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John_Hartley

Promiscuous WAACs?

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear All,

Promiscuous? It takes two to Tango!

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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Ron Clifton

I read "promiscuous" to mean "indulging in intercourse with a number of different men" and it would be harsh to include those who had either a single non-marital relationship or a relatively short and discrete (yes, I mean discrete, not discreet) series of monogamous relationships. There are many stories of wounded soldiers, particularly officers, marrying one of the women who nursed them.

 

I have quoted previously on the Forum the advice not to release male and female pigeons at the same time, as they tended not to fly straight home, "pigeon nature being similar to human nature in that respect" (Priestley).

 

Ron

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303man

Newspapers in Britain began publishing stories claiming that the WAAC in 
France were becoming too friendly with the soldiers and large numbers were 
being sent home because they were pregnant. A senior member of the WAAC, 
Miss Tennyson Jesse, was asked to carry out an official investigation into 
these stories. In her report, Tennyson Jesse pointed out that between Mar 
1917 to Feb 1918, of the 6,000 WAACs in France, only 21 became pregnant. 
Tennyson Jesse argued that this was a lower-rate than in most British 
villages. Tennyson Jesse also proudly pointed out that of all the women 
serving in France only 37 had been sent home for incompetence or lack of 
discipline.


 

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MBrockway
5 hours ago, 303man said:

Newspapers in Britain began publishing stories claiming that the WAAC in 
France were becoming too friendly with the soldiers and large numbers were 
being sent home because they were pregnant. A senior member of the WAAC, 
Miss Tennyson Jesse, was asked to carry out an official investigation into 
these stories. In her report, Tennyson Jesse pointed out that between Mar 
1917 to Feb 1918, of the 6,000 WAACs in France, only 21 became pregnant. 
Tennyson Jesse argued that this was a lower-rate than in most British 
villages. Tennyson Jesse also proudly pointed out that of all the women 
serving in France only 37 had been sent home for incompetence or lack of 
discipline.


 

 

Fryn Tennyson Jesse was a novelist and playwright who worked as a journalist during the Great War for, inter alia, The Times, The Daily Mail and the Ministry of Information.

 

She married sometime in 1918 and became Mrs H.M. Harwood, though she continued to write under Tennyson Jesse.

 

I cannot find any reference to her being appointed to a senior post in the WAAC in the London Gazette.  Such senior WAAC posts were listed.  The only suggestion she was a senior member in the WAAC was this website, which includes the text above verbatim.  I suspect this website has confused Tennyson Jesse reporting on the issue with membership of Women's Commission appointed by the Minister of Labour to investigate the rumours of promiscuity in March 1918.

 

Here is The Times describing the published report of the Women's Commission on Monday 15 April 1918 ...

1699752579_WAACsSlandered01TheTimesMon15Apr1918p.4.jpg.d980383f8ccaa51407bf41049f8e6858.jpg

1449445170_WAACsSlandered02TheTimesMon15Apr1918p.4.jpg.bfe520f8abbb39763159c34a51475c1c.jpg

2025404971_WAACsSlandered03TheTimesMon15Apr1918p.4.jpg.0cd0a4200757cff0c3d4625ec0a770bc.jpg

647821105_WAACsSlandered04TheTimesMon15Apr1918p.4.jpg.bc5a3d9bc629e49ea2a75f58ec568459.jpg

1424820458_WAACsSlandered05TheTimesMon15Apr1918p.4.jpg.c4eec225f795021af090d82c28151532.jpg

124815027_WAACsSlandered06TheTimesMon15Apr1918p.4.jpg.fc9601a59620faeaf93c2825b943c1f5.jpg

[Source: The Times, Mon,15 Apr 1918, p.4.  © Times Newspapers Limited]

 

The full text of the Women's Commission report is linked higher up, thanks to Sue taking the time to transcribe it.  See Maureen's Post #48  for a working link to reach Sue's old website.

 

 

 

Mark

 

Edited by MBrockway

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MBrockway

The rumours also raised derision from the male soldiers serving at the Front.

 

This from The Times of Fri 22 Feb 1918 ...

813471833_WAACschampionedbysoldiersTheTimesFri22Feb1918p.3.jpg.070bf7dcd87818f9e1834c43a5045928.jpg

[Source: The Times, Fri 22 Feb 1918, p.3.  © Times Newspapers Limited]

 

The suggestion of German propaganda is interesting.  Reminds one of the Nazi leaflets dropped to British front line troops about newly landed US GIs wooing their sweethearts back in Blighty.

 

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

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MBrockway

Further digging on Fryn Tennyson Jesse reveals she was commissioned to report on the "Women's Army" in France & Flanders by the Ministry of Information in March 1918.

 

The report covered many aspects of women's involvement in the military in theatre and included the FANY and the VADs as well as the WAAC.

 

This was not released for wider circulation until Christmas 1918 and finally published in 1919 under the title The Sword of Deborah: First Hand Impressions of the British Women's Army in France.

 

Chapter 6 covers the Rumours and Realities of the WAAC with pp.50-52 being the most pertinent.

 

The book is available here on the Internet Archive and is definitely relevant to our discussion here.

 

Fryn Tennyson Jesse was definitely not in the WAAC herself.

 

Mark

 

 

 

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Marilyne

Very interesting topic, all!!! 

