Sneak Peek: Some Letters from the Suitcase

June 15, 2017

Today we publish LETTERS FROM THE SUITCASE,  a very special collection of correspondence of two people very much in love during the Second World War. Mary and David Francis were only 21 and 19 when they met and fell in love in 1938. These letters, hidden for many years, reveal not only their passion for each other, but their lives working in Bletchley Park, bringing up a baby in war-torn London and David’s experiences serving overseas. Here, we share a few examples of their witty, intelligent conversations, shot through with fears about an impending war… 

To David, from Bletchley Park:

My darling,

I’m very much here, surrounded by typewriters, ledgers and the other symbols of servitude, missing you like mad and positive that I cannot live through this.

It’s a lovely old manor house, surrounded by park, with a maze and tennis and badminton courts. We certainly do ourselves proud, we Government officials. But it’s all so terribly far way from anything that I consider important, and so overpopulated with quacking female and pompous male, that I can hardly breathe.

We were met by a car and given a very good lunch (oh boy, did I need it – no supper – no breakfast). I have heard that baths are considered extras!

Please take care of yourself for my sake, and if you borrow any money, keep it for yourself. I probably will be able to manage. But write soon to me as I miss you, and am going to miss you most agonisingly.

Please write and tell me how you are and love me an awful lot. I am not sure about the weekend yet, but can probably manage Aylesbury on Saturday, if even for the day.

Love to the flat, and to the view and to Griselda, and to you.

With all my love,


From David:

Mary darling,

The last frantic rush for the train on Monday prevented me from saying once again how wonderful the week end was. Sunday is one of those days that will remain in my memory as something very beautiful and complete; with lunch in the glare of bright lights and in the Reedian atmosphere of graduated poached egg-on-chips connoisseurs; with a lovely walk along the very placid riverside with a background of church bells; with a promenade overlooking a forestial and shimmering view of the Thames; with a bizarre tea of stale cakes and jazz; with an hour snatched from the realms of reality and placed for an all too short a space in the hectic regions of debunkable New York; with quiet minutes spent listening to you reading poetry by the light of an intimate and cheerful fire; and finally with ecstatic moments locked in your embrace, close to you and feeling every tremor, every movement, almost every thought that is yours. All combining to make a perfect, if slightly heterogeneous day. So lovely.

A weekend at Brighton would be very enjoyable, would it not?

I am working at Camden Town now; it’s close enough to Regent’s Park to be able to take a walk there during the lunch-hour. Today I went up to Primrose Hill, which is now desecrated by the establishment of anti-aircraft guns right on the top.

Mind you write to me, my sweet.

Tell me when you arrive and I will get the lads to come and meet you.

All my love,


To David in India:

My dearest David,

I received your airgraph dated Dec 18th this morning. How I wish you could have surprised me on Christmas Eve. Do you remember how my legs collapsed once before when you arrived unexpectedly? I have been cleaning up papers over in Elgin Crescent and reading letters, letters, letters that you have sent me during these past years. Some fiendishly casual that have the power to make me hopping mad, others, that by their intensity and sincere love, still make me happy in a mournful sort of way, you know. But the whole makes an interesting documentary history of our time – the doomed generation; we who carried the can back and found ourselves in a battle. My father is out of the army and arrives here today – a civilian. I shall have my work cut out looking after him and mam for a short while as they are both still staggering from the unbelievable news of Tom’s death, but I’m very glad I can help them now. I’ve never been much use to them before. Rosheen flourishes like the green bay tree and sends all her love to ‘our Daddy’. Goodbye for now my dearest and only love.






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