Wednesday, May 23, 2012


With memorial day coming up on the 28th May, I thought I might post a letter written by Captain Ross Calvert to his wife Harry. It is written in 1916, from the trenches of France. (Ross and Harry are the hero and heroine from my novel, Daring Masquerade.)

Dear Harry,
I have received several letters from you. Keep up the good work, you can't know how anxiously I wait to receive them. At mail call it is awful not receiving anything. The disappointment is absolutely crushing. I am one of the lucky ones. I don't think there has been a time when I have not received something, although some of the chaps are not so lucky. There are a few in my unit who have received nothing. Must be terribly disheartening for them.

We are in France as you will guess. I spent a couple of weeks in England, or Blighty, as the men call it over here. Didn't see much of it, spent most of my time training at Salisbury Downs.

There is a church called Notre Dame des Brebieres in Albert that was damaged by the German shells in 1915. A golden Madonna lies at an angle across it, looks ready to topple off at any moment, but somehow she still manages to cling on. It is a fascinating sight really, and has caused a lot of superstitious talk. The English soldiers say the war will end when she falls, while the Germans think who ever knocks it down, will win the war.

I did get to see Paris, had a couple of days leave and went to the Moulin Rouge. Saw the can can a very naughty dance where the chorus girls kick their legs up high and lift their skirts up over their heads to show off their fancy knickers. Some of the young soldiers nearly caused a riot, well you can guess, I suppose, how it affected them.

Don't worry, I enjoyed watching them, (what man wouldn't), but that was all.

Give my love to Mrs. Bates and Hughie, tell Jack I'll be writing soon.

All my love. Ross. 

Ross opened Harry's letter and a few tendrils of dark baby hair almost fell out. A separate sheet of paper displayed a tiny brown handprint with a little note underneath. I mixed some cocoa into a paste and dunked his hand in it. How small it was, and how clever Harry was to think of it.

My darling Ross,
I hope you heard from Andrew about little Gilbert's birth, just a few days after the 'No' vote for conscription. I didn't have too bad a time of it and we are both fit and well now. Elsie was a great help. The doctor was nice. I thought I would be embarrassed about, well you know, but I wasn't. He said he had delivered dozens of babies. He was fairly old. The young doctor has enlisted in the Medical Corps, thank goodness.

Mrs. Bates' arthritis is so bad, she doesn't do anything much. Elsie and I are having a competition to see who can knit the most things for you and Ted. Loser has to do the ironing on their own for a month. My goodness, Ross, I hate ironing, so I am knitting my hardest but I think Elsie will win.

Everything is quiet here, like Jack says, we are just doing the main things; there's only us and Hughie now. Alf is still riding the boundary and Mr. Wu works non-stop in his garden.

They are still taking some timber but are selective in the trees they do chop down, not like you know who, he took everything. The grass has grown back where he burnt it. They use the track, but not as much. Jack planted some fast growing trees on our side of the track to block it off, so it is not really too bad.

Well, my darling, I know you said don't write about the war or politics because the letter might be censored, so I won't. We will have a quiet Christmas, not much to celebrate with you being away, but next year, hopefully, you will be home and we will have the best Christmas ever.

Baby is starting to cry. I am feeding him on demand. I don't care what people say about four-hourly feeds, he knows when he is hungry. Your son has a good pair of lungs, not that he cries much. I can't stand to hear him so I pick him up, that's if I get there before Jack. He spoils him something dreadful, but it is lovely to see them together.

Oh, if only you could come home to us for Christmas, I would never ask for anything else. It would be the best present ever. The doilies you sent are lovely, I used them straight away. It makes you seem closer somehow. Mrs. Bates and Elsie liked their handkerchiefs.

Well, my darling, I must go. Love and kisses from me and little Gilbert. Harry. She had drawn a circle on the bottom of the page. This is where I kissed the letter, she told him. He closed his eyes and touched his mouth to the spot, trying to pretend he was kissing Harry's soft, sweet mouth.

Daring Masquerade is out on Kindle now.


Laura Breck said...

Great letters, Margaret. Very touching. You really did your research on this book. So many fascinating details, it felt as though I was right there with them.

Jannine Gallant said...

Laura said everything I was thinking. You feel the agony of their separation. Terrific work, Margaret.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Laura and Jannine,
Thanks ladies.