My Life – Page 02

Edwin joins my father.  My father was later joined in the same regiment by his younger brother Edwin, who, having come of age, had also left Lovedale and enlisted not having seen his parents for many years. He told me that he had been bullied by someone in his bunk room and told my father of it.  Apparently my father went up to the man and beat him so badly that he could not stand and had to be admitted to the local military hospital. I can hardly recognise my father from this tale but, I suspect he must also have come across bullies in Lovedale, and had his own brutal way of dealing with them. Edwin was safe.

Edwin on the right with two of his mates, Martyn, left, Phillips centre.


Edwin also said that each day my father used to sound Reveille and the Last Post. For Reveille he had to get up before anyone had stirred in the camp apart from his two comrades who had to raise and lower the flag. One morning he accompanied my father and they climbed to the top of a hillock in the camp and my father blew Reveille. It was extremely dangerous as the enemy could always count on him being in the same spot every morning and evening at the same time, and once or twice he had been shot at and was nearly killed. But Edwin said he was fearless and insisted on going to the same spot every time. He also said the scenery early in the morning and at sunrise was breath-taking. One perk my father got by blowing Reveille was that he could then go back to bed with his dogs and miss the morning parade.


I often imagine my father in these remote wild mountainous regions standing on his mound, surrounded by his dogs, blowing Reveille and the Last Post, as the flag was flown or lowered as the sun rose and set each day. He must have been very lonely too and felt that his family had rejected him. It would have broken me.  He must have had a will of iron when I think of all the terrible loneliness he had to suffer in the future.



My father seated in the centre

Edwin with his dog

Vic Thorington with a vulture

By repute my father was also a very good poker player, though as far as I know he never put it to use in later life, but it was no good playing certain games of cards with him, he could remember every card that had been played and who had played it. During his time in the army he also went and covered himself with tattoos, all over his arms, his back and chest. I often wondered what my mother made of them when she saw them for the first time.  I so wish I could have been closer to him but we both found it difficult to relate to each other.  I think he was closer to my sister Anne, I hope he was close to at least one of us.  Why did I not get to know him better?  He was a good man, always kind and thoughtful and though beset with money worries all his life I never heard him complain of life being hard or unjust. He was always very close and loving towards my mother  I remember one day in England, a Sunday, when we (my mother father and I) seem to have spent the whole day doing the laundry, ironing and general housekeeping that he reminded us at the end of the day when we were all exhausted and listening to the wireless, that it was his birthday.   None of us had remembered it. My mother had tears in her eyes and I felt so wretched, but he told us in his usual gentle manner not to worry, most of his life no one had remembered his birthday. We never forgot his birthday again.

Somewhere on the Khyber Pass is my father’s concrete regimental sign.
On the back of the photograph is written ‘Marlborough Rock’.

1933. Violet’s wedding. In September 1933, my father came to Madras to attend his sister Violet’s wedding to Frank Barks. I think this was one of the very few times he seen his family since he joined the army.


My father in the back between the Dunhill bridesmaids

Phyllis and Blanche Dunhill with my father

Left to right: Gerald Dunhill, Phyllis Dunhill, my grandfather and grandmother, Blanche Dunhill and my father’s sister Violet

My father dressed for the reception after Violet’s wedding


The male wedding guests, my father seated on the right

The beach at Ennore, near Madras. I do not know whether these were taken before the wedding.  Here is my father with his mother, his sister Violet, his brothers Herbert, and Billy and a host of friends. Those absent from the wedding are Billy who was the fourth eldest and was ill from birth and was never sent to Lovedale, Edwin who I suspect was not allowed leave from the army and Charles  who was probably at Lovedale. It is strange that I have no photos of either of my grandparents at the wedding.


Ennore Beach. My father in the centre with Phyllis and Blanche Dunhill on either side. His brother Billy second left

Ennore Beach: my father at the back his brother Billy second from right and his sister Violet in the centre.  Gerald Dunhill on the left with his two sisters, Phyllis and Blanche

Ennore Beach: My father’s brother Herbert bottom left and Billy second from right.
Frank Barks is seated on the left and my father’s sister Violet Barks is centre back.

A large gathering for a picnic.  My father without a hat at the back.
Frank Barks is second from left and Violet Barks is fifth from left.



My father with his parents in Madras

My father and his sister Violet



Landi Kotal
Edwin with his comrades

Landi Kotal was the westernmost part of the Khyber held by the British during their rule of India. Landi Kotal was the terminus railway station of the Khyber Pass Railway. The fort during the period of British rule, consisted of a keep and an outer fort with accommodation for British officers and men which included the Khyber Rifles, an irregular corps of militia recruited from the Khyber tribes.

Regimental Band Hockey Team, Risalpur, North West Frontier
Back row: Orderly Room Sergeant, Cray, Kiby, Knighton, Phillips, Brant and Sergeant Sherwood. Seated: White, Jones, Parry, Stonehouse, Thornton, Edwin Holdaway


1935. My father attends his father’s funeral.  Presumably, my father might have served the rest of his time in the army but for an event which led him in another direction altogether. The event was the death of his father in August, 1935. He was given leave by the army to attend the funeral; it was refused Edwin, who told me he felt he had been abandoned by my father for the second time as he never returned.

