Doreen Hanson’s partial letter extract (Abridged) to her father William Hanson of 80 Newark Crescent, London NW10 - Postmarked April 5th, 1941: 21.37 BDST:
I never knew fear before, dad. Or that perishing feeling of hollowness that comes with it – which nothing seems to fill. It’s something frightful, it is. Once, the wireless or heading down to the pictures could take me away from it all, but now they’re just interludes between the dark thoughts I have.
This war, dad, this terrible war. I caught myself thinking about Freddie again last week. I still can’t believe that he’s gone, and it’s nearly six months now since he left us. It just seems like last week when Uncle Theo got the telegram and came around to ours to tell us. Mom fell to the floor sobbing she did, but Uncle was so strong. A real rock he was, dad.
Twenty-two, it’s no age at all, is it? Uncle’s only son, with his whole life ahead of him, and he’s gone – just like that. Those terrible Huns, I hate them so, every frightful last one of them.
I’m glad that Freddie got to go to sea though; it’s all he ever spoke about when we came up here for the summer holidays as children. He always wanted to play pirates on the high seas all the ruddy time. Pushing the hook from a coat hanger up his sleeve and shouting, “Ahoy matey!”
Dad, we don’t even have anywhere to leave flowers for him.
I remember when we went over for tea and the Red Cross Telegram arrived to tell uncle that Freddie was buried in Germany. I’ll never forget him punching the bread bin as aunty Emily sobbed. He stormed out and sat in his shed. His only son, dad. I feel for them and for Florence too, as she’s the only child left now after Beatrice died back in ‘36.
Anyway, mom said we could leave some flowers down at the war memorial in Oldbury. I didn’t half give her daggers when she said that, dad. Because where are we getting flowers from these days? Everywhere’s dug up to grow blooming vegetables now.
Can we come back home, dad, please? We miss you so. The newsreels keep telling us that Britain can take it, but I’m not so sure.
I miss you so much, dad.
Truly, I do and I know that mother does too. It’s been almost two years we’ve been up here, can’t we come home now, please, dad? I don’t even mind the Blitz, dad, why don’t we just come home, shall we?
I hear mom sobbing her heart out most nights in her room before I leave for the shelter – it’s always something frightful to hear.
She was always so gay, dad, your bright little butterfly, you’d call her. But she’s ever so pale, dad. I let the kitchen door go the other day and as it slammed she fell to the floor sobbing. We sat there howling, arm in arm sitting on the floor as ITMA droned on. I imagine that we looked like two silly sods sitting there. Then we both burst out laughing. It was good to see the glow in her cheeks, but it didn’t last.
I fear that mother’s losing the plot, dad, maybe I am though, writing this to you now? As it all seems like a dream. One minute I’m happy thinking about the wedding, and the next I’m all maudlin thinking about mother and you.
I worry about her ever so much as she to come to the shelter anymore, and I’ve begged her to until I’m blue in the face, honestly, I have, but she still doesn’t. It worries me something awful to think of her all alone but she says if her number’s up, she’d sooner die in her own bed than in a dirty old smelly shelter with dirty old men. I told her we need to sort out our shelter in the garden and reluctantly she said she’d help.
That’s a start right?
Anyway, the wedding next month will sort her out, you wait and see. I’m ever so nervous, just the thought of saying my vows in front of everyone gives me the flutters, it does, but at least we’ll all be together as a family again.
I can’t wait to see you dad, it’s not long now! Hey-ho, here’s to blue skies and brighter days.
See you soonest,
Lots of love,
P.S. Write to me soon, dad!!!
Ordnance Artificer 4th Class Frederick ‘Freddie’ Walter Clark Service No: C/MX 57429 was one of 30 ratings and 1 officer killed when the Destroyer HMS Ivanhoe struck a mine on September 1st, 1940 off Frisian Islands, Holland. He was buried in the Ohlsdorfer Friedhof Cemetary in Hamburg, Germany.