My interview on The Graham Torrington Late Show. It airs out of Birmingham. But it is relayed to a large audience all over the Midlands, via eight other stations, to places like Leicester and Stoke. It’s the longest interview I have done so far. It was also the first time I have read some of the letters on the air, which gave me goosebumps. Here is a link to the program. My piece starts at about 1hr. 24mins.
A Box Of Love Letters
While going through my mother’s possessions after her death, I found a chocolate box at the bottom of her wardrobe. It was decorated with roses. Inside, in tightly-knotted bundles indicating a treasured possession, were a series of letters. They told the story of the love between my mother and a soldier who went to France in January 1940 – and never came back.
The Mystery Man
His name was Martin Preston. He was the nephew of the iconic World War One poet, Robert Graves. When he met my mother he was a 19 year old student at Oxford. She was twenty-three, and working in London. They met in Beaconsfield, where he lived with his aunt at Whichert House, a key location in the geography of their love. Martin spent nearly every Uni vacation there. They fell madly in love.
The War Comes
A year after they met, war was declared. So Martin joined his local territorial regiment, The Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, as a second Lieutenant. He was the youngest officer in the regiment. After training in Sussex, the battalion shipped out to France in January 1940. Then follow 4 months in a drab, mining village near Lille. This was The Phoney War. Then, on May 10th, The German panzers smashed through the Ardennes. Martin’s unit deployed east, to Waterloo ( of all places). But after 24 hours they were pulled back to the town of Hazebrouck. Their order was to protect the approaches to Dunkirk – till the last man standing…. Martin was never heard from again.