Skip to main content

facts & arguments

Mom never threw out her wartime love letters, but it was time to pull them out and reread them one last time, Judy Lord writes

Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at

We could not go out. Mom was too ill. She tried to sip at her coffee. We turned Pavarotti off, and opened the bottom dresser drawer. The letter drawer.

It was in danger of failing to close. There were stacks and stacks of letters, some bundled into elastics, dozens upon dozens more loose. Most were from Tyndall, Man., boys, barely graduated. There were perhaps 100 letters, maybe 200, many of them on the blue onion-skin paper from the war zones. Some were fatter, none sorted; the stacks had not been disturbed for 50 years, at least.

I drew out a packet – a smallish bunch tied with string. We eased one from the stack: bright red King George stamp in the corner; a printed rectangular message reminder from Canada Post, "ENLIST NOW"; the address, "Katie Cass, Tyndall, Manitoba." Dad's writing.

The post office date stamp was clear: Jan. 30, 1942, 75 years ago to the day.

Archie calling.

And so it began. Messages, direct to Katie, beautiful Katie.

Jan. 30, 1942, Winnipeg:

"When I write to you, I find it difficult to stop. … I hope I will have the opportunity to be with you dearest. I say dearest because that is just what I mean, even though you are reluctant to believe it."

March 10:

"Really this letter that I have just received from you, and incidentally which I have read a countless number of times, makes me think of the song, Girl of my Dreams."

Jan. 22, 1943, Yorkton, Air Training:

"Sweetheart, I want your picture, just a snap shot will do. The boys are inquisitive. … they wonder what kind of girl I've fallen for … I've seen most of their girlfriends and honey, you've got them beat by a proverbial mile.

"In the recent crash a couple of parachutes were destroyed. I thought you might be curious to see the material. I'll enclose a square of it. You may not feel so bad about losing your silk stockings and undies. Goodnight sweetheart. My love goes to you, if you want it."

May 12:

"The Air Force is on Prince Albert radio a week from this Friday. You'll hear me struggling through As Time Goes By. I warn you the program will be corny! But I'll be singing to you. …

"I was glad to hear that you liked teaching and that you'd given up the Air Force idea. It's not that I don't like WAAFs, but You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To. Really."

March, 1944, Lachine:

"Good morning my dear unconventional Kit. I've just awakened and naturally the first thing that entered my head was writing a letter to you. … I've been playing hockey with the station team in the National Defence League. Every player has played big-time hockey except yours truly, but I'm not doing too badly considering.

"It gets disheartening when you continually expect a posting which never arrives. … Most of my friends were on the last Overseas' Draft, and are headed across the pond.

"'Men may come and men may go / But I stay on forever.'" (Apologies to Tennyson.)

May 26, across the pond at last, Croft, Yorkshire:

"For the first time in a month, I've really hit the jackpot – the sum total of two parcels and 19 letters … three from you! Your letters have a jarring and potent effect on me.

"Tomorrow we should crew-up and that, my dear, is the critical point in this boy's life."

Aug. 30, Squadron "Bluenose" 434:

"I've just received two letters from you since the beginning of the week. I consider that quite an honour seeing today is only Wednesday. Congratulations on your knitting achievements. By this time you should have completed John's other sock. No, no, NO, I'm not being sarcastic.

"Our trips [over the Third Reich] are long. We fly anywhere from 7-10 hours and anywhere from 10-20,000 feet up. It's more tiring than adventurous, this flying, but … our kites are good and our crew is magnificent."

November, 1944:

"Though I now consider myself much wiser in the ways of the world, I am sorry to say there is an emptiness in the things I say and do … it's impossible to explain. On Tuesday we visited Nuremberg for our 19th mission … 11 more little sorties and then home? With the people I care for most. People like you."

March, 1945:

"Tomorrow we expect to go on a daylight, our first in over two months, to put in a punch for the Army. This will be our 30th sortie. Ordinarily it would mean we'd be through – but then these aren't ordinary times. Your weekly pamphlet of local news isn't arriving."

March 30, Field Post Office, Britain:

"Two letters in one week are most unusual for you, and I am deeply grateful. I am a very lonely airman. … Well do I remember the arguments you beat me in during high-school days, and the lesson which still remains imprinted in my memory – the futility of arguing with women!!! Indirectly darling you've saved me many a painful hour. How can I ever thank you?"

April 7, 1945:

"Your letters are grand … when all other letters are cast aside, I pick up yours, to strengthen my system, and give me the grip to carry on."

On May 7, Germany surrendered.

July 11:

"Chaps are coming and going every day. I may be home within a couple of months. It may be a year! We're on a five-day week! Haven't some people a soft life? P.S. Flash!! I may be home by Sept 1st. I've just heard!!"

My mother, Katherine Cass, married Archie Warren on May 24, 1947. They lived happily until Archie died in 2002, at the age of 80. Katie died four days after the letter drawer was opened, on Feb. 3, 2017. She was 93 years old.

Judy Lord lives in Chelsea, Que.