The writing in the letters is generally pretty clear and the spelling and grammar are good, especially for someone who left school at 16. Where there are errors I have copied them so they appear as they were written. In some cases I think the occasional lapse in spelling and grammar is a reflection of stress and therefore adds to the message, but sometimes it is just poor spelling and grammar!
You’ll see that the majority were written with a fountain pen, though sometimes he had to resort to pencil.
1947 – 2008
The letters were, as shown in the photograph here, in six neat bundles tied with string. After John died they were found in a corner of his roof space, under the roof insulation, in a Tesco carrier bag. During his lifetime as far as we know he never mentioned their existence to anyone. It seems he had looked at them at some stage himself as a small number were out of the bundles – in one case this was a letter written close to VE Day where I think he was looking to respond to a local newspaper’s request for memories.
My suspicion is that his elder sister, Gwladys, kept the letters, possibly he found them after her death in 2000, we will never know.
After much thinking Dear All sprang out as the obvious name for two main reasons. Firstly because it is the single phrase that appears in (almost) all of the letters. The exceptions so far in my transcribing are a very small number written to one family member, usually on a birthday. Secondly because, surprisingly, this domain name was available.
There are names of relatives and friends mentioned in the letters. I’m hoping that with the passage of time and considering these were private letters and thoughts of a young man that no one will be upset by anything he said. I know very few of the people mentioned and suspect that even fewer are still with us. On John’s behalf I apologise and ask forgiveness should anything offend them, again I do not think I should censor the letters in any way.
On the other hand if anyone recognises anyone mentioned and can add any background or colour to the narrative that would be wonderful, please add your comment or contact me. Best of all would be someone recognising a name from the past and enjoying the memories that it brings back.
I have also found a journal from 1944 and a diary John kept in 1945, when I reach that stage in publishing the letters I will add the brief notes that appear in these. I suspect it was against the rules to keep them, they tell a different tale to the letters which were censored so that he was unable to give much detail of location and actions.
At some stage, I suspect in the few years before he died, he wrote a journal reflecting on his life and war experiences. I may include extracts from this eventually but at present I prefer to keep it to the letters from the time rather than later reflections.
I may add notes of other significant events that happened around the time of the letters, John would have been unaware of them but they may add some context to his situation, I hope it also adds a contrast between his normal focus on day to day issues and the wider events of the war.
The 508th and final letter, that I transcribed in early February 2017, was dated 23rd February 1947. It felt like there may have been more letters after that but possibly John’s demob and return to England happened very suddenly.
The letters show a journey for John and were also a journey of discovery for me in transcribing them. Odd but fascinating to have such a detailed account of his life over these key years before I arrived.