Soldier's story revealed in astonishing collection of World War Two love letters hidden in Scarborough attic
Some 1,500 personal letters, cards and telegrams, written by David Dawson to his wife Blanche, have been donated to the Scarborough Museums Trust.
Revealed ahead of today’s 76th anniversary of VE Day, they paint a vivid portrayal of a young soldier’s recollections, and of his persistent longing for home.
To Andrew Clay trust chief executive, they also tell a love story, for he must have written home with impressive regularity.
“This is an astonishing record of that time,” said Mr Clay, who describes the rarity of the findings as “gold dust” and believes they are to be of national significance.
“It’s also very romantic. This is a man in the Forces, away from his wife, and he must have been writing almost every day. He was obviously very deeply in love.
“To me it’s a love story as much as anything else. We are just so privileged to have it.”
The letters were written between 1939 and 1945 and, despite their fragility and age, have been remarkably preserved.
They include one, complete with spelling slights, which was sent from an unknown location on May 9, 1945, the day after VE Day, in which he says: “My dearest Blanche... At last – the day we have been waiting for for so long [h]as arrived – it seems hard to realise.
“There was very little in the way of celebration here yesterday – in fact as far as we were concerned there was nothing at all. To-day we went to the cemetery and the burgomaster layed a wreath on each of the graves of some RAF men who had been brought down somewhere near here. The graves had been beautifully kept and I know that if the relatives could see them they would be very pleased. There has been some weird and wonderful processons throughout the day reminding me somewhat of my extreme youth.
“According to the wireless there was much merrymaking in Britain yesterday – I suppose the people were glad of the opportunity of letting themselves go.”
Longing for home
Mr Dawson, a lieutenant in the Royal Army Pay Corps, was stationed in London, Scotland, the Netherlands, France and Germany.
A prevailing theme of the letters is his love for Scarborough and his longing to come home.
On May 7 1940, while in Hastings, he wrote: “I am writing this letter in the open-air as it is a pleasant evening, and I want a bit of fresh air after being closed indoors for the best part of the day, so I am sat on a seat on the front in a small shelter – something like the North Side at Scarborough, but not as good.”
Jim Middleton, collection manager for the trust, said the donation offers a rare personal insight into the everyday plight of ordinary people, and their experience through extraordinary times.
“So often collections like these are lost over the years as people pass away, so for such a complete record to be saved for the town is fantastic both for local historians and future generations,” he said.
The letters, now in public ownership and in the care of the trust, have been donated by Ruth Walker, whose grandparents were good friends with the Dawsons and whose mother was executor of their wills.
“The letters have been sitting in the attic for years – finally sorting through them was my lockdown project,” she said. “It’s very apparent from them that David was very much a Scarborough man. He loved the town, and a running theme of the letters was his wish to come home – so where better to give them to than Scarborough Museums Trust?”
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