My Holdaway grandfather’s funeral was well attended by the city police and among those present was Allan Walton accompanied by his daughter Barbara, my mother. My father said that once he saw her he decided to marry her. He realised he could not pay court from a posting at the other end of the country and that she would not relish being an army wife wife. And so…

29 November 1936. My father finally discharged himself from the army at Risalpur.  Army No.399727. Trooper.  He had been in the army for 11 years and 198 days.  His final assessment of conduct and character in his Certificate of Service with the army is:
‘Exemplary.  A clean smart intelligent soldier. Reliable, honest, sober and hard hardworking.  A good musician and keen on games.’

His Certificate of Service also records that he had officially joined the army in Bangalore on 17 May 1925.  Also that he served in the cavalry of the  5/6th Dragoons in India for over 3 years, in England for over 3 years, in the 15/19th Hussars in India for over one year and in the 14/20 Hussars in India for over 2 years.

Poor Edwin, his brother, felt he had been abandoned again and never really forgave my mother all his life for taking his brother away from him. Even in old age he would tell completely untrue tales of how badly my mother treated my father. My parents were devoted to each other and it saddened me to know that he directed his bitterness towards my mother for the remainder of his life.

My father trained with and then joined the Madras City Police force as a Sergeant.  The break from the army/cavalry was made easy for him as he could spend a considerable number of days each week on horseback.

‘D’ Division, Madras City Police. My father second row from back, third from right.

Madras City Police. ‘M’ Division. My father is in the front row, third from the left.

1936. The Walton family. My father now had time to spend with my mother and meet up with the Walton family and introduce her to his family.

The Walton family, My grandfather with his children, Brian, Joan and Barbara, my mother, in the police quarters at Puddapet, Madras 

My mother with her brother Brian and sister Joan. Police Quarters, Puddapet

My mother with Joan and Brian, Police Quarters Puddapet, Madras

Brian and a friend. Police Quarters, Puddapet, Madras


Brian with his ayah.  Puddapet Quarters, Madras


Brian a loving gentle child, full of life who was soon to change. 
My mother the year she got married


My mother the year she got married

My mother in front of St George’s Cathedral, Madras

Billy, my father’s brother in front of St George’s Cathedral, Madras
Billy with his friend William Markham

William Markham with Billy.  I know very littler about William Markham other than he was Billy’s constant companion. I have always assumed that Billy shared Markham’s a private tutor in Madras. Billy died aged 26.

The last photograph we have of William Markham

My mother, in the grounds of St George’s Cathedral, Madras

My mother and father in the grounds of St George’s Cathedral, Madras 

Re-introducing my father’s mother, my grandmother who disliked my mother from the moment she set eyes on her. My mother said she had never met anyone who disliked her for no reason. But then my grandmother disliked most people including her sons, Edwin and my father. Looking back it is difficult to know what to make of her.  Why was she so nasty and bitter? Being married so young had she had an unhappy marriage?  And then all those children. But why select a few of them to hate. My father and mother were both gentle and kindly.  No one who met them thought otherwise.  From what I have experienced in life there are people who are full of hatred and venom and I suppose I must add my grandmother to their number.

(top) My mother with my grandmother and Brian.
(bottom) my grandmother, Billy Holdaway and Violet Cameron.

My father and mother with Joan and Violet Cameron 

My father with my uncle Brian 

My mother with Brian at home

My mother at home in Puddapet  with her sister Joan

My father having taken up his appointment as a sergeant in the Madras City Police and became a colleague of my Walton grandfather.


My father and mother with his sister Violet’s son Frank

6 January 1937. My father and my mother were married at St George’s Cathedral, Madras, and they moved into police quarters in Puddapet, Madras, near to the Walton family home.

The wedding of my parents. Standing on the steps of St George’s Cathedral, Madras 

My parents wedding. (left to right). Edwin Holdaway, Cynthia Bishop (Lovedale school friend), Jessie Holdaway my grandmother, Joan Walton my mother’s sister, my father, my mother, unknown child who my grandmother insisted become a bridesmaid, the padre, Brian Walton, my mother’s brother and my grandfather Allan Walton.

St George’s Cathedral, Madras

My aunt Joan, one of the bridesmaids


 Eddy and Julia Bishop. Julia was one of my mother’s school friends and her bridesmaid. 

1937. Unfortunately all was not plain sailing for my parents.   That year my father was diagnosed as having tuberculosis. However, it cannot have been really severe as it responded to a stay in a sanatorium and he was able to return to duty. The year ended by my birth on 9 December 1937.


I was born on the 9th December 1937.

Police Quarters, Puddapet, Madras.




My mother and myself.    My father in the garden


My father

Life in the Madras Police Force.  My father, a lowly sergeant in the Madras Police Force, remained a sergeant for the whole of his career. For some reason he did not want or seek promotion.  I have the feeling this was because he would have had to give up his beloved horses.  His job enabled him to spend a great deal of time on horseback in Madras.  However, much of his time was on foot and this took him away from his horses. Like his father before him, his passion was horses and the wilds of India in preference to the city. These remote postings enabled him to be with his horses all day long, as this was the main mode of travel available to him as a policeman covering large areas in remote villages.  He regularly put in for transfers to these wild areas and finished up by being posted around the cities of Bellary, Kunnool and Cuddapah, in central India.  He was in his element.  He also loved collecting butterflies and amassed an extensive collection of exotic butterflies which he preserved and placed in large glass framed boxes.  Unfortunately the ants found them. When the frames were removed from storage after they returned from one of his remote postings he discovered his whole collection reduced to colourful dust. The problems facing him as a policeman were much the same as those which his own father and father-in-law had faced as policemen in their times.  He always maintained that the main purpose of the police in India was to stop the Indians from killing each other. He had a wry sense of humour and an amusing turn of phrase which served him well throughout his sadly blighted life. His account of his attempts to catch and subdue a stark naked woman who had apparently lost her senses was always worth an audience, not that he ever told the tale to us.  He also rescued stray dogs and other animals usually from ill-treatment by the Indians. And the house sometimes became overfull of dogs, parrots that could no longer fly and a badly injured mongoose that could hardly walk. So many of the dogs, unfortunately, became rabid and my mother would have to send for him to shoot them.

