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- My Dear Alice

War Letters 1937-1950

by Clare Christie & Carol Wills
edited by francis Mitchell
preface by John McKay

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post-confederation (1867-)
list price: $27.95
category: History
published: 2014
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A compelling WWII story, and a real departure from most books on war, as this one is a social history told through the civilians (and some soldiers) who lived through it. Alice, from Amherst, NS, Canada, mindful of the shortages in Britain, sent packages of staples and a few luxuries to British relatives who suffered through the blitz and the threat of invasion. She was doing her part to keep in touch with relatives on the other side of the Atlantic, as well as to alleviate some of the hardships caused by rationing, which lasted for some items until 1954. The fascinating letters (transcribed literally from original mostly hand-written correspondence) she received in return give us a woman’s perspective on the war. Although the letters often talk of family and difficulties of raising children in wartime, there are also very insightful accounts of the progress of the war itself and the politics surrounding it by intelligent, thoughtful women – especially Aunt Berta and cousin Helen. Berta’s letters are insightful and thoughtful, with a sophisticated turn of language, while Helen, also very literate, is more direct, speaking her mind in a razor-sharp, incisive and cogent manner. The story covers not only the run up to, and the war itself, but also the recovery that followed. An accompanying 15-year timeline (1935-1950), encapsulates the war on a global basis, illustrating the insidious nature of war, the treatment of Jews and other non-Aryans by the Nazis, and the widespread changes after the war as emerging countries strive for independence. A unique story narrated in a distinctive way by two authors, cousins, who grew up on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

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Berta (Atherton) Williams to Edith Atherton Envelope sealed with tape printed: “OPENED BY EXAMINER 9652”

Addressed to: Mrs. J. P. Atherton Room 30 St. Regis Hotel Amherst Nova Scotia Canada

13 Carpenter’s Lane West Kirby May 9th [1943]1

My very dear Edith, We were so sorry to hear from your Alice’s letter to Helen that you have had such a poor winter, and are still ailing. You are too far away dear for me to send you anything but my sympathy which is very real & deep.You did not say very much about yourself in the last letter I had from you which was written on Jan 24th, so I did not realise how poorly you have been. We have had a wonderfully mild winter here which has helped us over our coal shortage but all our Canadian letters tell us of the hard times you have suffered in the way of inclement weather. I hope you received my reply to your letter, since then we have heard of the arrival of Robert & Ruby’s son, & that he is called Robert Curwen. This pleased Auntie Janie 2 very much as you can imagine. She is really wonderful bless her, she was 913 last month, & she can see better & hear better, & walk better than I can. 1943 March 2: Germans begin withdrawal from Tunisia; Mar 28: 8th Army breaks through Mareth Line in Tunisia. Mar. 16-20: ‘Climax’ of the four- year Battle of the Atlantic - 27 Allied merchant ships lost; albeit U-boat threats remained until Dönitz suspends their activities in the Atlantic on May 22nd.

Apr. 19: Waffen SS attack Jewish resistance in Warsaw Ghetto; resistance finally ends on May 16. May 13: Last Axis troops in North Africa surrender. May 16-17: British air raids on industrialized Ruhr Valley. June 11: Himmler orders the liquidation of all Jewish ghettos in Poland.

She and Dora as you know are still in Penmaenmawr 4 where they evacuated themselves after 7 Wellington Rd was blitzed. They will return to No. 7 as soon as all the bombing is over, & they are already making arrangements to have it made habitable. The law does not allow anyone to spend more than £100 on repairs so they can only have the ground floor done, so they are making that into a Flat - & will have just 1 sitting room & 1 bedroom, kitchen, back kitchen & cloakroom for daily use until the war is over, & they are able to deal with the upper part of the house, but that may be difficult as there will be such a tremendous demand for materials & labour then to repair the great destruction caused by bombs all over the country. I am so thankful that we got comfortably settled into this Flat at a time when there were no restrictions, & we were able to make all the alterations that we required. It is small ,3 bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen, & bathroom & W.C.5 separate, but it is very pleasant with plenty ofsunshine & a lovely view & we have friends below us & all round us. Sep. is retiring at the end of this year, so our income will then be considerably reduced, but we shall have enough to live simply without any financial anxiety in spite of such very heavy rates& taxes which take considerably more than half our income - the income tax alone takes 50 per cent, & on top of that there are all the other rates & taxes, but what does it matter if the world is freed from brutal tyranny?

My dear Alice The news of the capture by the allies of Tunis & Briyerta & thecomplete rout of the Germans* has reached us, and we are full of rejoicing & thankfulness.

What a victory!

Sep. & Helen & I are going to Ambleside for a fortnight at the end of this month, & how we shall enjoy it with this good news to gladden our hearts! I was most interested in your news of the children, & of your domestic arrangements. I am quite sure dear that wherever you are you will make it home, although it may only be one room. I suppose you will go to the cottage in the summer, & hope you will have good weather.

