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 "This is that state of man" (part 4)

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Tim of Aclea

Posts : 366
Join date : 2011-12-31

Post"This is that state of man" (part 4)

In 1961 Dorothy married and in 1962 gave birth to a son Mark Robert, the first of seven grandchildren for Vera and myself.  From 1965-77 I worked at Surrey County Hall, Kingston dealing with Further Education Department in Degrees etc. also with Short Courses for Teachers – mainly three day courses also statistics.  Rosemarie set off on a series of travels in the 1960s; in 1967 she set off to visit the Middle East travelling overland; I was pooh-poohed when I warned about the possibility of trouble their but turned out to be right when war broke out.  In 1969 Timothy became the first of the Whittles to go to University and in 1971 Rosemarie moved to the United States.  In 1972 Vera died of heart muscle failure brought about in part as a result of childhood illnesses. 
I retired in 1977 the same year as Timothy married.  As I was now on my own in the house I moved to a flat in Redhill.  I spent my retirement travelling around the world visiting 51 countries including every country in Europe except Albania, which was at the time a very difficult country to visit at the time.  In 1978 I went around the world in 30 days!  The country that I liked in the world best was Spain.  I am not quite sure why but I remember the Spanish Civil War in 1936-39.  I have gone to Spain about six times travelling all around the country. 
One of my trips was to Moscow and Leningrad (12-19th July, 1974).  What can I say about it!   I remember a lady of say 55 years with a white apron and a white maid’s hat brushing the pavement and the gutter of a street quite near the Red Square at 9.30 p.m. on Saturday, with an apparent good approach to her job.  She cleaned this part of the pavement like most women clean their homes with care to all, including the corners.  Then the cleaner put the dirt into a small dustpan with a small brush.  I felt that the lady does the street, possibly, once a day, not once a week or once a month, as it happens, I regret, in parts of England.  Both in Moscow and Leningrad I felt that both cities were clean and safe.  When I wandered around Leningrad alone I felt very safe even at 10.30 p.m.  In the daytime the temperature was in the 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Our hotels were excellent and the food was very good.
The Moscow Underground was wonderful, especially the seventeen circle stations with a train every other minute on alternative ways.  Each station was different and each seemed to be more like a new cathedral such as Guildford Cathedral.  The trains were in deep blue and spotless; the staff had blue uniforms and everyone was clean and without advertisements or signs of vandalism.  My colleague who also came on our trip wondered how many years of “care” any louts would get if they tried to damage the “Socialist Soviet State property”.  We thought of the football louts of our country!  One Soviet woman used the words “anti Soviet Acts” to any loutish behaviour.
Although the two cities have zebra crossings i.e. black and white stopping places for pedestrians, I found that the drivers do not seem to take much notice.  The art seemed to be to wait with a crowd of people to find out if the drivers will stop or not.  If the drivers will not stop, then the art was to get across the road as quickly as possible.  The best places for crossing where they had central lights, red, amber and green.  We did not see so much traffic as in the West, but this will come. We found a lot of trams and trolleybuses and we noted the trolleybuses with two or three buses joined together.  These trams and trolleybuses seemed to be full with people packed like sardines, more so than in London.  I saw lots of women and quite young girls driving them.  We also noticed quite a lot of women gardening in the parks and such places.  A few “small parks”, I felt came not only form the former rich, but also the comfortable, middle classes of other days.
