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Hetty Munros War Diaries by Elizabeth Rintoul

20th January 2013

First published in the Caithness Field Club Bulletin 2011 Vol 7 No7.

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), Vol 7 No 5 (2009) and Vol 7 No 6 (2010).

Following her first posting to South Eastern Command at Reigate working with the Director General Staff, Hetty is now awaiting news of her next posting.

March 1943
One heavenly 48 hours at 44; then another one after "Jantzen" - then Bang! my posting order arrives on the Saturday. I phone for details and ask for leave until Monday - leave granted and I'm to go to the M.G.A. in Edinburgh on Wednesday. How I would have welcomed this move last year! And now - well, I couldn't be more depressed. However, its better than N or W Commands - and old P may go abroad after this course. My last "lovely weekend" ended with a pub crawl and violets on a heavenly spring evening - Berkeley, Park Lane, Ritz, Landsdowne and ending in Shepherd's. Some day I'm going to live in Shepherds Market - some day. Next day a last drink at the Red Cow and then back to Reigate to pack up. Its awfully difficult to try and be enthusiastic about going back to Scotland when I'm really not but can't say so.
London on Wednesday, dinner with John A, last glimpse of London spring evening, dusky twilight, the Strand, red buses and masses of flowers - and the North train and a very dull journey.

Its quite a terrifying business being posted to a new place as Ive done it so seldom and of course I got lost and was tired and miserable and dreary before I was sent to Lynedoch Place Y.W.C.A. hostel! Actually it's all right but I change quickly and go to the office. Thats very terrifying cos just as I arrive at 10.28, Im swept into a conference at 10.30. After Ive got my breath back I take stock: M.G.A. - Major General A.T.Miller C.B., M.C. - very tall, grey haired, handsome and friendly -I believe he knows how to use a stooge and think I'll quite like him. At this immediate moment I don't think I'll like anyone ever again at all - but I expect I'll recover.
After a few days my predecessor departs and I'm left all alone to "cope" with A and Q - wish I'd listened to more of those lectures and not slept or thought of other things. Still my great belief is that if you're up on this level, it doesn't much matter which branch one is in - one is just a general stooge.

It's fun being back in Edinburgh again and I contact the cousins, the Simpsons, Daisie and Wardie and one or two odd bodies. The mess is pleasant but rather dull - a huge house where the 27 men stay and a "stables" where four of us A.T.S. live.

Nan Herdman who is Officer in Command of "C" Platoon and is most delightful, Elizabeth Bickett who is messing and charming and Marie Grutter who is Education and apart from being charming is one of the cleverest people I've ever met - it's really fun knowing her. The men don't stand out much but there are one or two who are quite nice and amusing.
The social life is nil and I find it dull even in comparison to Reigate.
We have two offices and I spend a lot of time in the car as they are six miles apart -I also go touring lots which is a great change - and a very welcome one.

May 1943
My leave in May stays as previously arranged and Paddy and I go home for it, but he gets called back after three days and I'm left alone - don't enjoy it as much as usual.
It's quite fun touring around Command and Edinburgh in the reflected glory of M.G.A. but as usual there isn't enough work to do and no one will do anything about it.
Leave was heaven for a very short time as P. was recalled on the Wednesday and that made it rather sad for me. Weather good, but I feel rather flat for the rest of the time.

September 1943
Summer has gone again - I have enjoyed my stay in Scotland and managed to see P. about once every six weeks for 24 or 48 hours but he's gone south again now. Mother here for three weeks in August with the Aunt and Alastair - good fun but I didn't have much time off and the weather could have been better.

30 September 1943
Just returned from a wonderful leave in Town with P. - quite the highlight of my life so far. We did the City, the Serpentine, theatres, pubs, danced and just drooled around - lovely. Feel very lost and lonely now. But it is fun being in Edinburgh in a way. People one knows are always turning up here and M.G.A. is great fun to be with. The A and Q chaps are all right too but Ops. and Int. are always more alive and I can't think I'll ever love this side as much as "G" - maybe I'll change. "A" certainly has something to say for it because of the varied human interest.

October 1943
Bed with lumbago and missed Daisie's wedding which was sad. The place swarms with weddings. Ian and Margaret get tied up in December, Betty Mac and Pearl in the spring so my bank balance is getting very low.

December 1943
It's fun being a "filly in the stable" - there are five A.T.S. living in "C" mess and we live in what must have been the coachman's house but what is commonly called the "Stables" - consequently we automatically become the "fillies", our rooms "stalls" and the sitting room "the loose box". Nan Herdman, who looks after the platoon and is mess secretary, takes care of us all very well, Marie Grutter, A.T.S. Education, who is one of the most intelligent women I've ever known keeps us all bright and cheerful when she's not on tour. Elizabeth Bickett who does messing and is very delightful. Jane Maxwell who is very amusing and breezy, sharing my room, full of wit and wisdom about her M.E. branch which she hates, she'll probably go soon, Betty Smail, fair and lovely who does S.C.A. and who is very clever but doesn't have any particular ambitions.
We're all very happy and life goes on apace - there are parties and dances and I live out every weekend at Braid Mount with the cousins which makes life very pleasant.

11 December 1943
Ian and Margaret got married and Mamma and Alastair and the Aunt came down. We had grand fun and it was a lovely wedding. Unfortunately Mamma sprained her ankle and they all took flu so they didn't have much of a holiday. I took them north on Christmas Eve and we spent that night in the Station Hotel, Inverness - very dreary, then home the next day. Christmas dinner - two spam sandwiches at Dingwall! Anyway it wasn't too bad and I was glad to get the family home in good order. Mamma took to bed again so my leave was a continued round of housework. I cooked and cleaned geese and hens all the time and washed dishes and carted coal. But I took it all in a spirit of levity which is the only way to clean geese! - or ducks!

2 January 1944
Back to work, very tired. January passed with some parties, pictures, lectures -"Women at Westminster" and "Post War Planning" - visits from Richard, meeting Mary Devlin and being very" impressed. Got a poisoned finger which gave lots of trouble before it finally healed up.

About the end of the month the fillies gave a party in the loose box - some have gone and we now have Winifred Gregory to replace Bickett - she wears a tartan skirt and is amusing; - we have two connections because Ian's Margaret worked with her sister as a masseuse and Winifred went to Esdaile and knows the Beggs, Gilfillians and Olive. Olivia Brewis came to replace Jane - who went to London - as S.C.S. and T. She was fat and amusing with a typical regular army mind - she didn't think much of being with the odds and bods in Services and said so. An intelligent kid but not quite in her niche. It was a good party and the men were quite impressed with the "ladies out of uniform".


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