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Three Lives in World War 2

Anthony Benoit Guise
5th April 1917 – 23rd July 1944

1.   Contents and Introduction
2.   Joan Mary Dibdin 5.  Anthony Benoit Guise 8. 1944 A Difficult Year
3 .  1939 the Start of WW2 6.  The Wedding 9. The Final Blow
4..  The Guise Family 7. 1943 and India  10 After the War

Main summary of A.B.Guise

Summary of A.B.Guise in World War 2

So who was Anthony Benoit Guise? What sort of person was he? For very understandable reasons there is now little information about his life before the war, other than he was the eldest child of Vera Guise ( Mater), and probably worshiped by the three females in the family, and any number outside it. There is reference to him being a good scout and impressing his Parish Priest to such an extent that he was to refer to him in a booklet about the local scouts. It is known that Tony went to local Art College. 

Examples of his art work from an early age indication that he was obviously highly talented, although he suggested in a letter of 1944 at the age of 28 that he had not put pencil to paper for 10 years and that pencil and crayon were not his forte. 

Examples of his early drawings are, I think exceptional.

Painting by Tony  1932 at the age of 16 years old.

We have a letter by Tony from E1 Ward as a young child where he was poorly maybe with chest problems:

“My Dearest Mummy and Daddy …..”

This type of illness may have been repeated a couple of times in his youth.

There is reference to such a serious illness in a letter from Shetland when he was poorly and where he mentioned another bout of illness he was in his teens.

Some books have been found that were given to Tony when a youngster by his local Parish Priest. The first in 1931 when Tony was 15 and refers to him being a boy scout.

“Scout A.Guise from Fr. Milton Easter 1931” – A copy of The story of Blessed Thomas More”

This was followed up by a limited edition
facsimile copy No.54 /290 of

“THE MIRROUR OF VERTUE IN WORLDLY GREATNES IN THE LIFE OF SIR THOMAS MORE, KNIGHT BY HIS SON-IN-LAW WILLIAM ROPER”

To “Scout A Guise XLI st Lambeth Holy Week 1934 ORA PRO ME – A.M.”

A third book, strangely, is a French copy of a catalogue of the Royal Museum at Le Hague 1914 “Musee Royale De La Haye (Mauritshuis)” and given to Tony Guise “From his affectionate friend Bernard Kelly Oct 27/36”.

It is assumed that Bernard Kelly is the same Fr. Kelly referred to by Lt.Col. K.C.Sharpe R.A. 13th Ind H.A.A. Regt 1A South East Asia Command in his letter to Joan on 20th November 1944 regarding a book about the local Streatham Scouts.

The fourth book to Anthony Guise “from his affect. Friend Rev Bernard Kelly April 1937” - A Dictionary of Terms in Art

Another book was given in September 1937 – Seven Discourses on Art by Sir Joshua Reynolds 1891.  Tony Guise from his affectly.  Bernard Kelly

It needs to be noted somewhere that somehow Tony obtained possession of a book belonging to his Aunt Emelie Guise given to her on her 21st Birthday on 24th Sept 1904 by C.J.W. This book is titled “Falaise – the Town of the Conqueror”- 1901 . Census records list the Aunt as Emilie M Guise.

Also a book to:

Hare Jules from Emilie and Louis on 10th October 1903 - The Swiss Family Robinson. This must have been to Jules Guise in his 14th birthday from his older brother and sister.

 

There is also a book to Nita from Father Keating. Xmas 1910 “What the Old Clock Saw” by Sophie Maude

There is an anecdote that when Tony was 21, he was working for Burns, Oates and Washburn in the Catholic book shop in Victoria and borrowed a set of three candelabras with seven candle holders on each. For whatever reason these were never returned and are still held by the family. Serendipity is such that in about 1985 one was repaired, as an honoured favour, by the head of Technology at Tong School, Bradford, Brian Stevenson, who had lectured at Goldsmiths and was recognised as a top craftsman in the field of metal and jewellery.

Tony’s father Jules Guise died in June 1939

 Letters to Tony’s mother after he had joined up indicate that he had a close relationship with her and somehow was at ease with the effusive language that pervaded conversations in that household. Mater was ever dramatic and so at such a time as during the war, her flamboyance and welcoming manner draw young people into the family circle.

This was ideal for Joan, who, remember, had been orphaned at 13, and soon Peter, her brother, was a regular visitor to the household.

Peter wrote on the 3rd June to thank Mater for such a good time. Later he somehow bought a grand piano in London for £10 and had it delivered to 4 Pinfold Road where it stayed until the 1980’s from whence it travelled to Joan’s farm in Cumbria during the 1980’s.

