I am fascinated with WW1 and correspondence, so when Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of Wives and Sweethearts Love Letters Sent During Wartime it combined two of my great interests. I am not in the habit of photographing the books I am sent, or the inside contents, but I felt the presentation of this gorgeous tome was essential to its appeal. As you can see it’s a hardback book with an attractive cover but the actual layout of the letters is very unique and quite unlike any book of correspondence I have read before.
Rather than combining all of the letters together in an endless volume with, perhaps, only notes separating them, Alastair Massie & Frances Parton (In association with the National Army Museum) arranged the letters into chapters. For instance, each chapter is dedicated to a couple where the man (husband, father, son etc) is serving at the front. The authors also make it very clear that this book isn’t overly romantic, despite its title, as some letters are sent to daughters and other female relatives.
The reader is also informed of the writer and recipients background which immediately makes us involved in their story, and more importantly, whether they survived war or not. Perhaps the most heartbreaking letters to read are the ones sent by husbands to their wives in the eventuality of their death.
What shall I say to you my Beloved wife, for when, and if, you get this letter, I shall no longer be with you.?
You have given me the happiest years of my life, Darling; and if I am not to have the final happiness of being at Home with you, and of seeing the little sons grow up, well, I have had more good fortune than falls to the lot of most men – far more than I deserve – and I thank God for it, and for the little sons and most of all for you, my best beloved.
You have been the sweetest and most loving wife, and may be happy in the thought of all the love and happiness you have brought into my life. I know you will be a wise and loving little mother to our sons; and I pray that they may grow up to be a blessing to you.
I wouldn’t have you grieve for me too much, Darling; and I wouldn’t have you – on my account – not marry again someday. You are young, and you will be lonely when the little sons grow up and go to school. I know they will be your first thought; and that if you do marry again, it will be not only a man you can love and respect, but one who will be a good and loving father to the sons, as I would have tried to be…
…You must talk to little David about his daddy; and tell him how dearly he loved his little sonny boy, and how he wants him to be a good and loving son to his mummy, and to always put the thought of her before everything else. My last thought will be of you, my Darling; and my last prayer will be in the words you wrote in my bible – that God will defend my Beloved and our little sons, keep them in body and soul, and grant that they and I may be bound together by the unseen chain of this love, by the communion of His Spirit, and by the Holy fellowship of His Saints; and that we may finally be together in his heavenly kingdom.
God bless and keep you, my sweet and Beloved wife.
– Arthur Money to his wife, Euphemia. Thankfully, unlike most women, Euphemia never had to receive this letter.
Aside from the horrors of war, the reader is also informed about the temptations which were readily available to the men in France. These are referred to in letters, which adds a touch of humour, and a collection of glossy propaganda posters are included in the middle of the book (see above). Images of the men who wrote the letters are also printed throughout. Overall, the book has been executed beautifully, and I have taken a photograph of the cover to illustrate my point. It is a quick read, and with the anniversary of WW1 coming up, it is a humbling experience to read the every day thoughts and feelings of these ordinary men during their participation in one of the greatest atrocities of the last century.
All of the letters and images have come from the National Army Museum. Click here for more information.