WWI centenary: Wartime letter no longer lost in translation

LOVE LETTERS? The letter between Leopold and Aimee takes pride of place in Daphne Simmonds' collection. (d552a422)
LOVE LETTERS? The letter between Leopold and Aimee takes pride of place in Daphne Simmonds' collection. (d552a422)

A 96-year-old wartime love story may well have been uncovered – in an attic.

Daphne Symonds owns what must be one of Mirfield’s most impressive collections of rare stamps, and lists hundreds from places as diverse as St Helena, Palestine and Mesapotamia.

But it wasn’t until she read some of the letters to which the stamps were attached that she found a most intriguing story.

Daphne, who lives in Mirfield, said: “We had originally inherited them from my brother in 2004, and we had just left them in a box until my cousin came to visit a couple of months ago, he asked to see them.”

It was then that she noticed numerous letters dated during the years of WWI and got in touch with the Reporter Series.

Earlier this year we featured a story about correspondence in French from a soldier named Leopold Phillips, based in Calais, to a woman named Miss Aimee Gillings, which was addressed to 76 North Road, Ravensthorpe.

One of the letters has since been translated, but the mystery surrounding the pair remains.

Speculating on their relationship, Mrs Symonds said: “It seems as if the two had met before and they had affection for each other. I wonder if he was a soldier with the French army, and she was his sweetheart who was living over here, as her name is the French spelling of Aimee.

“I would love to find out more about them.”

As for the collection, Mrs Symonds and her husband Aldwyn said they would soon be getting a valuation on the stamps.

“We don’t have the internet or anything like that, so it’s hard for us to find out the value of the stamps,” she said.

“If we are quoted a good price, I would be prepared to sell them. But Aldwyn is a bit more reluctant to sell them than I am.”

Any relatives or friends of Aimee Gillings who would like to see the letters should contact Mr or Mrs Symonds on 01924 522683.

The translated letter:

Calais, 15 March 1918

Leopold Philips


My dear Aimee,

It was with real pleasure that I received your two letters from 3 and 10 March. Forgive me for not writing back sooner, but I was quite busy these past few days with non stop guards and signals etc.

I’m very surprised that you have had snow down there; we’ve had a few days of bad weather but no snow.

Anyway, I received the cigarettes and the handkerchief, thank you very much.

I see you are working very hard in the garden. If you carry on with horticultural gymnastics you’ll become very strong and I will find you very different from my last visit.

Thank you for the lovely card you sent me.

Like you I hope this awful war finishes soon and we can go back home.

Best regards, affection and gratitude