When Mum died in 2004, she left a box full of letters which had
been sent just after World War II. Some were written by her when she was a young German girl working on an Allied camp in the North of Germany, some by her English boyfriend and later fiance, the man who was to become my Dad, and some by both sets of parents. On
reading through them, I was so moved by their contents that I felt that they just HAD to be saved for posterity. I transcribed them, a laborious and painstaking task (especially as some had to be translated from the original Sutterlin script!), added photographs, and offered them to several publishers but to no avail. Eventually, I contacted the BBC who were looking for original and unpublished letters which they wanted to dramatise for their Radio 4 series, Writing the Century. Happily, they were accepted and Margaret Wilkinson turned them into the drama, "Out of the Ashes," which was broadcast in January 2009. The director, Stefan Escreet, was kind enough to let me know how it was received by the audience: some listeners had been moved to tears, whilst others never knew what their parents had been through to get together. "It really struck a chord with them," he said.
I haven't slavishly copied each letter as there are passages in the correspondence that I think are private, but there is so much interesting detail all illustrating how difficult it was for them to get together because even though Germany was soundly beaten, the English 'Tommy' and his German sweetheart had to expect a rough time. Some of the correspondence was written on mere scraps of paper but the reader gets a real sense of the deterioration of living conditions for the German people after the war, the widespread starvation and the lengths they went to just to survive. It was tough for them - far tougher than many people appreciate - but, as they say in all the best books, "love conquers all!" There was a happy ending when Leslie and Ischi married in January 1947 and as Granddad predicted in his letter:
I notice how the shops are steadily filling up. The goods on sale have increased considerably during the last six months and that is always the prelude to a fall in prices ... I remember the last war, 1914-18. It was just the same for two or three years after. It was about the fourth year after the war that the break came.
Rev J W Homer,