How to write a letter

July 5, 2010

In February 1944 The British Red Cross launched a monthly newsletter for the relatives of reported prisoners of war or those missing in the Far East. My grandparents saved all but a few of the issues published during the remaining year and a half of the war.

The first issue of ‘Far East’ came precisely two years after the fall of Singapore. But even then the editor could write that “contact with the (Japanese) prison camps has been only partial, intermittent and uncertain, and we know nothing reliable about the camps holding most of our men.”

Instructions for composing and addressing letters to FEPOW were printed on the back page of the first issue. As can be seen, letters were to be limited to 25 words,  written in block capitals or typewritten, contain no enclosures and deal only with personal matters. It’s hard to imagine what one could say in 25 words but no doubt Sybil — and many thousands of others — got very good at it.

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