- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Marie Florence Cranfield, Ronald Ritson, Clifford English, Major E.R. Hargreaves
- Location of story:
- South Norwood, Ruislip, London, Haps, Netherlands
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 March 2005
2033627 A.C.W.1 Marie F.Cranfield. 17 September 1944. "To my Darling Ronnie. All my love, darling. Marie"
‘The letter home’ played an important role in keeping up morale of British people during World War Two. This was true for both people serving in the forces and their loved ones back home. Even though they were often separated by distance, it kept families, friends and loved ones close together in words and thoughts.
During World War Two my uncle and aunt, Ronald and Marie Ritson (née Cranfield), started writing to each other as ‘Pen Friends’. Subsequently, they were introduced to each other in person through Clifford English, one of Marie’s cousins and who was also a colleague of Ronald’s. Marie served in the WRAF and Ronald in the RAMC. They became engaged in February 1944 and married at South Norwood, London a year later, in February 1945.
In June 1944 Ronald took part in the Normandy Landings, landing at Sword Beach on 8 June. In September 1944, Ronald was involved in the Allied Forces march to Nijmegen, with the ultimate intention of capturing the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem, which proved to be ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Ronald’s unit then stayed in the Netherlands close to the German border for the autumn and most of the following winter.
This article is about a photograph and message Marie sent to Ronald, and a letter Ronald sent to Marie during that autumn of 1944. I am grateful to Marie and Ronald’s children, my cousins, for allowing me access to their parents’ documents from World War Two and allowing them to be shared with others. I submit this article in honour of Marie and Ronald and to show that even during a World War there are some happy memories. The terms of the “People’s War” website have been read and understood.
In September 1944, at the time of Operation ‘Market Garden’ that it was hoped would end the war by Christmas, I believe that Marie was stationed at RAF Ruislip in West London. So, it is likely Marie would be aware to a large extent of the events going on in Belgium and Holland.
So, on 17 September 1944 Marie had her photograph taken and sent it with a short dedication to Ronald. It is a short but simple message that says:
“To my Darling Ronnie.
All my love, darling. Marie”
On Thursday 26 October 1944, Ronald wrote a letter to Marie via her parents’ home in South Norwood, London. I am not exactly sure where it was written, but evidence from elsewhere suggests it could have been in or around Haps in the Netherlands. It has been sent to Marie’s home address in South Norwood rather than where Marie was billeted closer to where she was posted at the time.
The original letter has been censored and signed by Major E.R. Hargreaves, who was Ronald’s Commanding Officer in 26 Field Hygiene Section, a part of the Royal Army Medical Corps. The envelope is also signed and stamped saying it has been passed by Censor No 15671. The date stamp is 27 October 1944 and I think it is stamped ‘Field Post Office 740’. Below is a transcript of the letter. A few spelling corrections have been made.
“2033627 A.C.W.1 Cranfield,
47 Huntley Road
“Pte R. Ritson 7517826
26 Field Hygiene Sect.
Thurs Oct 26
My Darling Marie,
Just a few more lines dear hoping you are still keeping well and happy, as I am in the best of health, also all the boys and the C.O. I’m pleased you are receiving some of my letters dear and I’m receiving yours alright and it’s grand to hear from you my dear.
I hope you are still getting home once or twice dear. It certainly breaks up the week for you dear, and it’s nice to get home.
Well I hope your Mum and Dad are keeping well and not forgetting Joyce who is no doubt always on the bright side.
I’m pleased to say the weather has improved a little over here dear. We did have a really lovely day. But after the days have been rather dull but a day such as this is one thing to be thankful for.
Well dear I do hope things are quieter for you. I hear on the news that there are still flying bombs coming over. It would be good to get rid of them, but it may not be so long my dear.
How is your new billet dear? I expect you will be pleased to get home during some of the evenings. There is no place like home is there dear?
Well my dear I really haven’t much news so please excuse my short letter. I know you understand. So keep your chin up my darling and keep smiling and all the very best for you now dear, and God bless you.
All my love darling.
One photograph and a few short words say such a lot about what people thought and felt like during World War Two. Because of censorship, many things such as exact locations or times could not be written in case the enemy captured the letters.
A lot of things had to be left unwritten, or written in coded terms. For example, Ronald writing that he was in good health, as were the others in his Unit indicated none of them had been wounded or killed. In his letter, Ronald concentrates on the recent weather and especially ‘home’. For Marie, home at the time was in Huntley Road, South Norwood, London where her mother, father and sister Joyce lived.
After the war, Marie and Ronald made their own home initially in Ronald’s home village of Scilly Banks, Cumbria. They then lived for a few short years in South Norwood but eventually settled in Whitehaven, Cumbria not far from Scilly Banks. For Marie, Ronald, their children and grandchildren there really was no place like home, in wartime or in peacetime. Marie passed away in October 1990 and Ronald in July 2000.
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