England, 20 Feb 44
Sorry my note had to be so brief last week, we are still just as busy, but after all a fellow can surely take enough time to write his better half at least once a week. Your last airletter of the 6 Feb made good time, arriving on the 14th. So you have met Betty and Nora Anne, that makes two of my sisters you have met. Well there are only 4 more. As you say, Nora Anne is just the opposite (in appearance) from Mary, they ought to find each other very interesting and their soap suds bath must have been a grand party, and a pretty one. Queenswood will be a lovely place for them to live, and of course they will have to meet the Carey's, and our friends at 10 mile point. Give them my love, and tell Bob that it is wonderful to have real "relashuns" in Victoria, and hope they will be able to make it permanent. I'm looking forward to some more photographs of both the children and the grown-ups, including my wife.
It never rains but it pours, and just because we have an extra spurt on in some very interesting work, a lot of other thing happened during the week. First of all was the Investiture at Buckingham Palace, last Tuesday. Ecila and Jean Hayward met at the train and went directly to the Palace, early, because they wanted to get good seats, which they did, almost in the bald headed row. I came to the office first, and changed into my Sunday best, Alf had done a royal job on everything, and inspected me critically before he would allow me to "go see King". I told him later that the Kind had looked almost enviously at the creases in my pants, and the shine of my shoes. When I got there, quite a long que of both recipients and their guests, mamas, wives, and sisters, had formed. However, it moved fairly rapidly, and it was kind of fun looking over the people and speculating on what decoration various ones were to get. Inside the Palace, guests were shunted into the main hall, recipients were also shunted into various rooms, not unlike cattle into paddocks, at a country auction. A chaimberlain or wotsit would ask each of us what we were to receive. "MBE, second door on the left,, --- a Knighthood, first door right --- etc etc" sorting all the people out must be quite a problem for the wotsits, priority in the line seemed to be based on a combination of rank, generals admirals, air marshals, etc, then cols, lieut cols, majors capts, lieuts were all put together, then each of these rank batches are sorted out into Navy first, being the senior service, then army and then air force. Then within these little groups you are placed in alphabetical order. It was over an hours long wait in a frigid room before we were started in a long que heading for "The Presence", as the wotsit put it. Then it seemed no time at all till the one ahead of me was getting his pinned on by the King, and the wotsit was whispering to me "go on go on don't hesitate" I had already spotted Ecila and Jean in the audience. You are supposed to step forward till opposite "the Presence", turn left, facing the King, bow, step up close to him, so he wont have to reach out too far, step back, bow, turn right, and march along down off the ramp, and to the space at the back of the audience. I was a bit worried about making a smart left turn, and of course I forgot to bow to HM till he was almost pinning the decoration on me. He was fine though, shook my hand, congratulated me, with a very friendly warm smile on his face. I negotiated No 1 bow alright and No 2 turn, and went like mad along into the welcome anonymity of the back hall, just before you get there some more wotsits take the medal off, slap it in a case, and remove a sort of pin hook from your tunic which they put on before hand so that the King simply has to hang it on you. I was too shy to dare look at my medal till we got to Martinez Restaurant for lunch. After getting past the Presence, you can stand at the back and watch those following you getting theirs, which was both interesting, and the more enjoyable having just run the gauntlet yourself. I almost gloated sadistically whenever anyone of them was a little awkward. The thing which impressed me above all, was the marvellous performance of the King himself. There were about 200 of us, and he was over 2 hours on the dais, and he was just as kind and gracious to the last 5 as to the first batch of big shots. Bert Hayward joined us for lunch, and then I had to scoot back to work, it was too bad, because it was Mrs Morris's birthday, and Ecila wanted me to come back to Leatherhead with her, however, we're fighting in a war. I'm sending you some papers and letters which have to do with the MBE, and they might interest you, and you can put them away for me. Will send the medal home too, when I can get time to pack it up. It is a pretty one and the ribbon has the nicest colors of all I think.
Bob Rennie, Leila's boy had lunch with me on Thursday, he had to go back the same night. Was good to see him, he is very like his mother, which is pretty fine. Bill Hall is doing Ok too was out one evening this week.
Heaps of love,