John and Cis Mungle
John Mungle was born in 1891 in the Bank House, West Calder, the son and grandson of the village’s bank agents. Like his father and grandfather before him, John seemed destined for a career in banking, and was working for the Commercial Bank in Edinburgh when war broke out. Since he was also a territorial army soldier, he was immediately called up into the 1/10th Royal Scots, and later transferred into the 2/8th Warwickshire Regiment.
John Mungle’s younger sister Elizabeth (Cis), born in 1895, was already training as a nurse when the war broke out. She joined the Territorial Force Nursing Service during the War, and became a staff nurse. In fact, she took great pride in the fact that she arrived in France before her brother! According to family history, she nursed at Abbeville and on ambulance trains. The brother and sister met briefly while Jack was on a training course in Boulogne in 1916.
John Mungle kept a diary of his war service in a tiny notebook; it is succinct, dry and factual. Three months after arriving in France he won the Military Cross (MC). Here’s how he recorded it:
Came back to billets on the 19th [August 1916] – to be informed by the colonel that I had to do a raid on the Bosch on the night of the 24th.
20th-24th very busy practising the stunt, Raid fairly successful, nearly done in by a Bosch patrol, piece of bomb got me behind the ear, nothing much. (5 killed – 8 wounded) all brought in.
And at a later date, he scribbled 'Got the MC'. The award prompted a letter of congratulation from his father, on which John wrote, 'The only letter I have ever received from Father'.
He finished the war a major, and at the end of the war, served for a time in Palestine, and there are photographs of him in exotic places in the Middle East.
Perhaps both brother and sister were unsettled by the war, for rather than return to the routine lives in West Calder that previous generations had mapped out for them, they both chose to go and live in Africa. At the end of the war Cis married Joe Humphrey whom she’d nursed as a patient, and they settled in Nyasaland (now Malawi). Major John Mungle led the parade at the dedication of West Calder war memorial in 1921, then departed for Zimbabwe to grow tobacco. He married and later had a successful sugar farm in Natal. His son and daughter found him aloof and uncommunicative. It was only with the discovery of his war diary after his death, that his daughter began to understand the effect that the war must have had on his mindset and character.
John Mungle's daughter allowed the West Lothian Local History Library to copy the diary and other papers and photographs relating to John and Cis Mungle. These can be seen in the Library at 89-91 High Street, Linlithgow. The original diary is held by West Lothian Museums - firstname.lastname@example.org.
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