Friday, 11 March 2016

A Very British Romance, part 2: Still fishing

On Valentine’s Day, we posted the first in volunteer Margaret Eason’s series of posts titled ‘A Very British Romance’ about Angus Leybourne and Connie Kirkup. This week, we catch up with Connie in March 1916, writing to Angus who is currently a prisoner of war in G├╝tersloh, Germany. 
National Projectile Factory, Birtley, June 1916, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums ref. 1027/271
National Projectile Factory, Birtley, June 1916, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums ref. 1027/271
On 13 March 1916, Connie writes to ‘My dear Angus’ whilst she is on duty in the hospital hut at the Birtley munitions works. She tells him that the new girl, Miss Agar - 'a bouncy girl' that she mentioned to him in her last letter - is chattering away in the background while she writes. Connie tries a spot of fishing again, 'I can just imagine how you and Phil would have made excuses to come down to tea at the Hut this week if you had been at home'. And if the 'bouncy Miss Agar' is not attraction enough, Connie goes on to tempt him by waving a girdle cake under his nose:
'we have had a girdle cake for tea, made on the oven shelf put over the top of the fire, rolled out with the Roller Towel roller. Improvisation!! I am a marvel at it.'

Mrs Leybourne, Angus’ mother, came out the other day to see them, Connie's mother brought her down to the Hut, but he may already know about it as it was a fortnight ago. '[Mrs Leybourne] was very great on the house at Alston that she has taken.' and Connie is going to spend a weekend with her there when she is settled in. 'It will be something to look forward to, glad it is a place where clothes, I mean smart ones, are unnecessary because I'm saving up until after the War.'

Now Angus is imagining his Mother and Connie having tea, let's draw the parlour curtains on that scene; he's got it in his head now. A spot of coarse fishing has its attractions.
Prisoners of war in Germany, Angus Leybourne is seated second from the right, 1915/16  (D/DLI 2/8/12(39))
D/DLI 2/8/12(39) Prisoners of war in Germany, Angus Leybourne is seated second from the right, 1915/16 
The letter goes on to tell that a returned prisoner of war has called to see them, Ainsly, 'Do you remember him? The only thing wrong with him is that one leg is 3 inches shorter than the other. I can't think why he has been sent back.'

Other bits of news she tells Angus are that:
'The 8th have been having a hot time again, but are out of it now, Phil is alright and the others that you know, I believe they had 50 casualties.
'Lieutenant Edgar of the 9th DLI has been killed. He was a barrister in Newcastle and a brilliant young fellow.'

Despite Connie thinking there doesn't seem to be any news, she goes on to say that, 'Ernest's [Connie’s older brother] battalion has been ordered to the South Coast, but not gone yet. And Eric is digging trenches on the Fell, and is going to try to get left behind, I wish he could, it wouldn't be so lonely for Elsie if he could stay at home. It is hard lines on the married men and women.'

Before signing off and wishing Angus 'Best of Good Luck' and hoping he and the others keep fit, Connie just happens to mention Captain Grey, an officer she mentioned in her last letter. In that letter of 20 February, she says she thought the Captain was coming into the hut because of the pretty nurses, and then asked her for advice about leg cramp. He is stationed nearby and looking in occasionally.  He caught her up quick the other day when she said she had been rubbing her parents for rheumatism. ‘He said, 'I thought you said you couldn't massage.' I told him I didn't believe he ever had had cramp in his leg, and he went out chuckling. Now goodnight I'm going off home, it is 6:00pm'.

Now what was Angus to make of that amusing little ditty? 

Connie has discarded the rod for a net.

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