Give my love to Alice, Beth, Joyce & Robert, & Charlie when you write to him. I have no time to correspond with all of them, so please let them have any news that you think may interest them. We are all very busy in different ways but we all keep well, & are very happy in our family life - children & grandchildren all very united & doing well. Blessings on you & yours dear & much love from us all, especially from Berta. 1943 July

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Contributor notes

Clare Willis Christie Clare was born one year after the close of WWII in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada; she is married to Dr. J. Brian Faught and, to date, has two step-children, six grand-children and a great-grandchild.Her early education was in the public schools of Amherst. Later Clare attended Dalhousie (Kings) University, Halifax, NS, graduating with a B.A. (Hon.) degree (1967), and a B.Ed. (1969) from Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB. She returned to Dalhousie Law School, graduating with an LLB in 1984.Her early teaching career involved a total of eight years at Sackville High School (Sackville, NB), New Options School for Dropouts and Metro Area Family Planning Association (Halifax, NS), and Sackville Heights Junior High School (Lower Sackville, NS). From 1979 - 81 Clare was the Resource Centre Coordinator for Stikine District, BC and Librarian for Cassiar School (Cassiar, BC). After graduating with her LLB, Clare articled and was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar. From 1986-94, she was a lawyer with Kenneth A. MacInnis Associates and from 1994-2004 was proprietor of Clare Christie’s Law Office. Clare was also involved in writing and publishing for many years, publishing a chapter in Images of Ourselves: The Faith and Work of Canadian Women, compiled for the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women in Church and Society, published by The United Church Publishing House, entitled “Letter to My Friends”. A year later, she co-edited with Mary O’Brien, Single Women: Affirming Our Spiritual Journeys (Bergin & Garvey, Westport, Connecticut and London, 1993) including her own chapter entitled “Affirming Myself: As Authentic Being, Friend, and Healer”. From 2011 forward, she has been a Community Editorial Board columnist for the Amherst New, a column relevant to Amherst published every five weeks. In 2014 thirty columns were privately published as Read About Amherst. In addition, Clare privately published the following: Amherst Shore Anthology (1999); Addition to Amherst Shore Anthology (2006); Edith Willis and Percy Atherton Families: Celebrating Swastika’s 100 Years 1908 – 2008 (2008), a role play “Grace McLeod Rogers: On the Move” in Rogers Reunion 2010 and the same title, standalone (2014), Me, Myself and I: to Age 4 (2013), and a novel, A Good Place: A Season in a Cottage Community (2014).

Born in 1945 just after the close of WWII in Liverpool, England, Carol’s early years would have experienced the impact of ongoing rationing and accounts of the Blitz through her family. She is married to Michael Wills and has two children and four grand-children. Her education was truly international and included the British Army School in Nanyuki, Kenya, the Victoria Nile School in Uganda, Saxenholme School in Birkdale, England, Dr. Williams School in Dolgellau, North Wales and the Sorbonne in Paris, France. She has an MSc from the University of Bath, England. Carol’s working life and career has been as varied and global in nature as her education, beginning first as a volunteer teacher on the island of St. Helena (South Atlantic) with VSO followed by many years with OXFAM, Great Britain, helping farmers and artisans in developing countries improve their livelihoods and access markets. From 1997-2005 she was the Executive Director of what is now WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation). She also served on the Board of Shared Interest, the Fair Trade financial cooperative, from 2006 to 2014, is currently a Trustee of the development through trade NGO Twin and a non-executive Director of the Divine Chocolate Company. She continues to provide technical support to the Harvard University based WIEGO (Women in Informal Employmen tGlobalising and Organising). Carol is no stranger to writing as well, authoring many reports for Oxfam and the WFTO. She has also contributed to a number of books, such as writing the Foreword to World Crafts (London: Charles Letts); an appendix to Beads and Bead Makers: Gender, Material Culture and Meaning, edited by Lidia D. Sciama and Joanne B. Eicher, (Berg: Oxford and New York) entitled: “What beads mean to craft producers supported by Oxfam”. She was also quoted extensively in Fair Trade: Marketdriven ethical consumption by Alex Nicholls and Charlotte Opal (Sage, 2005) and again in 2006, in two chapters for the same title and publisher. She wrote two chapters of Business Unusual: Successes andChallenges of Fair Trade published by the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Brussels, in cooperation withHIVOS in 2006. She is a co-author of Trading Our Way Up: Women Organizing for Fair Trade published

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Editorial Review

“It was a distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to read such a delightful account detailing the lives of fascinating and worthwhile individuals. Each letter-writer expressed her/his self so touchingly and lovingly, some eloquently and others with great feeling and honesty. Brought back memories to me of WWII!“ “What a gem Helen Williams is! So erudite, with a wonderful command of English and a remarkable grasp of the then current affairs & politics. A very perceptive woman.” “It’s an impressive compilation, beautifully put together. Stunning family social history. Can’t imagine any otherof the period being more gripping!”

Hugh Griffith, former Editor of Debates & Chief of Reporting Services, The Senate of Canada.

Pre-publication Comments from Advance Reading of Manuscript

“Read it last year. Loved it ... Should be taught on a local level. ... How you would be.” Judy MacGregor

“Privilege of reading book before. Wanted to hear it again. Fantastic ... Good feel for [the] average person.

Keeping letters [was]wonderful ... “Heroes who muddled through.” Hugh MacGregor “I wish you the best ... for this wonderful collection of letters ...” Allison Hirst, Senior Editor, Dundurn

“Personal spin is rare” Lynne O’Brien-Lines “Brave to expose [one’s] personal correspondence and lives. Boxes destroyed to maintain privacy. Personal nature intriguing.” Dave Van Zoost

“How everyday people coped. Coped well ... Really enjoyed it.” Barb Gilbert

“... how much Mum and I are enjoying the book - it’s absolutely fabulous and so interesting! ... it really is brilliant! I read a bit to Mum each day...and it’s hard to put it down - I absolutely love it - particularly [Jan’s] memories - bloody fascinating! ... it’s a fabulous accomplishment and something to be treasured. Fran (Ashcroft) Appleton,(“Mum” is Jean Ashcroft - see page 152 in this publication.)

“It’s fantastic!” [The letters are ... ] “a national treasure”. Michael Swift, former Assistant Archivist at the National Archives of Canada

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