Class.  Only by looking back did I realise just how set was the class system in India. There were the rulers, consisting of the civil service and the officers in the army, people with titles, including Indians and Europeans and Indians and Europeans with money. Then came the most enormous gap into which fell the police at my father’s rank, and the Anglo-Indians who ran the railways and the telegraph system and then of course, finally at the bottom of the pile were the Indians who were without titles or serious

money. People are under the impression that if you came from India you were part of the ruling Raj, that life was a round of social visits, luncheons, dinners, dances, polo and grand receptions, that your house was full of servants who served your every whim. There was no club for my parents to go to, no visits, no dances, no polo for my father. They could not have afforded to go to clubs. They were at the bottom of the excluded pile.

I do not know how much this affected my mother, the fact that she had no European friends, other than those from school. She never spoke about it and I often wondered; and yet there must have be a large thriving European community living all over Madras. Our servants, consisted of the ayah, sometimes helped by her daughter. I think someone came to sweep and clean the house on a regular basis, but that was it. My mother never learned to cook, there was no kitchen in the sense we know it, the ayah went shopping each morning to the market, and prepared and served the food and I suspect fed her whole family as well from the money given to her. The preparation and cooking of food was done in the most primitive manner in an outhouse over an open fire. I think there was a primitive oven and that was it. I do not think that my mother ever did any cooking or ‘housework’ the whole time she was in India. Fortunately my mother had taken some cooking lessons at Lovedale and this was to stand her in good stead later in England. I learned many years later that in fact the police did have a Club in Madras. My mother never talked of it and I have the feeling that she did not think she would ever fit in. She made all her own dresses and I suspect that she was slightly ashamed to appear in company in which she would appear not as well dressed as others. For whatever reason I know they did not go to the Police Club. I also think they probably could not have afforded the fees.

Madras, 1938, My mother and father

For most of 1937 – 1939 I see from the photographs that my parents were in police quarters in Wallajah Road, Madras. They were not to stay there very long

My grandmother, mother, her brother Brian and my father’s brother Billy

My father, mother, Brian and Billy

The young boy is my uncle Brian my mother’s brother.

Old Lawrencians in Madras

Madras, September 1937. Lovedale Old Lawrencians.
My mother is in the third row from the front, 4th lady from the right. My father is in the back row, third from the right.


An interesting footnote to this photograph. I quote from the caption to the above photograph which must have been published.

‘With the loyal support of several enthusiastic Old Lawrencians and with the determination Never Give In, the first annual Old Lawrencian Ball was held at the Victoria Hall, Madras. The Hall had been tastefully decorated with the school colours predominating. Conspicuous, also, were the photograph of Sir Henry Lawrence and the School’s coat of arms. Suspended from the roof in the centre of the Hall hung a huge crown filled with novelties which was burst just after midnight. The school song was sung at midnight; the Old Lawrencians with joined hands formed a circle in the centre of the Hall and broke forth with happy memories into “Lawrencians, Lawrencians, keep the dear old school in mind…..”.

How my mother would dearly have loved to attend but she had no suitable dress to wear to the ball, though they were an annual event. She twice attended the services in the church which are commemorated in the photographs, but as she was too embarrassed to keep giving false excuses for not attending the balls she never attended the Lawrencian church services again. There was my mother, who always said that the happiest days of her life were at Lovedale, was unable to attend any event in Madras, relating to the school, because she lacked an appropriate dress. Of course she made all her own clothes, but I suppose they would not be able to pass muster at a ball.

My uncle Herbert holding me with Frankie Barks standing by his side

Lovedale: Founder’s Day celebrations, 1939. I see, again from the photographs, that we were still in the Wallajah Road Police Quarters in 1939 and that in September that year my parents attended the Founder’s Day celebrations at the school in Lovedale with me in attendance.

My parents and I in Lovedale

My father is the second from the left, next to him is his brother Herbert, I’m in front of Herbert and my mother is centre. Charles Edward Kelly (1893-1961) is second from the right. The school behind

Lovedale School parade.

Me in Lovedale


My father in Lovedale

Me with my ayah; I think we stayed in Ooty during the Lovedale visit. I’m, surprised that they brought our ayah with them.

