Posted by: secondeguerremondialeclairegrube | February 13, 2013

Sex, Love & War: the Allies

Sex, Love & War : the Allies

Grüß Gott !

During the Second World War English women found some good reasons to deceive their husbands who were fighting abroad. / Uktv History / Love & War / Episode 2 / Secret Affairs / Video / Internet:

„ No sooner had Ted and Bessy had their honeymoon and Ted received his call up papers and was headed to Asia by the next day.“

„ Far apart but still besotted what Ted and Bessy could not know was that misunderstanding and betrayal were about to undermine their marriage.“

„ Soon after Edna married Keith, in 1940, their baby daughter Roma was born to complete the perfect happy family. But when Roma was just four months old, Keith was sent overseas to India.“

„ But Edna Hands would soon be involved in an extraordinary love triangle that would rock her marriage to its foundations.“

„ With their husbands now fighting overseas, married women with children were encouraged to contribute to the war effort by going out to work. Taking on the work traditionally done by men, they suddenly gained greater independence, and more importantly an income of their own. Some of them finding the separation from their spouse unbearable, many relished the opportunity to spend their money as they liked, do what they liked, and see who they liked.“

„ In Derby, Edna Hands now out at work, was one of them who realized early on, just what fun she could be having. But letters from her husband Keith serving in India brought her back down to earth :

„ He wrote to me almost every other day, right through the war. And I wrote back. We had these love letters, backwards and forwards. I wrote and told him I had been to the pictures. I thought it had been nice. But he wrote back awfull letter saying : „ Why did I go to the pictures ? The war will be over soon “. Which of course it was not for another five years, and I could’nt wait until he came back and he takes me to the pictures. So that made me a little bit cross with Keith, and made me think : „ Well, if I get the opportunity, I am going to out and enjoy meself. “ I was only in me twenties.“

„ But for many like Ted Hassall, also stationed in India, the regular love letters he received from his wife Bessy, only cemented his trust in her fidelity :

„ I did look forward to her letters coming every day, and it was a joy. It was a joy to have the letter. It was a joy to see the other boys getting their letters, you know. We were there three years. I was on some leave in Colombo. I was sitting on a harbour rock, looking up at the full moon, and I think our Bessy is looking at that as well. That how it was.“

„ What Ted did not know, that it would be the arrival of a different kind of letter which would blow apart his faith in his young wife.“

„ Meanwhile, in Derby, Edna Hands looking on enviously while those around enjoyed sexual adventure, finally got her chance for fun. Edna had the choice of remaining faithful to her husband or following her heart. She soon found she could not refuse the chance for adventure and passion. The old attitudes to adultery were changing, and Edna, determined to make the most of her independence, was leading the march :

„ I felt I haven’t been allowed to sort of know what life was all about, love and going out with boys and cuddling with a different boy, and I felt all of sudden I miss something in my life, and it’s time I found out. I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel it was wrong. It was just a natural sort part of war.“

„ But for Bessy Hassall in Scotland, it was during a night out in a pub with a friend that she had a moment of madness :

„ She said : „ What about having a night out ? We’ll go to the Royal Hotel.“  Which we did, and I wasn’t one to drink, anyway I never had been, and of course I’d had that much to drink. These two men said : „We’ll escort you home. So she went her way with the man who escorted her, and one came up the street with me. And that’s where I made the mistake of my life. I had a one night stand with this man. And, there it was, I was pregnant. But I still kept writing to Ted, I could not believe I could be pregnant, but I was, and I couldn’t write and tell him about it. “

„ While Bessy was in turmoil, Edna Hands, whose husband was also fighting in India, was now conducting a full scale secret affair with a Free French soldier ( …) but he has been put on charge for two weeks and  he is not allowed out of the barracks (…) and sitting in this kitchen was an American soldier, the GIs name was Harry (…) and with Pierre not available for two weeks, Edna, opened to every new experience, stroke up a friendship with him (…) Edna was poised to embark on a second affair :

„ I never though that I did any thing wrong. I was never ashamed. I never knew whether Keith would ever come back again, because he was going out to Burma. So I think you clung to a little bit of life. That was it. A love life, you clung to it. Yes, you wanted it. You wanted to be loved. What is wrong with being in love with three people ? “

„ As their men fought for a lengthy war abroad, the gamble for women like Edna was that their husband would not find out what was going on. While she had no intention of telling Keith, others took a different tack. The infamous dear John letter gave husbands the news that their wives were having an affair. Some heard from wives who wrote with the dreaded news. But for others, whose wives were too ashamed to write, the news could either come from a friend or a relative.“

„ Ted Hassall, fighting in India, could hardly believe the news he received from Bessy’s sister. She merely said : „ Dear Ted, I am sorry to tell you, but Bessy is pregnant ! “ That’s all it said. I was devastated, and my pride was punctured, you see. You think you have got it all in the bag and everything in the garden is rosy, there’ll be some money in the bank when you get home from the money that you have paid out of your marriage allowance and all this sort of thing, and… I’ve made a mistake ! When I had the letter I was broken hearted, and I just didn’t know what to do. I became introvert, I thought about Bess constantly : „ Why ?  I thought : „ Well, the best thing I can do really is to divorce Bess. “

„ While husbands fought in the services abroad, their wives back home were facing personal battles of their own. Some were conducting secret affairs which could have disastrous  consequences for their marriages. Women who were sexually adventurous were also often so naive about contraception, that if they were not careful they would be left with literally holding the baby.“

„ During the war illegitimacy rates soared with some estimating that as many as one in six babies born in wedlock were not fathered by their husbands. Now these women would have to deal with the fallout of their adultery. Many husbands did agree to secretly pass babies off as there own when the war was over and many babies born illegitimatly were registered to husbands overseas.“

„ Bessy’s hopes were raised by the experience of a friend of hers where she was staying:

„ I used to baby seat for her, she was pregnant to somebody else. Her husband wrote and said to her : „ Look “, he said, „ I’ll claim the baby is mine and whether you get a boy or a girl it will be mine, so you’ll have no worries.“ So she still went out and enjoy herself.“

„ While the news for Bessy was devastating, she was not alone. Those who petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery went up a 100 % after 1942.“

„ As millions in Britain celebrate the end of the war, wives like Edna Hands who were conducting secret affairs during war time, had less to cheer about. Now they had to decide whether they do tell their husband the whole truth or nothing at all :

„ It never went in my head that I should tell him or wanted to, I never wanted to, and I was so releaved that Keith never asked me a question.“


Bessy was drunk… Edna was cross…

P1060314 (2)

Claire GRUBE


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