Page 16 - December 2015
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  A LABOUR OF LOVE

                                        by Paul Hay (9475) Ottawa, Canada

    N ONE way more than another, this          through some of the leƩers to verify dates
    project goes back to August 1940, when     and order (someƟmes they were just dated
    my Dad joined the Royal Navy as a 22-year  "Thurday morning" and the exact Ɵme
old, who had just finished a Bachelor’s degree  needed some context of what was being
in Geography at the University of Birmingham   described, such as "…when I leŌ you on New
and had also completed a year of teacher       Street StaƟon…") I discovered that once they
training. Just before he leŌ home he and his   were married, on a couple of occasions Mun
Fatherhood build an air-raid shelter in their  was able to move into rented rooms with
garden a Bordesley Green in Birmingham. His    Dad at a locaƟon near to his barracks. So
first posƟng was to a basic training facility   obviously during those periods, no wriƩen
that has been commandeered from Butlins        correspondence was necessary. We therefore
in Skegness and aŌer a few weeks, there he     had a conƟnuous run of his leƩers from 1940
emerged as a Trainee Sick-Birth AƩendant       to 1946.
and was dispatched to Plymouth Royal Naval
Hospital, where he spent a year of so doing       So a project started to develop in my mind.
X-rays and dispensing medicines. Right from    A could of years ago I saw someone selling
the beginning of his term in the Navy he       some government surplus professional HP
established a regular correspondence with      laser printers capable of prinƟng duplex 11x17
friends and family and with one friend in      inch sheets. I took along a laptop and tested a
parƟcular—a young blonde lady called Hilda     couple in the salesroom and chose a machine
who aŌer several journeys home on leave        that looked undamaged and had a relaƟvely
and more frequent leƩers, became his wife      low print count on its build-in ‘odometer’. The
on October 1943. Six months later he was       machine cost $125, plus $50 for a new toner
shipped off to Australia in a conƟngent that    cartridge. I also bought a new Epson v600
supported a Mobile AircraŌ Maintenance         scanner that promised (and delivered) high
Yard. Having graduated into the role of        speed scanning capability with good quality
teaching and training the wide variety of      and resoluƟon. Then I set about scanning all
new recruits in everything from NavigaƟon      of Dad’s leƩers. The total number of pages
to Telegraphy, he wrote almost five hundred     scanned came to more than 4000. The stock
leƩers between the years 1940-46. Living       ranged from domesƟc notepaper to the backs
in the uncertainƟes of war, the dialogue of    of unused X-ray requisiƟon forms(!), pages
topics ranged from the survival of a near-     from exercise books, die-stamped leƩerheads
miss bombing raid, to commiseraƟons over       from hotels they stayed in, to air leƩers and
the news of loss of a mutual friend. From      pages of almost transparent airmail paper,
the boxes of leƩers, I was concerned that      wriƩen mostly in warƟme inks of dubious
our archive has somehow misplaced several      density. Clearly many of the paper were not
months of correspondence in late 1945          acid-free and several leƩers have become
and also in early 1946. However on reading     sets of 6-piece jigsaws, as they dissolved
                                               at the folds. My Mum had unwrapped and
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