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Fightings Without, Fears Within

 

A Clan in Conflict

 

This is a story of people at war against enemies, their loved ones and themselves, some of which is based on facts and events. Historians and other experts would be aware of some, perhaps many, inaccuracies in the story. But this book doesn’t worry too much about these undoubted failings. Rather, this “telling” is more of a recapitulation and enquiry into why some of the characters behaved as they did and made their decisions and I have altered their life-stories where it suits my purpose. This includes a treatment of the suicide of my uncle DOUGLAS CAMPBELL GRIEVE, under his pseudonym. It is the beginning of an exploration into the consequences, looking back at them in kinder times.

 

Dedicated to the Grieve family,

in memory of

Edward Leonard Grieve and Douglas Campbell Grieve

 

we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.  2 Corinthians 7.5

 

 

The Main Characters            loosely based upon

 

Douglas Campbell 1692                           Fictional

 

Kenneth Campbell 1805                  Fictional

 

Leonard Campbell                                    Edward Leonard Grieve

                                                               My Grandfather

 

Dorothy Campbell                                    Lizzie Grieve nee Carter-Campbell                                                                                               My Grandmother

 

Betty Campbell                                        Barbara Grieve

                                                               My Aunt

 

Duncan Campbell                                     Douglas Campbell Grieve                                                                 My Uncle

 

Lenny Campbell                                       Kenneth Campbell Grieve

                                                               My Father

 

Jenny Campbell                                       Margaret Jean Grieve (Peggy)                                                           My Mother

 

 

 

DOUGLAS

 

February 1692

 

Douglas Campbell was out of breath. He stood, panting and wiping his brow, in the snow, bright in its brilliance. Apart from the blood. MacDonald blood. The last of his killings was a child, fleet of foot and spurred on by terror. He had almost got away, too, until Douglas' sgian dubh, expertly thrown, had pierced him between the shoulders and brought him down. Douglas used the same blade to slice his throat open; more efficient for the task than the broadsword.

 

"Murder under trust", some would say this was. Well, it was not for him to decide. He was, of course, following orders from his commander, Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, who, in turn, had received his orders from Colonel Hill, two weeks after the billet in Glencoe had begun. Orders which overrode the conventions expected among the clans giving and receiving hospitality. That had made it easy - easier - to pass the evening before in festive mode. Eating, drinking, singing, laughing, all the things which strengthened the bonds of friendship and fraternity. Or usually did.

 

He glanced down, briefly, at the dead child, a boy the same sort of age as little Dougie, his eldest. It wouldn't do to think about it. He was a soldier, carrying out orders, that's all. He hated the darkness, and the darkness hated him. There was enough darkness around, enough melancholy, without letting it burrow deeper into his heart than it already was. He'd regroup with the others now, and wait to be told where they were headed for next, further into the Glen or back to hearth and home. Dear Jeanie and the bairns! He found himself, oddly, recalling how they had started walking out, and had come to an understanding. He’d gone to see old James, her Father, to ask for her hand in marriage. “You're a fine man, Douglas,” James had said. “I know you'll take good care of my lassie”.

 

That night, an hour or so ago, Douglas and his fellow clansmen had been roused from a light sleep. Silently they made their way to a given rendezvous beyond earshot for final orders and then to wait for a given signal as they deployed round the camp. And then they pounced, filling the air with their loud, blood-curdling war cries that bounced around the glen as they pulled out their swords or trained their muskets on their drowsy, bewildered victims. The slaughter was quick, highly efficient and clinical. Job done. Now to clean their weapons and get ready to march away.  Douglas was keen to put some miles between himself and this killing field. Even better to get back home, to feel his wife's arms around him, her breasts against his chest, to sit in his own chair by the hearth watching the children, full of life and playing. And try to face his demons.

 

He'd done his duty, but he wanted to feel clean again.

 

He was sitting by the hearth, years later, when Jeanie found him next to a stone cold fire, stone cold dead.

 

 

KENNETH

 

October 1805

 

It was quite literally deafening. But as a Lieutenant aboard one of His Britannic Majesty’s Ships of the Line, Kenneth had learnt to ignore this fact of combat and it was amazing how everyone found ways of carrying out orders and performing their duties adequately. In any case his ship, commanded by Captain Roger Green, was named HMS Performance, and she was in Admiral Collingwood’s Squadron for the action in which they were presently engaged, against the French and Spanish navies off Cape Trafalgar.

 

As a boy, Kenneth had left behind the Lochs and Glens of Scotland whose clans had been suffering the depredations of the Duke of Cumberland and his military and political successors ever since the abortive rising of ’45. His Father had urged him on his way. “There’s got to be a better life for ye, Ken, than this here. Away with ye. Seek your fortune and be a braw man o’ which we can be proud. But ye’ll get word to us? Ye’ll no forget us now?”

 

Kenneth’s luck was with him. He made his way to Edinburgh and found a Merchantman taking on new crew, London bound. He didn’t much care that life on board was hard and cruel. What could he expect? But to see London was like all his dreams come true. In reality, he found himself more at sea in this huge, sprawling city than when afloat and was ever the victim of a pickpocket or a gang of ruffians. Ironically enough it was a similar enough gang, a Press Gang, which came to his rescue in impressing him into the service of the King on board one of His Majesty’s Naval ships. He soon came to appreciate that the lot of a Naval hand, despite living in cramped, unhygienic quarters below deck, gave him a security and chance of adventure he could never have imagined.

 

He could read and write, thanks to the Minister back home. He put it to great advantage, accepting commissions to write letters to their loved ones for his fellow Jack Tars – for a few pence each. His skill was noticed by his Officers, who soon gave him a vacant clerk’s position, which led to promotion as a Petty officer, and eventually through gallantry in combat to the rank of Mr Midshipman Campbell. This, of course, meant that he had examinations to pass if ever he was going to attain higher rank, but by now there was little that daunted him. By the time that several fragile Peace with France had come and gone, and the two countries were fully on a war footing again, Kenneth was a Lieutenant. When Trafalgar came he was Second Lieutenant Kenneth Campbell of HMS Performance.

 

The Battle raged on for hours of systematic battering of metal on wood. Nelson, ever the daring showman, caught the French napping by sailing into the middle all of them instead of lining up in parallel and, as ever, led from the front in Victory. Ships came to close quarters and hand to hand fighting supplemented cannon fire.

 

When Performance closed with the Paysanne, a 64 gun Ship of the Line nominally her superior, Kenneth gathered the boarding party under his command in the Forward netting. “On my Word of Command, men”, he shouted. As firing continued in each direction, grappling hooks were thrown and attached, and the two ships, really not much more than hulks by now,

crashed together. “Now! Follow me! God save the King!” Kenneth leapt on to the Frenchman’s deck, slashing down as his did so with his sword and taking aim with one of his pistols. He saw a French officer charging at him and fired his other pistol at the man’s chest, throwing him back and killing him outright. Fighting like a madman, and jumping over the bodies in his way, he and the trusted sailors who stayed with him fought on and forwards, forcing back the enemy, while Royal Marine kept up a covering fire from the rear. 'Behind you, Sir, he heard someone cry, and he turned to see a huge Frenchman rushing at him with an axe. Campbell swayed out of the way. A blade hit the Frenchman from behind, and he swung his own weapon across the man's midriff, finishing him off with a lunge.  Panting, the adrenalin of battle was still rushing around his body. He glanced down and was aware of a flesh wound on his left arm. Nothing at all really. Now he could see the boarding party under the command of his brother Lieutenant advancing swiftly from the other end, as could the French. Within minutes a surrender had been called, sailors rounded up and made secure, and the sword of the French Commander and his Officers returned under Parole. They had won! And there would be Prize Money to be had, enough to satisfy a man like Kenneth’s wants and certainly his needs.

 

But Nelson died. Refusing to remove or cover his medals so that his men would be able to tell where he was, he paid the ultimate price when a musket ball from the French rigging, dying an agonising, protracted death below decks. But the hour of victory came near the hour of his death. “Kiss me, Hardy” Or, perhaps, Kismet. “Thank God I have done my duty”.

 

Napoleon’s Navy was never again able to defy His Britannic Majesty.

Kenneth was never again to see action, or advance further up the ranks of the Navy.

 

Such are the fortunes of war.

 

 

 

LEONARD Beginnings

 

It had been his childhood dream to be a Royal Navy Officer. Life at home had been good to him. Leonard was a younger son of James and Lizzie Campbell, a well-off and prosperous couple of the merchant class which had brought wealth and prominence to their home town of Greenock. James' father had prospered in the sugar import trade, and was greatly respected among his peers, even representing them as a Member at Westminster. Quietly but successfully James carried on the business with even larger profits. They had, briefly, emigrated to Newfoundland, seeking adventure, but it hadn't succeeded. Children took ill, and they were all homesick. When his Father died they booked a passage home on the Helene Isabel, a Barque or three-masted cargo ship returning to Greenock, very similar to the ship that had taken them on the outward voyage.  There he picked up the reins of the business and carried on the life of a Merchant with conspicuous success.

 

James had had a mansion built in Greenock, a house that reflected his position in local society, large enough to accommodate his ever growing family and the servants needed to run the household. Leonard was born at home in 1878 to a childhood that was secure and happy. When the time came, he was put to lessons with Mr Carter, the tutor whom his father retained for the education of all his children. He learnt the basics of reading and writing, a degree of Latin and Mathematics, and History. It was History that captivated the child. The British Empire was expanding and the Union Jack was flying over more and more of the surface of the earth. Leonard listened eagerly to Robert Carter's vivid accounts of the battles and the heroes of preceding centuries: William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and the routing of the English at Bannockburn, the Plantagenet Kings fighting to regain and retain their territories in France, the Reformer John Knox leading the overthrow of the Catholic Church, the Virgin Queen withstanding the attempts by Catholic countries to depose her and extinguish the Protestant faith, Marlborough and other Generals winning battle after battle and, in his own century, Wellington in the Peninsular and at Waterloo defeating and then once and for all  unseating the Tyrant, Bonaparte. But for Leonard, towering above all these giants was the diminutive Admiral Lord Nelson, the hero of Trafalgar who lost his life in the moment of victory on his own flagship named Victory. Nelson who time and time again won battles by breaking all the rules. Nelson who, to Leonard's excitement and wonder, had twice had a member of his own family as his commander. It fired his imagination. He fixed on Nelson as the man he wanted to be like when he grew to manhood, and he would say to his father that he wanted to join the Navy, to serve the Queen on the High Seas, and to drive away her enemies wherever they dared to oppose her.

 

The boy's dream was not without substance. Leonard was not even the eldest son, so he was not in line to carry on the family business when the time came. He was bright, but he didn’t have the sort of mind needed to succeed in one of the higher professions such as medicine or the Bar. And as for the Ministry, while James and Lizzie were both devout Christians and were raising the children firmly within the faith, they had recently made the transition from the established Church of Scotland to the poorly endowed Episcopal Church, from which a son of a prosperous Merchant could hardly expect to receive a stipend worthy of his class. With ten children in all, seven of them girls, James felt that Leonard would need to make the most of his own wits in making his way in the world.

 

But he did recognise early on that his son's eager, restless energy needed the sort of discipline and maturity that the Navy would give him, as it slowly evolved from the world of sail with all its indiscipline and cruelty into the day of the Dreadnought, iron clad monster ships with enormously powerful armaments undreamed of in Nelson's time. The decision was taken and a commission purchased, and Leonard found himself, barely into his teens, on one of the Navy's training ships as Midshipman Campbell, bound for a lifetime's service to Queen and country. Childhood's dream had turned to reality in the harsh school of naval life.

 

LEONARD at Jutland

 

In June 1916 as a seasoned officer of many years’ service Leonard stood on the Bridge of HMS Implacable, an Invincible class battlecruiser on the way towards battle. The British and German Imperial Navies were locking in combat for the control of the North Sea and with it the freedom to trade and supply their land forces and peoples. Implacable was one of Beatty’s squadron. Leonard had gained his Captaincy and his ship by dint of hard work and seniority. He was trusted to make the right decisions in the heat of battle, and the excitable impetuosity of childhood had been somewhat curbed and mitigated by years of obedience. Obedience to orders and obedience to the customs and values of the Navy in the age of the Dreadnought.

 

As he scanned the horizon through his high-powered binoculars, he sensed rather than heard a slight movement to his left, a mug of strong, sweet tea being discreetly put within his reach by Walker, one of the mess orderlies. The ship would likely soon at battle stations, and cleared for action and all inessential flames extinguished but Leonard had given orders that a hot kettle and a tea pot should always be on hand. Tea was one of the essentials of life. That was his philosophy and always had been since he first acquired the taste in adolescence, and it had stood him in good stead ever since. A case could be made for adding a measure or two of Scotch, for instance on routine North Sea duty in stormy weather in an early watch of the night. There was a generous supply of the blessed water of life on board, unsurprisingly enough, given Leonard’s nationality. But his Officers and all the crew knew that Leonard led by example, and expected his Officers to do the same. At all times on duty they were to be in complete control both of themselves and the instruments which were eyes and ears to the massive turbines which powered this ship. No deviation from this would be tolerated or escape discipline.

 

The tea, though, was forgotten, at least temporarily. White flashes were lighting up the horizon, followed seconds later by the heavy boom of naval guns. Jellicoe, the C I C of the whole battle fleet, had closed with the enemy and was engaging him. Beatty’s fleet was obeying orders to follow in Jellicoe’s wake and, covering Jellicoe’s back, to join in the action in due time as a second wave of power and destruction of the German Imperial Fleet.

