Wartime love letters: RAF officer’s moving secret messages to French wife

PUBLISHED: 15:13 04 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:04 17 September 2020

Margot and Anne in 1938 (photo: courtesy John Willis)

Margot and Anne in 1938 (photo: courtesy John Willis)


Author John Willis has uncovered a notebook of messages written to a wife trapped in occupied France during the Battle of Britain

A new book has revealed the story of a moving set of secret letters, handwritten by an RAF Intelligence Officer in tiny notebooks during 1940/41, when he was stationed at RAF Coltishall and RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk.

While Geoffrey Myers was involved in the Battle of Britain, his French wife Margot and two tiny children were trapped in Nazi-occupied France. Geoffrey was Jewish and sending letters to his wife in France was just too dangerous. So his secret letters were to be read after the war if he was killed.

These unique letters vividly portray major wartime events but are also a poignant love story: “I long to see you and my little ones. But, if I am no longer here when the war is over... we had seven wonderful years together my love. We may have no more on earth. You may never see my letters.”

Geoff Myers in uniform in 1940 (photo courtesy John Willis)Geoff Myers in uniform in 1940 (photo courtesy John Willis)

Geoffrey’s squadron, No 257, was almost completely decimated in the early weeks of the Battle of Britain. Among the injured was Flying Officer David Coke, son of the Earl of Leicester from Holkham Hall, but Coke was determined to fly again and returned to action in September 1940. A popular colleague, he survived the Battle of Britain only to be killed in action in 1941.

Late in 1940, with the Battle of Britain won but with much combat ahead, 257 Squadron moved to RAF Coltishall. They soon organised a string of social activities and the fortunes of the bedraggled squadron had been transformed by the brilliance of new Squadron Leader Robert Stanford Tuck. In January 1941 Tuck attended an investiture by the king at RAF Bircham Newton, near Sandringham.

Margot, Robert and Anne in 1940 (photo courtesy John Willis)Margot, Robert and Anne in 1940 (photo courtesy John Willis)

Myers recorded this in his letters but the snowy winter months at Coltishall spelt danger: “Good God! What’s that? A third aircraft above the drome at 500ft. It shouldn’t be there. Oh! Stop! I bit my lip in agony. The aircraft suddenly appeared to be drunk, reeled to port, banked to starboard. Red, green, white lights whirled around. A gust of snow slapped me in the face. God! The aircraft was going down. There was a great cracking up as it dived nose first into the ground. Not a hope in hell.”

Geoffrey grew more fearful for his family as the Gestapo sweeps for Jews in occupied France intensified. “My thoughts are all the time with you. And yours with me.”

John Willis's new bookJohn Willis's new book

For Margot Myers, escape was the only option before it was too late. Margot recalled: “Leaving was terrible. We said goodbye to my mother, and weeping, she watched us go on our way.”

Margot had no idea when, or if, she would ever see either her English husband, or her French family again. Now she was solely responsible for two children, with thousands of miles of danger ahead. At Coltishall, Geoffrey continued to write his secret letters in the hope that his family had not been killed or captured by the Nazis.

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Secret Letters: A Battle of Britain Love Story by John Willis is published by Mensch/Bloomsbury on September 15. Churchill’s Few, also by John Willis, was published in May. He lives in London and Brancaster.

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