To wait and wonder…

Endless love was found in a shoebox at a charity shop this week. The agonising letters of lost love, written during the war shine a light on how times have changed.

A donated shoebox at the British Heart Foundation shop in Wellingborough, and reported in the Metro, revealed letters sent by wartime soldier Hubert Tilley in France to his lover Lucienne Huyghe in Belgium. “I would endure the hell of the Battle of Normandy over again if I knew that you would be waiting for me at the end of it” wrote the 20-year-old. Hubert was left broken-hearted when the girl’s father stopped the letters because…he was not a catholic.

This shoebox is a small vault of emotion, of love, of separation and anguish. One day Hubert’s vault is opened to a new generation, used to the comfort of fast news, of instant feedback. Imagine though, the space for Hubert, far from home, facing danger every day and painfully in love without the security and confidence that it will or can be returned. Hubert’s pain is from a generation who understood the quiet contract with yourself – to wait and wonder. There are many today, who have no experience of the simple act of waiting for a letter – the letterbox lifting, the clatter of post on your floor, followed by the low of realising you must wait another day. Days pass until finally, the high of familiar handwriting, the smell of the paper and stamp, the stealing of private space to devour each word over and over again and the quiet satisfaction of knowing all is well. Or in Hubert’s case the opposite. He wrote:

“I am so very unhappy. What can I do? I was very rich, now I am very poor. I have not lost money, much more. I have lost your love”.

His agony is now ours as we reflect on how it must have been for him – and Lucienne as they fought with time, distance, history and conspiring forces. We have it all today. And yet, the Hubert’s of the world – despite their pain and hardship somehow seem just a little richer for the waiting and the wondering.

4 comments
  1. This is amazing – Hubert Tilley was the son of my grandmother’s sister Gretchen (Reenie) Rothermel. The three Rothermel brothers came from Wurttemburg Germany, they settled in Wellingborough in the 1870’s and ran a butchers shop at 12 High Street. They were the first Rothermels ever to settle in the UK the others went to America. I have been trying to trace the Tilleys for a couple of years to no avail. I have researched the Rothermel history and gone back to 1427 in Germany. It is all on my website under the Rothermel section. I understand the letters have been claimed and would very much like the claimants to contact me if they are interested in the family history. I would also be very interested to have information/photos of the butchers shop and any other Rothermel information from the town. My father attended Wellingborough School.

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    • Incredible…I suggest you contact the journalists at the Metro, where the story appeared. I am sure they can help as they will have all the contacts….really hope you are able to get closer to this…its an amazing story….best of luck!!

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