 

Before they set sail, at anchor in port, Jellicoe had summoned his fellow Admiral and senior Captains for a briefing and Orders, both his own and the authority from which they derived, the Lords of the Admiralty. Ultimately the War Cabinet and P.M. His Majesty the King, a Naval Officer himself, was, naturally, concerned to be consulted and kept up to date with this action, which promised to be of crucial importance to the conduct of the War.

 

“Signals”, that is the senior Lieutenant who was the Signals Officer, made his report.

 

“Captain, Sir”.

 

“Mr Smith”.

 

“Flagship requests that you make all speed ahead and seek out and engage with the enemy”.

 

“My compliments to the Admiral, please, Mr Smith, and confirm Orders received and understood”.

 

“Aye, aye, Sir”.

 

“Number One”, said Leonard” – this to Bruce, the First Lieutenant – “my compliments to the Chief, and full steam ahead, if you please”.

 

“Aye, aye, Sir”.

 

And so HMS Implacable, lighter and swifter than a battleship or Dreadnought, drew away from the convoy on its new mission, not on its own, as there were several other Destroyers under the same orders, part of the vanguard of Beatty’s sea-going battery of massive weapons of destruction. The months and years of trials and training were about to face the real test, a test of might and main. Each side boasted ships well able to batter and destroy the other with a might and from a range that would have been inconceivable in the days of sail.

 

Warships no longer closed within yards of each other, firing as they passed, their cannons aiming to topple masts and rigging, or to knock out their counterparts. They no longer locked together with grappling irons and cables, forming a single platform to board and to repel boarders, to capture and force surrender or to resist and drive back. Those days were gone and even Nelson, himself an innovator and risk taker, would have been overawed and intimidated by these huge, towering instruments of death. More had changed in Naval design and armoury in the previous fifty years than in all the centuries dating back to the Viking invaders.

 

Leonard had time to think during that period when Implacable surged forward on a course set straight towards the enemy or, more accurately, to catch up with Jellicoe’s fleet and act as a flanker, engaging with and harrying the enemy and adding strength and speed to the action. This was the raison d'être of the Battlecruiser, a sleek and swift hunter complementing the slow, plodding Mammoths which had bulk and enormous power.

 

He knew his ship well, every inch of it, as did every Captain and their officers. He knew how much damage his long guns in their massive turrets could inflict. But he knew also the enemy’s capability to hit equally hard, and deal out to his ship, its company and he himself a devastating explosive strike. And then there was the new weapon, the torpedo. Each side used it, this terrifying cylinder packed with enough high explosive to smash through the hull, disable the engines and sink the entire ship. Lookouts were, of course, detailed to scan the sea, watching for the tell-tale wake of the torpedo propeller, but unless it malfunctioned and turned away or missed, there was little time or opportunity for a big ship like a Destroyer to avoid its fate.

 

Leonard decided to leave the bridge in Bruce’s hands for a while. By rights it was the wrong time to do this, with battle possible in the next few hours. But Leonard liked occasionally to be unconventional if thereby he could demonstrate his confidence in his Officers, a signal which they appreciated.

 

“I’m going to inspect the ship, Mr Bruce, and then go to my quarters for a short while. Call me at once if need be”.

 

He didn’t have any real fears about the ship’s readiness, but he was aware of the anxieties and apprehension that his crew must be feeling, as he was feeling them himself. He mustn’t let them know that, of course. He had to show them that he was a leader of men, a calm, confident, dignified, prime example of the Officer class, a Captain by dint of character as well as by occupying a pedestal which lifted him above all  else aboard HMS Implacable.

 

He moved quickly around the ship, having a word with the Petty Officers and saying briefer words of encouragement to men he chose at random. Captain Campbell’s “Carry on, Men” was to them of the same ilk as Nelson’s famed “England expects” signal at Trafalgar, and it left them feeling reassured, more settled. Whatever lay ahead was completely out of their control. But they knew that if they acted like the team that the Captain and Officers had built them into they had the best of chances of getting their job done and escaping disaster.

 

None of them had ever seen their enemy face to face, except via the grainy, sepia photos in the popular press. Had they stopped to think, they had no argument with or hatred for the Germans themselves. It was Kaiser Bill and his cronies whom they hated with a passion. It was these monsters who had ordered the preposterous shelling of seaside towns such as Hartlepool and Scarborough, causing the slaughter of innocent civilians going about their daily lives. That wasn’t warfare but murder. Whatever they, the crew, could do to avenge these poor souls and wreak Justice on the enemy they would do with all their heart and, if necessary, lay down their lives for the cause.

 

Leonard completed his tour of inspection. Wearily, he climbed up the metal companionway to his cabin, and entered. Taking off his cap and jacket, pulling off his boots and flinging himself on his bunk, he felt some of the tension drain away. This was the place where, if anywhere on the ship, he could be himself for a while. His steward had been in and the cabin was tidy, but the man had been careful not to disturb Leonard’s papers. Everything was shipshape. Everything inessential had in any case been stowed safely according to battle orders. He took a sip from the glass water on the locker next to his bunk, then another and another. He glanced around the space he occupied, thinking for a moment how small it was compared to the grand aft Captains’ quarters of Nelson’s day. No glittering furnishings here, no great dining table for entertaining his officers or staring with them at maps and charts. ‘Not enough room to swing a cat’, he had thought to himself, as, no doubt, had his predecessors. The Mess and the Bridge were where business and entertaining were done in the Modern Navy.

 

He picked up his pocket book. Apart from his pipe it was the only personal possession he carried with him at all times. Opening it he took out a well-worn photograph taken at a studio shortly before the end of his last leave. He knew every inch of it. Betty, his darling little girl born in Hong Kong when they were on station. She’s seven years old already, he thought, a little sweetheart with golden blonde curls. Next to her was Duncan, dark of hair and expression even at four. A troubled boy, whom he had to discipline hard for his own sake to get it out of him. It was going to be a long time coming, he thought. And baby Lenny, the youngest, who’d be scampering around now and well able to walk if not run, and giving Nanny a real headache, as all tinies do. He’s on his mother’s knee here, dear, darling Dorothy, my beloved Dolly. His mind went back to the day they were introduced at a Ball in Edinburgh, when she had first ‘come out’, and he had shyly asked her if he could have the pleasure of a dance with her. Her shining eyes had lit up, whether at his golden hair or his splendid uniform he wasn’t sure, and didn’t much care. When the evening drew to a close, and he asked her if she might care to meet him again, she blushed but said that she would, and gave him the name and address of the hotel where she and her mother were staying. And, as he was on shore leave because HMS Stirling, the ship on which he served as Second Lieutenant, was in dock on the Clyde for minor repairs, he went to the Hotel the following morning, and asked to present his compliments to Mrs MacBeith and request the pleasure of a meeting with her and her daughter if at all convenient. Which it was. And so that afternoon he and Dorothy had taken some sea air and patronised a tea shop accompanied, of course, by Mrs MacBeith as chaperone. It was the start of falling in love a firmly-regulated but definite romance, marriage and family.

 

DOROTHY

 

Married life had been good to Dorothy, known to her family always as Dolly. Leonard was a fine man and a loving husband. He was also, she knew, a first class Naval Officer, and she had become used to the periods of separation which the Senior Service demanded. Leonard had explained this before their Engagement and had helped her to establish friendships with other Naval wives, away from the slightly stilted atmosphere of the formal social occasions which they as a couple were expected to attend when in port.

 

In the early years of their marriage she had accompanied Leonard on a cruise which took them halfway across the world, showing the flag in the many ports and capitals which owed allegiance to the King Emperor, for by this time the old Queen had died, full of years, and Prince Albert, Bertie, after waiting so long and impatiently, had ascended the throne as Edward VII.

 

She had never expected, as a child and growing up, that the course of her life would take this form. It still amazed her, as she looked back on it now, that she had visited and stayed at Gibraltar and Malta, had sailed through the Suez Canal and made the long cruise across the Indian Ocean to the sub-Continent. Although Leonard’s duties had necessarily kept them apart often on the voyage, it was gratifying to be where he was, and to have the company of other Officers' wives sharing the same experience. In Delhi they had been presented to the Duke of Connaught, who was representing his brother the King, and to the Viceroy and had been present at the extraordinary Durbar which over a two week period celebrated the succession of the new King Emperor and his Empress, Queen Alexandria and the might of Great Britain.

 

They returned to port in Portsmouth full of rich memories, enough to last a lifetime, but later in the same decade there was a second opportunity for Dolly to accompany her husband on an ocean going cruise showing the British flag in ports on the eastern coast of the USA to build the bonds of friendship between the two nations and then, heading south across the Equator. There were necessary duties to be paid to Father Neptune when this happened, rituals essential as rites of passage for sailors, though not all of them were entirely suitable for Ladies and young families to witness. But Dolly thoroughly enjoyed the voyage, despite discovering that what she thought was sea sickness was in fact the first signs of pregnancy, and she grew ever fonder of the Able Seamen she had contact with, many of whom were old acquaintances. They knew, of course, the vast gulf between their class and their betters, and never presumed, but the Mothers were often grateful for the kindly interest taken by a Jack Tar in their excitable children, playing with them and teaching them how to tie a naval knot or to recognise what the varying movements and manoeuvres of the ship meant.

 

The Pacific Canal, a project long beset by financial and construction problems, was still not ready, so the Fleet took the historic route down the coastline of South America, calling in at Rio among other places, and enduring the demands of rounding Cape Horn. They steamed north and west across the Pacific, heading for Hong Kong, and Betty was born there, in a Nursing Home with reassuring British nurses in attendance. The little girl was healthy, which was just as well given the risk from disease  and infection in a tropical climate, and the couple were frankly relieved when the time came for the Fleet to weigh anchor and begin its long journey towards home. The new parents relished having the chance to get to know this new little person, though it was inevitable that Leonard had far less time to give to her than Dolly. In Hong Kong they had engaged the services of a nurse returning home as a Nanny, but she was never away from her daughter’s side in waking hours for that long. On board a naval ship, even a large one, there was very limited room for a Lady to move without being in the way of the Captain and crew. The Ship, HMS Imperial, was Leonard’s first command, and neither of them wanted it said that the Captain allowed his wife privileges denied to others.

 

The world in these years was experiencing change and disturbance, and conversation – at least among the men - around the Captain’s table at Dinner often turned to the political situation. The Russo-Japanese War of recent memory said as much about the weakness of an ally bound by blood ties, as it did about the emerging power of Japan, while mention was often made about the Kaiser’s headstrong desire to match or exceed the strength of his British cousin’s Navy. The toast to the King drunk by convention in the Senior Service grew increasingly fervent, as thoughts turned more and more to home, but there was also the exciting prospect that, if war were to occur between the two nations, they would have the opportunity to prove themselves faithful and true in defence of the King’s Dominions and his rule of the waves.

 

BETTY

 

She was christened Elizabeth in St Thomas’ Portsmouth not long after the Campbells docked and began looking for a more permanent home than the house that they had previously taken. But from the start she was Betty, and grew to be a lively, sweet and amusing child, sunny by nature and golden in hair colouring, like her Father. He doted on her of course, though it was Dolly who supervised her upbringing under Nanny’s capable care.

 

The family adopted St Thomas’ as their Church. After the stern and colourless Presbyterianism that they remembered from Scotland, they appreciated the more High Church ritual and air of mystery. Duty prevented Leonard from playing a more active role, such as Church Warden, though occasionally he read a lesson at Matins. But Dolly soon became a leading light in the Mothers Union, founded in recent memory not so far away in Old Alresford, and sat on committees both for Church and Town.

 

Betty became a devout little girl, learning early on how to say the Our Father and a simple prayer for her parents, and Nanny of course. Her Mother took a great interest, too, in her religious upbringing, and read to her from the Bible. Later in life Betty recalled her Father showing to her an In Memoriam book comprising devout verses written by one of his sisters who had died aged twenty in 1890. It was inscribed “To Leonard E. Campbell, from his affectionate father, James Campbell, Jan’y 1891”. History doesn’t record any more informal conversation that there might have been about this dearly loved and lost sister, nor about how they handled their grief, but the book passed down through the generations and is still in the family today.

 

Another sister of Leonard’s became a Nun and, although the family rarely saw her, it somehow reinforced faith in them all.

 

Like her father before her, Betty was taught privately at home, in the basic curriculum common to boys and girls, as remembered by Leonard from his own childhood days. But Dolly looked ahead to when the girl grew to adulthood, and wanted her to find her place in Society as wife to someone of importance.

 

When Betty was old enough to behave properly and understand something of Church, they took her with them to Choral Matins at St Thomas’, and she was awed by its grandeur and the distinguished appearance of most of the Congregation. Those fewer from the lower classes would be seated further away. Secretly, Betty preferred the simpler services they attended on their holidays on the Isle of Wight, but she couldn't have put into words why.

 

Life was happy and secure in the Campbell household in those years of peace. In due time a baby boy, Duncan, joined the family and then, a year or so later, Lenny, little Leonard. Betty dearly loved her brothers, and played with them as she would her dolls. She also instinctively mothered them, in a childish way. She loved them both in their contrasting characters. Duncan, dark in colouring, was always misbehaving and being punished. He’s not a bad boy, she said to herself, but he does seem so sad sometimes. For one so young, she had great psychological insight without knowing it. Lenny was much more placid and even-tempered, and inevitably his Father, without spoiling him, was kinder in temper with Lenny than with his elder son. Leonard was by now, in his forties and after years at sea, a man of settled opinions and habits. The discipline of Royal Navy life meant that at home he kept a tight ship. His middle child, Duncan, with his rebellious streak, was often ‘up before the mast’, disciplined with beatings which, while far from savage as in naval times past, would leave the child sullen and resentful.  He suffered from Depression, as well, not so readily recognised in the young in those days. It was, perhaps, a genetic link with his ancestor, Douglas Campbell, and the personal demons that he had to face.

