The attics of the nation are full of packets of wartime letters and I am not the only person putting some of them online. Let me commend to you Letters from Lowestoft.
I found out about this site when buying a copy of my mother’s book of the Berryman letters, Socks, Cigarettes and Shipwrecks and since I prefer not to buy via Amazon or their subsidiary Abe Books, I tracked down a copy at A Book for all Reasons who turn out to be the best kind of second hand book shop and who have been selling books online since 1996. Since they are people not drones I dropped them an email with the order explaining my connection with the book and giving a link to this site.
Here is the reply.
Thank you so much for the background. I was about to email you that the book has been sent but followed the link to your site before I did so. What a magnificent project, you have my admiration!
I completed a smaller project earlier this year about my great grandfather’s letters to his son during WW2, about local news in Lowestoft http://www.oldlowestoft.co.uk/ajt/ and I still have a suitcase of letters written to and from my uncle who was killed January 1945 that I’m trying to find time to deal with.
I’ll follow your site with interest.
Isn’t that lovely?
Michael Sims’ task was much harder than Chris‘s and mine because his great grandfather’s letters were in manuscript while the Berryman letters were transcribed by the Imperial War Museum in the 1980s, so I am deeply impressed with what he has done.
Letters from Lowestoft is a fascinating site:
These letters cover the daily events but also include the rumour, speculation and gossip which brings the account to life as a story of real people.
The “spirit of the blitz” is proverbial, but like most proverbs it doesn’t have much reality any more.The simple immediacy of these letters grabs the attention as the father tells his son about the people and places in this Suffolk town being bombed month after month and year after year; it must have been nerve-wracking. Here are three excerpts from 1941
They are disturbing:
Sunday 16 February 1941
The Naval chaplain was to preach and the Rector gave out the usual notices when, just as the chaplain left his seat for the pulpit: bang bang bang – heavy AA guns. He gave out his text, something about Patience, just as there was a perfect hell of bombs, AA fire and extensive machine gun fire. Round and round the church apparently and once it shook badly and the Rector told me (afterwards) it seemed to lift under his feet. I expected to be blitzed at every moment but had great difficulty in restraining myself from going out to see what it was all about. No-one moved at all – which was jolly good. The preacher continued with his sermon, some of which was inaudible.
Sunday 09 March 1941
I went to dear old Greasley’s funeral Saturday. He was buried by St. John’s vicar. He was blown right over houses from the Library to Raglan Street. He was badly damaged, not giving you details except it seemed the coffin was very light. The dear little girl I used to tease – I hear she was only 17 – they only found one hand and part of a foot so cannot identify her and there will be no funeral. Another woman posted as missing, believed killed is still missing, no vestige has been found.
Thursday 24 April 1941
There is a huge crater in our cemetery here disturbing three lines of graves – where children are buried, close to the hedge on our side. Mrs. Eade was told by Goldsmith that possibly her nephew’s grave is one of them.
I cannot imagine this being my neighbours and my neighbourhood, night after night, year after year.
So I commend this site to you; make yourself a coffee or a tea, settle down and read it. It’s accessible, moving and immediate. We are so lucky to have so much primary source material available at the click of a mouse.