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Hetty Munro's War Diaries by Elizabeth Rintoul - July 1942 - February 1943

17th March 2019

First published in the Caithness Field Club Bulletin 2010 Vol 7 No 6.

The following extracts from the War Diary of the late Henrietta Munro of Thurso come from the North Highland Archive and are published with their permission. Earlier extracts were published in previous Field Club Bulletins - Vol 6 No 8 (2004), Vol 7 No 1 (2005), Vol 7 No 2 (2006), Vol 7 No 3 (2007), Vol 7 No 4 (2008), and Vol 7 No 5 (2009).
Following further training at Brockenhurst Hetty has gained her commission with the best results in her group. She is to be sent to South Eastern Command, to The D.G.S. [Director General Staff] but she has yet to learn the destination of her first posting.

10 July 1942
I report to Camp's Office very scared and nervous and he sends a Sub. who is messing officer to take charge of me and see me safely to the mess. She looks very charming but A.T. officers always terrify me so I say very little. The mess "Nahor Rani" is lovely and the crowd seem very nice but I'm only here for three days - Margot Lauder is especially charming and Peggy Metcalfe. I would like to stay but I have to move in a few days to "Ormingdale" the Staff mess. The following day Peggy takes me along and introduces me to everyone including my new Chief. He's very charming and delightful but is obviously scared of me and not quite sure what to do with me. I've to work in an adjoining room with my Sergeant Parsons - I don't think it's a very good idea as I shan't know who's in or out of his room but I feel I'd better not say anything yet. We have a long talk about what I'm going to do and then I return to my little room. It's a pity Parsons is here because she's been here for ages and has done all the work before that I'm to do now but it will have to do.
The Operations boys are a blur of faces but seem quite friendly. Things are very quiet for the first few days and of course I'm very nervous and make a very bad impression in the Operations room I'm sure, as my inferiority complex takes the form of going all cock-a-hoop. Pity ‘cos they might be fun to play with.

14 July 1942
I move to Ormingdale with the help of a taxi and Elisabeth Bogen. I have to share a room with two W.A.A.F. [Women's Auxiliary Airforce] - Jean McMichael and Brenda Rowden. They are charming and Jean and I, as the only representatives of Scotland become quite friendly. There is a lovely blonde called Joan Cranfield who is P.R.O. [Public Relations Office] and she and Daphne Belcher - the Messing Officer who took charge of me when I arrived, become very friendly. It is not too bad but don't really enjoy the eternal feminine atmosphere and the social life is NIL - it's a great change from Orkney in that respect.
The work is all right but there's not nearly enough of it.

August 1942
I get moved to work in his room and things improve a lot. Naturally I get more to do and hear about everything that's going on. I'm still not being a Staff Secretary but I'm being a sort of high class stooge and learning a lot about things from the Command level. Also it's a help to know how a normal Army H.Q. is run and not to have the Royal Navy angle - but I do miss it. I miss lots of things and frequently wish I was back at O.S.D.E.F. (Orkney and Shetland Defences) as a Corporal but perhaps it wouldn't be the same now and I certainly was getting stale.

I spend several weekends in Town and get to know it quite well. Luckily Patrick has come down and we have lots of fun together - it's fun having someone to "rubberneck" with and we do all the best hotels - on beer - and some theatres. Our weekends are like the ones Patrick's people had in the last war - he tells me - very hectic, very expensive and very short.

September 1942
I go on leave and fly up to Orkney where I have a wonderful time - beginning with lunch with Mamma and Alistair in Frankie's Cabin - lobster etc and it goes on in that strain all the time. Tankerness throws a party for me. Captain throws a dinner party and dance and Bill throws a dinner party and pictures - I go to an Army dance on the Monday and that's all. I spend a very gay time one whole day in Stromness calling on everyone. That's fun, but most of them have gone.
The flight down is horrid and I'm very sick - only go to Inverness and then train to Edinburgh. After one night there, I arrive in London and later in Reigate in rather a battered condition. Joan and Daphne meet me and convey me back to Ormingdale.
Coming back to the office isn't at all like coming back to O.S.D.E.F, - there's no feeling of having been missed or of wondering what's been happening but just a normal coming back as if one had been away for a day.