Thanks for the extra documentation. I have Samantha Philo-Gill's book on the WAAC's in France on my pile (very near to the top) and I wonder what she will make of these assumptions. I'll let you know what I find in the book. 

But it's interesting to see that things have not changed one bit... put men and women together on the same workplace and inevitably there will be rumors of inapropriate behaviour! 

 

M.

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Ghazala

Not a WAAC but a Duchess.  This is an article by Ben MacIntyre in my paper today.   Would anyone care today?

 

The Dirty Duchess of Argyll was ahead of her time

 

Margaret Campbell’s public slut-shaming during her divorce case exposed the hypocrisy of 1960s Britain

 

The teetotal, Jesuit-educated judge Lord Wheatley came close to moral apoplexy in 1963 as he gave his verdict on Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, at the end of what must be the longest, nastiest and most prurient divorce case in British history. The duchess, he declared, was “a highly sexed woman who had ceased to be satisfied with normal relations and had started to indulge in disgusting sexual activities to gratify a debased sexual appetite”.

His findings were based on the duchess’s diary, suggesting that she had committed adultery with 88 men, and Polaroid snaps showing Her Grace, clad only in a string of pearls, giving succour to a man whose face was out of the picture.

The judge had no doubt that he was dealing with an aristocratic strumpet of the first order. “By 1960, she was a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men,” he thundered. “Her attitude to the sanctity of marriage was what moderns would call ‘enlightened’ but which in plain language was wholly immoral.” This brutal character assassination went on for 160 pages; 40,000 words of high indignation.

It was one of the first public slut-shamings in Britain, a combination of new technology, sweaty public fascination and mass-media hype that is grimly familiar in our own age. The story is soon to be turned into a television series as a follow-up to last year’s impeccable A Very English Scandal depicting the Jeremy Thorpe case.

The Argylls’ horrible divorce, coinciding and eliding with the Profumo scandal, seemed to capture a moment when old and new sexual mores came into direct conflict. It was also completely unfair. Some of the “evidence” in her diary was probably falsified, and the diary itself had been stolen from her desk by the vengeful duke with the aid of a locksmith. Some of the men identified in it were her gay friends.

The duchess was haughty, fairly thick and somewhat plain but she clearly had magnetism: her roster of lovers reads like a Who’s Who of postwar Britain, beginning with the actor David Niven, who got her pregnant at the age of 15 while on holiday in the Isle of Wight (and remained her friend for life). It is not the quantity of her lovers that impresses, so much as the quality.

“Go to bed early, and often,” she said, and followed her own advice assiduously with some of the most notable men of her generation, including the entertainers Bob Hope and Maurice Chevalier, Prince Aly Khan, the millionaire aviator Glen Kidston and Prince George, Duke of Kent. She married the American golfer Charles Sweeny, who was charming, and then Ian Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll, who was not; he set out to destroy her reputation when the marriage disintegrated.

Lurid speculation surrounded the “headless man” in the Polaroid, with candidates including cabinet ministers, royalty and film stars, and finally narrowed down to a shortlist that included Churchill’s son-in-law Duncan Sandys, the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr, the Pan Am executive Bill Lyons, Peter Combe, former press officer at the Savoy, and Sigismund von Braun, a former Nazi and brother of the rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. She refused to identify the man in the picture, leading some to suggest, leeringly, that amid all the frantic bedroom traffic, she had simply forgotten.

If Marg of Arg had been a man she would be celebrated as a Casanova or Don Juan, except that unlike the Italian womaniser and the legendary Spanish libertine she slept with people who were interesting, and whom she liked. Her sexual behaviour was probably not much more wide-ranging than many of the women and most of the men of her time and class. But while dukes were expected to have lovers, duchesses were not.

The difference is that this duchess made the mistake of taking, and keeping, a sexual selfie. Polaroid cameras were cutting-edge in 1963, offering the unprecedented opportunity to take an instant, private, intimate photo. Today anyone and everyone could make the same mistake, publish to the world instantly and thoughtlessly, and destroy themselves. The “Dirty Duchess” is a cautionary tale to every teenager with a smartphone.

Her story has passed through distinct phases of misogyny, from furious condemnation of a loose woman, through pity (the weird suggestion that a fall down a lift shaft had turned her into a nymphomaniac), and victimhood as the plaything of manipulative men, to something approaching reality: a woman of robust sexual appetite, broad social reach, astonishing energy and an insouciance that makes her, in the end, rather magnificent. She really didn’t care about all the kerfuffle, and she certainly did not want anyone to feel sorry for her. She deserved PG Wodehouse’s anglicised lyrics to You’re the Top by Cole Porter: You’re the nimble tread of the feet of Fred Astaire/ You’re Mussolini/ You’re Mrs Sweeny/ You’re Camembert.

Yet another author is claiming to have identified the headless man — in a new biography Lyndsy Spence argues that he was Joe Thomas, a Texan millionaire. It is a reflection of how far we have come since 1963 that we no longer care: the faceless man is much less interesting than the unrepentant woman. She was held up for ridicule, but it is those who, like Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone, condemned her as “an affront to a Christian country” who now seem faintly ridiculous.

She died in poverty at the age of 80, a raging snob to the end. Her nursing home served lunch at 12pm. She ate it, stone cold, at 1pm. The duchess had standards.

9BBEF3A6-72C4-4DC8-955C-F208D86538F8.jpeg

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