Monday, 17 February 2014


Another of my winter projects has been to collect together all the photos I have of my mother. After she died 22 years ago my sisters, brother and I had the job of sorting and sharing out her possessions. Because I'm the eldest and had the most space I took the collection of loose photos as well as a few albums. My siblings also took some albums but the loose photos have long needed to be collated into a cohesive story for our descendants.
Mum was born in 1919 at Boscombe in the south of England to Herbert and Maie Gritten.
Herbert worked for the Eastern Telegraph company as a cable telegraphist.  His job took him and his family to a new posting every 2 years.  Each of Mum's 4 brothers was born in a different country: Africa, Egypt, Portugal.
They had many uncles and aunts, some of whom I can remember from our holiday visits to Granny Maie when she retired to Southbourne.  I have a group photo of Herbert's family which I'll put on the next post.
In 1932 Herbert decided he had had enough of working as a telegraphist and wanted to make a new start.  He had heard about a new 'English Colony' being set up in Argentina and he bought a stretch of jungle that he planned to clear and farm maize.  The family set off on their new adventure on the SS Alcantara, despite the misgivings of my grandmother.  Of course Mum's 4 brothers were thrilled at the prospect of living in the jungle and I have a fascinating account from my uncle John of their time there. Mum never spoke much about her time growing up as a teenager in a primitive wooden house with all her lessons being taught by a young woman who also acted as a housekeeper.
The dream didn't work out for the family and they returned to England after only 2 years.  They lived with one of the aunts until Herbert found a job and a home for them in Pinner.
Around this time in the 1930s my grandfather left my granny for a younger woman and started a new life and another large family.  The history is a bit sketchy as granny refused to talk about Herbert and never divorced him.  My mum knew of her half brothers and sisters and made some contact with them before she died.  My sister Juliet has more knowledge of the rest of that part of the story.
Mum was a very popular and beautiful young woman and I believe she was engaged at least 3 times before she met and married my father. During the war she worked for the land army clearing forests with a team of Polish internees. (Reminder to Juliet to send me the photos so I can add them to the album!)