 With my mother and ‘Amy’


Life in the outback (i).  My mother did not share my father’s liking for remote and out-of-the- way places. Each time his request for a posting to the outskirts of Madras was granted, he gave her very little notice, knowing how badly she would take it. Each time it happened the whole contents of their house had to be packed up, including the furniture, bedding, crockery, and clothes. Some items of course had to be put in store in Madras, like my father’s butterfly collection. Everything was then placed in the storage compartment of the train, including the dogs that were locked up in large metal cages, with which they were none too pleased. The ayah and her family also went with all their belongings and kitchen utensils. At the end of the journey during which my parents had to ensure that the dogs had not died from the heat and were fed and watered, the baggage and everyone including my mother and sometimes myself were bundled onto bullock carts and set off to police quarters which consisted of some remote bungalow, which often had not been occupied for some time, or had been occupied by what appeared to be savages, who had left the place in a considerable state of squalor. Needless to say, most of their crockery was broken during these journeys. It was quite usual for the wildlife to move into these unoccupied houses and they often found ants, lizards, snakes and scorpions had taken up residence. In one such remote house my mother got out of bed and put her feet into her slippers to find that a scorpion had moved into one of them during the night. She was stung, frightened and helpless, no phone, no neighbours and barely daylight. She sent one of the ayah’s daughter’s to a nearby village to somehow get word to my father to come home and she was eventually seen by a doctor. She recovered but was careful with her footwear thereafter. Another time she opened the door of the house and found herself covered in young Kraits, one of India’s most poisonous snakes, they must have recently hatched and were on the move on top of the ledge above the door. Fortunately they made their escape without doing her any harm but it was a close thing.

A visit to Hampi.  The only place of historical interest in India which my parents visited was while they were stationed at Bellary over the southern borders of the Deccan. From there they visited, with the Bissett family, the ancient Hindu city ruins of Hampi, Vijayanagar ‘City of Victory. It was the capital of the last great Hindu Kimgdom of Vijayanagar.

Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which are a wonder, even in their pillaged and ruined state. The city was begun in 1336 and fell in 1565, conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy.. I was staggered and bewildered by the sheer immensity of the place with its massive elaborate buildings and colossal statues. One in particular I remember was Narasimha an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu one of Hinduism’s most popular deities. In this massive seated statue Vishnu takes the form of a half man and half lion with a human torso and lower body and a lion-like face and claws. In this form apparently he protected his devotees in times of need. When we saw it, it was in a considerable state of ruin; I see from recent photographs that it has now been restored. I remember a monolithic bull, the fabulous elephant stables and in one of the interior courtyards of the temple of Vitthala a small monument of a chariot which two elephants sculpted in the round, are struggling to drag along. I seem to remember that in order to get to Hampi and leave we had to get onto perilous boats or maybe that was some other trip we did.

Hampi.  Narasimha an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

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The top photograph shows my mother in front of the statue.
The lower photograph shows the statue as it is today it legs restored and what appears to be a plank stuck on holding them up. Or maybe it is part of the original design.  

Hampi.  Vijyanagara, The City of Victory.  It was the capital of the vast Hindu empire in southern India which was sacked and destroyed by the Muslim armies in 1565. The city is set within a remarkable landscape of granite hills and vast granite stones. The citadel has massive walls, gateways and watch towers and the city itself contains palaces, courtly pavilions, ceremonial platforms, stables, a sophisticated water system, and innumerable temples, shrines and monuments all dedicated to different Hindu cults. Among the courtly monuments are bathing pavilions and halls for the performance of music and drama.  One of Hampi’s kings, Krishnadevaraya, who ruled from 1510-1529, had some four hundred wives and employed twelve hundred women dancers. The wives were guarded by eunuchs and each wife had her attendant servants. Early visitors to the city recorded the great beauty and display of wealth of the ladies of the court.  The sheer scale of everything attests to the power of the state and the rich artistic traditions patronised by the city’s elite population. The city depended on a regular supply of water from the summer monsoon and contained deep wells and vast reservoirs (tanks) for storage with water channels  to distribute water across the city.  For more than two hundred years the city served as the capital of the Hindu empire.  After its fall, the city was virtually forgotten and no foreign visitors stumbled upon it till the late 18th century. It was not till 1799 when Colonel Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821) reported a description of the site that the world was slowly awakened to it wonders by which time much pillaging of the stones had taken place and indeed continued for some considerable time after that. It is now a World Heritage Site and is being restored.


Hampi.   A two-storied Pavilion known as the Lotus Mahal. It is likely to have been a pavilion for the king  or his military commander due to its proximity to the very grand elephant stables.

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Hampi was one of the places I would dearly have loved to have visited, but I never returned to India.


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Stone Chariot pulled by two elephants

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Quite the most magnificent stables ever built for elephants.

One of the vast ritual baths 

Bellary. My father on the far left. Mr Bissett our next door neighbour, is second from the right.

Life in the outback (ii).  Time and time again, my mother found herself in these remote places, very lonely and far from her friends with no electricity, kerosene lamps as the only form of lighting, all water boiled over a wood burning stove, no proper sanitation, unbearable heat, no library, no radio, no one to talk to, all the work, such as it was, done by the ayah and her relatives. What did she do all day? There was no one to visit, no transport other than sitting in an unseemly jolting and none to clean bullock cart but nowhere to go. It must have been hell on earth for her. As long as she had me to the age of five and Anne, she had company of sorts.


Police Quarters, Bellary

Life in the outback (iii). At one posting, she actually had a next-door neighbour the Bissett family, also a police family, with whom she made close friends. Many years later the widowed Mrs Bissett found herself in England in a dreadful old people’s home, where she eventually died racked in pain with arthritis. My mother said she used to find her crying in agony from her arthritis, wearing clothes which were not hers but just happened to be ones that the staff had pulled out of the wash bag that day and insisted she wear.  She was shocked to see other women wearing her clothes. The only possessions she was allowed to have had to be contained in a small locker by her bed. She shared a room with a complete stranger who never spoke a word. My mother visited her as often as possible, taking her Indian food which she had cooked and various savoury and sweet Indian tit-bits, bought from Indian shops, which she knew Mrs Bissett liked, and indeed so did my mother. Such a sad end to the life of a very brave spirit.

