More than 100 love letters written to his lover by a war pilot have come to light at an auction in Bristol.
Flying Officer Jack Shelley’s letters to Gladys Wright show how sad it is to be separated from his lover, and in one letter he proposes to marry his lover.
The pilot provides Gladys with stories during his service in World War II, where he suffered a number of crashes during a flight around the world.
More than 100 love letters from a wartime Flying Officer to his love have come to light in Bristol
Jack Shelley (L) wrote to Gladys Wright (R) of his love during his time with the RAF during World War II
He does not hide anything from his hardships as he reveals that he has been involved in three crashes that have left his face scarred. However, he assures her that “they are not as bad as you get used to them.”
Flying Officer Shelley clearly begged for Gladys and counted down the days before they could be together.
In another letter, he introduces her and tells her ‘what do you say to marry us – I’m all for it’. The couple got married after the war and are believed to have had a long and happy marriage.
Jack wrote Gladys regularly, often begging for her and once he introduced her
This Jack to Gladys postcard lets her know he’s ‘still alive’ while away in Cape Town, South Africa, and he says he would like to spend a vacation with her there
The letters came from a house clearance on a deceased estate and were sold with East Bristol Auctions alongside Flying Officer Shelley’s leather flying helmet, jacket, uniform and family photos for £ 300.
Andy Stowe, specialist at East Bristol Auctions, said, “I’ve never read such a moving collection of letters – they’re so filled with love, hope and dreams that I respect his future with Gladys, they’re really so sweet.
“The way Jack presents” his Gladys “is simply the most charming. They’re not just letters – they’re a real snapshot of 1940s life from the perspective of two young lovers.
Jack appears to be stationed all over the world, while Gladys was patiently waiting for his return home. It is very touching to read such outpourings of love and sentiment between two people.
Even through something as monstrous as the war, these two people were able to continue a relationship and eventually get married. It’s quite unusual to have letters from this period that actually dislike being with the RAF.
“Usually letters are full of praise and longing for active duty, but they often show Jack’s raw human emotion – and he seems to dislike the Royal Air Force.”
The letters came from a house clearance and were sold together with Flying Officer Shelley’s leather flying helmet, jacket, uniform and family photos for £ 300
This is the flying helmet that belonged to Jack Shelley during his service with the RAF
Flying Officer Shelley from Macclesfield, Cheshire started his military career with the British Army with the Middlesex Regiment before transferring to the RAF.
During the war, he was stationed in Northern Ireland, Canada, Italy, India and the United States. He served in 120 Squadron, where he flew Liberators. He sank 14 U-boats in the North Atlantic and damaged many more.
In one of his early letters of September 1943, he writes Gladys from his hospital bed after a near miss in a plane crash. He describes how he hits the ground with a ‘terrible bang’ and his plane goes up in flames.
He writes, “I assume you now know I was involved in a plane crash – fortunately I am not seriously injured and although I am currently in the hospital, I hope to be free in a few days.
“I lost all my stuff during the cracking (it was a fire), including the presents I bought for you. But I managed to save my neck even though I hit the ground with a terrible thud – I only got two cuts on my face, nowhere else. ‘
Still stationed after the end of the war, Jack said the Air Force was a ‘dead end’ desiring to return to Macclesfield, Cheshire, to be reunited with Gladys
The long-lasting consequences of the crash are mentioned in a letter from February 1944 in which he says: “You don’t have to worry about the scars on my face, because they are not as bad as you get used to them. They are not very clear and I am not deformed at all. ‘
A month later, he introduced Gladys and wrote, “I’ll be with you in 18 months – let’s hope so. Anyway … what do you tell us we’re getting married when I get home on my first leave – personally I’m all for it! ‘
The later letters are riddled with grief at his continued divorce from Gladys as he continues to serve his country.
In 1944 he writes: ‘… (I) pray that it won’t be long before we get back together … shall we leave again for a day or two and just make a whoopie in the old hometown? ‘
It seems that his patience had finally run out by November 1945, when the war was over, but he was still stationed at RAF Waterbeach, Cambridge.
He complains, “You know, I’ve had enough of this life in the RAF – and I’ll be happy when I get back to my old job.
“As far as I’m concerned, this Air Force is a dead end and a huge waste of very precious time … (they) arrange to see another nerve specialist and you can be sure that I made up my mind. fly. ‘