Harry Pearson kept Eileen Pleasants in his heart after a chance meeting in a pub and they would marry after the war (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
Posted to northern France in the Allied push after D-Day, Harry Pearson wasn’t going to let the ‘growl of the guns’ stand in the way of a budding romance.
The Tommy’s saving grace was Eileen Pleasants, the young woman he had spent his last hours in England with before sailing across the Channel.
A series of 32 intimate letters, only discovered after his death more than five decades later, show how he held Eileen as a ‘glimmer of light from a civilised and sane world’.
On Remembrance weekend, the messages preserved by digital history project Their Finest Hour show how Harry kept those back home in his thoughts as he joined the advance towards Nazi Germany in June 1944.
Writing from a dug-out 6ft below ground, he told his sweetheart: ‘To us fellows out here it seems a shame that all you people at home should also have to suffer the same perils as we do.
‘Anyway, it won’t be long now before all that is a thing of the past, the Nazis are sure in for a bashing.’
Harry Pearson never failed to write to Eileen (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
Harry met his future wife, who worked as a telephone operator for the General Post Office, on embarkation leave in the days before his deployment with the 110th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery.
Aged 26 and 19 respectively, they first laid eyes on each other during a chance meeting at her local pub known affectionately as ‘The Lord Bobs’, possibly the Lord Rockwood in Leytonstone, east London.
Harry, from Tyldesley in Lancashire, and Eileen, from Forest Gate, Newham, courted and then made wedding plans chiefly by letter until he was released from service in 1946.
In another missive, Harry, who made sure to always carry writing material with him, wrote: ‘At last, a glimmer of light from a civilised and sane world, it was like a cool breeze in a desert, something to take one away from all this, momentarily.’
Eileen Pleasants longed to be with Harry (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
Referring to Eileen as ‘the sweetest companion I have ever met’, the Lance Bombardier only hinted at the hardships he must have endured.
‘I ought to tell you that the scratches in this letter are due to no fault of my own,’ he wrote. ‘It is because the very ground shakes spasmodically to the growl of the guns.’
The soldier, who was promoted to Bombardier in July 1945, wasted no opportunity to profess his undying love.
Harry’s Army service book when he was aged 21 (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
‘Each time I receive a letter from you I develop a strange thumping sensation around the region of my heart for which there can be only one explanation – it’s love, pure and simple,’ he wrote.
‘I leave my heart in your care from now on and I hope forever.’
Harry’s declarations of true love were reciprocated in kind.
In one of her letters, Eileen wrote: ‘I wouldn’t be without you for all the tea in China; you’re simply super and I’m mighty proud that you picked me out to be your sweetheart.
‘Don’t worry dearest, I’m going to do my utmost to make you forget all about the Army and if I have my way it won’t even take me a week to do it.
‘The past six years we must put behind us and God willing darling, it’ll be the next sixty years that we’ll have to think about. I just imagine a lifetime with you, tell me sweetheart that I’m not dreaming for it seems simply too heavenly to be true.’
Harry and Eileen on the day they got engaged in Blackpool on June 5, 1945 (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
Eileen would get her wish.
The couple tied the knot at St Margaret’s Church in Leytonstone on March 2, 1946 and their succeeding generations now include great-grandchildren.
Harry’s letters were only found after his death in 1999 and were transcribed and preserved by the couple’s family.
Brought together in a collection entitled A Wartime Correspondence edited by the couple’s son, Tony Pearson, the correspondence is among artefacts given by the public to the growing collection being collated by a team at the University of Oxford.
Harry and Eileen on the steps of St Margaret’s Church at their wedding in March 1946 (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
The National Lottery Heritage Fund project is collecting everyday stories and objects from the war so that they are preserved for future generations.
The materials such as photographs, diaries, letters and journals will be included in an online archive which will be free to use from June 2024.
Project leader Dr Stuart Lee said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to create an archive of memories of the Second World War era.
‘We know from previous projects that people have so many objects, photos and anecdotes which have been passed down from family members which are at risk of getting lost or being forgotten.
‘Our aim is to empower people to digitally preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity.’
As Remembrance commemorations take place this weekend, the project is working to collect a lasting online home for the items and memories.
Dr Lee said: ‘Remembrance Weekend is especially poignant this year because not only does November 11 fall on a Saturday, so the two-minute silence immediately precedes the ceremonies at the Cenotaph, but we are mid-way through the 80th anniversary of World War Two when in 1943 the tide turned against the Axis powers.
‘With Their Finest Hour we are asking members of the public to share stories, memories and objects about not only those who served but also those across the Commonwealth who supported Britain’s war effort by working, keeping a home going, or the children who lived through it.’
To view Their Finest Hour, visit the website
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Harry and Eileen’s expressions of undying love are among the heirlooms gathered for a digital history project.