Sunday, 6 December 2009

Romance in The Times

I found this letter in The Times on Saturday 28 November and, knowing what a soppy bunch we all are, I thought you might enjoy it too:


Sir, Letters published in The Times can have surprising results.

You published my letter last year concerning my father’s visit to the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, when both cab drivers refused to take fares from a bemedalled war veteran. The letter was later reprinted in the news digest magazine The Week.

Last Thursday I received a phone call from a lady who, when living in Africa, had last year been lent that copy of The Week by a neighbour.

Recognising my surname on the letter, she wondered if my father was the young officer she last met on the White Star liner RMS Ceramic from UK to Cape Town in 1941. Indeed it was: my father was a 20-year-old army lieutenant on his way to war in the Middle East, and the lady was then 18, escaping from the London bombs to relatives in Rhodesia.

They struck up a close shipboard relationship, but after a six-week voyage they parted at Cape Town: she to travel on to Harare, and my father on to war in the Middle East. However, they continued to correspond for some years during the war, but lost touch in 1945. The lady stayed in Africa for the next 68 years, while my father returned to a successful career in the UK. Both married and raised families, and were subsequently widowed.

But it seems that neither forgot the other: the lady even remembered the date of my father’s birthday, while my father still has the telegram she sent to him on board his ship as he left South Africa for Egypt.

The further surprise is that she now lives less than 20 miles from my father, and yesterday they met for the first time in 68 years. My father drove to collect her himself, and by the time I met the lady in the evening, a complete rapport seemed to have been re-established.

The two cab drivers we encountered last year cannot have guessed the romantic train of events that they launched with their respect and generosity to an old soldier.

Martin Pettinger
Herstmonceux, E Sussex

1 comment:

Kevin Musgrove said...

Ahh... serendipity. Excellent!