 

LEONARD - Jutland

 

He had not slept, but in prayer to the God he believed in but, these days, felt was remote and even capricious, Leonard committed to the Almighty not just his ship’s company and command, but the conduct of the imminent battle. He prayed too for Dolly and the children, asking that he might be spared but that he might be brave and faithful even unto death, like the soldiers and martyrs of old.

 

He noticed a subtle change in the movement of the ship, its turbines slowing a fraction. Putting on his boots, buttoning his jacket and donning his cap, he glanced at the handwritten letter from Dame Jocelyn at Inveraray, saying that she was keeping him and his crew in her daily prayers. ‘Thank you’, he murmured, and returned to the Bridge.

 

It was clear that the enemy was now within range, and a clear danger. He signalled to Beatty, requesting and receiving permission to engage. The ‘Prepare for Action’ order was passed round the ship, and each section from gun crews, battery, surgeon etc. confirmed in reply. Leonard picked up the instrument of the message tube and sent a message of encouragement to his Crew, urging them to be courageous in serving their King (whom God Save), and saying that he was sure they would do their duty come what may. He allowed himself a brief period of introspection: Was he afraid? Yes, to be honest. Was he calm? Yes.

 

The hours of darkness, which HMS Implacable had used to close the distance between themselves and the enemy, had given way to a dawn which all concerned prayed fervently would be propitious. Targets were identified and agreed between the Captains on this station, and gun crews placed on a high readiness alert. Although Leonard would give the initial command to fire, communication difficulties in the heat and noise of battle meant that his Lieutenants and Gun Captains had to be trusted to use their own initiative, but he had no worries on that score. From the Bridge, Leonard had the overview and overall command. If he should fall, Number One (not on the Bridge during Battle Stations) would assume command, and there was an agreed chain of leadership.

 

The next few hours after the first wave of ordnance low across the sea (the Germans fired first) would remain in the memory like a succession of lightning flashes and thunder crashes but hugely magnified. All ships in the Squadron took damage that day, and there were losses on each side. Beatty famously was overheard to say “There's something wrong with our bloody ships today”, but the fact said more about his daring and that of his Squadron in contrast to the indecisive, cautious Jellicoe. There was, as a result, no clear winner though the long view was of a British victory because the German fleet was in effect prevented from taking control of the seas.

 

Leonard’s immediate concern was the welfare of his ship and crew, after a direct hit knocked out a gun turret, killing twenty sailors and wounding more. But he was also determined to keep the ship operational and fighting, which he could do with his rear turret. When he received the order to cease firing, a tow was attached to one of the Fleet’s auxiliary vessels, and they limped home to Cromarty. He spent much of that time in the Sick Bay, comforting the wounded, and reading the Order for the Burial of the Dead at Sea as those who had lost their lives were, by tradition, sewn into bags and consigned to the deep. He managed to keep his emotions close to his chest. These were men with whom he had been proud to serve and, while he and the entire crew saluted their gallantry, it was a bitter blow. He knew that it fell to him to write to the next of kin letters that would do justice to their memory and, he hoped, bring them some comfort. He thought of Wellington’s famous words that next worse to losing a battle was winning it.

 

DOROTHY

 

She thought that she was prepared, by the years of marriage to a serving Royal Navy Officer, to all the demands and expectations of their life together. But after War had been declared, and Leonard was engaged in war manoeuvres and other preparations for combat, the reality and implications of it dawned on her. It was a real possibility, she accepted, that her husband might lose his life in battle, or receive a crippling injury. She did not know whether she would have the strength to cope, and to give her children sufficient care in place of their Father.

 

Leonard was as much their Captain as his ship’s. He took the main and important decisions that affected their lives: their discipline and schooling, their expected behaviour in the home and outside it, and the future direction of their lives. Of the three, all of whom she loved deeply, she was closest to Betty who, though of course still very young, shared that special female bond with her. Duncan was a wild, precocious lad, always irritating and sometimes infuriating his father. He was certainly a worry, and she felt strained at times, wanting to be able to guide her son with a mother’s tenderness but deferring to Leonard in his more distant and stern opinions on curbing and controlling the boy.

 

As circumstances permitted, Leonard sent messages and told her whatever he was able to, within the constraints of duty. The Admiralty gave her other information that was not classified as restricted, and there was a ‘grapevine’ of course among Naval wives of the same class.

 

It was through The Times that she learnt that an action had been fought, but there was no news, one way or another about Leonard. She continued in her prayers for him as trustfully as she could, but she had developed the habit of praying with the children in place of Nanny, and she felt obliged to be short and constrained in what she voiced to the Almighty. There was a dark cloud overshadowing her soul in those days. Somehow she was able to remember that every Naval wife and family were in the same boat. She tried to offer up to God her own fears along with those of others, and she hoped that He would understand how anxious she was and how faltering her faith. The precariousness of human existence, from which she had been sheltered for most if not all of her life, had become starkly real this month in 1916.

 

YOUNG LEONARD (LENNY)

 

September 1919

 

It was no small matter for a young lad to accept. Lenny’s Father had decided to send him as a boarding pupil to Windrush Park School, near Midhurst in West Sussex, at the tender age of eight. He’d had no knowledge of it when the previous term had ended, and Papa had not really explained his reasoning, and Lenny was too in awe of him to ask.

 

That morning he’d stood in his smart new uniform on the steps at the front of the house, feeling miserable and anxious. “Darling Lenny, I know you’ll be happy at School and quickly make friends there”, Dolly had said. “Yes, Mama”, the boy croaked. He gave her a filial peck as she bent down towards him, and obediently got into the car next to his Father, who was driving him over in his new Vauxhall, fresh off the production line now that manufacturing had started up again after the War Effort.

 

There was a stiff silence during the journey, father concentrating on the road to stifle any temptation to weakness, and son biting his lip, holding back tears and seeking to be a man just like his Father had told him last night in the Library.

 

Leonard brought to car to a halt at the entrance to the school grounds, and applied the handbrake so that he wouldn't have to restart the car with the handle. Without turning round to make eye contact with the boy, he said "Lenny, your Mother and I are proud of you, and your behaviour at the old school and at home. I know you will do your very best at Windrush and won't let us down. If you only do as you are told by your Masters and the senior boys, you won't go wrong".

 

They shook hands in farewell at the entrance steps, where a Master had come out to introduce himself.

 

"Ah, Captain Campbell, my name is Kelton, and I am to be your son's Housemaster".

 

"I'll leave him in your capable hands, then, Kelton. Goodbye, Lenny, remember what I've told you".

 

"Goodbye, Papa. I will try my very best".

 

Lenny stared at the car as it made its way towards the main road, but there wasn't a backwards glance. That night he couldn't help weeping for loneliness as he knelt by his bedside and buried his face in his hands.

 

Windrush Hall School was not well known for its connections to the top Public Schools, though academically it was a good all-rounder. Boys were taught, apart from the basics, the Classics, French, and English History. There was a strong sporting ethos and an emphasis on team games. Lenny found that he enjoyed Rugger especially, and was of a good height and weight to do well as scrum-half or fly-half. Boxing was also a compulsory sport, though the Masters were careful to ensure that the Queensbury Rules were always observed. The School had links with the Senior Service, which was why Leonard had chosen it. Boys learnt how to handle dinghies on the safety of High Lake within its grounds. They were also regularly taken canoeing, sometimes on the Beaulieu River near Lymington, and each year there were outings to HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship, for the junior boys, or Royal Dartmouth College for the more senior.

 

As his Father had hoped, Lenny with his pliable nature and enquiringly mind soon became settled. But, more than that, he was gripped early on by 'the smell of the sea' and the excitement of the prospect of following his Papa into the Royal Navy. His parents, especially Leonard, were thrilled. If their elder son was causing them sleepless nights, their younger was a joy, though they never really said as much, such was their Victorian reserve. Lenny felt, even as a small boy, that he didn't so much deserve love as have to earn it, a message sadly reinforced daily in Chapel. At this age he had no particular friendships. This was not encouraged. But he admired his sports Masters in particular, and laughed at their jokes, as did most of the other boys. He knew that Windrush, as a Preparatory School, would be consulting his Father as to his further education. His Father was very wise and knowledgeable and Lenny was sure he would choose the right Public School for him. But it was all a bit daunting and (quite forgetting how nervous he had been before beginning at Windrush), the twelve year old child wondered whether he would cope in such a big world.

 

Dartmouth Royal Naval College was where, all along, Leonard intended to place his second son, and soon after Lenny's twelfth birthday, Leonard told the boy of his plans. As he hoped, and by now expected, it was a joyful surprise and a huge boost to the lad's morale. He entered his final year at Windrush with a heightened desire to do well and honour his Father and his Mother, and to follow in his Father's footsteps in this most important ways of serving King and Country. Words of Nelson, written in 1786, that he had committed to memory from the fly leaf of his Prayer Book were a constant inspiration:

 

‘DUTY is the great business of a sea-officer. All private considerations must give way to it, however painful it is’.

 

But his Godfather, the wise and cheerful Admiral Sir Percy Allinson, had also put in there an anonymous saying

 

'Fear knocked at the door.

Faith opened it, and there was no-one there'.

 

This saying had become real to him during Confirmation Classes, when the School Chaplain had shown the boys a copy of Holman Hunt's painting The Light of the World, showing Christ (not fear) knocking on the door of the heart. "If you invite him in, boys, as your Captain and Saviour, He will give you the strength you need to face every temptation, every foe, and drive them away".

 

Lenny had, like Betty, grown increasingly devout as he grew older. He couldn't share faith with Duncan. They seemed to have little in common these days. But Betty was a joy. They loved each other very much, and she was so patient and kind to him. Like their Mother, she wrote to him every week during term-time, and he felt he could write to her about anything, even his struggles.

 

 

LEONARD – PEACETIME c1921

 

Leonard usually shared the contents of his post quite openly with Dolly at the breakfast table. There might be news of friends from Service days, or a pleasant invitation to Dinner. Now that he was in retirement, on half-pay since the end of the Great War and the Peace of V, he and Dolly we're enjoying the leisure that they now had, which his other 'civilian' roles of Magistrate and Church Warden among other duties did little to disturb.

 

But this morning’s post had brought a disconcerting letter from the Admiralty. In view of the deteriorating situation at the Docks in Liverpool, it said, the Government had decided to step in and appoint its own Board of Control directly responsible to the Cabinet, in order to establish and maintain a satisfactory continuance of commerce. The Board would have all necessary authority but would need an official at its head who had firm and decisive habits of command, who could be trusted to make important decisions swiftly. The Prime Minister, through the First Sea Lord, had written to their Lordships of the Admiralty requesting and requiring them to put forward the names of Officers who fitted these criteria and who we're available at very short notice.

 

It was Leonard's name which, with his consent, their Lordships proposed to put forward. If consent were forthcoming and were his name to be accepted, he would have a fortnight in which to conclude present business and proceed to Liverpool.

 

"My dear" he said after their servant had cleared the dishes away to the kitchen, "I have some important news to tell you, and he told her in outline the import of the letter.

 

Dolly could not help sighing. In the clear morning light she could see Leonard's greying temples, and the growing number of lines on his face. He had aged so much since the War. "I had hoped, dear, that having put you on dry land for good they would now leave you to enjoy your retirement in peace".

 

"Now, Dolly, you mustn't say that. The country is still in grave need, and this Liverpool business, if it goes much more sour, could affect us all very badly. I can't refuse to serve if their Lordships think I'm the man for the job. And I've still got my wits and plenty of energy. Anyway, I'd been thinking that now that the children are away most of the time we should sell this ramshackle old place".

 

"You're not suggesting, I hope, that I should come with you to Liverpool of all places?"

 

"No, Dolly. I think that while I'm away you could be looking for a smaller house, on the Island. Maybe Bembridge or St Helens. Seaview would do at a pinch. What do you think? You know how we've always loved our holidays there".

 

"Do you trust me to make the right decision, Leonard? You may be too busy to look into it yourself".

 

"That's why I'm asking you, my dearest, and of course I trust you".

 

Ten days later, with the official Letter of Appointment in his briefcase, Leonard took the overnight sleeper train to Liverpool.

 

 

LEONARD c 1928

 

Leonard drew deeply on the Cigar his friend and host Percy had cut and lit for him. “The problem with the boy is that he's so damn disobedient and headstrong.” He was referring, of course, to Duncan. Now seventeen, the Headmaster at his Public School had expelled him for trying his patience once too often. Leonard had motored there after receiving the telephone call from a subdued but clearly angry Dr. Potts. “I have never had a more intractable boy in all my years of teaching,” he had said, “and, quite bluntly, Campbell, I entirely expect him to come to no good.” There was no need to rehearse the long list of misdemeanours that Duncan had been charged with and found guilty of. Leonard knew them already, and they included wine, women and song as well as crashing a motor car that he had taken without the owner’s consent. The school Chaplain, Father Corbett, had at first taken a kindly line, trying to appeal to a sense of honour and of filial duty, but the priest sensed that, while there was certainly affection for his mother in the boy, between his father and himself there was no love lost, though Father Corbett would never have dreamt of saying so in his report.

 

It was when Duncan was returned to School hungover after a night in the Police Cells that Dr. Potts decided that enough was enough and he picked up the telephone to Leonard before he had even carpeted Duncan for one final time.

