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WWII - 1940s - Lilian and Stanley Turner Letters

Photo of Stanley and Lilian having a picnic with tea

Photo: Lilian and Stanley having a picnic with tea in the 1940s on the English countryside during a brief respite from the German bombing.

Stanley worked as a surveyor, auctioneer, and land agent for Fairweather and Turner in London. During the war he made extensive surveys and drawings of damage for the war department and had to remain in Banstead, just south of London with Lilian during the entire duration of the war. Both Lilian and Stanley worked on fire crews carrying sand pails and wearing metal helmets putting out fires from the constant bombing from the Germans.

Later in the war in 1944, Stanley's vehicle was destroyed as he drove to work, a bomb exploded on a building directly in front of the car. Police were amazed he survived only with a 'knock on the head and a badly swollen and bruised arm.' The blast blew off the car roof, tires, doors and windows.

Their home also suffered extensive damage and unfortunately many neighbors were killed and buildings destroyed including their grocery. They were under the constant threat of air raids with sirens going off night and day as bombs hissed and whistled down from the sky. Food was scarce as they survived on a government rationing points system where an individual would receive twenty points a month. A tin a syrup cost 16 points and a packet of oats cost four points.

During this time Lilian fought also for women's suffrage rights supporting local women's groups. She also worked in the garden extensively with Stanley raising fruits and vegetables to support their meager diet as well as to help get their minds off the constant gun fire and bombs. Both wrote detailed letters back to relatives in the United States. Many letters were even edited or 'censored' by cutting out text and even removing photos by British Postal Censorship Examiners.

Photo: Lilian and Stanley and friends having a picnic in the 1940s on the English countryside.

Page 1 - My Dear Amy, bombing damage and deaths
5 Lower Grosvenor Place
London SW 1
16th September, 1940

My dear Amy, We were pleased to have your letter. I expect you are anxious to know how we are progressing through these fierce days and nights. While I am writing this letter to you, the guns are firing over our house & we hear the bombs dropping in the distance.

Lilian is very brave. She keeps quite calm which is very helpful to me. The nights the worst however. The enemy came over about ½ hour ago. It is just 9 o’clock in the evening.

Well we must put up with it. We shall lick them yet; it is only a matter of time. Our airmen are very brave.

My offices are just opposite Buckingham Palace. So far they are untouched. I am doing Surveys & Valuations for the War Office and am very busy I am thankful to say.

We are very fortunate to have such a fine Premier. We all think a great deal of Mr. Winston Churchill. He is the right man for the heavy task he has taken over.

We went to Brighton a fortnight ago on War Office business. I took Lilian. We stayed at the Old Ship Hotel. I don’t know whether you remember Brighton.

Hally is a Commander in the Home Force and is very keen on his work.

It has been a lovely summer and our garden is still very beautiful. We have an acre with a tennis court sunken garden and an old well. It’s just an old English garden with lavender beds and many fruit trees. It’s not so peaceful at the moment. The heavy guns are firing round after round of ammunition and the German planes are roaring over our house and so it goes on. Well we keep smiling & say there’ll always be an England.

The German planes have powerful engines which make a peculiar throbbing noise. A sort of thump, thump, thump.

Lilian has just told me after tonight the full harvest moon begins to wane. I am glad to hear it. I shall wane before the moon if this noise keeps on.

I expect you get a lot of news about the war in your papers. I could tell you so much dear, but the censor would not pass it.

I wonder whether we shall ever meet again in this world? These touch and go times teach us all to live today as though we are to pass to the great beyond tomorrow. It won’t hurt us. The people want waking up to live realities.

We were sorry to hear of the death of poor Norah. I hope she has joined poor Edie now

I will wish you all good night. I am thankful you are not in England during these times. All being well, I will write you again soon. Lilian wishes with me in love to you all.

Yours as ever, Stanley

Letter from Stanley Turner to his sister Amy Turner Watt, September 16, 1940:

Page 1 - My Dear Amy, working for the war dept
Page 2 - Edited page
Page 3 - German planes
envelope with colorful stamps
90 Fir Tree Road
Banstead, Surrey
23rd April 1941

My Dear Amy,

Many thanks for your very welcome letter. We managed to get a few days rest at Easter. We stayed at a delightful country house a friend of ours has taken furnished with magnificent views of the surrounding country.

