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Part 1: Roger
Ask any historian of British naval history about the late Rear Admiral Sir John Ambrose ‘Bull’ Bullamore, DSC, and they will tell you he is a legend: a ruddy-faced, pugnacious, larger-than-life character, the son of a humble provincial tailor who rose through the ranks due to a combination of superb tactical awareness, daring and courage in confronting the enemy, and indefatigable determination. I can tell you another story, however: he was an absolute brute, a raging, vicious bully who loved nothing better than scalding, belittling and generally terrorising anyone over whom he had influence of power. That included not only the men unfortunate enough to serve under his command, but also his family, and in particular me, his youngest daughter.
My name’s Sandra; well, actually it’s Alexandra, after the fabled Macedonian warrior king who was my father’s hero. My parents had had two daughters by 1911, and when my mother, already 36 years old, fell pregnant again in the summer of 1920 father anxiously awaited the son he craved to carry on the family name, and follow him into Dartmouth Naval College and the Senior Service of the Empire’s armed forces. Then I came along. He never forgave me for being a girl, and throughout his life he insisted on calling me Alex, when he ever called me anything other than bloody stupid and a waste of space. He never missed an opportunity to put me down, constantly telling me how ignorant I was, how useless, clumsy and lacking in grace. He frequently compared me unfavourably to my elder sisters after they left home, those two paragons of virtue who showed the good sense to get out as soon as they could, both marrying professional men and settling in England, far away from whatever Mediterranean ports my father happened to be posted to.
I have only the vaguest memories of my mother: a thin insipid woman who seemed to live her life in monochrome compared to the Technicolor ogre that was my father. I never received any comfort or support from her in the face of his tirades; she used to simply fade into the background, like the shadow on a wall of somebody who was absent from the room. She died (in Alexandria, ironically) when I was 11, due to liver failure brought on by chronic alcoholism, her only escape, I later came to realise, from life with her beast of a husband.
I wasn’t stupid, or any of the other things my father called me. On the contrary, I am highly intelligent, widely read, and any girlish awkwardness on my part was simply due to a deep-rooted lack of self confidence, hardly surprising in the face of the constant undermining to which I was subjected. I certainly wasn’t graceful, being cast from the same mould as my father, below average height (five-feet-two in my case) and solidly built – strong and naturally athletic, never fat, though by age 16 my chest did require a D cup. But I was pretty, with piercing blue eyes, curly chestnut hair which I wore quite short, a snub nose decorated with freckles and a rounded dimpled chin. I also had shapely, muscular legs that looked good in a pair of shorts.
Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent at my slightly inferior boarding school on the rolling green Sussex Downs. I used to dread going home during the holidays, and prayed that reasons might be found for me to stay in England, perhaps with one of my sisters, though it never happened. Even though my father was in active service his patrols around the Med rarely lasted more than a day or two, so there was little respite for me.
A few years after mother’s death my father developed a heart condition, and was retired from active duty to a desk job in Malta. He loathed his new role, and naturally I bore the brunt of his disappointment. I had hoped to stay in school until I was 18, and then go straight into employment, or perhaps to college, but it wasn’t to be. At 16 I was withdrawn, to be my father’s ‘helpmate’. So, against my will, I settled into a cowed life in dry, dusty, flat, clay-coloured Malta, in a house in Sliema with a view across Marsamxett Harbour to the skyline of Valletta. My only allies were a rotund Maltese cook cum housekeeper, Carmela, who despised my father, and her daughter, a nervous little thing a few years my senior who acted as our maid and scuttled around the place trying not to get into trouble.
For want of something to do with myself during the day I enrolled at secretarial college in Valletta. In the evenings when my father returned from his office I would mix him a G and T and try to be polite in the face of his rudeness. I was rarely allowed out in the evenings with my friends, and I would retire to bed as early as seemed reasonable and spend hours reading English classics – Darwin, Austen, Wilkie Collins and the like – or dream of some handsome cavalry officer riding along and sweeping me up onto his charger to rescue me from my plight.
