How did soldiers and sweethearts swap sexy messages in WW2?

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1. Sealed with a loving kiss

During World War Two, letters between soldiers and their sweethearts were censored. Hundreds of thousands of couples wanted to keep their love alive in a time of great peril. Yet they could not write to each other without strangers reading every word.

In 1941 the government launched the airgraph system to help them stay in touch. Millions of letters were photographed and sent as rolls of microfilm then printed on arrival. But many couples were reluctant to reveal their true feelings in a format that would be read by censors. They needed to find other ways to express their love...

2. CLICKABLE: Uncover the hidden messages

In the 1930s lovers sent letters with SWALK or BOLTOP written on the envelope. These meant Sealed With A Loving Kiss and Better On Lips Than On Paper. In World War Two there was an explosion of saucy new acronyms. Can you decipher them?

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3. The language of stamps

Stamp positions had been used as a lovers' code since Victorian times in Britain. The stamp angle and placement on the envelope had a different meaning as the video below reveals.

The Language of Stamps (1940) British Pathe

4. To my dearest

How have lovers exchanged secret sexy messages over time?

Ancient Egypt

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Pottery poems

Parchment was expensive so poorer people wrote love poems or messages on pieces of broken pottery, known as ostracon.

Medieval Europe

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Love songs

Troubadours in 13th Century France created songs about courtly devotion and forbidden passions. They would be dedicated to high-born ladies beyond their reach.

Victorian London

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Floral messages

Women and men could express themselves by wearing or sending different flowers. Special dictionaries reveal asters meant love but basil meant hatred.

Modern day

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Love apps

Mobile phone apps for couples allow them to send lines from poems, build memory scrapbooks together and send heartfelt video messages.