It’s Only Words (continued)

By: Anne Corke

Dec 11 2013

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Category: Genealogy, Life stories, Submarines

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The second treasured letter in my possession was written by my father on November 27, 1943 ‘somewhere in Italy’. My father, an escaped prisoner of war, was about to set out with his companion in an attempt to reach the Allied lines. He writes:

My Darling Wife and Kiddies,

Here we are again, a little belated in writing you, but then the postal facilities for us have not been any good up until today.

I guess you have been worrying quite a lot about your erring husband, and you can bet your boots, I have been worrying about you and our gang. Still as things are, I have been very fortunate in finding some real friends in Italy, a damn sight better than most one could find at home. These friends are going to post this as soon as the Allied Forces get to Rome or some place within a hundred miles of here.

Well my Dear, a companion and myself are setting off tomorrow to make an attempt at getting through to the Allied Lines. We are hoping to get beyond their lines by a fortnight from tomorrow. When we do, if it is at all possible, I will cable you. If we do not get through, we will in all probability be prisoners again in Germany. Here is hoping that will not happen though. This letter is mainly for that reason; if we are taken to Germany, you will get this long before we will be allowed to write from Germany. Personally I have every hope of getting through with God’s help.

I am in very good health, and hope you are and Pete, Kay, Claire and Steve. Tell them that Dad has been thinking of them a lot and hope they have been good kids to you, since my enforced vacation.

I am pretty fed up with dodging Jerries and Fascists, fortunately the latter are few. The Italians want British rule; they are chocker with their own. I do not blame them either, from what I have seen of it.

Enclosed will be a photograph of a very great Italian friend, so hang on to it until I get home again, though I hope to be with you long before this gets to you. I cannot tell you any more Sweetheart, but will tell you the whole yarn when we meet again, and you can take it from me, it is unbelievable, The great kindness shown by the Italian people to us has been stupendous.

Keep smiling Darling, put that chin of yours up, look after yourself and our kiddies. Above all do not worry, your old man will turn up, all same the bad ha’penny.

Until we meet again Sweetheart, all my love to you and the kids, I think of you always. God bless you all and keep you safe for me.

Oceans of Love,

Yours Forever,


These words, in my Dad’s very precise hand, are so typical of him. He was both physically and mentally a very strong, stubborn man. Not one to take threats to his family, country or way of life lying down, Dad had volunteered for the Royal Navy Submarine Service in 1941, much to my mother’s chagrin. The Submarine Service was the most dangerous branch of the Navy. One in three submariners never came home. That would be Dad, never one to do things by halves. A professional engineer, he served aboard HMS Saracen as Engine Room Artificer. Saracen patrolled the Mediterranean Sea and during her distinguished career, was responsible for sinking thousands of tons of Axis shipping. In February 1943, Saracen landed secret agents on the island of Corsica where her crucial part in the liberation of the island is commemorated by a plaque on the beach at Cupabia. But on Friday the 13th of August 1943, her luck ran out. Mortally wounded by depth charges, she was scuttled by her crew. Two men were lost, the others taken prisoners and transported to Italian POW camps. Following the Italian armistice in September 1943, the prisoners were released and set out in small parties to try to reach the Allied lines. As Dad and his travelling companion Charles were about to set out, Dad wrote this letter, hoping it would reach my mother. Mother was holding down the fort, raising three young children on her own, herding the family into shelters during frequent air raids, feeding them as best she could with imposed rationing and trying bravely to carry on though her husband was missing and presumed dead and she was receiving a widow’s pension. No doubt she was ecstatic to receive Dad’s letter. She always believed that he would come home and now she knew that he was alive, she was certain that he would return. Dad’s letter is a window into my parents’ wartime experiences and a reminder of the hardships endured by their generation. More importantly, it’s a souvenir of a difficult time in my family’s life and a reminder that love conquers all.

Copyright 2013 Anne Corke

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