Mr. Shebbeare scarcely ever uses his old mare Betty and has lent her to me, as he says he is glad to have her exercised. She certainly needs exercise. She is as fresh as paint and pulls hard, in spite of the fact that she is 21 years old. I am loving having a horse to ride again. We had planned to go for a picnic to-day, but we did not think the weather was good enough – so we just went for a ride and came back to lunch here. As far as we can remember it was about the first time that Dad has been on a horse for six years or more. I am afraid he will be very stiff to-morrow – but he must get a little broken in before we start on our trip round North Sikkim, when he will have to be riding and walking every day for fifteen or sixteen days. For the last four mornings we have been out walking for an hour before breakfast in our big nailed boots. Dad finds himself a bit tired in the afternoons after doing this, but it is really very necessary for him to do it and get into training.

Barbara and Peggy have just come up and Peggy’s younger sister Mary. Its such fun seeing them again. Peggy asked lots of questions about you and Rosemary – and said that Mr. Anderson also told her to ask about you both. He lives quite close to them in the Duars.

The weather has been very bad ever since that fine day on which we came up and the tennis I arranged has not come off. Most of our walking and riding has been done in rain, till to-day when it has actually stayed quite fine in spite of threatening clouds.

Before I went riding this morning, I was helping to sort the decorations which are used for the Knights Errant dance. The dance is to take place to-morrow week and I have been asked to help with the decorations. Have you any recollection of seeing the Club all decked up for it?

By way of literature at the moment, I am reading – or I should say – re-reading Hooker’s Himalayan Journals. Hooker was a great botanist, who explored Sikkim and investigated the plants and flowers of that part of the Himalayas about 1849 and 1850. He put up with incredible hardships and was imprisoned by the Maharaja of Sikkim. On the first of the trips he made he followed almost exactly the route that we are going to take. There is an immense amount of information about plants, flowers, geology and all sorts of things in the chapters of his book which deal with part of the world – so I am reading them carefully and making notes.


The John Buchan books are very exciting, are’nt they? I am not fond of detective books as a rule, but I enjoy them.

Its rather odd that I should just have been writing about the Maharaja of Sikkim, because there is a huge crowd waiting just below the Club now to welcome the present Maharaja, who is coming to spend a few days at Government house. There are half a dozen of the Government House rickshaw wallahs in their gay scarlet and blue uniforms – lots of Lamas in claret and yellow robes, some of the Sikkim state chaprassis in their funny little scarlet coats and hats with peacocks feathers – a party of five or six men with drums, all of which have bright frilly petticoats round them – Then there are the usual crowd of loafers, rickshaw wallas, ponymen and women and so on. Its now nearly three o’clock, and most of the people have been waiting there since before on o’clock, but they all seem gay and cheerful. We had a most interesting dinner at Government House last night. We were asked to meet a lady who was a Socialist Member of the last English Parliament; and who has come out to India to see for herself what things are like out here. She has been staying mostly with the disloyal Indians belonging to the Congress party. The Governor, who knew her in England, invited her to pay a visit to Government House, as he wanted her to see something of the other side of the picture. It was a very small party, only Dad and myself, Raja Mom Loll Singh – and Dad’s Indian Minister, Mr. Bijoy Singh Roy. We had all been asked specially to talk to this Miss Wilkinson and talk we all did , the whole evening. The Governor did not make a move to go to bed till nearly mid-night, so he evidently was quite interested in what was going on. The following day he congratulated Dad on speaking so frankly and said he thought it would do Miss Wilkinson a lot of good.


Its mail day and I must finish this off. We have had nice weather ever since Sunday – some of it really beautiful with fine views of the Snows. When we came back from Government House on Sunday night the Snows were showing divinely white and glistening under the light of a full moon. Most mornings they have been lovely too. We got beautiful views of them as we walked round Birch Hill this morning. I hope the weather is going to remain good now –

Best love, my darling and lots of hugs and kisses

From HPV to Annette

Sept 21st 1932

My dear Annette.

The photos astonished me. For although from the school report I gathered that you had stayed put so to speak, the photos show you to be inches taller and months more grown up. Perhaps the fine weather did it. Since you mentioned practising the crawl in the gym, you have not spoken of it again. Did you learn to do it at all in the water? I hope so. But you’re sure to learn it next summer – if its not too cold of course.

Actually I’ve been taking some exercise. An hour’s walk before breakfast each day. Nothing on the level but quite strenuous enough up and down these hills especially when I walk rather too fast. And now I’m terribly stiff! But I’ve not been able to make time for tennis and I’ve not danced (too stiff for that!) and there is so much work to do that I am rather discouraged. There never seems to be time to get down to tackling arrears.

I envied you for the pleasant time that you had during the holidays according to your letters. All three of you have been writing good letters: though I can’t say that Rosemary’s are very long. It was curious that she didn’t mention her turning faint in church (of which Richard made brief mention) since that was an Occurrence. I fainted once, I remember, when being looked over by a doctor: he tickled my back so much that I couldn’t bear it any longer.

Now I much go to office – after cleaning my revolver. I was practising with it yesterday: and it is a strange thing that after shooting with smokeless powder one has to clean a revolver three days running. I boiled the barrel to be on the safe side, though. Learn that I shot very very badly. I perceive that my only chance of hitting an anarchist is to go up close to him

Much love

From LJT to Annette

The Club,

Sept 27th 1932

My darling Annette

This will have to be your birthday letter, though it will reach you nearly a week before the proper day. That is the tiresome part of a mail that only goes once a week. Well! Well! Just fancy you being into your “teens”! You will be grown up before I know where I am! I hope you will have a happy birthday, my darling. I always specially wish I could be with you on special days. Its horrid being so far away. The only thing we can say is that you are enormously lucky to have Auntie and Uncle and a home that is just like your own. Uncle and Auntie never make us feel a bit like outsiders do they? I think they are wonderful.