Most of the churches etc. were looked after, as far as I could see, but they seemed to be closed.  New flats seemed to be built and roads were being either improved or built, with women working on the roads, mainly on the landscape.
I noted both in Moscow and Leningrad the great number of people who seemed to be local and were chatting in or near their homes or having a walk or sitting in the parks.  My colleague and I went into some shops like Harrods or Selfridges and noted the high cost of living, such as jam, pickles, cake, biscuits, etc. all very costly.  As for clothes we noted the poor quality and if I had any of their clothes I would not have been keen to put them into the jumble sale, but I do not say this with any malice, I feel kindly disposed to the regime.
In the evenings and at the weekends, people do not keep themselves to themselves, but seem to be seen by the neighbours and friends.  Possibly like, I suppose, the village life of the past in England.  I liked to Russian people who I knew dealt with in my trip.  I felt that the people seemed to be either happy or tired.  In each of our hotels there seemed to be plenty of domestic staff.  In Moscow our hotel the Metropol Hotel was quite near the Kremlin.  Outside the hotel was a plaque stating in Russian that this place where the members who were starting the new USSR States stopped in 1918.  My bedroom was facing the lights and park of the Kremlin.
The airport building of Moscow was very poor, the time to get through the official rigmarole was painful and slow.  My colleagues and I found a taxi already for us for part of the trip and we saw improved lights and flats on the way to Moscow.  In Moscow I found the most beautiful buildings were those of the pre-revolutionary period.  I did not like the “Stalin” marriage-cake type of architecture that I saw.  On our coach tour around Moscow and the University on Saturday afternoon, we saw many marriage parties with friends on a bridge over the city of Moscow with taxis and photographers, getting their photographs on the bridge overlooking the city, all with best clothes, white dresses for the brides very similar to our Country.
On Monday morning we left our hotel to by taxis to the airport, and in due course we left Moscow at 11:00am and got to Leningrad Airport at 12:05pm.  The airport and buildings at Leningrad were very modern.  We were met by a taxi and got to the Europe Hotel.  Leningrad is a beautiful city started by the Czar Peter the Great.  We went on a trip around the city and visited the Winder Palace and two other Palaces outside the City in the part of the area taken over by the Germans in the war.  Then two palaces had been seriously damaged by the Germans and the USSR authorities have spent and are still spending millions of roubles on the repair and restoration of them.  I noted that lawnmowers do not seem to be used yet in the USSR.  The sickle and scythe are often used by women for lawns instead of motor or electric lawnmowers.  The only daily paper in English was the ‘Morning Star’ about 4 to 5 days late.  In each hotel we were able to see the television.  We met a few persons who came by car or by coach from Finland and from Poland and they spoke well of the local AA service.  In each hotel I found the service very good, especially the Europe Hotel, Leningrad.  My rooms there seemed more like a flat.  On the day before we left the USSR I found a form to fill in for any suggestions, complaints or comments on the hotel’s service and tour.  In the shops in the hotel the staff insisted on either English, USA dollars or travel cheques, but not their currency for payment or gifts.
