Letter written by Brenda Cummins (née Bennett), mother of Celia Cummins of Grove House - but not sent.
An interesting insight to a young ladies' life in wartime
BURTON BRADSTOCK, near Bridport, DORSET.
Tel.: Burton Bradstock 61
January 22nd. 1942
(This concerns period from June 1940)
My darling Huddle,
Your lovely Christmas card made me hide my head in shame and even more so when
I found your last letter in my case dated 3rd. July 1940. Aren't I awful? Thank
you very, very much for both and try and forgive me when you have heard what
I have been up to!
To start the tale at the beginning on June 30th. 1940 I went out to supper with Major and Mrs. Wrattislaw who you may remember live in the village. It was a month after Dunkirk and our first defenders had just arrived and the supper was being given to entertain the officers. When I arrived there, breathless and panting having been out to tennis, dashed home and had a bath and changed, living up to my reputation for unpunctuality, there were two officers sitting on the sofa and I thought to myself" not very thrilling" and then whilst we were talking and drinking sherry I looked up and saw coming through the gate another one who definitely was very thrilling That started it and after that evening we met practically every day. It was a perfectly wonderful summer, day after day of sunshine and we went for picnics, bathing parties, walks, cinemas, drinks and dances up at the road-house. As you have no doubt guessed by now your Huddle was what is known as courting. We couldn't have had a happier and lovelier time as he was living first at the Anchor, the village pub and then up on the cliff at the guest house which had been taken over by the Army. He was terribly busy making trenches and all the defences but in all his spare time we were together and a wonderful time we had.
Then at the end of August, 25th. actually, he rang me up and just before midnight asked me to marry him and a very small, thrilled voice said yes. We spent the next fortnight phoning his family and talking it over and then announced it on September 7th. By then he had been moved to Abbotsbury, you remember where the Swannery is, and so we couldn't see each other quite so often, but the phone, thank goodness was still there. He came here for the weekend of September 7th. and we went to a wedding in the afternoon and then in the evening started off to have a celebration at the road-house and no sooner had started a drink when the phone went and it was recalling all the military at once. Even though he was on 48 hours leave he had to go so he took me home, and I thought at last the end of the world had come! At 3am the church bells started to ring, you know that is the invasion warning all over the country, and my heart nearly died, however it was only a scare. I went and woke Mummy up. much to her indignation, and she came downstairs wearing her fur coat and clutching her jewel box and then she looked blank and said what do we do now. The gardener, Fletcher, if you remember him, a very dark man, very nice, was sleeping in the house as we knew we would be out late and with no servants as usual, didn't want to have Mummy all alone, he is rather deaf and never heard the bells so I went and banged on the door to wake him up and off he rushed, very thrilled as he is a strong supporter of the Fire Brigade run by Major Wrattislaw. I rang up Ronnie. that is his name and he said he had heard nothing and no Germans were landing and that he was sure it was a mistake the bells ringing and the best thing was to go back to bed and forget it, You can imagine what the village sounded like, every door opened and the occupants poured out into the streets asking questions, it sounded like an August Bank holiday railway station. Then Fletcher came back, went up to Mummy and said, patting her shoulder, 'Now don't you worry Mum, it's not a fire it's only an invasion"!!! That has become a family joke now. Old Mrs. Brown took Mummy's view that it was a bore being got out of bed in the middle of the night, but as she was up she might as well scrub her kitchen floor which she hadn't had time to do during the day and so she proceeded quite placidly to do it! Ronnie turned up at 7am and whistled under my window and I tore down and opened the front door, feeling incredibly relieved and also wondering if my face with nothing on would put him off! Thank goodness it didn't. One always does feel that doesn't one, powder etc. are marvellous moral supports.
