Edited and with additional material by Sara Goodwins
WW2 letters to an RA Gunner, plus background information.
“It is interesting makes you realise that you are not just dealing with bits of paper but with people.”
Page 104, Dear Ray…
Letters are always interesting.
Letters written at times of world-rocking events are especially interesting revealing much of what the ordinary people thought about what was going on around them, how their lives were affected and how ordinary life was carried on despite major upheavals.
Dear Ray... is a book of such letters. They were written to a Royal Artillery gunner serving in the Second World War by his girlfriend, his mother and occasionally by other members of his extended family. Ordinary domestic details such as problems with jam-making and family illnesses rub shoulders with talk about his mother's call-up, his sweetheart's duties in the ATS and the family's evacuation due to an unexploded bomb.
They also contain a mystery; who is the German girl whose photograph Ray kept with his letters?
Given that Ray experienced frequent changes of posting and ended up as part of the British Army on the Rhine, it is remarkable that so much of his correspondence survives. As his fiancée writes:
'One reason I detest leaving places is that you have to destroy letters and I detest doing that – but you just can’t carry them all around – but I always keep a few – and that means I have to read them through to see which to keep and I get so interested reading them again that time flies by without me realising it.'
The book covers a period of about six years from when Ray Hibberd was called up, aged eighteen, to his demobilisation after the end of the war. The text of over 100 letters is included, together with comment, photographs and anecdotes which provide historical information and put the background into context.
Where did the letters come from?
Much of history consists of people commenting about what happened years before they were born about events which they have not experienced. Although often providing useful insights, it can all get a bit second and third hand - like messages distorting as they pass along a line of people.
It's much more compelling to read the actual words of someone writing during a time of great conflict and upheaval.
We have long been interested in the personal and original, so, when offered a box of letters by a book dealer in London, were naturally keen to explore their content.
The result is Dear Ray...
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