On days when I wasn’t at college I would either sit on the terrace overlooking the garden, reading and dodging the fearsome heat of the canlı bahis day, or hike or bicycle around the peaceful, crime-free island which was now my home. On Sundays there was usually some military social event or other which I was required to attend with father. Despite his age and his weakened arteries he loved playing tennis at the United Services Club, and I was forced to act as his doubles partner. He played as aggressively as he lived the rest of his life, and thought nothing of roaring his disapproval on-court at any error or weakness on my part, as our embarrassed opponents stood awkwardly pretending not to notice. Naturally I hated the game, and swore that at the first opportunity I would burn my racquet and never pick up another.
My life began to change for the better in 1939, after I turned 18. I had started working as a clerk for a branch of the Navy in Valletta, and as the looming crisis in Europe deepened father, as a military man, naturally became engrossed in it, enabling me to steal a little more freedom. At a dance in Sliema one evening I met the man who seemed to offer me hope of salvation from my situation. His name was George Mitchenor, and he was a 21-year old lieutenant with the Devonshire Regiment, newly posted to Malta. He seemed rather immature – I shuddered to think of him commanding a force of fighting men – but he was good looking, slim, tall and blond, a good dancer, a nice kisser, and he could make me laugh. Just before our third date Britain declared war on Germany. That evening, as we left a cinema in Valletta, George suddenly turned to me and asked me to marry him. I instantly consented; to be honest I think I would have said yes to almost any man who had offered me an escape route from my situation. Besides, with the turmoil of impending war, who knew what the future held?
George produced from his pocket a ring set with the tiniest diamond imaginable, and tried to push it onto my finger. Terrified of the reaction at home I told him my father was at sea on manoeuvres, and persuaded him we must keep our engagement a secret until we had been able to seek father’s permission. After that I wore the ring under my clothes, on a silver chain around my neck. Perhaps fortunately, before things George could become impatient at the delay in formalising our arrangement, the Devons were posted to the other side of Malta, and I saw little of him for some time after that. My life became rather more humdrum, but I had his ring, the occasional letter and my dreams of the future.
Life in Sliema and Valletta was still quite vibrant at that time. Though war had been declared, nothing was actually happening, and many people were convinced, or at least hoped, that it could still all blow over. The social whirl continued, and it was at an early Christmas party at the United Services Club one evening in December that my life changed forever.
I had attended with my father and was expecting a rather dull affair. In fact, the champagne was flowing freely and as father settled down with a few of his cronies to refight the Battle of Jutland over a bottle of pink gin I was able to slip my leash. A very polite young naval Sub-Lieutenant asked me to dance, and I was having a good time with him when I heard a cultured baritone voice ask, “Excuse me old man, do you mind if I cut in?”
The interloper was Commander Roger Ransome, and without waiting for an answer he gently disengaged me from his subordinate and whisked me breathlessly across the floor. Roger was one of the best known British officers in Malta. In his mid-40s, very dashing in his naval uniform, tall and blessed with the chiselled (though clean shaven) good looks of a Ronald Colman or Robert Donat, he was much admired by the ladies of the military community. He was, however, also solidly married to the beautiful aristocratic blonde daughter of a former Minister of War. A regular tennis opponent of my father’s, he had always been very kind to me in a teasing, avuncular sort of way, and, truth be told, I had a bit of a crush on him.
I felt flushed with pleasure at Roger wanting to dance with me, giving me his best movie star smile and leaning his lips close to my ear to make jokey little observations about other people at the party. We stayed together for the next dance too, a slow number, and I blushed even more deeply as his strong arms wrapped around me, a warm hand resting on the bare flesh of my upper back, exposed by the halter-neck dress I was wearing in the face of my father’s disapproval. Without really meaning to I rested my head on Roger’s chest, bringing our bodies into even closer contact. As the music finished he stepped back from me then said, “Whew, I don’t know about you but I could do with a breath of fresh air after that!” I was feeling a little hot and bothered – though more from champagne and Roger’s presence than from the effort of dancing – and gladly took the hand he held out to me to lead me through a set of French doors into the grounds of the club.
