More of the story

Following my last post, Ratnamurti, a regular contributor of comments on thisissixty said that she would like to know more about my mother’s story as it sounded as though she had led an interesting life. Certainly in her army days she had an amazing time. My grandfather was of the opinion that daughters, as well as sons, should have a career – very forward thinking for a man born at the end of the 19th century. Mum, born in the mid 1920s, became a State Registered Nurse and in 1952 joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) as an officer. She was posted to Kure in Japan during the Korean War, and later to Singapore, where she met my father who was a Private. To this day the army is still not tolerant of relationships between ranks; back then it caused no end of trouble. Given that she was also several years older than my father, and of a different religion, the odds were not in their favour….but they did survive!

Here is a piece that I first posted in 2017.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I  came from a mother who nursed in the army

Korean War, Singapore

Raffles Hotel, The Officers’ Mess

Tweed perfume and evening dress

Korean 10
Korean War Medal
Korean 9
Q.A.R.A.N.C Badge

Some who know me will be aware that I am in the process of writing a novel, the meticulously researched backdrop for which is the The Korean War, which was the first armed conflict of the Cold War. An astonishing fact: the British Army lost more men in Korea than the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan combined and yet many people today have barely any knowledge of it – little wonder that it has been referred to as The Forgotten War.

My interest is personal – my parents met during this time when both were in the army. My mother was an officer in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps – QARANCs. Initially stationed in Kure, Japan she was later posted to Singapore. Her photograph albums document the period from 1952 to 1954 and contain many souvenirs in addition to her treasured photographs. I’d like to share a few of these. About half way through her albums photographs of my father start to appear (before they began courting). It looks as though she may have taken the photo of him below without his knowledge, don’t you think?

image
Korean 1

All sorts of mementos were collected: the labels from drinks bottles, tram and bus tickets and menus.

Korean 4
Korean 6

My favourite is the menu from the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore from 31st December 1953.

Korean 8

QARANCs were granted commissioned  officer status and the rank of Lieutenant. My mother is the one in the darker uniform

Korean 3

Hours of work were long but there was still time to enjoy the sights and play tennis (or in the picture below, to umpire)!

image

During my writing research I read numerous books on army life during the Korean War, and was pleased to see in one, reference to The Belles & Beaus hockey match which took place on Boxing Day 1952 at the BCGH (hospital)  in Kure. My mother was one of the Belles (third from the left in front row standing) .

Belles & Beau’s hockey – Boxing Day 1952

The main source of entertainment for officers on the hospital site would have been the social events and formal dinners which took place in The Officers’ Mess. This picture, with her seated on the far left of the picture, shows a Christmas meal in 1952.

Xmas Party Wo Sang - 1952

My short poem above refers to Tweed perfume and evening dress. When ever my parents went out my mother smelt of Tweed – such an old fashioned perfume now but back then it seemed the height of sophistication along with her deep pink lipstick.   My father liked to her wear Tweed because it reminded him of when they first met. When I was about seven years old she took me to a dressmaker along with one of her beautiful evening dresses which were kept in a metal trunk. Covered in travel labels, this had been the trunk which had accompanied her in her army days. A silky pale green brocade  formed the underneath part of the dress in question and over the top was a deeper greenish-bronze organza. I cannot imagine that by then she had any cause to wear such a dress so each of the luxurious fabrics were made into a party dress for her little girl. Unfortunately, though I remember them very well, I can find no photographs of me wearing either, and I have no idea what happened to the rest of her dresses.

I’m unsure if this was taken in Kure or Singapore but here is my mother wearing one of her lovely evening dresses. I don’t believe my own waist was ever that tiny!

Japan X

In later years Mum gave talks to women’s groups such as the WI about her time in the army often taking me along too. I remember looking through her albums and being interested in the pictures of kimono-clad Japanese women but it is one of my greatest regrets that I did not show more interest in her experiences. In my book I have used several of the incidents that she recounted but the more I researched, the more questions arose. I have so many which will sadly never be answered.

I have hundreds of photographs similar to those below and I have donated a number of images to Japan’s Kure City Hall Historical Collection. Following an appeal I made for background minutiae some time ago on the ‘Memories of Kure’ website, I was contacted by a gentleman from Queensland, Australia who very kindly and generously  transcribed many of his handwritten notes from the time and emailed them to me. I later discovered that this gentleman, is in fact, rather more well known that he had me believe! Mr Ron Callander -author, playwright, poet and journalist has written many articles and television scripts, and has received several awards for his writing.  Furthermore, he has served as State Secretary of the Australian Radio Television and Screen Writers’ Guild and Committee Member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. How lucky am I that he saw my appeal for information!

kamakura

10 comments

  1. Oh, this is wonderful! Absolutely loved reading about your mother and father, Eloise, and seeing all those photos. Indeed, they remind me of my own father’s photo album, with those black and white photos and the white ink on the dark paper. And Tweed! I wish it smelt to day as it did then, it almost had a masculine fragrance, a bit more like a gentleman’s cologne. I absolutely loved it and for a time used it myself, as did my mother. It was very much of the 1950s. And how elegant she looked in that evening dress! Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to write all this and to photograph all those wonderful old photographs for us to enjoy.
    Margaret P

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Margaret. There are so many scents which no longer smell as they used to. I wish they wouldn’t change them. The white ink on black photo pages does seem to be a feature of the time. It concerns me that with so many images now being stored digitally, that future generations will not have the delightful pleasure of turning the pages of an old album. To think that the photos I’ve shown are almost seventy years old.

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  2. What a treat to read all of this, Eloise. I had the biggest smile reading it all: thank you so much. Absolutely fascinating. Your Mum was a trail blazer. She sounds like such an amazing person. My very much older brother-in-law was in the Korean War, as one of the New Zealand troops. I never heard any of his stories though. I just know that war was Big, more so as you said, than most people ever knew.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it! How interesting that your brother on law was also part of the Korean War. I think coming so soon after WWII, and being so far away from the UK, people here just didn’t want to think about it. The British Government didn’t even build a memorial to commemorate those lost – the one we now3 have in London was paid for by the South Koreans.

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  3. This was a fascinating story to hear about your mother’s career. Thank you for sharing some very important historical facts, too. I love the part about the elegant evening gowns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HelloPat, thanks for your interest. Once married (in her 30s – quite late for the era) my mum worked as night sister at our local hospital. She used to take me with her when my dad was also on night shift, and put me in one of the cots on the children’s ward! Later she was a practice nurse. It can’t have been very exciting for someone who’d had such an interesting early career.

      Liked by 1 person

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