Assistant Curator, Morag, shares love letters from the aftermath of the Second World War.

When we think of the end of the Second World War, we may think of the reunions of families and lovers in 1945, documented in photographs and film clips. However, some people had to wait much longer to be reunited with their loved ones, such as soldiers involved with the demobilisation effort across Europe. One of these soldiers was John Meades, who was stationed near Hamburg in 1946-7. We are lucky enough to have the letters he exchanged with the woman who would become his wife, Betty.

A photograph of John Meades (second from the left) and fellow soldiers, taken in Greece in 1946 (2017-0051/1)

Reading the letters, we can see how the relationship between John and Betty strengthens over time. Both John and Betty start out a bit tentative, almost insecure.

“I was so pleased to hear from you, I thought you had forgotten all about me,” writes Betty.

“I suppose you haven’t got married on the sly have you? Because I shall be annoyed if you do and don’t let me know,” asks John.


The possible insecurity in these letters could be due to the distance between the pair and the time that passes between messages. When I read these letters, I see them as a bridge between that distance, offering a link between two people who seem to miss one another terribly.

“I did not think it possible to miss anyone so much. To see you go on that train, and to know that it would be next year before I should see you again was nearly too much for me,” writes Betty.

Letter from Betty to John, Sep 1946 (2017-0051/16a)

The importance of these letters to the pair is made clear by an event told by John. The postman in Hamburg failed to pick up letters from John’s encampment, causing a delay in his letter reaching Betty back in Hounslow. John apparently took matters into his own hands:

“You can bet I have said a few words to him, and his ears are smarting and I expect they will smart for a week…”


John and Betty make extensive plans for their future, in which they will be reunited: “… roll on Feb 6 1947…”, they both write. In a particularly sweet passage, John seems to express his desire to be romantic, to be financially stable, to be the ‘ideal man’ for Betty upon his return:

“… but I want you to know I have been wanting to write you letters like they do in books for a long time, but let us look forward to some day when it won’t be necessary to have to write, and I am a settled down City Business Man.”

Letter from John to Betty, Oct 1946 (2017-0051/17c)

Betty replies kindly, trying to reassure John that it is enough for him to just be himself:

“Just write to me how you feel, not exactly as they do in books.”

A photograph of John and Betty Meades, taken at a party c.1947 (2017-0051/2)

Reading these letters feels especially uplifting as we know that John and Betty were reunited, and eventually got their happy ending. These letters give us an insight into the lives of ordinary people living in extraordinary times and show us how the post helped love withstand adversity.

– Morag Thomas, Assistant Curator

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