Thank you for your letter and I am delighted to hear that the main Chalet School will be moving to Switzerland – it always seemed wrong to have you and Hilda in different countries! My lips are sealed, of course, until you give me leave but I shall look forward to hearing more about the arrangements.
The atmosphere in London, and probably the rest of Britain, is both strange and strained with the shock of the King’s death still very raw. I don’t know how much you have heard or read but Wednesday was bizarre! We were given the news around 11am and the Deputy Chief, for reasons best known to himself, decided that we required an immediate and full air raid drill! Quite why he thought the Russians were likely to attack at that precise moment goodness only knows but we had to get our poor sick and wounded patients down to a very dismal and ill lit cellar. Still, one good thing has come out of it as they have realised that the shelters have been scandalously neglected since the War and necessary repairs will be carried out. Actually, we are more in danger from fire than the Red Army as the hospital electrics could also do with an overhaul!
I am still staying with Louise and Edwyn, the influx of reservists having caused a shortage of officer accommodation at the hospital and we were asked to live elsewhere if we could. Travelling back to the flat on Wednesday evening was eerie to say the least, the streets darker and quieter than usual with shops, theatres, cinemas and pubs closed. The only business being conducted was by the newsboys and they didn’t have to shout as there were crowds around all of them anxious for the latest special edition. The BBC in its wisdom had decided not to broadcast at all apart from short bulletins at usual news times! That wasn’t really a good idea as people were in a state of shock and needed reassurance.
I am as shocked as everyone else at the news, of course, and very sad for the widowed Queen who is our Colonel-in-Chief, but I am not totally astonished. Louise and I went to the cinema to see “The Lavender Hill Mob” on Saturday afternoon and Pathe News showed a film of the King at the airport to see Princess Elizabeth off on her trip to Africa. He looked so ill that I was very surprised his doctors had allowed him to make the trip. Our Big Chief being part of the Royal medical team, we have heard that his doctors chose not to tell him how serious his condition was and, naturally, he would not want to say goodbye to his daughter until the last possible moment. Poor young lassie, I don’t envy the life she has come home to one little bit.
On a happier note, I bumped into one of your girls the other day! St Thomas’s had a particularly complicated shooting injury and requested our assistance so I was detailed to go. They asked if I would mind having some of their aspiring surgeons as observers and, of course, I agreed. When I greeted the six of them, five responded with “Good morning, Major” and the sixth said “Hello, Dr Meg”! Dr Dorothy Brentham, no less, looking well and, I am reliably informed, a first class surgeon in the making! Certainly, when it was her turn to assist she was calm, confident and skilled.
We had dinner together and talked of the Chalet School. She knew you were in Switzerland and spoke very fondly of you. I got an interesting description of your night in the mountain hut at Fulpmes! She would like to specialise in orthopaedics but feels that as a woman she will find it difficult to get a training place and she is undoubtedly right. As it happens, with Gren in mind, I have been chatting to a few people who are doing important work on hip replacement so I do know some influential people in the field. I shall see what I can do but it’s still a sair fecht!
News from home is good, Norah is keeping well and being very carefully monitored by Stella whose letters are short but cheerful. Granny Kelly is recovering from her influenza and has decided, thank goodness, that she will give up the Overgate garret and live with my parents. Kate was persuaded to enter for the Leng Gold Medal and is through to the final which will be held during the Music Festival. She’s the first one of us to go for Gold - the poor child probably had her arm twisted by Greta McGillivray, an old classmate of mine who is head of the Music Department. Whenever we meet she tells me very firmly that my wee sister should be aiming for the Academy of Music instead of ‘just a science degree’. You must meet her on your next visit - I am sure you would have a very stimulating conversation!
It looks as though I shall get home at the end of March if not before so probably my trip to St Briavel’s will not happen. Our Health Authority, aided by the local MPs, has been kicking up a fuss about losing me for so long, particularly as several other local medics have been recalled to the colours. Mr Strachey still has good contacts in the War Office and has been making the case as has Edwyn. He has had to be circumspect, naturally, but between them they seem to have convinced the brass hats that my own hospital needs me. Hurray!
Oh sorry, I haven’t thanked you for the sweets which were delicious though you really shouldn’t go to all that expense just for me. Shall we ever get sugar and sweets off ration again, I wonder?
My very best respects
Thank you for your letter, the documents and the chocolates. You really shouldn’t be spending all that money on me though they were delicious and I must admit to feeling that I deserve a treat!
I do like the revised plans for the three Chalet buildings, particularly my own annexe. What a boon that Rosalie’s old college friend at the Embassy could recommend a good firm to do the work and at such a reasonable cost. I can understand Rosalie’s wish to make her own quarters more of a little home and it means that Jeanne and I shall be more comfortable, too!
There is good news from Guernsey. I telephoned Janey last evening and she told me Julie is recovering steadily, though she still tires easily. Peter thinks she will be well enough to come to school next term though we shall have to take great care to see she does not overtax her strength. Whether she will go to Welsen as planned or stay in the school proper either here or in the Oberland, we shall have to wait and see.
I still wish most heartily that we had not accepted Diana Skelton as a pupil. The prefects appear to have handled the outbreak of casual rudeness very well. I do not know anything officially, or even unofficially for once, but whatever they did has certainly shocked some of our more heedless girls back to their senses. I am not so sure about Diana and one or two of her followers. My imagination might be running away with me but Diana seems to be walking around in a state of cold anger, the type that lasts. I do hope I am wrong.
On a happier note, our enterprising damsels have been nothing if not ambitious in their choice of theme for the Sale, having chosen “The Crown of Success”! They have all sorts of plans for it including colour washing a floor or two and I am sure it will be a splendid affair.
Oh, how I miss you, my dear, and how I wish you were within instant consultation distance! I did not expect to be proved right about Diana so quickly. She and another girl have wrecked Bride’s study! I was too angry to deal with them tonight and much will depend on whether Diana shows any genuine remorse. I do not want to expel her, particularly as it would mean the other girl, Marion Tovey, would also have to go and I suspect she has not been an altogether willing participant. Pray for me, as I know you do every night – God will know my need!
Much love, Hilda
Author's Chapter Notes:
Not a proper update but a rejigging because I forgot to add the last chapter. The death of King George VI was one of the most vivid memories of my schoolchild life, even more so than the subsequent Coronation.