20 June 1915

Today at Hoe Benham Kittie received George’s last two letters (1 and 3 June 1915 — see my posts of those dates 2015), redirected from Hampstead at 5.45 p.m. yesterday.

The Field Post marks are clearly 1 and 3 June respectively, so she may have opened them in that order. If so, she must have been delighted, amused, even reassured (‘Dearest Mrs P., Nothing in your letters need make you anxious’), by the first.

But the message of the first line of George’s second letter would have been crystal clear to her. Other, younger men’s letters from the 1st KOSB written on this date are quite unequivocally written in the knowledge that they might not survive the next day. George had deliberately written his ‘last’ letter as though it was not his last. He never intimated that he was afraid or that Kittie should be; on the contrary, the phrase ‘I’m always a fortnight behind the newspapers’ probably meant ‘don’t believe anything you read about us, you won’t hear the true situation from me until a fortnight later’.

This last remark may have given Kittie hope. But the contrast between reading his words of over a fortnight ago, being told by the War Office nine days ago that he was ‘wounded’, and knowing nothing more since, must have been too much for her.

Some of Nina’s affectionate names for Kittie were ‘Dina’ (possibly from its rhyme or from the popular music hall song ‘Villikins and his Dinah’), ‘Quinckee’, ‘Swan’ (from her very white skin), and ‘White Raven’ (contrasting with the Corbets’ heraldic black raven).

Next entry: ‘Things fall apart’

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About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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