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Military] Try, Joyce.



[Military] Try, Joyce. WWII Correspondence Archive. 1943-46.
A voluminous trove of correspondence by Sgt. Joyce Try, ATS - Auxiliary Territorial Service - British Army Staff, Washington, DC; with related material.
93 Autograph letters signed and 15 Typed letters signed (all "Joyce") to her parents, describing her ATS career in Washington; over five hundred pages. With 18 Victory Mails and Airgraphs, letters, photographs, circulars and issues of the ATS magazine Washington Attery. The letters date from 10 January 1943 to 17 March 1946; most are addressed from "W/255152 Sgt. J. Try (ATS), c/o B.A.S., Washington DC." In a home-made cloth folder, with the front embroidered with flowers and "RADIO TIMES."
Together with:
Washington Attery. Issues 1, 2, 4, 5. A mimeographed A4 magazine which appeared between May and September 1945. Each is stapled within blue printed wraps (the four issues containing a total of 63 pp.), with the title surrounding the ATS badge, and containing the usual mix of jokes, cartoons, letters and stories. These copies of the magazine are scarce - perhaps unique - survivals, with no others listed on either COPAC or WorldCat.
The letters are in different formats, and usually written over several leaves (the longest is twelve pages) with the entire collection covering over five hundred pages. The correspondence is addressed to Try's parents Mr. and Mrs. Frank Try of Letchworth, Hertfordshire. (Two items in the collection are addressed to "F. Try Esq., Ministry of Aircraft Production, AEDEP3, Thames House, Millbank, London, S.W.1," and one of his daughter's letters refers to his "programmes" and "procedure" being in use in America.)
An interesting and informative correspondence, written from the perspective of an intelligent, educated, serious, middle-class Englishwoman, and casting valuable light on the social history of women in the British Army in the Second World War in a hitherto little-explored sphere of activity. The intimate nature of the letters, and the fact that they are written within a few days of one another, gives the correspondence the feel of a diary. The experiences and incidents described are generally mundane (gossip, parties and social activities, leave time) but the correspondence as a whole constitutes a complete and rounded description of Try's American career.
The first couple of letters describe Try's application to serve overseas, made while still a private at Greenford. Of her initial interview she reports that 'Mrs. Baylis, the Staff Controller whome [sic] Capt. Ryder contacts here, was at our interviews, and told one of the Corporals that she would willingly take down her 3 pips tomorrow i[f] she had the opportunity to go to America. [...] the Staff Sergeant is tearing her hair with envy, she could not volunteer as she was married only a few months ago and her husband would not hear of it.' At the interview she is asked 'the same old things: - experience in Civvie Street & the A.T.S., age, whether I was anxious to go to Washington!!! [last word underlined three times] What do you think Chums.' From a holding unit in a 'grand block of flats' in central London she boards a transport for America (giving a description of 'our first breakfast consisting of 4 courses'). On arrival she describes her impressions of New York ('just like being in fairyland'), where she has an ice cream soda on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building with two female American Marines. She continues: 'So much for living - now getting down to business. I have just finished my first day at the office, and if all goes well I should have a very interesting job, nothing whatever to do with my previous A.T.S. experience but one which I think I shall pick up quite easily. I'm working for a most charming Lt. Col. who was at France at the beginning of the war & has so much more experience than the usual Staff Officer. It (the job) consist mostly of statistics, and the little I knew of the progressing of your programmes Father helps a lot, besides other of your procedure which is in operation over here.
'The letters soon fall into a pattern of description of day-to-day events reflecting the culture clash between Britain and America. (There is, for example, a long description, with diagram, of a bowling match.) A representative passage (from letter of 15 May 1944): 'I have had to work until 7-7 30 pm at the office since I took over my new job (did I tell you by the way that Jup has told me the second stripe is coming?). One of the Sergeants has been to Montreal on business & Vera is on leave, so we have had lots of extra work to do, [...] Last week one of the ATS offices phoned Nan & Jup & asked us if we had not got anything fixed for Sunday evening would we like to go to dinner at 7 pm on "home hospitality", [...] I have never seen such a gorgeous house in all my life. The lady was a Mrs Lehman & her married daughter. We had cocktails & appetisers in the garden. There were 2 SPARS (American female Coast Guards) & two American sgts & 2 French sailors.' A description of 'the food' follows.
Try's orderly mind is revealed in a letter of 7 February 1945, in which she gives full answers to five questions: 'Did I receive the parcel containing silk undies and wool square etc?,' 'Did I receive flowers for Xmas?,' 'Have I done any singing?,' 'Do I go to many dances?' and 'Is there anything I want?' Letter of 17 December 1945 describes a broadcast home, beginning: 'Well, the little ordeal is over! This afternoon 21 of us trooped up to the microphone to send our individual message home. After two hours rehearsing, the final recording only took 28 mins, but I do hope you managed to pick it up alright. I cabled you the broadcasting details tonight, directly the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation let us know.' Also includes four telegrams from Try, and one letter apiece from her to 'Cedric' and 'Auntie Louie." To the former she writes: 'The food Cedric, is out of this world, but "believe you me" Americans do not know how to drink, [...] The best drink, when obtainable, is good old "Scotch" or London Dry Gin (my favourite), both British products and still as good as ever. | I've become frightfully patriotic since being over here. [...] Sometimes I pinch myself to find out whether this is all really true, and realise how fortunate I have been, and at others times I become terribly homesick." Also a TLS (A4, 3 pp; 14 August 1946; on BJSM, OCCS, Washington letterhead; and headed 'Ops. and Intelligence') to Try from 'Audrey' giving news of her former colleagues activities since she has left the army. Also 37 small original photographs of Try and her friends, and of American sights and other subjects, several docketed by Try on the reverse. Also a larger photograph of what appears to be the entire British Army Staff in Washington, and another of 'Nancy - my great pal' posing with Gracie Fields at her table at the Waldorf Astoria, taken in New York in March 1944, with a long explanation on the reverse. Also a magazine article ('Illustrated,' 21 October 1944) titled 'Yes, this is the army, Mrs. Jones!,' with numerous photographs, describing the activities of the ATS in Washington, and with one picture, showing a drill march by ATs in front of the White House, featuring an indication by Try of her place in the group. Also 'a pamphlet prepared by Q.M.G. Staff, North America, July 1942, titled 'Some notes for British Military Personnel proceeding to North America."

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