September 1941, my father’s brother, ‘Billy – William James Pierson Holdaway (1915-1941), who had been ill all his short life died aged 26  in Tuticorin, and was buried at the Moradabad Cemetery.


My father’s police identity card. Out in the sticks at Kurnool

My grandmother, my father, mother and my father’s brother Herbert who must have come on a visit to Kurnool in February 1942

Herbert, my mother, Mrs Webb, Mrs Ray,
my grandmother and father. February 1942.

Why my grandmother and her son Herbert bothered to visit is a total mystery. My grandmother hated both my mother and father and Herbert was completely under her thumb. However it was fortunate that he looked after her otherwise she may have landed on my parents.  As it is, the moment the two eventually came to England Herbert dropped her on his brother Edwin and fled to live elsewhere and never met up with or saw her again. What a family.


I’m on the right, with the Webb children,
Kurnool fort in the background

I’m on the left with the Webb children. 
Their father was also a policeman. 

On a bridge somewhere in Kurnool

In front of our Police Quarters, Kurnool. 1942

The fort at Kurnool, I think this was seen from our garden in Police Quarters.

This impressive structure known as the Konda Reddy Fort, is all that remains of the original fort which was probably begun in the 12th century but is mainly 17th century. It was used as a watch tower and then as a prison. The fort is thought to have been construction by Gopal Raja, the grandson of Rama Raja of Talikota Vijayanagara kings in 17th century. The fort is named after Konda Reddy (1597-1643), the last ruler of Alampur who was imprisoned in the fort by the Kurnool Nawab in 17th century.

Our neighbours, the Bissett family in another remote place called Cuddapah. The two boys, Pat and Bob were to join me in Lovedale. I remember this photograph being taken because the hole in the ground around which we are crouching contained a large black scorpion with which we were enthralled

These photographs were taken the day before I left for Lovedale School. Apparently, out of the blue we were visited by my grandmother, my father’s mother and her sister Blanche. Both loathed my mother and made no bones about it, no wonder she looks so unhappy. The Indian girl was the ayah’s daughter. The dog was called ‘Amy’. I little realised that my whole world was to collapse.


Madras. My sister Anne is born. While I was away at Lovedale my sister Anne was born. Within a few months she became ill and nearly died.

This is Anne my sister.

The Edmonds family my mother’s closest friends in Madras.  When their parents died the family eventually settled in England and our families remained friends for the whole of their lives.

Mr and Mrs Edmonds. I remember Mr Edmonds had a collection of ornate boxes, made from all kinds of material, many of them highly carved which fascinated me and I always asked to play with them whenever we visited.


George and Malcolm Edmonds

Ivy and Hazel Edmonds


Rita and Dorothy Edmonds

Madras. My mother in the Red Cross during the war (i)

My mother in the Red Cross. Centre row, 6th from left.

For my parents, during the war years, there was, of course, another dimension to the problems of life and work in India. Invasion of India by the Japanese was considered a possibility, not only from the north, but across the Bay of Bengal. In these days of worry and anxiety, my sister Anne was born. At this time my parents were living in handsome police quarters in St Thomas’s Mount, Madras. Unbeknown to her in the same road was a memorial to one of her ancestors, Lieutenant-Colonel John Edwards but of him, more later. My mother joined the Red Cross on 1st November 1944 as a welfare officer, and for the first time in her life earned a salary. She made many young friends both in the military and Red Cross and began to enjoy life in Madras.

 My sister Anne’s first birthday. 3 May 1944.
Members of the Edmonds family come to celebrate Anne’s first birthday. From left to right: Beryl, Ivy, Jack Jones an ex-patient, my mother and Anne, Rita, Hazel and a relative of theirs, Mavis. 

My parents part.  With Anne only one year old, my father put in for another transfer to a remote posting. My mother was having none of it. She told my father she would not go, but he insisted. Anne had recently been desperately ill in Madras, in fact had been on the brink of death, but somehow pulled through. Anyway something must have snapped, because my mother decided to leave my father and possibly consider divorce. Here she was with a worthwhile job to which she was devoted, friends at the hospital and in Madras, beautiful police quarters in St Thomas’s Mount and my father was asking her to leave it all and go off to Cuddapah, which, as far as my mother was concerned was another godforsaken place where she would lose her friends and have absolutely nothing to do all day. I was there in the house when my father announced that they were packing up and leaving. There was an almighy row, something I cannot remember ever happening before.  No wonder my mother made the decision she did.   She had nowhere to go except to the YWCA and they would not accept children. It must have been a heart breaking decision for her. So my father left Madras and went off to his posting in Cuddapah taking Anne with him and I was shunted off to school. All their furniture was put in store and my father lived in a couple of rooms with the family of one of his Cuddapah police colleagues. My mother never spoke about this strange period of her life. And it was shattering for me when I came home from school to join my father, to find that that my mother was not there. Presumably my mother’s salary from the Red Cross, which cannot have been large, nevertheless, enabled her to be independent for the first time in her life. But it must not have been a happy time for her.


Paddy Robinson one of my mother’s ex-patients

My mother, Paddy Robinson and Millie Cooke
who was also in the Red Cross.

