WWII love letters given ‘new life’

ORIGINAL second world war love letters have been turned into works of art which will go on show for the first time over Remembrance weekend.

Around 50 of the hundreds of letters written over a five-year period by an aircraft engineer separated by the war from his love have been used by paper artist Gillian Taylor to “give them a new life”.

She has made collections of tiny, gold-paper-lined envelopes out of the hand-written letters, which have been framed.

Ms Taylor, who bought the letters on the eBay internet site, said the letters from author Eric to his love, a Swiss woman called Jose, were “full of tenderness mixed with a tension and an uncertainness reflective of the times”.

It appeared the couple met while working at the same house, he as a gardener and she possibly as a cook.

He moved to Southampton to work as an aircraft engineer, repairing fighter and bomber planes, while she remained in Sussex.

Beginning in 1937, he wrote two or three times a week for almost five years, said Ms Taylor.

“During this time the relationship blossomed, and they were married in 1940,” said Ms Taylor, adding the author of the letters died in Southampton in 1975.

“I feel inspired and very privileged to have the letters, and I spent a long time thinking about whether I could use them.

“I concluded that by making them into art, I am giving them a new life.

“It has been like reading a novel. The letters are beautifully written and I feel as though I know the writer.

“I wanted to create something special with them. I hope that people will be moved by what I have made,” she said.

She suspected the love letters may have found their way onto eBay via a house clearance, which she found “very sad”.

They not only contained “great passion,” but also glimpses of life in the war years, including rationing.

One of the letters also spoke of female air ace Amy Johnson visiting his place of work a couple of weeks previously, and he wrote that he was sorry to hear she had gone missing.

Ms Taylor said she had scanned all the contents of the letters, more of which she intended to use in further works.

Her Love Letters anthology will be exhibited for Exeter Open Studios in the city’s Queen Street during the weekend of Remembrance Sunday.

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