Monday, 5 August 2013

Amanuensis Monday - The Underground Ballroom at Welbeck Abbey

Today's post is in response to one of the daily blogging prompts suggested by Geneabloggers.  "An Amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. Amanuensis Monday is a daily blogging theme which encourages the family historian to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts."

My father's eldest sister, Marion, was in the ATS during the war. In a collection of my grandfather's papers I found a letter from her written from Welbeck College in Nottinghamshire.
Welbeck Abbey - East front (from Nottinghamshire History)
The College was in Welbeck Abbey - after the war it was taken over by the Army Education Corps and used for the education of commissioned men who were being demobbed.  As it was an institution that accepted men only my aunt must have been there as some kind of support staff.  From 1951 the College provided an A level education for students destined for technical careers in the Forces.  It recently relocated to Leicestershire but is still known as Welbeck Defence College.

Marion's letter is written in pencil on four sheets of lined notepad paper.  She gives her service number and address at Welbeck but does not date the letter.  However a comment towards the end of the letter helps, "Tonight is Saturday so I bet you're at the pictures but never mind I have a day off sometime this week so I’ll be there to see State Fair."  The film State Fair was released in late August 1945 - I don't know how long films ran at the cinema in those days but it seems reasonable say this suggests the letter was written in September 1945.

Underground Ballroom 1951 (from Rotherham Web)

Marion writes very briefly, but mentions the ballroom, "I wish you could see the place, there are tunnels underground and it takes half an hour to walk down the drive. There is an underground ballroom." It must have impressed her very much! She tells my grandmother, "We see so many men here that they just aren’t anything to get excited about anymore," which must be a reference to the officers attending the college.  I imagine that during the war men must have been a little scarce - seeing hundreds of them together might have been a new experience for Marion.

My great uncle served in the war and Marion asks her mum if there is any news of him being demobbed.  She also enquires about my father, asking if he had any news of his scholarship.  My dad did attend Durham Boy's Grammar School after the war - he used to tell me that he was allowed to attend in his best sports jacket and best trousers rather than the uniform as clothing was still rationed.  This saving helped his family who would have been hard pressed to find the money for his school books as well as travel to Durham and back everyday from Langley Park.
Another insight into the war years appears in Marion's letter, "I wish you could see the meals we have here, there is plenty of everything."  Food was rationed during the war and for quite a few years afterwards - Marion was obviously impressed by more than the architecture at Welbeck!
It sounds like she had a comfortable time at Welbeck, "I have just had a bath and I am writing this in front of a beautiful fire in a cosy armchair (no kidding).  Pat our L Corp has brought up some biscuits and a swiss roll for our supper."  She was only 19 years old - prior to joining the ATS she had worked in a munitions factory in Birtley near Chester le Street.

Marion died the following August aged 20.  Her death certificate gives the cause of death as Microcytic Anaemia, which is a bit vague and general and can have many causes.  Marion is remembered on the war memorial in Langley Park.

I am glad she enjoyed her time at Welbeck and that we have her letter as a tiny insight into her life.

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