From letters we can piece together a little of Tony’s life in the army. The first that we have is a card sent from Richmond on 24th  April 1940 saying that he had planned to get home but that he feels quite ill because of inoculations. There is a mystery about this card as it is posted to V.A.Guise, 57 Tooting Bec Gardens, SW16

Presumably he was at Catterick and this may have been his introduction to the war effort although there had been some reference earlier (to be verified) that he had been doing fire watch.  At the start of the war Tony would have been 22 years old.

Because of the difficulty of sorting letters, often with no dates and occasionally with no address, it is unsure of the sequence of the camps that Tony attended however this gives some idea of his life over 4 years.

Approximate date

Camp

April 1940

Catterick

About May-Sept 1940

Dishforth in tents

Jan 1941

Dumfermline Fife Kinghorn Halbeath Rd – Grangehill Camp

Early 1941

Accepted for Officer Training – Commission!

May 1941

Middlebank House, Inverkeithing

May 1941

Turfhills Camp Kinross

Mid 1941

Shrivenham nr. Swindon 3 months – hell – officer training - Barracks like Catterick

Not known

Larkhill Camp Salisbury Plain

Nov 1941

Poolewe, Achnasheen North West Scotland  as an officer

17 Feb 1942

Back at Kirkcaldy, Fife  ( Joan went up to see him there)

Sept 1942

Blantyreferme Camp Uddingston Glasgow  - AA Battery

Dec Jan 1942

Oswestry Salop Officer Training

Not known

Nitshill Glasgow

1943

Unst, Shetland under canvas with a batman

Not known

Stevenston Ayrshire

October – November

Woolwich – then embarkation for Asia  -- about 20th Oct 1943

Oct-Nov 1943

North Africa ( Boat torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean ) before 19th Nov 1943

Late Dec 1943

India -- Arrived 24th Dec 1943

March - 1944

Ceylon

 

Once commissioned .Tony worked for a while in a number of Gun Batteries in the UK 

An example of a Gun Battery exists on the Headland North of  Hartlepool. 
Called the Heugh Battery, it if  is set up as a museum and well worth a short visit to see the range of gun used by the artillery over the years and the condition in a Gun Battery on the coast.  

www.heughbattery.com

Also at the museum there is a full size model of a WW1 trench duggout .

It seems that his first block of time was at Dishforth under canvas with odd times at Catterick. It is thought that he started his time at Catterick and found a weekend haven with a local farmer near Richmond. He was very grateful for the company and probably the food and when moving south to Dishforth asked Mater to write a thank you note to them. He really did not like the rough and ready existence of Dishforth where he was 1½ miles from the baths and food and where the company was less than inspiring. He was sending laundry home and was very concerned at one stage that Mater should be careful and return his lanyards (a neck cord to carry items such as a whistle) which he did like to wear clean. Despite his dislike for life at camp and the time wasting he made the best of it, as was his nature, and from time to time, got to Boroughbridge where he was pleased to find some reasonable beers.

In a brotherly letter of September 1940, to his sisterYvonne, who then was about 21 years old, he gives some graphic details about his social life and his observations of Yorkshire men and their women. He also tells Yvonne of the Aid Raids in the area and mentions his work at the time.

Life did have its silly moments, as he later describes an incident while on a road block one night.

“Pulled a motorcyclist and his wife on the pillion. Rifle on guard with 16 inches of gleaming bayonet. Wife … “Oh! Oh! .. Don’t please” as husband stopped within an inch of the bayonet.  Then “giggle giggle! May I touch you bayonet, I’ve never done so.. ouch ! May I touch your respirator .. ooh!” And so on .. silly bitch….”

“Queer people up here – even the ’igh class pubs are filled with funny men of the prosperous grocer type especially dressed in 50/- style – Their women are expensively (dressed) but oh so poorly turned out – most of the daughters seem to be “High School” educated and rather despise the fond p’s (parents).

But I found some Tetley Beer – draught Worthington and Youngers in Boroughbridge – our nearest town”

 The 50/- style refers to 50 Shilling Tailors, founded in Leeds in 1907, and developed into a chain that became John Colliers in 1958. A leading competitor for cheap suits to Montague Burton.

 He continues with reference to sympathy for Neil (Yvonne’s husband to be - 2nd quarter 1942 ) –

“Have communicated with Neil on his sad bereavement – still its your life and what you have done is no doubt for the best – Though why James ??”

