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A Family at War - Lord & Lady Dalmeny at The Grange, Bletchley

Forget your Eastenders, or your Coronation Streets, to become really enthralled in a ‘soap’ just take a seat at the Local Studies Centre, Milton Keynes Central Library, where all human life and drama can be found. Not the staff of course, with their calm and professional expertise, but the reels of microfilmed local newspaper archives, which, accessibly stored in filing cabinets, may be readily viewed on the microfiche readers. In fact in this enlightened age, when libraries are ‘service providers,’ and the punters are ‘clients,’ as a further enlightenment coffee (at a price!) is available from a vending machine. All making for a very pleasant environment, in which to spend an hour or two following the weekly paper trail of some developing news story from yesteryear. And so it was in this way that the intriguing drama of Lord and Lady Dalmeny’s marital relations began to unfold, and since the full story is told in a forthcoming book on Bletchley during the First World War, this article deals with the details in brief. In January 1914 The Grange was sold to Lord Dalmeny, who in 1909 had married Dorothy Grosvenor. Yet the family had only been in residence for a week when the First World War broke out, and Lord Dalmeny obtained a staff appointment with General Allenby in France. Meanwhile Lady Dalmeny remained at The Grange, but already their marriage had begun to founder, and on his first leave Lord Dalmeny discovered that when informed of his return his wife left the town, an occurrence she repeated in February 1915. Then in August 1915 came news that Lord Dalmeny had been wounded, but this seemed of little concern to his wife, since the frequency of her letters had not only lessened, but their tone had become colder. Thus in October 1915, when he obtained leave to see her in Paris he asked why she had this attitude, to which she replied she had ceased to care for him, and it was a pity they ever married. In fact she declared she would never live with him again, but nevertheless she continued to reside at The Grange with her children. After further acrimonies, Lord Dalmeny consulted his solicitor, and arrangements were made for the care of the children, since he would be away on military service in Egypt. Lady Dalmeny then took a house in her own name, without consulting him, and in further independence when he came home, due to his father being seriously ill, his request for her and the children to meet him needed an order to be obtained from the Court of Chancery. Having moved from The Grange, by April 1918 Lady Dalmeny had taken up voluntary war work on a farm in Northants., whilst as for Lord Dalmeny, he was performing distinguished service in Palestine. Eventually, after a brief meeting with his wife Lord Dalmeny began divorce proceedings, and at the hearing in December 1919 it was stated that the couple had not lived together since August 1914, and that whenever her husband returned, Lady Dalmeny would deliberately be away. Thus with all the facts presented there could be only one outcome, and a divorce was granted. In fact in true ‘soap’ fashion the saga would continue, and so, for real life drama, instead of slumping in front of the telly, watching the ‘Vic’ burn down, try sitting in front of a library microfiche reader, a veritable ‘time machine,’ where you can voyage through the past by just turning a knob.