 

There was no argument to be had. Grimly, Leonard climbed into the motor, driven by his Valet, and set off. Dolly was, naturally, heartbroken and visibly upset.  She had sometimes wished that Lennie had not been so harsh with the boy but it was not her place to interfere, and she would betray no maternal weakness upon their return. Betty, home on leave from her duties at the R N Hospital at Chatham Dockyard, put her arm through her mother’s, and kissed her lovingly. “Let’s go and ring for tea,” she said. “Come on, Fizz”, she said to the Cocker Spaniel, “Lead the way”, which it did, into the Conservatory.

 

‘How good it is to have Betty here’, she thought, not for the first time. Her daughter had a calming influence, a knack for pouring oil on troubled water, but would it be of any avail this time.

 

If Leonard’s face had been thundery when he left home, it was nothing to the pitch black of pent up fury on their return. The had been no talking in the motor, not in front of a servant, and when they arrived Leonard ordered his son to his room at once. “You will remain there until I send for you”, was his only additional command. Leonard himself went directly to his Library, and paced the floor in much the same way as he had paced many a deck when needing to think. It was ironic, he thought sourly, that the modern Navy expects its Captains to remain almost stock still on the Bridge, to impress the Ship’s Company with his self-possession. I’m a hundred years after my time!

 

Dolly and Anne had left the dinner table for the Withdrawing Room.

Percy replenished Leonard’s Malt. They had dispensed with Port at his request, and enjoyed an exquisite Islay which Percy knew to be his friend’s tipple of choice.

 

“I'm at my wits end, Percy. You know the trouble he's been to Dolly and me for at least ten years. I’m not sure whether I've beaten him too much or too little, but there’s a devil in him alright. Betty is a joy, and Lenny’s doing very well at Naval College, but this boy is beyond me. He's wasted all the good money I've spent on his education and he just racks up debts. The Headmaster tried his best, I'm sure. Do you know, Duncan gave a precious little speech at the Debating Society in support of the Bolsheviks and the Trades Unions? Wouldn't surprise me in the least if he was a Commie, the blackguard.”

 

There was a heavy pause. Percy chose his opportunity to comment. “Do you think it all possible”, he said, “that what Duncan might benefit from is a chance to do something really demanding and even dangerous? Serving His Majesty, leading men?  Of course, if he really is a Commie, then that’s a matter of national security, but I can arrange for a man to tail him – you can't keep him locked away for ever, you do know that? – and if the boy is doing anything sinister he’ll face the consequences, but frankly I doubt it. No, give him a job to do”.

 

“God help the Royal Navy if Duncan were ever to get a commission!”

 

“Naval life doesn't suit everyone, Leonard. Just look at Peter. He didn’t get on at all at Dartmouth, but the Guards have been the making of him”

 

“That’s true enough” replied Leonard, thinking fondly of Pete, his godson, such a credit to Percy.

 

He sighed and drained his glass, shaking his head when offered another.

 

“I've a lot of thinking to do. There must be some corner of this vast Empire of ours that the boy can't bring to its knees”.

 

DUNCAN -  CONFLICT c 1930

 

It wasn't his bloody fault. Papa had always had it in for him since a child because he wasn't sweet, golden haired Betty. She was a good girl, he knew that. It was the Old Man who had been determined to hate him right from the start. He was always beating him and fining him, and he wasn't that generous with his allowances in any case. Typical, mean, old Scot. But this was the Twentieth Century, the ages of the Movies and of Jazz, nightclubs, excitement, sex. He, Duncan, needed the Bright Lights. He needed something to cheer himself up with. He needed to live a bit. And it cost.

 

He was glad to have been sent down from that God-awful school. He couldn't have stood it for much longer. Perhaps, now he came to think of it, he had engineered the occasion just a wee bit? 

 

"Duncan, wake up, old man, you're miles away!" He was in a cellar bar with Rory, somewhere in Soho. "It's your round, Duncan, and there are two delicious looking girls over there just gasping for our attention". "You old rogue, Rory!” "Takes two, Duncan". Both of them were slim, young good looking men, Duncan with dark, shiny hair, Rory the red mop of many a Scot. And so another all-nighter, beds unslept in, and a particularly heavy hangover the next day.

 

Now aged twenty, Duncan had spent the last few years 'on the run' from his Father, as he put it. He had by day a respectable if poorly paid job as Secretary to a Canon of St Paul's, the Revd C. Paul Bambrough, who had charge of the liturgy there. It was straightforward, undemanding clerical work, and didn't require him to attend Sunday services because he was down in the country at weekends with his parents. Except he never was, of course, except when unavoidable such as at Christmas or special occasions. It was not that he had no religion - the Service for the Unknown Warrior at the Abbey had moved him deeply, and gained him good marks from the Old Man. And there was Uncle Andy to pray for.  But he wasn't a fanatic, like Mama or Betty and Lenny.

 

No, life was for living. Heaven could wait. If only, if only he could shake off this damn depression that so often took him.

 

 

It was an unspeakable, terrifying shock when, one night, he opened his door to be faced with a sour faced little man who said he was Lily's father, and Lily was pregnant. By Duncan. Hastily, he pulled him indoors, or curtains would twitch in the Deanery Court. "What's all this about?" he stuttered. "I don't think I know a girl called Lily". "Oh yes you do, lad. Far too well. The Doctor has confirmed that she is pregnant and she is adamant that it can only be you."

 

Duncan reeled at this. He turned, went to a cupboard and drew out a bottle of Scotch. The man refused the offer of a drink but Duncan poured himself a large glass. "Look here, what do you want me to do?” "Do? I rather think you've already done quite enough, don't you. I've just come to let you know I've already written to your father - it was easy enough to find the address through our Solicitor. We will be expecting to receive a hefty award from him. After all, there will be Nursing Home and Adoption agency fees. So he'd better pay up sharp, that's if he wants it kept out of the Papers. And you keep well away from my daughter from now on, do you hear, or else". And with that he was gone into the night.

 

Shattered. Everything ruined by that little tart. What was he going to do? He couldn't think, didn't want to think. He reached for the bottle. A friend he could rely on.

 

His Father left a message at the Cathedral two days later. Meet him at his Club, after Luncheon. Be sure to come. It was not a happy interview. They remained standing throughout. Leonard seemed particularly in control of himself and more cold than usual. The matter, he announced, would be settled, privately. It would not be mentioned again. But he, Duncan, had stooped lower than had ever seemed conceivable in the worst of nightmares. He had broken his Mother’s heart, and scandalised his brother and sister. Leonard had already made certain enquiries, and Duncan must prepare to leave the country. The only information shared with any interested parties would be that he had emigrated and was no longer in communication. He was being given one last chance to make a Man out of himself, and, improbable as it seemed to Leonard, for the first time in his life to make a positive contribution to the service of his God, King and Country.

 

And that was how Duncan found himself serving as 1174 Constable D C Campbell in His Majesty’s Police Force in the Palestinian Protectorate.

 

 

DUNCAN c 1930/1

 

 

You got used to the heat after a while. That is not to say you found it bearable, only that it became a part of life that didn’t warrant any particular comment. There had been jokes on board ship the first few days that anything had to be an improvement on the English climate, but these had become fewer by Gibraltar and had vanished by the time the ship docked in Egypt.

 

A short period of acclimatisation and training was given in Cairo, but much remained to be learnt during the long motor journey across to Nazareth and after arrival. Duncan was pleasantly surprised, having had no previous military experience, at the comforts and amenities of the Station. It was quite like home from home, with good Messing facilities.

 

Armaments drill was thorough. A pistol was carried as uniform, but was not expected to be used without extreme cause. He had his own bedroom but shared a wash house with two other men, with whom he quickly became on friendly terms. Each had his own reasons for joining the Force, and it was understood that questions of a personal nature were never asked, only volunteered. This suited Duncan very well.

 

He had quickly to learn how to ride both horses and camels, and that was fun, mostly. He much preferred, though, the staff cars kept in a pool in which usually two British and a native Policeman could cover ground at exhilarating speed. Naturally, Duncan seized the wheel at every opportunity, his old habit dying hard. Apart from the heat, the flies, the stench, the incessant clamour of excitable voices which he could not understand but realised wanted something off him, he found it quite agreeable. A burden had fallen away in putting so many miles between himself and his Father. And Lily, of course. But he had failed to leave his black depressions behind in England, and he resorted to the bottle as he had done previously. Inevitably this led to some minor infractions of discipline and some shoddy behaviour, with which he reproached himself when sober.

 

He was by no means alone in having ‘bottle problems’, as he soon found out. The tougher men were those, perhaps in the majority, who had previous Army or Police service behind them, and were seeing out their days here. But why in this heat? With nothing to cool the air, and with the flies and the general stench everywhere. And wherever Officers, in pairs, patrolled, such as the bazaar, and the narrow street they were always on the alert for trouble, learning to suspect trouble makers. There were both Jewish and Palestinian dissidents, and you might get a knife in the back from either. It had been known. You only felt secure in the Police compound and even then it had to be guarded, and you took your turn, day or night.

Relaxing one evening with Keith, who was from humble origins in Birmingham, Duncan found the drink talking just a wee bit too freely, and he let slip his previous ‘woman problem’. Keith did not probe. In fact he didn’t really pick up that it was a serious matter. “Oh I can help you find a woman alright, Duncan”. Duncan nodded in response and returned to his Scotch, quickly changing the subject. ‘One thing at a time’, he thought. ‘I’ve only just got here, and, after Lily, I need to keep my head down’.

He felt alright here, away from it all. He knew that the Old Man would be demanding regular reports on his behaviour. He would have pulled rank and used his War record and his social standing to see to that, though he had no right to at all. It wasn't his service, and it was none of his business to poke around. ‘I’m a grown man, nearly of age. And he was in such a great hurry to see the back of me, the interfering old b______.’ He stopped. Despite all the bad blood between them, he couldn't use that word, not of his own Father. And he supposed that some of the trouble he’d got into was his own fault.

The next day Duncan was on desk duty in the office. He was allowed to take one break in the morning and one in the afternoon. He was watching the clock a bit after 1000 hrs, and it crept painfully slowly round to 1100. He stood, stretched deliciously, and pulled his pipe out of his tunic. Donning his cap, he walked out of the gates along a path he had not used before. He checked and confirmed that his pistol was in its holster. He took a fork in the path, into a grove of trees, and emerged at the gates of a cemetery.In fact, cemeteries, because he could see that the dead were buried strictly according to their nationality and language. He walked through the Jewish section, which made him think of Highgate, though not nearly as elaborate. Then the Palestinian section. He couldn't read Arabic and more than Hebrew, but all headstones tell similar stories. In the British section there was was a puzzling division. He'd visited enough graveyards at home to know that graves were chronological; the oldest first, spreading outwards to more recently dug graves. Most of the graves were Police Officers, with the odd civilian. But there was separate section in its own walled enclosure. He went to have a closer look. They were Police graves alright; very simple, just the name and dates, and quite a few of them. There were quite a few of them, and the dates of death became closer together. One was not that long before he had joined and set sail from England. It was so peculiar. They can't have been murder victims. There'd surely have been some sort of sign to honour them. So what was the answer?

He caught sight of the time on his wristwatch. It was 11.30. He should be back in the Office. If Sergeant Hanson had poked his nose in there'd be trouble. Unfortunately for Duncan, he had. Hanson was waiting for him. “Campbell where the hell have you been?”, he demanded. “This is way out of order. Report to me at 1800hrs”. For once in his life Duncan was tongue tied, and could think of no defence, reasonable or unreasonable. The Cemeteries had unsettled him.

That evening before bed (he was banned from the Mess for a week), he managed to catch Keith. “I say, old man”, Keith said, “Sorry to hear about your run in.” “Oh don't worry about that. I've had worse than that in my time. But look, I wanted to ask you something. I walked out to the Cemeteries today. Didn't mean to be late back, but I'm puzzled by the last section, the one with very plain graves, and recent deaths”.

Keith averted his gaze, and his expression went dark. “Well, I guess you had to find out sometime, Duncan. It's not a happy subject, but out here, well, not everyone makes it. I mean they don't – they can't – see out their term. Something happens that they can't handle, a money problem or women. They get very depressed and withdrawn and, unless someone can stop them, they end it. Kill themselves.”

 

Duncan was unprepared. Totally shocked. He sat down heavily on the cork seat of the stool in the wash house, and tried to take in. “Kill themselves? That's just awful. Bloody awful. Why? I suppose you've said why.” He stopped, and a minute went by. “How, Keith, how did they…”. He was whispering now. Keith put a hand on his shoulder. “Pistol mainly, old man. Bottle of Scotch, and then pistol. Unless a man goes off his rocker, regulations stipulate, as you know that he keeps his pistol loaded and within reach.”  “It’s awful. Damned, bloody awful.” Duncan’s mind and vocabulary were in shock.

 

He lay on his bed unable to sleep that night, tossing and turning, and wondered if this place would drive him mad too. He thought about those poor men. It wasn't that often in his life that he had considered other people and their needs. Suicide was still a criminal offence though, with grim humour, he doubted the effectiveness of any punishment. The Church saw it as a sin. That Cemetery must be unhallowed. Was all that stuff about Hell really true?

 

An hour before dawn he got up and lit his kerosene lamp. He sat at his table and pulled out his sheets of writing paper. He sat for a long time, and then began a letter to his Father, saying that he wanted to come back. He wasn't fitted for this sort of work, and was having trouble settling.

Please could Papa find it in his heart to forgive him, and send him some money so that he could buy himself out of the Service and come home. He was sure he would not disappoint his family again.

It was a shaken man who put his letter in the mail bag for UK. The reply did not arrive for some weeks. In it Leonard made it very clear that he was extremely surprised and disappointed to receive Duncan’s request, and didn't believe a word of it. There was no possibility of buying him out. Had he not understood the terms of service? Was he so ungrateful to his Father that he was now despising this chance he had been given to redeem himself? His final chance. The boy had better come to his senses.

