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War Baby

Posted by on February 14, 2014

Diana Worsley aged 2 on her mother's knee. 1916

Diana Worsley aged 2 on her mother’s knee. 1916

My mother-in-law, Diana Gutch [nee Worsley], who died three months ago would have celebrated her 100th birthday on 26th February 2014.It used to amuse her to call herself a ‘War Baby’, although she was born six months before the outbreak of the first World War. However,her early life was greatly affected by the events in Europe. She was the second child of her parents, Evelyn Worsley and his wife Katherine [nee Rashleigh]. Evelyn was a schoolmaster who ran his own preparatory school in Hillingdon, then a rural area to the north-west of London, where the family lived.By 1916, Evelyn, then in his 30s, had joined up. The photo shows him in his army uniform with his wife and two young daughters. Diana is on her mother’s knee.The fact that they are sitting on drawing room chairs outside and the girls are wearing light summer dresses indicates that it was taken in the spring or early summer.The sad expression in Evelyn’s eyes may suggest that this picture was taken on leave prior to his embarkation for the battlefields of France.He was killed on the Somme in late summer 1916, so Diana never remembered her father.
In spite of this early family tragedy, Diana did have a happy childhood.
Her mother married again, and her second husband was a Vicar who had been left a widower with six children.It turned out to be a very happy marriage, and the couple went on to have four more children together, the offspring of the household being known affectionately as ‘ his, hers and theirs’. So Diana was brought up in the middle of a large and lively family. Fortunately, although a vicar’s stipend was small, the vicarages were usually large [if rather draughty] with big gardens for the children to play in. The older children were almost grown -up and already starting to move away when the little ones arrived. Higher education was reserved for the three boys. The girls went to school until 16 and then it was expected they would wait a few years until they married and had families of their own. Diana worked briefly as a nanny/au pair in France in the 30s but mainly helped her mother at home with the younger children.
In 1938 John Gutch came home on leave from his work as a colonial administrator in Jerusalem which was under British mandate at the time.Aged 33, he thought is was time to find a wife and had a list of three ‘possibilities’from among family acquaintances and friends.When he contacted the first, he was told she was already married. From the second he received no reply, so he wrote to Diana asking if they could meet.He was delighted when she replied that she would like to see him again , and no, she was not married or engaged.[They had in fact met years earlier at a May Ball while John was at Cambridge, when Diana was 17.] Not long after, he proposed to her and they became engaged.He had only a couple of months leave, so the wedding had to be arranged very speedily.They were married in early August 1938 and returned to Jerusalem, via Venice where they spent part of their honeymoon at the Hotel Danielli.It was the start of a long and very happy marriage.
But within a short time, another war loomed.

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