I got your letter last night thank you so much. You seem certainly to have had rather a strenuous day on Sunday. Isn’t it sickening the weather has been so alarming. I can’t describe the rain and wind yesterday and really last night it didn’t seem possible for the house to stand much longer but today so far is ripping so Wiggs and I are going over to Rye to lunch and down to Cumber if the little trains still go in the winter. I heard from Dreda this morning about Willie being ill, I do hope he’ll be all right for the dance if we manage tickets, anyway I suppose Marjorie and I can go with Topher & Wiggie but we shall be disappointed if so many of us can’t go, sickening for Jane but I really don’t suppose Eric will have gone!
I don’t know whether you’ll be pleased No I don’t suppose for a moment you will be I can’t quite expect it but Wiggs and I have decided that it’s best to be engaged. The unsatisfactory way in which we were going on was NO good, it isn’t all done on the spur of the moment, much thinking has been done & I’m sure it’s best. There are to be no great shoutings about it but anyone who wants to know can, you will I fancy think we are doing right, the other situation was rotten for me but I didn’t want to sort of rush Wiggs into anything so things had to wait. If the dance is off I am going to stay here till Thursday so will you send me a line either here or Dollie’s as that is where I shall be on Wednesday night for the dance, see? Will you give the enclosed to Dreda, I wonder if either of your billets will come back, on wednesday or is the scare sill on. Have a rest when you can I expect you were awfully tired after christmas & it was all rather a rush
Love to all,
your loving Ben
You’ll iron my frock won’t you, the ninon at the top too.
Ben and Wiggs got engaged within weeks of her return from India and when she told her mother she was clearly on the defensive about it and maybe about him. My mother was puzzled by the whole thing: when she edited the letters in the 1980s she asked “who was Wiggs?” and added “there was certainly no ‘shouting’ about the engagement. No one else mentions it.”
Wiggs’ real name was Ivan Bennett and, at 25, he was some 6 years younger than Ben, which may explain her defensiveness and the disapproval she seems to have expected.
Ben certainly knew Wiggs before going to India because she corresponded wiith him with while she was away. She mentions him in a letter in September when he appears to have joined up early but critically:
Wiggs tell me he was inlisting into Kitchener’s 2nd Army, well it obvious the right thing to do, however much against soldiering one is.
She may have been encouraged to go to India in 1913 to get over her feelings for him. In October Paul says:
Re – Ben & Mr Bennett – as you say a rather difficult question – and I must say that I should rather be inclined to let him come back to Delaford, because they will be bound to meet elsewhere & that sort of deception from your point of view I’m sure you dont like. Much better let them more or less carry on openly. It sounds ridiculous I know Wiggie 22 & Ben 28 or whatever her age is, but these days nature does funny things – & I also don’t think Wiggie is worthy of Ben, her due is someone much more perfect- In any case now they won’t have heaps of chances of meeting – I wonder what you have done, because I expect Ben is home by now anyhow! I hope she has arrived safely & is well-
He seems to have been a friend of the family, in November Ted had mentioned Wiggs as a friend of Gertrude’s.
He was clearly accepted by the family, however reluctantly, as we can see in this photograph taken in the spring of 1915, which we can date because of the brothers who were in England at the same time.