The Mitchells up until 1924 - part 2

When the war came in 1914, David volunteered immediately, and became a captain in the RAMC, at first with ambulances drawn by draught-horses, and then ( a great modernisation ) with motor ambulances. ( Letter from France dated 23/1/1916) He was in a forward first-aid post during the battle of the Somme, and had a dug-out with two sets of trestles. A wounded man would be brought in on a stretcher and put on one set of trestles; while he was dealing with that casualty, another would be brought in and put on the other set of trestles; by the time he'd dealt with that, the first trestles would be occupied by yet another severely wounded man - and so on. He went back and forth like this for twenty-four hours solid, with only the occasional ten minutes quick nap. 

After the war, he came back and resumed his practice, and developed a great interest and skill in general surgery. In 1918, he advertised for a dispenser, and his advertisement was answered by a pretty 19-year-old called Irene Link. Dispenser and doctor became very close, then fell in love, and in 1920 they married.     

My mother's paternal grandfather was of German descent. He had set up in business in London in the early part of the nineteenth century, importing tea, and prospered greatly. His son, Tom Link,, therefore inherited a considerable family fortune. My mother's other grandfather was George Daniel, a Welsh business-man. He sent his daughter Ann away to school, which gave her an upper-class and extravagant view of life, rather at variance with her more sober Welsh cousins. This somewhat flighty girl then married Tom Link, the rich young tea-importer, and the young couple proceeded to live a high and extravagant life of nineties luxury -- the best of everything, whatever the cost. They might have got away with it, except that Tom was also a backer of bad horses; he lost an enormous amount of money at the races, and what with one thing and another, the money ran out. In 1904, Tom left Ann with four children; he went to Canada, and never came back. A year or two later, a pile of his clothes was found near a lake, and it was assumed that he had drowned. But, as he was an excellent swimmer, Ann for years afterwards thought it was a fake disappearance.

Meanwhile she was left, with no money, and four children --- Geoffrey, John, Dudley, and Irene (my mother, born 1899 ). Ann had to drastically reform her life-style. She moved to a small house in Croydon; and she kept the boys with her. But she could not afford to look after all the children, and so she had to eat humble pie and call upon her sober Welsh cousins to help her out. One second cousin came to the rescue. Sidney Daniel, and his wife Cicely, ran a grocery shop in Abersychan. They had no children, and decided that they would look after the little five-year-old Irene. So she went to live with them, and grew up there. They looked after her with great loving care, and became in fact the steady parental influence in her life. She went away to school, at Burnham on Sea, and visited her mother and brothers frequently; but always regarded home as being with Uncle Sid and Auntie Cis in Abersychan.      

Irene Link

And so, at the age of nineteen, she applied for a job as dispenser in the Surgery of Dr. David Mitchell, aged thirty-seven. His first impression of her was a pretty, lively nineteen-year-old. Her impression of him -- a rather stern, soberly dressed man, with dark eyes, an aquiline nose, and stiff black hair, but with a distinct twinkle in his eye. They got on famously together; she was inquisitive, curious, anxious and happy to learn; and he was well-read, experienced, given to quoting poetry which he knew by heart -- and happy to teach. With hindsight, it can be seen as a father-figure to daughter relationship at first. But then, her natural gaiety and joie-de-vivre began to invade his cautious Scottish sobriety, so that the learning process was certainly not all one-way. He added to her knowledge and appreciation; she added to his life a lighter-hearted enjoyment. Until he met her, he had as a routine always worn a black tie, in keeping with his professional image. She it was who bought him his first coloured tie, just to brighten him up.

Next Page