WW2 Letters

I was talking to a friend one day about how the world has changed so fast and so many of us probably do not understand what it would have been like without instant messaging. I referred to the telexes I used to know when I first started work, and how the ticker tape worked overnight to send short messages around the world especially useful for the shipping business. He told me how, as an executor, he had found a box of letters in the loft of his Aunt’s house - they were all written during the Second World War. The funny thing he had noticed was how they were all numbered so that the reader and the writer could connect the letters to each other - so often at that time the war time post was such that letters never arrived or, if they did, they would not follow any chronological order.

This obvious circumstance gave me the idea of for the next poem – it’s a bit more of short love story really between two ordinary people struggling with separation at a time when world events seemed more important than any individual lives.

My Dear May
Here is the first of many letters yet to come
For sake of good order let’s call it number one
I’m fine on ship but missing you so much my dear
Can’t tell you where I am but glad that you’re not here
It’s freezing cold on watch and spend my time all day
Looking at the grey sea and whiling time away
With thoughts of you and the hot summer we just had
This sodding war’s enough to make you really mad
My mates are great and we’re innit all together
But God please I hope it doesn’t last forever
Must go now back to watch, wish I was hunting whales
These sneaky U boat killers don’t have any sails
So love you dearest May, keep those home fires burning
And in this wet grey place nothing quells my yearning
For you May

Dearest Ray
So pleased to get your letter number one, here’s mine
We’re all ok, hope this finds you more than fine
No point in telling you how much we miss you Ray
There’s Joe to feed and I just get on with the day
Especially now as I’ve got some good news for you
That summer was hot; one’s now going to be two
I hope it’ll be a girl, curly hair and brown eyes
Just like you, dreaming, always looking at the skies
But you hold your dreamy eyes searching that grey sea
That’s your only job now that you are away from me
Keep yourself, your mates, your ship safe and heading home
I would not forgive you if we are left alone
So take care Ray

Dearest Ray
Letter number two, sorry Ray bad news you see
Lost our baby girl, just wasn’t meant to be
Can’t write more just now but I’ll be fine, you know me
Hope you’re watching carefully for me that grey sea
I love you Ray

My Dear May
Just got your second letter, this is number three,
Can’t tell you how upset May, I am so sorry
Had no idea that you were in the family way
Until the Captain gave me your letter today
Like you she would have been a beauty to behold
More precious in my arms than all of the King’s gold
Than everything that we are told we’re fighting for
She would have given meaning to this bloody war
But most important now dear May is how you feel
Brave girl I know you’ll pull through, though the pain is real
Won’t be easy, for you there was the joy of dreams
For me, not knowing, life’s not ever what it seems
Things ain’t been too bad here though we hate the clear night
They come in packs then like wolves searching for a fight
I hope the food and clothes are somehow getting through
It’ll be worthwhile if it’s finding its way to you
My dear May. 

Dearest Ray,
Hope you got all my letters this is number four
Spend lots of time in the hall waiting by the door
For letters that don’t come or coming all too late
Are mixed up like our jumbled lives and twisted fate
The bombs are falling now like rain that doesn’t dry
Drenching the town and children too afraid to cry
But Joe’s safe thank God on a farm somewhere in Wales
Just hoping you can hide in those Atlantic gales
Keep well now, wrap yourself in deepest darkest black
Stay wide awake, won’t be long now before you’re back
God bless you Ray

Dear Mrs Davies
We regret to inform you that your husband, Ray
Missing, presumed dead, on another bloody day
Feared lost in action somewhere on the high seas
He did his best, you have our deepest sympathies
Yours, on behalf of the War Office

My Dear May
Number five, today I had the finest of days
Clear blue sky, white horses racing over the waves
Honestly May, I feel a calmness with the sea
Touching sky, never thought my mind would fly so free
And I’m going to fly one day May, Oh what the heck
Despite boots so salty their crusted to this deck
Jumping off this ship I’ll reach for the silvery moon
Shut out it’s light, save my ship and be with you soon
Promise you like a bird surfing clouds in the sky
Now stop worrying May I’m not going to die
So if you see a pigeon flying high above
Don’t duck dear it’s only me bringing all my love
To you May

Dearest Ray
This letter has no number now, it’s just for me
One I never wanted to come, just has you see
And then your lovely number five arrived today
I had to write these unread words, so much to say
It made me cry and laugh through tears and cry again 
You were my husband my lover and my best friend
I’ll be feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square
Little Joe and me have plenty of time to spare
Thinking of you Ray

A.J.Young – 25th March 2012