Unearthed letters tell tale of couple’s wartime romance
- Credit: Archant
Christobel Pickard had occasionally alluded to the existence of love letters sent by her husband during the Second World War, but it wasn't until she died in 2016 that her children discovered the extent of the collection.
Inside a tatty old suitcase, Jeremy Pickard and his siblings came across 1,200 letters exchanged between Christobel and her childhood sweetheart Stanley, sent back and forth from 1937 until 1946. Now, Jeremy has turned the contents into a book - 'Stan and Chris in the War.'
Both born in 1919, Chris and Stan grew up in Eastbourne and met aged 11. From that moment, their acquaintance blossomed and, when war broke out in 1939, the pair had been deeply in love for some time and were intent on marrying.
Letters had already been written prior to the war, but increased in regularity once Stan was recruited by the Navy in 1941, later serving with the 22nd Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) flotilla based at Lowestoft.
'My mum had sometimes mentioned that she kept some love letters from the war and said we could read them when she died,' said Jeremy. 'Little did we know there would be 1,200. It was amazing to find letters sent by her as well, so we got both sides of the story.
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'They're not exclusively love letters - many of them are describing what they were doing on a day-to-day basis. Of course, Stan couldn't write too much about what he was doing at sea because it was all classified.'
The couple married in 1941 when Stan returned home on leave, but written correspondence continued to form a vital part of their relationship.
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Despite the ongoing wartime conflict, they discussed the possibility of living together and later set up their very first home on Kirkley Park Road in Lowestoft, where they resided between May and November 1944.
Within that time, Chris gave birth to their first child, Laurie, and Stan's service finally came to an end in 1946. The couple based themselves in Eastbourne for the remainder of their lives, but Stan sadly died in 1987.
Upon finding the letters, Jeremy and his family sifted through them and decided it warranted creating a permanent record in the form of a book.
'It was initially very easy to be objective about the whole thing because they were only 19 when war broke out,' said Jeremy. 'Now I'm feeling very protective about it.
'We're used to this Hollywood ideal, but both of them got through the war doing what needed to be done. Stan never really spoke about his service, so some of it was really touching to read.'
Letter from Stan to Chris - March 18, 1940
'I love you with all my heart and will continue to do so whatever you may do to me. If you decide to scorn my love, as you would be quite justified in doing for I am entirely unworthy to be entrusted with the priceless custody of your heart, I would not complain but will continue to worship from afar, turning to no other for sympathy and love, consoling myself with the aphorism: 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'. If, on the other hand, you foolishly decide to reciprocate my love, you will make me a veritable prince amongst men, and you can rest assured that I would never let you down or fail your trust in me...Cannot you realise darling, why I want to marry you? I long to live and to sleep with you, confident and happy in the knowledge that you are mine.'
Letters exchanged after the birth of their first son - June 1944
Chris to Stan: 'Poppy's telegram telling you of Lawrence Paul's arrival should have reached you by this time. I should have loved to have seen your reactions to the news. He's awfully sweet and I'm thrilled to bits with him. It may sound absurd, but he's awfully like you, with a real Pickard nose! Much to everybody's amazement he weighs 7lb. Doctor says she doesn't know how I managed it on the diet I've been getting for the last three months. I didn't have nearly such a difficult time as they thought (24 hour labour) in fact doctor and nurse both said I'm a most surprising person. Doctor was quite prepared to have to deliver LP with forceps and goodness knows what, but I managed
very well without.'
Stan to Chris: 'It was several seconds before I could summon up enough courage to open it, and when I did, I went alternately hot and cold about thirty times in as many seconds and then let out a hoarse cry 'I'm a father!' after which I was congratulated from all sides.'
• 'Stan and Chris in the War - as described in their letters' is available through local bookshops or online via YPD Books. An E-edition will be available after Easter.