History of World War Two Told Through Letters
Today we are looking at two notes from Alex. Both allude to Alex’s location with mysterious clues and little information. Alex is happy to be exploring a city. This is a consolation for him – getting to travel to new places. He clearly makes the most of the opportunity. I would imagine it would be difficult for Sylvia to read these letters about Alex sight seeing. She cannot be there with him, and she also cannot hear about what he is doing in any detail. These notes are unlike the more long-winded and downtrodden letters that Alex writes when he spends long days on the ship.
In the first letter, written on November 24th, 1944, Alex simply mentions that he is trying to see as many “worth while” sites as he can in this “interesting” place, but says he cannot write anymore because it will be censored anyway.
The second – written five days later – is a funny (and beautifully illustrated) postcard that was mailed from France, though we get no other information about his location. The postcard itself is quite a specimen. I write more about it below the card.
Dec. 4, 1944
Again, a few words to let you now I am well and happy. This place is very interesting to see and I am busy as hell to see everything worth while [sic]. So as soon as morning comes I see to it that if there is a chance out I go. And I come back drenched, tired but happy.
I can’t tell you about what I have seen because obviously enough of it would not pass the censor, but so much the better, I’ll have more to tell you when I get home, which is going to be not so long from now.
Darling every day I make [it] my business to go and see about mail, there is none, that is the answer. But now I don’t mind it so terribly much, not because I love you less but because the feeling that this separation won’t last too long. Dearest I conclude, I have duty to perform for the next four hours and then I’ll “hit the sack” my dogs are barking.
With all my love to you and baby and a million of kisses.
(I am not certain about whether Alexs reference to receiving no mail is a comment on whether Sylvia has been writing or about whether they are receiving any mail at all.)
November 24, 1944
Just a few lines to let you know I am well. It is a very exciting stay we had here with all the sights to be seen and things to do. It won’t be long now and you shall hear a full report. I hope both you and baby are well. A million kisses and love to both of you,
It’s fascinating that Alex chooses this card. It depicts two very young boys – both dressed as soldiers – talking about whether they have received mail. A gun lies strewn on the ground next to them and two children run and wave the flag of France behind them. The sadder looking has not received any mail because “she does not know how to write.”
It seems he cannot choose one that would give away his location so here is one that comments on the youth fighting the war and on the letter writing process itself. It addresses how young the men fighting the war are and how their morale relies on the mail.
The sign above the little boy reads “Ligne Majino.” At first glance I thought the sign might refer to an “imaginary line,” like one that little boys might create in the games of war that they play. However, the closest reference that I am able to find is, “Ligne Maginot,” which was “a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defenses, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I, and in the run-up to World War II.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maginot_Line) It was named after the French Minister of War. Whatever the reason that Alex chose this postcard, it certainly seems to tell us more about him than the place he is currently located. I wonder, though, how ubiquitous this type of postcard was in France in 1944.