At 8:30 a.m. on Friday we left Leningrad for the Airport.  After hanging around and queuing for payment of the Airport Tax and the usual rigmarole, we were allowed to go into the aeroplane – a Russian machine and go to Copenhagen where we spent one hour and were able to buy English daily newspapers and to read what was happening in the rest of the world.  We then went on to Heathrow Airport.  Altogether I found it an interesting trip.  I went again to the USSR in 1976; even if I could go now I would not want to go there – not safe!
Another holiday I went on in 1974 was to Tunisia to visit the site of the Battle of Enfidaville and see the war graves.  On Friday 22nd February we caught the plane, a BAC 1-11 to and landed at Tunis airport at 11:50 a,m.  Coaches were there to drive us and our luggage to Hammamet (Hotel Fourati) a big hotel near the beach.  After lunch I enquired as to the best method of getting to Enfidaville, a place 30 miles away.  I rented a car for £9 and a driver for £3 who spoke French, English and Arabic and a guide who spoke French, English and Arabic for £2 and we left Hammamet at 2:00 p.m. with two simple cameras.  The road was quite good with signs of improvement on a few of the miles.  We noted the few donkeys, camels, beggars and a few cars. I saw a local bus, very filthy with natives and a goat or two all crowded inside.  We got to Enfidaville, a village of 5000 people and with the war cemetery.
The cemetery was either the spot where Battalion HW stopped in April 1943 or quite near.  It is west of the village and adjacent to the civil cemetery.  The gardener, an Arab, came to speak to me in Arabic, together with two books – a list of the persons buried in the cemetery alphabetically A-J and K-Z together with next of kin, a plan of the graveyard and a short account of the actions and battles that took place in Tunisia in the Second World War.  The gardener appeared to be genuinely concerned with the care of the dead.  I discussed with him, via the guide, some of the people I knew and who died in the action of Enfidaville.  The atmosphere seemed to be like an English lawn, cut short and level with shrubs and plants near the gravestones.  A cross was in the centre of the graveyard, two pleasant buildings set in each corner of the cemetery away from the gate to give balance to the plate.  Inside there are seats for those who may want to rest from the sun or from the rain and perhaps a prayer.  As far as I could see the Queens Royal Regiment graves are in plot 1V(K) on the right of the gate and quite near the gardeners shed.  Captain Basil Bateman was killed by an 88mm shell on 11th May 1943.  His grave number is 21, Row R, Plot IV.  I photographed as far as I was able to but the weather was very rough and windy with the possibility of rain.  In the record books I noted 1132 known graves and 69 unknown graves here.  I was pleased to note a good wall was built round the cemetery.  Outside the cemetery there was plenty of space for cars or coaches in a lane with young trees planted.  No natives worried me and the atmosphere both in and outside the cemetery was peaceful and thoughtful and it was all that I could want.  When I left I gave the gardener a tip and photographed him at the gate.  The gardener gave me the books he keeps for visitors to sign their name and address.  I noted that quite a few people visit the cemetery and write comments of satisfaction on the state of the cemetery.
After about two and a half hours in the cemetery and area I went to Takrouna, the high point held by the Germans.  Towards the top of the hill there is proper road and a wall where I suppose visitors can view the plain of Enfidaville and adjacent area and the area where the fighting took place.  At the top near the wall is a mall shop with telephone and post box where I brought three cards of the place Takrouna.  I was pleased to have my guide with me.  I gave some money around and noted the harsh life for those who live at the top of the place with their goats, chickens, turkeys etc. living in their hovels.

