One truly amazing story of love is captured in the Second World War collection of letters from Lt Douglas Payne to his future wife Eileen Crutchley.
This collection of about 350 letters spans a five year period from 1941-1946, and encapsulates all the heartache, difficultly, optimism and hope of a long distance relationship attempting to survive the test of war. It begins slowly with the obvious uncertainty of how to maintain a long distance relationship, quickly coming to a head within 8 months:
To My Darling Eileen,
I hope you received my last letter alright and I hope also that you have been thinking the matter over….
There doesn’t seem anything for me to tell you except I’m still as much in love with you now as I possibly could be and even if you decide on somebody else I’ve still got your photo as a memory of happier times.
All my love,
Fortunately, their love perseveres through these initial difficulties and goes on to survive through his lengthy deployment overseas of over 2 years, from January 1942 until March 1944. Halfway through his overseas deployment on March 20th 1943 he writes:
Well darling I shall have to close now as there is nothing I can say to you except that I love you with all my heart and hoping for the day when I shall be on the train heading straight for Uttoxeter and you sweetheart. My pal has just come into the tent and tells me that if I don’t get a move on I shall be late for the pictures. He doesn’t know how important the writing of this letter really is, does he.
All my love forever and ever darling.
Their love continues to thrive and grow after he returns and their partings seem to become even more difficult and heart breaking. After his first leave from overseas deployment he writes:
The moment I left you at your gate I had a feeling which I cannot explain; just as though I had lost everything in the world that’s worthwhile.
The story ends happily, as all good love stories should, with their marriage and his eventually release back into civilian life after the war.
However, as a collection it is not only testament to a great love story, but a time capsule of what life was really like for those serving in the war. Lt Payne recounts to his future wife the conditions and events of life in the service, such as air raids, objectionable living conditions, monotony of non-combative life, with a sense of wit and humour. Early on in his training he recounts a shortage of food at Fort Gomer in Gosport:
I got ½ a slice of bread and a little bit of butter, I was lucky only about 1 in every ten got a bit. At ‘supper’ time when I got to my dining room it was in an uproar, everybody rushing about trying to find something eatable lying about. There was very little to have but on my way back to my barrack room I looked in the cook house door and spotted half a loaf and a ¼ lb of butter lying on a table. Ten minutes later I was feeling a lot better inside. At breakfast this morning I managed to get hold of a slice of bread. Everybody should have had some sausage as well but as the cook was bringing a tray full down to our end he was stopped by a hungry crowd who soon emptied the tray containing the sausage for the chaps at my table. Dinner time today was the limit, (you would have laughed if you had seen us), free fights took place over the food and it wasn’t surprising really because some of the chaps who were broke hadn’t had a bit of anything since 12 noon the previous day. One poor chap had a nasty hit on the chin and hit his head on a window frame which knocked him out for quite a while.
This man’s love for his wife has allowed our collection to hold a wonderful representation of the struggles of everyday life through the war and the ability of love to conquer them all.