75 years ago, my grandfather Arthur joined the Navy. His first letter home was written on 11 February 1942. From tomorrow (Saturday 11 February 2017), I will be publishing his letters – and those of my grandmother and their two children – exactly 75 years after they were written. They tell a love story. They are funny and heartbreaking. They tell how it was to live through the second world war – as a serviceman and as a mother on the home front. It’s all here: Bombs! Sex! What to plant on the allotment!
As his service begins, Arthur is sent to H.M.S. Royal Arthur in Skegness, a converted Butlins holiday camp. He is there to learn naval discipline and soon realises that “one will go along quite well here by doing what one is told”. He is not entirely comfortable on the windswept east coast: “I’m constipated and cold and I’m going to make a supreme effort to cure one of those complaints now.”