Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Every night about this time: A kriegie's wife writes.

It’s easy to forget that the wives, fiancées and girlfriends of prisoners of war had it just as rough as their menfolk, but in a different way, of course.

I am currently going through the letters of Lola Hutchinson. She had been married to Doug for five years, and separated from him because of overseas service and captivity for four years. 

Doug and Lola Hutchinson,  25 March 1939. Courtesy of Robert Douglas Hutchinson.

Lola wrote to Doug every week and was lucky if she received one letter a month in return. She was in despair because he was badly injured when his aircraft crashed in a minefield near Heraklion, Crete after being shot down by machine gun fire on 22 July 1943. It was a terrible situation. The aircraft was on fire. The pilot had an arm shot off, the navigator had severe head wounds, the second Wop/AG was killed, and Doug had shrapnel wounds to foot (with a large chunk missing), elbow, legs and body. Although severely wounded, he had managed to drag his crew members to safety. Lola knew he was injured but, because of the difficult mail situation—and because he had omitted to tell her—she did not know that he had only been in hospital for a month and was on the road to recovery and out of hospital.

Every letter to him reiterated her worry that he was still seriously injured and badly burnt. And where was he burned? Was it his face? She had no idea if her handsome husband’s good looks were intact. Putting that aside, the strain of the separation was difficult. She missed him and needed to know that he still loved her, as much as she loved him. She also felt the strain on their married life. They were young, and they didn’t have one. Despite censorship and the effects it might have on her husband, she dropped a hint about the strains:

‘I’m hoping and praying for you to be home for your next birthday, wouldn’t that be rather a wonderful thing to happen sweetheart? My dear you should see me now, it’s terribly hot and I’m lying on the floor with only a pair of scanties, a floral skirt and a white open neck blouse on.’

Usually, though, she was more circumspect in her correspondence which, perhaps, was just as well, for both of them. But nothing could stop her remembering their time together, turning over memories and hoping to make new memories when he returned. As she wrote her weekly letter, she listened to the radio:

‘They have been playing lots of new numbers and one of them, a favourite of mine, is “Every night about this time”. It’s funny but when I hear it played I always think of you, somehow the words bring back memories.’

Lola didn’t mention which version but perhaps it was this 1942 recording by the Ink Spots. I can see why she liked it.

Incidentally, Doug received Lolas letter about four months later. Mails had been disrupted and it was his first letter for a few months. I must say your description of how you were coping with the hot weather was rather vivid. Almost distracting to me’.

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