It was a lovely evening, bahis siteleri warm for the time of year, and we strolled, chatting about this and that, still hand in hand, along a path lined by Chinese lanterns towards a pergola near the tennis courts I so hated. I thought nothing of it when Roger guided me into the darkness of the wooden structure. But then his mood seemed to change. He steered me into a corner by an unglazed window and, looming over me, his arms either side of me as his hands rested against the walls, he said, “You know Sandie (only he ever called me that), Marjorie tries to be a good wife and mother, but she really doesn’t understand me.” Naive little fool that I was, I felt a flood of sympathy for him – I had always regarded his wife as rather snooty. Leaning his face to within a few inches of mine, he continued in a husky half-whisper, “You understand me though, don’t you Sandie? I think you and I understand each other perfectly.”
Before I could respond one of his big hands dropped from the wall and, to my utter disbelief, dived down my dress and into my bra, curling round the flesh of my breast. I could barely see his face in the darkness, but he chuckled, “Mmm, what a lovely big booby you have in there”. Then his lips pressed roughly to mine, forcing my head back against the wooden wall of the pergola, his tongue surging into my mouth, agape with shock as it was.
I tried to fight him off, pressing my hands to his chest, but he was so much stronger than me. I felt his other hand slip inside my dress and the fastener behind my neck popped open, only the pressure of Roger’s body on mine preventing the bodice falling to my waist. I managed to drag my face from his and gasped, “Please Roger, stop, don’t.”
He disregarded my plea, mashing his lips to mine again, his tongue raking deep into my mouth. Between kisses he rasped, “Come off it you little minx, you know you want it as much as I do, I’ve seen the way you look at me.”
I couldn’t deny that I had occasionally allowed myself silly romantic fantasies about Roger, but my chaste girlish daydreams were a million miles from what was happening in that pergola. I was horrified at the turn of events, and felt powerless to prevent them; my heart thundered and tears sprang to my eyes. Yet, terrified as I was, as one of Roger’s hands squeezed my right breast quite painfully, the finger and thumb of the other hand rolling my left nipple, bizarrely my sensitive nips tingled as they swelled to his touch, and I could feel my quim twitching with sexual anticipation.
One of his hands left my chest and I felt him pulling up the front of my dress. Openly crying by then I scrabbled feebly at his wrist but he shook off my hands. I tried to clamp my legs closed but Roger pushed a thigh between them, then his hand took hold of the waistband of my panties and he dragged them part way down my legs. I felt an electric shock shoot through my entire body as he thrust several fingers into my exposed cunnie, grunting “Mm, nice” into my mouth.
My legs momentarily gave way and Roger quickly took advantage. Slipping both his hands onto my hips beneath my dress he lifted me into a semi-seated position on the sill of the adjacent window, causing the bodice of my dress to drop, exposing my bra. He forced my knees apart, causing the bunched material of my panties to cut into my lower thighs. He wrenched them roughly off me then moved between my legs. A moment later I felt a heavy pressure on my cunnie then I yelped at a sharp pain as he rammed his erect cock into me.
Despite my fear and revulsion at what Roger was doing to me, I felt a warm glow of arousal radiating from my cunnie into my belly and upwards. Initially I had placed my hands on his shoulders, partly to maintain balance and partly still trying to repel him. But as the flush reached my face, throwing my mind into turmoil, my arms of their own accord slipped around his neck, pulling him towards me. Then, as suddenly as his assault on me had started, it ended. After a loud groan and a huge final thrust Roger stepped back and began to button his fly, as I slumped dazedly to the floor. The whole thing, his penetration of me, couldn’t have lasted more than about 15 seconds. Half turning away from me he casually lit a cigarette then muttered, “Probably in both our best interests if nobody finds out about this, old thing.” And with that he sauntered out of the pergola and back towards the house.
God, I haven’t thought about that night in years. A lot of girls want to remember the time they lost their virginity for the rest of their lives; it took me a very long time to banish the thought of it from my mind.
It took a minute or so for my brain to register what had just happened: I had been raped by a man old enough to be my father, a cultured, respectable family man who I had liked and trusted. I’m not how long I sat there, flopped against the wall like a discarded rag doll, the evening breeze carrying the faint sound of music from the party, and the occasional bahis şirketleri high-pitched laugh or the clink of glass on glass. Finally I came to my senses enough to hunt around on the dark floor for my discarded panties, straighten out my dress and return to the Club house.