 

Duncan, sick to the stomach, screwed up the letter and threw it angrily at the wall. “Damn him. Damn, damn, damn him.”

 

 

 

BETTY

 

As she grew into adulthood Betty had one desire for the shape of her future life. She had seen Pathé films of the poverty and deprivation and she want d to look after people. In the post-war years. Lloyd-George's trumpeted Homes fit for Heroes hadn't happened yet because the country and economy was on its knees.

 

Betty was not particularly politically minded. She was young and women couldn't vote unless they were over thirty and had property qualifications.

She was naturally a Conservative like her parents, but and idealist for home faith meant obedience.

 

"Betty, I will not hear any more of this silly talk. I will not have you trying to be some do-gooder in the Dockyards and wandering around the back streets looking for poor wretches to comfort". This was an interview with her Papa when she raised the subject of her future.

 

"You have to accept that their station in life is different from ours. It's an unpleasant fact but there it is. Honestly, when I think of the danger you would be putting yourself in I can hardly believe you'd be so silly as to try. And - no 'But Papa' if you please, young lady - And in any case I've always thought that you might do a few years Nursing in one of our hospitals before it's time to marry and settle down. I want to see some grandchildren, y'know".

 

As always, Leonard got his way and Betty was enrolled in the most fragrant, elegant and safe of nursing training hospitals at Devonport, emerging qualified to nurse sick or injured Naval personnel. She had accepted her Father's judgement as correct and so it must also be God's will for her. She therefore was a totally cheerful and eager student. The Doctors she met were pleasant enough men, and she enjoyed their company and social times very much. But she didn't feel any romantic stirrings. 



DOROTHY AND LEONARD c 1930/1

 

The move to the Island had been a great success. The house they bought was a four bedroomed detached house, quite recently built in a quiet part of St Helen’s, but near to the shops. They named it Santos, after a place in South America that Leonard had seen. They had no live-in servants, but hired a daily maid and a gardener. Leonard had bought a comfortable Rover for driving around the unhurried roads of the island. Now that he had fully retired he had relaxed somewhat, but Dolly could tell that he worried about Duncan, and whether the discipline of Service life would have any effect on his behaviour. Every so often he would ring the London office and request a posted report from the Commanding Officer. It was irregular, but quite justifiable. However, Leonard was beginning to enjoy the completely different life as a landlubber in retirement. There was a Golf course down by the sea, with splendid views across the Solent, so he was able to watch the ‘traffic’ of Royal Navy ships in or out of Portsmouth, and Merchantmen on their way to Southampton or out again. Binoculars were part of his Golfing accessories. Further round the North East coast of the Island he could see the Boom, the line of strong iron posts stretching across the Solent as a War defence, which had a kind of gate in the middle of the channel.

 

They settled down to final retirement and the 'evening of life' as the Vicar put it (‘Why the hell can't he mention the approach of death' Leonard thought).  Leonard and Dorothy had adjustments to make. She had raised the family in a spacious house with large grounds. Now they had a modest four-bedroomed house with a small garden. Leonard had lived both there and in the cramped space of an Officer's cabin, so the St Helens house was no hardship. He retained his habits of keeping his clothes and belongings very tidy, ship shape.  But they did have room to spread, a bedroom each, and ’odds and ends’ room and a guest bedroom.

 

The transition was made easier by the fact that they got on together easily, and created space for each other. Leonard liked to sit by the fire with a book under the newly installed gas lighting, pipe in mouth. Finn kept him company. On an occasional table there sat a Globe, while the maps that Leonard liked to explore were folded in a cupboard. He often got out one showing the reach of the Empire and Dominions, less often the map of Europe. Under Hitler, whom he regarded as an extremely dangerous demagogue, Germany was ignoring the firm restrictions placed on her under the Treaty of Versailles, whose aim had been (in some eyes) that Germany should be brought to its knees so that she could never start a war again. Now she was rearming and expanding her industries. She had sights on neighbouring sovereign states, once under Germany but no longer. Leonard considered that Baldwin, the Prime Minister, and the Cabinet were kowtowing to Hitler, encouraging him to take liberties, when they should have been strengthening our defences and upping production of new, better, fighting ships and aeroplanes. Only Churchill saw the danger, but he was out of Government. He spoke eloquently of the danger and of the needs from the back benches and in the Press, but most of the Conservative Party sneered at him as a war-monger was.

 

Leonard thought if only he had some say so at the Admiralty, but here he was, a beached, ageing, retired Captain, not even of minor Flag rank.

 

 

Family photographs were on the mantel piece, over which hung a water colour of the Barque Helen Isabel, built by Steele of Greenock, which brought back the family from St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1872, not long before his birth.

 

He looked around the room, as he often did when trying to take stock of his life now. His many years of service in the Navy were over, and his was a different way of life now. Many of his books had had to be sold, as he had no longer had a Library, but he kept the ones most important to him, mainly Naval histories and biographies, and books about Scotland.

 

Novels he had no time for, considering them a waste of time and thought, but he did make an exception of C S Forester, a fine young writer who was writing a series of Naval novels inspired by Horatio Nelson.

 

Dolly would be happy in the conservatory, or Sun Parlour as they called it, doing some sewing, so long as they was enough sunshine and warmth.

 

Socially the Campbells were in their element. There was a host of their type of people, and St Helens was a pleasant place to live. Dolly did her own shopping these days, and there was a Butcher and Baker there, and a General Stores. She would bring light shopping home with her, while delivery boys handled the rest. Other items could be ordered from Newport or Ryde, or from the Mainland. Leonard occasionally went up to Town for Naval occasions or reunions, and he stayed at his Club, but these days Dolly rarely crossed the Solent, except on Charity work, preferring to stay where she was beginning to feel very rooted. The house had a small garden, kept in order by the man they hired, but Dolly took an interest in the little orchard and borders and the way the seasons made their changes. There was a young couple in the small house opposite, both Islanders and without much in the way of formal education and the refinements of wider society, but she and Leonard both thought that they were charming and very respectful. They were reliable and willing helpers too.

 

In the Summer, Leonard took to watching cricket played on the Village Green, which was really quite large, one of the biggest in the country, apparently. The standard was good and the competition was keen between the many teams on the Island. He was not alone in his watching, of course. Being just one of the many retired Forces personnel in the village, there was much conversation and reminiscence, but genteel and quietly spoken, It wouldn’t do to distract either side. Dolly did not usually join him, not really having an interest, and certainly not expected to join the refreshments party of wives and daughters. Sundays were occupied in Church attendance, when they would walk to the Parish Church, passing some Methodists going one way, to the Primitive Chapel, and more going the other way. to the Wesleyans. It may have been nothing, but the paths that the Methodists took avoided each other.

 

Sunday Church was a Sung Matins according to the BCP. Leonard read a lesson occasionally. Very good he was too, Dolly thought. The Vicar tended to go on a bit, but his heart was in the right place. Leonard sang the hymns lustily and so loud that Dolly sometimes thought he was trying to drown out the choir. When they took Holy Communion, usually at Christmas and Easter, the couple prepared themselves by private self-examination the night before, and by contenting themselves with tea without breakfast.

 

Often on a Summer evening couples would meet for drinks in each other’s' gardens, and then out would come the reminiscences again: Indian army life, Polo matches, comments on the growing movement agitating for independence, and in particular a lawyer called Ghandi who had abandoned western dress. Leonard, Jago and other Navy types matched these stories with their own, stirring tales of actions that they had personally been involved in.  These sessions could become quite competitive and animated. Even Rivett, a retired Colonel of Lancers who, with his clipped vowels and clipped moustache, and stiff-backed military bearing, was every inch the archetypal military man, and had never been known to smile in public, chuckled and grinned. At times, the village, with houses great and small clustered around the green with its narrow, though unguarded, entrances, resembled an Officers' compound serviced by humbler folk.

 

The wives, who tended to sit in a group apart, looked on benignly, amused and pleased at their men being boyish again, and managing to throw off some of the stiffness of their usual habits and behaviour. Once, Dolly heard Leonard roaring with laughter and slapping his thighs. By then the drinking session had moved on from cocktails to spirits. He might have been back in the Mess as a young Officer with light responsibilities. Lenny, though, on the occasion of a home visit, was slightly shocked to see Papa 'squiffy'.

But the social highlight of the summer was undoubtedly Cowes Week, the annual regatta comprising mainly amateur sailors racing around The Needles. Leonard would crew on occasion. He resisted the temptation to be the Commanding Officer. The races were, of course, distributed across different classes and sizes of boats. There was always huge excitement, and some of the Great and the Wealthy would come down from London, so the Press would be in attendance. Reportage varied in content and inclination according to social and political bias. The Times, as ever, was polite, respectful and approving, whereas the ultra-left wing papers would take an extremely critical view of ‘the Upper Class Playboys’. The red tops were on the lookout for scandal or anything that could be offensive to their readers.

 

They were always pleased to have visits from their children, Betty and Lenny. Duncan was rarely mentioned. Betty was happy to breathe the clean, fresh air and walk the country lanes, often with one of her girlfriends from St Helens, though she never minded her own company. In any case, there was Finn, the successor to Fizz, as a very willing companion, and always off the lead. And whenever Lenny was docked in Portsmouth and had shore leave, he and his father would have long, earnest talks about developments in Naval design and advances in armoury. The Royal Navy was proud of its status as the Senior Service, the first line of the defence and protection of Great Britain and her Empire. Leonard was incredibly proud of his younger son. Lenny was a most conscientious young Officer and was doing well, gaining praise and approval. It pleased the older man to think that in Lenny's case, at least, his parenting should have produced such good results.

One Autumn Wednesday it was the Armistice Parade with its stirring recall of the sacrificed lives and heroism of so many young men. Leonard, in full uniform, was taking the salute in his turn. After much subdued but affable chatter with friends and fellow Officers they returned home to find in the mail a letter from Duncan. Leonard put it to one side to open later. When he got round to it, Dolly looked on anxiously. Leonard went pale, then thundery, and stalked off.

She remembered there was a letter addressed to her. It was from Judith, her sister. John, her son and Dolly’s Godson, had been knocked off his bike on his way to work in Newcastle upon Tyne. The car had dragged him and the bike for many yards until someone flagged it down. John had serious head injuries and was in a coma in the RVI. I was going to be touch and go. Dolly wept. Dearest John, such a fine young man. Why, Lord, should this happen to him? Judith and Stuart had taken the train from Glasgow to be at his bedside and would stay as long as necessary. Dolly could reach her there. She needed some time to collect herself, and then picked up the telephone and got connected to the RVI. Judith was called to the Matron’s office, where they were able to speak. John was still deeply unconscious. As far as the doctors could tell at this stage, there was certainly some damage to his brain. He was in crisis, but they should never give up hope. It was believed that the brain in some way protects itself by a coma. Back home in Tarbet, the Minister was going to hold a vigil for John that night at the Kirk, and he said that he trusted that Almighty God in his great mercy would heal him.

 

Dolly and Judith said their farewells. There had been tears from both, but Judith seemed comforted by hearing her sister’s voice and talking together.

 

Poor John, she sighed. And poor Judith and Stuart. She felt humbled by the faith that she had heard expressed and that was also in Judith as well, she was sure. She herself must be strong for them all, and keep her faith in the Lord, hard as it felt. And what is this news from Duncan?

 

She heard Leonard’s feet clumping around upstairs. Poor Leonard unable to face even opening a letter from his son. After a while, he came down the stairs, picked it up, and went back up to his bedroom

Later he did tell her the contents.

"That boy says he wants money from me to buy himself out and come home. I can't believe it! And I am not going to tolerate such nonsense."

"Is he so very unhappy, Leonard? What's happened?"

 

 DUNCAN c 1934

 

He was sitting with the girl at the back of a dark, badly lit wine shop, feeling content. He had been with her upstairs, alone, but she stayed with him afterwards because they were regular 'friends' and he looked after her well.

"Don't you miss your home and family, Duncan?"

"No, not much, not at all. There's no home for me in England now anyway"

Some years had passed since that letter from his father. He shrugged it off now. It didn't bother him. He thought so anyway. The old man could go hang. Mama and Betty still wrote to him occasional, but he never replied except a brief note at Christmas saying things were alright. To be honest, he found Betty's continual 'I pray for you' rather sickly. What was the point? He was beyond God's mercy, if there was a God, so he might as well live life here to the full and enjoy himself. He now had a reputation among fellow officers as a bit of a ladies’ man, but a bit of a dark horse.

“What have you been up to tonight, you naughty fellow?”, Keith had asked him on more than one occasion.

“Never you mind”, he’d reply.

He clicked his fingers for the waiter to bring more wine. "You, my darling, are the loveliest creature on God's earth". The ironic clash between his words and thoughts didn't occur to him.

"You are nice to me, Duncan. I love you". She was only a peasant girl, but he was happy to help her with English. It was fore and after play. The day was still young, and they continued their cuddling and sweet nothings over the next few hours. The Proprietor was not unhappy with the giggles and smooching there at the back. The Englishman paid well and often. Usually, the Constable came in pairs (regulations stipulated that even off duty they should go into the town alone and unarmed), but not this one. The Proprietor studied him: a playboy. Young, single, attractive, very polite, though he could get a bit wayward after some wine, but he usually kept himself in control.

 “Why do you always wear this strange neck tie, Duncan?” said the girl, referring to his cravat. He shrugged. “It’s just the way Englishmen like me are taught to dress. But you can take it off me, if you like”. She did, and there was more giggling and embracing. The wine was running out.  He ordered some more and refilled their glasses, proposing a toast to “Us”. Duncan was in pensive mood now. He was happy enough with the girl. She was compliant, eager in fact. There was no long term future in it, of course, no question of marriage, but for the time being it was a very good arrangement.

