99-year-old grandmother receives love letter from missing fiancé 77 years after he wrote it
It's all too easy to get wrapped up in the shocking numbers that come with any large scale war, and forget the stories of incredible individual sacrifice and bravery that should be told and retold, passed down the generations.
After all, it is ordinary people who become the victims of war, and ordinary people who have to fight, leave their families, and face untold horrors in times of war.
Now, an incredible story has come to light, after a 99-year-old grandmother finally received a handwritten love letter written by her fiancé, who went missing in the Second World War.
Remarkably, the note was salvaged from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed that a cargo ship that was carrying the note sunk in 1941, which has now been passed on to 99-year-old Phyllis Ponting.
The last exchange between the pair had been a message sent from Ponting to her fiancé, Bill Walker, accepting his marriage proposal. Until now, the 99-year-old had presumed that the fact that Walker had never responded meant that he had had a change of heart of the proposal.
Walker writes that he "wept with joy" when he received her acceptance letter, and expressed his wish that she could have been there when he opened it.
“If you could only know how happy it made me, darling”, he wrote.
Phyllis Ponting still doesn't know for sure if Bill Walker survived the War, but says she doesn't think he did, as he had her address;
"I don't think Bill can have survived the war, otherwise he would have been straight round to my address in Roseland Avenue"
Ponting eventually married another man, with whom she had four children, but says her life could have been totally different if she'd received Walker's letter and been reunited with him;
"We would have been married. He loved me a lot."
The letter was discovered by marine archaeologists on the lookout for silver; instead, they found hundreds of personal letters, which will now be displayed in a museum exhibition.
Curator Shaun Kingsley said of the collection;
"It's the largest collection of letters since people started to write to survive any shipwreck, anywhere in the world.
"It shouldn't have been preserved, but because there was no light, there was no oxygen, it was darkness, it was like putting a collection of organics in a tin can, sealing it up and putting it in a fridge freezer.
"And in the conservation lab, slowly and suddenly words started to appear. Some 700 letters written from British India in 1940."
It's incredible to think that someone could be reunited with a letter sent 77 years ago that had been laying on the bottom of the ocean, but Phyllis Ponting now knows that her fiance never changed his mind, after all.