Geoffrey and Gladys Gowlland Correspondence.


Letters from 1940 to 1945 between Geoffrey Gowlland in Croydon, England (son of Egbert Gowlland, b.1872) and his Canadian cousin Gladys in Montreal, Canada (daughter of Henry Orford Gowlland, b.1870, Egbert's older brother).  Many of Geoff's letters were hand-written and therefore no copies remain; and some to and from both of them are missing.  A few letters are also enclosed from Gladys to Peggy (Geoff's wife), and between Geoff and George Gowlland, Gladys's brother living in Calgary, Canada.  For a complete index of the letters in date order, click here.


In November 2006 these letters were handed over for safe keeping to The Imperial War Museum in London: for details, click here.


Geoffrey Price Gowlland was born in Croydon, England, on 5th June 1908, the only child of Egbert and Beatrice Gowlland. He attended school in Croydon and graduated from The Royal College of Science in London in 1929, and thereafter spent his entire working life in the family business of Gowllands Limited in Croydon, manufacturers of surgical and ophthalmic instruments. He and his wife Peggy had three children, the two youngest being born during the war. He died in 1974. For Geoff's family tree, click here.

Gladys Mary Orford Gowlland was born in Buffalo, New York State, USA, on 19th June 1896, one of two children of Henry Orford and Mary Ann Gowlland. An inveterate traveller, she had crossed the Atlantic ten times before reaching the age of 9. Educated in the United States, Canada and England, she spent the 1930s working as Public Relations Office on board CPS luxury liner "Empress of Britain". Thereafter she worked as an official of Canadian Pacific Airlines, living and working in Montreal. She never married. She died in 1984 aged 87. For Gladys's family tree, click here.



For the duration of the War, Geoff lived at "Squerrys", 34 Grimwade Avenue, Croydon, Surrey, with his wife Peggy, and children Rosemary (born 20.8.37), John (born 15.10.39) and Mark (born 24.2.43).  He was the joint managing director, with his father Egbert, of Gowllands Limited, 176 Morland Road, Croydon, Surrey, a manufacturer of medical diagnostic instruments and optical components: the company being classified as undertaking essential war work, he and his father were in a reserved occupation and therefore exempted from military duties.  The family home is shown below in the final stages of building, in late 1937.  For those of you with Google Earth, you may like to know that the co-ordinates are 51 degrees 22 minutes 12.08 seconds North and 0 degrees 4 minutes and 22.74 seconds West.


"Squerrys" from the front - 1937 "Squerrys" from the back - 1937


"Squerrys" from the front - 2005



Click on the images for enlarged illustrations.



Preparations in 1938 for possible gas attacks from the air


Gladys to Geoff  - 31st January 1940


Dear Geoff


Thank you for your two very interesting letters.  A pity the first one, with photographs, went to Davy Jones’ locker.  Would have loved to have seen your family.  Perhaps some more will be available later.  Rosemary must be a dear little thing.  A shame she and small John should be subjected to such danger, but it is a good thing they are too young to know what it all means.


That was a dreadful tragedy when your friends were killed in their bomb shelter.  That “schnödzig [?] Schwein” in Berlin is going to have a lot to answer for when the war is over.  The spirit of the people and the stand they are making is wonderful: I doubt it could happen anywhere else on earth.  Your workman too who cycled to work after being blown up!  That story went the rounds and his nonchalant bravery highly praised.


We were much distressed by the loss of the Guildhall and all the other historic and lovely places, and dread the coming of spring with the suffering it is promised will follow. Honestly no one seems to talk of anything else.  We are not suffering here physically, but really the mental anguish is dreadful.  Many of us wish at times we were over there to help shoot some of the rates if they try to land.  I am keeping for a friend a wicked [?] black Colt revolver. Would like to try it out on a Germany!  Were it mine I would send it over for someone there to use.  A friend of mine in New York had a splendid collection of rifles and arms of all kinds.  He has sent them all to England.


Wish some super super [sic] method of dealing with the Hun could be discovered.  It was interesting to learn that you have contributed some improved gadgets.  You say, “Of course you know what Uncle Will has done”.  I haven’t the slightest idea of what Uncle Will has done?  What is it?  This remark of yours is on a par with that of several years ago “Of course you know the story of the Gowlland ancestor who operated on Queen Victoria’s ankle!”  I’m still waiting for details.  Must be in interesting story, for it is my impression that in Queen Victoria’s day gals didn’t have ankles!


You ask about George.  He is Western Manager for the Canadian Bronze Company, and doing very well.  His two sons, George (6) and David (3.1/2) are dears.  George is a fair-haired angelic little chap, but David is a real “tough guy”.  Have a picture of him in a pullover sweater – several times too large.  He looks ready for a rub-down prior to a bout with Joe Louis!


Wendell Wilkie seems to be making a “hit” with you people.  Her is a very real personal with both feet on the ground.  We admire him tremendously and feel that at any other time he would have made a better President than Roosevelt.  But good old Roosevelt is a campaigner who know how to get what he wants – particularly now.


But I wish to Heaven they would get some speed into Congress.  This petty bickering drives [us] all crazy.


War work here is still increasing with everyone doing his bit.  To me the progress seems painfully slow – probably because I am not aware of all the difficulties.  Like Beaverbook I’m always in a hurry to get things done.


Thanks for “Neptune”.  It was most interesting.  Do you get any Canadian or U.S. magazines?  In spite of pinching pennies so that everything possible may go into war bonds, I still take a few favourites.  Am sending the current copy of “Life”, a very pro-British U.S. magazine.  You may be interested in the special article.  Will send the next copy too.


Hope to be able shortly to send more information about your business here.  Delayed just now because Mr Gruner is in hospital with a twisted back.


Quite chilly here lately – many degrees below zero.  The record is in Alberta  -  67 below  -  Brrrrrr.


Hope you have everything you need.  Suppose many of the stories of shortages are false.  We have similar cases here.  A friend of mine came up from N.Y. in the late Fall to hunt moose way north of Lake St John, a most inaccessible spot.  He returned to N.Y. with the report that it was almost impossible to get chocolate or soap in Canada.  Another friend, much worried about the need of my taking an occasional bath and having enough to eat, sent up a crate of soap and several boxes of chocolates!  Soap has never been cheaper here!


It is nice that your mother and father are in a hotel.  Must be very lonesome at home  -  particularly during blackouts.  We have no idea what they are like.  Too bad we don’t: it might speed people up a bit.  In fact a nice big bomb would do a lot of good  -  particularly to those nitwits who think the Atlantic is enough to keep the Huns away.  I have no patience with them.


The Bomber Fund is coming along nicely.  Hope to achieve our objective soon.


Just heard on the radio about the impending crisis in Vichy.  Wish Weygand would back up De Gaulle.


Often think of the lovely place we had in Sussex.  It is right in the front line now.  Is the West Sussex Gazette still published?  It would be interesting to see a copy.


Had a long and fascinating letter from Mrs Stokes giving news of several of my cruise friends in London, as well as reports on what’s going on over there.  Was thankful that the report of the sinking of the Empress of Australia was untrue.  Made my first world [?] cruise aboard her.  All the C.P.R. [Canadian Pacific Railroad] ships have been taken off the Pacific for use elsewhere.  The offices in the Orient are still open but business is nil.  In fact practically all our steamship business is ended.


A big new oil field in Alberta – discovered by a friend of George’s, and in which we have both been financially interested – is to open up in the spring.  If all goes well we expect it to be the biggest in the world.  The Company in which we have an interest owns 160,000 acres and is contemplating joining up with another with the same acreage.  It has been a long and expensive business but hope results will justify our faith in it.  Price Carpe [?] is the place.


Must really bring this letter to a close.  If you have as much trouble reading it as I had in reading yours, we’ll be quits!  Think we should both use typewriters!


Please give my best to your wife, father and mother – and the same to yourself.


Thumbs up and may the Huns get a lot of nasty surprise if they attempt to invade dear brave England.

Bomb crater in Croydon Spring 1940


Gladys to Geoff  - 7th Jan 1941


Dear Geoff


This is just to say “Thank you” for the last two batches of Neptune and War Pictorials.  The photography is really “something”.  Thank you too for your letter acknowledging copies of “Life”.  Yes, the pictures of good things to eat are very real, and make me hungry at times.  However, there will not be much of a surplus now the US is in the war, and prices of food there are really dreadful.  Ham is 90¢ a pound, and other meats in comparison.


Good old “Winnie” certainly made a hit both in Washington and here.  What a man!  Did you see the enclosed clipping [not found]?  I think it is excellent.  The Russian and Libyan news is good, but the Far East is bad.  However, we are sure to get out own back there before long.  Hated the news of Hong Kong.  I have many friends there and understand many remained to the end.  Manila too is a pleasant memory to me and, of course, Singapore, although I never did manage to find the naval base; the best I could do was Raffles’ statue, so I made up to him.  The Sultan of Johore was quite a lad too, but he’d had several wives already, and, as his taste was very much in favour of Dorothy Lamour, I’m afraid I was out of the running.  He really was very enthusiastic over her, though, and wanted to meet her in Hollywood.  Told Dorothy about it and she said she’d arrange to have her father, mother, grandmother, great-uncles, and the rest at the meeting.  However, his taste changed and he never did turn up in the film city.


My Latin certainly has grown rusty!  Find I translated “God guard us” instead of “God guide us”, which latter I now find is the motto of the City of London.


Winnie’s zipper suit created as sensation.  Expect to see everyone wearing them now.  Aren’t they cute?


Not a word from George re map.  Nor have I heard from Victoria about the Harbour.  Perhaps something will come along soon.


Jan 8th


The weather today is really bitter – 14 below zero.  It is coming from the west and will be worse before it gets better.  The East and West coast weather does not appear on our weather reports now – war measure.


Must add this cute story, although it’s a bit ancient now.  Perhaps you’ve heard it.  As you know, the Indians always name their children after the first thing they see after the child is born.  On the Stoney Reserve, near Calgary, so the story goes, a visitor was looking around. A brave introduced himself  -  “Me – Soaring Eagle.  This my gran’son – Low-Wing Bomber”.


Rosemary in Gas Mask


Geoff to Gladys  -  8th February 1941


Dear Gladys


[2 paras re Canadian agency]


How is the Bomber Fund getting along?  Probably you will have seen the rather incredible daily cost of the War, and we are now all resigned to even higher scales of taxation in the new financial year in the Spring.


Our own town is just starting a Savings Week in which it is aimed at obtaining enough money to buy two Destroyers.  Considering that there are a great number of towns in the country of our size, it will be rather astonishing if in fact two Destroyers are paid for by this means.


For a good many weeks now, the night raids have been almost negligible; but there has been so much discussion and speculation as to the reason for this, that it has almost been more worrying than the period when raids occurred night after night without intermission.  No really satisfying explanation has come to hand so far, and a good many headaches amongst amateur strategists have been the result.  Around here, all the bomb damage has been cleared up and the sites nicely tidied.  A dispassionate view is that in many cases the cleared ground is better than the buildings that were originally on it.

At the time of writing, the great news is of course the astonishing success of the British Libyan Campaign, and naturally we are all feeling much better after this.

Looking back on last Summer, the middle period was undoubtedly pretty grim, although it seems worse in retrospect than it was at the time.

The various outward and visible signs of the War around here are much the same – i.e. the very effective blackout at night, to which we are well used by now, the large proportion of people who carry tin hats for Home Guard, A.R.P and other duties, and of course the absence of up-to-date cars.  Sometimes at night, when out on urgent journeys in my own car, I think with regret of the super headlights which you and the Americans are said to be using.  A ghostly glimmer of light on the road is all we are allowed for the time being, and pretty trying it can be in bad weather.

 Do you remember the ride we took you on through the country when you were here a good many years ago?  If you could come with us on that same ride today, you would, I am sure, be very intrigued to see the number of craters all round the more rural parts of it.

Taken as a whole, the aim of the German bombs is unbelievably bad, so bad that people are at a loss to understand the reason.  A relative of mine farms 600 acres some miles South from here, in a particularly deserted section of the country.  There are no villages, no railways, no camps, no nothing of importance.  The number of bombs he has had on his land runs into three figures.  He has lost two chickens and one sheep, and that is all.  How any self-respecting airman could mistake at any rate this particular tract of land for the centre of London, or the stations of Croydon, or anything they wanted to hit, passes imagination.  I do hope that in your papers some of the reasons for the awards of various Civil Division medals have been given.

One of the most heartening things about this war has been the way that ordinary people have had their inspired moments.  What about two workmen who recently spent a night repairing a large hole on the top of a gas holder through which a bomb had passed?   Or another chap who spent part of the night working a big Grab Crane trying to pick up an unexploded bomb inside a pile of loose dry chemical?  Anything more grisly than the two feats wants lots of imagining. 

We are all so much steeled to the idea of an imminent invasion that, with the passage of time without said invasion, it is becoming a bit trying.  I think we will all be glad to have it over if it is coming.

 There is going to be some pretty keen competition amongst the Navy, Air Force and Army to deal with it, and the poor old Home Guard is complaining very bitterly that it does not look as if they are going to get a chance to do much.

 I shall be very glad to hear from you when you have a moment to write, and I hope that the various letters I have sent on to you recently have duly been received



Anderson Shelter Construction in Croydon in 1939

[Click here for more information on Anderson Shelters]


Geoff to Gladys  -  11th February 1941


Dear Gladys


[Five paras re Canadian agency]


At the moment, we are all stirred somewhat by the capture of the whole of Cyrenaica, by the very perky bombardment of Genoa, and by Mr Churchill’s speech.  In addition, the daylight is now much longer and this has improved everybody’s outlook a little.  For a good many weeks now, most people have been going to work in the blackout, working in blacked out factories by artificial light, and going home in the blackout.  It is very nice to feel the sun again.


We heard the other day that Uncle William [Gowlland] and his son (name unknown, always referred to as “The Boy”) have moved into a new factory in Brighton.  They still make Dial Gauges remarkably low priced and [of] considerable excellence.  They used to make parts for us but were so unbusinesslike that we gave up the attempt to do business with them.  In a period of nine months, we sent them seven telegrams, twenty-something letter and about ten postcards.  We neither received the goods nor any acknowledgement nor any answer.  Holidaying near Brighton, I called on my uncle, who had collected the letters together in a fairly neat pile, none of them opened or read.  He announced proudly that he really had no time to bother with letters.


A short story meant to be true in yesterday’s paper may amuse.  Headlined “Come again later”, it tells of a subaltern who was woken in the night in front of Bardia with the news that five hundred Italians wanted to surrender.  “Tell them they can’t”, he said sleepily. “The battle isn’t till tomorrow.  Tell them to come back later”.



Geoff to Gladys  -  6th March 1941


Dear Gladys


Just to show a little briskness and efficiency, I am writing to say that when at home for lunch today, the postman delivered a copy of “Life” and of “Photo News”.


We used to have “Life” quite frequently before the War, but naturally it is not imported very often now, as we find many uses for our hard earned American Dollars.  It is a lovely magazine and we have nothing quite like it.  It has been a rather amusing feature of British censorship that much more information is released to our Overseas friends than at Home.  In this issue of “Life”, there are far more photographs and details of [the] “George V” than appeared in any British publication.


Our South African friends send us magazines from time to time, and in them there is a whole lot about the “Mauritania” and other ships, which is still rigidly censored in our own direct news.  Why this should be, we are not certain, but there it is.


The week we instructed the proprietors of the Trade Journal “The Optician” to send you a copy of a special Export edition.  On page 3 you will find an advertisement of ours, and you will note that Canadian names and addresses are conspicuous by their absence amongst our overseas friends.


It seems several months now since we had much direct connection with the Luftwaffe here.  Last Autumn we did not really expect to arrive at the beginning of March with so little trouble, although we cannot help wondering what will have happened by the Summer.


I have given a large number of Canadian soldiers lifts in the car at different times, but so far have not come across any who have come from the Province of Quebec.


We are all hoping that these chaps will take back fairly happy memories of this country, although the black-out and difficulties of getting amusement in the evenings seem to be the chief features of English life in their minds at the moment.


Since Norway seems to be in the news today, perhaps this story may amuse you:-


“Quisling got a pretty curt “no!” from his Führer when he asked permission to call his book ‘My Strugglet’ (Mein Kampflein).”



Geoff to Gladys  -  13th March 1941


Dear Gladys


This is just to acknowledge receipt with very many thanks of your second sending of “Life” and “Photo News”, also your very long and interesting letter.


We ourselves had a present from Hitler just near the factory recently, and have been exceedingly busy trying to get a temporary roof on, before rain or snow interferes with production.  Chiefly by dint of very strenuous efforts on the part of people here, we have only lost an hour or so’s production time in part of the factory, and have been working normally all the time.


We are all very interested by the articles in “Life”, and we are as a matter of fact somewhat disappointed by the rather depressing conclusions which the author reached.  In your letter you assert that “Life” is pro Allied, and we are a little concerned about this, because the odd numbers we have seen from time to time did not seems to us to be in any way biased in our favour.  Perhaps it is as well we are not in a position to read definitely anti Allied magazines.


We are informed that the War Exchange Conservation Act of 1940 passed by the Canadian Government provides for the restriction of import of a long list of commodities supplied to Canada by countries outside the sterling area, at the same time providing for reduced [import] duties on Empire products.


It does seem to us that there should now be even a better chance for us to get into the Canadian market.  The Department of Overseas Trade of the British Government has announced their willingness to assist manufacturers, and we have written to them too, explaining that we are anxious to find a factory representative.  Frankly we are not very hopeful, but the business of leaving no stone unturned is in our minds.


A reply to your own letter will be sent in about seven to ten days, when the writer has caught up arrears of rest and sleep a bit.

Facade of Factory in late 1930's (see para 2 above)


Gladys to Geoff  - 28th April 1941


Dear Geoff


Many thanks for your two letters, the last dated April 4th.  Much interested in all the news.  Thanks a million for the snaps.  Your kiddies are adorable, so chubby and fit.  Hope to see them before they grow up too much.  You haven’t changed a great deal and your mother looks just as I remember seeing her in London umpteen years ago.  Your father looks tip top.  Give them my best, please.  Would like to meet Peggy.  (Hello Peggy!).  I like your pants (I mean the long ones!).


Your letter was written just when we’d had some splendid successes and reached me just as we were getting out of Greece.  How quickly things change about.  But Mr Churchill told us months ago we’d have plenty of dark days so we must look ahead to brighter ones.  He made a splendid speech on Sunday, in spite of all the reverses of late.  So courageous!  What a man!


Mailed you a copy of “Life” today.  You’ll enjoy Bullitt’s article.  So you don’t think “Life” is pro-British?  You should have seen some of the stuff that used to come out of the States.  Made my blood boil and would have made you tear your hair in rage.  However, the great majority of the US is pro-British, but, Glory Be!, I wish they’d get a move on.  The patrol system will be a help, but what we want is convoys.  We are all fighting for Democracy, and democracies certainly take their own sweet time until things come to a crisis.


The whole US Navy, and Roosevelt, Stimson, Knox and the other leaders want to send convoys but it is questionable whether Roosevelt could get a majority if it came to a vote, and my opinion is that he’s afraid to try it for fear of the effect it would have everywhere if he lost out.  Undoubtedly the patrol system is the thin end of the wedge and I think will develop into a convoy system automatically without the necessity of getting a bill passed by Congress.  There is a great deal of unrest in the US, due almost entirely to the fact that the people don’t know where they are at the moment – in the war, or out.  They know they will have to fight eventually but hope for some miracle to end the war without their being involved.  I wish something big would happen to them, right at home, to get them rip-roaring fighting mad.  Then we’d get action.  You know the old saying – “A dog killed in one’s own street is more important than a million lives lost in the floods in China”.  The sabotage of the Italian and Germany ships and von Werra jumping bail and similar pin-pricks all help; but, Oh! For something big, to make the “general public” realize what they are up against.  Enclosed a clipping by Shapiro.  He is a Canadian newspaper man who writes for the gazette in N.Y. and Washington.  His little story about the officers of the Malaya is typical of what is going on all over the country.


Was amused by the story of Uncle Will’s correspondence.  My father was somewhat the same – very clever, but his business senses was nil.  In spite of that he w well on the way to building up a splendid business in Canada but ditched it all to work on the Multifocal.  Did I tell you that the American Optical Company are now manufacturing this lens?


Things here are much the same.  The new Income Tax has just come into effect.  The going will be pretty stiff, but no one minds any sacrifice as long as the war is won.  If anyone dares to make a criticism someone is sure to say, “Well, look what the English are doing!”, which effectively silences the critics.  The raids on Plymouth have been awful.  We lived there for a year – such a lovely old city, and now nothing but ruins.  Things in the Near East look bad.  I know all that part well – Jerusalem, Beirut, Damascus, Cairo, Suez, and so forth, having visited them many times.  And Athens!  Imagine the Swastika on the Acropolis.  I get so mad I almost choke with rage!  Am busy now collecting clothes to send to the homeless in England.  The house is like a second-hand shop with men’s suits, overcoats, sweaters, blankets, dresses, and so forth.  Really nice things, and all freshly cleaned or washed.


Canada is making a drive for business in South America.  Wish your factory were there.  You’ll have to establish a Branch when the war is over.  You ask about George.  He does everything, manages the factory, production, and sales.  Every month or so he goes to the outlying towns of his district, about a thousand miles north, east and west, and two hundred miles south to the border.  Yes, he’s like the rest of the Gowllands, works with his hands.  Quite a smart lad!  We have a big property in the Laurentians, purchases when George was quite ill with glands (TB).  The doctor said the mountains was the only place for him to live, so Father bought 150 acres.  On the place, doing practically all the work himself, he built two cottages and two houses, besides a big dam to make a half-mile lake.  We still have the property but are trying to sell it.  It is a worry as I am the only one left to do anything in Montreal.  George can’t do anything as Calgary is a little matter of two thousand miles away.


[Continued on 2nd May]  


Have to write this in bits and pieces.  Am sending a copy of last night’s Star.  You will see one of the several ads I have placed (page 36, col 4).  Peggy will find the prices of various articles here interesting.  Thursday seems to be the day the stores advertise foodstuffs for the weekend.  I mention this in case you think food is the main object in life in Montreal.


[2 paras re business]


You certainly work long hours, and your father too.  It is wonderful.  See Roosevelt has just proclaimed a 24-hour day and a 7-day week for the defence industries.  What a mess in Iraq!  Heard it at noon.  Oh for a bit of good news.  But we’ll get it.  The States will be in the war any day now.

Am sending this instalment now – more in a few days


Factory Roof - see third paragraph below



Geoff to Gladys  -  2nd May 1941


Dear Gladys


As was promised in a letter some while ago, a copy of the illustrated edition of “The Battle of Britain” is enclosed.  We find it very thrilling reading as we lived all through it in the hectic days of last Autumn.  Probably you will remember that Croydon is just South of London, and on most of the maps you will identify our position when we tell you that we are about mid-way between Biggin Hill and Kenley Aerodromes.


During the early days of the battle, it was our custom to retire into our shelters soon after the Alert went, except of course the A.R.P. personnel.   After a few weeks, when it became evident that the R.A.F. was capable of dealing with most of the attacks, it was customary to go on working with a few spotters (usually including the writer) on the roof.  The actual time lost through air raids after the first fortnight was very low.


To stand hour after hour and watch very small dots moving quickly about the sky and trying to decide whether they were Germans bent on attacking us, or Germans having exhausted their loads [of bombs] and going home, or British fighters moving to intercept, was one of the most trying jobs we recollect having undertaken.  The fact that we [i.e. the spotters] were successful we are convinced was probably due to good luck rather than skilled judgement.


By way of a postscript to the above, could we just record that the factory shelters have not been used during working hours since last Autumn, and in fact there have been very few daylight alerts during the last four months.


Just recently the orders from the Stevens Companies [in Canada] seem to have been on a more generous scale, and quite a lot of instruments are being shipped out to them at the time of writing.  The delivery position of export orders is much improved, and many orders have been despatched with a few days of receipt.


[1 para re Canadian business]


The Mr L. B. McNichol who was successful in the Stevens Companies in handling our instruments earlier on, seems now to be the Vice President.  A copy of “The Battle of Britain” is being sent to him today by way of general propaganda.


Twice recently the factory has been fairly extensively damaged but no production time at all has been lost.


During the recent blitzes an extraordinary number of our customers’ premises seem to have been totally destroyed. We are therefore having a most hectic rush in arranging to collect together skeleton stocks for each of them as they get going.  In point of fact we are despatching larger quantities of our products in the next few days than ever before.


The word “Blitz”, as you may have noticed, has become a nice comprehensive term used in a satirical way which we feel sure would much annoy Hitler.  Apart from its use as a noun not only for intense air attacks, but also for car smashes, teacups coming to pieces in maids’ hands and so on, it is also used as an adjective, usually with “y” on the end, to cover any unsatisfactory article, occurrence or state.  Finally it is used as a verb, or even as an imperative word of command – e.g. “get Messrs  ……. on the ‘phone, and blitz them thoroughly over delivery”.


Intended as it was to strike terror into our hearts, it could not have failed more dismally.  Although there have been one or two other exciting nights recently, yet we are all well and indeed flourishing.


The number of our personal friends who have been killed or injured in air raids, and in car accidents, is approximately equal.



Gladys to Geoff  - 8th May 1941


Dear Geoff


Will now try to finish the letter I ended so suddenly the other day.  Where the time goes I do not know.  Every minute is taken up with something.  Have just finished the “Business Letter” to you, and the clock is striking midnight.  Thank goodness, though, I have plenty to do so there is less time to worry.  Hope the Baker man will turn out O.K. and that Harvey [two potential factory representatives interviewed by Gladys] will come through.  They both appear to be men you would be proud to have represent the Gowlland line.


The Bomber Fund is coming along nicely.  Now have a very nice balance of £10,000 in the bank, and money still rolling in.  Have to dash up to the Laurentians on Saturday with a possible buyer for the property there.  When I mentioned that George had built the houses there, I omitted to mention that he also built a substantial factory for Father, and equipped it with motors, machines and what not for making the multifocal lenses.  He is a wizard with machines.  Invented some special machines for toric lenses, and similar things.  But inventions take time and money.  One cannot run a successful business and invent things at the same time, when capital is small.  It’s like the German Guns or Butter – can’t have both.  But then the British did it, didn’t they?


That Iraq business is nasty.  Glad Churchill is taking such a firm stand.  The U S leaders are making plenty of speeches these days, and the people just lamp them up.  Think they will be in the fight soon, unless Congress stages a filibuster.  Did the picture “Mr Smith goes to Washington” play in your part of the world?  If it is there any time, don’t miss it.  Gives a splendid, but exaggerated, idea of how things work in Washington.  The picture “Pastor Hall” is remarkable, I believe.  Did not go to see it as those things give me the jitters.  Saw the “Mortal Storm” and was so made I started the collection for a bomber.  If I saw “Pastor Hall” I am afraid I might start collecting for a battleship.


Weather is perfect here just now but we need rain.  The trees are coming into leaf and the tulips are budding.  Suppose this seems late to you but then you must realise that we have winters that ARE something.  The port of Montreal opened just a short time ago and many ships are coming here now instead of to St John and Halifax.  This makes freight shipment cheaper and is much more convenient – cutting out the long rail haul of 500 miles from St John and 800 from Halifax, necessary in winter time. 


Your favourite (?) magazine “Life” took a nasty crack at the Province of Quebec in its last issue, and ARE the French-Canadians mad!  You’ve probably seen some reference to it in the English papers.  Said French-Canadians were all pro-Axis, and members of the Fifth Column.  Of course there are some of them who don’t seem to care about the war, but it is unfair to make such a sweeping statement as there are similar nit-wits in every country.  French Canadians have a very find record in the fighting services, but, of course, the odd ones who make a lot of bluster give the others a bad name.  Many prominent people are demanding that “Life” be banned in Canada.  Ho Hum!  My nice magazine!


Thanks for the promise of the “Battle of Britain”.  Am looking forward to reading it.


Have to stop now as I want to send a line to Peggy.  Cheerio, and all the best to the folks in London




Family in Garden Spring 1941 - see para 1 of letter below


Gladys to Peggy  -  9th May 1941



Dear Peggy


Thanks for your note.  It was nice to hear from you and to know you and family are standing up to the worst that PIG [sic] can do.  What dears your babies are.  Imagine them being so unconcerned about raids and things.  Heard tonight on the radio that 22 planes were brought down last night.  That’s grand.  You are all very calm and collected about things but it must be Hell over there. 


Things here are moving along smoothly – too darned smoothly to suit me.  Even the new and drastic income tax doesn’t suit me.  I don’t think it is high enough.  (Perhaps I’m feeling so perky because I’ve just finished paying my 1940 tax and the 1941 doesn’t have to be paid until next April).  The theatres are all filled every night, cabarets and so forth in full swing, and the stores crowded with shoppers.  You’ll say “How do you know” so I must admit I’m one of the offenders, but then it’s not my money being spent on theatres and cabarets, and my shopping is mostly Woolworth style.


What a sweet kitten Geoff had.  I adore cats, but one can’t keep a cat in an apartment four floors up, because after all kitty has to go walking once in a while.  Would like to have a house but apartments are much more convenient.  Gertrude (my half-sister) keep house, which is very nice for me.  We share 3404 as her husband is sailing out of New York (Captain in the U.S. mercantile marine) and gets home only once in six months or so.  He’s on the run from Chile to N.Y.  She used to go to New York when his ship was in, but not now as Canadians are not allowed to spend money in the U.S. except in a case of dire necessity.  I feel this a real hardship as I used to slip down to N.Y. to shop and “do” the theatres every three months or so.  But wars must be won, and to win wars we have to conserve the exchange.


Clothes are going up in price, and food is rising also, but only a cent or two at a time so no one really notices it.  Cigarettes are high, 25¢ for 18.  I stop smoking for a few days, making iron-clad resolutions of “Never again”, and then I start all over again.  Have just finished my eleventh tonight and am feeling ashamed of myself.  Understand there is a shortage over there.  Often send a supply over to some of the Canadian lads I know – we can ship to the forces very reasonably – 300 for $1.00, delivered in England.  Can I send anything over for you?  The trouble is that there is such a lack of space in the ships for anything but war materials.  Then again there is the duty.  Do you have to pay duty on small things from here?  For instance, chocolate, and such things.  We hear such conflicting reports that no one really knows what is true.  For months we hear of nothing but the shortage of onions  -  you know the stuff – prizes for something would be – first prize one onion – second prize one bottle of champagne  -  and then the whole thing was denied.  There were umpteen onions to be had.


George’s eldest boy has just joined the Cubs (Junior branch of the Boy Scouts, same as in England, I think).  He is a dear little lad, and David also.  That is the younger boy, whom I have never seen.  Hope to get out West this summer sometime if the money holds out.  Wish your two could join them where it is nice and peaceful.  It is terrible to think of your poor little children being in danger.  But they’ll have something to boast about in the years to come.


Must bring this to a close.  Wishing you all the best, and “happy landings”.



Geoff to Gladys  -  27th May 1941



Dear Gladys


Your letters of 28th April with its postscript of the 2nd inst., and your other letter of 26th April have just arrived, and we were very glad indeed to hear from you.


What a lot of interesting gossip you seem to have got together in your letter.  Both father and I were very interested in the activities of George, and gather from your remarks that his oldest was a long while ago and he is presumably well [?].


From a Gazetteer on Canada, we see that Calgary claims to have one of the healthiest climates in the World.  Perhaps that is why he settled there.  Does he make complete bearings linings, or is he just concerned with the production of Phosphor Bronze in the form of bills or ingots?  Father had forgotten, but I had not, that you once lived in Plymouth, which has unfortunately had a very bad pasting.


On the general question of air raid damage, we would say that something like three-quarters of the present buildings in this country were put up in Victorian days when a great deal of attention was paid to quite unnecessary twiddly bits, and not nearly enough to the strength of walls, foundations and so on.


Rows of not very good houses about sixty years or so old do did unfortunately seem to collapse like packs of cards.  On the other hand, modern buildings, especially those with a steel frame, will take the most incredible amount of knocking about without anything like a collapse.


Father had never said that your father was interested in ophthalmic lenses: I had always understood he did microscope objectives only.


You certainly seem informed as to the main Gowlland failings.  Father and I are rather a break-away from the main tradition, as we only produce articles for which the sales are going to be remunerative, and even then we are always sceptical about producing new instruments.


Like Henry Ford, we always think it is a far better thing to produce large numbers of articles of reasonably high quality of finish and construction, but at the lowest prices.  In other words we put into practice Bertrand Russell’s definition of “The greatest good for the greatest number”.


We are a little relieved to have your explanation of the enormous number of food advertisements in your newspapers.  Before the War, although there were occasional advertisements in our own papers, we never had quite the array of succulent looking announcements as has filled up the “Montreal Gazette”.


[4 paras re Canadian customers]


To a recent circular sent to all the [Canadian] Ophthalmic Instruments Dealers whose name and addresses we were able to obtain from the Department of Overseas Trade, a quite satisfactory flow of enquiries is coming in.  We can claim therefore that our name is getting known in Canada far better than ever before.


From South America we have obtained a most satisfactory array of orders.  Our only trouble now is making sufficient instruments and lenses to fill them.  Actually, business with South America is not too easy, as this country already holds a surplus of credits, and we have not the shipping to spare to import further goods from some of the countries there.  From Canada however the situation is quite different and we can do with all the dollars we can collect.


Almost all the Canadian letters we have are opened by the censor, and this is probably the reason why they frequently arrive here in the wrong order.  If, therefore, we answer letters out of their turn, it is simply the irregular delay in the censorship which is causing us to receive them in the wrong order.


By separate post we are sending you further copies of some official propaganda supplied to us for Overseas use.  We are very impressed with these little magazines and hope that you will enjoy them.



Geoff to Gladys  -  6th June 1941


Dear Gladys


This is chiefly to acknowledge your three letters dated 8th May.  We have not yet heard from Mr Harvey or Mr Baker.


[2 paras re Canadian agency]


We hear from our Australian Agent, who formerly represented three British firms, that none of his other English friends are able to do any Export business at all, on account of extensive Priority demands.  He must therefore be living solely on the commission on our own business, but we should not think he is very comfortable with this.


For many years we have been trying on and off to get in touch with suitable representatives for Canada and it is very gratifying indeed that we now look like being fixed up.


Our representative in Australia, with whom we have been dealing for nine years, is one of the most unpromising individuals you can imagine.  Pretty well a combination of Edward Everett Horton and W C Fields. There is however no doubt that [orders for] well over 90% of instruments of our type sold in Australia now pass through his hands to us.  This experience has enabled us to rely in future almost entirely on peoples’ records [rather] than on their prior qualifications.


[1 para re pricing to Canadian buyers]


It has several times been suggested to us that the only way to open up Foreign markets is by a personal visit.  However, in Denmark and Norway where this criticism seems to be the most weighty, we managed to build up a very large business indeed, purely by diligent and persistent correspondence.


Unfortunately I cannot get away from the factory and the longest holiday ever enjoyed was a sixteen day visit to Winter Sports before the War.  I am most decidedly not a salesman and very conscious of my limitations in this direction.  The less I have to do with customers, the better I am pleased; but fate has decreed that I shall have to do all the correspondence, publicity and sales organising.  In point of fact, my proper sphere is the factory itself, where I aim to spend as much time as possible.



Gladys to Geoff  - 4th July 1941


Dear Geoff


Many thanks for your two letters containing news of what’s what.  Was so sorry to hear of poor little Rosemary’s toe-trouble.  Hope the operation was a great success and that she is now on the road to recovery.  What a strange thing to have, but you were wise to have the matter attended to early – bombs or no bombs.


[1 para re possible Canadian agency]


Thanks for the “Battle of Britain”.  It was fascinating.  Have sent it to a friend in Kentucky who is head of one of the big Training Schools – for youngsters – in that State. 


Am sending you another copy of “Life” which has some interesting bits in it.  Don’t read the parts that annoy you.  I just skip ‘em.  Also sending a publicity booklet on Canada which has some intriguing maps in color.


Our Victory Loan was a great success, but purses become thinner and thinner.  However, we have to lick the “_/&$’()_%$?” [sic] Huns.  What a sordid affair the German invasion of Russia.  However. If the Russians can hold them, for a while even, it will give us a breathing spell.


Hope Peggy enjoyed the chocolate safely and that the kiddies enjoyed some too.


Announced on the BBC that you’d had a hot spell in London.  We had one here – just scorching.  It is still very hot, and promises to remain so.  We get such extremes of heat and cold in this part of the world.


The bombing of London seems to have eased off, thank goodness, and the rest of England appears to be fairly free.  It is interesting to read the philosophical way in which you treat the smashing of buildings.  I can quite understand that a lot of them should come down anyway, but it s horrible to have them demolished by the Huns.  I think the Guildhall was lovely, but doubtless it can be repaired properly later on.  See they have a temporary new roof already.


Bombers from here are gong over in great style now.  The Fourth of July did not bring much from Roosevelt in the way of a speech, but the previous one by Knox was a honey.  The city [Montreal, presumably] is full of U S tourists and they are much impressed by our war effort.  They are spending a lot of US dollars too which is what we want.  It was amusing to hear a radio broadcast last night saying Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin were the three greatest leaders of democracy in the world today.  I’m beginning to like Joe myself, - as long as he doesn’t make a separate peace.  Think the Huns are having a bit more trouble with the Russians than they expected.


Some time, when you get a minute, will you ask your father to give you a background of the Gowlland family?  Ask him if my father was born in Wales.  Father always said so, but I believe he was just “kidding”.  I know Grandfather’s second name as Castle, and Grandmother’s maiden name was Orford.  I have the family tree on my mother’s side back to 1702.  My great grandfather owned a tremendous lot of property in London (in Belvedere), but there was a scrap over a will, and the whole lot was “thrown into Chancery” which I think is a very intriguing way of saying the Government took the loot [lot ?]


Have not heard from George in ages.  He’ll write, I suppose, one of these days.  Most exasperating chap, but such a grand one.  You’d like him.  Yes, Calgary has a very fine climate.  George raves about it, but I think it changes too much.  One day it will be 30 below zero and overnight up will come a Chinook (a warm wind) and the temperature will rise to way over freezing, and the streets become thick with slush.


There is not much here in the way of news.  Numerous people are agitating for conscription, but I doubt we shall have it unless there is a new election and another party returned to power.  Rather a pity as I think Premier King is making a god job of things, and the conscription issue would be very bitter. We are now turning out tanks and field guns, in addition to munitions of all kinds needed over there.  (I always think of munitions as being shots and shells, but I suppose it covers guns too).  The number of armoured cars and supply vehicles which we are shipping to Egypt is astounding.  Just thousands, and they are standing up very well in the fight. 


That’s a funny business about the oil tanker and two food ships going to the French in Africa.  However, I suppose there is more to it than meets the eye.  Perhaps Weygand is coming over to our side a bit.  The scraps of jokes you put in your letters are amusing.  We have a flood of them here too.  Did you hear that “Hess couldn’t have landed in a Messerschmitt because he broke his Heinkel”?  I wonder who thinks up all the jokes?


It is Saturday today, and I have to skip home (1.15 pm) as there are a million things I have planned for the week end.


[This letter bears a pencilled annotation in Geoff’s writing “Replied 30.VII.41” but no copy can be traced]


Geoff to Gladys  - 18th July 1941


Dear Gladys 


[Six paras re search for new factory representative in Canada . . .]


We are sending you herewith the latest issue of “War in Pictures”.  Could we call your attention to the photographs on pages 6/9, taken by one of the leading British portrait photographers, who usually does the photographs of the Royal Family and so on.


The chocolate you sent duly arrived and was very welcome, although we feel that you should not have to be bothered as, luxuries apart, we have everything we need here.  Peggy has already written thanking you and I hope this letter will go by the following mail in case the first gets lost.


Although much improved, the monthly figures of tonnage lost by enemy action are still pretty formidable.  The odd thing is that throughout the War the number of consignments [of exported medical instruments] we have lost have been quite negligible up to now.


Did you notice Mr Churchill’s comments that during the last few weeks we have dropped on Germany and Occupied Territories nearly half the total tonnage of bombs they have dropped on us during the whole War?  Considering the relative strengths of our two Air Forces at the beginning of the War, this is a most encouraging state of affairs.


Post-Card sent separately


In the London paper today, Mr Charles W Blitz of Clapton, London E., is reported to have changed his name to Bliss.


Gladys to Geoff  - 20th August 1941


Dear Geoff


[1 para re Canadian agency]


Have not sent along any copies of “Life” lately but will do so soon, including one about Singapore which I think is good.  Thank you for the war pictures.  I took particular note of those you mentioned – wonderful photography.  [Remainder of para re new Canadian optical factory].


The Churchill-Roosevelt talks were a surprise.  Doubtless much good will come of them.  The first step seems to be the new ferry service via Africa to the Near East.  What a terrible thing to lose so many of our ferry pilots.  Sounds like sabotage somewhere.  We regretted the death of Mr Purvis – all the flags in the city were at half-mast.  The Vichy Government seem to be entirely under the Hun thumb.  How ashamed all real Frenchmen must be.  You would be surprised at the number of Lorraine crosses being worn here: all French-Canadians who amount to anything are wearing them.  Why the Canadian Government does not send the Vichy Ambassador packing back to Darlan and his tribe of traitors I cannot imagine.  Perhaps they have an object in keeping a channel of communication open.


The German bombers seem to be giving England a wide berth these days, except for the odd raid.  It is grand to know that you are not in such danger – for a while anyway.


August 23rd


A copy of your letter of 18th July came yesterday.  Enclosed was the accompanying slip [stating “the enclosure mentioned, “War in Pictures”, was missing when the letter was opened”].  Of course, the photo news [sic] was in the original letter, but it just shows how carefully letters are read by the censors.  Good work!


[1 para re Canadian agency]


Our premier King seems to be having a lot of conferences in London.  He is a very capable man, though there is a lot of criticism from the Opposition on what he is doing in regard to our war effort.  It is easy to criticise, but harder to show how things could be improved.


Hope that by now you are enjoying the products of your garden.  The “scratch” supper you referred to sounded like good eating to me.  Much the same as we have here quite frequently.  We are short of bacon, and bread cannot be sold sliced any more, nor wrapped in fancy wax paper.  There is a huge surplus of wheat but these steps are to keep the prices down.  The cost of living bonus has just gone through - $8.32 a month for everyone earning less than $320.00 a month.  Tea is very expensive, but coffee is much the same – about 38¢ a pound, though the same kind in the States is from 14¢ to 17¢ a pound.


Forest fires are bad on the B.C [British Columbia] coast, and I’m sure we shall have bad ones here again soon as the weather has been so frightfully dry.  In fact, some fires have been burning since last spring, and thousands of acres of good lumber have been destroyed and much loss of property.


More corvettes were launched recently.  They seem to be handy little ships, and our ship-building programme is growing by leaps and bounds.  More and more factories are turning our war materials.  One of the big elevator-building companies is making field guns, and the companies which used to make farming equipment are turning out everything but.


It is grand to know that you have so few losses of goods at sea, and I think the situation is improving all the time.  We listen eagerly for stories of dissension in Germany: it seems to be growing.  I hope nothing happens to Hitler: I want him to live and enjoy the spectacle of seeing his Third Reich smashed to bits.  The Russians, in spite of recent reverses, seem to be doing a nice bit of smashing.


Have not heard from George for ages but am sure they are all well or I’d have heard.  There is a severe outbreak of infantile paralysis in the West, and also in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  It seems to have skipped Ontario and Quebec.  Sleeping sickness too is very prevalent out there – hundred of cases.  No one knows the cause, but school are being kept closed instead of opening in early September as usual.


I think I will close this letter off, and say cheerio for the time being.



Geoff to Gladys  - 13th September 1941


Dear Gladys


This is just to put on record that a long letter was sent to you on 7th inst. containing as much as I have been able to find out about the Family Tree.  I hope it arrives, but, if it does not, would you please let me know and I will send further copies.


After sending back the originals of the above documents to Mr Richard Gowlland, a very amusing letter came in from him which I am having copied and will send on to you as I think it might tickle you.


The enclosed article appeared in a London paper a few days ago and you may not have seen it over your side.  Frankly we think the writer takes a very gloomy view, as the shabbiness seems to have got completely in amongst him.


Most women wear stockings with long darns in them of which they would be very ashamed in peace time, while many men are happily wearing old and favourite clothes which their wives would have condemned out of hand before the War.


One of the most astonishing items of gossip published in the papers is to the effect that the late “Bismarck” had on board two planes and a large collection of incendiary bombs.  The story goes that they were proposing to raid Montreal and Quebec, and the bombers were then to fly on to America and be interned.


After your letters of a year ago, it would have given us a certain malicious pleasure to write and commiserate with you on the discomfort of sleeping all night in shelters and so on.  Apparently you are to be denied the interesting experience of going through a blitz for the time being.  If raids are to come your way, we can all here give you many interesting tips on methods of dealing with blast and putting out incendiaries and so on!


As letters go overseas from here, they seem to be written in all conditions of news, cheerful and gloomy, hopeful and depressing.  After Mr Churchill’s recent disclosures about the relative sinking of our own and of hostile shipping, we think that this letter is probably written under as hopeful conditions as any we have sent.


Spitzbergen, Irak [Sic], Iran, Syria, Crete and Egypt, as well as Iceland, seem to be safe from German conquest and penetration for the time being.  The Russians are doing far better than many of us here expected, and the campaigning season must be drawing into very difficult weather conditions.  Our own Air Force seems to be peppering the German vital points very successfully.


A lot of us think here, although we cannot pretend to have any detailed knowledge, that there is at least a 50:50 chance of the Germans being beaten in about twelve months from now.  On the other hand, it may well be that there will be another two or three years of war yet.


Following age old British tradition, we started very badly and did not really expect, although we have been persistently warned to the contrary, that the remainder of the war will be as difficult as the early days.



Geoff to Gladys  -  19th September 1941


Dear Gladys


Your letter of 20th August has just come in.


Every letter we have had from you, and as a matter of fact all our incoming correspondence to the factory, is opened by Censors; but so far we have never had anything deleted.


When we think back to the volume of correspondence which the Censors must have read, we think they must be very bored with some of our affairs.


[3 paras re Canadian agency]


Actually we are not terribly worried about the situation [potential agents failing to respond] because orders keep flowing in at a rate which we have the greatest difficulty in equalling with production and despatch, and it is more a question of carrying through a job once started, than of extending business, which prompts us to continue our efforts in your country.


Fortunately the lull in the night raids continues, with of course slight benefit to our production.  This morning there is news of yet another heavy daylight raid on a Power Station in occupied France, and it does really look as if we have succeeded in achieving a successful series of daylight raids, a thing which the Germans did not manage to do just twelve months ago.


The shipping position too, as gradually revealed, appears to be much more satisfactory than most of us expected.  Our Submariners in the Mediterranean and Coastal Command Aircraft near these Islands seem to be sinking nearly as many Axis ships as they are sinking of ours.  It is now being said officially that we have over four hundred ships constantly in the danger zone day in day out, and further than the proposition of convoyed ships lost is usually about 1 in 240.  Sorry as we are to lose men and ships, yet we are all feeling that this is rather better than we expected after Hitler’s bombastic speech earlier in the year.


We are very intrigued to hear that you yourselves are experiencing food difficulties.  Tea, for instance.  We should have thought you were still quite clear from troubles of this nature.


Probably owing to the better shipping position, food here does seem appreciably easier. The quantity has always been adequate but the variety has been somewhat lacking occasionally.


Thanks chiefly to the very successful series of advertisement by our Ministry of Information in the papers, there is no doubt that people on the whole are preparing the food they have more successfully and economically, and of course allotments and gardens are really producing quite considerably quantities in a small kind of way.


Since I seem to have written such a lot of letters just recently, I think I had better close modestly now, otherwise you will be wasting too much time reading our gossip.


Geoff's Allotment   -  1941



Gladys to Geoff  - 26th October 1941


Dear Geoff


I finished my last letter to you so abruptly that I must continue it now.


[2 paras re Canadian agency]


Harvey [potential representative] is definitely out of the picture.  There was something queer about that man and probably you are well rid of him.  Mr Gruner, of the Board of Trade, died two weeks ago of a heart attack.  I’m sorry as he was a nice man; had served in the Near East with the British Intelligence Service besides working at other things for the Government.


After consultation with Gertrude, who has a most amazing memory for anything she has ever heard, particularly dates, I can give you the following information to add to the family tree:


            Edward (Ted) was drowned in 1895

            George (Toronto) died in 1927

            Gertrude in 1910 (?)


My father died 27th August 1928.  Gertrude says he was older than George.


I liked the letter from Richard G[owlland].  He seems to have a nice sense of humour.  I knew about the extra “L” in the name as Father often told the story, also that of the Huguenot side of the family.  How nice to have had a visit from Aunt G’s son.  Many years ago I had one of the original survey maps of the [Canadian] West Cost.  One tremendous range of mountains running from just north of Vancouver and extending for many hundreds of miles towards Alaska was called the Gowlland range.  To the best of my recollection I gave the map to George.  I must ask him for it.


Also  -   Gowlland Harbour, B.C., still bears that name.  I passed it once in daylight coming down from Alaska, and as the skipper of the ship was a pal of mine he sailed close inshore so I could see the find big harbour, about which I had become quite excited when I saw the name on the chart.  A small town – a village, really – is on the beach, and nothing else for miles ‘n miles.  The name of the Gowlland Range must have been changed later as it does not now appear on maps.  If I can get the survey map from George, I’ll have a photostatic copy made for you.  Gowlland Harbour seems to be mainly inhabited by Indians (West Coast tribes) and men engaged in cannery and lumbar [sic] business.  Certainly not a very progressive spot.


Thanks for “Neptune” and the illustrated paper.  They are certainly most interesting.  Have sent you several copies of “Life”.


The stand of the Russians continues to amaze us.  The campaign was supposed to be over in three weeks, and he it is, the 19th.  Peter and Gertrude are going to the People’s Forum on Monday to hear Otto Strasser.  He is very well informed and has many sources of information in Germany.  Montreal seems to be headquarters for many Europeans of that type.  Also it is the main seat of all kinds of Groups and Committees engaged in a long-range battle with the SWINE [sic].


We were glad to hear that the bombing of England has decreased so much.  You say you will have to learn all over again to use your shelter.  I do so hope it will not be necessary.  That was a terrible tragedy about your friend and her children.  Poor soul!  Her husband must have been almost out of his mind.


Am busy these days getting boxes packed for shipment to the lads over there for Christmas.  So many have gone from here that it is quite a task to keep track of them all.  Everyone is collecting, it seems, and then they hand the money to me to “finish the job”.  As one wag remarked, they supply the “blood” and I supply the “toil, tears and sweat”.  Also quite a bit of the “blood”, says me!


 The weather turned cold overnight and today it is damp and horrible.  I hate this weather; much better when it is down around zero and clear.


Many great planes are flying over the city these days headed for the air bases.  Suppose they are coming up from the US ready to go overseas.  The more the merrier!


Gave a talk and showed a fine series of colored movies of foreign ports at the Merchant Navy Officers’ Club last week.  It is a new club started by the Navy League and some of the women of Montreal, for officers of the Merchant Navy who are in Montreal in large numbers waiting to go . . . . . . .  (It would be censored anyway).  Met many who had been torpedoed several times, and three who had been on a raft for twelve days before being picked up.  Most interesting men, but unbelievably shy and hesitant about speaking of their experiences.  It is a very nice club, housed in a huge old-fashioned residence on Sherbrooke Street (Montreal’s Fifth Avenue) with billiard room, tap room, ping-pong tables, a beautiful dining room, showers and, best of all, a great cost living room with a huge open fireplace where the men gather to chat and read.  There is also a big concert hall for movies and entertainment.  Recently started also is a new Sailors’ Club to look after and entertain the crews off the ships also waiting to  . . . . ..


Nothing here is rationed yet, but the Government has now taken control of all products and only licensed dealers are allowed to sell to the public.  Certain things are hard to get, but really there seems to be plenty of practically everything and anything, though prices have gone up so much that the Government has decreed prices must not rise about what they were on October 11th, which is a good thing.  Wages too are being held to their present levels, though the cost of living bonus is to be increased shortly. 


Yes, we heard about the planes on the “Bismarck” being ready to drop bombs over here, but the rumour was denied by the British and Canadian Governments before it had a chance to do much good in “getting the wind” up amongst the “Business as usual” crowd.


Things in Italy seem to be pretty dismal.  How I’d hate to be a Wop.  Almost better a pig-German.  Prior to the war, there used to be huge Italian parades here with fireworks and noise until all hours – a perfect darned nuisance as they were so frequent – and no one able to stop it, apparently.  At the outbreak of war they were unbearably cheeky.  How different now!  The Italian population has faded, even is 100 per cent Canadian – the heels!


29th October


Hope to complete letter started on the 25th.  It would be much better to finish a letter and once, but I always seem to have more to add.  Am writing this bit at home for we are so busy at the office it is almost impossible to write persona letters there as in the good old days.


What did you think of Roosevelt’s speech?  The US gets closer and closer to War, but, My Godfrey!, how slow they are.  However, half the people there still don’t know there is any danger to themselves from Hitler, and as they have only the most hazy idea of what the war is all about anyway the president has a hard time getting bills passed in Congress.  The smack at the “Kearney” was a help.  The traditional enemy of the US, of course, in the minds of the people, is Japan, and they are stilling to take a crack at the any time.  The much more dangerous menace – Germany – is not nearly so realistic.


Am leaving for New York Friday morning.  It used to be as easy as ABC to cross the border, but it certainly isn’t now.  Had to get a new visa, then visit the Immigration Offices, then be finger-printed.  I felt almost like a criminal.  In addition, I had to get export licenses to take out the $5.00 sent me from N.Y. for train expenses. No wonder the number of Government employees is so huge.


Am sitting up in bed typing this – (NOT so very comfortable), and “Grandpa” [Gladys's family's long-case clock: click here for more information] has just chimed 11 p.m. (a little weak on the last stroke, poor old dear), so I think I’ll call it a day and get my beauty sleep.  Will send two copies of “Life” by this mail as I didn’t send one last week, although I thought it a good issue.


I hope small John and Rosemary are progressing, and that Peggy is well.  Would like to see her brother’s farm in Sussex.  It must be beautiful, but I’d hate to be in the danger zone.  Really, Sussex is just about the most beautiful place in the world, I think.  Remember some of the lovely old farmhouses, and hedges, and daffodils, and bluebells, and , and , and , and ad infinitum.


My best to you all.  Will send kiddies a card from N.Y. State.


[This letter bears a note in Geoff’s handwriting “Replied 5.XII.41” but unfortunately no trace remains of the reply]


[At about this time Gladys sent Geoff this cartoon from the "New York Times"].




Chicken Neck cartoon of 1941 from "New York Times"



Gladys to Geoff  - 5th December 1941


Dear Geoff


[This letter is evidently in reply to one which has not survived: there are many references to subject discussed of which there are no prior mentions remaining].


For Goodness’ Sake!  How do you find time to run a war, a business, and then put so much work on the “Family TREE” [sic].  Your letters and the detailed reports of members of the family were simply fascinating and I must thank you for all the trouble you have taken.  As I said before, when I asked you to find out exactly where Father was born, I had no idea the question would lead to so much delving into the past.  Had to chuckle over some of your remarks on the many family failings.


Gertrude remembers father telling of Uncle George salting the Gold Mine.  Funny how some people combine religion and roguery.  When in Toronto re the clock, I saw a picture of him – really one of the most handsome men I have ever seen.  Also there was a picture – we had a similar one once – of Uncle Charlie and Aunt Gertie.  The latter looked beautiful.  Gertrude also says that Aunt Margaret was devoted to Auntie Gertie and was ever so good to her.  I seem to have a faint recollection of Grandfather, and understand he used to call me Kate Kearney (or is it Carney?  You know, the gal in the song – or is it a book?).  Grandma Gowlland visited Mother and Father soon after they were married and Mother liked her very much indeed – a tiny, dark woman.


The outline I gave you of the loss of all the Belvedere property referred to my mother’s side – the Seabrook family – and not to the Orfords.  Perhaps I did not make that clear.  Also, the family tress was the maternal side – not the Orfords.


There certainly was plenty of drinking in the “good” old days.  My maternal grandfather, Thomas Holder, died of over-indulgence (charming way to put it!) when only 42.  My mother’s first husband, Henry Brown – a lawyer – drank up everything he inherited and everything he earned, and was practically disowned by his family, including his brother William, an inventive genius, who was also mayor of Portsmouth for many years.  When he, Henry, died, he left only a small insurance with which my mother, as if she had not had enough trouble in the drinking line, bought an interest in a small hotel to support herself and little family.  Then along came Father, who was anything but adverse [sic] to the odd shot or two.  However, the desire seems to have skipped this generation, though I must admit I can say “Bottoms Up” in seven languages.


I think I’d like Melissa.  Thanks for her address. Must look up the family members when I visit England after the war.  Thanks for the invitation from you and Peggy.  Look forward to the pleasure of meeting both of you one of these days.  By the way, I’d very much like to have a drawing of the crest.  Do you suppose she would have one made if you asked her?  Say “please and thank you” on my behalf too.  I’d love to see it – just for fun.  Enclose tracings of two crests which appear on “Grandpa’s” face.  No 1 is repeated again on the wooden case, just above the date.  Wonder what they are.  “Make haste slowly” and “God guard us” do not appeal to me much as mottoes.  When I make haste it is in a great hurry, and as far as the second  -  there’s a perfectly good Colt .38 in the drawer.


Spent a long time at the Mechanics Institute Library – of which I am a member – hunting through books and maps of B.C., but not a single Gowlland reference could I find.  I’ll go to the Westmount Library tomorrow and hunt.


Sunday 7th December


Spent two hours in the Westmount Library yesterday but not a smitch of a G. could I find.  There is a good book on Franklin in the collection but it was out.  Better luck next time.  George has not replied to my letter re map, but I’ll write to Peter’s brother in B.C. for a chart of the B.C. coast.  He is a ship owner there and can probably let me have a copy, unless it’s against war regulations.


That was funny about the Jane (Janet) Gowlland memorial.  Perhaps it was just a pipe dream on Uncle Will’s part.  I’d like to meet him.


Yes, I’ll certainly tell small George[i] that he’s the sixth, and tell him to be an engineer when he grows up.  Just a present he’s interested in medicine – insists on putting his mother’s arm in splints – prescribing for all kind of ills – and trying to make his father walk with a crutch so that can come along with his little black bag and effect an immediate cure!


How delightful must have been your visit to Penshurst.  Lucky people.  Yes, I remember Chiddingstone, but we went to Penshurst also.  I remember “Leicester Square”, a sort of archway over a street, and the beautiful old houses.  Think there was a butcher’s shop with a window no bigger than a minute [?].  We saw a great square house – I am sure it was white or cream – and later bought some postal [sic] cards in Penshurst of the interior and exterior of the house.  By the way, Viscount Hardinge married Margaret Flemming [sic] of Ottawa when he was Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General some ten years ago.  They have two or three children.  I like the story about the stable clock.  How interesting!  Perhaps you can see it sometime.  And Merryfellow – that was almost too good to be real.  Merryfellow!  Lovely!  Thought though, that all the butlers and footmen were in factories now.  How come?  The Star and Garter Hospital Gowlland sound interesting.  You must look him up some time.  Who is Sir Henry G[ii], father of the Geoffrey G of whom I sent you a picture when he married a girl in Vancouver several years ago.  He was a Flight Lieutenant on one of the aircraft carriers – the “Hermes”, I think.  The wife of the Commander of the China Station Squadron told me he was a very fine chap.


Will endeavour to get the Oaken Heart.  Have not yet had a copy of Bomber Command, but one has been promised me by a friend.  They sell here for 75¢ - all profits going to the Queen’s Canadian Fund – for the relief of air raid victims – to which fund, incidentally, we are giving about £500 – surplus from the Aircraft Fund.  See clipping enclosed in “Life” [not found, unfortunately].


Re the Orfords.  About eighty miles from here is a Lake and a Mountain, both called Orford, and a small town called Orford Lake.  One day I’ll write to the Council of Orford Lake and ask for its history, though I do not think Orford is an unusual name.  There are three towns in the U S called Orford.  Things are stepping right along.  Factories going full swing.  Visited the great St Hubert Airport and training school last week with Wing Commander Kerr who is in charge there.  St H is just across the St Lawrence.  It was a distinct privilege as so few are allowed anywhere near.  I was thrilled beyond words.


So now we are at war with three more countries.  There won’t be many left soon who are not fighting.  Wonder how the Jap affair will turn out.  Things are very tense this morning.  I cannot imagine the Japs backing down now.  Their horror of losing face with the world is greater than their horror of annihilation, I really believe.  Silly little fools.  It is a pretty little country, but the miles upon miles of wood and paper houses will be death traps if some real bombing starts.  I know from Yokohama to Tokio [sic] there is scarcely a square inch of ground unbuilt, and other sections are the same.  The women who wear kimonos are sweet, but in European clothes they look like little monkeys, especially the girls about 16 ins short skirts – with their squatty short legs.  And the men who wear bowler hats with kimonos!  They are too funny.  Most of the small boys now wear little European suits, and over them a short pinafore which reaches about two inches below the middle of their tummies.  Such pinnies too, all lace and embroidery.


Today the weather is very hot and last week we had the hottest December day since 1901.  I wish the cold weather would come now.  The houses are all steam heated and when the weather is hot outside too it is not so good for health.  Apartment houses have to maintain a 70 degree temperature – by law, but people who come from England nearly die in that heat.  I like it 75 in the house, but don’t mind how cold it is when I’m out.  Not that I wear any extra clothes – just a fur coat, and fur trimmed high boots, the kind that pull on over ordinary shoes.  Sheer stockings are worn by all the women here – and the main fairly shivver [sic] on a 10 below zero day when some gal goes gaily along with 18 inches of near-bare leg in a howling wind, while they, poor dears, suffer horribly in spite of fleece lined undies, wool socks and so forth.  The latest fad now in the Laurentians is for the girls to go skiing in bathing suits.  And lots of them do it too.  Of course, they don’t stay that way for more than a couple of hours, and then only if there is no wind.  This letter must really come to a stop.  Thanks again for all the information and as soon as I can obtain something constructive I’ll send it along.  My love to Peggy and children


[Hand-written postscript]  Just got the “flash” of the attack on Honolulu!  Now see the U.S. “go to it”!

[i] Note in Geoff’s handwriting – “Son of Gladys’s brother George”

[ii] Note in Geoff’s handwriting – “No doubt this should be Colonel Gowlland”




Gladys to Geoff  - 31st January 1942


Dear Geoff


Am sending you a Photostat of a piece of a chart showing Gowlland Harbour and Gowlland Island.


With the original was a letter which said:


“I have been there, but quite a few years ago.  At that time the harbour was used as a storage for log rafts, and, I believe, still is.  There were, if I am not mistaken, a couple of settlers.  It is a good harbour for small boats.  There are quite a few people living on this island – Valdes.  It is not known locally as Quadra.  There is also a salmon cannery not far away – at Quatiaski Cove.


Not a very exciting spot apparently.  When I saw it the whole population of the island must have been there.  For it seemed to be a much more important place than the above information infers [sic].


Am still endeavouring to find one of the early survey map showing the Gowlland Range, and have also written to the Department of Archives at Victoria in an effort to obtain details of the naming of these two places, whether it was on Captain Vancouver’s or Sir John Franklin’s expedition.


When I hear I will let you know.  Cheerio – and my best to all.

PS      Now that I have this all ready to send, am wondering if there will be any objection on the part of the censors.  Do not know why there should be, though, as everyone on the West Coast with a boat must have a similar chart, including the little “yeller-belly” fishermen.


Geoff to Gladys  -  16th February 1942


Dear Gladys


As promised some while ago, I am sending off to you today an engraved replica of a crest which is almost certainly that of early parts of the Gowlland family.  Whether the Customs Authorities of our two countries will let this go through to you, I do not know; but I very much it will arrive safely as it has been rather difficult to find anyone to engrave it at the present time, people being naturally heavily engaged in more important directions.


I suspect this crest is applied more properly to the Gowland [one “L”] side than our own.  Father has quite clear, though very limited, recollections of the crest on the crockery at Romily Road when he was a boy. He is absolutely confident that the rope effect at the bottom was, in our particular crest, replaced by three words in either Norman French or some other very unfamiliar language.


At different times recently, you had a whole batch of letters from me and I only hope they duly arrived.  Their purport was briefly to thank you for the various copies of “Life” which arrived and in which we were very interested.


Apparently I have induced Cousin Melissa to tackle Uncle Charles again. As there is no doubt that he could disgorge much information from the records which he has if he were so disposed.  Nothing more has come from there or from the various other enquiries which I have set in motion.


I have contacted Colonel Gowlland who appears, poor old boy, to be bedridden owing to a tumour on his spine.  He is undoubtedly the father of the Gowlland you nearly met in the Far East, as we know one of his twin sons is a Lieutenant in an Aircraft Carrier.   I intend to go and see the Colonel in his Nursing Home one day, but unfortunately have been too busy to spare any time for a long while now.  [In fact, the "Nursing Home" was The Star and Garter Home in Richmond, of which he had previously been appointed the first Commandant.  Details will be found in Colonel Edward Lake's biography - for which click here - and for photographs of the Home click here]


The Colonel seems to be particularly well informed on the general history about which I have been able to get so little information for your recently. After I have seen him, therefore, I hope to be able to let you have a good deal more background.


For the last few weeks the War News does not really bear any comment or consideration.  Thank Heaven we here are all so busy that there is not much time to feel depressed.  We can only hope that by the time you receive this letter a few much overdue bits of good news will have come in.


Short Story.

“Goering has given Marshall Petain 24 hours to hand over the full plans of Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow.”


Geoff to Gladys  -  5th March 1942


Dear Gladys


 [11 paras re Canadian customers]


Last week, I was able to make a slight detour from a business trip and see Col. Gowlland.


Firstly I had better explain that he really is very seriously ill.  I interviewed the sister in charge first, and she explained that he is virtually paralyzed from the waist downwards.  There is no hope of recovery, although they have stopped its [the tumour’s] spread.


It seems the greatest freak of ill-fortune possible, that he has been in charge of this exceedingly large home for disabled soldiers and sailors for over twenty years, and has been largely concerned with arresting the development of paralysis in his patients.  There is no known case where the onset of paralysis took place in the five days which the Col. experienced last autumn.


He is a cheery, rather bluff type, aged, I believe, 65.  He has a large quantity of white hair, cut very short, and is generally on the large side.


Facially, he does not resemble the rest of us very much; but when he is joking somehow I can hear either my father or Uncle William talking.


He was very impressed with the [family] trees I had collected, and they fitted in very well.


If you still have the copy I sent you of the Richard Gowlland tree, you will find that his father is on the right hand side.  He is the Richard Gowlland who married a Jesse Lake of Gravesend.  He has a young brother called Geoffrey, who is ten years his junior, and who is a Brigadier in the Royal Engineers (always doctors or engineers, you see).


The Col. has twin sons, both in the Navy.  One of them was formerly on an aircraft carrier on the eastern station about the time you were doing your round the world cruises.


One son has two daughters, and the other has none.


The Col. has been the Commander of the home for many years and so naturally has a very fine bedroom.  He appears to be a bit of a connoisseur, as he has two particularly fine original bronzes on his mantelpiece, and some quite good paintings (not my type of country, really) of the Middle Italian and Early French schools. 


His life story is briefly that he was education at Haileybury, and went to a London hospital.  He practised privately in one of the Kentish country towns, and was in the Territorial Army.  In the last war, he was first in the artillery, but was later transferred, when things got grim, to the Medical Corps.


He explained his subsequent progress by saying that his persistence and longevity compared with his contemporaries were alone responsible for his present fortunate [?] position.


Actually my verdict is that he must have been a very capable man, whose modesty was quite hidden behind his cheery manner.


His hobby is sailing small boats, and even now he keep two racing yachts maintained.  He frankly does not expect to lat out this year, and it is rather sad to see the way he rather doats [sic] on his yachts.


Geoffrey, his son, who is a little older than myself, appears to be very much his favourite, but I did not gather why this was.  He married a girl from Vancouver, who is very ill with cancer, and not expected to last more than a few weeks.


The Col. was distinctly weary at the end of about half an hour’s conversation, so that I had to come away before I had got much detailed information from him.  Like many people who have been eight months in bed, his concentration is not too good, and there is no necessity for him to be terse and accurate in his recollections.


The right hand side of the Richard Gowlland tree is very well known to him, and he has met all the Australian members of the family at one time or another.


The younger female members impressed him as being attractive and lively girls, and he told me at least four times that they had all smacked his face because he naturally had insisted on kissing them.


It is very odd that he has handled our instruments for so long in his official duties without really noticing the name on them, and I put in a good bit of propaganda about how well the name was now getting known, particularly in the Colonies and Dominions.


He produced a Crest and Coat of Arms belonging to his father, who had the engraving block.  I suspected this block of being about 100 years old, so probably it was passed on from his father.


Enclosed is a photostat copy and I hope you will be interested in it.


A few mails ago, I sent you out an engraving of the Crest from Melissa, and you will see it is very much the same as the Colonel’s.


The Coat of Arms is quite new to me, and I have not yet had an opportunity of looking into its significance. 

He was very full of the Durham origin of the family, but cannot remember any details of it.  This is very unfortunate, as it is going to be very difficult to collect this information from Surrey.

I have suggested as nicely as possible that if his wife, who seems to be living apart from the Colonel in Devonshire, his sons, or secretary should come across any of the voluminous documents and notes that he had in his house before he closed it up, I would be very glad indeed to have a look at them.


I have some misgivings as to whether this will have any result.

He told me that a good deal of the crested family silver was in Australia, but that some of the younger cousins of his had given it to a Mrs Blank who now resides at Epsom near here, and she has been trying to sell it back to the Colonel for some years at a colossal sum.  There does not seem any prospect that my modest income would ever rise to being able to do this, but I am certainly going to make an attempt at a later date to get the address of this female from the Colonel.

On the subject of "The Glorious First of June" the Colonel was quite explicit.  He says it was Admiral Richard Sankey Gowlland who was born at Canterbury on the 15th September 1795 (see your copy of the Richard Gowlland tree).  This unfortunately is incorrect, because he would then have been only a child at the time of Lord Howe’s victory.

The Colonel says that the significance of port is that this Gowlland had an excessive liking for it, coupled with an extremely bad temper (don’t I seem to have come across these symptoms in others Gowllands?).  He has had his port decanter, much chipped where it had been thrown at various people, including an instance in the Battle above mentioned.

In the copy of the entries on the New Testament which I sent you some while ago, you will find at the end, at the bottom, about a Richard Symond Gowlland born 18/7/1771 and died 15/6/1807.  He does not appear on the tree, but would be almost of the right age to fit the above story.

It is intriguing that he is missing from the tree, because there might have been other people not properly included who would link up our George Gowlland with that side of the family.

I have described the Colonel at such length because frankly I do not think he will live very long, and because I do think it particularly sad that a man in his position should be smitten down so unexpectedly by the very disease that he has treated in some hundreds of cases with complete success.

I have issued a very pressing invitation for this son, my namesake, to call when his duties will permit; but I rather think that there is some suspicion of a snobbish outlook amongst the Colonel’s sons, and I am afraid our part of the family might be considered very small beer to them.

Both sons, I gather, have now the rank of Commander, and I do not think that either of them have been at all happily married.

The Colonel remembered meeting Melissa, but thought nothing at all of her husband.  I have never met either of them, so I have quite an open mind on this point.


Geoff with his parents 1942 - note air raid shelter entrance




Geoff to Gladys - 13th March 1942


Dear Gladys


By superstition, Friday the 13th is about the right day to receive news from the Sea.


It is very thrilling to see at last where these mysterious places [Canadian locations bearing the name “Gowlland”] are, about which all the family seems well informed save only myself.


The only question I would ask, in connection with your information, is the age of the reproduction.  That is to say, I am not sure whether it was an ancient or modern source.


The Calendar we found quite interesting because it was painted by an artist who you will probably have noticed has an exactly similar degree to my own – i.e. he is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, which is next door to, and was originally part of, the Royal College of Science, in South Kensington.  Three loud cheers!  The landscape artists from the R.C.A have rather a technique of their own, traces of which I recognise in the picture on the Calendar.


As a diversion from the current flood of forms, Gowlland research has been developing somewhat.


The latest line of thought is to approach other Gowllands whom I do not know.  I have run to earth Frank Gowlland, son of Arthur Gowlland who is a sort of cousin of ours of the generation before.  You will find him on the Tree, and I had notes about him in the budget [?] I sent you last autumn.  His father was the manager of Stroud Telegraph Works.  Frank Gowlland has just retired from his position as Fire Manager of one of the largest Insurance Companies, and they have undertaken to forward my letter to him.


In the Telephone Directory there are two other Gowllands, one a  dealer in soap whom I once met, the other a Surveyor with whom I have been in touch on the ‘phone (he lives only about ten miles away).  He says that he has a lot of information and is only too glad to have an opportunity of showing it to me.  One Saturday afternoon or Sunday, when I can take a holiday, I shall go over and see him.


This letter will do to inform you that I wrote by, I hope, the last mail giving you the report of my interview with Colonel Gowlland, and also enclosing a photograph of his father’s Crest and Coat of Arms.  I am very anxious that you should have the latter and, if by any chance this letter should have been lost, would you please let me know on receipt of this current letters and I will send out a copy to you.


Harking back to Gowlland Harbour and Gowlland Sound, it does look as thought these should have been named, as family tradition has it, from Vancouver’s expedition.  You will note that they are in Discovery Passage at the end of which is the Chatham Point.  The “Discovery” and the “Chatham” were two vessels in which Colonel Vancouver did his survey.  I must get out his official biography again and check up the other English names near Gowlland Harbour, and see whether they were from his crew.  I rather think they were.


The life I read of Colonel Vancouver was very long, well documented, and exceedingly boring.  Vancouver seems to have been well in the Captain Blight tradition, and had a good deal of trouble with his men.  He changed his surgeons and midshipmen several times during the course of his voyages; but nowhere even amongst all these changes did a Gowlland appear.  It was quite close to the time of Lord Howe’s Victory, and if one of our forbears really did distinguish himself in that battle, perhaps Vancouver would have known of it and have simply adopted the name from that.  My pet theory is still that they were using Gowlland Instruments and borrowed the name from that.


What I am wondering now is whether the Canadian readers of The Medical Association Journal could stand up to an advertisement containing a photograph of Gowlland Harbour or Island, which we could introduce with the thought I think [?], that Gowllands have been associated with Canada for 130 years, or alternatively that Gowlland Instruments were known in Canada about the end of the 18th Century.


If therefore you happen to come across any Picture Distributing Agencies, you might mention that you have a potential customer in Croydon you could introduce to them for a photograph of Gowlland Harbour.  Alternatively, any photograph of similar country will probably get be with not more than two or three irate letters from people who have actually been there, but this course is not one we really like.


Although the place is so unimportant, the ominous name of “Harbour” might not pass the Censorship Authorities, and the advertisement in question will have to be left until after the War.  All the same, you might perhaps bear it in mind with your usual efficiency.


Being a bit dissatisfied with the information obtained from the Science Museum at South Kensington, and in view of the fact that I have now come across four different people who claim to have seen early instruments there, I approached the Head of the Department on the telephone, and wrote him a long letter explaining the circumstances under which these instruments were added to his collection about thirty years ago.  He explains that the collections are dispersed at various evacuated addresses throughout the country, and also that their records are stored in such safety in the country at other places that they cannot readily be used for reference.  It is possible that some developments come from that source.


Our next instrument [a Medical Head Mirror] happily launched by a very large official order as a preliminary, and to be introduced to the Export Trade in the near future, has been called “The Bramber”, after the Sussex village of that name.  The only notable feature is the remains of an old Castle, a castle which has the romantic associations so seldom met with outside stories.  Apparently the Lord of the Castle in the 15th Century took justifiable exception to his wife’s relations with his Captain of Horse.  When his patience was exhausted, he had her bricked dup in a small dungeon under the Gate Tower.  Bits of the Tower still stand, and I have gaped with other tourists at the remains.


After all this family business, I am wondering whether future instruments, if my inventive abilities continue to flourish, had better be called “The Ratcliffe” or something with a family association.


[Here concludes Page 3: probably the letter contained one or more subsequent pages, but nothing remains]

Bramber Head Mirror - see penultimate paragraph of Geoff's letter above

Bramber Village - main street

Gladys to Geoff  - 21st March 1942


Dear Geoff


Feel quite guilty in not having written a fairly long letter for ages, although I have had several most interesting ones from you.  It is nice to know that Peggy and the children remain in good health in spite of the restrictions.  Poor Peggy must have her work cut out to keep the food values on an even keel.  So the small Rosemary asked you what a ham was.  Never mind, Rosemary, there’ll be bigger ‘n better hams after the war’s over.  Am sending you a copy of “Esquire”, solely for the reason that therein appears a small poem which shows that every one feels the same about the colourful advertisement, whether or no the things are for sale in the shops.


Recently sent you a copy of a letter from Victoria, giving outline of the Gowlland who surveyed the BC coast.  Also a Photostat of a chart, and two maps which I received from the Geographic Department of BC.  Sent their letter with the latter so the censors could see they are available to anyone.  Hope all these arrive safely and prove of interest.  Too bad you had no reply to your letter to the small church authorities.  The smaller the place, the bigger it ranks in the eyes of the local “small-town” folk, or so it seems.  If you care to send me the address, and an outline of what you would like embodied in a letter, I’ll write from here.  Not that I think I can make a better appear for information, but because letters from overseas are usually given more information.  What do you think?  Am sure Melissa is worried about her husband.  Who isn’t worried these days.  Peter is out on the Atlantic, just in the spot where all the sinkings are taking place, and Gertrude spends plenty of sleepless nights.


The additional information given in your recent letters has been added to my collection of Gowlland-iana (or is –ana?).  And the small crest which reached me yesterday!  It was more than kind of you to have it engraved – so beautifully too.  I shall treasure it highly.  Did Melissa supply the design?  And, do you expect to obtain from Uncle Charles the one with the motto?  Or perhaps he has only the same.  Shall be interested to know if you are eventually able to obtain information from him.


So you contacted Col. G.  Poor old boy.  Give him my best when you see him.  What a horrible thing to have – I mean the tumour.  It seems to me, as I have said before, that the Gowlland I almost met in Hong Kong was the son of Sir Henry Gowlland, whoever he is, not Col. G.  Also, as I’ve said before, when he (the Lieut.)[i] was married to a girl in Vancouver, the photograph appears in the papers in BC and that information appeared with the picture.  Wish I could find it.


I told you in one of my early letters that I had acquired the clock but it [the letter], like several others, must have gone to Davy Jones’ locker.  Explained then the whole story of how I had paid all the expenses and costs and after a lapse of about eight years, during which time the poor old chap was collecting dust and storage charges, they let me have him.  He came to Montreal in pieces and I put him together all by myself, and he ran like a charm until about six months ago when some of his interior came unbuttoned.  It will be a costly job to have an expert perform the necessary operation so am waiting until I get the time and can borrow an electric drill and do the job myself.


Wonder how many letters HAVE gone to the bottom.  See in the papers that a ship from England with 1,000 bags of mail has gone down.  That was between your letter of Feb 6th and the one with the crest.


Received a nice letter from Peggy just after Christmas.  Thanks, Peggy!  All you letters are ever so interesting.  So your friend of the “Bomb Shelter Tragedy” has married again.  Can imagine he was flayed alive by the gossips.  Personally I think he deserves a medal for his courage in defying them.  After all, it’s HIS life.


It was nice of your friend in South Africa to send the tea.  Suppose he wanted to do something “personal” for the working men who are under such strain, and that was the method he took.  Why should you feel embarrassed?  People overseas are full of admiration for the way the “small people” in England have stood up, and it gives them much satisfaction to do small things like that.  Giving to War Loans, and so forth, is so impersonal, whereas to say “have another cup of tea”, well, that’s something.  I have afternoon tea only on Sundays, and sometimes not even then.  Not used to it.


George sent me two pictures of his boys.  Was amazed at the way they have grown.  Haven’t seen George [the elder of the two boys] since he was two, and have never seen David.  Hope to get out West this year, but can never really tell.


Glad you enjoyed the copies of “Life”.  Thanks for the “Pictures of the War” and “Neptune”.  Send me a “London Times” some day.  I love to read the ads on the front page, and haven’t been able to get one for ages.  I mean the daily one- no the weekly.  The latter is sent to Gertrude regularly.


By the way, do you ever come across any of the postage stamps which were issued some short time ago – with the two heads?  If you can get them, you might obtain and keep for me, blocks of four each of each denomination.  Corner blocks preferred, and perfectly centred.  Am not sure of the denominations.  Unused, of course.  They would be available at a Philatelist’s and at not much advance in price.  You see I’m still interested in stamps and have a really fine collection; but truth to tell I haven’t opened the albums since the war started.  One of these days I’m going to invest in a really perfect penny black.  Have a couple but they’re not perfect.  In my collection are some really fine specimens of various kinds, but it’s an expensive hobby.   Next time you go to Sussex, pick up a copy of the West Sussex Gazette for me and send it along.  Wonder, though, if it is still published.  My goodness, I’d better start a new paragraph.  This one seems to be afflicted with the “gimmee’s” [sic].


There is a lot of talk about rationing here but there is no shortage.  Sugar is down to 12oz a week, which is three times what I consume so I’m not interested.  Gasoline is to be rationed at the end of this month, and I haven’t a car.  Bread is to be of whole wheat, I believe, and I love it.  So you see I’ve no hardships, to date.  See that soap is to be rationed over there.  Not so here. In fact only last week two rival soap companies were delivering, free of charge to every household, huge boxes of soap flakes, and two cakes of toilet soap, in a drive for more business.


Sent a couple of Easter eggs to the wee lad and lassie about two weeks ago.  Hope they arrive safely.  Had intended to get the solid chocolate with the gay decorations in pink sugar, but they were not available so early.  I used to love Easter eggs, didn’t you?


The war, as you say, doesn’t bear talking about.  It is too awful.  Thank God the Russians are having some victories, or else we’d have no bright spots at all.  The factories in the US are certainly going all out.  The only hold-up is the lack of shipping, as far as we can see here.


Did you hear the story –


Two men were in a railway car reading the news.  One man put down his paper and said: “We’re having some nice victories, aren’t we?”  The other said: “My, but you speak good English for a Russian!”.  Suppose you’ve heard it.  Thanks for the story on the tail-end of your last letter.  It was good.


The Far East theatre is terrible.  All my pet spots.  At least forty people, whom I knew quite well were in Hong Kong, were caught there when the Japs came.  Poor devils!  Two of the women spoke Japanese perfectly, but I doubt if that would help much.  All of them had beautiful homes at Repulse Bay or on the Peak, and we used to have such good times when the ship docked there.  We can only look to the future, I suppose, when we can skin the little rats alive.  Boy, oh boy, wouldn’t I like to have a carving knife and be in at the skinning!  Am afraid we don’t hate enough.  I’m going to develop a good healthy hate, and hate till it chokes me.  Come on, folks, let’s hate!


On checking over your letter, I note you mention a photograph of our Grandfather.  No, I have never had one, and Gertrude says she does not remember ever having seen one, so if she doesn’t remember one there couldn’t have been one!  You certainly are carrying on in grand style to hunt up the family history.  We’ll have to collaborate on a book, called “Gowllands – Good, Bad and Indifferent”: the last category would fill most of the book, the middle one a few pages, and the first could be disposed of with a question mark.  Anyway, it’s fun and takes one’s mind off the war for a spell.


This is Saturday afternoon so I’m running this off before I go home when, I believe, I’m going to have some shut-eye.  Have been keeping very late hours, so refused a most uninspiring tea-party invitation, and will sleep.  Uuummmm [sic]!  Ain’t life wonderful?


Yes, I’m coming over to visit you when this conflict (I’m sick of writing “war”) is finished, and will visit all the places I have in mind.  Can you imagine what I saw in a florist’s window yesterday?   Two guesses!  No?  PRIMROSES.  Honest-to-goodness.  Growing in a pot!  Everyone here is advertising seeds to send to England.  Is there really a shortage?  Honestly, so many things are said to be short that one wonders sometimes if a lot of ‘em aren’t gags to sell stuff the merchants don’t want.


I haven’t dared read this letter over.  Will take it home and make the corrections in ink, or maybe not bother, or the blessed thing will be a mass of blots.


This is all for the moment.  I must get out your two last letters and read ‘em again.  That’s one thing I’ve accomplished, anyway, but the road was hard and weary.  I’ve learnt to untangle all the strokes and curls and squiggles which you make on sheets of paper and call a letter.  Honest, I’m good at it now.  There was one word in your letter of Feb 6th which had me stuck.  I puzzled over it, but it refused to evolve into any word I’d ever heard of.  However, when the signet [Signature?] came, it solved the puzzle.  The word was “brass”.  I felt then that all was well with the world, and that the war would come out in our favour.


Cheerio.  My best to Peggy and the two kiddies.


PS Both original and copy of your letter re the crest were opened by censors, but the package came through untouched.  The copy of the letter came a day ahead of the original.

[i] Pencilled note in Geoff’s writing – “Col. Gowlland’s son Ian Gowlland”



Geoff to Gladys  20th April 1942


Dear Gladys


It was very nice to have your letter of the 21st March.


You will see from my replies that there have been a number of gaps in this correspondence.  I was a little uncertain whether this represented Enemy Action or the fact that Gowlland reminiscences had proved too much for you.  Alternatively, whether my writing had brought about some form of collapse.


So far as my own letters to you go, I have as far as possible managed to include the same information in following letters, so that you should I think have had the bulk of my efforts.


This morning I sent off our two yesterday’s newspapers.  There is nothing in particular in the, but you might be interested to compare their size with your own.


“Esquire” arrived last Friday and we were very interested in it.  Although of considerable size, it manages to say surprisingly little, and after our very abbreviated magazines, it is almost too diffuse for comfortable study.


Confronted with books this size, it is often difficult to find the places you have ticked, although we did locate the little poem which tickled you as it did us.


Few of your interesting letters or magazines have been censored recently.  I am rather glad that the Authorities did not check up on the enclosures in the Geographical Department of British Columbia, not that I think that hey would have been at all troubled about the main enclosure, but by the fact that the packing was so adequate and included so large a lump of wood as to be almost a young tree.  It would not have surprised me to have received a very snotty letter asking why I was importing Timber without a Licence and in any event where was my authority from the Timber Control!


You may think this a poor joke but I do assure you that sillier objections than this have been raised to importations by other people before now.


Turning in detail to your letter, I would say that I do not think very much can be done through the Church Authorities at the moment, partly owing to the fact that most store their old registers in very safe and inaccessible positions.  Secondly, nearly all the entries in which we are largely interested have already been carefully copied out verbatim by Mr Stephen Gowlland.


You should have my last letters explaining that I go in touch with Frank Gowlland who is the son of Alfred Gowlland and is a cousin of our fathers.  He says that Alfred Gowlland’s children included four daughters who are still alive and he thinks that they have some old documents.  He has promised to contact them in due course and let me know the results.


The most prolific [source] of Gowlland-lore has been a Mr Stephen Gowlland whose name I obtained from the London Telephone Directory.  He is an elderly man who for over forty years has made a passion of studying old records of all kinds.  He is actually a surveyor concerned with management of old Estates and has ample opportunity of consulting documents exactly similar to those which he uses for his normal work.  I called on him one Sunday and he has a most astonishing collection of notes which he has compiled for many years.


As a matter of pure psychology, he is much more interested in old entries and documents as such than in synthesising their inter-connection.  He has for instance made no attempt at all to put them on a Tree and is quite content to leave most of the entries entirely disjointed.  For all that he has collected a really formidable amount of information.


A short meeting during one morning, in which he talked most of the time which prevented me from taking very detailed notes, has really only served to wet [sic] my appetite for more.


Enclosed is a skeleton Tree founded on information which he showed me, and you will see we have at last joined up the Richard Gowlland/Colonel Gowlland Tree with our own.  In addition, we have been able to go back three more generations, which is quite a feat.


The first Stephen Gowlland (I seem to remember he was described as a “Yeoman Copy Holder” of Buckland – i.e. a land owner on a small scale) was the one where the change of name took place.  The story behind this looks as though it might be more romantic than tradition indicates.  His marriage licence issued in the early morning at his native church in Buckland was made out as “GOWLAND”.  He may then have ridden hell-for-leather right across the county of Kent to Sandgate, where he signed the marriage register as “GOWLLAND”.  It is a considerable ride and in those days [the] hours of issuing marriage licences and marriage ceremonies being conducted were very limited.  It is a great pity he did not leave something analogous to “Pepys Diary” describing this stirring event.


Before this, the name was variously spelt “Gowland” and “Cowland”.  With the writing of their time (Hark at me criticising other people’s writing!) G and C are often nearly indistinguishable.


Most of the information I got out of Stephen Gowlland which I saw is of a preliminary nature and I shall have to get it verified later on, particularly in respect of dates.


He has actually got the Baptism Certificate of George Castle Gowlland, and I think I am going to ask him at a later date if he will give it to me.


The only disappointing task is in connection with the crests.  Stephen Gowlland has a nephew who is a clerk or something at The College of Heraldry and has been able at one time or another to obtain a great deal of information from that source more or less without cost.  In addition, he seems to be quite an expert on Heraldry and has taken part in one or two public controversies over various aspects of this subject.


The Coat of Arms I sent you was granted to Ralph Gowland of Little Appleton in County Palatine, County Durham.  He was an Esquire and the patent was granted on 20th July 1749.  The description is that given in the standard book of Family Crests and has the print I sent to you, and also unfortunately [?] has the crest.


Not much is known of Ralph Gowland beyond the fact that he was a candidate in the Durham City Elections of March 30th and 31st and April 1st, 1761, and was elected in a contest of the 7th and 12th December 1761 but was unseated on Petition.  He was elected M.P. for Cockermouth in 1775.  A Ralph Gowland was admitted to Westminster School, London, on the 19th June 1770, presumably son of the above.  This is the North Country family from whom Colonel Gowlland quite erroneously thought he was descended.


Another Grant of Arms was made to Thomas Gowland, late of Sunderland in County Durham, gentleman and grandson of Edward Gowland and the same on the 3rd June 1803 [?].


These Arms have the main features of those of Ralph Gowland but are differentiated in respect of tinctures.  Presumably, therefore, Thomas was a descendant from Ralph.


Stephen Gowlland has traced the present day descendants of this Thomas Gowland and they are the Buenos Aires Gowlands of whom I have heard from one or two people.  They have lived for nearly a century in the Argentine and have married very much with Spanish families and are now partly Spanish.


The Mother in law of a friend of mine whom I met six months ago had actually met them at an important Official Ball a few years ago, and they said they were very proud of their Huguenot ancestry.  This is of course rubbish.  In this connection it is interesting that quite a proportion of the families in this country proudly claim to be descended from Huguenots and this is quite wrong.  In our case, Father and his brothers had thought this was correct; but we have now discovered that Gowlands and Cowlands were living in Kent long even before the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’ Day.  The crests therefore have not the slightest connection with us and we are not entitled to mount them in any way.  They could be used by the Buenos Aires family if they took the trouble to take up the matter with The College of Heraldry.


[In 2007 we had contact from the Argentine Gowlands and it was evident that in fact they were quite knowledgeable about the Crest and their entitlement to it, and they provided us with a more detailed illustration than we had ever seen before  -  click here]


Stephen Gowlland has got the original patent of the Grant to Thomas Gowland in his possession and there is unfortunately no question as to the accuracy of all the foregoing  [Regrettably there is now no trace of this].


It is Melissa who has the painting of her grandfather.  She says that this is rather an amazing though not very good piece of work of very large dimensions.  I have asked her if one day she could see about having a photographic copy made as she explains she is not able to do any portrait painting herself.  She acquired this from Marguerite, our oldest Aunt, who died some years ago in Brighton.


Colonel Gowlland has two sons, Geoffrey and Ian.  Both are in the Navy and one (I believe it is Ian) was on the Eastern Station as a Lieutenant for some years.  He married a Canadian girl in Vancouver and the Colonel was quite full of her.


I had no idea you were so aristocratic a stamp enthusiast.  All this stuff about corner blocks and perfectly centred is quite beyond me.


If you want machine tools, switchgear or chemicals bought, I am the chap to approach.  But stamps are rather outside my line of country.  However, enquiries are being pursued and all avenues explored; and no doubt some result will take place in due course.


Why on earth do you want the West Sussex Gazette?  I should have thought it was the East you were interested in.  These are being ordered and I would like to explain that one of the effects of the war is to change very much small bookstalls on [railway] stations.  No longer is it possible to see a disconcerting array of magazines of all types.  There is probably a small pile of papers at the back, and that is all.  If you are interested in “Drill for Home Guards” or “The Warden’s Hand Book” or “The Bren Gun for Home Guards” or “Simple Mathematics for Munitions Workers”, then there would be no difficulty . . . . .



[The letter finishes at the bottom of page 3: undoubtedly one or more pages are missing]



Gladys to Geoff  - 25th April 1942


Dear Geoff


Thanks for your last two letters.  They WERE something.  Just full of interesting bits and pieces.  The photo of the coat of arms and the crest came, and then your second letter saying they were spurious.  Wouldn’t the poor old Colonel be annoyed if he knew that?  You certainly have delved into the family history and what a thrill it must have been to discover Stephen L.  I really MUST come to England after the war and look the situation over.  The bit about the relations was also interesting.  That was dreadful about your namesake’s wife having cancer.  Poor soul!


Have written to Victoria to see if they can supply photographs of any – or one – of the Gowlland spots mentioned.  Will advise you later.  Hope you received the two maps.  Yes, the Victoria letter certainly settled the question of the G who made the West Coast Gowlland-conscious.   It would certainly be nice to be able to look over Stephen L’s data.  He must have devoted a lot of time to the research.  So Melissa thinks the family do not see eye-to-eye on certain things.  You and I could have told her that long ago.


Have no idea what Uncle George did in Toronto from 1912 onwards.  I doubt that he added his name to the clock as suggested.  It seems perfectly genuine.


Glad the children liked the eggs.  Hope you and Peggy shared – which of course you would.  Tell Peggy that it is rumoured we shall soon be short of knitting wool, though there is no sign of it yet.  Will have to turn out my knitted wool suits I used for cruising and use ‘em for socks for the soldiers.  Have a lovely lavender and a green, as well as a pale pink.  Wouldn’t the troops have a shock if I turned in a few in those shades!  Have considered sending over a couple of pounds of my pet cheeses to you and Peggy.  Will do so if you will promise to have a real gorge and eat it all up at once.  That’s what I like.  Lots of something all at once.  A most piggish person – me.  But perhaps your rations are not too slim and you would feel under an obligation.  Anything I hate is for people to feel under an obligation.  I never do.  Just take what’s offered and say “Anything more?”.


Yes, the copies of “Life” are interesting.  Thanks for the war news and “Neptune”.  They are really nice – and authentic.  Gertrude sends a copy of “Life” over once in a while and we learn that it is shared by fifty readers.  The one that showed the plane “McRobert’s Reply” was loaned to a girl whose fiancé flies that plane and showed his picture.  Was she thrilled!  Had it framed.


The war seems to be building up to a climax.  Big doings are suggested in the next six weeks, then we shall probably know what’s what.  Beaverbook gave a wonderful speech in New York day before yesterday.  He’s a great little guy. We like him.  So you don’t think much of Gracie Fields.  We do!  Through her concerts, which she gives without a cent of profit to herself, she has collected $700,000 in the US and $400,000 in Canada for the men of the [Royal] Navy.  And is she popular!  The concerts are always jammed-packed [sic] when she comes to Montreal.


May 2nd


Where last week went I don’t know.  It just skidded by on greased wheels.


So the small John has whooping cough. Poor lamb!  Hope he is better now.  We seem to have a lot of diphtheria here, and there is a campaign to try and clear it up.  Can imagine Rosemary would love school.  Tell her I am expecting a letter from her one of these days.  The story of the place after which you named the new instrument is interesting.  What is the nearest town to Bramber?  Am afraid I did not know Sussex half as well as I should.  Still hope to get a West Sussex Gazette.  Went to see “How Green was my Valley” last night.  It was here some months ago and now is playing at the smaller theatres.  I usually go to the small ones – for one thing they are closer home, and for another it’s cheaper.  Only 25¢ whereas down town they are from 46¢ to 60¢.


Voted last Monday as to whether the Government should have a free hand in the conduct of the war.  The vote was Yes, of course, except for Quebec.  And are we ashamed!   I’m not putting Quebec on my address any more, just Montreal, Canada.  Really I don’t know what is the matter with the population of this province.  They are steeped in a strange tradition of Canada for the Canadians, and the devil takes the rest of the world.  How they think Canada could be free (that is, Quebec) with the rest of the world in chains, I can’t figure out.  But there it is.  The well-educated French-Canadians are terribly concerned about it, and maybe they’re not sore at the rural population for voting No.  However, the mass vote is what counts, and that was Yes.  I don’t know really why they had to have a vote as we are doing everything possible for the war, except conscription for overseas service, and as we have half a million men, fully trained and equipped, mostly in England, I can’t see that it was such a serious problem, especially as we have thousands more under arms here, and thousands more volunteering all the time.  Think it was largely because of the criticism in the US.  They had conscription from the day war was declared, and have been panning us because we hadn’t.


Am sure you will have a lovely time going through the notes collected by Stephen L.  You are smart to have traced back to 1712.  For Stephen L to have gotten almost back to 1540 is stupendous.  Better slow up or between you you’ll discover that Adam’s family name and was Gowlland, and then the bible will have to be rewritten.  Think of the trouble you might cause!   Saw in a book that the one you sent me is the crest of several families including a Gowlland.  How I’d love to look over the old records, as Stephen L has done.  Must be fascinating.  I hope you’ll be as generous as you have in the past and send me along whatever you can.  I’ll really have to start a filing system and a cross-index to take care of the data.  You say SL has promised you the birth certificate of our great-grandfather George Castle Gowlland.  That was grandfather’s name too!


Expect my brother-in-law home for a few days.  He has promised to fly up from New York for a short visit, while his ship is being armed.  The war generally seems to look a little brighter with the Russians mopping up so many Huns and the pasting the RAF are giving German cities.  Aren’t they swine to talk of bombing the lovely old cathedrals in England?  What good would it do?  The bombs dropped on Japan seem to have given the yellow-devils a fright.  Hope they will do it again soon.


Weather here is lovely today.  The first tulips are out and the trees just coming into leaf – a gorgeous shade of pale green.  We need rain and thunderstorms are predicted. Suppose your trees have been in leaf for ages.


There’s nothing much in the way of news here.  Things going along very smoothly, with the city full of troops, sailors and airmen.  Our big Red Cross drive gets under way next week for more money to carry on.  All parcels to prisoners of war are packed and shipped from here and that means plenty – thousands upon thousands go the time, and now we are sending untold thousands to Russia.  It all costs plenty so we have to dig down in the slim old pocket book once more.  Your Warship Week went over in great style.


The son of a very good friend of mine is in the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] and he wrote his father a splendid letter from London.   Most intriguing.  He just loves England and is full of praise for everything.  A splendid lad – just got his commission – and is only 20.  Reminds me of the old knights who went out to the Holy Land – thinks he is on a crusade – and like his father, has a strange and wonderful love for England.  I say “strange”, for the family has been in Canada for generations and none of them have ever been to England.  I doubt that the people over there quite understand the feeling – it is something impossible to describe and yet I found it existed in all parts of the Empire, that is.  In South Africa they always speak of England as home, and when going on a visit there always say “I’m going home for a vacation”, even though their parents, and sometimes great-grandparents, were born in S.A.  In Australia I did not find this to the same extent and it is quite lacking here, but there you are.  Suppose it’s the history, and the crusades, and the wonderful old buildings, and Shakespeare, and justice, and what have you!   Remember that once, after leaving Sussex I think it was, and we returned again to the United States, I had such a longing for England I used to make myself almost ill.  Used to think “Oh, if only I had a little handful of English earth – just enough to say this is a little bit of England - I’d be happy”.  Probably I was a bit nutty because I have a great love for the United States, its many privileges and generous, friendly people.  And I really can’t say I was entirely happy in Sussex, because I was attending school in Chichester, a school run by two of the most stiff-necked, narrow-minded, class-conscious, old devils who ever walked this good green earth.  They must both be dead by now and I hope they’re enjoying the heat!  Remember one day – Mother sent me to school in white stockings – a really swish pair like most of the youngsters in the U.S. were wearing.  Glory be! !  One would have thought I was quite naked.  Were they horrified!  Another day I stopped to chatter with one of the maids.  “Don’t you know, Gladys, one never holds conversation with servants!”  and to the maid – poor devil – “Alice, you are not to stop your work to talk to Miss Gladys or any other of the young ladies!”.  Was I crushed!  Couldn’t understand it at all, because a negro cook in Philadelphia had been one of my buddies, and used to bake fresh for the little “English” girl.  However, perhaps the two old devils thought I was a bit too democratic.


My Grief, I seem to have gone into a history of the past, and it all started with Jimmy Stewart’s letter from London.  ‘Scuse it please!


Here I am on page five and I said this was to be a short letter.


George writes very seldom.  The children are fine, I believe, though small George has to have his tonsils out.  Big George is working hard.  The staff at his plant has increased many times over, and he works them as hard as he does himself.  Won’t it be grand when this war is over and people can really relax?  Of course, here is nothing to what you are going through over there, but the strain tells in time.  No wonder the “swine” are said to be cracking a bit under it all.  They’ve had it for many years and moreover must be starting to think it’s all been in vain, whereas we have victory ahead.  The Burma business is nasty. I feel so for the soldiers who have been fighting all the time and then to lose out in the end.  They must be exhausted, and no hope of relief.  Oh for ten thousand planes!


Now this is the end.  If I put in another sheet of paper I’ll fill that too.  I never know when to stop when the writing mood is on.


Cheerio.  My very best to Peggy, and the children, and yourself.


PS  Which was the most acceptable of the chocolate parcels, the bars, the mixed ones, or the eggs?  I’d like to know for future reference, and when I say I wanna know, why, I wanna know, that’s all.


[Note in Geoff’s writing   –  “Replied 3-5.VI.42”  -   but no copy found]



Geoff to Gladys  - 3rd June 1942



Dear Gladys


We were all very glad indeed to have your long letter which amused us very much.


For the benefit of your sight, reason and energy, I am dictating the first part of the answer.


Nowadays it is with feelings of a certain amount of misgiving that most of us address ourselves to writing overseas.  18 months ago, we had plenty of red-hot news and we all of us had a succession of very boring bomb stories.  We were in fact heroes in some measure and we had some news.


The position is now far otherwise.  We have no news.  From your “Life” Magazine it is evident that you in America are on the whole better served with news than are we in this country; and I have no bomb stories.


There are a few remarks which I would like to get off my chest at this point.


It is quite evident from the many kind overseas letters that have come in that the world in general has got the impression that production in this country has been absolutely negligible, and we are depending entirely on American aid.


I cannot say too strongly how wrong this is.


Yesterday in the House of Commons good old Churchill remarked that the first four-figure raids over Germany were conducted entirely by British and Colonial personnel and entirely in British-built craft.  We are sure this will come as a very great surprise to most of the people with whom we correspond overseas.


Naturally we do not in any way belittle the help which we have had from the United States.  Many of us did not expect them to do nearly so much; and certain the Lend-Lease arrangement is both generous and ingenious, and must contribute a good deal to reducing the complexities after the War.


On the other hand, the British Army, Navy and Air Force, and most of the Colonial and Allied Forces, have been, and are being, equipped with stuff made with the tears, blood, sweat and toil so lucidly described by Churchill a couple of years ago.


In our business we do not think that one-quarter of a percent of our essential supplies or tools or new machines are of American origin.


In the field of food, the American aid is certainly very evident.  The advertisement pages of “Life” earlier in the War baffled us with descriptions of mysterious but glamorous looking edibles such as “Mor” and “Spem” [Sic].  We have enjoyed them, so far as our [ration] points allow us to buy them [see below for picture of Stevenson & Rush Limited where the Gowlland family's ration  books were held, and where all food subject to rationing had to be bought], and exceedingly good they are.


Another feature of the War, which I hope in a quiet way will appeal to you, is the movements of Head Offices of big companies.


At the declaration of War, there was a terrific exodus to all the desirable country houses round London from that City.  Often the Chairman’s week-end Estate did duty, or perhaps it might be the Secretary’s.  During the Phoney War period, a large number of them went back to London.  When the Blitz started, there was a scramble to get fixed up again.  The consequence is that it is quite a job keeping track of the movements of these firms.


It must now be  about sixteen years since you came motoring with us round the corner of Kent that we like so well.  When one now orders oil from Messrs   . . .  , or special alloy tubes from Messrs  . . . ., it is very often to address on those rides you went on with us that one writes.


Once or twice recently, I have had to go up to London, and I must say I am surprised at the very large areas which had been wrecked, and which are now cleared, and nice and tidy.  Most of these were very second, third or fourth rate commercial property, whose loss we cannot in any way regret.


If we do not make a very much better job of siting and constructing this type of property after the War, it will be nobody’s fault but our own, because we now have an exceedingly unique opportunity.


[Para re introduction of new medical instrument under trade name of “Bramber”  . . .]


The village of Bramber is sort of behind Shoreham on the North side of the South Downs.  It is really joined to its larger neighbour, Steyning.  Bramber itself is not a particularly attractive place apart from the very sparse castle ruins.  The name seems such as might stick in the memory of our hard-bitten customers, and is not such as to occasion much difficulty of pronunciation by non English speaking dealers.


Steyning itself I should have thought you had visited: it is really a pleasant sleepy little town.


Your account of your Sussex experience appeals to us very much, but you do seem to have been particularly unlucky.  There cannot have been many schools left over from the Victorian era at the time when you went there, and it is unfortunate that you should have been sent to one of these.  My own recollections of Sussex are invariably connected with school holidays, as all the time I was at school, I spent very long holiday, and most half terms, in or near Eastbourne.


Since I have been married, we have had very many happy week-ends, usually at Alfriston.  But for the War, we should now be able to take our children there with us, as they are sufficiently well trained to fit in with Hotel life without too much misgiving on the part of their parents.


A farming brother-in-law just behind Eastbourne provides a first rate excuse for going down there frequently; but of course the War has entirely prevented us availing ourselves of it, and we have not been to Sussex since war was declared.


Stevenson & Rush (on the left) in Central Croydon  -  the grocers where the Gowlland family's ration books were held



Gladys to Geoff  -21st June 1942


Dear Geoff


I have been frightfully negligent in regard to correspondence but will try to make up for my neglect now.  Haven’t even sent any copies of “Life”.  They have been very poor, to my way of thinking, but will wrap up two tomorrow and send them along.  I love the picture of the Churchill baby.  It was in the newspapers some time ago, but this one (in “Life”) is so clear.  Isn’t he a pet?


Do hope Peggy and the children are now quite recovered.  It is amazing that everyone over there is so well after all you have been through.  Also it must be hard not to be able to get all the dainties one longs for when one is ill.


Now I must thank you for the papers.  They were most interesting, particularly “The West Sussex Gazette”.  I just revelled in it, particularly the ads which I found ever so fascinating.  So many places I knew and often visited.  Barratt’s Bookshop in Chichester, and shops in Pallant and North Streets.  Then bits about Selsey, Midhurst, and so on.  It was almost as good as seeing them personally.  Thanks a million!  How nice of you to go to all that trouble about the stamps.  Stanley Gibbons are awfully expensive but their stock in perfect.  For Goodness’ sake don’t ask about mint penny blacks: they cost a young fortune.  However, I doubt that any stamps can be sent out of the country now.  You will have to keep them until the war is won.


Another thing is to say “thank you” for the card of Penshurst.  It is adorable and just as I remember it.  You were lucky to visit near there again, and especially to stay at a “pub”.  I’d love it, apart for the Gowlland-iana you have dug up.  “Gracious Sakes”.  What a queer lot we are.  I loved the bit about Richard’s reply to what his father was and what he did.  Also the man who tore up the Will must have been quite a lad.  It will be lovely to meet Melissa.  Don’t forget to keep me posted.  I remember Grandfather as very tall and thin with a straggly beard.  He was a very fine swimmer, I believe.


Yes, I knew my father wrote books under the name of Henry Orford, and your father is quite right that the copyright was sold.  Darn it!  Just imagine the Lens one going into the fifth edition now.  They must have revived it and found it good.  A royalty on all those copies would have been pretty handy just now.  Yes, I would love to have a copy, if you could manage to get me one.  I have never seen one.  It was written at Selsey, and Gertrude, who writes a beautiful hand, wrote the manuscript from father’s rough draft.  He wrote it, as you say, for “The English Mechanic”, and was paid so much per column.  Too bad he did not retain some rights.


You seem to be a bit down about the reaction of the outside world to what the British are doing.  Don’t!!  We know just what has been accomplished, and what will be accomplished.  Of course, there are always people who will knock anything British, particularly in the United States.  Colonel McCormick of the “Chicago Tribune”, for instance; but there are millions who know he is just a dyed-in-the-wool British-Lion-tail-twister.  You know, the way you stood up to the Huns during the black months, and through that awful bombing, is something that will never be forgotten, a glory that will never fade, and everyone with a grain of sense knows that weaker spirits would have gone down and that today the world would have been in the process of becoming Lebensraum for the Herrenvolk (the rats!).  Came across a couple of good articles in our papers recently which I will clip and send to you.  The one in the N.Y. paper is a honey, I think.


Had a letter recently from a friend in Peking, China.  She is Helen Burton who keeps (or kept) one of the most wonderful shops in the world in Peking.  Very artistic and always travelling the highways and byways for wonderful things for her shops.  Really, I doubt she ever had anything to sell that was less than a hundred years old.  She was very wealthy and had adopted several Chinese children, whom she sent to the US to be educated from time to time (used to adopt a new one about every three years).  She speaks of the horrors and the war, and then says, “But look what the brave English went through in the days when they were alone”.  I think that that, coming from China, is “something”.  How on earth her letter got through I don’t know. 


Directed another dance the other night at the Navy Club.  Met many interesting men there.  One had been torpedoed off Hong Kong, then again off Singapore.  He was delighted when his third ship was in the St Lawrence, far away from harm (as he thought); but that one was torpedoed too, right inside our front door.  However, he was very cheerful and was just waiting for another ship.  You can’t beat that spirit!  He came from Yorkshire.  Incidentally a lot of the French-Canadians do not believe ships were torpedoed in the St Lawrence – say it is just propaganda.  Sorry to say there is a lot of ill feeling in this province over the plebiscite giving the Government the right to impose conscription.  Heard a story the other night.  Slightly off-colour but you’ll enjoy it.  “Two hundred doctors are coming down from Ontario”.  “Yes, what’s the idea?”  “Curiosity.  They want to examine the French-Canadians to see how it is they have so many children when they haven’t any guts”.


Spent a few days holiday at North Gower, Ont.  It is a lovely spot – all farming country, some 30 miles south of Ottawa.  Stayed with the girl with whom I travelled to Europe when I visited you at Croydon umpteen years ago.  She had a very severe attack of TB and now has to live in the country.  She made a remarkable recovery and is now very well in spite of several missing ribs taken out in the wonderful lung-collapsing operation.  It is ever so quiet except for the many planes flying over – from the Training School near ****** (better censor that before someone else does).  Was sorry to hear of the death of the Vancouver wife of your namesake [see Geoff's letter of 5th March 1942].  Poor girl.  Am sure the old Colonel is upset.


Have been sampling the various cheeses which my friends serve.  Came across one last week which I think will suit your taste as well as Peggy’s.  Guaranteed three years old.  It is too strong for my taste, and I hope you’ll not find it so.  Stuck in four chocolate bars for the kiddies to make up the weight.  Trust you’ll enjoy it and not the fish in the Atlantic.


So “Winnie” is back in Washington.  He certainly gets around.  We are all agog to know what’s back of it.  If only we had more shipping things would pick up.  Understand goods and manufactured articles are piled high in the docks waiting for transportation.  Peter was home for six days.  Went back in the middle of May and was off again on another voyage. He has written only once since then.  Says they are now travelling in convoy, which is much safer.  He says his next voyage will take three months, but, of course, doesn’t mention places.  I think it must be Russia.  Aren’t the Russians wonderful at Sevastopol?  Do hope they can hold out.  Molotov’s visit was a surprise.  Certainly admire the Russians.  Am thinking of taking up the language this winter.  Passed my German exams at Sir George Williams College O.K. and can swear fluently in that ghastly language.  Heard today that the town of Berlin, Maryland, is petitioning to have the name of the town changed to Lidice.  The Germans are sure storing up trouble for themselves.  It seems as if all this sadistic cruelty is something they have acquired since Hitler came to power.  But the Central Europeans have always had, to my mind, a strongly cruel streak in their makeup (I mean the Balkans and surrounding places).  So that when they get a chance to get their own back on the Huns, they will surely go to town.  More power to ‘em.  No wonder the Germans shudder when they contemplate their crimes and think of what is to come if they lose.


If you care to tell me what information you desire from the Huguenot Chapel at Canterbury, I’ll write, just to see if I have any better luck than you and Richard.  Am afraid some of your letters must have gone astray.  I do not seem to have heard of a tablet erected to George Gowlland at St Nicholas Cole Abbey (That’s what I make out of your letter – is it right?).  Bu the way, let me congratulate you on your improved handwriting, or perhaps it is that I am getting used to it.


Gertrude is away for the weekend.  Has gone to the Laurentians, so that I’ve spent nearly the whole day catching up on my correspondence.  Have a sheaf of typewritten pages on the floor beside me.  Had better watch to see they go to the right people.


There was a big military parade past the house yesterday.  Just thousands of soldiers with bands ‘neverything’ [sic].  Honestly some people still don’t know there’s a war on.  A big black car drove right through the ranks.  Then what a riot!  Several soldiers jumped on the running board, and the car kept going.  However, they got it stopped and did they tell that driver off.  He will be prosecuted, of course.  I was so mad!  Got excited and, in true movie style, cried, “That’s right – smack him down!!!!”.  Shades of my Chichester school-teachers!


Am wrapping up with “Life” and old “Reader’s Digest”.  This is for Peggy.  She will enjoy Pied Piper.  Or has she read it?  There are a few other interesting bits too.  If you care for this magazine, I will include in with future copies of “Life”.  Must confess, though, that I don’t read half the stuff I pass along to you.


The people in Victoria wrote that they could not supply any pictures of spots with our family name.  However, I shall ask some friends of mine out there to keep on the look-out.  The trouble is that places in this country are so thinly inhabited and half the places in which we are interested are names and not much else.  My friends live in Victoria and all the places, except perhaps one, are hundreds of miles away.  Glad you found the maps interesting.  The piece of wood came with the maps so I sent it on.  It will make a walking stick for John.


Haven’t addressed a word to Peggy.  How are you, Peggy?  Glad your garden is coming along so well.  I envy you that.  Just love flowers and fresh vegetables.  Uuuummmm!  Do you grow broad beans?  Can’t think of any more wonderful vegetable than broad beans fresh from the garden.  Will you grow some when I come across on that visit?  We have our (are to have next week, I should say) first ration coupons.  For sugar, this is the first, except for the gasoline.  ½ lb weekly.  Not much hardship there.  Suppose you will scarcely know yourselves when all this rationing is ended.  May it be soon!


Just heard the late news bulletins.  So Tobruk is ‘true’ and Vladivostok is in a bad way.  Then, too, Vancouver Island has been shelled.  The first shelling of Canadian soil.  Terribly concerned about Tobruk and the 25,000 men (the Germans say) who have been captured there.  Wonder what Turkey will do if Vladi falls and the Germans want to drive through.  Hope they will stand by us, but who knows?  The Vancouver Island shelling is nothing much, I suppose (the BBC mentioned it, but our bulletin did not), to get excited about.


Must close this off now, with all the best to the Croydon folk.


PS  Gertrude says the books were written at Seaford, not Selsey

PPS  Apparently the Vancouver shelling was near Gowlland Rocks

[Note in Geoff's writing  -  Replied 2-4.VII.42, and sent Fair [Copy} of Family Tree]

The Tide of War article  -  see para 6 above


Geoff to Gladys  -  6th August 1942


Dear Gladys


Just a brief note covering two enclosures which may interest you.


In this morning’s paper is a panoramic view of part of London where the raids have been severe.


Towards the right-hand side, you will find, marked, St Nicholas Cole Abbey which I have mentioned in previous letters as having a tablet in it to an unidentified George Gowlland, “Thirty years People’s Warden”.


The abbey is in almost complete ruins and parts of the walls are rather unsafe, so that I was not allowed to approach and see whether the tablet was still in question, if it should happen to be in stone, was still in position.


No doubt it will be restored later on, but I can have another look.


Previous bitter experience makes me hesitate about sending this illustration to you, because we almost invariably find that all illustrations in our own papers are reproduced in full in Colonial and American papers.  It is therefore a thankless job sending out pictures from this end.  However, you might not perhaps have seen this one.


The above will show you how sparse is the latest information on Gowlland affairs, as this is the only titbit I have managed to collect for you for some while!


Enclosed too is a pamphlet on our new “Bramber” instrument, which I mentioned some while ago.  We have just cleared up Service orders for this, and we are [now] starting to distribute to our customers who can quote us Contract Numbers.


The next optical instrument is called “The Berwick” after the village of that name, somewhat behind Eastbourne; and we really expect to have this, at the 11th attempt, finished and ready for your market in the next two months or so.

Berwick Lens Measure - see final paragraph above



Berwick Church



Gladys to Geoff  -9th September 1942



Dear Geoff


Thanks a million for “Lens Work for Amateurs” which was at home when I returned from my vacation.  I certainly appreciate your kindness in sending it.  Although I don’t understand much about such things, I can recognize my father’s hand throughout and shall treasure it highly.  Gertrude was certainly interested, in fact she shed a few tears over “once upon a time”.  Intend to send it on to George later for perusal.


Things are boiling all over the world these days, in fact “second fronts” seem to be opening up in all directions, and aren’t they catching Hell from the RAF!  There have been all kinds of revelations lately about the production front in Britain, as well as the aid they have given to the US in planes, trawlers, subs, etc.  It was a real surprise to the people in the States and here.  Pity the news wasn’t given out before, but I suppose these secrets have to be kept.


This isn’t a letter, just a “thank you” for the book.


Hope you, the children and Peggy are well   . . . .


[Note in Geoff’s writing – Replied 5.X.42]


Geoff to Gladys  -  14th September 1942


Dear Gladys


[Typed pages 3 and 4 of a letter of which pages 1 and 2 were originally hand-written]


I will finish this letter by dictation.  I am sure you will be relieved.


There is not very much one can say at this time about the War itself.


The firm has been relying for nearly two years now for the greater part of the repetition work on half-time women.  Most of them have never been in a factory before, and we have trained them all.


As a procedure for getting out of manpower problems, it is pretty successful; but this arrangement does make heavy demands on supervising, teaching and clerical staffs.


Most of the women have responsibilities outside as well as husbands or sons serving, who come home on leave at, it seems to us, all too frequent intervals.  In any event it is quite an achievement to produce such large volumes of our type of instrument almost entirely by part-time unskilled labour.


Life on the whole is surprisingly normal still.  Private cars are few and far between, and those of us who are still running them are almost always an object of curiosity, particularly to the Police, who are often very anxious to know where one is going and why, how many petrol coupons one has left, and so on.


We are naturally all considerably shabbier.  To a mere man, this is almost an advantage, as favourite and old established clothes can be worn without trouble.


So far as the children are concerned, a tremendous amount of lending and borrowing goes on, and our John often wears components from four different families.  The next child [Mark was born on 24th February 1943] will be born under the auspices of about a round dozen of Peggy’s friends, so far as clothes are concerned.


It is getting a little more difficult to work up much enthusiasm in the news one way or another.  We have heard so much that is staggering, both good and bad; and most people are concerned with their own problems, in my case Government Inspectors or official forms, that new developments are tending to leave us a little unmoved.


What we are very grateful for is about eighteen months running of nice quite undisturbed nights.  If we had to sit up putting out fire bombs, and trying to remember the latest issue of the frequent and contradictory instructions which have been issued about the latest type of bomb, then we should all be much less pleased with ourselves.


What Peggy and I mourn, more than anything else, are our weekends off.  Apart from the fact that I work through most week-ends as normal weekdays, we do miss our Pre War habit of going away every fourth or fifth weekend.


When the weather is particularly good, we do feel how very lovely it would be to be able to go again to Alfriston, Stowe-on-the-Wold, or Moreton-in-the-Marsh.


The children too are beginning to say rather pathetically that it will be nice, when the War is over, to see the sea again, won’t it?


If I sound despondent, then it is simply due to bad phrasing.  The true impression which I should be conveying is the absence of glamour, the preponderance of annoying routine in one’s life, and the lack of prospect of any let-up.  We poor Mutts who are responsible for keeping industry going at high pressure do not unfortunately get seven-day leaves, and each post and day seem to bring its new deluge of complicated forms and amended instructions.


However, we are all, so to speak, hardened to it now; and it will take a great deal to jerk us out of our stride.  But I do not think any of us could be blamed for being wistful for less exacting and more pleasant days in the past.


You yourself have undertaken to come over here, and amuse us for a time, haven’t you – and we must look forward to seeing you after the War.



Gertrude (Gladys's half-sister) and her husband, Captain Peter

John Riber Mathieson (1871 - 1954), on leave from the sea - see below


Gladys to Geoff  - 10th November 1942


Dear Geoff


Guilty!  Of inexcusable negligence!  Sorry!


Forgiven?  Should be after such big words.


Thanks so much for your long and interesting letter all about what’s doing across the water and the visit from Melissa.  She must be quite a delightful person, and in addition she has nice legs [see below]!  Geoff!   I’ll certainly have to buy some really swank nylons when I come over as you are very observant.  So glad she brought the picture of grandfather, but how sorry I was to learn from your second letter that export of a photographic copy is banned.  Ye Gods!  Are they afraid the poor old dear’s whiskers form a code or something?


We’re feeling the effects of the war now, and there are shortages of many things.  The people seem to go crazy, first this thing is rumoured as being rationed, then that.  At the moment it’s butter, and it is almost impossible to buy any, except at one’s regular store, and I doubt that the Government has the slightest intention of rationing it: there’s ample if only the great general public would not go haywire.


What a thrill when your chickens laid three eggs!  I’m sure you were very grateful and increased their rations.  Can’t understand why you don’t like looking after them – I wouldn’t mind – they’re so nice and smelly, and so intelligent – look how they run up to be fed –


Haven’t bought a copy of “Life” since the Post Office refused to accept magazines for shipment to England.  Wouldn’t buy it now any way after all the slurs they have been casting on England: even the province of Quebec came in for a pasting a couple of weeks ago, and are the people there sore!


What perfectly wonderful news lately.  First Egypt and now the landings in Algeria and Morocco.  Seems as if the tide is really turning.  Wasn’t Hitler’s speech pathetic?  Poor little rat.  Ugh!


You certainly went to town gathering Gowllandiana.  It must have been very interesting to visit the graveyards and so forth.  You’ll soon have enough data to write that book.  I am treasuring your latest notes and will file them with the others.


There is very little here in the way of news.  Our latest Victory Loan has just gone way over the top and everyone is pleased.


My brother-in-law is back from a trip across the deep water.  It was a very unpleasant journey and very nerve-wracking, but he came through O.K. though others were not so lucky.  Am afraid one of the letters I sent you has gone as we understand that there was a little trouble just about that time.  It is remarkable, though, how much gets through unharmed.  Good old Navy!


Trotted down town on Saturday to do a little Christmas shopping for overseas.  Bought the wee lad and lassie [John and Rosemary] some heavy Canadian overboots, with thick rubber soles, cloth tops and snap fasteners.  However, when I got home I was informed by several “know-it-all” people that such shoes were useless in England as there is so little snow.  So, back I shall trot and exchange them for slippers.  I still think they’d have been quite nice: warm, waterproof, clumsy, and wear-ever.  All the youngsters here wear them from November to April, rain, snow or shine.  I’m still mad.  I hope Peggy’s mad too.  Are you, Peggy?


That was a sad clipping about poor young Peter Gowlland.  Isn’t it too awful to think of the young men just on the brink of life being killed as they are.  Am sure Stephen L. was upset.


November 11th


Goodness!  What a lot of rumours this morning about France and so on.  Vichy has declared war on Germany, on England, on the United States.  Petain has ordered the French fleet to fire on the British, to join the British, to scuttle itself.  Only thin to do is “wait and see”.


So glad you have been able to acquire a maid, even one in an “interesting” condition.  How’s Peggy getting along?  Looks as if March will be a good month after all.


Peggy!  When I was in Peking last, I bought a short length of white silk intending to make a sheet for small David’s crib.  However, I never got around to the job as I had a number of other interesting articles to send to Calgary, and kept putting it off until David was much too big.  Will send it to you and you can make a wee garment for the new-comer.  Personally I think silk sheets for babies are nonsense, but I was talked into the idea by a devoted Grandmother who was buying flocks of them for her grandchildren and others.  It's quite a pretty piece with outlines of Chinese children woven in: moreover it comes from one of the most delightful cities in the world.

Weather wonderful here at present – not a bit cold.  We had a downpour yesterday, though, just in time to ruin a giant parade in honor of George Beurling.  However, he received a wonderful welcome.  What a lad!  Must put this aside for a while  . . . .

Undated continuation  . . . .

Have just run through your letter again – the typewritten part, and studied the hand-written section.  I like your description of Melissa.  She sounds nice and I’d like to meet her sometime.  You certainly gave plenty of news in that direction and it was all absorbingly interesting.  Almost feel I know her.  It was nice of you, Peggy, to say her hair was a natural corn colour: I think so too (we gals must stick together).  But please do tell me again what type of nose she has.  Your word for it could be frosted, frontal, provost, roasted – anyway it’s something with seven letters.

What a pig Uncle Charles was about Aunt Margaret’s effects.  Glad Melissa was able to make him disgorge the painting.

The number of CPR [Canadian Pacific Railroad] employees in the services has grown to 13,000.  Not bad!

Mrs Roosevelt seems to be making a hit in England.  Isn’t she homely – but what a dear.  Wendell Wilkie must be feeling like a nickel after what he said about “prodding”.  Shows how little even the really important people know.

Really got down to writing a long letter to George and Muriel yesterday.  So long since I’d written I was afraid they’d be pretty mad.  Suppose in about four months’ time I’ll have an answer. 

Glad you had such splendid results from your garden.  It looks a fine big one in the picture you sent me.  Wish I had a garden.  Just love fresh vegetables.  We’re having a lot of fun here with shortages.  No pork now, but spare ribs and pork hocks.  The ribs are amazingly spare, and I think the pigs that produced the hocks must have been raised in the Rockies and spent their time mountain climbing.

How nice of your mother and father to let the refugee folks have their house.  It was a nice house.  I remember the little brick pathway along the side where the milkman used to deliver the milk, and the pretty garden with a workshop at the end, and the grandfather clock [see below] at the foot of the stairs.

This seems to be all at the moment so I must call a halt.

PS  Thanks for the war pictures and “Neptune”.  The pictures are superb.

[Note in Geoff’s writing – replied 27.12.42]


Melissa with Geoff and the Children - see para 3 above - 1942


Geoff's father Egbert's clock (see penultimate para above) in 2005: beside it, Egbert's portrait


Gladys to Geoff  - 23rd January 1943


 Dear Geoff

Thanks a million for “Lens Work for Amateurs” which was at home when I returned from my vacation.  I certainly appreciate your kindness in sending it.  Although I don’t understand much about such things, I can recognize my father’s hand throughout and shall treasure it highly.  Gertrude was certainly interested, in fact she shed a few tears over “once upon a time”.  Intend to send it on to George later for perusal.

Things are boiling all over the world these days, in fact “second fronts” seem to be opening up in all directions, and aren’t they catching Hell from the RAF!  There have been all kinds of revelations lately about the production front in Britain, as well as the aid they have given to the US in planes, trawlers, subs, etc.  It was a real surprise to the people in the States and here.  Pity the news wasn’t given out before, but I suppose these secrets have to be kept.

This isn’t a letter, just a “thank you” for the book.

Hope you, the children and Peggy are well   . . . .

[Note in Geoff’s writing – Replied 5.X.42]


Geoff to Gladys  -  23rd January 1943  [Note  -  this was sent as an Airgraph]



Dear Gladys


Yesterday an Airgraph came in from a Western Canada customer to our surprise.  Nobody seems aware that the service had started with Canada.


I am therefore sending an Airgraph in the opposite direction to see whether in fact the service is working.  At the best of times my writing must impose a severe strain on you: reduced in size by an Airgraph, it would be an unnecessary strain, and therefore I am dictating this note.


From the Dominions, Airgraphs have proved a most exceptional convenience to us in our business; and we are delighted that it has now started with Canada.


Peggy has written thanking you for your magnificent Christmas presents for the children, which arrived safely but otherwise intact.


The Luftwaffe seems recently to have remembered that London is still here, and we have all heard bombs, machine guns and a barrage again.  Incidentally, WHAT is a barrage?


Mother and Father and my family are all flourishing, and we are all encouraged by much better news.


We hope you are well and that one fine day we shall see you over here.


George Mark was born on 21st February.  Geoff evidently cabled the news to Gladys, to which she cabled a reply (see below) and then followed up her cable with an Airgraph.



[Cable from Gladys to Geoff agreeing to be Mark's Godmother]



Airgraph from Gladys confirming her cable


Gladys to Geoff - 6th March - As Airgraph - see above.

Dear Geoff

So pleased to receive your cable [see above] saying George Mark had arrived safely.  Am sure, Peggy, you are glad it is safely over, and Geoff must be thrilled to have another son.  I love the name you have chosen.  How nice of you to suggest I should be godmother.  What do I do now?  George & Muriel wrote me once when I was cruising asking me to be Godmother to David, but that's the last I heard so I don't know whether I've been officially appointed or not.  Your cable was received on March 2nd.  Glad you found out above airgraph letters, but there doesn't seem to be much saving in time.  Yours dated 23rd Jan. reached me on Feb. 14th.

Must thank you, Peggy, for your delightful letter.  So glad the shoes fitted and that you liked them, also the chocolates, etc.  Things here are rationed pretty closely now, but nothing like you have over there, though we have less of some things than you; tea is quite short; as you say, it's only 1 oz per week.  But no one grumbles - much.  Thanks for the "Fighting Front" - I mean, "Front Line".  It was wonderful and the remarks in your letter, Geoff, made it more interesting.  The "Posts" and "Neptunes" etc arrived safely.  Thanks!  By the way none of your letters have been censored recently.  How come?

I will write a real letter soon - this is just a rush affair.

I liked the picture of Melissa and the children and Geoff.  M. looks a very nice girl - legs and all, and the children are dears.

That air raid shelter disaster was dreadful - after all they have escaped too!  What a tragedy.

Things on the various fronts seem to be shaping up well.  Let's hope 1943 will see Hitler shouting for mercy.  We've just received news of our new Budget.  Taxes appeared to be about the same as heretofore, in many categories they are higher than yours, but now we find we have to pay part of 1942 and all of 1943 this year.  Ho Hum!

This seems to be all for the moment.  Much love to you all, and an extra special kiss for my godson.

As ever  . . . .


Gladys to Geoff  - 20th March 1943


Dear Geoff

My Airgraph letter [dated 6th March – see above]  was so short I feel I must just write a little more in answer to your very long and interesting letter telling me what’s doin’ on your side of the world.  I acknowledged “Front Line” and the magazines which I enjoyed.  It is quite a revelation to read “Front Line”.

Nice to know you are supplying the Yanks with Gowllands instruments etc.  The British seem to be supplying them with plenty of gear of all kinds.  I should not say Yanks because, if the lads come from south of the Mason-Dixon Line, they resent it.  I believe there are plenty of Americans in London now and I’m sure they’ll make a good showing when the time comes.  That defeat they had in Tunisia was a bit of a blow to their pride, and report says, “How Green was my Ally” is a favourite song with Montgomery’s men.

Gowllandiana seems t have struck a dry spot now you have run down all the sources of information, but doubtless something new will come along one of these days.

The Huns seem to be blitzing England again, but what a poor showing!  And what we are doing to them!  Glory is!  Bet old Goering is fit to be tied after his boasts that Germany would never be bombed.  The Second Front seems to be drawing nearer, but I hate all those rumours about the Russians making a truce with Germany and so forth.  It’s very doubtful, but where there’s smoke  . . .   etc  . . . .

Am sure you are delighted that Peggy came through her ordeal safely and that you have another son.  Where did you get the name Mark?  I like it  -  it’s different.

We’ve had the most Gosh-awful winter.  Really, it’s been too impossible.  Started on November 15th and we’ve had terrible times ever since.  One would think we’d gone back to the Ice Age.  The whole city is coated with a layer of ice, and even today, March 20th, men are at work with electric drills trying to clear the 500 miles of sidewalks and streets.  Practically all of them coated with ice about 10 inches thick and the streets look as if they’d been bombed – great crates in the roads where cars get hopelessly stuck.  Up to the middle of February. The CPR had paid out $3,500.00 above normal trying to keep the tracks clear, and even then the trains were hours late.

March 27th

Started this last Saturday and put it aside.  Such a busy person, me!  Really, though, we’ve been doing so much night work trying to keep ahead of things that writing is almost out of the question.  How on earth do you get time to write such nice long letters?

Believe it or not, the weather cleared up and the last five days have been perfect.  Snow melting like fury and the streets flooded.  Such a relief.  We have yet to see our first patch of grass, though.  A couple of robins arrived last Wednesday, complete with mufflers and fur-lined shoelaces.  I don’t know how they exist.  Sparrows have been with us all winter, of course.  They’re cheeky little devils, and so brave.  We keep them supplied with crumbs and have a regular train of customers each morning.  Suppose by now the English countryside is a picture.  Lucky devils!  I’d even risk a couple [of] bombs to smell a bunch of primroses.

George wrote about six weeks ago.  He isn’t at all well.  The boys are just fine.  They sent a nice picture of the two of ‘em at Christmas.  Real laddies.  But they’d like to welcome Rosemary and John AND Mark to the woolly west.  Hope they will all meet some day, but they are sure to do that.

This is Saturday so we are closing early and I must get on my horse to gallop uptown and do a little shopping.  Need a hat, etc.

Please tell Peggy I’ll write her within [a] few days in answer to her charming letter.  Have been trying to get Easter Eggs for the kiddies but they are out – definitely out.  No sugar.  Too bad.  I know how they enjoyed them last year.  We are getting frightfully short of everything now.

 All the best to all the best, and a kiss for Mark.



Gladys to Peggy  -  1st April 1943



Dear Peggy


Wrote Geoff last night and here comes a line or so for you.


Hope you and the latest Gowlland are progressing nicely and not finding life too difficult.  I suppose his time to worry will come, but just now he is indulging in his most popular method of passing the days - eating and sleeping.  Trust he doesn’t yowl too much.  You must certainly have your hands full now.  He's a war baby right enough.


Was amused by your description of the various maids.  They are indeed hard to get.  Here it is difficult and there it must be well nigh impossible. Wages here are very high - $60.00 for a good general and from $35.00 for help which is practically useless.


So glad you indulged in the peach nightie etc.  There's certainly an uplift in nice undies.  I bought flocks when I was in China each year but they are running short now.  Last week I actually had to go out and buy panties - really cute ones though, pink with blue butterflies (ticklish) outlined in blue, and all for 59¢.   Want some?  Sometimes prices amaze me. Things one expects to be expensive are quite reasonable for weeks, and then go up in price for no reason that anyone can fathom.


Meat is to be rationed next month.  I suppose our talk of rationing amuses you, after all you are going through.  However, it is getting quite bad here with shortage of many things.  Rather surprising as the crops are enormous and we’ve always exported so much of everything in the way of meat, cheese, etc.  Those exports though were a flea-bite compared with what is being shipped now.  But no one is kicking, at least not many.


We had a street car strike for two days and everything was held up.  I was lucky in being able to take a train in the morning, and getting a ride home at night.  People are furious with the Tramway employees as work in the war plants was crippled.  Good thing they chose a couple of decent days to strike.  Had it come in bad weather we'd have been sunk.  The snow is melting fast after the worst winter in fifty years.  Soon we'll see bare ground - I hope.


There is nothing much here in the way of news.  Told Geoff I tried to get Easter Eggs for the wee lad and lassie, but no luck.  Haven't seen any milk chocolate either lately.  However, if I do come across some, I'll remember Rosemary likes it and send some over.  Would very much like to send some little thing for Mark but have no idea what he needs.  Will you be an angel and give me an idea?  You must be short of numberless things but the thing is what.  Now don't say he has everything he needs because you know what happens to little girls who tell fibs.


Affairs in Tunisia seem to be developing nicely with the Rommel rate on the run.  Submarine warfare is still serious though.  Haven't heard of my brother-in-law since mid-February, so hope he's all right.  There have been a lot of convoys attacked since then.


Must bring this to a close, with much love to you all and a big hug for wee Mark.



Geoff to Canadian customers 30th April 1943



Dear Sir


We take pleasure in sending to you two booklets, “Eve in Overalls” and “25 Years Young”.


[Seven paragraphs on Gowllands Limited’s manufacturing efforts during the war]


The other booklet on the R.A.F needs no comment from us.


We have a not unnatural delight, having endured the Nazi blitz on London for 80 nights on end, in hearing of the destruction which the R.A.F is now achieving of the German Armament centres.


Situated as we are on the German side of London, we got an extra heavy dose because, as our defences improved, faint-hearted pilots used to come about as far as us, do their stuff and pack up home.


People abroad have, we fear, often thought that during 1939/40/41 we were not doing enough.  The exploits of our Armies, and Air Force in particular, have probably now demonstrated to everybody that, once we have the equipment, we can achieve results which are spectacular and are, we may say, very satisfactory to those of us who had to work to produce it.


When we have had so much bad news at different times, of which probably the unexpected collapse of France was the worst, the improvement now makes us all feel that the end of the war, although by no means near, can really be thought about.


Other overseas friends have pointed out that the letters we write often exceed in number the instruments we are able to send.


We do assure you that this is only because we are very anxious that you should remember us and know that we are having considerable difficulties of one kind or another here.  Now that the hour of more extensive operations is approaching, the demands upon us will certainly not diminish, and it seems it will not be until after the war that we can keep you supplied in the way we were able previously.


If, as we hope, you enjoy these little books, would you be kind enough to pass them on to someone else who may be interested? 


Yours faithfully . . . .



Geoff to Gladys  -  17th May 1943



Dear Gladys


You and your half-sister will no doubt be quite interested in the enclosed rubbing from a microscope objective which was recently sent to us for repair.


Actually we are not set out for the type of work required, and we are obliged to refer the enquirer to the British Microscope Makers.


In all the years I have been in business, it is the first time I have actually seen a "H. Gowlland" component although I have seen them in second-hand catalogues some while ago.


Now that Tunisia has successfully fallen much quicker than we expected, we are all agog to know what we are going to do next.


The older generation are all very impressed with the similarity of the unexpected German collapse, in view of their morale, heavy stocks of food and munitions etc, immediately we have broken through to Tunis, compared with 1918 when, for little reason apparent at the time, their whole effort folded up quickly.


It is obviously too early to expect the same sort of thing to happen, but there is no doubt that this fundamental weakness of the German character, that, whilst winning, they are a very tough proposition, but when things go wrong, approximate to a walk-over, has be no means been eradicated by their ten years or so of Nazification.


Australian correspondents still write in rather bad-temperedly pointing out that we are wasting our time and frittering away efforts on Germany, when we ought to be thinking about Japan.  They point out that heavy Japanese bases are only 600 miles or so from parts of Australia.  We cannot help thinking their geography is a bit weak, because parts of England are less than 21 miles away from some of Germany's best troops and Air Forces, whilst this letter is written, a mere twenty minutes or so flying time from some of their best aerodromes.


We suspect it is fundamental that one's own troubles always seem much worse than the other fellow's.


South African correspondents on the other hand were very cocker-hoop when Tripoli was taken.  We are looking forward with relish to their next letters now that Africa has been finally cleared.


I do hope the little book on "What Britain has done" has arrived safely.


On our behalf, do show it to various people.  We think that we have made a great mistake in not shouting enough about our own efforts, and even, in these enlightened days, our modesty or bad press agenting is not fully recognised.


However, we definitely showed the whole world in Africa that we really can hand it out to the anything like proper opportunities [sic]


With very best wishes   . . . .





Geoff to Gladys  -  7th June 1943


Dear Gladys

 On the 30th April I sent you a copy of a circular which I had been sending to our Overseas Agents.   With it were copies of two nice little booklets called “Eve in Overalls” and “25 Years Young”.  I do hope these arrived, as they are well worth reading. 

With this letter is a copy of a new booklet entitled “A People at War”.  This seems to be one of the very best booklets the Government has yet produced, and I am making an effort to send them to everybody with whom we correspond overseas. 

From the Identity Card at the beginning, through the Black-Out, Air Raids and their damage, to the Income Tax and Allotments, it really does give a very pungent little picture of what life is like here. 

Judged from the standpoint of 1939, things are in many ways very grim; but all the restrictions and difficulties have arisen one by one, and we have always been able to grumble at them, consequently affairs are much more tolerable than would perhaps appear to people abroad.

To take the Black-Out as an example, we have had close on four years of it.  It seems part of our life now, and it will honestly seem unusual when one is allowed to show lights again or to use unscreened headlights on cars 

In “A People at War”, you might study page 33.  St Nicholas Cole, or rather its ruins, are the square tower in the middle distance slightly to the right of the crane, the body of the church itself being the dark building with the long windows.  Since only the walls exist, the damage inside is rather worse than appears from the picture, which must have been taken a good while ago, because when I went through there, looking for the statue of George Gowlland  . . . . . . . . . [sic], all the area around was beautifully tidied up and smooth and featureless.

Your very acceptable Easter offerings for the children duly arrived nearly ten days before your covering letter.  The children were of course very thrilled and very grateful.  Peggy has not yet found time to reply suitably, so would you please take this expression of our thanks for the time being.

A considerable Airgraph correspondence is being conducted by us with numbers of people in Canada.  We should think that after the war, when there are not censorship delays, this form of correspondence will probably replace entirely ordinary mail.

It looks like an excellent year for fruit and gardens, and everyone is very allotment-conscious.

You probably have noticed from various enclosures that we are now managing to grow a most satisfactory proportion, said to be 70%, of what we eat; and it looks as though we shall not be going hungry for a long while yet.

Yours very sincerely  . . . 

PS   Funny stories recently, seen only to have been of local interest.  Have you heard this one of the “Battle of Britain” era?

A German plane crashed on a hillside.  A Home Guard rushed up and found it in flames, with a countryman chewing a straw and leaning on a pitchfork.  “Has anyone escaped?”, asked the Home Guard.  “No”, replied the countryman, “There was one came out with his clothes on fire, but I soon fork’d ‘im in again!”’.

The "Gowlland girls" with their overseers - see first para below

Gladys to Geoff  - undated


 Dear Geoff

[First page of unknown length and on unknown subject(s)] 

Now I have two letters to answer: the last arrived about the 20th - uncensored for a change.  They were both packed with interesting items and made good reading, though I must admit a few sentences are still undeciphered.  What a fist!   [This is by no means the first time that Gladys has complained, justifiably, about Geoff's handwriting]

Glad indeed to know that my small godson is making such splendid progress, and that Peggy is well again.   She must be hard put to it to do everything without help.  When the war is over and help is available again, she won't know what to do.  (Or will you, Peggy?)

The new items of Gowllandiana are interesting but what a shame that the records were lost when the church was bombed.  I'll have to see that church when I visit you.  The way things are going it looks as if we may be able to fly the Atlantic pretty cheaply.  Won't that be wonderful.  I could make a trip every year!  Umm!

Have sent a parcel today addressed to Mark.  It contains a would-be teddy bear.  Ugly little brute.  Teddy bears are not available.  Could have bought a lion but he was much too big and rather awesome.  So I purchased this little blue apparition.  However, he is very soft and cuddly and promises not to get rough.  Am sure Mark will find him a nice cosy sleeping companion.  In with the Teddy (?) bear is a puff which you will find useful, Peggy, for powdering him (the baby, not the bear) after his bath.  Came across it in a big box of dusting powder I opened this morning.  Had it for a gift a couple of years ago and just got round to using it.  So I'm sending the puff along to help make up the one-pound weight.  The rest, about one oz, is made up with Kleenex.  I hate wasting weight on postage.  Now I must thank you for the suggestion - I really did not know what to send.

How lovely your garden sounds in spite of the lack of care.  Here, believe it or not, the trees are only just breaking into leaf.  The winter was too awful, the worst in a century.  Honestly, it lasted right to the end of April, and the first week in May gave us a nice snowstorm too.  Am wondering how the crops will come on after such a late season.  However, things here grow at amazing speed, so perhaps we shall catch up.  And the Gowlland girls!  So glad they are doing their stuff.  I can’t understand how you describe chickens.  I like ‘em. 

So you went to the farm!  Do you suppose Peggy’s brother will let me come down and look it over?  I like farms, especially nice ones.  And the animals!  So much nicer than most people.   Will you take me, Peggy?  There must be plenty of work to do with all those cows, and then the rationing of fodder must be a trial.  However, as you say, England is growing so much more than previously. 

Had a letter from George a while ago, telling me he had changed his position.  I think it was very wise as he was getting worried to death.  Muriel says he looks better already.  George takes things very much to heart.  I think he was pretty mad at his firm as he invented a machine to save thousands of man-hours and they never even said “thank you”.  I think that was the last straw.  He is in the Home Guard, drills three nights a week with the “Engineers” and I guess it is good for him.  I hope to go west in September to see them, and then on to the West Coast and as far as Victoria.  If time permits I may be able to get up to the top of Vancouver Island by plane.  I’m doing a lot of work now for Canadian Pacific Airlines and they tell me I can have a pass over any of their routes, which is just duck-soup to me as I love flying.  May be able to look down on some of the Gowlland name places. 

Hope Rosemary and John received the chocolate chickens.  I sent them much too late for Easter but doubtless they would taste just as nice.

Thanks so much for the two booklets.  They are very nice indeed and most interesting.  That is a smart idea of yours to keep in touch with your overseas customers and I hope it will bear fruit after the war.  How is your friend Palmer getting along?  I’m glad you mentioned in your circular letter about the difficulties of getting labour.  No one realises what you are up against unless it is explained.  People are always more reasonable if they know why a certain thing is necessary. 

Mr Churchill has captured all hearts in the States again.  What a man!  Wasn’t that a wonderful speech to Congress.  What a splendid choice of words he has and the effective way he strings them together! 

Did I tell you before that I’d be delighted to receive a magnifier, especially with the name on it?  Like you, I’m a great believer in advertising. 

Note what you say about your Agent in Johannesburg, but I know only a couple of people there, both residents.  One, a Mr Matheson, with the South Africa Railways, and always a particularly good friend of mine.  The other, a Miss something Smith, who lived in Montreal but went to Jo’burg to keep house for her brother.  She is quite elderly and crippled, and not much fun.  I know several others, but only chance acquaintances.  However, if anyone I know goes to S.A. and is in the direction of Jo’burg, I’ll let you know pronto.  Thanks!  Thank you also for promising to welcome any friends of mine to London.  Truth to tell, most of the men I know went over early in the war and Goodness only knows where they are stationed now as I seldom hear.  Peter left New York about two weeks ago, presumably for England; but as he docks far from London, I doubt he could make a trip in the short time he is in port.  He had a very successful voyage to Oran in March and has nothing but praise for the way the British handle things.  He needed some stanchions, used for supporting aeroplanes, removed from the deck of his ship for the return voyage.  The U.S. authorities could not do anything for two weeks, so he visited the British authorities.  They said they would do it, and before he got back they’d already sent a crew on board and they were hard at work when he went abroad.  All finished in one morning.  That’s efficiency.  He couldn’t pay the as it was charged in the usual way, so he gave each man two cartons of cigarettes (400) and they were thrilled to bits.  He said too that the Fleet was something to see, but of course he tells only bits and pieces.  Such caution!  I’m pretty proud of that brother-in-law of mine, and am enclosing a picture of him with Gertrude [see below], so you'll know who to say “hello” to if he ever comes knocking at your door.

More and more things are being rationed now.  Meat starts on the 27th of this month.  One pound without bones and two pounds with, per week.  That doesn’t both me either as I don’t are much for meat.  I like vegetables – lots of ‘em; but they’re practically unobtainable here and have been for months.  Last week half a cabbage, about two pounds, was 72¢.  I’ll bet you DO laugh about our rations.  They must seem pretty generous to you.  It is rumoured that clothes will be rationed in the Fall.  That’s fine.  A good excuse for wearing old ones, which, incidentally, I’m doing now.

I’m looking forward to my holiday although it is so far away.  George is nearly nine and David six.  I haven’t seen David, so am looking forward to being taken out by my two nephews.  George is already planning to send them to McGill University, but that’s in the distant future. 

This is Empire Day so we have a holiday.  It was taken off the regular list of holidays by the Government; but everyone kicked so lots of firms closed anyway, including the CPR.  However, we shall have to suffer for it.  I worked until midnight on Friday and suppose it will be midnight again nearly all next week.  Ho Hum!  Damn this war, anyway.  We’re busy distributing Victory Bonds subscribed for by the Company’s employees.  Our Loan went over the top in a big way, a couple of hundred million over, which is very nice.

This letter seems to have gone on and on and gotten nowhere so I’d better call a halt, but I must say first how thrilled we are at the war news.  What a showdown for the Heinies and the Wops in Tunisia!  Wasn’t it wonderful!  And that bombing on the continent!  Just had news of the Dortmund raid, two thousand tons of bombs.  Boy oh Boy!  Bet they hit where it hurts the most.  Sorry to hear of the bombing of the south coast town last night.  Probably some place I know but the name hasn’t been announced yet.

Must finish all this up now, with all the best to you and Peggy and of course love to Rosemary and John, and a special hug for Mark.

Geoff's Morrison Shelter

[Click here for more information]


Gladys to Geoff - 7th October 1943

Dear Geoff

Many thanks for your letter of August 29th, full of news, and what-have-you. Also for that of Sept. 18th with photographs. Both of these and the magnifier were awaiting me on my return from the West Coast on 3rd inst. The family group is splendid. What adorable kiddies! And isn’t my godson a honey. Bless his wee heart. He looks like an ad for "Better Babies" or something. Peggy looks tops in spite of all her trials and tribulations. Never heard of a Daddy being a god-daddy too! You should be mighty proud of your double title. The magnifier [see below] came in very handy at the moment, as I was able to enlarge you all. It’s a splendid little affair – so neat and serviceable and the magnification truly wonderful. You are certainly to be congratulated on the "Falmer". The name "Gowllands " stands out well. Thanks a million. Wrote Mr Palmer [Canadian buyer] thanking him for sending it on.

Am afraid I overlooked saying "Thanks" for the rubbing of the case of one of my father's [microscope objective] lenses. We found it very interesting, recalling, as it did, so many forgotten memories. I still have his personal microscope of which he was always very proud.

Re the stamps. Honestly I’ve not opened one of the albums for nearly two years. Stamp collecting takes a lot of time (and money) so that with so much going on I’ve temporarily lost interest. However, what I asked for was the King George V set (up to one shipping) and all other issues since (in mint blocks of four). If this it too tall an order, or if the stamps have increased much over face value, please skip it. I really must take time one of these days to check over my possessions, but life at the moment is much too hectic for such quiet pasttimes [Sic].

Sorry to hear of the three tragedies. How terrible! I wonder, though, that far more people over there don’t go haywire with all they’ve been through, living in shelters and so on and being for ever on the alert. What a relief there is such a definite let up and that the news from all fronts is so good.

So Gowllandiana has picked up again. Your notes on our possible forebears are very interesting and the names of the places they live [in] truly fascinating. I like Godmasham best; but perhaps that’s because I was reading a lot about Hitler just being [Sic] I got your letter.

Hope you were able to do your boating trip with John and Rosemary. Would like to join your Mother and Father on a bus trip around London.

Had a grand vacation. Stayed five days with George and Muriel in Calgary. Their two boys are dears – real he-men and always whooping it up in true Western fashion. David – at six – is smart as a whip. Goes down into his father’s workshop and lab (in the basement) and builds all kinds of things. I was presented with a house and a wooden sawed-off shot-gun (gangster type) when I left. George is a dear – much quieter, with a million-dollar smile.

George was surprised I’d been having such an interesting correspondence with you and Peggy. He is much better since he quite his old job – has much more time for himself in his new position and very little worry. Insisted I sent him a copy of the family tree – wants it for the boys when they grow up. He is doing a lot of special work – in his spare time – for doctors in Calgary, and is tinkering with the idea of going in for that sort of thing more fully. Instrument work is his real vocation and the one in which he should have continued. Always seems to be solving problems of some kind or other and inventing new gadgets. He feels there is a great future in Canada for optical, surgical and scientific instruments of all kinds [i.e. for imported products, not locally made], but is fully conscious of the advantage the United States firms have in being so close. However, with air transport progressing at such speed, the time element on things form England will not be so formidable. There will be a real fight for business later on and Canada, like other countries, will certainly be needing plenty of new equipment. It is to be hoped the British businessmen will be able to get in on the ground floor. George asked for one of your catalogues and I gave it to him. You two should really get together – you have so much in common. Apparently he realises this for he said he would write you, and when George says he’ll write anyone, I can tell you, it’s SOMETHING.

Enclosed a couple of snaps. Will send pictures of the boys later (George kept my films of them, darn him).

Had a fine time in Vancouver and Victoria. The trip (by air) to Vancouver Island was wonderful. Such scenery! The glorious Rockies were just as glorious as ever, and the prairies – miles upon untold miles of wheat-land, with the harvesting in full swing – something to dream about. George drove us all to Banff where we went swimming in the hot sulphur pools in the shadow of snow-capped mountains. Vancouver is a hive of industry – great new aircraft and other factories working 24-hour days, and the shipyards, both there and in Victoria, going day and night. Of course, there will be a terrific let down when the war ends, but this, undoubtedly, is the country of the future.

Now I won’t bore you another minute.

My very best to Peggy, self and children (Mark extra special).

Cheerio, as ever.

PS    Thanks, Peggy, for your nice letter. Glad the blue-bear arrived safely and hope Mark will soon be able to play with it. Your family are certainly a credit to your good housekeeping – they all look the picture of health. Cheerio, (second time)

PS    (Second time)   You may be hearing from a friend of mine, Captain Alan Russel of the Calgary Scottish. He is in Canada at the moment, brought over a batch of prisoners from North Africa, but is returning to England soon. Cheerio (third and last time.)

[The letter is marked in Geoff’s writing "Replied 13.XI.43" but not trace remains].

[Re the Magnifier  -  Geoff and his father introduced this magnifier in order to use up sub-standard lenses from a very big contract for the Ministry of Defence.  Lenses with slight scratches, or not perfectly centred, or wedge-shipped (thicker on one side than the other) would be rejected by the Ministry Inspectors, but were quite good enough for this magnifier; and it was designed to take three of them, giving a magnification of about X6.  The “Falmer” is still sold (by Gowlland Optical Limited) but nowadays the lenses are plastic and are two in number, still giving the same magnification.  It is illustrated below, together with a picture of the village church of Falmer]

Falmer Magnifier as shown in original catalogue

Falmer Church and Village Pond


Gladys to Geoff  - 15th January 1944



Dear Geoff


Your long and interesting letter dated 13th November [no trace remains of this letter, unfortunately] reached me about mid-December.  It was SO interesting I sent it out west [to her brother George, presumably].  Only today was it returned.


Am frightfully sorry about the damage to your lovely house.  All that damage and confusion. As if she didn’t have enough to contend with.  Do hope you will get “repaired” in due course.  And the bomb at your parents’ hotel!  That was a close shave.  I’m sure it was a frightful shock to them both.  As you say, people in years can’t “take it” like the youngsters.  However, I’m sure they behaved splendidly.  Can imagine how “annoyed” your father would be at the discomfort.  Give ‘em my best please and say how thankful I am they escaped unscathed.


So you liked the pictures.  Thanks for the compliments.  Yes, Muriel has a dinky hair-do, but it is really quite simple to handle: her hair is naturally curly, quite short, and sort of wriggles itself into that effect with scarcely any effort on her part.  She is a dear girl – thinks the sun rises and sets with her husband; and they are ideally happy.


The pictures you sent to me are very nice indeed.  What dear children they are!  It is terrible to think that they should be subjected to the horrors of bombing.  However, they look remarkably well.  John has a roguish smile.  Bet he’s a handful.  The Christening picture [see below] was very welcome.  Little Mark looks like a demonstration of “how the baby should behave at his christening”.  I was so glad to see your mother and father looking so fit.  War hasn’t done them any harm, apparently.  Peggy looks charming as always.  And, Peggy – what a sweet little old lady the “maternal great-grandmother” is [See below].   Will you let me meet her as/if/when I come over?  Want to meet your parents, too.  I like ‘em.  I keep talking about my trip to England but haven’t the slightest chance of making it for years ‘n years.  However, talk is cheap.


The enclosure re the Gowlland in Japan was interesting.  If I ever get any information on him, I’ll send it along.


George was ever so pleased to hear from you, Geoff, and says he intends to write to you soon.  “Soon” with George is a very indefinite time – something within six months as a rule.  Thanks for the S.A. stamps.  They are lovely specimens; but, as my main interest is in English and British North American issues, don’t go to all the trouble to secure blocks for me.  It was nice of you to offer, though.


Isn’t the war news wonderful?  Am sure you are just delighted.  We are.  When they are disposed of, it won’t take long to clear up the Japs.  Hope not, anyway, as my brother-in-law, as I think I told you, is now with the United States Transport Division, in the south-west Pacific, in command of a ship transporting troops.  At least that’s what we gather he’s transporting.  His letters are very circumspect indeed.


Had a visit today from a Flight Lieutenant who won the D.F.C. while flying one of the Golden Bomber Fund Spits.  Such a nice boy – only 23.  He’s made some twenty flights over Germany.  Was home on leave and goes back next week.  One of “our” Spits has shot down seven Germans and the other almost as many.  They are still on the job.  Quite a record, eh?


We’re having a wonderful winter.  Only a couple of days so far with below-zero weather.  However, we had 17 inches of snow one day last week and the weather turned bitter again right afterwards with the result the snow has packed hard, can only be removed by chopping, and there aren’t enough men for the job.  Suppose you’ll be having snowdrops in your garden soon.  We’ll have snowdrops right up until the end of April, but not the same kind.


There doesn’t seem to be much to tell in the way of news.  Had a delightful letter from the Captain of HMS “Anticosti”.  This is a ship manned by a British crew on duty off our east coast which was “adopted” by the Canadian Pacific Women’s Services.  We sent them Christmas parcels including, for each man, leather coats, all kind of woollen wear, games, candles, gramophone records, fruit, cakes, books, and a dozen and one other things. The Commander was so very grateful, and enthused over Canadian hospitality.  Goodness knows why, as it seems to me we do little enough.  These lads deserve the best, and how!  On the other side o the ledger, by the same mail came a box of cookies from a friend in Kentucky.  She seemed to think I was fading away under our Canadian rationing.  Ha!  Far from it!  I’m getting FAT.  Most people in the States are tremendously impressed by Canada’s war efforts and do not pull any punches when comparing it with their own.  However, I think the States are making a nice job of things under the leadership of their splendid President.  What we think of your efforts over there would take volumes, so let’s skip it.  Glad Mr Churchill is recovering.  What a man!


We’re all anxiously awaiting the BIG PUSH which it to come before long.  The sacrifice in lives will be enormous but it has to be done.  Hope Germany will be split up and quarantined after the war is over.  If the Russians are given the job of putting ‘em where they belong, they’ll fix ‘em.  I’m praying for 50,000 Cossacks to ride through Germany after it’s all over with no holds barred.


Now for a favour.  Do you know if it’s possible to get picture postcards of Chesham, Bucks?  That’s the place where the only son of my good friends Mr and Mrs Allen Stewart is buried.  You will remember I told you he was killed in a plane crash about a year ago.  I don’t know if such cards are still published in England, but I certainly would like to get half a dozen if they are available.


Did you receive any word from my friend Captain Alan Russell?  I think he’s back in England now.


Hope the Christmas parcel arrived safely.  It was a pretty poor effort but I’ll make up by sending a box of milk chocolate bars – believe I can get a whole box of 24 – in time for Easter.


This seems to be a good place to close off so I’ll do just that, with love to you all, including the newest recruit for my admiration, the “maternal great grandmother” (I adore the way you put it).


As ever   ….


PS  Sorry Melissa is ill.  Poor girl.  Guess this war is hard on people who are not quite up to scratch physically.  Have you read “The Ship” by C. S. Forester?  It’s a humdinger.  Haven’t heard of “bomb bores” before.  You and Peggy certainly aren’t.  Your reticence about your troubles is remarkable.  I fell down and ripped a knee last month.  By noon most of Montreal had heard about it.


PPS  Thanks for the definition of “Squerrys”  [This was the name of the family home in Croydon: Geoff had evidently explained to Gladys that the Croydon house was so named after the 17th Century stately home in Westerham, Kent, where Geoff and Peggy conducted some of their courtship]


[This letter is marked "Replied 17.III.44" in Geoff's handwriting, but no trace remains]




George Gowlland and his wife Muriel - see para 3 above   George Gowlland and Gladys - see para 3 above


Mark's Christening - see para 4 above.    "Maternal Great-Grandmother" third from right

Peggy's parents on either end.  Geoff's parents on Peggy's right.  Great-aunt Agnes second from right

Geoff to Gladys 10th March 1944


Dear Gladys


I have received your usual amusing letter of the 5th January.


A detailed reply in my dreadful hand-writing will follow in a day or so.


The point of this airgraph is to ask you to send the address (and also proper title) of your boyfriend.  We propose to write to him and jog his memory, and offer him what limited hospitality is available to us under present conditions.


Actually I am not quite clear whether he is in fact American or Canadian, and whether Army or Air Force type.


Why your gloom about prospects of visiting us?  We are getting rather tired of reading in the paper about successive ten minutes or so cut off record breaking flights from Montreal to England, and, we believe, it would only take a matter of 24 hours or so from your flat to our house.  As regards fares, all we can say is that, if you cannot wangle them free, you are not the girl we think you are from your letters.


Enquiries about postcards of Chesham are being put in train immediately, and I will let you know the answer, if any, in the following written letter.




Gladys to Geoff  12th March 1944



Dear Geoff


Thank for yours of 30th December.  Love the cartoon about Christmas “toys”.  Most amusing, particularly the “Piece of Wood, including Nail – only £5.19.6d”.  Prices here for some things are high, but there’s really plenty of stuff just about as cheap as ever.  Meat rationing has been temporarily suspended, as storage space is all filled to capacity, due to the shortage of shipping space.  On one storage along half a million pounds was condemned.  Our greatest (personal) shortage is coffee.  Everything else is fine.  How are the “Gowlland girls” [Geoff’s chickens] performing.  I’ve been getting eggs, through a friend, bought near Winnipeg, for 25¢ a dozen.  Cigarettes are expensive – 33¢ for 18.  I smoke like a furnace so have been making, or, rather, Gertrude has been making for me, me [Sic] own special brand.  Very satisfactory too, and now I prefer them to tailor-mades, as I don’t cough over them.  Tobacco, the very best, which I get from a little French-Canadian dealer, is 45¢ a quarter pound, tubes are 20¢, so I get something over a hundred for 65¢.  Were it not for the heavy duty you’d have to pay, I’d sent you over a couple of pounds.


Am sure John was thrilled with his fire-engine.  Aren’t you smart?  George made his boys desks and chairs for their rooms, and a friend who was out west for Christmas says they’re perfect.  Muriel, I believe, hasn’t been too well again, but George is fine.  They write very seldom.


Have had a wonderful winter.  Quite a snow-storm last night, but warm and sunny today.  The sap in the maple trees should be running soon.  Do you like maple sugar?  Hope the lack of snow this year won’t harm the crops, but I’m afraid it will.  Hear that a shortage of water in London is predicted.  Hope it won’t be serious, and also trust your coal strike will be settled soon.  That news must be music to the Germans.  And what is going to happen in Eire?


How nice that your mother and father are so happily located.  “It’s an ill wind  . . . . . . . “.


Thanks for the invitation to fly over next Christmas.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  However, I think I’ll wait and choose a spring or summer.  I want to go to Sussex and pick primroses.


This is all for the moment.  Am spending all of this Sunday writing letters and hope to have a clear conscience by night.


All the best to the Croydon folks   . . . .


PS   Such a lot of errors!  But 90 miles an hour is not conducive to accuracy.


Gladys to Peggy  12th March 1944


Dear Peggy


It was nice to receive your letter of 30th December acknowledging the parcel.  Am simply amazed at the “hit” the bobby pins, lipstick etc made.  No idea such little things would bring forth such expressions of appreciation.  Your descriptions of shortages are very real and most amusing.  So small Mark will probably be trotting about in his new shoes this summer.  Would love to see him.  How nice to receive such a lovely present of coral.  Am sure you are delighted.  I too just adore getting unexpected presents like that.  They do something to one’s morale.  Was so delighted with the magnifier Geoff sent along so I suppose we’re alike about presents.


Was much concerned at the news of fresh and severe bombing of London, and trembled for the safety of your much-abused tile roof and windows, and yourselves (note your lives come after the tiles and glass.  Quite unintentional), so was reassured when “A War in Pictures” arrived yesterday from Morland Road.  Thanks!  Hope you all came through unscathed.


Isn’t the war going splendidly?  Everyone here is on hot bricks waiting for the invasion, so I can imagine how you all feel over there.  England must be choc-a-block with troops.  To us it seems such a tiny place.  We visualize you like sardines in a tin.


Easter “doings” are never ready in time for overseas, so I’m sending along a box of milk chocolate bars.  The “yummy” kind which I know the youngsters, also you and Geoff, will enjoy.  Can’t Mark have a wee smitch?  Please?  (There, Mark, see what influence your Godmother has!  But if you have a tummy-ache afterwards it will be your mother’s fault for giving way to my bad influence.).  In the box is a rat-tail comb (also a curl comb) for making those curls you admire.  Frightfully expensive things – 5¢ and 10¢ each.  Also enclosed are a couple of packets of hairpins, the thin ones, to hold said curls in place, a packet of razor blades, a few hooks and eyes, and a padding of Kleenex.  You see I‘ve no idea what is short so am sending the above on the chance they’ll be welcome.  Can send more if you find them useful.


There isn’t much in the way of news to tell you.  Frightfully busy at the office.  After a lapse of many years the CPR [Canadian Pacific Railroad, for whom Gladys was working] has a common stock dividend and I’m helping handle it.  Working every night until ten and will continue until the end of the month. Some 60,000 cheques to get out, 17,000 of which go to England.


Have been sending all my spare clothes to “Bundles for Britain” for three years.  Six months ago came a call for the Greeks.  Last month one for the Russians.  Two weeks ago a second call for the Greeks.  Now I have a special appeal for the clothes of dock-workers in Liverpool.  Next week I expect to be arrested for going around in the nude.


Well, Peggy must close this so I can get in a note for Geoff.  With much love to you all, and the usual “extra special” for Mark.


As ever   . .  .


PS  The rat-tail combs are very brittle and break easily.  When using the curl comb, hold the curl, after it is rolled up tight, and then give the comb half a turn backwards so it will release easily.  I roll mine up in tight curls once a week, keep them in overnight, and comb out and arrange in the morning.  They last a week  -  but one needs a perm just the same.



Gladys to Geoff  - 20th May 1944



Dear Geoff


Have had from you two letters, two magazines, a P.O. and a V mail letter.  If you don’t think I feel like a heel for not answering, you’re wrong because I do.  ‘scuse, please.


First let me thank you for the views of Chesham [see Gladys’s letter of 15th January]. They were most thankfully received by my friends and they wish me to express their thanks to you for going to so much trouble.  As you say, they certainly did not show the beauty of the English countryside.  Photographers’ taste in scenery must be changing.  However, they gave some idea of the place and therefore very welcome.  To show his appreciation, Mr S. built me the cutest little bird house which I have placed on a window sill shaded by a tall tree.  No occupants so far, in spite of a sign offering fresh water, bread and a worm or two.  Ersatz worms.  Now I must say thanks for the booklets, both so very interesting and well got up.  Goodness, what a lot of thank you’s.  Thanks for the V mail letter re Captain Russell [note that in her earlier letters Gladys had spelt his name with a single “l”]Had a card from him, apparently mailed in Iceland, thanking me for cigarettes mailed last October, so he must still be there.  Said “I am writing a letter today” which I take it means to you.  By the way, he’s a chance acquaintance, met on a train from the west; but he said he was returning to England almost immediately, hence the suggestion that he act as courier for me.


So glad, Peggy, you’ve been able to get more help.  That must be a god-send with your family growing up by leaps and bounds. Hope the chocolate etc arrived O.K.  Saw in the paper that gals over there are short of face creams.  Is it true?  I use a very reasonably priced product but it’s good.  Would send you a couple of 12 oz jars if I knew you needed it.  I’d certainly hate to have to endure a shortage of such things.  My morale would drop to zero.  Rather miss meals any day.


There’s nothing much in the way of news here.  We are not very pleased with the speech Premier King made in London.  All that “voluntary” palaver was annoying, also the build-up about what Canadians have done.  Little enough, except for the men who are fighting.  I doubt King will last long as Premier after the war.  Bracken (Progressive Conservation) is the coming man.  Our Sixth Victory Loan has just gone over the top and we are well pleased with ourselves, as usual.


The zero hour for invasion seems close at hand, and what a smash that will be!  You must be really keyed up over there with the preparations right on your doorstep.  We get lots of news – about everything except the fatal date; and that, I suppose, now depends on weather and the state of the “ditch”.  This week-end, maybe?  I’m still banking on August for the Nazis to yell “Kamarad”.  Hope no one listens when they yell, and keep on sticking bayonets where they will do the most good.  A nice snappy thrust and then a twist.  Splendid!


Haven’t heard from Calgary [her brother George] in ages.  They might as well live at the North Pole.  What a family!  Glad you heard from Melissa and that she is getting better.  In spite of you people saying so little, you must be living under a terrible strain.


Spring has arrived at last, in a sort of way, but this week has been cold with heavy frosts.  We get a daily report on your weather (I note it’s cold over there too), also the high tides, state of the channel etc.  We seem to be making good progress in Italy.  I still hate the Wops and am suspicious of any help they offer.  They’re a back-stabbing lot, and would just as soon stab a friend as an enemy.  I doubt they know the difference. 


All the news in your letters was interesting.  Poor Rosemary must have been dog-tired after that long walk to fetch John.  Sorry he’s such a skinny-gales.  I’d like to take him out and treat him to six ice-cream cones all in a row every day.  Probably ruin his digestion but they’d put on some fat!!  A number of things of which we are short are coming back by degrees.  Coffee and tea rations have been increased and meat is not rationed now as there was such a glut of animals at the slaughterhouses that the authorities had to life the rationing.  Butter rations have been cut again, to keep up the supply of cheese for overseas.  But really we [are] not short of anything that matters, that’s why King’s speech sounded such a lot of hooey to people who knew better.


Raids seem to be more frequent over England again.  Trust your section has escaped further damage.  There will certainly be lots of re-building there after the war.  A Liberator bomber crashed in one of our crowded poor sections of the city and a number of people were killed as well as the crew.  That’s the closest we’ve come to war so far.


Restrictions on foreign exchange between here and the U.S. have been lifted so I’m planning on going down to NY, Philadelphia and Washington for my holidays this Fall.  Haven’t been for ages.  Won’t it be grand for you all over there when you can get out the old bus and go off on trips like you used to?


This seems to be the end of my writing ability for the time being so I will call a halt, with all the best to the “Squerrey-ites”.


PS  How’s Mark?  Worn his shoes out yet?  Or does he still travel crab-fashion?




Geoff to Gladys  Undated and censored - see below


? Page 1    My spies inform me that Primroses are out all over Sussex and Kent.  One part-time female at the factory had a large bunch on her bench last Monday, having been to  . . . .


? Page 2    Peggy and the children are all very well, in fact health is the least worry in war-time England.  Rations are amazingly well arranged, and people undoubtedly flourish  . . . .


Page 3    . . . . people's warden, you remember.  You will realise why additions to Gowllandiana (thanks so much for the term) is so slow a business now.


Page 4    . . . . series of disconcerting voices [? noises].  Finally the bombs are considerably developed on the early pattern.  In short, no picnic.  No Man!


Geoff's censored letter - all that remained - see below

Gladys to Geoff  23rd June 1944


Dear Geoff


Thank you for your two letters received recently.  The censors certainly went to town on the first one.  I send you the remain of two pages.  Hope you realise now that you are an extremely dangerous person, giving away secrets and what-not.  Naturally I'm dying to know what was cut out so try to remember and tell me after the war is over.  Bet it was nothing much.  Probably about some doo-hinkus or other for the war, or something you make in the factory and no connection with the war efforts.  However, they have to be careful.


Weren’t you thrilled to bits about the invasion?  You must have been as you are all so close.  We were frightfully excited and so pleased.  Especially when news began to filter in that the beachheads were being held.  It’s almost too good to be true, in fact all the war news is.  And then our cherubic Winnie says it may be over earlier than we think.  It’ll have to be fast to finish in August as I protected.  However it’s on the way to a good ending and that’s all that matters.  Saw some remarkable movies last night of the tremendous quantities of materiel for the war waiting in England.  Ye Gods!  Country lanes full of tanks and trucks, and guns, and cannon, and yards full, and fields full, and every darned place full.  Simply amazing.  No wonder it took so long to open the Second Front when all that had to be collected.  Thousands upon thousands of everything for the war. Cherbourg is almost in our hands at the moment, and the Japs have had another licking in the Pacific, and the Nazis are being slapped everywhere.  Grand!


Now to come back to earth!


Thanks for the booklet.  Most interesting and much appreciated.  I think all those books are very fine.


Re stamps. The ones I want are those issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Penny Postage.  They have Queen Victoria and King George’s heads on (What a sentence! My grammar is pernickety at times).  Would like a mint block of four perfectly centred.  Can do?  If you can get three of four blocks of four, would love to have ‘em.  Your dealer must know what they are.  I’m surprised you’re such a dub about stamps.  My father started George and me collecting.  Didn’t your father?


Glad the children liked the chocolate.  That must have been quite an exhibition on the mantle.  I like the way you and your father made a razor out of bits and pieces.  Smart, aren’t you?  Even if you know nothing about stamps!


Had a letter from Muriel a few days back.  She and George are fine.  They have sold their home and are building another.  Or did I tell you that before?  It is on a bluff overlooking the Bow River and they have a wonderful of the Rockies in the distance.  I’d love that.  The Rockies are so glorious and so high and impressive-looking. The children have been sick – mumps, or measles, or something.  However they are better now.  Did you ever receive the snaps I sent of them?  They are cute youngsters.  [See below]


Was pleased to hear that Melissa may make a really fine copy of the family tree, and you would get it photographed.  Why Melissa?  Is she good at that sort of thing.


Wish I could have been with you all on your sightseeing visit to London.  I’d love to “do” the place all over again.  Hope St. Nicholas Cole will be visit-able when I come over for my visit one day.  The pictures in your book were most interesting.


Can well imagine, Peggy, what a time you have keeping three kiddies in clothes.  How do you do it?  They always look so nice in their pictures.  We have trouble getting elastic here, but I haven’t really noticed much else short, except hair-nets, and I laid in a supply of those long ago, but they are getting low now – the little real-hair bob-nets I mean, invisible.  Wish I knew what you need for your sewing I’d send something over.  Were the hooks and eyes of any use, and do you need snappers (I guess you call ‘em dome fasteners)?  Will drop in to the 5 & 10 some day and pick up some bits and pieces for you.


Loved your story Geoff about the snooper listening in to the two big-shots.  Never did find out about the Nanaimo BC Gowllands – if there are any.  My stay on Vancouver Island was very short last year.  When I go again I’ll endeavour to find something out about ‘em.


July 3rd


Started this letter on the 23rd and here it is the 3rd of July and still not finished.  Ghastly.


Think I’d better send what I’ve written and save the rest for another time.  Weather frightfully hot and so sticky.  Believe you’ve been having bad weather over there too.  We are worried about those robot planes [presumably V1s].  Beastly things and so frightfully destructive too.  Sincerely hope none of them have been reaching Croydon, but they seem to travel pretty far.


Will close this now, with all the best to you all over there.


PS  Would like to know what the general run of Germans really think about the war.  What a state of mind they must be in!


Gladys with her two nephews (George and Muriel's sons)



Geoff to Gladys  -  28th June 1944



Dear Gladys


Your letter arrived a little while ago and the delay in replying is largely explained by the rather sad notice enclosed [evidently referring to the death of Mr Bish[1], the works manager, and his family, killed by a V1].


Very startling things have been happening [Operation Overlord - the Invasion of Normandy - began on 6th June], you will have seen from the papers, in Southern England; but unfortunately we are not yet supposed to say anything about these.


Northing has come in from your Captain Russell.


You have not yet let me know about your infernal stamps, still very much on my conscience for not having ordered before.


So far we are all alive and kicking, and Peggy is still going to write to you one day.


Would you please excuse this very brief note: I have a very great deal of extra work suddenly thrust on me, but will reply in more detail later. 


[1] Bish had been a Works Manager at Gowllands Limited for many years: thirty years before, he had also been a shareholder; but when Geoff and his father took sole charge of the business in the late 1920s, Bish, and a few other small shareholders, were bought out. 



Gladys to Geoff 27th July 1944  -  As Airgraph - see below


Dear Geoff


Have just received your letter [evidently Geoff’s letter dated 28th June – see above] enclosing announcement of the death of your Mr Bish, wife and parents.  What a very sad affair: can imagine how upset you would all be and how greatly it will increase your work.  Robot Bombs, of course: what ghastly things they are. We did not know until quite recently what tremendous damage they are causing and how you have all been suffering from the menace. You are in a bad spot there and I am sure you are all very much worried, particularly Peggy, with the responsibility of three youngsters all day.  No one knows where they will strike so you have to be on the watch all the time.  So very nerve wracking: let’s pray this blasted war will be over soon.  It really looks very promising, particularly from the Eastern Front.  Those Russians certainly know how to fight.  Hope they will be just as rough when the Huns are begging for mercy.  Doubtless when the Normandy Front boys get more space to manoeuvre they too will smash ahead.


Hope you are all well at home.  Tell Peggy not to bother about writing: she has more than enough on her mind at present.  I’d like, though, to get her reaction to my suggestion about shopping at the Five and Ten.


Nothing here in the way of news.  All very busy as usual and damning the dreadfully hot weather.  Nothing new from George.  Wish I could whisk you all out to this part of the world to relax a little and get away from your worries for a while.


Had a letter from one of our previous cruise passengers, a most charming woman and good friend of mine, who lives as St James’s Gate, London.  Hadn’t heard for so long I feared she had suffered some mishap and she seemed very chipper by her letter.  I think her North Country home was destroyed and she is living in the London one, which seems silly to me.


No more now.  Do so hope you will all come through the new menace and be able to carry-on in the good old “we-can-take-it” London way.  You certainly have my deepest sympathy for your troubles, and my admiration.


My very best to you all and a kiss for my godson.




Gladys's Airgraph of 27th July 1944   Airgraph magnifier - see note below

[There were many complaints about Airgraphs being too small to be read easily, and Geoff and his father therefore developed a special magnifier for reading them.  The glass lens was plano-convex and cylindrical in form.  It was made by heating rectangles of 6mm plate glass in a furnace and, when softened, laying them over a heated circular iron pipe to bend.  Once cold, the inner (concave) surface was optically ground and polished to a flat surface.  The resultant lens was then assembled into a die-cast metal body which had been painted green.  Very few were sold and, as Airgraphs ceased to be used after 1945, the item quickly went out of production]


Gladys to Geoff  20th October 1944



Dear Geoff


First I must say how much I appreciate your getting the stamps for me – such a lot, too!  Thanks tons.  So if I want ‘em I gotta come ‘n gettem.  Gone gangster eh?  I’ll certainly be appearing on the Squerrys doorstep one of these days.


How nice for Peggy and the children to stay so long in the country[i]: am sure it was a relief for you to have them in a comparatively safe place [see below].


Today (the 20th) your letter of the 12th reached me.  That’s good going – only eight days.  The map of Croydon was fascinating and I pored over it for an hour with the aid of your magnifier picking out the streets I remember.  Croydon certainly had some terrible experiences with those awful bombs: what ghastly destruction!  Some of them certainly came close to Squerrys and the plant.  It is a miracle that you have escaped with comparatively little damage.  Was interested in the West Wickham section too.  Remember so well a lovely red brick manor house there when we drove through – an adorable place.


The very day after I mailed Peggy’s “make-up” parcel, I saw in the paper that you now have to pay 100% duty on everything sent as presents but food.  That’s a helluva note! (Hope it won’t bankrupt you, Peggy!).  Had intended to send the children Indian moccasins for Christmas but will have to give that idea up and send chocolate.  However, my small godson probably isn’t allowed chocolate so I’ll send him moccasins and you can just pay the darned duty and like it!


The war seems to be going splendidly but our hopes that it might be over before Christmas have been dashed.  However the swine surely can’t keep on much longer.  That Arnhem business was tragic wasn’t it?  So many find young lives sacrificed.  But we heard today that (this is the darndest typewrite for making mistakes!) Aachen has fallen, the Russians had entered East Prussia, the Yanks had landed in the Philippines and the Germans are fleeing Greece.  Nice going for one day.


I liked the Don Iddon Diary clipping.  Note he referred to the movie “White Cliffs of Dover”.  I enjoyed it very much.  Of course what I really want to see if the real White Cliffs.  Wonder where they skipped off to when I was crossing the Channel to France.  They certainly weren’t in their usual place.


George, Muriel and the children are very well.  Had a cute letter from small George, thanking me for a birthday gift.  Nicely written but such spelling!  Must take after his father.


Enclose your circular letter of August 30th so you may see that you’ve been up against the censors again. [Evidently Geoff’s letter had been excised again by the Censorship Department]. How come?  (Unh!  Unh!  -  no bad language now!) [sic]


I agree with Don Iddon that the horrors the English people have suffered should be more widely known.  Understatement is O.K. up to a certain point, but why overdo it?  A man who whispers down a well, about the things he has to sell, will never make as many dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers!  That goes for other things, too.  By the way, I think your advertising ideas are very progressive and should bring results after the war – I mean the way you keep in touch with former customers by way of the Croydon map and so forth.  Very smart.


Am leaving for New York, Philadelphia and Washington early next week.  Must send the kiddies a card from US capital.


This seems to be all for the moment so I will close with the hope that none of those $%_&#* [sic] bombs are “going your way”.


Much love to Peggy and the children and a special edition for Mark.


Cheerio  . . . . .


PS  Your latest Gowllandiana report was splendid.  So interesting and quite modern.   Melissa started on the Tree yet?  She must be a clever gal.  Liked your hot tail buzz-bomb story!



[i] Geoff managed to rent a cottage in the village of Elstead, a few miles south-west of Guildford; and Peggy and the three children went there for a few weeks from mid-August with the idea of escaping the V1 raids.  Six week later, they had returned to Croydon, after a V1 landed in a field just a short distance away from the cottage.


  Elstead, Surrey, August - October 1944



Geoff to Gladys  -  2nd December 1944



Dear Gladys


I was very glad to have your letter of the 20th October and, to spare you, I am dictating a reply to this letter.


The news that our map [possibly this is a map issued showing where V1s had landed - see below] had arrived is very satisfactory, because I myself jolly nearly got locked up over this.  The maps appeared in the papers, and all restrictions on their production were withdrawn.  I got in touch with high officials and received permission to send them Overseas, and had the circular letter perused, chewed over and approved.


By the time, however, that my circular got as far as the Censorship Department, an embargo on these maps had been re-imposed at lower levels, and apparently the levels at which my permission was given were not informed.


Five or six days of hectic ringing up, threats and pleadings made life very complicated and worrying.


Apparently, however, at any rate your map got through, and we are hoping that some of the others did.


The complete answer really to those disgruntled Overseas buyers, who say that we have been neglecting them and that the Americans are doing so much better, is the fact that we ourselves are in constant danger from enemy attack and have had many narrow shaves, whilst the Americans are thousands of miles away from the nearest enemy missile.


V1 was bad enough in quality and quantity, but V2, about which you must have seen in the papers, as the American correspondents seem to have dealt with them very largely, are even more uncanny.  As one of our factory people put it, “The first thing you know about it is that it is all over”.


A few days ago our next-door neighbour-but-one, a very attractive woman of about our own age, and definitely one of the nicest people we have met for many years, was killed outright.  She was with her husband some way from here and left him to buy a few sandwiches at a shop only about 50 yards from where he was on the telephone.


Something arrived suddenly, and no trace of this girl has been found.


The poor husband has had the job or trailing round hospitals, coroners, mortuaries and polling stations trying to identify even shoes, handbag or bits of clothes etc; but absolutely no trace of her has come in.


For the last few years my letters seem to have contained a long series of accounts of the death of various friends of ours, and you will notice that so far we have not lost a single one while actually fighting the enemy. 


It is very encouraging to read that you think my advertising ideas are progressive.  I always regard myself as an enthusiastic but rather blundering amateur in this field.




Overseas literature, so far as we are concerned, is building up to a climax, as we are hopeful that by the time our literature gets to the farthest customers and the write back to us, the Americans may have deigned to allow us to export more goods.


I have really forgotten whether, in my last letter, I told you that the Richard Gowlland from North London, upon whom I was relying, had died.  If I didn’t, you might take note of this now.


Just recently we had a visit from a Government Inspector for one of our Colonial Departments (who proved to be a real prototype of awkward inspector) whose name was Amsden.  He amazed me by explaining that his mother was a Gowlland and that he had two Gowlland aunts still alive.


If you refer to the extreme left-hand side of the tree, you will see that a Louisa Mayers Gowlland married a Ramsden.  It is apparent however that Stephen Gowlland, in giving me this information, made a mistake and it should really have been Amsden.  I have therefore written to him asking him if he can put me in touch with his aged aunts or get any information about them.  He said that the Gowlland grandfather was a Customs Officer attached to the Navy and operating from a frigate.  The Colonel had told me about a Gowlland in a Frigate: he did not mention the Customs end of it.


It seems to me that the aunts must now be very aged indeed and, if I can contact them, it will be a very welcome link with several past generations.


It is extremely slow work trying to build up and verify the information, even for the last century.  Back in the seventeenth century is an all but impossible task even for enthusiasts.


Your two postcards for the children arrived from New York.  We can only say gosh!  We had forgotten how well the Americans do this kind of pictures.


I am a bit appalled, but not surprised, at what the censors did to my circular letter.  I know what it is from my copy that they deleted, but “they shouldn’t haven’t”.


The job concerns, had been finished for a considerable while [sic]: it has been fully described in the ordinary newspapers in so far as it concerns us, and permission was given by the authorities concerned for me to mention it in correspondence.


It all goes to show how cumbersome and well dug-in are the various restrictions on us, and emphasises once again how terribly difficult it is going to be to get back to normal life.


Just recently such a shoal of difficult inspectors have descended on us that we are all feeling very fed up indeed with life.


Throughout the War, this Company has made no secret of the fact that its main enemies have been Government Inspectors, rather than Hitler and his minions.


Your little rhyme about “He who climbs a tree and hollers” is a new one on us.  I almost think I will get it illuminated and put up in our office.


It was very clever of you to remember Wickham Court so vividly.  Actually I have not seen it for a good six years now (“There’s a War on”) but my spies tell me that at different times it housed A.T.S. [the Women’s Army  -  later in the war, as “ATS” sounded so ugly, their name was changed to WRAC – Women’s Royal Army Corps – which was considered more acceptable] Canadian Army troops, and gunners.  I believe however it has been empty for the last two years or so, and probably has lost windows and tiles.


The somewhat disappointing photograph of the children with your presents is enclosed.  I am ever so sorry that the cold wind and rain made me rush the job and I have cut off Rosemary’s head.  NB  Mark is clutching your bar of soap and wearing the famous white boots.


The White Paper on this country’s War Effort seems to have made quite a bit of a stir as well it might.  Peggy was rather amused at the enclosed commentary in one of yesterday’s papers – buses and non-delivery of groceries, laundry etc loom in the life of Mrs.1944.


We all hope you enjoyed your gad to New York and got back safely.


May of V1 impacts in Croydon in 1944


Gladys to Geoff  - 3rd February 1945



Dear Geoff



Sorry to have been so long in answering your several nice letters.  My excuse is “overwork”.  Have been putting in so much night work for the last three months that I’m becoming an owl, and not only nights, but Sundays too.  Am thoroughly “fed up”. Of course, you folks are working twice as hard and still find time to write.  HOW do you do it?


Thanks so much for the snap of the children.  How dear they look – in spite of Rosemary’s apparent visit to the headman’s block in the Tower: she is a lovely child.  What a jolly little rogue John looks.  And Mark in his white boots.  Bless his wee heart.  The picture is adorable and it was nice of you to take it for me – “presents” and all, which they seem to be enjoying thoroughly, though my heart aches for Mark with just a cake of soap.  Never mind, sonny.  Just wait until you reach the all-day-sucker stage, I’ll send you on as big as yourself.


So glad, Peggy, the cosmetics reached you safely, but what a shock you must have had when you had to pay all that duty.  I’ll remember you liked the cream and nail polish best.  It was nice of you to give the rouge to your sister-in-law.  I do approve – most heartily.  Sorry about the missing lipstick.  However I’ll send another, with an extra one for s-I-l, with the kiddies’ Easter chocolate.  Did you finally weaken and snitch yourself a couple of bars of the children’s’ supply?  Hope so.  So Rosemary liked her handkies [Sic].  Yes, they were very gay and little-girlish.  Isn’t it surprising how much pleasure youngsters get out of small gifts?  Too bad we have to grow up.  As my “godfather” George Bernard Shaw says, youth is so wonderful, it’s a pity to waste it on the young.  Imagine Mark’s brown boots creating such a furore.  I’d love to see him in his yellow/brown rig out.  Sounds very man-about-townish to me, yellow waistcoat and all.


You’ll be sorry to know that small George had a bad accident: fell off horizontal bars at school, about the end of November, I think, and landed on a concrete block.  Suffered concussion of the brain and internal injuries. However, he is better again and, I believe, back at school.  His parents were much worried, naturally.


My brother-in-law [evidently Gertrude’s husband, the sea captain] reached home early in December.  He had to be evacuated from Morotai  [a tiny island off the northern coast of Moluccas in Indonesia – Gladys had thought in May 1941 that his ship was sailing between New York and Chile, and then later she thought it was between Canada and Russia]  by ‘plane and taken to hospital in New Guinea.  His nerves were all shot from privation, constant bombing, and anxiety.  Had some nasty experiences, including having his ship, loaded with high explosives, bombed by the Japs several times.  One bomb went right down the funnel.  Why the ship didn’t blow to smithereens no one can make out.


How is the housekeeping going, Peggy?  You must be thoroughly sick of all the shortages.  I think all the women in England who have looked after a house and family all through the war should have a special medal for valour. Have just finished “The Battle Within” by Gibbs, which I think gives a good idea of what you gals have had to contend with.  I liked his character Mrs Haddon and also Peter with his experiences in a bomber, but the American soldier!  An incredible creature.  The Lord only knows where he (Gibbs) got such a strange idea of Americans.  Pure baloney.  They just ain’t built like that.


How strange, Geoff, that you should hear of two more Gowlland ancients.  Have you been able to get in touch with them?  Hope so.  If they are only eighty or so, maybe I could send ‘em a couple of lipsticks and coax ‘em to give us the low-down.  Too bad the dear old Colonel passed on.  Doubtless he would have been a good source of information.  Do you know if his sons came through the war O.K., so far?


Thanks for the booklets you sent.  I enjoyed them and passed them along. 


So the old homestead  [the house belonging to Geoff’s parents Egbert and Beatrice] has been sold.  Guess it was a wise move.  Nice of you to keep me in mind at the sale.  No, I wouldn’t have been interested in Victorian chairs.  Have a couple down in the basement: very swish, with carved heads and inlaid in mother-of-pearl.  Huge things with padded French tapestry seats.  They belonged to my grandmother, I understand.  But I wouldn’t give ‘em house room.  Glad you got the books.  I have a nice lot of first editions, and some leather bound sets published about 1700.


Liked your joke, Geoff.  I’ve heard some honies [Sic] lately but they’re too long to write.  However, I love the caption to a cartoon by one of the American cartoonists: it’s a small boy who has just been regaled with the story of the Three Bears, and says – “ . . .  do you mean to tell me those bears raised all that stink about a lousy bowl of breakfast food?”.  Ah, modern youth!  Ain’t it wonderful!.


As ever   . . . .

Gladys's brother-in-law in late 1944 - see above

Gladys to Geoff  - 6th February 1945


Dear Geoff


Herewith four pictures of “Grandpa” [Gladys’s father’s long-case clock, to which she was very attached - see below - click here for detailed description].  Isn’t he a dear?  You might let me have them back, though perhaps you would run into difficulties with the censors. If so, you’d better keep them until after the war.


Cheerio   . . .


PS  The piece standing at the side is the pendulum.  It has been removed for adjustment, and I forgot to take it away before the picture was taken.


Gladys's clock - for detailed description, click here.


Geoff to Gladys  -  13th May 1945



Dear Gladys


Here we are now, writing in times of peace, a fact which we all find very difficult to believe.


Compared with 1918, the end of this war took place in stages as it were, and was almost an anti-climax.


I do not think I missed a single News Bulletin throughout the 4 or 5 days at the rate of every one or two hours immediately preceding VE day.


The front of the factory is plentifully be-flagged, with flags left over from the 1918 celebrations, Jubilee, Coronation and other festive occasions.  We have all read such an assortment of good news that it is still somewhat difficult to take in exactly how great has been our victory.


The difficulties of the Pacific War, and the immense future difficulties here, acted as a considerable restraint [on the celebrations] which, we are sure your newspaper correspondents will have described, were very much on the sober side.


At home I put up a considerable number of flags on the front of the house, to the delight of the children, and arranged a couple of primitive floodlights to light up the main Union Jack at night.  On VE night we collected a lot of rubbish from five or six neighbours and had quite a considerable bonfire on the allotment opposite the house, the children being woken at 11 o’clock to admire this.  Their comment was a slightly nervous one to the effect that “Won’t the [Air Raid] Warden mind all that light?”


Throughout the war there has been a military camp opposite and I gate-crashed the sentry saying firmly “Party!”, and went up and admired their large military bonfire in the centre of the Parade Ground.


Four different neighbours, with more copious cellars and larger incomes than ours, were running alcoholic parties, and for two nights we drifted from one to the other, toasting various sergeants who were invited from the Camp, and ATS [women soldiers – see explanation of 2nd December 1944] who came in from neighbouring billets.  After two days’ holiday, we had an unprecedentedly high attendance at the factory.  Only two people were away, and life has gone on very much as before.  Although the Black-Out has been lifted, yet only a few people actually show any light.  Such is the force of habit, or alternatively such is the shortage of presentable curtains.


Of course the main thing to it all is the finish of Air Raids and V Weapon attacks.  These have gone on really quite long enough for us all, and whilst we were fully acclimatised and hardened; yet they really were a nervous strain.  I told you earlier of the many flying bombs which at various times were near us, and I can now add that a rocket fell one very cold winter evening only 100 yards from our house, blowing in all the front windows in the bitter weather, and when our coal had almost run out.  One of our nicest young feminine neighbours was killed outright one Saturday in South London.  We have seen quite a lot of her husband who arrived on the scene a few minutes afterwards, and who, in spite of careful searching around mortuaries etc, only found a piece of clothing and two odd limbs.


For five years, death in its more violent forms has been very close to us all, and it is difficult to think that this is still not the situation.  Presumably the Road Accidents will do something to stop the change being too severe.


A new allowance of basic petrol promised in the near future is, as far as we are concerned, the most hopeful sign of peace.  Getting the children to school involving several main roads and queuing for very full buses has been almost the worst feature of the war up till now.


Your God-Son is easily the most determined of the children and the most difficult to look after.  There seems little doubt that he is really the most intelligent and developed for his age, and shows an infinite capacity for fitting nails into key-holes, rulers neatly down the side of doors, and going into my work-shop and helping himself to hammers, screw-drivers etc.


We hope you enjoyed Mr Churchill’s recent speeches.  We do feel that he must have relished giving them, and we think, after all his troubles, he is entitled to get what satisfaction he can out of the present wonderful news.  The troubles at San Francisco, particularly the Russian arrest of the Poles and the new troubles over Trieste, are not occasioning much surprise here. We had felt cynically that this kind of thing would crop up before long.


Poor old Croydon is going to take a year or so even at the present hectic rate of repairing before the houses are anything like restored to reasonable conditions, whilst it must be a matter of some years before the houses, shops etc which have been destroyed are again re-built.


On Sunday I took John and Rosemary down to Eastbourne, and it was a welcome surprise to see how effectively the prisoners of war [see below] had cleared away all the coast and sea defences.  Eastbourne had been very badly hit in the Tip and Run Raids, and there are many considerable gaps in the centre of the town.  The Front however looks very nearly as tidy as normal peacetime.  A military band was playing, and a whole lot of [Flying] Fortresses flying low, taking their ground crews on a sight-seeing tour of the Continent, were continually spiralling around, having a good eye-full of the White Cliffs of Dover.


Very few people have had many new clothes in the last five years and it is not always easy for us to realise how shabby we have all got.  Hardly any houses, shops or factories have had any repainting done in the same period, and they too look very sorry for themselves.


With these few thoughts on life in the middle of May, in this Year of Grace 1945, there does not seem any more we can give you. No further family history has come to light.  A large number of Canadian customers have written in to us during the last few weeks saying that they have been given to understand that licences are now being again granted for Export of goods to Canada.  We have written in frenzied letters to the Export Licensing Department, but this good news does not seem to have got through to the right departments as yet, so that we are simply writing to tell our Canadian friends that the matter is having our attention.