The girl gasped and pointed: “My father”. The burly and angry man was gesturing at her to get up and out. Meanwhile he was advancing on Duncan brandishing a knife signifying his intent. Duncan leapt to his feet and fired three shots into the ceiling. Amid screams and panic in the Bar he roughly pushed the man aside, turned several tables over, and ran.

BETTY c 1930

Betty passed her nursing training with flying colours. Highlighted in particular was her ability to combine efficiency with empathy, and this had been tested in dealings with several awkward patients. Dolly and Leonard attended what he called ‘her passing out parade’. “Papa, I am not about to faint”, she retorted. They took her out for a slap up meal and toasted her success and her future. She had happily gone along with his suggestion to apply to a Naval Hospital, and she was accepted at Haslar, which made visits home nice and convenient. “You can come and nurse us in our old age”, Leonard said. “Oh but I thought you wanted grandchildren”. And so the banter went on. There was actually no one waiting in the wings to ask for her hand, and Lenny seemed too busy on patrols to have time to settle down, As for Duncan, they could only fear the worst but hope for the best.

Life as a Nurse was one that Betty found very fulfilling. As well as seeing to her patients’ physical comforts and needs, she was sometimes free to look after little children so that wives could be less distracted at their husbands’ bedsides. She was always very good with children, at comforting them if they were crying or telling them stories. She wasn’t ambitious. She certainly didn’t want to be taken away from ordinary Nursing duties by a job with mountains of paperwork. She just wanted to do the job she loved.

Service life and its auxiliary sections like Nursing fostered a strong community, but one necessarily set apart from much of the society which it defended. Since her adolescent desire to do to do good works among the poor, Betty had had little outside contact with people other than their own sort. What she read in the paper about conditions in the most blighted regions during the years of Depression was far outwith her experience.

But one year she and her friend Margot D’Arch Smith planned a holiday touring around the highlands of Scotland, to explore where their families had come from. They took the train from Kings Cross on the GNR, and the further the train travelled north they caught glimpses of villages and small downs that were obviously down at heel and in poverty. The great mining fields stretching through Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and County Durham gave them views of poor terraced houses clustered around mines with their winding gear and chutes, and huge spoil heaps in what would otherwise have been lovely country. The train stopped once by a mining village, and the poverty showed itself in poorly clad children running barefoot on unmade roads, and they were rather taken aback at the sight of communal toilets at the end of lanes. Once through Newcastle and into deep Northumberland, they saw with pleasure the imposing Cheviot Hills, and the long stretches of Sandy beaches at the coast. Berwick was magnificent, and they felt the thrill of seeing the border as they crossed into Scotland. Now they really could look forward to seeing the land of their ancestors.

 

To visit Edinburgh was itself a wonder, The Scottish capital had fascinated and captivated imagination for both Betty and Margot. They’d both read Scott and histories of Scotland and now they were here where so much had happened. They visited the Castle, perched up on Arthur’s Seat, a place of legend, walked the Royal Mile and saw Holyrood, their guide showing the group the spot where Mary Queen of Scots’ husband, Darnley, stabbed her Secretary, Rizzio, to death, with the result that Mary, pregnant with their child, fled to Edinburgh Castle where she later gave birth to James, later King James VI of Scotland and James I of England.

They left Edinburgh for Fort William, built, after the Stuart Royal line had died out with the unfortunate Queen Anne, as a garrison town in the fight against the Jacobite Pretenders, and from there took the train to Mallaig and the boat to the magical island of Skye, the Skye Boat Song playing in their ears as a romantic backdrop. How different would Britain have been, they said to each other, if the Stuarts had reclaimed the Crown and re-imposed the Roman Catholic faith and the supremacy of the Pope. Both young ladies were staunchly Anglican, and glad to be. The ifs and buts of history were all part of the mystery of the make-up of the British people, its Empire, power and influence. Bonnie Prince Charlie didn’t measure up to Wolf, Nelson or Wellington as a hero, but secretly they were glad he had tried. Though when, later, they visited the killing field of Culloden, they saw the scale of death and the decimated clans, and wondered about it all. Their family roots were firmly Scottish yet they themselves had been brought up as English, Tories and Monarchists. God was on their side, so he cannot have been on the Stuarts’ side. But Scotland’s suffering was compounded by the rounding up of clansmen and women and the ruthless executions. All this was made even worse by the Highland Clearances. They were thankful that, for all its present economic problems, they lived in the Twentieth Century.

On Sundays whilst in Scotland Betty and Margot sought out a service in an Episcopalian Church - the Piskies. It felt strange to be in a Church that was not Established and so small, but they were always made welcome and felt at home in the rhythms of liturgy. They had much to reflect on in their prayers. Nothing else happened on Sundays. Everything was shut except Kirk and Church. If it was fine, they took long walks. If not, they stayed in their hotel playing cards or board games, and ordering endless pots of tea. They enjoyed each other’s’ company very much, and talked earnestly about their lives, their hopes and dreams, whether romance was as important as forging ahead with enjoying their work. Politics and that sort of thing passed them by as best left to the men.

On the Monday during their stay on Skye, they hired a taxi for the day and went first  to north east Trotternish to see the ‘Kilt Rock’ a formation said to resemble a kilt, with the vertical columns of basalt forming the pleats and the sills of dolerite forming the pattern. “Hey, don’t go too near the edge, Bet!” Luckily there was a guard rail, or she might indeed have slipped. It was an extraordinary sight, this great vertical wall so uncannily like a kilt. At least they could see why it got its name.

Their driver also showed them the Dinosaur footprint on Staffin beach, the Fairy Glen, the Rha Waterfall and Spar Cave, which was visited by Sir Walter Scott in 1814. He later described it in “The Lord of the Isles” as:

The mermaid’s alabaster grot, who bathes her limbs in sunken well, deep in Strathaird’s enchanted cell.

The Cuillin Ridge they could hardly fail to see, dominating the horizon inland. But they decided against a climb of any of the ridges. They needed to press on into Argyll, and see their ancestral roots. Margot, as well as Betty, had Campbell blood in her, and was anxious to find out for herself the sights and sounds and history of her forebears.

DUNCAN c 1934

Duncan made it back to the base safely without further incident, wild eyed and quite out of breath. His problems, though, were far from over. He did not know, for a start, whether the man, the girl’s father, had followed him and was planning a further attack. In any case, the Police were easy to find, though who would be foolish enough to attempt violence against what was, in effect, an armed garrison. So he felt safe enough for now. In uniform and on patrol he would have at least one armed colleague.

But there was also the tricky question of accounting for the discharge of three bullets while off duty. Questions would be asked and enquiries might well be made at the Bar. He must be careful to give enough true answers without giving too much away. Relationships with the locals were frowned upon, even though it was well known that Officers, like soldiers, availed themselves of women who made themselves available. He could say, honourable, that he fired the shots to foil someone who was attacking him. But he would still have to account for being in the bar alone, without a fellow Officer.

“What’s this all about, Campbell?” asked Sergeant Hanson. “You’ve discharged three bullets, and you were off duty. What’s your explanation? It had better be a good one”

Duncan had spent much of the night rehearsing what he was going to say, and his explanation was that he had gone into town to buy tobacco (this was partly true), and on his way back had been threatened by a man with a knife. Firing his pistol in the air had been an effective way of escaping.

The Sergeant seemed to accept this, or at least was not inclined to dig deeper.

“I see. Well, we’ll leave it at that, I think. But I’ll be keeping my eye on you, Campbell. I don’t want any more trouble from you”

“Yes, Sarge. Thank you, Sarge”

He had, apparently, got away with it, and once again decided it was time he kept his head down. Seeing the girl again was out of the question, but he would be out on patrol, and had no idea whether the father was still looking for him, or had quickly married her off so that she was now someone else’s responsibility.

Gradually a chastened Duncan became a darker, more introvert Duncan. The deep Depression he had experienced earlier in life settled on him again. Though he no longer had an outlet for a bit of fun and enjoyment away from the Police, the loss of it was consumed by blackness. He felt numb, alone, as if walls were closing in on him and imprisoning him. Friends began to worry about him, and the amount of drink, especially spirits, that he put away in the Mess. He was frequently drunk, morose, uncommunicative and unfriendly, even to Keith who had befriended him from the first.  Where previously he’d have said, with a smile or wink, ‘Never you mind’, nowadays he’d shout ‘Mind your own bloody business, will you?’ if they tried to slow down his drinking.

People were on edge because, earlier in the year, two men within a short period, had shot themselves and been buried alongside the others in the unconsecrated section. Many more felt acute stress and anxiety in this strange, uneasy country.

Christmas came and went, always a bitter sweet celebration for British men so far away from home and family. They all had a go at making it a success, as much for others as themselves. Even Duncan came a little distance from his darkness and joined in Carol singing and festivities. Seeing in the New Year of 1935 with the rest of his off-duty colleagues, culminating in a giddy, drunken rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, was too much for him, though. He kept to his room, with his usual bottle.

One night in February, however, a single shot rang out in the early hours while most were sleeping. Keith was the first to reach Duncan’s room. He burst open the door. He found Duncan dead, shot through the head, an empty bottle of Scotch on his bedside table. Another man had not made it.

A telegram with the stark facts and expressing condolences was sent almost immediately to Captain Leonard Campbell RN DSO, Veracruz, Hilbre Road, St Helen’s, Isle of Wight, Hants, GB.

The usual brief enquiry was held, and arrangements made for a now familiar committal and interment. It was attended by senior Officers and any others who felt able.

The unhappy life of Duncan Campbell was over.

The family felt crushed and shattered at the news.

Leonard was dead within the year.

LEONARD 1935

He was staring into the fireplace and the ashes of a long-dead fire. Dolly had taken to her bed hours before, after they had comforted themselves as best they could. They had drawn the curtains, as was conventional, and put through a distressing phone call to Betty. They all felt completely paralysed and uncomprehending. It was Betty who, with a Nurse’s practical training, had suggested that she send a telegram to Lenny, and inform the other relatives by marriage. Leonard had said he would make enquiries about the arrangements for the funeral, but he was sure that in these cases interment would take place in situ. He thought there was little if any prospect of Duncan’s body being brought home for burial.

“Darling Papa”, Betty had said “you are both being so brave. I will try to get across to you as soon as ever possible”.

“Thank you, my dearest Betty. I really don’t know what else there is to say”.

‘Duncan dead’, he thought, by himself by the fireside. ‘At a mere twenty five. So much promise wasted’. He recollected all the wretched tight spots and, indeed, scandals of those brief years, and his own failure to make a man of him. Sending him to Palestine had been the right thing, the only thing to do, but at what a cost. He had hoped that Duncan would return to England a man changed by discipline and responsibility, with his disgraceful past put behind him. But that hope was all ended last night by his suicide – a crime and a disgrace. To think that this time yesterday he was still alive, still with a life before him and the possibility of redemption!

He shuddered. Suddenly his whole body was wracked with grief, and he let himself express it and weep as never before. His face contorted and tears flowed, and he was in agony. ‘My poor, poor Duncan’.

Dolly came and sat on his lap, wrapping her arms around him. They wept together until the bout passed. She stroked his head, saying little. There was little to say. He squeezed her hand and looked up into her eyes.

“I did love him, you know, despite everything”

“I know you did dearest”

“Was I so very wrong in the way I was with him?”

“It’s not your fault, Leonard. You weren’t there. You couldn’t have stopped – this”

“People will talk, when the news gets out. They’ll say there’s no smoke without fire and that there must be something wrong with us, with me”

“Don’t talk like that, please, my dearest. We need to be strong, now, for Betty and Lenny. We have so much to thank God for, even on this terrible day. We need to be strong, just as you have been at sea and at war so many times”

They couldn’t be strong, in fact, that night, nor for a long time. They did receive comfort, from their surviving children and close relatives, from good friends and former Naval colleagues, and from many ordinary villagers when they ventured out. But Leonard himself was never the same afterwards.

The blow seemed to break him completely. In the remaining year of his life, Duncan faded into the silence, an unseen presence who was hardly mentioned but always implicit. Leonard’s health and his mental well-being became a great concern to his family. The doctor said that he was worried about his heart, but much more concerned about his morale.

Whether he wished to or not, Leonard followed Duncan into the grave within twelve months. The funeral was held at St Helen’s, attended by a large proportion of the village, and dignified by Naval brass, former colleagues and subordinate Officers. He was laid to rest there in a simple grave, where there would be room for Dolly, when her time came.

 

 

 

LENNY 1936

 

The Telegraph Operator on HMS Bournemouth brought a piece of paper, taken from a morse code message which he had written down, to Second Lieutenant Campbell. It was from Betty: ‘Regret to tell you Papa died this morning. Heart failure suspected. Betty. End’. Lenny could hardly believe the news. Papa, so soon after …Duncan. He told the Captain his news and was granted leave from his watch to go to his cabin. This was awful news. Papa, gone. He sat on his bunk, stunned. Out of the blue yet, he should have realised from his last home leave that Papa was fading, the stuffing knocked out of him by Duncan’s suicide. The shame and enigma of that was enough of a blow. Suicide was a crime, and there’d been an unspoken guilty by association verdict in some quarters. Damn people should know better! Thankfully the news had been kept as quiet as possible, the fact of it happening so far away and under Service jurisdiction helping. British papers weren’t as interested in Coroners Courts in Palestine as the accession of a new King, and the situation in Germany under Hitler. But why was he thinking about Germany? Dear Papa, such a good man and a hero to him. He’s been a mentor and, latterly, even a friend. A more friendly person, even if the old reserve was still there. No man could have had a better Father.

