My Dear Alice: N.S. woman turns family's wartime letters into book
A private collection of wartime mail has been turned into a new book that shows a different side to war. “My Dear Alice” shows how two families on opposite sides of the ocean dealt with war on the homefront.
Clare Christie’s mother Alice sent packages to relatives in England during the Second World War, and they sent letters of gratitude in return.
“She wanted to try and raise their spirits and show support and so, like many people, sent these parcels, but she not only saved the letters, but the letters are really quite special,” says Christie.
The Amherst, N.S. resident and one of her British cousins are using the letters as the basis for their new book. “My Dear Alice” was how the British family addressed all their correspondence to Christie’s mother during the war.
At the time, London was under attack and essentials were rationed for the war effort. Christie’s mother always tried to send treats, like cheese slices, in her packages.
“Chocolate of course would be a very large thing, but she sent things like sugar,” says Christie. “They mentioned the fact that she sent sugar and they asked for hairnets and she sent hairnets.”
While most of the letters were written during the war, family takes centre stage in the discussions.
Many Canadians sent supplies overseas, but records like Christie’s letters were seldom kept.
“It covers an aspect of the war that…you don’t find in the history books,” says amateur historian John McKay. “People are interested, or at least they’re interested in writing about the shoot-em-up part of it, but none of this business of what about the people at home.”
While there are dozens of thank you letters from England, Christie only has one letter written by her mother from that time.
She still can’t believe her mother had the foresight to keep the letters, covered with a note that reads “in case anyone should be interested.”
“She thought they gave quite a wonderful picture of what it was like to live under those conditions during the war and she hoped that I would read them, but I didn’t always do what she hoped,” jokes Christie.
The official book launch will take place at the Cumberland County Museum on Nov. 19.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh