120 manuscript letters by poet John Jarmain to his wife Beryl with whom he regularly corresponded after being shipped to North Africa and South Italy during the Second World War from June 1942 till November 1943. Some of the letters include drafts of the poems which were later published as a collection, providing an insight into his poetry and the context which inspired it.
The poet's experience of the war includes accounts of his embarkation on the troopship at Liverpool Docks, the sea journey via Capetown to Suez in Egypt, the time spent in the Western Desert learning the desert ways and fighting and Sicily landing. Jarmain records everyday aspects of his life in the desert, from the routine in the training camps to the battlefields. Sand and flies, dust storms and blackouts are mentioned together with the stunning landscape and nature surrounding him which he admires. Numerous are the references to local birds. War context is in the background and fear too, which becomes more vivid when describing air raids.
The letters also throw light on the effects of separation on family life and the soldier's difficulty to communicate with his family in England. Jarmain's attempts to describe his war experience and feelings on paper often encounter obstacles like censorship, precarious writing conditions and slow postal services only slightly eased by lettercards and airgraphs.
Also including 5 copy letters of condoleance and one additional copy letter from John Jarmain.