 

He wanted to say a prayer, but the words wouldn’t come. He thought for a moment and then reached for his battered old Prayer Book, and turned the pages until he came to the Second Collect at Morning Prayer, which was for Peace. That’s what they all needed now, Mama, Betty and him, and God’s comfort. His voice was breaking but he prayed it aloud:

 

“O God, who art the author of peace and love of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ, our Lord”.

 

He had prayed this prayer so often in Church, but the words stood out from the page at him now. He believed them. And the closing words took him right back to that day in School Chapel, when the Chaplain had explained Holman Hunt’s Light of the World, and how Jesus was a strong Captain for you if you opened to door of your heart to him. He thanked God for the might of Jesus Christ. Other words came to him, from Psalm 23, and he turned the pages to it in his Prayer Book: “The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing.” He continued reading and the words brought tears: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.” He got down his Bible, the one Mama had given him for his Confirmation, and turned to the New Testament this time, a passage in Romans that had helped him when Duncan died, where St Paul wrote about the resurrected Lord that ‘Neither life nor death…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’. He trusted that Duncan was safe. He knew that Papa was. Lenny knew that he believed in Jesus, though he was a bit mystified by the resurrection, but aren’t we all sometimes?

 

Lenny prayed a final prayer, not this time for himself, but committing his loved ones to God’s sure keeping, and then went down to the telegraph room to send messages home.

 

 

 

Betty c.1940

 

Betty was rummaging around the garage at her parents' house - her Mama's house only now, since Papa died. It was a small garage, more of a shed really, and too small for the Rover. But that, too, was gone, sold as there was no one to drive it. She was looking for a box of old letters that Mama had asked for. Luckily it was a bright day, and there was a window as well as the double doors. She came across a solid wooden box with a bracket and clasp, and brushed dust and cobwebs away. She felt as if she'd been punched in the stomach. DC, it said. She recognised it as Duncan's, the 'Tuck Box' he'd had at Public School to keep his personal belongings in. She didn't really want to open it, but felt an odd compulsion. In fact all that it contained was a few school exercise books, a ruler, protractor, pencils and rubbers and an old fountain book and ink bottle. Nothing much, apart from the exercise books, to give any clue as to its owner, if she hadn't already known. It was the box itself which brought back all the painful memories. She sat on the bench seat on the sunny side of the house, and let the tears come.

 

She had always loved him, right from his birth when she was so happy to have a baby brother.  In those days their house had a Nursery up on the Servants' floor, a large, plain room made happy by all the toys scattered around which Nanny patiently cleared away at the end of the day. She remembered Duncan changing from babe in arms to crawler and toddler, and his squeals of delight when Nanny tickled him or lifted him high above the floor. They hardly saw their parents in those days, and even then it was somewhat like a formal presentation. Papa seemed to be stricter with Duncan than with her, and to expect him to be an adult in miniature, even as a small child, but he was much more relaxed with her, when they were together on their own. She sometimes wondered whether this had any bearing on Duncan’s later very wayward behaviour. He did have a rebellious streak, and Papa's strictness and discipline may have been counter-productive. They were such opposites, he and Papa, even down to the colour of their hair. Papa, with his Naval discipline, was extremely tidy-minded. Everything had to be ship shape at home as if in a tiny ship's cabin. But Duncan was untidy and careless. He never did conform to Papa's ideal of how an English gentleman should behave, but he was often beaten for his transgressions.

 

And those so unhappy years leading up to his suicide. He had left the country in disgrace for some reason or other. Papa never gave the reason; just said that it was best for all concerned that Duncan should serve a term in Palestine, in HM Police Force, and that was the end of it. Of course, she wrote to him regularly, as did Mama, but he very rarely replied. She had long suspected that he was unhappy and maybe even in some sort of trouble. Naturally, she never breathed a word to Papa or Mama. That wouldn't have been right. But she prayed for him every night.

 

The devastating news of his death was a hammer blow. It was just possibly a horrific accident, but almost certainly he had meant to do it, for whatever reason. If only .....she sighed. Nothing would change it. Poor Papa took the news worst of all of us, and yet he and Duncan had never been close, never liked each other. But it certainly knocked the stuffing out of him, and he seemed a heartbroken man from then until the day he himself died. Now they only had a few photos by which to remember him.

 

"Betty, darling, what's the matter? You're crying"

 

Dolly had come out looking for her, puzzled by the delay.

 

"Oh, er, yes, well, I was just thinking about Papa", Betty replied which she knew was only partly true. She would have to repent of the lie before church on Sunday, but on the other hand. Mama was always reluctant to talk about anything to do with Duncan, and Betty didn't want to distress her.

 

"Oh, darling, yes, we all miss him so much".

 

They talked for a bit longer, and then went in for the British solution to most problems, a cup of tea.

 

LENNY c. 1942

 

The bridge on HMS Vigorous was now cleared of its windows, and a canvas awning gave protection from the sun. Lt Commander Leonard Campbell, the Captain, relit his pipe, which was always going out. "Damned thing", he growled. 'Thank God', he thought, 'for that windproof lighter'. This a reference to an American-made petrol lighter he had picked up in San Francisco before the war.

 

Despite being on action stations patrolling the coast of Malta, comfort mattered. In any case, flying glass was a menace and lethal. He scanned the sky for signs of the enemy, but radio messages and signals would provide as much warning as he needed.

 

Vigorous was Lenny’s first command. He had served as a junior Officer on several ships before and during the War, and there had been training courses to attend in the Royal Navy’s ongoing equipping of its officers. He had done six months ‘below’, on board a submarine before the War. Then he’d been seconded to the Fleet Air Arm for training as a Navigator and took part in the Battle of Taranto

 

 

 

He puffed contentedly, and felt in his jacket pocket, touching recent letters from Mama and Betty. Mama was brave in widowhood. He knew how deeply she mourned for Papa, and too for Duncan. No parent expected to die before their children these days, and after what Duncan had done to himself....But he stopped his train of thought there. The suicide was never mentioned in the family. They had tried to blot it out. They couldn't, of course, but it could not be mentioned.

 

Betty spent time with Mama whenever she had leave from the Wrens, in which she served as a Nurse. Thankfully there were good friends, too, at St Helens, including Captain and Mrs Jago, and the St Paul family. There were evenings of card games and conversation, and Dolly busied herself in caring for Naval wives, sometimes making the Ferry crossing over to Portsmouth and Southsea to visit men in hospital or to chair a committee. At the parish church of St Helen, Dolly continued to worship Almighty God. The hymn Eternal Father, strong to save, which was her favourite, could bring discreet tears to her eyes. She prayed fervently for her daughter and son and all those at sea. And she never forgot Andy, her brother, killed in action during the closing months of the Great War. Leonard she gave thanks for continually, but with great sorrow at how, after Duncan died, he so quickly declined and followed him into the grave. She expected to join him at any time. The Doctor had warned her that her heart too was weak, and she would have little if any warning of the approach of death. She prayed that God would spare her to see Lenny marry and have children, but in the middle of war it was not a realistic hope. She went to see her Solicitor and revised her will.  She would bequeath the house at St Helens to Betty, and a small bequest to them both.

 

Lenny was determined that his Ship's Company should be better than ready for action. Drills and target practice were held daily except Sunday, which today was. Light, general or essential maintenance carried on, and watches were maintained as laid down by regulation, but the obvious necessity was plain to all. At Noon he would conduct the Form of Prayer to be Used at Sea. It was his duty as Captain, but his faith made it a pleasure. The habits of prayer were as important to him now as during the fervency of adolescence, and a lifetime at sea had increased his sense of awe of the Almighty.  "Eternal Father, strong to save".

 

It was shortly before Noon, and he went down on deck as the men were gathered in their units, and the Officers moved into position.

 

"Oh Eternal Lord God" he began, “Who alone spreadest out the heavens, and rulest the raging of the sea” In his own thoughts he prayed too for those who were on land, or in the grave: His beloved Papa; the grandparents he had never known, and Duncan, who had died so wretchedly by his own hand; such an enigma. They would never know why he did it. He remembered Papa and Mama being so at a loss to know how to rein him in. At least that was his impression, because they were so tight lipped about him, even before his death. He’s never mentioned now, and I think it’s for the best.

 

He liked to think of Duncan in his happier moods: a joker, a prankster, likeable even. When he turned up in that flash sports car he was beaming from ear to ear. Papa scowled though. Lenny could imagine what he was thinking at that moment. And not just how he had paid for it, but that the woman in the passenger seat was not the type he wanted to welcome into his house. But Duncan wasn’t staying. He’d just wanted to show off, and show Papa that he had money, and was doing with it what he wanted to do.

 

Lenny sighed, and returned to the Bridge. He looked at some charts with Number One, and rang down to the Engine Room to talk to O’Brian, the Chief, and check that everything was okay down there.

 

Suddenly chaos broke into order. Klaxons were screeching their load, discordant, deafening sound. Lenny at once called the Officer in charge.

 

“Enemy at five to twelve, Sir. A squadron”

 

Through his binoculars Lenny could see them beginning their dive. Stukas, or Italian? probably – check

He gave the order “AA-guns, prepare to engage”

 

He radio’d his position to the Flag and requested immediate assistance, but it was too late. Despite fierce resistance from the Gun Crews, who downed two enemy planes, Vigorous was struck and severely damaged by torpedoes and other ordnance. Crippled and disabled, she kept up the fight until the enemy flight was out of range, but the damage was overwhelming. Captain Campbell gave the order to abandon ship before it was impossible to launch the lifeboats safely, moving the injured first and, where possible, the dead. His care and concern for his crew was later described as remarkable. True to tradition, he was the last to leave his ship. Several hours passed before help arrived and they were taken to safety. The part played by the Captain in the orderly evacuation of HMS Vigorous was warmly commended in Despatches.

 

 

 

LENNY 1943

 

Lenny was cleaning and polishing his shoes, a regular ritual of his which kept his appearance ship shape, but he enjoyed the thinking time it gave him.

 

He was on shore leave while his new command was being brought to a state of readiness before she was handed over for sea trials and commissioning. He had met a very attractive young woman, Jennifer, known as Jen. She was from Jesmond in Newcastle upon Tyne, but had come south to take a job as Agent for the Conservatives in a Hampshire constituency.  At the start of the 'phoney' war she had joined the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, or women's' military department, and had quickly been recognised for her leadership skills, rising to the rank of Commander. She was based at Wilton, but had recently been seconded to an Army liaison job at GHQ). She recounted that, being invited to the Officers Mess for Dinner, she had to repel some rather unpleasant advances from drunken men. "I gave them a piece of my mind", she said.

 

She and Lenny (she called him Len) had had a few dates together, and enjoyed meeting and each other's company. Lenny was very attracted to her, and wondered whether she might, when the time was right, accept a proposal of marriage. Though with the war on, who knew when was the right time? If he lost his life, what would a young widow, possibly with a child, be faced with? And anyway, what were her feelings for him?

 

Their next meeting was that evening, a warm, late Spring evening, so they strolled along a cliff top. Lenny had driven them out there in his little Austin. He was thrilled when she linked arms with him.

 

"Jen, it's so good to have met you. You're a lovely person"

 

"And I think just the same about you, Len. I've never met a sailor before. I imagined they all have tattoos and wear earrings."

 

"Ha-ha! If you ever meet any of my crew, some of them have tattoos, but there're no earrings these days"

 

As they walked, Jen spoke about her upbringing in comfortable, middle class Jesmond. Her father had no need to work because of inherited income, and could afford private education in the City for his three children, two girls and a boy. He also employed a Housemaid, who acted as a Chaperone for them in the teenage years. Jen herself Chaperoned when her older sister Frances began walking out with Tom from Wylam, who was likewise comfortably off, working in his family's Grocery business in Newcastle. He had a little two-seater Sports car, with a 'Dolly' seat in the rear, just right for Jen when she was on 'Gooseberry Duty'. A decade on, the War had seen off that convention.

 

In her late teens Jen had been attracted to the Labour Party when she became aware of the awful living conditions of the poorest people in Newcastle, and also in Sunderland. An Uncle was a Doctor there, and Jen used to visit. Seeing shoeless children in rags brought her up with a jolt, and led her to wonder if Socialism was the answer. But in the end there were too many differences in class and culture, and she couldn't accept either the rhetoric or the policies of the Labour Party. She joined, and became a convinced member of the Conservatives instead. Hence her peace-time job.

 

'Here's a lady who knows her mind' thought Lenny.

 

“I share your political opinions”, he said. “I suppose I’ve had God, King and Country dinned into me since a child. The Royal Navy gives a man a special sense of duty to his country and I can’t stand the Socialists and the instability they would bring if they got into power. I think Churchill gives them too much say as it is.”

 

He told her now of his parents and upbringing, described Betty and said that there had been another son, Duncan, who had died as a Policeman in Palestine. One day he might be able to tell her why. He told her of his early life in a rather grand house, with Royal Navy influence very pervasive through his Father and many frequent guests, and how, after boarding at Prep, he had been enrolled at Dartmouth and begun his Naval career. He told her of the ships on which he'd served, and described them and life at sea, of the responsibilities he shared with brother Officers, and of the fellowship shared in the Mess. It could also be lonely at sea, when you were off watch, and had time to miss your family and worry about them. He told her of how his Father had died not long after Duncan, and that his Mother was still living on the Isle of Wight by herself.

 

The sun was beginning to get lower, and a breeze came in off the sea. They headed back to the car and were feeling ready to eat. Lenny had booked a table for 8.30 at a pub they'd been to before. It was a simple wartime menu, but they didn't care. It was nice being together.

 

"Tell me, Jen", Len asked, "Are you religious? Do you go to Church?"

