28th March 1919

Next day, Friday 28th March, was a photographic field day. I hoped to get everything finished as we were to sail on Saturday, but that was far from being accomplished. I began by doing Miss Boycott, and went on with Dame Rachael Crowdy and Monica [Glazebrook], getting the two trusty allies together as they generally sat at the same desk working.

I then did Dame Rachael getting into her car with her chauffeur, a very serious and smile-less girl.

Dame Rachael Crowdy

Dame Rachel Crowdy, Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and Miss Figgis getting into a motor car, Boulogne © IWM (Q 7979).

The group then moved on to Wimereux, photographing a recreation hut, a billiard-room and a VAD General Service office. They then returned to Boulogne and photographed a group landing from a leave boat.

It had been a very stiff day’s work and the light was failing… But the day’s adventures were not over. Lady Norman had heard that the historic Hospital Ship, the “St. Andrew”, had come in that day, and was due to sail at 9am – loaded up – the next day. She was quite delighted at the prospect of being able to add this to our series of photos, though the photographer was much too far gone to relish any such proposal. But it was Fate, and the comical old skipper, Major Kendall, who professed to be a great woman-hater, and grimaced fearfully when we asked whether he had any Sisters on board, showed us around his splendidly arranged ship, where the big cabins were all turned into wards. He had a beautiful old face and snowy hair, but he loved to bark. I could have made a fine picture of him – even barking.

The exchanges between Edis and Major Kendall are some of my favourite parts of the journal. On this day and the next, Major Kendall does his very best to belittle, challenge and undermine our Miss Edis, but she counters him with good humour at every turn. She seems greatly amused by his apparent dislike of women and seems completely unfazed by the whole thing. As a woman making a name for herself in a traditionally male field, she must have encountered men like him before, and seems to have developed a very effective way of dealing with them!

I arranged to be down at 8am to take the photographs, though he remarked that they had had a “real professional photographer” on board, and presented Miss Conway with a bromide postcard of himself which was one of the results – a typical “real professional” card.

I can almost see the twinkle in her eye as she writes that last sentence!

[After dinner] I found Lady Norman and Miss Conway sitting over the dinner-table at the Folkestone [Hotel], and went in to join them. They told me that they had spent a long time discussing me. I said that I was fully aware of my shortcomings, and duly regretted them. They, however, had a different version and were most kind in their summings-up, quite recognising that they had nearly, as they said, killed me, and that my aimiability had unfailingly stood the test. I had many internal qualms, knowing that this had not always been the case. I hoped that I had at any rate been able to dissemble.

Rather a longer post than usual today – I wanted to include both Major Kendall and the ladies’ “summing-up” of Edis’ character. It struck me, reading through the journal to prepare these posts, how rarely Edis complains. She mentions the difficulties she faced from time to time, but this is always framed in terms of her own perceived shortcomings – saying that she was not ‘up to the task’, rather than complaining that the task was impossible, or unreasonable. But I liked that she included this passage in her journal. I think she was actually very pleased with their comments and I get the feeling that perhaps this was her rather modest way of saying how proud she was of herself. Sometimes it’s just easier to use someone else’s words of praise than it is to blow your own trumpet!

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One thought on “28th March 1919

  1. Pingback: What does Edis mean to you? | Olive Edis

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