 In November 1940 Tony has moved to Scotland and sends his mother a beautiful description of what he sees. He also mentions that he would be recommended for a commission but there may be a problem over his nationality. This is the second time this issue of nationality is mentioned, the first being in relation to Mater and getting a job for the government. Presumably the name Guise and his Grandfathers original name, Jules Carl Giese, and coming from Denmark may have caused concern.

All got sorted, Mater got a job and Tony’s application for officer training was accepted in the New Year 1941

 There is a noticeable change in Tony’s letters to his mother once he has been selected for officer training. The money issues still arises from time to time but we seem to be reading letters from a more responsible individual. The work load is great with a lot of study and no shortage of hardship.

Having met up with Don Haycraft and introduced him to the family, he then encounters Joan at 4 Pinfold Road while on leave from Scotland. This was May 1941 and it seems that there was instance chemistry.

 The first of only two letters, written in the British Isle, that we have from Tony to Joan was written on 6th August 1941. This was from Shrivenham, during his officer training, and is in a blatantly romantic-poetic style for which he apologies in an adjoining letter written the next day.  He also informs Joan, in this letter, of Sergeant Donald Haycraft’s address in Glasgow. There is no doubt that Tony is completely besotted with Joan and although, as he gets older, his letters from Asia express more stable leadership and tremendous support to her, he still is very much in love with her and misses her; “wishing she was there to share”.

v     See Love Letter 6th August 1941

 After his period at Shrivenham, he spent time in the North West of Scotland as an officer with men to manage but it is not clear what he was doing.

 8 Nov 1941

Poolewe  Achnasheen - To Mater

Thanks for a glorious leave

Planning for a spring offensive

“ Give my love to everyone old dear

Again many thanks for a glorious time and many thanks for keeping the atmosphere clear. Do try to understand Joanna Darling – she’s not very used to family life and may be a bit strange at times but she’s a wonderful kid and does so want to be loved by you all and does so want a home – so be good to her ….…”

 4 Dec 1941 Touraig House Poolewe

“But … me old cock. We are 50 miles from the nearest railway station and 98 miles from the nearest town. However the scenery is gorgeous, the sheep are … just sheep!! Lot’s of them tho’ and I have some of the amenities – morning tea, and …. No I think that’s all.!! Never mind it damn good fun at times and once you get used to the men there’s a hell of a kick in it.

Today I asked some blokes cleaning Ammo if they were bored with the job…! Selecting 4 of the smallest from the [group], I sent them to draw spades, sandbags and a pick… walked them up a hill ( mountain not hill) … Arriving at the chosen spot, I threw off my blouse, hat and gloves and looked at my watch (great gesture), it was 16.00hrs….

“Now blokes you want some tea today…. But we don’t get it until we have dug a rifle pit 6 foot x 3 foot six and sandbagged an arm rest and parapet”

Poor little buggers!! They knew I was bluffing and entered unto the spirit of things…

By 10 to 5, my hands were a perfect mess of blisters but we had done it … it was 4 foot deep. And were they proud !!”

 Coupled with Tony relishing his bit of power as an officer and the fun of controlling people, we begin to see his feelings of responsibility as an officer and a sense of concern for this under his command.

 Poolewe Achnasheen   Winter - To Mater

Sorry so long in writing

Only written to Joanna in weeks.

Short of officers so handling the site on his own

“A Padre turned up this morning so we had the unusual consolation of mass. Nobody could serve so I did it – Took me back quite a day or two, to half forgotten times .. I was quite trilled, it seemed absurdly “fitting” that I should be serving the mass for my men.”

 After Christmas 1942 there are less letters so we must assume that Tony became more busy  or perhaps the letters are lost. There was reference to him feeling that he was doing something useful at Poolewe and not just involved in a Bumph War.

 It is known that Joan went up to Kirkcaldy Fife 17th Feb 1942 to see Tony and stayed at the Station Hotel. This was very near the camps that Tony had worked at early in 1941 just north of Edinburgh. There is reason to believe that he may be managing Anti-aircraft guns as he was later in 1942 near Glasgow 

 At some point in February or March both Joan and Tony  had ‘handwriting test’ to help understand their personalities. The result from these handwriting tests were produced in  March 1942. About this time Tony was at Larkhill Salisbury Plain, probably on Heavy Artillery Training before going back up to Scotland to a Gun Battery near Glasgow

v     Appendix 13

 It is known that Tony had leave in June and that he will have spent special time with Joan.

His second letter to Joan, from the UK, must have been written in about September 1942 and was regarding the acceptance of the need to get married in a hurry. He was stunned by Joan having told the family and by so doing, precipitated events.

This was followed by another letter to Mater asking her to organise a wedding at the local Catholic Church.

Link to more detail and background to the Guise Family