What My Grandfather’s World War 2 Letters Taught Me About Life

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In the 1940’s there was no internet to keep in touch with loved ones, to make a living. There was no idle time to get lost in TV shows, to forget about your boring day at the office. No plethora of mobile phones and a ‘problem’ with which one to buy. My Grandfather and many others had a bigger issue – a world at war.

I honestly believe that I have been born in the luckiest generation so far and that all of the hard work has been done for us already. Our past ancestors have sacrificed, risked, clawed and strived to pave the way for us today and I hope I never lose sight of this and the many opportunities it has provided me with.

From the jungles of India, my grandfather wrote to his mother back in Durham, England and last year I was lucky enough to sit with a bottle of cheap rosé (because I’m classy as f**k, you know) for a whole weekend of reading them. Special thanks to my Aunty for not putting them in chronological order and leaving me and my OCD to rearrange them so that they were.

I feel we can all learn so much about life from my Granddad’s outlook and attitude during such a testing time. Here’s the pick of the bunch.

The Power of Imagination Can Get You Through

Sent from India; Date Unknown

I can imagine you all just now, it’s easy to daydream and go back to Park Road again. I can see myself going past the school with perhaps Mrs Hall standing on the doorway. It’s very windy and cold too now I’ve reached the lamp post and I’m turning into the familiar getaway again.

I’m home again after feeling nearly swallowed alive by Floss. I can reach the kitchen and the kettle is steaming on the hob, table is ready for tea, the meat turned back and a cheerful fire on the grate. It’s almost dark now and I’m feeling tired. I sink into one of your cosy chairs and doze off for a while. I am awakened by Flossy barking at the front door and the footsteps that I’ve been waiting for so long to hear.

I know it’s you Mother dear. I can now feel the joy that will be in my heart when I see you again. So please mother of mine, keep yourself safe for my return. Please don’t worry about me – I’m as fit as a fiddle.”

Have a Positive Mental Attitude

Sent from India; July 17th, 1943

I hope you are keeping well in health and spirits, now that we seem to be heading on the homeward track. The Russians are certainly doing a fine job of work and our boys are the tops both in Italy and over Germany and France and in the air. Someday we’ll wake up in the morning and find it’s all over; what an incredibly unbelievable day that will be for everyone.

Empathise from the Other Side

Sent from India; June 25th, 1944

Dear Mother and all at home, I received a letter from Peggy yesterday. Although her letters are ever as cheerful throughout, she must be so fed up. She’s had her leave stopped so many times and the last occasion she mentions in her letter in her words; “I wish I could have seen him (Arthur) in his uniform.” She must be so downhearted but she doesn’t show it…”

Blind Belief – Just KNOW and FEEL Your Time Will Come

Sent From India; September 10th, 1944

I believe that everything will all come right somehow. I don’t know what makes me believe it, but the feeling is there all the time…

…What do you think of the rise in wages? They are going to have us bleeding millionaires – my pay will be almost doubled. I can’t help but feel that there is a catch somewhere. I suppose they are trying to convince us to stay once peace with Germany is restored. No chance! I wouldn’t stay if they offered me Churchill’s job and the Nizami’s bank balance!

March on Through Disappointment

Sent from an Unknown Place Due to Military Tactics: November 10th, 1944

I can’t tell you where I am right now, but please rest assured I am well. Although I am sad to tell you that I had to burn all of my letters. It was a gut-wrench, believe me – up until now I’d kept all you’d sent. All I can do is keep my chin up and know that we’ll meet again. Good night and God bless you all. As always, your loving son, brother and uncle.

Stan xxxxx

The war officially ended on 2nd September 1945 and my Granddad returned home a very wise, flirtatious, charming and stubborn man, who became a vegetarian care worker. He passed away with all of us sitting around him until his very last breath, reciting his favourite poems and songs, shortly after he proposed to the fittest nurse in the hospital.

What a man!

In loving memory of the legendary Stanley Hill Middleton. Gone, but impossible to ever be forgotten.



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18 comments

  1. Hogga Reply

    This made me swoon. Letters are epically romantic and your grandfather was a stud.

  2. Christine Reply

    You look SO much like your grandfather–so excellent! Sure that your grandkids will someday look back on this blog and think much the same thing about you–positive, inspiring stuff here, mate!

  3. Macca Reply

    What an awesome thought provoking post to make as a comeback.

    The man was a legend, would love to read those letters, i got a real sense of Stan’s personality against the backdrop of that terrible conflict.

    Reminds me of a certain adventurer freshly back from Bhurma

    Love ya mate, mind the nettles x

  4. mam Reply

    He would be proud, great post he would love to know his letters are read, as much as he would love to know his stubbornside carrys on love ya ma xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. Graeme Evans Reply

    Great post Anthony and brought back memories of my dear father who passed away last year after finally sharing some of his memories of WWII which we had to literally drag out of him. Keep up the good work and I’m sure your Grandfather is as proud of you as you are of him.

  6. Caz Reply

    Hiya Anth,

    Loved reading your post, it made me cry and a great memory of our Grandad Stan 🙂
    love and hugs
    xxxxx

  7. Mirella Reply

    Wonderful! I read my grandfather’s letters to my grandmother which he wrote during WW2 about 10 years ago now and it makes me want to read them again.
    My grandfather was always madly in love with my grandmother, but there’s nothing like reading about young love and a young man trying to look after his family at home (my uncle was born during the war) while away.
    One of my favourite parts is the great lengths he went to explain to my grandmother exactly what to look for in a block of land and the many letters they wrote back and forth until he felt confident she had chosen the right one for the right price. It was an amazing block where I spent many happy weekends. I miss Grandpa!

  8. mam Reply

    Anthony do you realise that is not grandad in the big picture? xxx

  9. Macca Reply

    ^^^ just noticed, that guy has a RAF uniform on, who is he?

  10. Catalina Ospina Reply

    So good to hear you are back!!!
    I cant wait to hear all the stories about Burma, but this “opening of the season” is just brilliant. I really enjoyed reading Grand Middleton letters… no wonder you are so charming, it runs in the family 😉

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Catalina 🙂

      Haha back at ya, cariño 😉

  11. hayadeen Reply

    Amazing that the letters survive until today! My grandpa is still alive, sometimes I ask him about the war etc. Glad that he still remember but not so details. I wish he wrote a journal/diary so that I know what exactly he feels at that time.

    Btw, those pictures are great. Keep ’em safe.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Thanks, Hayadeen 🙂

  12. Adventurous Kate Reply

    Any doubt that this was your grandfather flew out the window after reading how he spent his final days. A very handsome man he was, too! (And yes, he looks JUST like you!)

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Macca Reply

      Really? I always thought you were a bit of a Tw*t

      love ya x x x

  13. Edna Reply

    Loved this! I’m a bit of a history nerd so love reading old letters from the front and whatnot. Thanks for sharing a bit of personal family history!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers Edna,

      I enjoyed writing about it 🙂 Thanks for reading, nerd 😉

  14. Macca Reply

    love it mate, I guess that’s where you get it from. he’d be proud of you x