Today’s #Forgotten Friday focuses on the relationship between two wartime sweethearts, Bert and Betty, the subjects of our upcoming performance over August bank holiday Letters From Betty.
Summer, our Archivist, talks about her experience and first impressions when reading and organising the letters for their new home in the Archive here at Eden Camp Modern History Museum:
“I was astounded to see such well-preserved letters in almost original condition. After I noticed there were over 600 letters, I was quite shocked! Specially to see that Bert had kept Betty’s letters with him throughout the war too!”
“I first started to pick random letters up in the piles and arranged them in date order so I could work out the letter’s context. I made sure to start with the letters that Bert sent to Betty as there was a general organisation to this set. (Betty was always very organised according to her daughter Ann!) So, it doesn’t surprise me that the letters were kept safe and well.”
Betty and Bert met through their parents working together at the Co-op Dairy in Birmingham, they got to know one another through exchanging letters and gifts in the mail. Many young women were encouraged to write and knit balaclavas and socks for the men in the forces as their contribution to the war effort and boosting morale of the troops.
“I managed to date-order the piles of letters and finally found the very first letter exchanged between the two. The letter was dated 16/4/1942 which was a reply of thanks to Betty for the pullover she had knitted for Bert; which was “quite a good stitch” quoted from Bert himself.
I carried on reading Bert’s letters, and I began to grasp onto Bert’s cheeky, witty personality, which made me fall more and more in love with his character. He always gave Betty nicknames before he said hello or goodbye, which were usually ‘Wings’ or ‘Skylark’.
Moving onto Betty’s letters was very surreal, the fact a young sailor in the Navy kept every single letter by his side throughout the war and during his voyages is unique; this is what makes this collection one of a kind.”
As I was coming to the end of the letters, I noticed a telegram, it was of course the very last part of their correspondence, it was the happy ending I was anticipating! Bert was coming home! I was relieved and I have ever since remained to hold their love story close to my heart.
I was ever so lucky to meet Ann, the daughter of Bert and Betty, who is a kind, loving soul, who has a personality exactly like her wonderful parents. I will never forget my experience when I first met Ann.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ann for loaning these special letters to our archive here at Eden Camp, they make such a precious addition to the stories we are able to talk about society in the Second World War.”