I wonder what you will choose for your birthday present. There seem so few things out here that are worth sending home, especially as you have to pay duty on most things going into England now. I am sending some money to Miss Capstick and asking her to arrange for a birthday cake for you.

I had intended to write you all specially long letters this week as I shall be away in the mountains and not able to get any letters posted for three weeks from now. Instead of that I have had such crowds and crowds of things to do that I am very short of time for writing.

Over the week-end I have been very busy with the decorations for the Knights’ Errant dance, which took place last night. It was a great success and I think everyone enjoyed it. I certainly did. Dad came and stayed till the end. We did not get home till 3 o’clock in the morning, so are feeling a little tired to-day. The whole of this morning I was busy packing the things for the “trek” over the mountains, as our Baggage has to go off on Thursday morning with the coolies. I had some people to lunch, who stayed rather late and then I found an old dhirzie who I have working for me to-day and to whom I had given most careful instructions this morning – had sone every thing wrong – and I had to spend ages showing him how things were to be done, with the result that I had no time to rest or write letters before going out to tennis. I have come away from the Club only this evening so as to get some writing done this evening, for I have a lot of things to do to-morrow.

We have just heard the exciting news that Lorna Janvrin has another little daughter. The baby was born on Saturday. It is probably going to be called Pauline. Lorna says she (the babe) has red-gold hair and a dimple in her chin.

We enjoyed your letter last week. We were very amused to hear about Uncle Toby Gibson’s birthday cake and glad that you were still able to enjoy bathing and tennis and things, in spite of the fact that the hot weather had gone.

I have been riding quite a lot on Mr. Shebbeare’s “Betty” and enjoy it so much, except that she pulls a lot if there is another horse with her.

Capt Boileau has been up for the week-end and took me in his little car right out to the Water Works – or “Ghoom Lakes” as they are called, about three miles beyond Ghoom. One has to get a special pass to take a car over the Forest Road that leads to them from Ghoom and the road is not good – though quite passable for an Austin Seven. The Lakes looked very pretty and there are really a lot of pretty flowers out on the hillsides now. The Rains seem to have gone and we have only had a few showers and a lot of sun-shine all this week, with quite frequent views of the Snows.

When you answer this letter, will you send your reply to me at 14/1 Rowland Rd. Calcutta. I reckon that we shall be back there by the time that we can get your answer.

Dad is well and really getting quite excited about this trip, I believe, though he likes to pretend that he is’nt.

On Thursday last I went down to Queen’s Hill School, which is right down below the cart road to help with a Rally of the Guides there. I gave them a sort of lecture on the Aims and History of the Guides – and made myself very hoarse. I enjoyed the Rally and am going again this week. My poor voice has got worse and worse. I was dining out on Thursday and Friday and talking a lot and I went to a dance on Saturday. There have been a great many people staying up here for the Knight Errants dance – so one way and another I have not been able to rest my voice at all and it sounds very queer and far away to-day. I am painting my throat and sucking some very nasty losenges and do hope it will soon get better. I am supposed to be going down to the Guides again this Thursday – but I don’t think it will be much good if I cant make myself heard.

You wont be disappointed not getting letters for the next week or two will you? I shall keep a journal while I am out and send it home for you all to see later.

Best love, my darling and all good wishes for the coming year – from Mum

From HPV to Annette

Sept 28th 1932

My dear Annetta.

I believe, I do, that this will reach you a few days before your birthday. My best love, my child, and I also say bless you. Moreover I add to that many happy returns – at compound interest. It would be a fit time, a suitable occasion, for beautiful thoughts and moral lessons: but from these I refrain because I haven’t got the former and you wouldn’t listen to the lessons: ‘not partikerlerly’. It is a comfort to know that you’ll get a hearty satisfaction out of your birthday. At least I think I know it. My arithmetic must be bad, for I calculate that you’ll be twelve whereas I know that it’s thirteen. A serious age. You’ve had years’ start on me when I came to think of it: I didn’t go to a boarding school till I was thirteen. Or learn to dance till – when? I took dancing lessons when I was 25 but never danced after them. And then again when I was 35: but it must have three or four years later that I came across the diagrams and understood the matter, as then it was. These reflections are due to my going out to a dance on Monday. Whenever I’m at a dance I feel that I ought to take more lessons, in the latest doings, and get my money’s worth: but it never comes off. This week I’ve not done so many of the morning walks. It is such a nuisance having to decide the night before so as to tell my guard – the policeman who follows me everywhere with a revolver. Funny to see him stumping after me round Birch Hill – and annoying to have it done. I shall tell you a thing. A revolver is a pestilent nuisance to have to carry around the whole time: and I’m sorry for the Wild West heroes who carried two in the books: with cartridges too.

It is a pity I’ve not walked in the morning. For it has been fine. Except one morning – Friday – when I did walk, down to the revolver range, and it came on raining so that I was soaked. We start off for our trip on Sunday. Do I look forward to climbing over an 18000 foot pass? I do not. In fact it seems to me stupid to go up 18000 feet when we could go round the other way. But consider the views of the high hills from up there. Ha! I shall be thrilled.

Much love, my poppet.