He feared he would never again see home – or the face of his darling wife.
Now a series of emotional letters between army Sergeant Walter Reginald Emery and his beloved Ellen can be revealed for the first time.
They were discovered by their son Francis, now 68, hidden in the attic of their Portchester family home.
The passionate words – fuelled by relief at the news Walter was alive and well following the evacuation of Dunkirk – reveal the plight of families anxious for news as the Second World War raged.
Francis said: ‘It just shows you don’t know what people went through back then because they didn’t like to talk about it.
‘My mum said dad used to wake up screaming.
I am alright my angel... I have no kit, but I am all in one piece and that is everything. Honey, we have been through hell and nobody, only God, could tell the real truth...Letter from Walter Reginald Emery to his wife Ellen following the evacuation of Dunkirk
‘But during the action news was hard to come by.
‘A neighbour of ours came running into the house one day and showed mum a photograph on the front page of the newspaper showing British expeditionary forces marching and in the front row was my dad.
‘By the time she got the letter to say he had made it back to England in one piece she wouldn’t have heard from him for months on end.
‘It must have been so worrying.’
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation, where an advancing German army trapped more than 330,000 men of the British and French forces on the beaches of France.
Sgt Emery was one of them, and escaped with a severe injury to his hand.
He immediately sent off a postcard and letter informing his family of his safe return, which were eventually delivered on June 3, 1940.
Sgt Emery was eventually reunited with his wife Ellen, who he nicknamed ‘Bobby’, and they continued to live at their home in Portobello Grove, Portchester, until their deaths.
Francis, who lives in Chichester, added: ‘These letters are a rare bit of history and it shows what people had to go through at the time.’
THE LETTERS IN FULL
My own precious darling Bobby, I am alright my angel, and I love you so awfully much.
Honey, I have no kit, but I am all in one piece and that is everything. Honey, we have been through hell and nobody, only God, could tell the real truth.
I have been sick and my hand has to go in plaster cast tomorrow for the next three months and the doctor said that I wouldn’t see France again.
Darling, I never thought I would see you again.
Will you say a little prayer of thanks for me?
I had all sorts of visions and I cried but I never gave up hope and I would have fought to the last for you.
I love you so awfully much.
Well precious I have to get a new suit, so chin up and I’ll be seeing you before long as I am for ever, your devoted and humble hubby.
My darling Reggie, I don’t know how to begin. I have so much in my heart to say and no way to express myself. When I got your letter and postcard I was dazed for a moment. I went down on my knees and I thanked the almighty, I could only say ‘thank God’ over and over for I could not find other words to say. Reggie I want to see you, I cannot rest knowing you are in England. If you can’t come down, then give me instructions so that I may come to you. Reggie dear I love you so very, very much and I am so overwhelmed to know you are safe, after all these days of not hearing from you. So my precious, please let me know for I must love you and hug you close to me to make myself know it is real. So please write again soon and let me know if you want anything. With all my love I am, darling, your own loving wife.