Letters of love from wartime

jpco 20-11-13 Jenny Hall author (Pic by Jon Rigby)
jpco 20-11-13 Jenny Hall author (Pic by Jon Rigby)

A Crawley author has written a book based on letters sent to her mother by her Desert Rat father during the Second World War.

Jenny Hall, of Fisher Close, Southgate, found 200 letters in her mother Doreen Harris’s possessions following her death in 2006.

They told a tale of love and one brave man’s attempts to keep his future wife shielded from the horrors of war.

Jenny, 66, penned Desert Rat Entertainer – based around her father Ray Harris’s letters and the story of the Desert Rats – and signed copies in Waterstone’s last week.

She said: “Because my dad was not allowed to give very much away because of censorship, I did a lot of research and put the book in a Desert Rat framework.”

As well as being a military man, Ray was a forces entertainer, who shared jokes with legendary comedian Max Miller. Jenny said: “Max Miller used to send him jokes when he was in the desert and running out of material!”

She added: “The letters are so upbeat and he shielded my mum from so much horror and kept his comrades’ spirits up. He used to strum on the ukelele – not very well – but was brilliant at expressions and telling jokes.”

Ray died in 1999.

Jenny said: “He didn’t talk much about the war – I don’t think many of them did – and I think he would have been overjoyed with the book.”

And Ray’s favourite joke from Max Miller? A man walked into a greengrocer to buy some oranges but was told they were scarce and only for expectant mothers. The man says: “I’m on my way to see my girlfriend so I’ll pop in on the way back.”