Eastbourne soldier’s touching letters published

A FORMER Eastbourne schoolgirl who discovered letters sent home by her father during the war has published his vivid accounts of life as a soldier in a new book.

Jean Perraton, who was born in Eastbourne and went to the former Eastbourne High School, found the correspondence in a battered suitcase after her mother Maud Warner - better known locally as Jane - died aged 102.

George Warner had been a dispatch rider with the Royal Army Service Corps in the Second World War for four years and often wrote home two or three times a week.

Many of his letters never arrived but those that did have been turned into a touching account of one local soldier’s war. Censorship regulations meant he could not reveal where he was, why he was there, or anything else about military matters so finding the letters, long after his death, presented a puzzle which Jean promptly started to piece together.

She drew upon other historical – and biographical – sources to set George’s story in the context of the progress of the war and to illuminate comments in his letters.

From time to time, George would refer to news from home that awakened often long-buried memories of Jean’s and these recollections are woven neatly into the story to give glimpses of her mother, sister and grandparents and their life back at home.

The book brings home just how far away soldiers were. Letters could take two months to arrive, or not arrive at all and, as the story unfolds, the reader learns of George’s generous and resilient wife, her hostile mother-in-law and quietly supportive father-in-law and the two daughters who change from the babies George knew to the schoolgirls he would have to get to know again.

The letters George wrote gave a picture of army life very different from the swashbuckling image of many wartime accounts. His work as a dispatch rider, often well away from the front line, demanded hard work and stoicism rather than heroism.

George returned home to his family and to Eastbourne – the town where he had met his wife while playing his violin one night near the pier and where his daughters were born.

Jean now lives in Cambridge but returns to Eastbourne each year. Her book, One Musician’s War: Riding from Egypt to Italy with the RASC, 1941-1945, is published by Amberley at £14.99.