Socks for the Boys!

My Great Aunt Norah's wartime diaries, 1938-1948

Danny wins the day

‘I’m still in love with’: the certainty of it, petering out into a teasing, secretive dash.

As the tension between the brothers builds in early September 1941, Norah’s affections still lie with Jim.

But then he blows it.


Great Yarmouth,

13 September

My Loving Norah,

Your letter has just reached me, you can guess I was very pleased to receive it. I also had one from Danny, incidentally you should have made personal friends by now, he said he was visiting you. Congrats on your winning a certificate, you are a very good scholar. Where is that photo? Do you object to my love making anyhow it is unusual for me so it is of true standard. If we visit Grimsby I can come over to Castle Donington and would or could you see me secretly for an hour or two and will you understand this unusual procedure on a first meeting. As I have said before I am casual and different but I will not promise to refrain from kissing if you give me an opportunity.

 I have a busy time at hand so (Bon Voyage) Cheerio,

Write soon and don’t be shy.

Incidentally you should have made personal friends by now. Poor Jim. At the top of this letter, he has written ‘I Love’ in kisses– and then, in words, ‘You’.

Tucked inside is a small, thick, rectangular card, a Jack of Spades, from a sea-front fortune-telling machine.

1941 9 15 Sep0003

‘A not over-lucky card to draw’: it is unclear whose future is being predicted. Is it Jim who is being deceived? Or is he using the card to send Norah a warning?

But Norah doesn’t mention it. Instead, she is upset by Jim’s declaration that he is ‘casual’ and by his request to see her secretly. 17th September 1941: Received awful letter from Jim asking to see me secretly & saying he was casual. I’m terribly upset & disappointed.

Secretly from whom? He can only mean Danny. In his mind, Norah and Danny have already met and his brother has replaced him in Norah’s affections.

Jim is now desperate and his determination not to be defeated in love by his younger brother becomes a distraction. His carefully constructed image, the balancing act of naughtiness and sexual propriety, is now crumbling. A clumsiness and, increasingly, a coarseness, borne of an inability to manage his jealousy and frustration starts to seep into his letters.

Jim’s encouragement of Norah to meet Danny and his ensuing jealousy, his persistent request for the schoolgirl photo, the creepiness and mystery of the fortune card, the sudden changes in his behaviour:  all of these contrast sharply with the elegance and uprightness suggested by the younger brother’s photographs and his one surviving letter.

 13th September 1941: Received letter from Danny. Says he’s coming today. Went to Derby to meet him but missed him. Came home & found him here. He’s absolutely spiffing. Went down town with Helen in dark. He gave me some wings and all stayed up til 12. Danny is absolutely lovely, marvellous, wonderful.

14th: Danny & I went down to Hemington to phone & see Helen. Went to see him off at Derby. He kissed me on the station & I liked it. He’ll reach Filey at 7.33pm.

15th: Talked of no-one but Danny. Went down town with H[elen] & J[ean].

16th: Received short note from Jim who has not heard from me yet. Shah of Iran abdicated. Danny wrote me a beautiful but sad letter.

18th: Received lovely letter from Danny. Replyed at night. Replied to Jim.

19th: Received sweet letter from Danny. Enclosed beautiful photo and cutting called ‘sweetheart’. Went to Derby & bought blue dress material & fed swans in river gardens. I’m in love with him & I don’t care a scrap.

It is a relief to discover that after his visit to Norah’s home in mid-September, Danny wins the day.


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