Some weeks ago I published this picture of an envelope containing a passionate wartime love letter from sailor Harry Chipperfield to his ‘darling’ wife Queenie who lived at the family home in Shadwell Road, North End, Portsmouth.
I hoped to find somemembers of the family so that I could return the letter.
The letter, from 1942, was found in a bag which was being sold at a rummage sale.
As luck would have it the article was seen by Harry’s brother who sent it to his niece (Harry’s daughter) who lives in Chipping Norton, in the Cotswolds.
I visited Diana at her cottage and it turns out the letter was sent from Gibraltar before Diana was born although she had been conceived.
Every night her mother gave her a photograph of her father to kiss good night to so she would know what he looked like.
When Harry came home some two years later and walked through the door she immediately knew who he was and she can remember shouting ‘My daddy’ a bit like that famous scene from The Railway Children I should imagine.
Later on in his naval career Harry was posted to Malta for another two-year stint but this time he was not going to leave his wife and two daughters at home.
Diana told me: ‘It was amazing. We flew to Malta from Northolt airport and in those days it was a complete thrill to fly. My mother didn’t know what to make of it. We lived on the island for the two years my father was posted there.’
So many letters were exchanged between Harry and Queenie that Diana has a suitcase filled with letters from her mother to her father, but she had none from her father to her mother... until this one turned up.
At that time servicemen could be away from their families for endless amounts of time so letters were a welcome reminder of home and the women they missed.
Harry was born in Portsmouth on June 6, 1914. His mother ran a small shop in Kingston but being very soft-hearted she let people have groceries on tick and the shop went under.
As this was during the depression Harry’s father moved the family to Wales to look for work. It was there that Harry saw a recruitment poster for the Royal Navy.
He applied at the nearest recruiting office and was sent to Portsmouth for the entrance exam. He passed and on May 9, 1933, Harry joined the Senior Service as a junior writer. He excelled and by December 31, 1939 he was a petty officer.
In between his family had moved back to Portsmouth, to Princes Street, Landport, and they lived next door to the Davis family who had a daughter, Queenie.
Harry used to play the family piano which he had learned from a young age and Queenie fell in love with him after hearing him play.
They had their first kiss in a Morrison shelter during an air raid. In those days, a kiss meant you were engaged and so it was the couple were married at St Philip’s Church, Highbury, Cosham, on January 17, 1942. It was so cold and frosty Diana remembers her mother recalling that one of the bridesmaids could not get a grip on the pavement and crawled on all fours to the church door!
It was not long after that Harry was off on his naval duties and from November 10, 1942 until February 7, 1945, he was based in Gibraltar at HMS Cormorant.
Later ships Harry served in were HMS Carlisle, Perseus, Bellerophon, Ocean and the Victory.
He retired from the navy as a chief petty officer in 1963 being awarded the British Empire Medal.
His papers are stamped with a ‘Very Good’ conduct rating, a rare accolade in the navy.
He worked for the Plessey company until retirement.Sad to say that his ’darling’ wife Queenie died aged just 47.