Saturday, June 19, 2010

War Time Love Letters

When I was clearing my mother’s house in November 1999, following her death the previous month, I came across, in her bedroom, a shoe box stuffed full of letters written to her by my Dad in the 1940s - it was like finding treasure! The only other discovery was some photographs in an album downstairs. Whilst there were a few photos from the pre-war period, there weren’t all identified, but the letters really told a story; mostly sad, I must say.

The letters revealed a number of things. Firstly, something which I hadn’t realised, was that Mum was evacuated from Hong Kong at the beginning of July, 1940 and she didn’t see my father again until December, 1945, five and a half years. The other thing I didn’t realise is how young my brother George was when my mother and the two boys left Hong Kong. He wasn’t even 3 years old, so he never really knew my father before the war. Even John was only 5 years old when they left. Consequently, the reunion of the family in December 1945 must have been a strange affair, with certainly George meeting someone he didn’t even know. George was eight when they returned to England and John ten. So they had had most of their boyhood in Australia.

As I say, the letters were a sad affair, and, also sadly, they only a record of my father’s correspondence. I guess all the letters my father in Hong Kong were lost when he was captured. The letters started on 7th July 1940 when my father wrote to Mrs M. Ient, 2 Happy Glen Loop, c/o Red Cross Headquarters, Pines Hotel, Baguio, Manila. My mother and brothers had been evacuated to the Philippines, presumably because of the threat to the Hong Kong colony. He writes about the weather and I know from talking to my mother that in fact they had a terrible passage with the ship battling its way through a typhoon. Mum told me of the arrival in Manila where all the wives and children were absolutely exhausted and had had nothing to eat or drink for a good part of the journey. Apparently, the British officer was trying to order them onto buses immediately they disembarked. Mum told me that she marched up to the officer and demanded that they all be given tea and food before the journey began. Good old Mum! In the letter Dad is very concerned about the journey and he himself admits that after her departure he went to bed after a miserable day being so sad at her departure a week before the 7th July.

It was indeed a miserable year, for earlier in February 1940 my eldest brother Tommy had died in an accident and Dad comments in his letter that he took fresh flowers to the grave and he writes, ‘poor Tommy, love him, God bless his soul’. Dad had gone up to the grave on his crutches for earlier that year he had broken his leg. He ends this first letter with the words, ‘God bless you. I love you darling with kisses for George and John’.

Dad writes all the way through 1940 & 41 at the rate of more than one letter a week - some 76 letters in all! leaving aside the odd cablegram! His last letter before his capture by the Japanese army in Christmas Day 1941 was on 27th November - the battle of Hong Kong started just 6 days later on the 3rd December .......

More to follow. Also see our family web site at:

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