We then went back to the civil cemetery where nearby in Easter 1943, A Company spent almost two nights and days.  At that time I remembered taking a ‘return’ from A company to Battalion Headquarters and went through and I thought of it as a pleasant graveyard.  I opened the gate last Saturday and saw an Arab with donkey, a few chickens, turkey, goats all eating the grass.  A few Arab children were playing around the graves.  I noted that the graves are that of local French people who were obviously local to Enfidaville when Tunisia was part of the French empire.  We drove around the place and I noted that it is quite a pleasant spot with well built homes; the sort of home where business and official people would live.  I noted a few combine machines and I gather that it is a centre of government Agricultural Institute to improve the lot of the people.  I have read guides of Tunisia in which it has been spoken of as a village, a town and a city.  In my opinion it is a village with the potential of becoming a town.  We went back to Hammamet by 7:30pm.  I found this experience extremely moving.
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"This is that state of man" (part 4) :: Comments

Re: "This is that state of man" (part 4)
Post on Sun 27 Sep 2015, 12:17 by Tim of Aclea
I continued going on holidays both abroad and in this country in the 1980s but in the later 1990s I became less well and stopped going though my family still took me on days out, particularly to the places of my childhood.  I also continued to go to regimental and Ruskin college reunions.  My daughter in law Heather, Timothy’s wife, did more for me as the years progressed and was always very happy to listen to my tales of the past.  I wrote to lady Ashcombe, the current owner of Sudeley castle sending her my memories of working their in the 1930s.  I was very pleased to receive this reply from her:
Sudeley Castle
October 26th, 1993
Dear Mr Whittle,
I was delighted to receive and read your wonderful note and reminiscences of Sudeley in the 1930’s.  I have for some time been wanting to collect and compile more information about the life and history of the castle after ‘Emma Dent’, where our records seem to thin out.  To hear from you at this very moment is quite an extraordinary coincidence.  I would very much like, with your agreement, to use your account as a basis for illustrating those times for the interest of our visitors to the castle and to help compile our own records.  Also I would welcome the opportunity to meet you at Sudeley and wonder if you might be able to come here one day in the near future.  If you haven’t visited Sudeley since 1967, I’m sure you would find it interesting to see the many changes that have taken place in order to make the house possible for living in the 1990’s.
I came to Sudeley as Mark DB’s ‘American’ bride in 1962.  Mr Pierce, the chauffeur was just still here, and is my only link with the personalities that you describe in your letter.  I heard many stories about Janet and Miss Lincoln from my late mother-in-law, but none that bring alive the real flavour and atmosphere of those times as your writing does.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you letting me have this valuable, first hand insight and I would very much hope to have the opportunity of meeting you and hear more of that bygone era which people now find so fascinating.  I know my son Henry and daughter Mollie would also be interested to hear about those days.
I hope to hear from you again – and with much gratitude and best wishes.
Elizabeth Ashcombe.
P.S. I am enclosing our guide book for your interest
Part of my writings were included in the Sudeley Castle guidebook and Lady Ashcombe continued to a correspondence with me over the years. 
In 1999 I went with Timothy to what was to be my last regimental reunion.  The 2nd/6th Queens Royal Regiment had been formed in 1939 and disbanded in 1946.  As a result there were no younger people to continue with the reunion, numbers were declining and the reunion of different regiments were having to be amalgamated.  There was no one left who I knew well.  Similarly I went with Dorothy, my nephew Simon Davey and his wife Sharon to my last Ruskin College reunion.  There was no one left from my year there although there was one person older and I.  There were still two of my year alive with whom I corresponded but neither of them were able to attend.
In 2002 Timothy, Rosemarie and Heather took me to visit Cliveden which is now owned by the National Trust.  The house is now a very expensive hotel and not normally open to the public but Rosemarie spoke to the staff and I was allowed to look around.  It was very moving to see the beautiful rooms again for the first time for sixty years.  After visiting the house I spoke to some of the National trust staff about my time at Cliveden and sent them my writings about working for Nancy Astor.  As a result of that a team from the National Trust came to my flat to film my recollections of life at Cliveden and these reminiscences, together with those of three other former servants, were included in a video that the National Trust produced on the history of Cliveden.
In 2003 my grandson Adrian Whittle became the first of the Whittles to gain a master’s degree and so in a little over 100 years the education of the Whittles had changed from my grandfather who was illiterate to my grandson who has an MEng.  The same year Annie Davey, my first great grand child was born to be followed in 2004 by Niahm Davey.
I am 88 years of age.  I have done what I could to do something for the society in which I have lived.  I think that Hitler was a terrible man to help to destroy so many innocent lives.
Re: "This is that state of man" (part 4)
Post on Sun 27 Sep 2015, 19:29 by PaulRyckier
Tim, thank you for continuing this too.

Kind regards, Paul.
Re: "This is that state of man" (part 4)
Post on Fri 02 Oct 2015, 07:55 by Tim of Aclea
Thank you Paul but that in fact was the last part of my father’s life.  There is just a postscript that I added, most of which is concerning his grandchildren and so not relevant to this site.  Below is the bit that is.
John Whittle died on 15th March 2005.  He was still able to look after himself up until just before he died.  All of his [seven] grandchildren attended his funeral and this picture [not attached] was taken of them shortly after the funeral.  John Whittle was proud of all his grandchildren and what they had achieved and glad that they had the opportunities in the early part of their lives that he did not.’ 


Re: "This is that state of man" (part 4)
Post on Fri 02 Oct 2015, 19:50 by PaulRyckier
Thank you so much for your latest message Tim.

Kind regards from your friend Paul.

"This is that state of man" (part 4)

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