November 1942
Things jog along the same old way - an odd dance here and there and one or two parties but it’s a dull place. I’ve been to see Colonel Killick once or twice to try and hear what’s to happen to us as something must be done, but altho’ he’s very charming and sweet, he doesn’t know anything and can’t be helpful. The B.G.S. [Brigade General Secretary] is quite willing to be helpful but can’t do anything as no one wants to touch us until the Army Council have sat and debated as to our future.

Christmas 1942
I’m very lucky and get home for both Christmas and New Year. It’s very different from my last leave and very quiet and peaceful and I spend the time just seeing people and taking the dog out. It is fun though. One party at Pennyland on Hogmanay which is amusing but rather sad as it’s their last New Year there and probably my last visit. It holds so many memories - trips, tea in the summer house with Jane, dancing in the kitchen with Innes, Ian, Dick and Co. sleeping with Jane in the big canopied bed, "Sardines" in the attics, birthday parties, Chub’s birthday picnics, Carmichaels, tea on winter afternoons before the peat fire, Anne and Lily, Jane and I and Aida; house decorating and arranging, the old Humber, Miss Garrick, the sledge coming to school - thousands of lovely memories are tied up in Pennyland and this is the last one - I am getting old and sentimental, aren’t I.

2 January 1943
After a frightful journey, I get back to work and discover that still nothing has happened about my posting. Awful. Still this place might be lots worse.

18 January 1943
I went to Camberley for the weekend and had a heavenly time - stayed in the "Cambridge"’ and just blethered on Saturday night. Sunday was a heavenly day and we watched a church parade and then walked to the Ely Hotel for lunch. In the afternoon we explored the nearby village of Yateley and wandered slowly back over the heath to Camberley for tea before I caught my train back. Lovely.
For the last weekend in January went to London to meet Paddy’s Mamma - a terrifying ordeal - in anticipation only though. I arrived in London just after lunch and Paddy arrived at 3.30 so I had over an hour to fill in. I went and bought my rations and some vegetables I saw and then just dithered around Waterloo. Eventually the train arrived and we had a quick tea with John B., picked up my case and parcel of food and got on the Underground. I was so terrified I shook all the way and nearly succeeded in scaring old P! Eventually we arrived at 44 - and in two minutes I felt at Home. Mia is quite unlike what I had imagined her to be - nothing of the frail clinging mother about her - she’s "young", go ahead and perfectly charming. She welcomed me very sweetly and was so kind, I just adored her. We had a lovely weekend, I met Uncle Charlie, went to the "Club" and the "Red Cow" and went to the Players - heavenly place and all of our doings from that weekend have become the basis for future weekends. Then I spent the first of many evenings in front of "our" gas fire - heaven. Back to the office in a complete heavenly daze.

February 1943
Still at Reigate - several dinners at Westfields, parties at Ormingdale, with Ken Wheeler, John Powell, Bill Whitehead, John Goddard etc etc. Pictures sometimes - but I only live for weekends at 44 and telephone calls to Camberley 305. Life is very full now and very interesting but a trifle unsettling.
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Other Hetty Munro Diary Entries.

November 1939 - May 1940

June and August 1941

January/February 1942

February - April 1942

March/April 1942

March 1943 - January 1944

From Loose Sheets

Extracts From Memories by Hetty Munro

About Hetty Munro at Thurso Interactive

More War Time In Caithness Articles

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Earlier Caithness Field Club articles from the Bulletins 1973 to 2006 can be found at
http://www.caithness.org/caithnessfieldclub/bulletins/linkindex.htm
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