Anyway we decided after that the sooner we were married the better and he had just heard he was being moved at the end of September to Cattistock and it meant we would hardly ever see each other with the small amount of petrol we were allowed for the car. So we approached Mummy who was perfectly sweet about it and said of course we could get married so we fixed it for October 12th and then started whirlwind preparations. How we ever did it I don't know. We went to Bournemouth for three days and bought my trousseau, ordered coats and skirts from the tailor in Dorchester and then came back, no servants still of course, and coped with the house, writing innumerable letters and getting out the plans for the wedding and going to the dressmaker and, of course, every moment Ronnie was free I was with him.
I must tell you about Cobber (you will approve the name) I gave him to Ronnie
as a tiny wee Cairn, ginger puppy aged five weeks when we were engaged, he is
very like Candy and was too adorable. He was in the state of having to be carried
everywhere and making puddles all over the place and Ronnie used to walk about
with him buttoned up in his battledress with just his head poking out. You never
saw anything so sweet.
January 23rd. No time to finish last night. It will take me pages to tell you all I want to so this letter will probably be spread over days.
Ronnie and I used to meet on the top of Abbotsbury very often. Those were the days of the Battle of Britain and he was only allowed a few miles along his front as the beaches were manned continuously. It was a terrific thrill there as sitting there on the top of those hills you would hear far away the drone of the Germans coming over the sea and then from behind us the familiar sound that always raised a cheer, the Spitfires and Hurricanes gallantly coming beetling out of the sky. It really made you want to cry with pride, all those b . . . German bombers and fighters in hundreds and a handful of intrepid men breaking up their formations, wheeling about in the sky seeming to be here, there and everywhere at the same time and bringing those Huns crashing down, one after the other and then nearly all the rest would turn round as quickly as they could and make for France flat out, but still the Spitfires chased them and only gave up when their petrol and ammunition was finished. I can't describe the sight of those few planes overcoming and whacking soundly all those Luftwaffe. We used to stand and cheer loudly, as they were so low, sometimes beneath us near the sea and sometimes above. It was between Abbotsbury and Portland that 400 Germans came over one Sunday, you never heard anything like it. When the Huns were running home, our planes would fly low along the beach dipping their wings and all the Troops would cheer themselves hoarse and the pilots would do thumbs up.
We had several of our planes down round here because they would go on fighting till their gas ran out and down they had to come wherever they could. We used to go and gaze proudly at them. A good many Huns' graves are in the West Bay. I can't describe it and do any justice to it. It was an epic of epics that Battle of Britain. The RAF licked the Luftwaffe again and again, it was daring and incredible courage against overwhelming odds. We were so thrilled and didn't mind the thought that any of us might be dive-bombed or machine-gunned. I don't think it ever occurred to us. We had some bombs dropped in isolated fields, one woke up to hear the whistle getting nearer and nearer and then boom and everything shook. I took the view well it's dropped and it hasn't dropped on me and went to sleep again!
Things became more and more hectic as the 12th. got nearer and finally we achieved
everything. We had a perfect wedding, quite quiet, at least we meant it to have
about forty people, but it ended up nearer a hundred. There had been awful gales
the fortnight before and so we made all provision for a wet day but were blessed
with the most heavenly day and lovely sun and were able to have the reception
in the garden. Ronnie's parents and sister had come down from his home, Bishop
Auckland in County Durham. His sister Ruth had been to stay during her leave
before we were engaged. She is an officer in the ATS and has just got a frightfully
good job at the War Office. She is perfectly sweet and very attractive and they
are all a most devoted family. The name is Cummins by the way ! Ronnie and Ruth
are the only children and the parents are terribly nice. I met them for the
first time the day before we were married when they arrived down here and they
all stayed at the Bridport Arms and we had a family dinner party there on 11th..
I haven't described my Ronnie to you, he is taller than me and very slim. Frightfully smart and well-groomed and is incredibly good looking, he has black hair my colour and much the same eyes as me and rather a gingery moustache - we always tease him about having a ginger moustache and black hair - and altogether my most wonderful dreams come true. I was so busy telling you about our wedding I forgot I hadn't described him? He is the sweetest person as well and we got on marvellously right from the day we met as we have the same interests and views on things.
The letter stops here and we do not know who Huddle was.