Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the Archives #13: Pamela G.M, by Florence Gunby Hadath

Dustjacket image courtsey of
Lasting Words Ltd.
Northampton, UK
I was really in the mood for a 'jolly' school story, so I pulled Pamela G.M. off the shelf and reread it. It was published in 1941 and is the fourth book on Hadath’s Pamela series, but the only one I have read and, as far as I know, the only one set during the war.

The story opens sometime after the war has begun, but Miss Grammett’s boarding school for girls’ in the village of Chinbury, England is going to carry on as usual and resist evacuation.

The school has been given a mobile canteen, to be used for driving around to where troops are located and selling them cups of tea and biscuits, along with other necessary items like soap, shoelaces and razor blades. It was assumed that Miss Grammett’s husband would drive the canteen, but he has no interest in doing it. Pamela, a student who has already learned to drive, manages to finagle the necessary documentation allowing her to drive the canteen, even though she is underage.

But this is not just Pamela’s story, and the book skips around and tells of the adventures of different students, which are separate but still connected to each other. Each schoolgirl is given a job to help the war effort and Fanny Gates is made the treasurer of the War Savings Fund. Her job is to collect money from the people for the fund, and her trials of getting money from the other girls are recounted in one chapter. In another chapter, a student is sent to deliver a message to chair of the Chinbury Food Week campaign and manages to capture a German spy. Later, one of the younger students inadvertently ends up taking an airplane ride with a famous woman flyer modeled somewhat on Amy Johnson. Other girls are assigned to do knitting or land work for a neighboring farmer.

All of these chapters are quite humorous and entertaining except for the last one, which is quite serious. Pamela, along with her partner Martha Tydd, are driving around the countryside in their mobile canteen, trying to find out where the soldiers have been relocated, when they hear the sound of airplanes. Soon, they see bombs being dropped on the small village of Combe Edge. As they drive into the village, they see some shops burning and a badly injured woman being carried out to the street. Pamela hears the doctor say the woman must get to the hospital quickly or she will die, but the hospital’s ambulances have already been dispatched and nothing is available to transport her. Pamela tells them she can do it, and has the canteen emptied of everything, including the shelves and tea urns. The woman is laid on the floor of the canteen and Pamela whisks her off, getting to the hospital just in the knick of time. Returning to Combe Edge, they see more bombs falling in that vicinity. Arriving again, they discover that a bomb has fallen on a school and trapped two children and a teacher under the rubble. The rubble can’t be moved without causing further collapse, but there is a small opening. Pamela manages to slip through, and is able to drag the kids out and then help the teacher escape. The book ends with Miss Grammett receiving a letter telling her that Pamela has been elected to receive the George Medal.

The George Medal (pictured left) introduced on September 24, 1940 and was given by the King to citizens in recognition of their acts of bravery during the war and looks like this:

The King is, of course, George VI, whom we are all familiar with now thanks to Colin Firth’s brilliant portrayal of him in The King’s Speech. Curiosity about the George Medal is actually what prompted me to buy this book in the first place.

Like Frank Baum of Oz fame, who had earlier written the Aunt Jane’s Nieces and Mary Louise series under the name of Edith Van Dyne, the Pamela series was actually written by John Edward Gunby Hadath (1871-1954) under the name Florence Gunby Hadath. Hadath had previously written a number of books for boys before embarking on Pamela, all with the same great humor. Hadath’s sense of irony and wit is what I liked most about his writing. He follows a character’s line of thought from beginning to end, as the character rationalizes to him/herself how and why the thing they shouldn’t do can safely and justifiably be done. How many times have we all done that?

The Pamela series is not really readily available, but I am hoping that maybe sometime soon they will be reprinted. But, alas, I doubt that will ever happen, even though Pamela G. M. is, in my opinion, an example of British School Stories at their best, and if you like the Chalet School series, this is definitely one to try.

This story is recommended for readers age 12 and up
This book was purchased for my personal library

This is book 12 of my British Books Challenge hosted by The Bookette
This is book 14 of my Forgotten Treasures Challenge hosted by Retroreduxs Reviews


  1. I love the dust jacket! I’ve never come across this series but the story sounds like ‘my cup of tea’ so I shall be on the look out for a copy.

  2. Beautifully written review, as always, dear friend. I also love the cover. I wish books like this were reissued in covers like Persephone books from England. I'd love to read it.
    Thanks for stopping by; love to see you on my blog! :]


  3. Barbara, I love a good school story.
    And I love the dustjacket on this book but this one is beyond my budget ($148.00) But I am grateful that Sean at Lasting Words LTD allowed me to use their picture. The book w/o a DJ is usually pretty affordable.
    I also like Persephone books and credit you, Deb, for introducing me to them. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for writing such an interesting review. Do you think I'll be able to find books by this author when I go to England next year?

  5. I of course have now added this to my wish list...although not with much hope!

  6. Hope, I am sure if you check the second hand bookshops in London, you will be able to find and expensive copy.

    Charlotte, it might be as hard as it sounds to find this. With patience, I eventually found my copy online for about $5.00.