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With love from Dunkirk

These extraordinary letters were written by men of the 1st Suffolk Regiment serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France between 25th and 27th May 1940, during the British army’s retreat towards Dunkirk. For some, it would be the last message they sent to family and friends; not all of the letters’ authors made it home.

These letters, however, never reached the loved ones they were written to. They went astray in France and were discovered in an abandoned post van by a German officer. They spent the next three decades in the officer’s loft, before he handed them in at the British Embassy in Bonn in 1969.

The Suffolk Regiment tried to deliver them to the people they had been intended for 29 years earlier. Alas, most people could not be found at the addresses on the original envelopes, and 41 of the letters were returned to the Suffolk Regiment, and are now safely kept at our Bury St Edmunds office.

This online display features seven of the 41 letters. It has been possible to trace some details of some of the men, and in one case we have even found surviving relatives and have been able to send them a copy of the long-lost letter.

You can find the names of the letters’ authors and intended recipients here. If you would like to view these documents or order copies, please contact us on

‘We just wish for the best every day’ – Private Harry Ling

‘It will be lovely to be home with you again ‘ – Jack Payne

‘I should like to know if you would go out with me’ – Private Leman Martin

‘Plenty of shells and bullets helping me on my way’ – Private Reginald Dearsley

C’est la guerre – Peter De[ram]

‘Roll on when this do is over’ – Harry Cole

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