We came home {CENSORED} feeling very happy and fit but also, {CENSORED} Hitlers boys came over and dropped {CENSORED} which was not at all restful, two bombs fell on houses {CENSORED}blowing them up & setting others on fire. What a hectic night it was {CENSORED} killed & many injured. One dear soul has lost one arm & the use of the other. Her husband is dying and the daughter, a very attractive girl in the twenties, face is very badly cut & looks will look like a parchwork quilt if she recovers for she is injured internally as well. {CENSORED} have had to quit their homes, furniture & effects either burnt or smashed and their lovely gardens with all the early spring beauty have disappeared in huge craters.

We were sitting by the fire in the dining room when Lilian said just {CENSORED} {CENSORED} {CENSORED} . We looked out and the whole neighborhood was lit up by flaming onions & chandeliers. We came in immediately and just in time to dive under the beds when with a terrific blast our doors and windows were blown open. Ceilings falling & the house we thought was coming down on top of us but it didn’t. It only rocked & creaked & the main walls cracked.

Well we got out from under our beds and made a final survey of the place. A large piece of ceiling was resting in the arm chair which Lilian was sitting in a few minutes before. Good thing she was not in it otherwise she would have been killed. Her cigarette case & powder puff was blown to bits but the little mirror inside was not broken so our luck is still in.

We could not get to our neighbors as the fire engines, ambulances, Wardens, etc. were all there and we could not get by. We came back and turned on the wireless to cheer ourselves up while we cleared up the debris of glass, soot & all kinds of bits & pieces. Fortunately the electric light & water supplies did not fail. We were not injured. Lilian is very brave & decided not to have the place repairs as the next bomb will most probably wipe us out.

We have given your name and address to a friend, Mr. Mark Hayler, who will write and tell you if we are killed or badly injured in the future air raids. We are well on in years so ours will not cause any anxiety. Hally is well provided for and Lilians people are all independent. And you & I are the only ones left in our family.

I wish America would hurry up with ships & planes for her protection as well as ours. I should be sorry if America was about like our country. Anyway we shall win this war without a doubt & must put up with sad events & hard times & keep a stiff upper lip & onward smiling go. On the last raid in London my office was not damaged although an incendiary bomb dropped on the building opposite, nothing happened. Well dear, this is not a cheerful newsy letter but it might have been worse.

I am on night watch tonight 1:30 to 5 A.M. so must snatch a little sleep meanwhile. Goodnight. God bless you all. With love from us both.

Yours affectionately,

Letter from Stanley Turner to his sister Amy Turner Watt dated April 23, 1941 -
heavily edited by censor:

Page 1 - My Dear Amy, bombing damage and deaths
Page 2 - ceilings falling and flaming onions - dive under the bed
Page 3 - we shall win this war - Stanley
envelope to Amy Watt opened by British Postal Censorship Examiner 1026

90 Fir Tree Road
Banstead, Surrey
June 27th, 1941

Dear Amy & Tom,

You will think I have kept you a long time without news of us, and Stanley says that it is my turn to write. It is always a pleasure to do so, but I feel that it is not worth while just sending a scrappy note so have waited for that precious commodity so scarce these days 'Time'. And really I can truthfully say that we both had every moment more than occupied.

The builders arrived in early May put in the glass, and three new ceilings, you will not need telling of the upheaval that made. Rooms had to be cleared, furniture stored in the garage, three large bookcases emptied full of books that had to be carried down to the end of the garden and piled in the shed and then all brought back. It was worse than a move. We slept in each room in turn on the floor (did not matter much, we were up most of the time). The new ceilings made the walls look hopeless so we were obliged to have them all repainted. No workman for decorative work so I washed and prepared them - Stanley painted. He is a wizard with a paintbrush. They all match the ceilings - all the same shade a warm biscuit. It is called 'stone', but that does not describe it well.

So now we are all lovely and fresh and clean, and the walls make a lovely background for any colour scheme. We have a lovely shade of blue curtains, interlined so the horrid blackout does not show. Just now the vases are filled with masses of Madame Butterfly, a soft salmon pink rose which is very charming. I wish you could take a peep at it, I am sure you would love it. I dare not think of the possibility of being blitzed again, after all this work, in addition, or course, the garden has demanded attention and is now just at it’s very best. The rose hedge 30 ft long is a mass of colour and scents the whole garden. In the borders we have a fine show of Lupins, they are a new strain of many different pastel shades evolved by a man called Russell so they are named after him. They have very large blooms and the stems in some are 31 inches long. I took first prize the year before last and this year they are finer, but alas, no show and the Chelsea grounds where it was held has been bombed.

With the blue Delphiniums, they make a grand border and one looking at them one forgets that there is such a thing as war and it’s horrors. Certainly I for one would endorse 'That you are nearer Gods heart in a garden than anywhere else in the world' quotation probably faulty but sentiment there. Luckily we both share the same enthusiasm for the garden. Stanley’s lawns and grassy paths are his pride and joy. He is not fond of planting and digging, and seedlings - so that is my job. But the garden would look nothing without his well cut grass paths and beautiful sharp edges. (Like a frame to a picture). So nice of you to send the paper, which now returns to you, we much appreciate your letters and the news of yourself and your doings. You are fortunate to have Peggy so near. Carol’s picture arrived safely. We love it. She looks a darling. Stanley would adore her, he is so fond of baby girls, she would be utterly spoilt by him.

Your letter of June 1st arrived yesterday and decided me to write an answer at once. I have brought the typewriter out in the garden under the trees - enjoying both. You say it is cold and wet, so for once we can smile for we have had glorious weather and every meal outdoors for weeks now. A frost middle of May spoilt the Plums and some pears and apples but I think they may recover. This year I have a large bed of onions and leeks so shall, I hope, be all right for the winter. Springs are 1½ each and cucumbers 2/-4 each, lettuce 1/- so it saves to grow your own. Since May we have had 1 lb of cheese. I am not so keen but it makes vegetable dishes more nourishing so I grate it and it lasts out very well. I miss butter most, I think I have almost always made our own whole meal bread and that and a cup of tea with tomato or fruit is all I bother about, but I am not fond of eating bread and scrape.

No I think we have not heard your wireless man Kaltenborn, we hear commentaries from Raymond Gram Swing and Alistair Cooke - both excellent. What I wonder do you both think of the Russian news? If it were not so tragic, it would really be amusing to see our very strict conservatives gulping down the all aid to Russia, our new ally doctrine.

(Oh these politicians) I heard of one old crusty Colonel in his club heard to say that he hoped the Germans would bomb the Reds to HELL. No doubt he voiced the opinion of many of his kind. I have never been violently anti-Red for it seemed impossible for us to follow the political vagaries of race in it’s efforts to express itself after such a reign of torture by the Tsarist regime, so obvious that many mistakes must be made. I do not care for Stalin and I think his excuses this morning for fighting the Finns is very thin. 'They did so because he knew that the Germans would invade him from their territory.' Well, we have to shut our eyes. The one issue is to beat Hitler and all that he stands for, for the moment all must be subservient to that end Many here not think that war will end by Xmas I cannot feel so hopeful. So many factors to be taken in to account to finish that man off so quickly.

It is very kind of you women over there to work so hard. The children need clothes - they lose all they possess in these raids - you have all been most generous. Illie (Hally’s wife) is driving a new American canteen motor kitchen. She says they are marvelously fitted and supply the men on outposts with hot meals day and night. She does a radius of 50 miles around her home with four other ladies, all voluntary of course. She is a very good driver and they need care in narrow country lanes.

How pleased you must be that Billy has his degree. Please give him our congratulations. I hope he will not have to go into the army - it takes so much from them that is never regained. I trust that U. S. A. will be able to keep out of it, for so she will be more able to think clearly and help in the peace settlement. I remember in one of your letters you asked me who Dick Shepard was. He was the most popular preacher in London. At first Chaplain of the Chapel Royal, afterwards vicar or St. Martins in the Fields Trafalgar Square. His work there among the poor was wonderful. He opened the Crypt all night and served meals for them collecting thousands of pounds himself - used to sit in the front of the church with a table and do his writing - ardent socialist - went to prison for protesting against the treatment of women Suffragists, and was loved by everyone rich and poor alike. Finally founded the Peace Pledge Union, which, after his death became exactly what he did not want - political.

This must be posted today so, with love to you all from us both, Stanley writes to you soon. He is very fit but tired.

Affectly yours,

Letter from Lilian Gertrude Keevill Turner to Amy and Tom Watt dated June 27, 1941:

Page 1 - Dear Amy and Tom ceiling repairs and blitzed
Page 2 - garden flowers and vegetables
Page 3 - Germans and Russians and Stalin
Page 4 - Peace, family, Lilian
envelope to Amy and Thomas Watt opened by British Postal Censorship Examiner 1027

British Friends Write Of War to Lynn Woman - August 4, 1941 Newpaper Article

Photo of Stanley and Lilian enjoying tea in 1919

Stanley and Lilian enjoy tea on July 14, 1919.

More WWII historical accounts

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