The Box of Beautiful Letters
A wartime love story revealed from the 1939-1941 correspondence between Lily Smith and RAF pilot Martyn Allies
Lily and Martyn met in London and fell in love at the beginning of World War II, before the bombs had started to fall. Shortly after, Lily, then aged nineteen, was evacuated to work in Torquay and Martyn was called up to train as an RAF pilot. As their feelings for one another deepened and their affectionate letters became ever more passionate, circumstances forced them to live further apart.
The war intensified and Lily moved back to Woodford Green in London. The couple kept up each other’s spirits through their prolific letters, Martyn describing his alarming flying experiences, and Lily painting a colourful picture of everyday life amidst air-raid sirens and bombing raids.
Was marriage ever going to be within their reach? Their letters give a rare insight into life in war-torn Britain and into the experiences of a fledgling RAF pilot advancing to the status of a Coastal Command pilot operating from Iceland.
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This treasure-trove of letters might have remained hidden forever had not Cheryl Underhill found them in a battered cardboard box at the back of a cupboard. Painstaking work has knitted them together to form this remarkable book.
Cheryl Underhill, a former primary school teacher, discovered many new interests in retirement and one of these, encouraged by her membership of the u3a, was historical research. Once she had set about reading the wartime letters that she’d discovered, and appreciated how well-written they were, she embarked on producing a book to tell the writers’ story, in the context of its era. This, she hoped, would be a tribute to Lily Smith and Martyn Allies’ love for each other, and the love felt for them by their family and the many others with whom their lives had been entwined.