The diaries and letters of a Grantham woman and her husband, who was a prisoner in the Second World War, have been put on the web by their son.
David Layne, who was born in Great Gonerby and now lives in the United States, has been putting together the story of Joan and Walter for some years. Joan was born and raised in Grantham. Her husband Walter Layne was shot down in September 1943 and taken prisoner.
From that time Joan decided to keep a diary which she wrote for 20 months until Walter’s return. The diary makes mention of many friends from Grantham, some being killed as the war progressed.
Joan started the diary as soon as she heard Walter was safe and had been taken prisoner after his plane came down over Germany during a bombing mission from a Cambridgeshire airbase. She starts her diary: “Today I received your postcard stating that you are a prisoner of war. I can’t tell you just how I do feel – after the agony of the last forty-six days I can really begin to live again. God has answered my prayers and He knows how grateful I am.
“The news that you were missing came as a dreadful shock. I got the wire at 1.15 at the shop, Friday September 24th. I had listened to the 1pm news, heard that our planes had raided Mannheim and that thirty-two were missing, but not for a second did I think that yours could be one of them, Never for a moment even at my blackest hours did I believe that you were gone from me – there were times when I had to fight hard – but thank God my faith remained unbroken.”
Joan’s diary can be read at wallyswar.wordpress.com/joans-diary
During his imprisonment Walter, more commonly known as Wally, and Joan both wrote letters to each other, which have survived and have been put on the web by David.
David said: “Joan wrote many letters to her husband during his time as a POW. Unfortunately, much to his distress Walter had to abandon these letters as too bulky and too heavy to carry during the evacuation of Stalag Luft III. The letters that were written by Joan to Walter and were returned to Joan after falling into the hands of Allied Forces can be seen on the web.”
After Walter was shot down, Joan wrote a number of letters to the authorities trying to find out what had happened to her husband. These letters are also available to see on the web at wallyswar.wordpress.com/official-letters
David’s own story is no less fascinating than that of his parents. He moved to the United States in 1966 at the age of 22. He told the Journal: “At that time economically things in the UK were depressed and I was a bit of a “wild child” that needed to air his wings so off I went. One of the requirements of entering the United States was to register with the draft which I duly did. Consequently I got my “Greetings” letter to report to the draft board which I duly did and was enlisted on December 7 1967. I could have returned to England at this point but I wanted to “see the elephant.”
David later served for a time in Vietnam and he has written about his exploits there at davidelsblog.wordpress.com After Vietnam, David later went to Germany where he was a member of the 7th Army Parachute Team and he travelled Europe putting on parachute demonstrations.
He said: “I have never regretted moving to the United States. Parachuting (or skydiving to give it its more modern name) has been a part of my life for in excess of 45 years. I have owned and run drop zones and taught literally thousands of people how to skydive. Along the way I have amassed some 3,895 jumps, give or take a few. I remain an Anglophile and kid my American friends that I return to the UK at least once a year to get my accent readjusted. I pride myself that I am still very much an Englishman and have retained my English accent.”
David says he started looking into his father’s wartime experiences because he felt it was a story worth telling. He is still researching Walter’s story.