Longing for your transfer

Olive Lewis writing from Cambridge, 17 January-16 May 1940

Read by Laura Clarke

Olive with her bike
Homerton College, Cambridge (Olive is in front, revisiting her college in later years)

To listen to the audio clip, click play on the bar below the photo of Olive on the right

17 January 1940 – Homerton, Cambridge  

I’m glad too you liked our room, but we are rather curious to know why you want to know if it is to scale.  Are you thinking of fitting us out with one of those gorgeous squashy carpets to cover the whole of our room? If so, the answer is no, and we’d only be too delighted to forward you a detailed diagram. Not half!! The window business is the only drawback, but we push our own beds close together at night and I swathe my head with my woollen bolero to keep out draughts. And talking of draughts, do you know we have practically lived on top of our radiator this week and we have practically lived and died in our outdoor coats. Olive and I have developed the most awful chilblains on our feet and are walking about in agony most of the time.  

31 January 1940  

Apparently everyone in last year’s sixth form is either engaged or married.  Phew!  The war certainly upsets the equilibrium of things (hark at granny talking!)  

I am so distressed at your heart-breaking letter. Its tone of mental anguish, of hopelessness frightens me. Frightens me when I think of the harm it can do to you if it conquers your own willpower. In this war we are fighting not only against a threat of terrorism but, while it lasts, that mental stagnation which perforce follows. It is of little comfort for me to say that others are equally sick, but it is true, and even you yourself have said it. I feel every pain you feel, ache for your loss of liberty, despair with the knowledge of a rotting mind and the very small help I can give is to assure you that I feel for you in every way and of every minute; your thoughts and feelings are here inside me as if they were my own. But my dearest I beg of you have courage. I hate to see someone I love being crushed by a despairing attitude. As a prayer from me which I hope will be granted – I am longing for your transfer – and may it be soon.    

3 March 1940  

Guess where I am writing this! Beside the river at Grantchester.  I’ve just ridden up here by bike to try and get a few minutes quiet away from the eternal company of women. It is especially hectic now at college when all our first years are on school practice, including me……. 

Another girl and I were the first to be dropped at a small school at Oakington. Oh what a funny place it is. Two room, two teachers, one of whom is the Head and believe me the place is truly rural. In the class I am in, there are 40 kids, ages varying from 8-14, so there will be 3 of us all teaching at once in the same room.  

16 May 1940  

I’m very puzzled with the international situation at the moment. I can’t see why if Germany can bomb open towns, why our planes can’t pop over Berlin and give them a little of their own medicine. You know I fancy if our pilots gave Berlin such hell continuously as the Germans gave Rotterdam they would be in the same nervous condition as the Dutch were and they would willingly give in. Perhaps London fears reprisals, but then isn’t it fear and hesitancy that has brought us to this?

This page was added on 09/10/2010.

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