Ships that pass in the night – 6

My mum and her two sisters kept a diary during the war; they were at home with Mother in the small village of Harston, just south of Cambridge. Their brother and father were away , one in the RAF, one in the Army; the oldest sister Audrey was working until she too joined up, my mum who was the youngest and her sister Beryl were both still at school. In 1940, Beryl was sixteen, my mum was nearly fifteen:

29’ June – 2nd July 1940

Reginald J Harry 232496 Date of birth – 18’ June 1919
52nd Lowland Div., Royal Corps of Signals. Wireless Engineer
Home: – Ealing.
Stationed: – The Garage, Harston.

Reg was actually in the village a week and Beryl and Monica met him three times, but he was not brought home to be introduced.

About six days after he left Harston, Beryl and Monica were very surprised to receive a letter from him and letters were frequently then passed between he and Beryl. On the 24th August he borrowed a motor bike and came over to see her. This was the day we had been on the river with Fred & Co., as described in the previous chapter and Reg met us off the boat. To say Beryl was surprised to see him, is putting it mildly. To quote her own words “but as with all our other “ships,” we never dreamed we’d see him again.”

He also came over on 26th August and the 1st September and interspersed his visits with letters.

He once bet Beryl his bottom dollar she couldn’t write him a 100 page letter, and did she accept the challenge? She was so short of news by page 75 that she started telling him her life story, but she managed the 100! Fifty sheets of school exercise paper written both sides. What a pen! Her reward for this was not the bottom dollar but a large box of Black Magic, received on the 26th September.


Beryl has written to him many times since, but has received only one letter, written from Hospital on the 6th October, in which he said he had met with an accident and would she write to him. We are rather afraid something has happened to him as we have heard nothing more.

Reg was a regular soldier who joined up on the 31st March 1937. Having lived in Canada for several years, he had a slight Canadian accent.

We hope you are alright, Reg!

With a fairly uncommon combination of names I was able to find both Reg’s birth, in Devonport, Devon, and his passing away in 1998 in Truro, Cornwall.  His middle name was James and he married  Ilse I Zemke in Germany in 1948

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