Where there is still glass left, in the roof of the factory, our black-out paint is being scraped off, and this is proving a most formidable job.  In our anxiety to ensure that no light escaped, about 4 to 5 layers were put on.  It is causing us a great deal more to remove than it ever did to buy and put on.  The licences to re-build the damaged part of the factory have been firmly declined at any rate for the time being, so that we have to carry on under the rather unsatisfactory temporary roof we rushed up in 1941.


If you take your annual holiday at your usual time, it seems to me that you will just about be in nice time to take advantage of all sorts of excursion trips to this country, and we hope that we shall be able to see you within the next 3 or 4 months and that you will be able to have a look round this country whilst the First Line conditions are still more or less obvious -  i.e. no names on stations, piles of sand-bags round strategic points, road blocks and Home Guard strongpoints everywhere, and, above all, the most complicated system of rationing of clothes and food.  You ought to come just for the sake of experience and your education.


It was a matter of considerable regret to many of us that a final triumphant All Clear was not sounded on the sirens.  After all, the All Clear was a relatively friendly noise.


Without the crescendo “w’hee” [Sic] of descending bombs and the raucous warning given by the sirens, life does seem a lot more peaceful.


In one of your parcels was a copy of “Readers Digest” and we were very appalled to observe your high score in the “Quiz”.  Or did you cheat?


In one of the Victory Radio programmes, the following baffled us completely: -


“A motorist travelling at 60 miles an hour was approaching a level crossing a hundred yards away.  A train at 60 miles an hour was also approaching the level crossing a hundred yards away.  How did the motorist get across?


Answer on the back of the sheet.



[Even sixty years afterwards, the answer to this conundrum is by no means obvious.  Geoff had, fortunately, typed the answer on the back of the last sheet, and kept a carbon copy.  To know the answer, and if you are not upset by the blackness of the humour that six years of war had engendered, click here]

German prisoners-of-war digging a trench to the South of Croydon
[For more information on prisoners-of-war, click here]

Gladys to Geoff  26th May 1945



Dear Geoff


Apologies!  Big fat ones!  Just haven’t been in a writing mood and feel very guilty.


First of all, it is hard to realize that the war in Europe is really over.  It cannot be so hard for you to realize it because you will miss your little friends the Flying Bombs.  What a tremendous relief it must be to you all to go to bed at night and know for sure that you’ll wake up in one piece in the morning.  Your description of the destruction was very vivid, and also the many books you sent were wonderful.  The last, telling of the Merchant Marine, was fascinating and has been read by many of my friends.  Thanks a million!  How do you feel, Peggy?  Just on top of the world, I’ll bet.  Your responsibilities perhaps now will be less when the munition and similar work lets up and you can get adequate help.


Thanks, Geoff, for all the many bits of news in your last letters.  Have not had a call from your friend, but perhaps I shall one of these days, or perhaps she has moved to another city.  Am sure she’d be a delightful person to know, besides which I’d get first hand information and the low-down on the folks at Squerrys.


By the way, I’m not at all sure I like you any more.  The idea of casting doubt on the age of dear old Grandpa [Gladys’s long-case clock – see earlier letters]!  Of course he was born in 1776 or whatever it was.  He’s quite upset and when I told him he gave a great big whirr of his innards to indicate his displeasure.  I don’t know who built him, or why; but I’m convinced he’s a genuine anti-kew.  Anyway, see if we care – me ‘n gramp!


Isn’t the news about the rounding-up of all those Nazi-beasts exciting?  Too bad Himmler got away with suicide.  Suppose you’ll be in the midst of an election.  We’re having one in mid June and Oh! The dirt that is flying – just shovels-full.


Too bad your rations haven’t improved, in fact they seem to have been cut again.  The meat situation is pretty bad here, but in the States it’s worse and they are furious that we have a bit more than they.  In Windsor, which is across from Detroit, just thousands of housewives come across the border each weekend and buy up everything.  The Windsor housewives are up in arms and threaten bloodshed if the Detroiters don’t stay where they belong.  I think it’s a case of bad distribution in the States, and so many black market operators.


Glad the children received the chocolate all right.  Doubtless before very long you’ll be able to get all the things you want.  Let’s hope it’s soon.  You’ve been deprived of too much for too long.


By the way, Peggy, how’s the cosmetic situation?  Do you need more creams and polish?  If so, say the word and I’ll attend to matters.  I hesitate to send anything as the duty you have to pay is so high.  Of course, if you need the things, it’s worth the duty; but not otherwise.  How is my fine godson?   Been strutting out in his yellow and brown outfit yet?  Am sure he looks an important young gentleman.  And John?  Any more fat yet?  It is nice Rosemary is so popular, you’ll be having her bring home a boy-friend and getting engaged first thing you know.


I have a yen to see Cornwall, so when I come to England I intend to include that in my itinerary.  Also I want to go to Norway, as I have some very good friends there.  Have just learned they are safe, through word received from a Norwegian delegate to the San Francisco Conference who is a pal of mine.  He tells me Quisling [the German invasion of Norway resulted in the appointment of a puppet regime headed by a Norwegian collaborator called Quisling – it is unclear from Gladys’s letter whether she is referring here to Quisling himself, or to a member of his administration] took over his house in Oslo, and the Gestapo burned his library – a wonderful library.  He is personal adviser to the Prime Minister and had a very narrow escape after the invasion, though he stayed in Norway for nearly a year.


George [Gladys’s brother in Calgary] and family are well.  I’m off to the Pacific Coast in September and will stop off in Calgary for a few days to see how my nephews are progressing: they are nice youngsters.  I wish George would move east.  There is no progress in that, what I call, cow-town, right in the cattle belt.  However, he thinks Calgary is the center of the universe.  He’s talking of going into business for himself and Calgary is no good for that.


There’s nothing much in the way of news so I’ll give up, with all the best to the Squerry-ites.


PS   My brother in law [Gertrude’s husband who had been invalided home from his ship in the Far East - see her letter of 10th November 1942] is progressing nicely, but his nerves are still jumpy.  Gertrude is fine.  Me too!



Gladys to Geoff  - 21st July 1945



Dear Geoff,


In my ancient bones I have a feeling that this is going to be a sorry looking letter.  Time will tell!


First, thanks so much for your letters.  I have been fearfully negligent in not answering long ago, but  . . . .  (you supply the excuses).  Your letter, Geoff, describing the celebrations on VE Day were (Sic) very real and I only wish I could have been there to see the bonfires etc.  Imagine the kiddies being scared the warden would object!  Poor lambs!  What a lot they have been through!  Am so sorry John has trouble with his ears.  Was the operation a success?  I remember Grandfather was quite deaf, poor man.  It is too bad that a child like John has to suffer all the pain and inconvenience, but he will be glad later.  You said Geoff that you had similar trouble. How come?


I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate the picture of “the man with the beard”. [This is almost certainly George Gowlland, Egbert’s father and Geoff’s grandfather – see his portrait on the home page]  The upper part of his face is the image of my father.  Most of the Gowlland (of that generation – my father’s) were very good looking.  Pity they didn’t pass on their looks to their kids!  As I’ve said before, the picture I saw of Uncle George was a humdinger.  Umm!  Umm!  What a good looking man!  Do you know when he (the man with the beard) died?  Tell me when you write next.  I have put the picture with the family archives.  And, by the way, when is the family tree going to be done up in gold paint?  I suppose poor Melissa is too sick to bother with that now.  Sorry she has been sick, and her husband too.


The picture of the family, sent with your last letter, is very nice indeed.  Mark is the chubby one, and looks a perfect dear.  (You’re looking a bit worried, Peggy.  How come?) [See photo below].  Your mother and father look to be in perfect health, and John and Rosemary, although the two latter could certainly do with some extra pounds.  How about coming over here, you two, and letting me take you into the corner drug store for six banana splits every day?  (A Banana S. by the way, is two bananas split in half, with a big gob of ice cream on top, and covered with nuts and crushed fruit.  Haven’t seen one since the war, but I could make a special effort if you come).


Glad you liked the lipstick, Peggy.  How about nail polish?  Need any?  Don’t hesitate to ask if you need any cosmetics.  I do hope you have been able to find a little more help.  How wonderful to have a washer [a washing machine, obviously – it had a motorised built-in mangle].   Am sure you make good use of it.  Just imagine all the contraptions for housewives that will be on the market later!  You’ll just have to press a couple of buttons and the work will be done – so THEY say, meaning the wise guys who advertise in the magazines these days.


Was interested, Geoff, in your description of the obstructions on the sea chest.  The Krauts would have had a bad time there, I’m sure.  But when we read of the progress the devils had made in weapons latter, it is really a wonder that they did not succeed in smashing the country to bits.  The invasion came just in time, it seems.  Wonder what the Big Three are cooking up in Potsdam.  What irony to hold that meeting in the heart of Germany!  I love it.  Hope they all come safely.  Wonder if Mr C. won the election [Mr Churchill – he didn’t].  I do hope so.  What a man!  What a man! What a man!


Nothing much in the way of news from the West.  George has gone into business for himself, and I understand they have moved to Lethbridge, which is south west of Calgary – just above the Border.  Hope he makes a success but, if hard work is anything to go by, he will.  He’s a great lad for work, and fast as lightning.  The boys are well.  Sent small George a birthday present a couple of weeks ago so I should have a reply one of these days.  He writes a cut letter.  I told them I was going west in September but with all this moving around may have to change my plans.  The transportation difficulties are great, and I don’t look forward to three days in a jam-packed train.  I like comfort.  Perhaps I’ll run down to New York instead.


The Japs seem to be getting a beautiful pasting.  That war may be over sooner than we think.  I note the British fleet, practically all of it, is now in the Pacific.  Am anxious to go to the Orient again, but I guess that time is far distant.  Of course, I’m coming to England first, but the Lord only knows when that will be.  I’ll have to buy a piggy bank.  Thanks for your offer of a great big welcome.  I like welcomes, and I like ‘em big.


Liked your conundrum [see Geoff’s letter of 13th May 1945].   Had a lot of people guessing.


I kind of like this story:  American sergeant was training a squad – a very awkward one, on a very hot day.  Finally, shaking his head, he said: “I don’t know what I’m going to do with your fellers”.  One of the men: “There’s some nice trees over there, sir”.   Sergeant: “Yes, I know, but I haven’t any rope”.


We have had perfectly ghastly weather.  So much stuff ruined.  It will make a lot of difference to feeding Europe.  We are going on meat rationing again, which is just as well, for meat is hard to get and the distribution will be better.   Strange thing, though – the authorities claim that more meat was eaten during rationing than without.  Guess everyone wanted his whack and bought up what was due to him.  Candy is very short, too, as we have no sugar to speak of.  Was amused by your remarks on the Quiz in “Readers’ Digest”  [see Geoff’s letter of 13th May 1945].  Not my work.  Most of the magazines I get are free, gratis and for nothing.  I collect ‘em for the soldiers, so that must have been one that came off a train, and the “smartie” was some bored passenger.  Note you say that Mark will be the smart one of the family.  After all, what else do you expect?  Look who he has for a Godmother!  (That should hold you for a while).


This awful-looking letter [it is indeed unusually full of typing errors] is coming to a quick stop.  I gave up commenting on the errors.


Much love to the folk at Squeegees [Sic] and cheerio.



Peggy, three children, and Geoff's Parents in 1945

(Note Peggy's expression, to which Gladys refers) 


Gladys to Geoff - 15th November 1945


Dear Peggy

Thanks so much for the lovely photographs. The children are adorable and isn’t Rosemary a beauty. No wonder she is popular at parties. Umh! Umh! John is a handsome lad; I like his quirky smile. And Mark! The cuddlesome rascal! The family group is splendid. Peggy, you look a darling. I’d certainly like to meet you some day. And what are you feeding Geoff? So plumply prosperous looking. When I saw him he had a circumferance [Sic] of some seven inches around the waist. It’s nice to know what you all really look like. And the setting is something to boast about. Looks quite tropical. How I love gardens, specially nice ones. I sent the extra copies of the children’s pictures to George as I guess this was what you intended, and the other just for him to see.

Nice of you to send the magazine pictures. I refuse to allow any change at Canterbury if they will disturb Gowllandiana. Tell the Authorities that, please. Hope you get your extra car [see photo below], but what frightful prices. Criminal!

Your typewritten letter (Ah! What a Godsend!) reached me yesterday. Hope the package has arrived ere this and that the sherry was duly downed. Thanks for the N.Z. stamps. How kind of your correspondent to send them. They are most welcome but why didn’t he send blocks instead of strips? I like ‘em 2 x 2 – makes a better showing. The others were also a happy thought and I shall be delighted to receive them from time to time: also, if you have the time, you could send me any English ones of 2d and up. My brother-in-law [The Sea Captain, Gertrude’s husband, who had been invalided home from the Far East] spends a lot of time on stamps, it helps to kill the time while he is getting really better again. What I don’t need I pass on to him, so everyone is quite happy. I like the higher value English stamps, and one day I’ll tell you what I need – in BLOCKS. The way you sent the stamps – still on paper and on soaked off – is right. If there is no use for the Canadian [stamps] on my parcels, you could send them too, says Mrs Shylock.

I’ve heard quite a few good jokes lately but they’re a bit long. Will wait for some short and sweet ones and send ‘em on.

I’d love to see that timbered house in Sussex [see photo below – house of a director of Gowllands Limited in Wisborough Green, Sussex] – lucky man to have such a place. If, as, and when, I come to England, maybe he’ll let me take a look-see.

What a dreadful business about that unexploded bomb in Croydon. Do hope it is not near 34 Grimwade, or the plant.

This is all for the moment.

Cheerio . . . .

Arundel Holt - house of Geoff's co-director A E Blackmore in Sussex.


Gladys to Peggy 22nd January 1946

Dear Peggy

Your letter of December 26th came today, also the cute letter from John.

So glad the Christmas parcel reached you safely and that the contents were enjoyed. Young Mark will most certainly have to grow bigger feet to keep up with his godmother’s idea of him. Still, as you say, better too big etc etc.

You’ll probably have to struggle mightily to get through this as I’m writing in bed. Have been feeling low for the past 3 months and lost 15 lbs. In bed since New Year with "flumonia" which is my interpretation of my illness – a cross between flu and pneumonia. Am almost well again except for a continued slight congestion of the left lung. My doctor says "another week in bed". I say "No – period".

How lovely for you to have an extra car [see below]. It must indeed be a blessing for shopping and transporting the children. So John was a "cherub"! Am sure he was a great success provided he did not have to maintain the "illusion" too long. Am afraid that husband of yours is a great worry to Rosemary’s god-fearing godmother. Dreadful! Geoff, aren’t you afraid of damnation and hellfire? One of these days you’ll have to learn how to get a hat on over your head, me lad. Careful!

Glad, Peggy, you find the things in the clothes parcel useful, also the odd stockings. By the way, the spotted handkies [Sic] were tucked one in each pocket of the green suit-coat. Guess you’ve discovered ‘em ere this. Was afraid to send ‘em wide open as the English Customs seem allergic to silk, even used. Pleased that your nine-foot-aunt [Agnes – see photo of Mark’s christening on 15th January 1944 ] was able to use the pleated skirt. Of course I don’t mind your giving it to her. Apparently you don’t measure shoes by width as well as length over there. Here and in the States they are all sized that way. "D" is the average but widths range from AAAAA to EEE. I find the Orfords are 7.1/2 AAA – too long and too narrow maybe but perhaps your ten-foot-aunt could wear ‘em. To be continued later.

27th January

Had to lay off writing for a couple of days, but here we go again. Still a-bed. Darn it!

Am sending you another parcel of cut-up-able things before long. There’s quite a nice white long coat. Scarcely worn. I bought it for cruising but seldom had need for it: should make Rosemary something or perhaps it might fit your eleven-foot-aunt. There are also a couple of well-worn jersey silk blouses which would cut up into shirts for the boys. Am putting in a large red felt hat – just Rosemary’s colour, if it fits: alternatively it would make some cosy bedroom slippers. (Really, I get the cutest ideas for someone else to carry out). Also discovered two tropical cotton evening dresses, with boleros. I kept them to cut down into suntan [Sic] dresses for myself, but never got round to it. But you’ll be able to get two honies out of the goods, there is so much. They need washing, as I remember ‘em; but you have a washing machine which I haven’t. I’ll send ‘em as is. That’s all I can think of at the moment: if anything else turns up, I’ll tuck it in.

How nice that the children’s paternal grandmother is so devoted. I remember her as a very charming woman and ever so kind.

Most exciting news the other day. Morgans, our biggest and best department store, advertised that nylons were coming back. Customers had to call in for a card, and then fill it in and mail it back to the store. Then, when stocks arrive, they notify said card filler-in-ers to call. Takes about six weeks and only two pairs per customer, and they don’t know the price, yet; but that’s a start, anyway. Of course I couldn’t go down but Gertrude got me a card and now we are just waiting for Der Tag. My girl friend in the States is also on the lookout for some for me, and who knows but what a couple of pairs will arrive at No 34 one day!

Am frightfully "fed up" with lying in bed and am killing time writing letters – long and unimaginative – to my friends. Do hope they won’t feel obliged to sit down and write answers. In fact I wonder if they can even read ‘em.

(Continued on same sheet)

Dear Geoff

Surely you didn’t think you were going to escape a screed, you’re not, period.

Suppose you are still inundated with customers who can’t speak the language [Geoff had earlier complained that visiting customers' spoken English was of the same level as his French or German]. Must be a trial but then it’s good for future business.

There’s nothing much here in the way of news, even the weather is doing business as usual – neither too hot nor too cold – one thing lacking is lots of snow and that is all wrong for this part of the world. We need it!

Have just re-read for the umpteenth time Beverley Nichols’ "Down the Garden Path" and "Thatched Roof". Aren’t they delightful? Have also re-read "Cottage Pie" and "Armstrong’s Cottage into House" and "We like the Country". The locale of the last three is in West Sussex so you probably have read them. If you have the chance you might send me another "West Sussex Gazette" some time. Also, if you have a magazine about the countryside, green gardens, cottages and so forth, I’d appreciate a copy. About this time of year I get a yen for country lanes, and daffodils and primroses. However, I invariably manage to recover before doing anything serious about it.

Am sending John a couple of comic supplements from the Sunday papers. I glanced through them, and how anyone can think them comic I can’t understand. They seem to be all blood and guts – and most unsuitable for children. I think they are responsible for a lot of juvenile crime. Mind John doesn’t try to "do in" a couple of the Gowlland girls [Geoff’s chickens] by way of experiment for bigger victims.

Quite a lot in the papers about how disgusted housewives over there are with the continued shortages and standing in queues. The starvation on the continent is appalling. Nothing is rationed in the U.S. now but we have the same rationing as before except for tea or coffee. However the strikes [in America, presumably] must upset things across the line. Aren’t they too awful? Our economic balance and theirs is closely connected so I guess we’ll be short of things here too if the strikes aren’t settled. This seems to be about all. I hope you admire the dainty little sheets of paper [Gladys had been writing on paper even larger than foolscap] but it’s all I have available just now.

Cheerio and all the best . . .

Peggy's new car Austin KPC 164

Geoff to Gladys  -  30th January 1946



Dear Gladys


I have been keeping my eyes open for blocks of four stamps on incoming letters, and enclose a few which have come to hand.  I hope these are of interest to you, and I would like to say what a damn nuisance your fours are, as whilst there are a very large number of letters which use two or three stamps, comparatively few have four altogether.


Enclosed is a letter from one of our Danish customers Messrs Th. Wessrl & Vett Ltd, which caused our Order Department a good deal of perturbation yesterday.  We could not see what they were getting at, although we presumed they were hurrying forward the delivery of a very large number of instruments they have on order.  It has just occurred to us that they probably deal in stamps and what they are offering us if some new stamps from Greenland.  Would you be interested in having some of these?


Is it a fact that you yourself only collect Empire stamps, and is your brother-in-law interested in other countries?


About the photographs: thank you for the kind remarks.  We too were impressed with them.  We did however mean them to be retained by Gladys for her own amazement and if you did not receive the ones back you sent to Calgary, and if you would like or can find room for them, let us know, and a replacement will be sent out.  We remember your remarks about correspondence with Calgary [Gladys had earlier complained that her brother and sister-in-law were very dilatory correspondents].


Peace in England 1946 proves, however, more and more disappointing.  Illness is undoubtedly more widespread that at any time during the War, most of which is not serious, but convalescence seems to take a very long while.  Food is at its shortest, and supplies of clothes, fuel, household necessities and luxuries are much shorter than they have ever been.  The only things in fact on which the supply position has improved are things like garden implements, small hand tools, nails, and this sort of thing.  Electrical supplies [of spare parts etc] are absolutely dreadful.  As an example, some switches which we use in the factory have, during the war itself, never required more than seven weeks to complete, and have already been on order for six months; and we are now told that it will be another five to eight months before we can have the initial delivery.


To ordinary people it is more than exasperating to hear of the new toys which are being made, luxurious prams, new fabrics and fashions, being produced in quite large quantities; but all being sent overseas and none available.  Humorous advertisements appear from time to time, and are in terms of “Do you want to enjoy Messrs . . . . .’s new refrigerator, super design, magnificent finish etc?  If so, you will have to emigrate to South America, Finland or Iceland.  There are not going to be any in England for the next twenty years!”.


Although nominally victors in the recent war, the present outlook is undoubtedly distinctly disappointing, and people’s tempers and equilibrium are correspondingly affected.


Parliament has with a considerable flourish of trumpets passed a bill to nationalise the Bank of England, but has been far too busy doing this, and similar transactions, to worry about rationing, houses or anything of importance to ordinary people.


The constant stream of overseas visitors persists, all of them very disgruntled to learn that they cannot have deliveries immediately, and asking how it is that, if we won the war, we cannot supply all their needs straight away.  The answer to this is so involved as to be entirely incomprehensible to the majority of visitors whose command of English is no better than mine of French or German.


It is just over twelve months ago since we had our own V2 rocket approximately 120 yards from the house one evening.  I have forgotten whether I told you this; but it arrived on one of the coldest evenings of the war, just as the children were going to bed, and it shook us up quite a bit.


The repairs to damaged houses have been carried out with considerable success, although not with outstanding efficiency of man-power or expense; but the vast majority of slated and tiled roofs have been replaced for a long while, most windows re-glazed with glass, and now, around here, the bulk of the ceilings which were knocked down (100% of the dwelling houses around the factory) have been reinstated.  To the casual observer, therefore, this air raid damage does not look very severe now, a fact which is constantly being borne in upon me when I take visitors on to the roof [of the factory, clearly] and show them what has happened.  Except to the more discerning, it looks as though not very much did, and this is rather a pity.


John and Rosemary are struggling with the piano but, so far, it is a sufficient novelty for only moderate persuasion being required to ensure sufficient practice.  Whether the parents’ nerves will stand the strain of constant fight in years to come of ensuring practice remains to be seen.  They are still busy on things after Greig and so on, and I am a little impatient for them to graduate to Hogi [Sic] Carmichael or Duke Ellington.


An outing to London with the children to see the Christmas bazaars, which was spoilt by terrific rain, caused us to take the whole shoot to the pictures, and this was a tremendous success, since when we have taken them to Bing Hope and Dorothy Lamour in "The Road to Utopia”.  Rosemary was a little bit lost; John fairly thrilled; and Mark, of simple tastes, thought it just talk, sitting placidly on my knee, grasping firmly the seat in front, and repeating at ten minute intervals “They are talking”, and commenting on dogs, bears and Father Christmas when they appeared.


John and Rosemary officiated in fancy dress at a slap-up wedding [of Geoff’s cousin Heather  – see photo below) a few weeks ago, snow on the ground, at one of the smallest village churches we have ever seen, which was literally choc-o-block, red carpet and reception, peopled largely by admirals and assorted army types, made quite a memorable occasion.  The light was very bad, and I rather fear that the first colour film I have had since 1939 will not come out too well.


Weddings are probably an emotional strain for nearly all concerned but, until we had experienced it, we had not realised that the parents of the bridesmaids and pages also were subject to a considerable nervous tension, wondering whether the former would wrench the train from the bride’s head, or the latter [who was enduring the mortification of wearing oyster-coloured satin] would perhaps cannon into the bridegroom after the ceremony.  No such disaster did however occur, although it was very very cold, judged by English ideas.


As a stunt, I spoke on the telephone with our Danish Agent last Saturday in Copenhagen; and very excited he was to think that somebody from London had telephoned him   [doubly interesting, firstly that Saturday working was the norm, and secondly that telephoning abroad was sufficient unusual to be noteworthy].


If I could think of a particularly funny story, or had anything important to say, I might have been ‘phoning up Gladys in Montreal at that.


I think I mentioned last summer that one of life’s difficulties was getting things mended – e.g. clothes, shoes, watches etc, and instanced the fact that my car wanted its clutch relined.  I think it was the beginning of May that I originally booked this job.  It is being done right now, which, so the garage tell me, is very much in advance of its proper turn.


Assuming the job is finished, next Sunday we are taking the children sightseeing to London, and later hope to take them on a round of Tower of London, Windsor Castle and Hampton Court.  You should come and join us!




 Heather and Alastair's Wedding



Gladys to Geoff  10th May 1946



Dear Peggy and Geoff


No, I’m not dead.  Not quite dead, I mean, and have no real excuse for not writing except that I became annoyed because I could not get a box of [chocolate] bars for the children and kept delaying writing to say so.  However, I  . . . . . .   But first I must thank you for both of your nice letters.  Geoff’s was received ages ago and told of the children attending a wedding in a tiny church.  Am sure they looked adorable.  Young John is becoming quite a “man about town”: first a cherub and now a page.  Suppose he was bored and Rosemary was thrilled.  What about my godson?  As Charles McCarthy would say “what ee do?”.  Surely he could have taken part – sung a solo or something.  Not fair!  Your letter, Peggy, says that J and R have been quite ill.  Poor lambs!  Am sure you were frightfully worried, and then all the extra work definitely.  You say you had trouble keeping the children warm.  Do you mean at home?  Really I think the shortages over there must be much worse than we realise.  It is dreadful to be so short of the necessaries of life all because of those blasted %&$?XX [Sic] Germans. And now some fools want to feed ‘em.  Well, O.K.  Feed the coal miners and such people – just enough to allow ‘em to work and let the others  . . . . XX [Sic].  I do SO think it’s a good idea.  To blazes with ‘em, period.


Received the “West Sussex Gazette” which I thoroughly enjoyed, and also the two little Sussex magazines - both read from cover to cover.  Who would think when reading of the small doings, birds and flowers, village meetings etc, that that part of the country was in danger of invasion so recently?  The books give such an impression of tranquillity.  Thanks!  More, please.


Was amused about the children’s reaction to bananas [the three children were given their first bananas a few weeks before: they all hated them].  How strange.  Suppose it is like olives and caviar – get used to them.  So glad, Peggy, you were able to make use of the clothes.   Splendid idea to turn the coat into a dressing gown for Rosemary.  You must be smart with your needle.  Do you have chilblains?  They were the bane of Gertrude’s winters too when in England.  I often had a chill in Sussex but unaccompanied by a blain.  Really, I wonder now if I could stand your climate.  Brrr!  Those cold, dull, bitter winter days.  I think I’ll stick to 20 below zero, and just take Sussex for the spring and early summer.  We have so much sunshine all winter – crisp and clear most days.  With modern snow removal equipment, the roads are kept quite clear, so clear that there are few sleighs in the city.  In the country, of course, it’s different.


Have been very busy giving lectures in various parts of Quebec and Ontario, and also doing a lot of personnel work for my Company – talking to groups of employees.  All this in addition to my regular work.  Then I’ve been made a charter member of the Soroptomist Club which entails a lot of heavy doings.  Am supposed to go to a convention in Colorado in June, but I’ll be darned if I do.  The old lady needs rest occasionally.


Please tell the children that I know an office boy who knows the prime minister who employs a housekeeper who owns a dragon called Woozer, and by following a hint by all these I was able to corner fifteen candy bars and one package of chewing gum (You’ll be so thrilled about the gum, Peggy  -  so dignified!). All these, accompanied by some packages of Jello (which Gertrude had stored away) are being shipped by about Monday, together with some biscuits.  Understand you are frightfully short of fats so am sending one pound of Crisco (seldom obtainable here any more) and a pound of tea.  We had ample supplies all through the war but some things are getting quite short now.   All our surplus (and lots that isn’t surplus) is being shipped overseas.  However, we get along very nicely so DO have a cup of tea on me (a favourite expression of Peter’s [Gladys's brother-in-law - Gertrude's husband]).  He always says “on” - such as “have a cup of tea on me”.  I think it’s funny, don’t you?)  Are you still tea-rationed?  I hope so.  I mean I hope you need it.  I get so angry about the shortages in England, and now, according to the papers, you are to have less, and people talk of feeding the  . . . .  .  But I said all that before.  We have plenty of tea now.  I don’t know why, because it all has to be imported. Sugar gets scarcer and there is very little chocolate, and fats are hard to get. However, compared to you folks we are living in the lap of luxury and don’t know what it is to go short.  I realise you get enough but it’s the little extras that count.  If you need anything specially, don’t hesitate to mention it.  You can run up a bill and settle later!


Got two pairs of nylons in February and haven’t seen any since.  Why?  Haven’t the foggiest idea.  However my two pairs are doing noble work.  You say shoes are scarce.  I turned out a couple of pairs of tan and white (cruise stuff).  I’ve daubed ‘em ‘over and am sending them along.  Of course they’re old, and I DO mean old; but you, or someone else, can get a little use out of them this summer.  I think they’re your size – about.  My feet get bigger all the time, it seems to me.  Do you know of a man who needs s pair of shoes – size about 9 – 9.1/2?  Peter has had to discard a pair after a few wearings and I’d be glad to send them on if they are of any use to anyone.  Let me know about this!   We are short of wool here, and I understand decent wool is very very scarce in England so ‘m wrapping the parcel is a white hand-knitted boucle suit (3 piece).  It should be easy to de-knit and would knit up into some warm things for the kiddies.  I’ve often unravelled things, wound the wool tightly around an aluminium saucepan, and then dipped the lot in quite warm water. (Guess you know of that trick).  It comes out straight and ready to use.  If the parcel isn’t over-weight, I’ll put in a dress you can perhaps cut down for Rosemary.  Could your Aunt [Agnes – Gladys was intrigued by her height] use a brown and beige knitted suit? Worn, but cosy.  Let me know in your next.


George has started his own business in Lethbridge.  Quite an undertaking. I hardly think it wise to start a new business with the world in the state it is, and isn’t it too awful; but he will probably make good.  Had a letter from Muriel yesterday.  She says George is much happier and very well.  They gave up their Calgary home on 1st May.  Too bad in a way he has to build both a plant AND a house now in Lethbridge.  But he’s pretty smart.  I’m smart too.  If you doubt that, listen to this.  I had engaged a man to clean and whitewash three ceilings in our apartment.  After waiting five weeks I got mad, borrowed a step-ladder, bought a brush and some whitewash, and did them myself.  Perfect job. Am open for contracts now.  $30.00 per ceiling or $60.00 a pair. 


‘Bye now




Gladys to Geoff   12th August 1946



Dear Geoff


As I have just written to Melissa, airmail letters from you and from her were sent to me in Toronto, missed me, and were ages coming back.  Immediately on receipt I wrote to Eunice and now await her reply.


Needless to say, I was surprised to hear that a Gowlland – by marriage – was in the U.S.  It will be fun to meet her and come up to date on family affairs. Melissa tells me that E. is only 23.  Quite an infant!  As you say, Melissa’s writing looks very plain but is certainly the devil to read.  I couldn’t quite make out if she has friend in Montreal or not.  Can’t imagine anyone coming here from the States for clothes.  I always go there when possible as prices and styles are better.


Thanks so much for the stamps.  They were very acceptable and will help my collection.  Thanks too for the blocks of new English stamps – very striking designs.  Further thanks for the Sussex magazine, and also your letter on business affairs.  Congratulations!  Good stuff!.


Peggy, my dear, your letter was delightful.  So glad the things reached you; but how furious I was to learn that someone had snitched the Crisco.  Fats are so precious over there and are quite short here.  I hope it has turned rancid and whoever took it got POISONED.  Will send your aunt’s suit later on.  Nylons are becoming somewhat more plentiful now.  Do you need some still?  Price is about $1.95 per pair and I’ll attempt to get some if you wish, though I note you said recently not to bother with stockings.  If new ones are sent, do you have to pay duty and give up coupons?  Do so hope the children recovered in time for you to go away for your vacations.  It seems the poor young ones are having a bad time lately.  The picture of them in the garden is splendid.  What a lovely little girl Rosemary is, and how handsome the boys look.  You must indeed be proud of them.


How nice of you, Geoff, to send pictures of the rows of houses.   The bow-window ones look quite attractive but the others are a rum-looking lot.  It was most interesting to see the place where my father was born, but what a depressing looking spot.  Ugh!


You both ask when I am coming to England.  The Lord only knows as shipping space is still at a premium.  I’ve bee informed that there will be no special reduction (25%) for C.P.R. personnel for a long time, and I’ll be darned if I pay full rate.  Perhaps by 1950 – or 60 – I’ll be seeing you.  Or I might come for Mark’s wedding.  You know, sort of hobble in on crutches and waving an ear trumpet.


