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My mother’s love letters from WW2 American soldier.

(73 Posts)
angstinabaggyjumper Fri 08-Dec-17 16:13:26

During the latter part of WW2 my mother fell head over heels in love with an American soldier, a yank. From the sound of his letters the feeling was mutual and my mother kept all the letters he sent her from America and from France around the time of D Day. It makes emotional reading.
My question is what should I do with these letters now my mother is no longer with us and I have no one interested enough to safely leave them. Any ideas please?

twinone Fri 08-Dec-17 16:14:19

Do you have a local military museum that might like them?

Therestisstillunwritten Fri 08-Dec-17 16:14:50

Keep them, they are part of your family history

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Fri 08-Dec-17 16:15:47

Try the IWM maybe? They have various collections for research use.

Angelf1sh Fri 08-Dec-17 16:16:33

If there’s a local museum I’m sure they’d love them. If not, the imperial war museum might be able to point you to an archive that would take them.

Janetsadick Fri 08-Dec-17 16:19:01

God I would be MORTIFIED if my grandchildren/children passed my private correspondence over to a museum. Just because they were written during the war...that’s of no relevance at all.

But them in a box and keep them nicely. They’re hardly taking up a load of room.

TressiliansStone Fri 08-Dec-17 16:23:06

How amazing.

If you're comfortable sharing the material, then I second starting with the Imperial War Museum

Their page here gives a checklist, and also has a link to what they're particularly looking for at the moment:
www.iwm.org.uk/collections/managing/offer-material

Vitalogy Fri 08-Dec-17 16:23:40

A book with different people's love letters from times gone by, I'd buy and read that!
They are wonderful to look at aren't they. I still have letters that my parents wrote to each other in the 1950's.

Offred Fri 08-Dec-17 16:28:38

God I would be MORTIFIED if my grandchildren/children passed my private correspondence over to a museum.

Errr.... you wouldn’t be mortified if you had passed away!

Op - contacting the IWM for advice is a good idea.

MrsTerryPratchett Fri 08-Dec-17 16:30:15

What would your mother think?

LittleMyLikesSnuffkin Fri 08-Dec-17 16:37:47

Erm... what do you think your mother would want? If she was a private person she might not want her personal letters shared with the general public. My gran was the same generation as your mother and she’d have been very upset at the thought of it especially if she married someone else. Yes I know the lady has died but I think it’s only fair to respect the person who the letters belonged to.

RidingWindhorses Fri 08-Dec-17 16:39:04

They're a moving and important piece of social history. Particularly wrt DDay.

Around 70,000 women emigrated to US and Canada after the war, obviously your mum wasn't one of them.

It would be very useful and interesting for them to be in an archive somewhere so that anyone researching the period or writing a book could access them.

Offred Fri 08-Dec-17 16:40:24

You are possibly right but I find it hard to understand why the assumed possible feelings of someone who has passed away are more important than the social history value letters like this have...

TheLastSoala Fri 08-Dec-17 16:47:07

Is there any way of tracing the soldier’s family. I imagine they would be very interested in seeing copies of them.

(Assuming he wasn’t married at the time and his wife is still alive)

TressiliansStone Fri 08-Dec-17 16:47:53

I can entirely see why you might decide not to share them at all.

A possible compromise might be to seek advice on how to store them appropriately (from your local museum or archive), and then explicitly leave them to the IWM when you die.

That would give time for all the people who might have known both parties to die, while still preserving them as incredibly valuable history.

BrambleandCuthbert Fri 08-Dec-17 16:58:37

I have a similar dilemma, involving a couple of dozen letters written from the Western Front in WWI. Sadly, the young man who wrote them was killed in action - and I have no idea what he would have wanted to happen to them. I do know that the IWM (and comparable overseas’ institutions - my ancestor was not British) keep archives of this sort of material but, at the moment, all i’ve done is transcribe it so there’s a record of it, regardless of what happens to the physical letters themselves.

How many letters do you have? Is transcribing a possibility? If funds allow, you could pay someone to do it for you.

There’s plenty online about how to store, and care for, old papers. The Smithsonian, for example, has some excellent advice. Maybe knowing you were caring for the documents as well as possible would remove some of the pressure of deciding what to do with them.

TressiliansStone Fri 08-Dec-17 17:02:51

The Imperial War Museum covers all Commonwealth countries, if that's any help, Bramble, and has other interests too.

Historical areas we want to develop
There are historical areas in which the Collections are less strong, and we welcome offers of relevant material:
—The causes and aftermath of the First World War, including Britain in the early 1920s.
—Life during the Cold War.
—Britain and Ireland from the Easter Uprising through to the Troubles, and notably the War of Independence and the Civil War.

TressiliansStone Fri 08-Dec-17 17:03:52

Sorry, the link for that was: www.iwm.org.uk/collections/managing/offer-material/what-we-are-collecting

A regimental archive might also be a suitable home.

angstinabaggyjumper Fri 08-Dec-17 17:07:15

What worries me is that I die and someone is going through my possessions and it's 'Oh what's this load of old paper chuck it in the bin.'
I don't think the soldier's family would want the letters he wasn't married at the time to the best of my knowledge but he was later.
My mother would have been quite happy that they were shared with other people so I have no worries there.
That is a good idea to transcribe them it might take some weight off my mind although the physical thing is 100 times more immediate, and moving.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Fri 08-Dec-17 17:08:42

Interesting: my feeling is that if they were my personal correspondence I wouldn't want my children/grandchildren/people I knew reading them however I would be happy for them to be kept in a museum for research.

angstinabaggyjumper Fri 08-Dec-17 17:10:33

Another thought is that although they are historical they contain little detail about their historical context they're mostly about how much he misses her and how lovely she is etc. etc. Sorry.

RidingWindhorses Fri 08-Dec-17 17:14:56

Those kind of letters can't include much historical detail because careless talk costs lives. They're still social history documents though - they're about two peoples' lives at the time.

I doubt the IWM would be interested in them, but it's certainly worth contacting them in the first instance because they will be able to direct you to who would. It's something that local museums and local historical archives - whichever town you're nearest - may be interested in.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Fri 08-Dec-17 17:17:30

But the context, as he was a GI, is historical really, even if they are just emotional letters. And also the fact they couldnt share much information for security reasons.

Yetanothernamechange1234 Fri 08-Dec-17 17:20:13

amazing! I absolutely love this kind of thing! Please share them with someone; wonderful slice of history x

BrambleandCuthbert Fri 08-Dec-17 17:22:04

Thank you, TressiliansStone - I suspected the IWM would be interested. I know his regimental museum are; I’ve already been in contact with them. I think giving them to a museum is ultimately what I’ll do, although I absolutely understand what the OP means about what power the physical documents themselves seem to hold.

OP - even without much apparent historical content, their value as pieces of social history will be immense. They really are “history as it happened”, if that makes any kind of sense.

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