My mother with Jack Gilbert an ex-patient

Jack Jones an ex patient

Jack Gilbert an ex-patient

My mother in the Red Cross (ii).  When the Japanese began their retreat and were later defeated, most of their former prisoners were shipped back home, but many were considered to be at death’s door and too ill to face the journey back to their countries. These unfortunate men were distributed among the cities of India where suitable hospital facilities existed. Some were flown to Madras. My mother as a welfare officer was there to write letters for patients, provide them with books, jigsaws and board games, organise picnics and generally see to their welfare as much as she could. She saw some terrible sights, and many died on her watch, but she wrote their letters for them, sometimes the only communication relatives received before they died and also letters of condolence to parents, wives and siblings, and in due course received many from them – broken-hearted letters thanking her for all she had done. Only three of these letters survive. There were many more but somehow in all our moves they were lost. My mother realised that she had to be the eyes and witness for the families, of the suffering and deaths of their loved ones, which was the aftermath of unimagined Japanese cruelty.

‘Dear Mrs Holdaway, I wish to give you my very best thanks along with those of my husband for all you have done for my boy. I feel I can’t thank you enough as we at home felt so helpless it was a consolation when we got a letter from you to now there was someone who was trying to take my place. I do hope this time he is realy on the mend. All my best wishes in your work. Yours sincerely. B. Gill.’

My mother in the Red Cross. The Dutchman. (iii)  I heard this tale, after my mother’s death from my mother’s lifelong friend and Red Cross colleague Marjorie Soares. One patient, a Dutchman, arrived in the hospital in a fearful condition. He had been tortured and starved and the doctor’s thought he possibly had leprosy. He weighed very little and was in his late- 20s. He had been a manager on a rubber plantation which had been overrun by the Japanese and he had finished up on the notorious Burma death railway. He could barely see or speak. Mother wrote letters for him and read and sang to him, little nursery songs which she had sung to me and my sister. Everyone treated him with extreme caution because of the fear that he may have leprosy. She wrote a number of letters to his family for him, sadly I do not have any copies of any letters to her from them. My mother spent many hours with him and sometimes read him short stories. One day he told her that the thing he most missed was to have someone put their arms around him and hold him. My mother did not hesitate and because he weighed hardly anything; she cradled him on her lap and hugged him, much to the horror and consternation of the nursing staff. Every day at the end of her shift she went to him and cradled him for a while, and knowing my mother would have kissed him as she rocked him. One day, late in the evening, after she had returned home, one of the orderlies from the hospital arrived to say he wanted to see her, the orderly said the hospital staff thought he was dying. So she put her uniform on again and returned to the hospital by rickshaw. He was clearly dying and she went straight to him, cradled him on her lap and sang to him and I am sure tried to comfort him. Many people from the hospital came to his ward to watch and wait, and I am sure my mother would have kissed and hugged. He had waited for her to come to him and in the early hours of the morning he died in her arms. My mother never spoke of this but it must have shaken her terribly. She never forgave the Japanese nation for what they had done to him and others though she was not good at hating or even being cross with anyone for very long, on this one subject she was very clear.

My mother and the Red Cross (iv).  Her caring work was remembered by some of the patients who made it and more than 50 years later, three of them made emotional telephone calls to me when they read of my mother’s death in the newspapers. One of the callers almost tearfully recalled how she was the first person who showed such kindness to him that it gave him a reason to fight to stay alive. My mother made many friends for life, and kept up a huge correspondence with them.


My mother alone at the YWCA in Madras, 1945 

My mother used to arrange outing and picnics for the patients.

Patients in the hospital where my mother worked for the Red Cross. September 1945.  Back – Jenner Frank, Francis, Paddy, Tiny – -.  Front Aske, Mick – Jock –

Paddy, Jock, Frank, Ottley – – September 1945

Good, Skipper, Jock McCullock and Eric. August 1945


My only surviving school report from Lovedale. ‘Intelligent, but inclined to be shy’.

Madras. My parents are reconciled.  When I came home from Lovedale, to my estranged father that year, I was in much distress at the fact that my mother was not there for me. I moped about the place and I can remember that I started to have nightmares and screamed out at night, which annoyed and irritated the family we were staying with. I refused to play with the other children in the family and was in an absolutely miserable state. I refused to talk to anyone during the day and I moped around the huge house and what seemed to me to be a vast garden. I remember I found a small hut in one corner of the garden and hid there for most parts of the day and refusing to eat. The servants were usually sent out to find me. Anne my sister seemed to live in a world of her own, quite happy with her toys and looked after by the family ayah.

My sister Anne who was fortunately  oblivious of the unhappiness around her


My young sister Anne. The rocking horse was made by my father.

My parents are reconciled.  I must have been a real pain to the couple in whose house we were living. My father was told, in front of me that my behaviour was totally unacceptable and that he may have to find other accommodation if I continued to misbehave. My father must have realised how miserable and unhappy I was and decided that I should go to Madras to see my mother. I was also sent as a messenger to say that he was returning to Madras and he should like them to be together again. My mother agreed and my father returned.

Police Quarters, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras. My parents moved first into Police Quarters in St Thomas’s Mount, Madras and then finally into their last home in India, a beautiful bungalow situated on the ramparts in Fort St George, Madras. The bungalow was very simple, two large bedrooms, a living room and a spacious verandah which ran around three sides the fourth side being taken up with the rampart wall. The roof was flat and was accessed by an outside wooden staircase. The views even to my young eyes were beautiful and took in a huge part of the moat in which my father spent hours fishing. As far as I know he only caught enormous catfish which he brought up to the bungalow and placed in a large water tank. The poor things never lasted very long as they were soon spotted and carried off by various birds of prey. Each day I went with my mother to the hospital and was quite amazed at how many patients, all service personnel, called upon her just for a chat and whisked her off to do whatever my mother did at the hospital. During these periods I was usually placed in the hands of a patient to look after and often finished up in one of the wards being shown off with pride as Barbara’s son. Many of them had so much affection for her that all I had to do was bask in her shade. I was showered with sweets and chocolates all hidden by them in my pockets.


