September 17th 1941


Allan’s wedding today. I see Jerry Beale in hospital and also have Hugh Easton round for a drink one night. Then last Sunday Penton, Watson, self and Hammerbeck went to Peshawar in latter’s car. We swim, drink gin and return after lunch. I see Basil Henson there. On the way back we run into a terrific rain storm on Kohat Pass and pick up some stranded travellers whose car had broken down.. As Clark has to have a medical in Lahore on 17th, I am allowed to do a cross country and fly him down.

We came down yesterday in an Audax – K4850, left 09.30 arrived 11.28 – navigation was quite simple all the way down. We come to Falletti’s where I see Allan, and after a rest we both repair to the Lettingtons for dinner. Here I see the Huggins, of ‘City of Venice’ fame (JDW: the boat my father came out to India on in 1938) – Eileen and Yolande are to be bridesmaids. I and elder Huggins finish off half a bottle of Irish whiskey and get pretty merry altogether. Then back to Falletti’s where we waylay a chap and borrow his braces, as Allan hasn’t got any. I wake up at 3.30 bitten to hell and wet through as the fan has stopped, and take my mattress into Clark’s room.

Allan Haig’s Wedding, 1941 (CDCDW coming out of the church with a bridesmaid behind)

Off we go to church, in serge, Allan with his sword, when he decides his buttons aren’t clean and off we troop back to the hotel. I go through the ceremony, a Roman Catholic one, as Best Man, and there seems to be a lot of bowing and scraping. Reception at “Stiffles” where I have coffee, champagne and a few meat rolls as breakfast. Then I have to make a speech to the bridesmaids and as far as I can remember I begin as follows:

“Ladies and gentlemen, before toasting the bridesmaids I believe I’m supposed to say a few words extolling their merits and virtues. In fact I had a letter from the Bride a few days ago with the curt instruction “Bring a prepared speech for the bridesmaids.” Nothing about kissing them at all!

Well, I haven’t brought one as I find it rather hard, not knowing them very well. I came out on the boat with them, but that was three years ago, and you know what shipboard life is like, so I think we might let bygones be bygones. Since then I have just heard tales of them, here and there, as they have flitted from place to place throughout India, but I’m taking them out tonight so tomorrow morning would be a different thing.

However, I think I’ll take this opportunity of saying a few words about the bridegroom. I first met Allan Haig a year ago when we left the Army to seek our fortunes in the RAF, and we have had our ups and downs together from Ambala in the East to Cairo in the West. Now, in Karachi last autumn he was an ordinary, decent sort of chap – didn’t smoke and didn’t drink, keen on his flying, and studied hard at his navigation. He didn’t go out much – though one day in January he went out one morning and we put his lunch and dinner out for him, but he didn’t come back for four days! He must have been paying his bills!

We left India in January and I looked after him, helping him when he wanted help, advising him when he wanted advice – then I noticed a change – he suddenly seemed to come out in cigars and double brandies! He was quite honest about it – he didn’t take any soda! So I watched him more carefully. When we came back to India in June we stopped in Lahore and he went and bought a ring. I didn’t think it was anything to do with me, so I didn’t comment on it. Then some three weeks later I saw him with a pipe in his mouth. I was rather annoyed, as I thought it was one of mine, but on going up to him I noticed it had some tobacco in it and he was striking matches. I asked him what he was doing, he said “Trying to light it” so I took it away from him, took the tobacco out, showed him how to fill it and light it. Then curiosity overcame me and I asked him what it was all about. He said “Well, it’s always been my ambition to have a horse, a dog, a pipe and a wife”. I hope you’ve got a horse by now. Then I began to put two and two together and thought “well, it may be a bit hard on some girl, but it’s none of my business.”

Later I was troubled by pangs of conscience so I wrote to Violet and told her that, as I thought she ought to know etc – a sort of unsolicited testimonial, and got an answer back, thanking me – she had noted the contents, would take the necessary action and ended up saying “well, I think I know him better than you do.” So then I knew it was hopeless, and here you see the result.

However, let us drink to the bridesmaids (Joan Lettington shouts out – “after all that”) and if anyone likes to fix an appointment with me tomorrow morning I’ll tell them all about them.”

Sat down quick.

Allan Haig Wedding reception – CDCDW chatting up the bride, summer 1941

Saw Gage (5 Sqn) and Scowers (28 Sqn) at the hotel on the way back, and they said Harvey and Rao killed in low flying attack on Jullandur by a steep turn low down without banking over. Back to Stiffles for lunch, and am now in my room trying to recuperate.

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6 Responses to September 17th 1941

  1. emma says:

    Brilliant! Where did this Haig hail from? As we stay every summer in a house in Wales belonging to a Haig family that goes back centuries..WOULD BE INTERESTING TO KNOW.

  2. Jagan says:

    Harvey was Sgt Harvey from 1 SFTS, with Rao – Plt Offr Cherala Raghava Rao as his observer. both were killed in this night time flight. Raghava Rao was incorrectly listed on the Runnymede Memorial (He shouldnt be as he was no where near Europe!)

  3. Clare Birtles says:

    Alan Haig was my grandfather (sadly he died when my mother was a baby) but his wife Violet Lettington (my granny) lived to the age of 89. I have that very photo of their wedding myself!

    • James Dunford Wood says:

      Hi Clare

      Great to hear from you! Do you have any letters, diaries or other photos from that period?
      best
      james

      • Clare Birtles says:

        I have some copies of photos and a few other bits and pieces. My mother may have more, I will ask her and let you know.
        Clare

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