Hundreds of letters tell of a wartime romance that spanned Gidea Park, India and Cranham

In a world of easily deleted electronic texts and emails it’s easy to lose track of conversations, but the granddaughter of a Cranham couple has inherited hundreds and hundreds of fascinating letters from the war, and the end of British rule in India.

When Sally Mathie’s grandmother Violet Harvey died in March, she left a suitcase full to the brim with letters from her husband Thomas.

Mr Harvey, is now 86 and still lives in Lichfield Terrace, where he and Violet moved to 50 years ago. The letters were written to Violet, who lived in Hare Hall Lane, Gidea Park, between 1943 and 1947.

Mrs Mathie said: “I opened the suitcase and they all just fell out. We always joke that my nanna kept everything – too many tea towels, sheets etc – she never parted with anything. But we are so glad that she kept all these letters that I will certainly treasure for the rest of my life.”

The Harveys met in 1943 at a dance hall in Quadrant Arcade, Romford, when Thomas, a bomb disposal officer, was stationed on the south coast.


He was later sent to the Far East and then India where the letters became more regular.

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He said: “Some days she’d get 15 or 20 letters so I needed to number them so she knew what order to read them in.”

“I said Sally should have them because she’s the literary one of the family. (It was at a time when) I was adjusting to being alone, it’s hard when you haven’t been on your own for so long.”

The couple married at Romford Baptist Church, Main Road, in July 1946 when then Lt Harvey was on leave from the army. They have two daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The letters are an insight into the time, revealing things like the cost of paper and pens, which the couple repeatedly discuss, and into the loneliness of being a soldier stationed abroad.

Mrs Mathie, of Chelmsford, is unsure of what to do with the large collection she’s inherited. She said: “What I’d ideally like is if a historian would like to do something with them.”