Through the lives and the intimate and the lively correspondence between Helen (‘Len’) and her Mum, the world of post-war austerity in Britain is brought to life and contrasted with the life of Europeans in Cairo, where Len works as a shorthand typist for the Ministry of Supply. In Cairo there is an abundance of everything, including men. For Mum in Yoker, near Glasgow, each day is a struggle against the weather (the worst winter of 1947), of filling out rationing coupon forms and making ends meet, and of trying to find a way to get a boat to see her daughter in Cairo.
Still working for the Ministry of Supply Len is then appointed in 1948 as a PA to a section head back in Britain at the British Government’s Chemical and Biological Research Station at Porton Down, Wiltshire.
An idealist and wanting to help build a new Britain, in 1949 she applies for and is accepted for the Emergency Teacher Training Scheme, studying at Wynyard Hall in Co. Durham, the home of the pre-war Nazi supporter, Lord Londonderry.
Written in confidence and with no eye for publication, or as part of a Mass Observation project, these unique letters challenge some of the received truths about the period.
The story of how they came into the public domain, and the story of tracking Len down is told in the Background to Len:Our Ownest Darling Girl, online now at