When a touching wartime love letter was found in our Leigh store's lost property we put out an appeal on Facebook to find the owners
Thank you to the thousands of Asda Facebook fans who shared our colleague Stacie’s appeal to find the owners of a cherished wartime love letter she found in the lost property at our Leigh store in Greater Manchester.
The great news is that the daughters of Harry and Dorothy Hughes spotted the appeal and travelled to the store to thank Stacie for working so hard to reunite them with the lost letter – as well as discovering an amazing wartime video of their dad that they’d never seen.
Stacie Andrews, a checkout colleague at the store, was going through the last property when she spotted a crumpled envelope containing a letter from Dorothy to her sweetheart Harry Hughes, who was serving with the RAF in Ceylon in 1945.
She asked us to help her track down the owner – and when we posted her appeal on Facebook more than 8,000 of our fans shared it with their friends, and news outlets picked up on the story.
The mystery was solved when the couple’s daughter Barbara, 63, saw the appeal and recognised first her dad’s name and then her mum’s handwriting in a photo of the letter. Her sister Vivien, 69, always carries the letter around as a keepsake but had dropped it on one of her regular trips to Asda Leigh without realising.
Barbara, Vivien and sister Gillian, 60, were able to tell Stacie the wonderful story of their parents’ life-long love for each other when they met her at the store yesterday.
They brought along photos and a treasure trove of letters Harry and Dorothy wrote to each during the Second World War. The letters document their growing relationship, and they kept them for the rest of their lives.
Harry died at the age of 90 in 2011 and Dorothy passed away last year aged 93.
Their remarkable love story began in 1937 when they met at Dorothy’s 16th birthday party.
In the letter Stacie found, Dorothy tells Harry about life back home, says she has just voted in the General Election that day – 5th July 1945 – and talks about hoping to get married when he comes home.
She writes: "Darling, since going on with this letter I have plucked up the courage to ask dad about us staying here if you come home for a month.
“I’m very sorry to say that he says ‘no’. He says we’d be no further on after the war was over and you were home and it would be a case of us living here again. He says he doesn’t agree with married people living at home. It just doesn’t work out.”
Harry returned home in January 1946 and they married in June – and they did in fact move in with Dorothy’s parents because of the lack of available housing in bomb-damaged Manchester.
Barbara said: "Mum wrote really well about Manchester and what was happening and how they felt about the war.
“They wrote to each other almost every day and kept almost all of their letters. The only thing my dad came back with from the war was his kitbag with all these letters inside.
“My mum used to say it would be nice to turn the letters into something, maybe a novel. It’s absolutely lovely for the three of us to have them now. We often talk about them.
“My dad was very modest and didn’t often talk about the war. They were devoted to each other and had a great life together. They were just really, really happy. They went to church regularly and liked to travel.”
When Stacie found the letter she turned detective and searched on the internet for any references to the man it was addressed to: Leading Aircraftman H. Hughes.
By typing in his service number she came across an amazing video that had been put online by the North West Film Archives at Manchester Metropolitan University showing Harry sending a message to Dorothy and his parents from Ceylon.
Video courtesy of North West Film Archives, Manchester Metropolitan University
Barbara and her sisters had never seen the film, which is part of a wartime series of films, Calling Blighty, that showed servicemen in the Far East recording messages to be seen by their families in local cinemas back home.
Barbara said: “We knew dad had been in one of these films but we didn’t know it existed anywhere until Stacie found it. She’s gone more than the extra mile and given us a little bit more of our dad’s past. Having the letter back is special and seeing the film is just fantastic.”
She said: “Stacie’s been a star and we’re so grateful – we’re absolutely delighted. It was lovely to meet her and thank her in person.”
Barbara described the moment she came across Stacie’s appeal: "I saw the story and saw my dad’s name, then Leading Aircraftman, then Ceylon and thought ’that’s a bit odd’.
“Then I clicked on the link and saw the letter and I knew. My mum’s handwriting is really familiar.
“Then I saw the film. It’s wonderful, amazing. It’s lovely to hear his voice and very moving. I’d never heard his voice as a really young man before but it’s unmistakably him.”
Her sister Vivien said: "I carry this letter round as a keepsake. I shop in Asda Leigh at least once a week and this letter must have dropped out of my bag without me realising.
“When Barbara called me to tell me about the letter I just thought ‘wow’!”
All three sisters regularly shop at Asda – Barbara in her local Nottingham West Bridgford store and Gillian at Asda Stockport.
Stacie said: "It’s really nice to meet the three ladies – they are lovely. I’m really glad I kept the letter and it was amazing to find out more about Harry and Dorothy. I read some of the other letters and they are really cute, and their daughters were able to tell me so much about them and their love story.
“Part of me is sad that I haven’t met Harry or Dorothy, but I’m really pleased to meet the girls because they’re so nice.
“I got attached to the people in the letter and I wanted to know more, like what happened to Harry and Dorothy when Harry came back from the war, and I’m really happy to have found out.”
Barbara said: “The timing’s amazing with Remembrance Day in everyone’s minds. I really believe that things happen for a reason and this proves it.”