Prisoner of War Letter

Today’s item is a letter from a larger collection of documents relating to an ATS officer involved with the administration of Casualties in the early part of the war. I will post further documents and transcripts at a future date, but this item stands out as being a touchingly personal one. Casualties are an unfortunate but inevitable part of war and it seems that the British had a pretty efficient system of informing loved ones of the fate of their loved ones, whether killed wounded or captured.

As can be imagined it must have been far harder to live with the unknown, unsure if your loved one was alive or dead, than having a definite answer, however terrible. This letter comes from the mother of a soldier who had received confirmation that her son, Lance Bombardier Victor Clayton, was a prisoner of war:

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The letter reads:

Oct 25th 1940
Mj A I Cowie (?)
Dear Sir
Many Thanks for your letter giving me information on my son L/Bdr Victor Kenneth Clayton (1508796) Prisoner of War no 13360. It is a great comfort to know Victor is alive and well. I do sincerely hope the war will soon end and all our loved ones safe home again.
Thanking you for all you are doing for our loved ones.
May God bless you all and keep you safe from harm.
Yours Gratefully
Mrs Gillian Sarah Clayton

This simple letter is a window into the realities of the Second World War and how it affected loved ones far from the front. You can sense the relief Mrs Clayton must have felt at hearing her son was alive, and imagine the upset of her knowing she would not see her son again until the end of the war.

Once again as a collector I am struck by how little documents are valued. This letter was part of a much larger and historically significant set of paperwork, that was sold to me for a few pounds. I am very humbled to have been able to take custodianship of them for the time being, but one wonders how many more important and emotive items of ephemera have been destroyed by families and institutions who do not recognise their true value.

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