 

"I do, yes. I do believe in God. I was baptised and confirmed in Jesmond, and the Vicar was very good preparing us. It's a very Low church, but has a choir which occasionally sings an Anthem. I have to admit I haven't been to church often down here. What about you?"

 

"I'm Church of England too.  When I'm at sea the Captain reads the Prayer Book Service every Sunday and I find it gives me strength and hope. And when I'm home at St Helen's we go to Matins. You know, I'd like you to meet my Mother, if you think you'd like to"

 

"Oh gosh! Yes I think I would. But how would we get there, Len?

 

"We'd take the early car ferry over to Fishguard, and then cross the island to St. Helen's. We'd get back in good time.”

 

“Is it safe? That’s what I want to know!”

“Of course. We’ve got any number of defences deployed to keep enemy boats away, and the ferries are in daily use. Otherwise the Island would be cut off. There’s nothing to worry about, my love”

 

 

 

In warm sunlight on a May Saturday, they were sitting on the South Downs enjoying a picnic, overlooking the Solent. The ugly but necessary war defences were a constant reminder that this was just an interlude in their lives. Both were returning soon to their Forces lives: Len to his ship and Jen to the ATS.

 

They both supported wholeheartedly Churchill as PM and leader of the war against Fascism, and thought that the Coalition of the different parties was working well and loyally together. They admired the King and Queen very much too. The Allies were surely going to win the war and they looked forward to a brighter future.

 

"You know, Len, when this is all over, I'd like it very much if we were to stay a couple in love"

 

"Me too, Jen. I'm so very fond of you, and I have such great hopes of a future together. But the big issue, personally, is whether I stay alive. You can't take anything for granted in war, on land, sea or in the air. God has spared me so far. Remember how I told you that I got shot down while in the Fleet Air Arm, and broke a leg? And that was by our own side! But it may have saved my life!"

 

She was proud of his war record. This humble, unassuming man just wanted to serve his God, King and Country wherever he was deployed, and was willing, if need be, to lay down his life. It was part of his make-up, his upbringing and his values, and she was thankful to know, as well as love, him.

 

"I pray that God will keep you safe as you do your duty, Len my dearest."

 

"You too, darling".

 

"Your poor Mother must worry dreadfully"

 

The previous Monday they had made their planned trip over to the Island, and spent the day with Dolly. Clearly ailing, she had nevertheless gone to tremendous effort to welcome them, and used up much of her rations to lay on lunch. Jen had bought a bouquet to present to her, somewhat shyly, but was immediately put at ease by the warmth of her welcome, and the soft Scottish lilt of her Len's Mama. They talked and talked about each other, their homes and families (though very little about Duncan). It was Leonard who was the unseen presence there. Dolly made no secret of how much she missed him, but also of her pride in him and his service in the RN and particularly Jutland. She showed Jen a fragment of gun metal which Leonard had made into a door stop. And on the mantel piece there were photos of him in uniform, both day to day and Dress Uniform, when he wore a cocked hat with a feather in, shaking someone’s hand with a warm smile. But what really drew her eye was a small water colour of Leonard as a young man with golden hair, smoking a pipe and reading a book. ‘How like his son he was’ she thought.

 

 

Betty, who was unable to be there as she was busy with her Red Cross work, had sent a letter saying how much she looked forward to meeting Jen. The feeling was mutual, for Jen had heard so much about Betty that she knew her to be a lovely person. There was still the shadow of Duncan, and she guessed that a lot of pain and sorrow lay behind the family’s silence about him. She had no wish to pry, but hoped she would learn in due course; that is, if she was to be Len’s wife.

 

Over a cup of tea, Dolly asked Jen questions about herself and her family. She told her much of what she had said to Len. Frances and Tom were married now, she said, and living comfortably on a new estate on the edge of the Town Moor in Gosforth. Her parents were seeing out the war at Catton, near Hexham, with a long let on the house the family had often taken for holidays. Her unmarried brother, Philip, lived with them, and took the bus into Hexham and train to Newcastle every weekday to his job as an Accountant. Dolly was interested that her Father had never had the need to work.

 

“How does he fill his time, Jenny?”

 

“He has his garden, well, the one at Catton at the moment. And he used to go to the Races at Gosforth and Hexham, and go round Antique shops looking for bargains. He once or twice took me to Sales when big Country Houses were, sadly, closing and the effects were up for sale. But he is careful with his money, and never overspends. I can remember in my teens, when he’d be sitting at his roll top desk writing, asking for a bit of extra cash. He’d say “I’m not made of money, you know”. But he’d generously give it to me anyway. And my Mother keeps herself busy with the house, and coffee mornings and work parties for the War Effort in Allendale Town”

 

“They do sound very nice”, Dolly commented. She had very little idea about Newcastle upon Tyne. She had imagined it was all about coal mining and ship building, but Jen’s life had nothing to do with either.

 

 

“I remember all five of us went to see King George V open the Tyne Bridge in ‘35”, Jen recollected. “You could hardly move, people were so tightly packed together, on both banks of the Tyne. It was such an exciting day!”

 

Soon it was time to leave and drive to the ferry back to Hampshire. Dolly hugged and kissed her son, and gave Jen a kiss on the cheek too. “Thank you so much for coming, my dear. I have so enjoyed meeting, and I hope we may meet again, though you never know, what with this war and life in general. But be sure you will always have my affection and my prayers”.

 

For Jen that was like a rite of passage. She had been welcomed into Len’s family. She had had previous boyfriends, but had not allowed herself to become close. But Len was different, someone she admired and whose values she shared on an equal basis. And maybe it would turn into marriage. At least she hoped so, and thought in her heart that Len did too.

 

So the couple got into the little Austin and, waving their goodbyes, drove out of the village and across the island to the Ferry Port, chatting happily about their visit, and with Jen listening as Lenny described the Island’s history and its Royal connections. As the Ferry drew away, they looked back on the Island where Lenny had his family roots and so many happy memories and which Jen was growing fonder of by the minute.

 

“I hope to come back here often”, she said, and Lenny squeezed her hand affectionately.

 

The Saturday of their peaceful picnic was followed by subdued farewells on Sunday at Jen’s Boarding House. Leave was over, and both were heading back to duty, as each had done separately on several previous occasions. But this time they felt torn between the desire to be together and the call of duty, strong as it was. There was so much in their hearts that each wanted to say. But when it came to it they were both fairly tongue tied, managing only to say ‘I’ll write often. Don’t worry (which they knew was impossible) and I love you’.

 

Lenny drove away with his mind all jumbled. He had had such a wonderful leave, getting to know Jen better, and sure of their love for each other. But he had one of His Majesty’s Ships to command, and command efficiently, as part of the Channel fleet which would play a significant part when the time came for the Allies’ greatest counter-punch – the invasion of Nazi-held Europe.

 

 

 

LENNY D-DAY

 

Aboard HMS Dependable it seemed as if all Hell was being let loose. The skies were darkened by the sheer numbers of allied aircraft flying directly overhead to attack the German defences with bombs and tracer bullets. There seemed hardly a German plane in the sky, though there was heavy AA gunnery from ground level. The Royal Navy was pouring a barrage of shells ahead of the landing craft about to discharge their cargoes of troops. Dependable, like the rest of the Fleet, was far enough out to sea to be mostly out of range of the Germans’ bigger guns, but there one or two shells coming close.

 

Lieutenant-Commander Campbell, the Commander of HMS Dependable was directing his ship’s attack from the Bridge, where he was in immediate contact with any department should the call arise. He took care to alert his AA gunners to be constantly on the lookout for enemy aircraft, particularly Stukas, which could be deadly. So far, though, there had been no approach by them.

 

His guns thundered out their fire, with growing accuracy. Through his binoculars Lenny studied what was happening now on the beaches, and his impression was that the landing was being very fiercely resisted, and that there would be considerable loss of life. On both sides, he found himself hoping, such was the grim reality of war. It was going to be – it was already – a day of hard-fought sacrifice, but also a day on which so much depended.

 

The briefing that the Admiral had given had made it clear that this Day, D-Day, was decisive for the future conduct of the war. The Allies must succeed in breaking through and eliminating the German defences, and establishing a secure bridgehead in France, to be able to push on to Berlin and ultimate victory. Equally the Germans, even if they had been caught by surprise at the size of the attacking force, would be determined to push the Allies back into the sea and force a retreat. This must not happen at all costs, and the Navy had the hugely important job of reinforcing the invasion by dint of superior fire power, leaving the Allied Forces to destroy individual units of the defence, and eliminate the resistance. It would be a long, arduous day for all concerned, the Admiral said, but he was sure that, in the best traditions of the Navy, all Ships’ Companies would be unstinting in their labours and achieve a well-earned victory.

 

Back on his bridge in the heat of Battle, Lenny thought of Nelson, his childhood hero, and prayed that he would do his duty, and see to it that his Ship did not fail in what his Country required of it in this battle. He prayed for his Mama and Betty, and especially for Jen, the love of his life. He prayed that, if God willed, he would live through the War and see a great victory with the overthrow of Hitler and the whole hideous Nazi regime. He knew that even after the victory today, if it came, there would be much fighting and loss of life ahead before that happened. But even as he thought and prayed, his well-trained mind did not stray from command and was alert to what was happening all about the Ship.

 

Like his hero Nelson, Lenny did his duty that day. But unlike Nelson, he lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FAMILY, POST-WAR

 

The War in Europe was over in May 1945, after the suicide of Hitler and the capitulation of the German government. That Spring HMS Dependable returned to dock, and Lenny learnt that he would not be deployed for the continuing fight against the Japanese, though that war was swiftly brought to a close by the dropping of two nuclear bombs in August.

 

Dolly died in January 1945, so she did not live to see the end of the wars, nor the marriage of her son. As soon as Lenny learnt that he had been granted shore leave on full pay, he proposed to Jenny, and she accepted.

They were married in the autumn of that year in his Best Man’s parish in London, at St Peter’s, Vere Street, a church which had escaped the Blitz. It was a quiet wedding, according to the rationing restrictions, but Betty was there, as were Frances and Tom, and Philip. Jen’s Father proudly gave his second daughter in marriage, while Mother tearfully looked on.

 

Len and Jen rented a house in a quiet suburb while Len, having paid off his ship, was occupied in further training in London. In due time they had three fine sons, none of whom followed their Father into the Royal Navy.

 

Betty never married, but soon after her work with the Red Cross was over she was offered and accepted a post as a Dame (House Matron) at Eton College, where she remained until she retired, when she returned to live at the house at St Helen’s.

 

Lenny had two more tours of duty afloat, captaining Destroyers in the Mediterranean Fleet. On one of them the young family moved with him to Malta, still heavily bomb damaged at that point, and in Mediterranean heat not a pleasant place for a baby and a toddler. In the mid-1950s he was finally ‘beached’, working at the Admiralty until required by convention to retire at 49 years. He then had several jobs with Service Charities and others until retirement. That is another story.

 

But poor Duncan was never spoken of or discussed in the family. Even after Betty and Lenny died, their surviving close friends would reveal nothing about the matter. The whole affair is a puzzle and a mystery to the next generation. Eighty years on they are still trying to put the pieces together.

 


Afterword

 

 

Suicide officially remained a crime in UK until 1961, although attitudes in

Church and Society grew steadily more compassionate.

 

But is Duncan now healed, forgiven, accepted, understood? Would a

kinder, gentler, more accommodating age have made it possible for him

to flourish and live out his years? 

 

Most people would hope so. Yet people still, for whatever reason, take

their own lives. It is important to stress that the last thing that a person

does is not the last word about them. While suicide has enormous

consequences in the hurt left behind, to mention just one aspect, any

opinion that includes the word failure must take into account the

shortcomings of the world in which the person involved lived, and the

mental, physical and material mechanisms which played their part. A

suicide is a person failed, not a failed person.

 

My own family has in its history the very personal pains of actual and

potential suicide. It is hard now in the Twenty-First Century to penetrate

the mindsets of those who lived in an increasingly distant era, and

especially their feelings about suicide. We do know that not only was

suicide then a crime, but a sinful and socially deplorable act. That makes

it a bit easier to understand why the subject of Duncan's – Douglas' –

suicide was forbidden. Not even my mother was able to raise questions

about it. But what, I cannot help but wonder, was the emotional damage

left behind that might have been lessened even a little by greater

openness?  The psychological knock-on effects of such a profoundly

disturbing event in a family are well known, and we are also better aware

these days of both the genetic and learned factors that tend towards a

suicidal disposition – nature and nurture – quite apart from the reality of

a total loss of a way out that leads to the act itself. 

 

Writing this story has been for me a kind of therapy. Even though I have

invented many of the details, they revolve around the known facts, and

the narrative has been my way of trying to make sense of psychological

factors within my forebears and myself. Once I had reached, at least in part, a sense of resolution, I found I was no longer so interested in issues

of further research into historical details, for example, nor in spinning out the length of the manuscript. I sensed that the story was told and I stopped.

I wonder how you have judged the various characters as the story played out, and what issues may have emerged from it for you? 

 

 

Some Questions You May Want to Consider

 

Is Suicide still a taboo subject in our culture?  What social attitudes concerning suicide still need to change? In what ways?

 

Do you know your own attitude to it?

 

If you found yourself with suicidal feelings, what might stop you from going ahead?

 

There are specialist resources in our mental health services which were not available in the 1930s. Would they have helped in this case? What underlying issues would need to have been addressed?

 

In the relationship between Leonard and Duncan in the story, what are the crucial mistakes that might have been avoided? Do they have any bearing on the reasons why younger men in particular today are more at risk from death by suicide than any other cause?

 

What hope and comfort can be offered to those bereaved by suicide?

 

 

 

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