In an earlier post, I went searching for where my mother, Betty Smith, lived in London during the war (1944-46) when she was serving there with the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division – and found it.
But it turns out she lived in more than one place. I later came across this picture of the entrance to a mews (former horse stable laneway) where Betty and her roommate, Pat, lived, probably before they moved to 1 Glebe Place.
The inscription on the back in Betty’s hand reads, “This is the gateway into the Mews – Pat in the background – notice on the extreme right the telephone box & in the foreground at the right an Emergency Water Supply tank – they are all over the city in case of incendiaries [fire-setting bombs]. That carriage in the background is used by two old ladies – drawn by two ponies – no kidding.”
This inscription and others in the archive, almost all in Betty’s hand, are a little puzzling. They could be just reminders to herself of what the pictures show, possibly even written long after. This one, though, and some others, make me think they were photos she mailed home and the inscriptions were explanations for her family and friends.
If you look closely at the archway in which Pat is sitting, you can see the name of the mews carved in the stone – Pont St. Mews – and the date, 1879. Here’s what Pont St. Mews looks like today, with arch intact.
This next one has no inscription. It shows John Blackwell, then about 24, standing outside 1 Glebe Place. If you compare the brickwork and stone masonry in this picture with the one of modern-day Glebe Place from my previous post, the location is in little doubt.
Although the one picture of John has no inscription on the back, this last one, not very good, does. It makes me think, again, that this was a picture sent home to family – and recovered years later, possibly when Betty's parents died. If so, this one must have been sent home soon after Betty and John hooked up. The inscription reads, “This is John – he is no Adonis, but he does look a little more like a human being than this.”
Next post: the Smith siblings in uniform do Brighton.