Muriel has been staying with her brother in Saskatchewan while George in Lethbridge is getting the new house on its foundations and so on.  Poor David had a hard time having contracted asthma – a very severe case, which they think was caused by pollen from some growing thing in Sask.  George, I believe, is to collect them about now.  His new firm is called Western Metal Fabricators Ltd and they make structural steel and stuff – or something.  George’s letters are wonderful – simply full or nothing definite. 


How disgusting for you to have to endure bread rationing on top of everything else.  Prices here are going up, in spite of Government efforts.  The lid is off in the U.S. and, of course, that affects us as our economy is so closely tied to theirs.  The wheat crop promised to be splendid – if we get some rain – and everything else is coming along well, though it has been a rather cold summer – intense heat and then quite chilly spells.


This is all for the moment.  All the best to the Squerryites and a whopping dose for Squerrymark.


PS   Thanks, Peggy, for your contribution of stamps. Also, have mislaid first page of Melissa’s letter and, as I’m anxious to get her letter in the mail, have to send it in your care.  Please forward.  Thanks seven!  




Probably the photo to which Gladys refers above.



Gladys to Geoff   28th September 1946



Dear Geoff  


Have just learned I can borrow an 8mm projector so am writing to say I’d be delighted to have the films  [Evidently Geoff had offered to send Gladys a cine film taken by him, not an easy procedure as subsequent letters make clear  –  for more information on 8mm cine film, click here].  How nice of you to think of me.  Shall enjoy seeing “bits” of England, and also (I mean, particularly) the children.  Hope Mark is very prominent as a star.  Am wondering how you are going to manage the export and import [of the film, presumably] but doubtless you have that all planned.  The Sussex mag came yesterday and there is a fine article about Rudyard Kipling’s house ["Batemans", owned by the National Trust].  MUST see that when I come to England.


Not a word from Eunice.  Suppose she returned ere this.  What a pity you had such filthy weather for your holidays.  Such luck!  There has been a lot in our papers about the terrible storms in England.  The poor “old country” seems to be having a run of bad luck.  And how badly you need good crops.  Disgusting.  What’s the matter with the Lord?  The shops here are beginning to stock up once more with English goods – china, glass, etc, and what sales!  Everyone rushing to buy.  Understand you still have practically nothing, everything being exported to build up foreign trade.  Good idea, but I’d hate to see the stuff going out if I were over there, particularly as things are so frightfully short.  We’re having lots of shortages here now but only on account of the strikes.  No salt for ages, and soap is hard to get due to a strike in the wood-ash plants.  No steel for nails – Steel Strike!  No building very much account other strikes [?].  What a headache!  Prices are jumping too.


Hope Peggy received the worn nylons.  Gertrude sent a parcel to England a while back and something was "snitched" from that too.  Surprised at you! 


You will be sorry to hear that George Jnr [George and Muriel’s son] had a very nasty accident.  He was helping his Daddy level off the earth at the back of their new Lethbridge home where three little boys were playing with a BB rifle.  One of them shot George in the eye and it is possible he may lose the sight entirely.  He has to stay six weeks with only ice packs on and then the doctors will see what they can do towards perhaps saving part of the sight.  Poor laddie!  Only twelve years old.  Such a handicap to start life.  They have the best eye-doctor in the west attending him, and he is hopeful that, even if the sight is lost, George will not be disfigured too badly.  Those damned guns should be prohibited.  Muriel says they are in most places.  He is quite a little artist and while in bed drew me some of the cutest pictures, Donald Duck and so on.  He and John should get together.


Forgot to thank you for the other mags you sent.


This is Kiwanis apple day and my desk is loaded up with apples.  Everyone bought me one.  They are sold on the streets and all over the city for charity, for a nickel and anything up to a dollar.  Do wish I could ship them over for the kiddies.  Great big luscious Macintosh Reds, the loveliest apple in the world, the kind that spit at one when one takes a bite.  I’m just starting on my fourth.


Am pretty busy with one thing and another, particularly lectures.  The most popular is “Dressing Around The World” with colored slides and costumes I collected from various places.  Lots of fun talking to big groups and as they’ve never been to those places I can really go to town with tall stories. 


Have to meet the Vancouver train coming in in five minutes so I will finish this later.


3rd October


Note finished up with “finish this later”.  It certainly is later – much.  Muriel writes that George is getting on as well as can be expected, but is suffering a lot.  Cannot tell anything about the sight for some weeks.


We have had wonderful weather all September but on Sunday the temperature was 84, dropped to freezing on Monday and we had a honey of a snowstorm.  Must expect snow I suppose from now on, thought we won’t have much until the end of December.  Hear you’ve been having a heat wave.  What a country!   Usually when we get fed up with the weather we say “Let’s give the country back to the Indians” but who could you give your country back to?


Am leaving for New York on the 12th for about ten days.  Will see a few shows and shop a bit.  Saw the movie Henry V the other night.  It is wonderful.  What a change in English films of late years.  Time was when they were most unpopular.  People would say, “If it’s an English film showing, we won’t go”.  Now everyone watches them.  Certainly got Hollywood worried.  They are just as popular in the States too.  I saw Blithe Spirit but had a fearful time following the dialogue – too much accent I couldn’t follow.  The others are all splendid.


Would like to send Marks shoes again this Xmas – if he needs ‘em; but, Peggy, I do wish you’d send me an outline of his foot so that I can get the right size for once.  Do that, eh?  Perhaps though he’s already equipped.  Let me know.


This seems to be all for the moment so I will sign off, with all the best to everyone.


As ever  . . .


PS  Enjoyed the booklet you sent of English scenes.  Lovely



Gladys to Geoff   24th November 1946



Dear Geoff  


First I must say I’m sending this airmail to compensate for delay in advising receipt of films.  Came ten days ago without any trouble at all.  Thanks!  Sad to say, though, the man who was to loan me the projector has gone up to the North on a hunting trip so I have to wait for his return.  Hope he hurries.  The list of scenes was most intriguing and I’m sure I’ll enjoy them a lot.  Your choice of subjects seems excellent and of very real interest.  Did I ask you before if I might send them to George?  I’d like to.


Now don’t get a swelled head but I really think your last letter [as usual, no copy, unfortunately] was most interesting. The description of your meeting with M [presumably Melissa] and her sister-in-law intrigued me no end.  So subtle the remarks re artistic accomplishments – Salome etc., and the dots and dashes.  Every time I deciphered a new line I giggled aloud.  She sounds like a most interesting person, very smart, but just a little unusual.  I’d love to meet her.  The heirlooms attracted me, as I just love things like that.  Eunice seems to be quite a lass in her own way.  What did Washington do to her, I wonder?  Usually people want to stay.  Must be love!  Am just as glad she didn’t come here as one thing I cannot stand is cool sophisticated people.  Ugh!  I like a little enthusiasm.  Anyway, generally it is just a pose to cover up some shortcoming or other.  Seems to me people think the U.S. is a land flowing with milk and honey, where newcomers are given the keys to the town.  Personally I think it is nonsense to expect so much, though it is the American citizens’ own fault: they are so full of praise for everything American that half the world believes the streets are paved with gold.  I’ve always found that life down there is just as difficult as anywhere else, and anyone who gets ahead has to fight like the very devil.  What country could have been finer to live in than England before the war?  Mark’s measuring Eunice with your rule brought gurgles of delight from the family.  Tell him that if Eunice is ”half-past-free”, I insist on being “half-past-four”, or at least “a-quarter-past”, and no six-inch rule either.  I want a yardstick.


We continue to hear of the shortages over there.  What a hardship!  Of course the plan to go after foreign trade is splendid, but I wonder if any other country would stand for shortages in the midst of good things being produced and shipped away.  On Friday Eaton’s (our biggest store) had a huge advertisement of men’s shoes – just from England – thousands of pairs, at $12.95.  Dropped into Birk’s (our very snooty and very large jewellery and silversmith, and objet d’art etc store) on Saturday, and found that cut glass from England is back on the shelves, also some expensive china, as well as English handbags, leather goods of all kinds, and similar stuff.  Prices are high, in addition to luxury tax of 25%, but at least they’re here.  Am so pleased about the glass as I dropped a hint (very gentle!) and think I’m going to get some cut glass goblets for Christmas.  Hooray!  Am down to two from the original set.


Have not heard from Calgary [or does Gladys mean “Lethbridge”?] re George Jnr for some time.  Have told George and Muriel how concerned you and Peggy are, and should be hearing from them before long.  Perhaps they’re frozen.  The weather in the west has been dreadful  –  25 below zero last week at Lethbridge, and 40 inches of snow already.  We’ve been fortunate.  Had one snowstorm – just a small one – early in October, and since then we’ve had perfect weather.  Today the temperature is just freezing, and a suggestion of snow; but that’s wonderful for this time of year.  Wore a fur coat for first time yesterday.  Hate to start too soon, as I refuse to make any other change in my clothing, just add a fur coat and high fur-topped boots.  Anyway, who ever gets cold legs wearing nylons – wonderful protection!  So nice and cosy!


Am up to my eyes in work and one thing and another.  Some day I’m going to chuck it all up and find a nice cosy little grave where I can catch up on sleep.  This is Sunday – my “day or rest”, but at least I’m able to relax while I dash off a few letters about nothing at all.


Am wondering how this will look (both sides of paper).  Yes, looks O.K.  [For this letter, to be sent by airmail, Gladys was using extraordinarily thin (and therefore) light paper].  You see, I can send 1/4oz airmail for 15¢, and have no intention of spending another 15¢ so that you can read more easily. 


Oh yes. Must tell you this.  Dropped in at an auction sale a couple of weeks ago.  Went in to get out of the rain.  Quite an expensive set up at Frazers, who are the big auctioneers.  They were selling huge collection of pictures from England and the continent.  Just as I got there, up came an adorable picture, really lovely – painted by Caffrey in 1876.  Title?  “A Sussex Brook”.  What did I do?  Bought it!!  Set me back a pretty penny but it is splendid.  Downs, and brooks, and sheep, and bracken, and a dozen other little bits of Sussex countryside.  It has been much admired and every morning I trot along to the living room to take a peek at it.


By the way, what’s happened to all those stamps you were going to send me?  You send one lot and one only.  How come?  Another Sussex mag came safely.  Would you like “Reader’s Digest” each month?  I subscribe to it and can send it along much as you send me the Sussex mag.  Costs only a couple of cents to send.  Must send Peggy “Chatelaine” once in a while too.


This seems to be all, besides which I’d better get dressed as I’m sitting in the den clad only in a pair of pyjamas.  Really I don’t know how I could ever stand your cold houses.  Temperature right now is 75.  Saw that you’ll be even shorter of coal than last year.  Can you get hot water bottles?  Could send you a couple if needed.  Maybe Mark needs one.  The coal strike in the States is upsetting things quite a bit.  Looks as if people down there will have a chilly winter.  Maybe we shall too.  Brr!  Skip it!!


No more now.  Much of the best to you all, and here’s hoping you have a very happy Christmas, and that the New Year will see life brighter all round.


As ever  . . . .


PS  If this weighs more than a quarter [of an ounce], I’m going to tear it up!


November 24th 1946


Private  -  Not for curious little eyes!


Dear Peggy


Thanks for your nice letter of 3rd. Glad you found the nylons useful.  Can understand how frightfully busy you are keeping the children’s clothes in order.  The sketches were very well done.  Quite an artist, aren’t you?  When I try to draw a dress, it comes out looking either like a tent or a flower-pot.  Am sure Rosemary is thrilled with her new house-gown.  Imagine Mark getting such a kick out of a postcard.  He’s a rascal, isn’t he?  Glad you sent drawing of his foot.  At last, I’m sure of size.  Shopped on Saturday – last minute, as usual – for overseas.  First must tell you that chocolate bars are frightfully scarce.  I finally was able to collect six.  Dreadful!  Used to be able to wangle a box of 24.  Soooo!   I had to give up that idea, but your remark re children’s shoes was just right.  I was able to pick up – quite reasonably – some would-be Indian moccasins, and have bought them a pair each – quite ordinary, with real fur – bunny-rabbit – but they’ll be nice for the house and keep toes warm this winter.  Took a chance on sizes, except Mark’s.  His are so cute – red with grey fur – and about big as a minute [?].  Have done them up for Christmas with two choc-bars apiece.  Mark, of course, also gets his real leather shoes – according to size you sent me.  So there are two parcels for him.  He’ll be the big-shot again, I suppose, TWO parcels while the others have only one.  A postcard can’t begin to compare with an extra parcel!  Anyway, they’ll have fun wondering what’s in ‘em until Xmas morning.  Included in the carton are a few goodies.  Will list, just in case of pilfering, though I think there’s less of that at Christmas with so many parcels going through.  One pound raisins – 1 tin concentrated lemon juice (Christmas lemonade!) – 1/2lb cheese – one packet choc pudding (for cookies) – 1/2lb shelled almonds – 1/2lb shelled brazils.  Good eating and happy Christmas!


It was nice of you to attempt to find something for George Jnr.  But, my dear, they realise how difficult it is to get anything over there, so don’t spend too much effort.  Haven’t heard for about three weeks, but last report he had seen Calgary doctors who said the sight was gone.  However, he claims to be able to just distinguish very bright objects, so there’s a chance that time will see some improvement.  Poor lad!


Have written a long letter to Geoff, which is for you too, of course, so will close, with all the best, as ever  . . .


PS  In parcel is pair of my rubbers for you – size 5.1/2, but as I’ve been wearing ‘em over 7.1/2 shoes, I’m sure you’ll get some use out of them – for wet weather.  All done up in white paper, but that’s so as to stop Customs fussing.  Cheerio!  You say, “When am I coming over?”  I’ll come one day – honest! 



Gladys to Geoff   7th January 1947


Dear Geoff


Have just dashed off an airmail letter to Peggy re clothes ‘an stuff [not found].


Last week I was lucky enough to get an 8mm machine for the films [cine films that Geoff had taken specifically for Gladys, and which he had sent to her by air post].  We enjoyed them tremendously.  What dears the children are and how healthy they look.  So peppy.  Peggy too. We liked particularly Mark coming round the corner in his car, followed by the big one.  Your garden looked lovely, so big and such wonderful flowers.  Lucky people!  The scenery was beautiful, and the fair brought back memories.  It was most kind of you to let me see them.  Sorry to say a bit of the film broke off, but I’ve wound it on carefully.  Just needs splicing.  That was my unlucky day.  The machine was none too good (they all seem to be 16mm round here) and then didn’t I drop the damned thing when running for a streetcar.  George and Muriel are both looking forward to seeing the films, so am sending them on.


You will be glad to hear that little George’s eye is very very much better.  Three doctors said he would never see again.  Muriel says faith has done the job, and prayers.  I say, Dame Nature and Good Health.  It takes all kinds to make a world, doesn’t it?  Gertrude had a cute letter from little George (Isn’t it nonsense to name children after their father?  It’s always big George and little George to tell which is whosit [Sic]) today.  He writes very nicely, and so very grown-up.  Said, “I hope your New Year will be crowned with prosperity”.  Isn’t that ducky?


Yes, you certainly have your troubles over there with trade regulations, Labour Government, and so forth.  Now there are coal strikes, and more shortages of electricity.   As you say, “Who won the bloomin’ war, anyway?”.  See too you’ve had a horse-influenza-epedemic [Sic] and now have a cat-influenza-epedemic.  Poor poosie!  I love cats.  And your weather!  Really I haven’t seen a pleasant thing in the papers about the tight little isle for ages.  Good thing you sent the films, I’d think you were all frail wraiths.  We’re having dreadful weather here just now.  Snow!  Ye Gods!  I was three hours getting home from the office one day last week.  Everything was frozen solid.  Tried for an hour to get a streetcar or taxi, then went back to the station to get the 6:15 train.  Stood on the bottom step with ten thousand other people and fund out – after an hour – that the train didn’t have an engine.  However, we’re digging ourselves out O.K.  Have marvellous snow-clearing machines, but as soon as the 500 miles of streets are cleared, down comes another million tons of snow.  Been going on for days.


Have been sorting slides all morning ready for a lecture.  Gets a bit tiresome at times with so many other things to do.  Days, as I’ve said before, should have 48 hours, and three Sundays per week.  Quite a bit of illness here, colds and so forth.  Peter [her brother-in-law] was pretty bad with congestion of one lung, but is pulling through all right.  Gertrude went downtown this a.m. and skidded on a mass of snow.  Result, one bruised knee, one twisted wrist, and one . . . . . . . . .  anyway, she sat down VERY hard!


George seems to be having an uphill struggle to get his business going.  So many shortages, but I think he’ll pull through all right.  He will if hard work means anything.  How that lad does work!  You two should meet each other.  Or maybe not.  Hate at first sight, perhaps.  I loved your story of Bill and the grease.  How typically Gowlland.  I can’t wait to meet them all. (Yes, I’m coming one day).  Particularly do I want to see that house where your partner (silent) lives [perhaps this refers to “Arundel Holt” in Wisborough Green, the beautiful 16th Century house of Captain A E Blackmore, one of the directors of the family business Gowllands Limited, who had had a tracheotomy in the late 1930s  - Geoff had sent Gladys photos of the house].  Sounds wonderful. And I’d  like to see the old house occupied by the “maternal grandmother”.


This is the end of this.


Much love to the children, and all the best to self and Peggy.


PS  Hope Christmas parcel reached No 34 intact.





Gladys to Geoff  -  22nd February 1947



Dear Geoff



Seems to me I’ve been very negligent with my correspondence, but having just “knocked off” a letter to the Kodak Company (of which more later) thought I’d go right on tapping.


Was interested in all the news contained in your two last letters, especially the price of stockings so very “kindly” sent to Peggy from Iceland and points south.  Ye Gods!  What a price!  Can imagine you hit the roof.  But after all I’ll bet Peggy loved ‘em.  Suppose it was extra duty and so forth which ran up the price, or did you get into trouble with the customs?  Can imagine if so it would be because your correspondents wanted to send them in duty-free, and not because you wished it that way.  Too bad.


What a perfectly ghastly time you are having over there. We read all about your frightful weather, road blocks, train blocks, and blocks in general including blockheads.  Here we are used to, and prepared for, that sort of weather.  Really I feel so darned sorry for everyone there, and the cold houses, and the factories shut down.  Really serious.  Dear old Churchill!  Isn’t he priceless! In the House he made one of those wonderful remarks.  In the States of course such doings as weather and troubles you’ve been having would have been an “unprecedented disaster”. Churchy [sic] calls it “an awkward situation”.  Lovely!  Quite inline with calling Hitler “that wicked man”.  Learn today  -  this afternoon’s papers  -  that the weather has turned bad again and more snow for you.  Brrr!  Friend of mine heard from her Aunt in Staffordshire: she hadn’t had a fire for three weeks.  Do so hope Peggy’s parcel has arrived ere this and that she has been able to use her high boots and the snuggy ‘jamas.  Wonder you’re not all dead.  Today, here, it is blowing a helluva blizzard  - 10 above zero  - but the rotary snowploughs are chugging along, and the special contraptions are at work on the railroads so everything is fine.  Then again our houses are built against cold with double storm windows etc.  Not that we ever use them in this apartment: place is like an oven.  (I feel very catty to have said that with al you are going through.  Skip it, please).


Sent a big parcel of food ‘nstuff (including a hot water bottle) to a friend in Cheshire.  Today I learn that four weeks (no, nearly six).  It hasn’t arrived.  Dammit!   Suppose some devil has snitched it.  I’m so darned mad. Whatsamatter [sic] with your post office people over there?  All the parcels of food etc that goes [sic] through my Club (the Soroptomist) to various people whose names we’ve had given us (including one old dear of ninety) get there safely.  Wonder why?


Your resumé of the children’s progress was amusing.  Mark must be a terror.  He’ll grow out of it (Can I hear you say “Make it snappy, Lord”?).  John must be a pet.  Did he get his marbles?  Surprised about that certain party’s lack of humour.  Bet there’s lots of brains to make up for it.


Now thanks for the stamps.  They were wonderful.  MORE PLEASE.  I shared them with Peter [her brother-in-law] and sent what I didn’t need on to small George and David.  By the way, there’s something you could send ‘em.  Drop into a Philatelist Shop and get a couple of packages of “Foreign Mixed”. They’d love ‘em. George Jr is progressing well [after the accident which endangered his vision], but David still has slight attacks of asthma.  George Sr is going along well, business booming, more than he can handle.   Doctor says he’s in perfect health, but 25 lbs under weight.  She says: “No wonder, the way he works”.


 How nice that you are to have wee hose [sic] by the sea.  Lucky people. I haven’t seen the sea in four years.  Sounds intriguing.  When I come over, I’ll go ..   etc  .. (you know the rest).  Have a pressing invitation from Cheshire, and one from Ickenham too.  Must make it one day.  This year I’m either gong to fly up north (to the Arctic), or else go out to the cost, calling at Lethbridge en route.  England would be nearer, but you see I can’t get a pass on boats.


Too amusing how the Western Gowllands boost any place they live.  Calgary was too wonderful!  Now it’s Lethbridge.  Muriel raves that the weather is grand, grass green, shrubs budding, and so forth, due to Chinooks (warm winds to you) every so often, and yet the day she wrote her letter I saw in the paper that it was twenty-nine BELOW ZERO. I chipped her about it and she said “ ‘taint so!”.  Well, somebody’s lying, and it ain’t me, NOR the papers.


The new Sussex mag came today.  Gets more interesting all the time.  To think there were all those fascinating things to see, and I didn’t know about ‘em.  However, I was only twelve or so when we left.  When I come over I’ll . . . . . . . etc.


Re the enclosed copies of letters [regarding Geoff’s cine film sent via Kodak of Canada].  Did you ever know such a darned mix-up?  I have the films on hand.   Phoned all over creation trying to find out what to do about the them, but no solution.  Am waiting now to see what Kodak Toronto answer.  George and M and the boys enjoyed them very much.  Really though, they must be hoodooed as M. says they broke the bulb in their projector, and can’t get another as there’s something about size, new ones are different, or something like that.  Ho hum!  Such nice films, too.


I note what you said about your friends, but the places you mention are several hundred miles away. However, I may run into them one day.  Who knows?  A friend of mine was here from the BC coast [British Columbia – i.e. West Coast of Canada] last week.  He has promised to try for some photos of some spot named “Gowlland”.  If he succeeds, I’ll send them over.


This seems to be all at the moment, so I will close with all the best to all the best.


As ever….



Geoff to Gladys    5th March 1947



Dear Gladys


Last week Peggy posted for you the Biro Pen [early model of the ballpoint] which you thought you would like and we both hope it arrives safely.


The story of these pens is that they were developed during the war for use by Test Pilots, as they do not blot, freeze or run!  The outstanding advantages are that they last many months before they have to be taken to a service depot for refilling and you can sign through four or five carbon copies.  They give a very characterless hand, but are widely used here.


Enclosed you will find an assortment of the Royal Visit South African stamps, together with one of your famous mounted [? Mint] sets complete with edging.


Don’t you think you are a lucky girl: no more remarks about inattention to stamp requisitions, please.


As you will have seen from the papers, conditions over here have been at their most grizzly.  Since just before Christmas, the temperature here has, on the whole, been slightly under freezing point in this area, and for some days we were down to about 4° and 6° F.only.


Judged by your standards, this is probably quite warm; but over here we frankly are not equipped to deal with it.  We are not used to it, our houses and factories are not built to withstand it for any length of time; our clothes now are very old and worn, and above all  -  the rations we get contain just about the same as the Germans’ and really are insufficient to resist exceptional temperatures.


Probably the worst thing that has happened to the country for many years was the unexpected power crisis which resulted in the shutting down of all industry in this sector of England for about three weeks.


Possibly you will have noticed that good old London, having enjoyed the premier attention of Hitler, also produced some of lowest temperatures and heaviest snow and was [presumably “worst”] shortages of coal, electricity, gas and food.


We all take a melancholy but real pride in noting that man and nature combined to visit us most severely around here.


Electricity is still banned for use in houses, shops etc from 9 and 12 a.m., and 1.30 to 4 p.m.  Radio and television programmes have been drastically cut, also buses, trains etc.


Looking around England in February or March 1947, one would be excused for asking whether in fact we did win the war at all!


For three weeks we managed to keep everyone in the factory fully occupied by having a glorious spring-clean and re-decoration and general clear-up; but as we had two of the most important members of our senior staff away with accidents, it proved very exhausting to be continually finding people strange jobs.


In theory we were an essential industry permitted to use the power we needed; but in practice the Supply Authorities were only willing for us to take 10% of our needs.


We started normally yesterday the 3rd March but it will be a good long while before the effects of this shut-down are made good, and the difficulties of our suppliers of materials, component parts, deliveries etc are overcome.


During the whole of this crisis we received rather more Hurry Notes from Overseas than ever before and it seems impossible to convince countries such as Holland, Belgium, Norway and Denmark that our plight  - although we were not over-run  -  is a great deal worse than theirs.  Conditions there have been back to the 1939 scale.  They cannot see why it is that we cannot fill all their orders more quickly, and tell us so in constant and indignant letters.


Countries such as Brazil, or Cuba, or Mexico, dwell at great length on the excellent service the Americans are able to give them, and ask us why it is that we cannot send out to them by return of post.


The forward delivery position is simply shocking.  Our basic materials, such as, for instance, brass tube in large quantities, were supplied before the war in 3 – 4 days from receipt of order.  During the war this was sometimes lengthened to as much as 5 or 6 weeks.


The position now is that it seems that they can only file our orders under Government instructions  -  they are only allowed to accept them about twelve months in advance of the delivery date. 


This means that we do not know for nearly a year whether in fact they can accept our orders or not.  Delivery is likely to be two or more years and a tentative price will be fixed three months before despatch.


This is quite valueless as the order is accepted on the price ruling at the date of despatch.  You will guess how difficult it is to plan in advance the different instruments which will be needed in virtually all sectors of the world in 1949 and 1950.


On the other hand, we are having more and more difficulty with orders in hand  -  i.e. many countries such as Turkey, Greece, Palestine etc only give short-term Import Licences, which are tied up with Letters of Credit.


What happens is that we quote people for some goods and about a year later we have a curt notification from a Bank in London that they have received a cabled deposit with Import Licence particulars of a certain amount of money which is valid for about four weeks.  If we cannot despatch the goods in that time, the credit lapses, and the Import Licence is withdrawn, and customers are consequently indignant!


During the war an old business friend (old in age, I mean) said pointedly that the time would come when I should look back with regret on the relatively easy days of the war.  I laughed at him then, but realise now that he was entirely correct.  The dangers and excitements of the war were a good deal more palatable to most of us than the frustrations and the virtually hopeless future outlook which characterises the present.


Getting the family off to school is a constant nightmare  - we being, as you will remember, some distance from the buses for these to be of much use and, in any case, the queues for them are a good deal longer than they were during the war.


It must now be some thirty times that the exit from the chickens’ house has had to be dug out each morning, before the Blighted Girls can get out on to the snow for their run  -  not that they are laying any appreciable quantity of eggs anyway.


Peggy has had ‘flu quite badly for a few days but the children, apart from a few coughs, have managed to keep at school nearly all the time.


It is now into March and this time last year it was fine enough for us to be able to have tea in the garden in the open-air for the weekend.


It is just below freezing still and, in spite of the thaw predicted by the Meteorological Authorities for yesterday, there has been some three or four inches of snow again during the night.


Your famous parcel has not yet arrived: these seem to be slower than during the war.



Gladys to Peggy  23rd March 1947


Dear Peggy


Thank you so much for the wonderful Biron [sic - see Geoff's letter above] pen which arrived safely last week.  It was held up in Customs but came through finally without duty, thank goodness.  You were a dear to send it.  Just exactly what I wanted, so smooth and easy to write with.  Have already used 8,000 of the 200,000 words.  I write a lot and this pen is just grand, so swift that I can get my thoughts down before they slip away.  Can’t compose a darn thing on the typewriter.


What a perfectly ghastly time you are having over there.  Really too awful.  What have you done to deserve such a drubbing?  The papers give lots of details and pictures.  Geoff, your letter describing the troubles of manufacturers was most realistic.  How on earth can you go on and produce under the circumstances?  So discouraging.  As you say, the once-occupied countries seem to be much better off.  Whenever I read of the money spent to rehabilitate those damned Germans, I just boil.  Suppose, though, the Authorities are thinking of the future.  There won’t be any population left in England to have a future pretty soon, as far as I can see.  You’ll all be walking wrecks.  However, when these floods are over perhaps things will improve, through the set-back will be dreadful.  So many crops ruined, and cattle, sheep etc, as Peggy says, drowned and starved.  Poor brutes.


So glad Peggy that you received parcel safely.  What a time things take!  Hope you are feeling better.  Geoff said you had had grippe. Guess you’ve had gripe too!  So John liked his marbles, eh?  Bet he was the “big shot” at school with such a supply.  What funny questions Mark asks.  Would have liked to hear your answer, Geoff, to “what is “think”, daddy?”.  Those things, such quaint doings of the younger fry, really “send” me.  I have cute letters from George Jr., and enjoy them tremendously.  I like youngsters (for half an hour at a time).  It was nice that you are sending George and David some stamps.  They’ll be delighted.  George seems to have come in for a lot of extra attention by reason of his accident, and I think David, being younger and more sensitive, feels a bit put out.  Shall be glad to see them this year.  Understand George’s business is booming.  He was not well for a while, but went to get some extra insurance and the doctor said he was 100% O.K.  I’m greatly relieved.


The parcel which I’d sent to Cheshire reached there finally.  Had a sweet and so appreciative letter from Molly.  Intimated that the contents were “just out of this world”. She had been in Switzerland for three weeks but said she was allowed such a very little money.  The parcel got there while she was still away, but her secretary wrote immediately, intimating that if Molly didn’t get back soon SOMEBODY was going to start eating!  I think she was already enjoying the hot water bottle.  She (Molly) says conditions get worse and worse.  The contents of the box were so pleasing that I thought I should send a similar one to 34 Grimwade [Geoff’s house] to cheer up the folk after the damnable things that have been happening.  Therefore a 20lb box was despatched yesterday.  Understand Quaker Oats are very short and included some.  This isn’t a luxury box, it’s a box of good solid foods, full of Vitamins and What-Nots. Only butter, sugar and meat products are rationed here now, but prices are higher.  It’s the damned postage that’s so expensive and 20lb is the limit one can send.  Can’t see why the postal authorities don’t reduce the postage.  There’s plenty of room in ships now and people here, with relatives and friends over there, could send so much more.


Contents of box are as follows:   1lb Raisins; 3 lb Quaker Oats; 1 lb Prunes; 30 Bovril Cubes; 2 small boxes Muffin Mix; 1 tin Prem; 1 tin Crisco; 2 lb Corn Syrup; 1 lb Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour; 1.1/2 lb Cheese; 1 lb Cocoa; 2 Vanilla Puddings; 1 tin Lemon Juice; 2 packets Lipton Chicken Soup; 1 can Cooking Oil; 1 lb Spaghetti.  Also put in, and had to take out, 2 lbs Marmalade and a tin of something else (Concentrated Juice).  However!  . . . the cooking oil is good for frying.  We use it here all the time.  The spaghetti is nice with cheese.  Should have sent some tomatoes to go with it, but it was so heavy.


We’ve had a splendid winter here, all things considered.  Winds are bad, as usual for March; but weather clear.  That was a bad gale you had. Hope your chimney pots stayed put.  Saw in paper yesterday that seven million Britons want to emigrate.  No wonder!  However, things will improve there before long and they’ll want to stay.  You couldn’t spare that number of people.  Wonder if a Churchill Government would be better.  The weather would have been the same, of course; but policies might be better.  Who knows.  I’m sorry for Bevan and Attlee.  Wonder they don’t crack up.


Cheerio, and thanks again for the pen.


PS  Goodness!  Forgot to say how thrilled with the SA [South Africa, presumably] stamps.  You were so very kind to send them. The blocks have a place of honor in my album.  The envelope goes in the “envelope” album.  Lovely.  The other stamps you sent were grand.  Good work!  Keep it up!


If conditions get any worse over there, we’ll have to arrange for a personal lend-lease contract, so I can send you a box every month, or as often as allowed.


PPS   Wrote this on Sunday morning, and when down with grippe on Monday.  Forgot all about mailing this. Sorry!  Much better again. Cheerio!


This is where the letters end.   Two photographs form an appropriate postscript.




Photo sent by Geoff to Gladys entitled "Christmas 1947".  The three children are smiling upon receipt of a box from Gladys in Canada filled

 with chocolate bars, at a time when sweets were still very tightly rationed and one small piece per week was as much as could be expected.




     Gladys Gowlland with Geoff's parents Egbert and Beatrice, in about 1952   



In November 2006, these letters (together with an index, and also a transcription with copies of all the accompanying illustrations, all on CD) were handed over for safe keeping to The Imperial War Museum, Department of Documents, in London.  During the following few months, they will be incorporated into the Museum's database, and will thus be accessible to future researchers through the normal search procedures.  It goes without saying that Rosemary and John are delighted that they have been accepted for preservation in this way: it is only to be regretted that the original correspondents will never know.


Below is a photograph of the occasion, showing Ellen Parton, Archivist at the Museum, accepting the original letters from Rosemary and John.   Those of a strong disposition, who so wish, may click on the picture for an enlargement.





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