Friday, August 02, 2013

"He Threatened to Shoot Me..."

Only picture that exists of Sophie with Eliott-Lynn
Discovered this account of Lady Heath's first marriage to William Davies Eliott-Lynn in a 1927 article called "Why England OKs the Woman Flyer". Fascinating stuff - and not entirely consistent with the facts.
Yes - in April 1917, he left her for Africa only months after they married in November 1916; the alternative was returning to the trenches in France. She then volunteered herself. She was aged 20 not 17 as she says when she married him.
She made two trips to Africa while still married: the first one was late in 1922 when she was based in Pangani, Tanganyika. She arrived back in England  in March 1923.
Later that year, in October, she again travelled to East Africa, sailing from Amsterdam. In February, she headed back to England and started divorce proceedings.  Eliott-Lynn, who since 1918 had suffered periodically from malaria, followed her back to England; in February 1925, she was granted a divorce on the grounds of his adultery.
Her accusation that her aunts "fixed her up" with Eliott-Lynn does explain the very familiar tone of the letter to Aunt Cis written by Elliott-Lynn  in which he despairs of her ability to manage money.
Eliott-Lynn, who had remarried in 1925, died in 1927. On May 1, he was "found dead" in the river Thames off the Chelsea Embankment.

Here's the article; see what you think: 

"We were married and stayed together – one day! He left me and returned to Africa where he had spent most of his life. After three years of struggle, I had saved up enough to follow him and I sailed for East Africa, found him and suggested starting life together afresh. We tried it. I spent a year with him.
"At the end of the year, he threatened to shoot me unless I left within 24 hours. We were in the heart of Africa. There were 40 miles of jungle between ourselves and the nearest town. And I was at the mercy of a man who had lived too long in the tropics to be quite sane!
"I think that journey alone in the jungle gave me the courage to face any fresh ordeal. Nothing could scare me once I had come through that. Eventually I secured a divorce – not until I had almost starved and had worked and lived on less than $5 a week that I earned as a filing clerk.
"Both my parents had died before I can remember. I was brought up by two very strict aunts. Good souls, no doubt they thought they were doing right to marry me off to Mr Eliott Lynn when I was 17 (note: she was 20).
"When I was free I was earning a very modest living indeed and I was on the lookout for something to improve my finances. It so happened that I had always been connected with athletics and, one year, I was chosen to represent English women athletes at a convention abroad. To save time, I flew.
"No sooner did the machine soar than my spirits rose with it. I felt that I never wanted to get out of the airplane. I found out from my two fellow passengers how I could learn and my mind was made up before we reached the convention.
"Since then, I have had many adventures in the air. I have crashed five times you know. Five times and still sound in wind and limb! As a matter of fact, crashing is not the terrible thing that it is made out to be. If you really understand flying, there is always something you can do to save yourself. You need never be hurt because you crash.”

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