I passed zombie-like through the party, looking neither to left nor right, heading for the lavatory. The moment I got there I pitched over a hand basin and threw up everything in my stomach, and more until I was dry heaving, tears streaming down my face. An officer’s wife I knew slightly had observed my return and entered the room to see if I was all right. On finding me dishevelled and sobbing my heart out she asked no questions and simply helped me tidy myself up then called a taxi, kindly insisting on accompanying me to my home. I’m sure she understood the nature of my distress, however, because her last words to me as I exited the cab were “My dear, if this is a police matter you need to speak to them as soon as possible.” I lay wide awake in bed the whole night, crying, carefully feeling my bruised and tender quim, and trying to banish visions of a dark silhouette looming above me, his hot breath rasping on my face as he violated me. I arose the next morning with a splitting headache, my throat and belly sore from the vomiting, my body aching, and facing a tirade from my father for leaving the party without his permission.
Part 2: Midge
It was another two nights until I had a good night’s sleep, from sheer exhaustion, and probably a week before I began to return to something like my old self. I didn’t contact the police, civilian or military. There was no point: it would by my word against Roger’s, and even if I was believed, which was unlikely, he was simply too popular, and too well connected, for anything to come of it. I would simply be dismissed as a silly little trollop who’d got herself into trouble and was trying to besmirch the character of an innocent man, and my reputation would be destroyed into the bargain.
By mid-February, though, I knew I was going to have to do something. When my period failed to appear for a second successive month I could no longer dismiss it, and the bouts of sickness I’d started to experience, as a result of emotional stress. I couldn’t possibly see our family doctor, a naval friend of my father, so I sat for three hours in the dismal waiting room of a Maltese doctor in Floriana until he had finished his normal surgery. As I knew he would, he confirmed my condition as the early stages of pregnancy.
I was distraught, with no idea what to do. My father, I thought, would kill me, possibly quite literally, when he found out, and as a single girl I would be regarded by all who knew me with contempt. And, of course, my fiancé, George, would have to be told. I had heard stories of women getting rid of babies illegally in back street clinics, but I’d also heard horror stories of how many of them died in the process, and even if I wanted to risk it I would have no idea how to arrange it. A single clear thought occurred to me. I decided to confront Roger. It was he who had got me into this mess, and he would know what to do. It was stupid, I know, God knows what I expected him to say, but the following afternoon I left work as early as I could and hurried the short distance to his office.
To my immense surprise Roger immediately agreed to see me. He showed me into his office with a broad smile, and I realised he must think I was going to offer to become his mistress. I had intended to be very cool and mature about the whole thing; in the event I blurted it out then buried my head in my face and sobbing. He remained silent until I had calmed down a little then, without a word to me, pressed the intercom on his desk and asked his secretary to come in. She was a Wren (a uniformed member of the newly-formed Women’s Royal Naval Service), aged around 30. Standing glaring behind his desk, Roger nodded towards her then snapped at me, “Now, tell Ros what you just said to me.” I was confused and upset, and I started crying again. With steel in his voice, Roger turned to Ros and growled, “This stupid little slut had got herself into the family way, and is threatening to claim I am the father.” Turning back to me, he continued, “How dare you come here and try to blackmail me like this? If you go around telling people these sort of lies you’ll get into serious trouble. And if this fantasy of your gets back to Mrs Ransome, you’ll have me to answer to, my girl. Now, what do you have to say for yourself?”
I stared at him in astonishment, incapable of speech. After a moment he gave a huge dramatic sigh and, turning to Ros, said wearily, “Get her out of my sight.” She helped me to my feet and, an arm draped around my heaving shoulders, led me from the room. Before the door closed Roger called after me, “And just think yourself lucky that I’m not telling your father about this.”
Ros sat me in a chair and, gently stroking my shoulder, muttered, “God, he is such a bastard!” She said it so fiercely that I couldn’t help wondering whether she had been another of Roger’s victims. After a moment she stalked around her desk, pulled on her jacket, and said, “Come on, I’ll buy you a cup of tea.”
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