The handsome chap on the far left is my maternal grandfather, Sydney, photographed with two pals from the Royal Engineers. Grandad transferred to the Royal Engineers Signal Service in January 1918 when his battalion, 2/7th (The Robin Hoods) of The Sherwood Foresters, disbanded. In September that year he married his sweetheart, whom he’d met when on basic training in Watford. When they married, Syd was still only 20 years old, and my grandmother, 21. Although no letters or postcards sent between them, survive, I can imagine that they would have been very affectionate. They went on to have a long and happy marriage, until Syd’s death in 1971.
Last year, when we were visiting my son’s family in Kent, we had a day out with the grandchildren at the Royal Engineers Museum. It's an exceptionally well-planned and interesting museum, and even our seven year-old twins weren’t bored for a moment. I really enjoyed all the sepia photographs and the stories behind them. I’ve written about the Royal Engineers before in Frightened Faces and Fearless Actions, for Sepia Saturday 300, when I focussed on the brave Captain Ross and his family. What fascinated me most however, was probably the Royal Engineers Postal section.
The phrase S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With a Loving Kiss) came from the WW2 era, but I’m sure many a letter from long before then was given the SWALK treatment; my grandparents may even have done so, but we’ll never know.
Here I am standing in front of my favourite subject, old photographs, and the stories behind them.
And here are a couple of examples of the missives displayed. The sender of the first must surely have resisted a SWALK, lest he was tempted to eat the whole lot.
And the second reminds us of just how important those letters and postcards sent from home were.
The caption reads, Airmail Letter Card with Indian Stamp, FPO 448, Qum, Persia, from L/Sgt J.E. Harvis, Royal Artillery, 6 August 1943 and opens with:
“ I was extremely bucked to receive your airgraph dated 23rd July. It may be difficult for you to realise how much mail means to us, very often it is the difference between a happy day and a miserable one. Probably more so in my case because all the incoming mail passes through my hands and you can imagine what I feel if I sort a couple of hundred letters and there is not one for me! Your letter saved the day and cheered me up immensely.”
I’ve no idea if the letter was sent to his sweetheart, nor if it was sealed with a loving kiss, but clearly , it was deemed important enough to preserve for many years.
Why not join us at today’s Sepia Saturday to see if other contributors have ‘posted with a loving kiss’.
Also linking with Magpie Tales, where Tess gave us a wonderful prompt of a character in the film 'Atonement' actually employing the SWALK treatment, and gave me the idea to write this piece.
Sealed with a warm and tender kiss,
With lips that long for yours, and miss
All the love we shared. Just read between the
Lines, and then, Dear Heart, you will
Know, how much I love you still.
© Marilyn Brindley 2016