The doomed love story of Roland Leighton and Vera Brittain, shifting as it does from the refined and comfortable drawing rooms of early twentieth century England to the mud of the trenches in France and Flanders during World War I, developed and blossomed through their letters. Selections from this intimate and revealing correspondence are presented here: you can see images of the letters themselves and read the originals or a transcription and you can also listen to them being read by two young people who are the same age now as Roland and Vera were then.
Life at the Front
William Fingland sailed from Toronto for Plymouth aboard the SS Megantic in May 1915. When he landed in Plymouth, he sent [Jan] Etta MacDiarmid, his sweetheart in Toronto, a telegram which simply read “Safe”. For the rest of the First World War he served as an officer with the Canadian YMCA. Known to the Canadian troops as the “Y”, the YMCA became an integral part of the war effort, adopting the motto “Service to the Troops”. For the soldier serving overseas, the “Y” hut became a temporary home and refuge from the ever-present danger of enemy attack.
Gerald Blake served with the London Rifle Brigade, British Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The Gerald Blake fonds contains more than sixty letters he wrote to his mother and to his brother, Clive, between November 1914 and June 1916. One letter, written on December 27, 1914, sets the stage for the incredible Christmas truce that occurred between British and German troops.