Snettisham man’s book of love letters are to be launched in London
- Credit: Matthew Usher
They are the most intimate thoughts shared in secret between two lovers torn apart by the Second World War.
Now, a collection of hundreds of love letters sent between a soldier and his sweetheart are to be published in a book, after the collection was discovered in a loft by their son.
The romantic story, My Dear Bessie, will also feature on a television breakfast show on St Valentine's Day and the book is set to be turned into a play for Radio 4.
And Peter Barker, 65, from Snettisham, has spoken about his delight regarding the interest surrounding the war-time love story of his parents, who lived in Blackheath, London.
'I am deeply moved,' he said. 'It's such intimate stuff but it has considerable literary value and a social history aspect. I feel enormous pride and I have learnt so much about my origins as it were.'
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He added: 'But you won't be able to put book the down - you will be hooked.'
Peter's mother Bessie, who was an artist, died aged 90 in 2004 followed by his father Chris aged 93 in 2007.
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But before Chris passed away, he told his sons Peter and Bernard that there is a box of war letters that must only be read after his death.
Staying true to their word, in 2008, they opened a small blue box and read them over several weeks.
The letters were transcribed and revealed that in 1943, 29-year-old Chris, who was a signalman based in Libya, wrote his first letter to Bessie, but at that time she stepped out with a man called Nick.
However during the hundreds of letters that were exchanged, the relationship blossomed and grew rather intimate.
Eldest son Bernard shares what was going through his mind during his time reading the letters in the afterword part of the book: 'I was in the desert with my dad as he recorded the death of pigs and rats; I was with my mother in London braving bombs and rockets. Through their words they were animated again - energetic, passionate, clear-sighted, wise and lovable.'
Although some of the material is fairly intimate, the two brothers wanted to share the material with a wider audience. They took them to the University of Sussex, which were quickly noticed by author and journalist Simon Garfield.
He asked the brothers if he could use some of the love letters in his eulogy book about the disappearing art of writing, called To The Letter, which resulted in actor Benedict Cumberbatch reading one out one of the love letters at the Hay Festival.
'The audience applauded from the rafters,' Mr Barker recalled. 'But in the To The Letter, people skipped chapters to read my parent's letters.'
As Chris and Bessie's letters proved a hit, My Dear Bessie was created - a book that is devoted wholly to the couple's love letters.
'Those letters were written during 1943-1946 by two people that didn't know each other very well, but that's how they got to know each other,' explained Mr Barker.
During those three years Chris only saw Bessie twice but after Chris got demobilised, the couple married and settled into family life.
And also ironically, Chris spent the next 46 years working for the Post Office.
The book launch for My Dear Bessie is on February 3 at Foyles, Charing Cross Road. The book is £8.99 and will be published February 5.
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