WHEN her father died more than 10 years ago, Virginia Aighton couldn’t bear to open a special suitcase containing his World War Two letters and souvenirs.
But when she finally did, retired teacher Ginny found a treasure trove of love letters from the front line, sent home by Accrington soldier Jim Allen to his worried wife, Ella.
And, after hours of reading, researching and the odd tear, Ginny has turned the letters, photos, telegrams, and notes - from Jim’s time serving in Europe with the Irish Guards - into a moving book.
The 65-year-year-old, whose book is called ‘About the jam, darling: A soldier’s thoughts on love and war told through letters’, said: “My father often entertained us round the dinner table with his stories about his wartime adventures.
“Dad also gave me a small brown suitcase containing letters and souvenirs from the Second World War.
“I was very busy at the time with work and family commitments, but we had an understanding that one day I would work on this project.”
But, after Jim died in 2003, Ginny couldn’t face opening the suitcase for many years.
She said: “Then one day I happened to hear a request on the radio asking if any listeners had authentic letters from the decades of the 20th century.
“I retrieved the suitcase from the cupboard and, for the first time, began to study properly the contents.”
The former St Gabriel’s Primary School teacher added: “When I started to read the letters, I found they were beautifully written and full of fascinating details about the times. Reading them was rather like peering through a window into the past.”
Jim served as an instructor, before crossing the channel 12 days after D Day, where he faced fierce fighting.
The sergeant major was discharged after being blown up by a mine while on reconnaissance near Maastricht. He spent nine months in hospital, and wore a calliper for the rest of his life, although it didn’t stop him working at printing firm Nayler’s, in Church.
His wife, Ella, died from cancer in 1991, but Jim remained strong, staying in the house he shared with her from the end of the war until his death.
After tackling an intruder at home, he was taken to hospital with a broken hip, but succumbed to his injuries a fortnight later following an operation. Two men, who got away with just £30 during the robbery, were jailed for manslaughter in connection with his death.
Ginny, who now lives in Anderson Road, Wilpshire, is selling the book online on Kindle, and has several hard copies for sale too, which were printed by Jim’s former employer, John Nayler.
Visit www.tinyurl.com/nvvo63s to buy the Kindle version, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about a hard copy.