The family together at last

My mother, Anne and Ivy Edmonds


Police Quarters, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras

Police Quarters, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras

All these taken at Police Quarters, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras. John Saunders (left) and Frank Thatcher were soldiers who my mother had met and befriended through her work with the Red Cross. My father looks so sad and downcast


My mother with Anne. Police Quarters, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras

My parents on the beach at Ennore


Ennore Beach, Madras. My mother with Anne and Eric Pollit (ex-patient)

The Bissett family came to visit. St Thomas’s Beach, Madras.

St Thome or St Thomas’s Beach, Madras. The family used to go to the beach in the evening after dinner.  Here they are with ‘Tiny’ Hussey and members of the Soares family. Margery Soares was a friend from the Red Cross.

Anne and myself at the Edmonds home, Vepery, Madras. The two ladies are Dorothy and Hazel Edmonds.

Jim Wales, RAF. Police Quarters, Madras

Gerald Groves, RAF, Police Quarters, Madras

         My mother with Gil Angel ‘Chindit’

My mother with Ruby and Millie Cook, Red Cross colleagues
Police Quarters, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras 

My mother, far right, with members of staff of the Red Cross at Government House, Madras. 

My mother.  Police Quarters, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras 

Guindy Park  Madras. Many of my mother’s ex-patients became close family friends and many at some time or other visited my parents at their homes. I can remember joyful picnics in the cool of the evening on the beach at Madras, with what seemed like a crowd of young soldiers and airmen and my usually shy mother the centre of attention. Everyone had a great affection for her. The photograph below taken in Guindy Park, Madras, of which more later.


January 1946. These taken in Guindy Park. All the men are ex-patients, the ladies with my mother are members of the Edmonds family and I see that my sister Anne and I appear in them.

Alec Pollitt (ex-patient) and friend of my parents. I’m including these photographs as it is possible that ancestors of these ex-patients may be interested in them.




Alec Pollitt (ex-patient) standing on the right.   Friend of my parents.

Police Quarters: Fort St George, Madras

My mother, Anne, Marjorie Soares and Dave ‘Tiny’ Hussey in the garden        

These all taken either in the garden or on our terrace overlooking the moat at our Police Quarters, in Fort St George Madras My mother is with her friend Marjorie Soares (Red Cross) and one of the men, who appears in many photographs is (ex patient) Dave ‘Tiny’ Hussey who became a livelong friend.

My father with Anne taken in the garden of our Police Quarters, Fort St George, Madras.


My mother and sister Anne in our delightful Police Quarters, Fort St George  

Police Quarters, Fort St George. My father with fellow policemen.

Police Quarters, Fort St George, Madras

Arthur Clarke  wearing my father’s police uniform.

Fort St George. The Wallajah Gate, St George’s Gate and the Guardroom

Police Quarters, Fort St George. Anne is being carried by ‘Tiny’ Hussey

Police Quarters, Fort St George Madras. The ayah’s daughter with Anne and the Ayah who worked for my parents for many, many years.



Our garden in Fort St George was full of mango trees, but the trees were very tall and out of reach as they leaned over the parapet and the monkeys made off with them.  The garden also had many guava bushes. The squirrels saw to them.

Police Quarters, Fort St George. My mother and Anne with Les Brown and ex-patient.


My mother  in her Red Cross uniform with ‘Tiny’ Hussey

Somehow my father managed to get me onto his horse
My goodness, I was a timid soul

 Tiny’ Hussey with Anne and my parents, sitting on the ramp which led to our house in Fort St George, Madras  

‘Tiny’ Hussey with Anne and my mother. Sitting on the steps leading up to the terrace rooftop, Police Quarters, Fort St George, Madras

Anne on the ramp which led to or house in Fort St George

‘Tiny’ Hussey and Arthur Clarke returning home.

Towards Independence.  The motto of the Lawrence School had been, still is, ‘Never Give In’ and my father became a perfect example of its application, because towards the end of the war, it was obvious he was becoming ill and that the TB was striking him again. He had been diagnosed as having TB as early as 1938, a year after I was born, and though he had thought it had subsided; in fact it was slowly destroying him. He was unfortunately a heavy smoker, which didn’t help matters. I can imagine the grit and fortitude he needed to continue working in the enervating climate of Madras; to carry out the active tasks required of him to remain vigilance and to remain equable and reasonable in the face of danger, political unrest and aggression. Times were, in any case, become more difficult as Independence grew nearer. Many continuous days and nights were spent on horseback on the streets of Madras containing riots and protests which took place on a daily basis. He sometimes joked that he had probably escorted most members of the Congress to prison at some time or other. The tension in the air in Madras was toxic, and my mother and father wondered what was to be their future, clearly it was not going to be in India, but that is all they knew about. It was a very worrying time, and their future looked bleak. All the troops were moving out, the hospitals were in a state of flux with doctors and nurses leaving every week.

Charles Holdaway gets married.  Early in 1946,  My father’s brother Charles, who was in the forces, had some leave and came to visit me at school. I did not have a clue who is was, but this soldier came into the classroom and spoke to my form teacher Elsie Runacres and asked whether he could take me out for the day. It was all very puzzling. Anyway he took me to Ooty where we had a splendid tea, I doubt if I spoke a word, I had absolutely no social skills whatsoever.  The upshot of the visit was that he wooed and in September 1946, married my form teacher. My mother accompanied by Anne came to the wedding which was held in the church in Lovedale.  I was overjoyed to see them.

Charles Holdaway. My mother and Anne came for the wedding. I think my father and some of his brothers also came but I can’t be sure. Why no photographs of them or maybe they were not present. Anyway I was over the moon. Charles and Elsie my form teacher on their Wedding day. At the bottom is Elsie with her mother who was my matron at school. The beautiful countryside of Lovedale can be seen in the background



I leave Lovedale for ever.  Pupils were being taken away from Lovedale at an incredible rate, as families left India and spread to all corners of the earth. My dormitory was beginning to empty. I waited by the road to the station every time I had an opportunity and watched for my parents to come and fetch me. And finally one morning, on the 30 June 1947, there was my father coming up the hill. I rushed down and threw my arms about him and would not let him go, I think he finished up by carrying me. We collected my trunk, I changed my clothes and without any goodbyes, there happened to be no one there other than the servant who brought my trunk, we set off down that road. My father said to me that I should look back as it was probably the last time I would see the school, my heart leapt, but I would not look back. The whole world had changed for me, the sky was blue, I could smell the eucalyptus again and I was finally free of that awful school. Many years later my mother returned to the school, to attend a school reunion, but I did not go with her. I often wonder if I should have done so, maybe I would have laid to rest the dread feelings I have for the place and brought closure to the hurt and distress I carry about with me whenever I think of it.

My mother leaves the Red Cross. On 31 July 1947 my mother’s work with the Red Cross came to an end.

Egmore Station, and St Andrew’s Church (centre right), Madras

Cooum River near the Penitentiary, Madras

The Cenotaph near Fort St George, Madras

Now known as The Victory War Memorial is one of the two war memorials in Madras – Chennai. It is situated at the beginning of Marina Beach, just near Fort St. George. The memorial was constructed in the memory of soldiers of allied armies who lost their lives in World War 1. It later became a memorial for World War 2. It also commemorates the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Madras Presidency for their service to the British. The inscriptions from the War with China, Indo-Pakistan War, and Kargil Operations have been added.

Moore Market, Madras

The Law Courts, Madras

Parry’s Corner, Madras

Central Station, Madras

First Line Beach, Parry’s Corner and the High Court, Madras

The only interior of the bungalow showing the verandah at the side in Fort St George


 Anne. Showing the outside stairs which led to the roof of the bungalow.

My parents. Probably among the last photographs taken in India



15 August 1947. Indian Independence.  On 14 August Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his Tryst with Destiny speech proclaiming India’s Indepenedence

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

Independence came on 15 August 1947. Our bungalow in Fort St George was at the top of a steep ramp, high above the fort and overlooked the moat, in which my father sometimes found time to fish. It was surrounded by a beautiful walled garden with mango trees and guava bushes. There was a concrete and wooden stair which led to the roof of the house with magnificent views over the fort and the moat.   Half-way up the ramp to the bungalow there was a massive iron gate, which had always remained open and in fact had rusted and was immovable in its open position. At the bottom of the ramp was a small alleyway, which ran beneath another inner high walled rampart. On top of this other rampart walkway which was at the same level and opposite the bungalow were neat pyramids of cannon balls at measured distances along the wall. My father had been out for nights as there was grave concern about civil unrest in the city. On the morning of the 15th the gates of the fort were thrown open to the public for the first time. Formerly the only people allowed inside the fort had to have a pass. That morning the crowds came in unhindered, and as we heard afterwards, rampaged through the fort, destroying papers and everything they could find in any of the offices and generally looting and making off with anything they could carry. We noticed that the first few people who passed in the alley below us were followed by massive crowds in noisy festival mood, and then we noticed that a few intrepid people had managed to get onto the inner rampart and commenced pushing the cannon balls off the walls which fell among the crowds below. There was pandemonium as the crowds could neither move forward nor back and then they started to come up the ramp to the bungalow. One of my father’s constables had arrived shortly before this and having tried to close the gate on the ramp, and finding he could not, he gave it up and remonstrated with the crowd not to come any further. He was joined by the ayah and her son who shouted and remonstrated with the crowd to go away. My mother with myself and Anne had gone to stand on the flat roof of the bungalow watching all this. My mother must have been terrified. It could have turned either way, if they had come to the bungalow, it would have been ransacked and looted and no-one could have done anything about it. As it was, for some reason they turned away, maybe it was seeing my mother with her two children which held them back, who knows, I think it was probably the ayah who made the difference. People must have been injured by the cannon balls but I have no recollection. Being with my mother meant I felt perfectly safe and I cannot recall being frightened by what was happening around us.

My family moved many times in India the following is a rough guide to the different police quarters  they stayed in.

1936-7. Wallajah Road, Madras
1937-8. Pudapet, Madras
1938-9. Wallajah Road, Madras
1940-42. Bellary
1942-43. Kurnool
1943-5. St Thomas’s Mount Madras
1945-6. Cuddapah
1946. St Thomas’s Mount, Madras
1946-7. Fort St George, Madras


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