A 294 Nogent, 4th March 1945 from M(arie). Pierre
My dear little Nancy,
I was so very pleased to hear from you at last after these five long, dreadful years. I had heard in 1940 that, at that awful, unforgettable, time of the mass exodus, you were able to get back to England, but no-one could say for certain. And very, very often, my family and I anxiously wondered what had become of you. We all left for the Lot-et-Garonne [south of Bordeaux] to stay at my brother’s and we stayed there from 16th June until the beginning of September. When I got back home, I was horrified and surprised to find the house full of Germans. The neighbours said that 30-35 of them had been there on a daily basis, installed in my property with their field kitchen, burning my furniture to create heat. Everything had been ransacked, broken and soiled in an indescribable way. For more than a month I had to stay with friends.
Faced with so much damage, which cost me 60-80,000fr at present prices, I thought that I would never recover from the great psychological and physical shock I received.
Since then, I have been ill all the time, constantly suffering from blood pressure. I have just gone through a very bad time, ending with, or rather continuing with, the flu’ and that’s why I have taken so long to reply to you. What’s more, this letter I started on 4th March was interrupted by the flu’. It’s now Sunday 18th March and I am feeling a little better today and am starting writing again in order to finish it.
First of all, may I send you my most sincere condolences for your grand-mother’s death and please convey them on my behalf particularly to Mrs Powell, who has certainly had the great sorrow at the loss of her dear Mummy. You must, in any case, all have been proud to have in your midst a hundred-year-old lady who had been so well preserved. What a shame she left this life before the final victory of our dear allies!!!
I hope that this accursed war will soon be at an end and that you will soon be entitled to come to France. If my house was dreadfully ransacked, yours must have been even worse!!! I wonder what state it is in! I very much fear that you will not find much left there. My sisters, who had hidden some fine linen and different things on my property, have unfortunately lost everything. They would have been better leaving everything in Paris, where not a thing has been touched.
Miss Mar used to own a fairly large house in Bar-sur-Seine [Aube department, in NE France]. This house was completely destroyed in 1940 by German bombing. She is still living in le Perreux with my older sister. You would think that bad luck is following them around, because the villa where they live was burgled in the winter, when they came here to Nogent. All their linen was taken, plus dresses, shoes, paintings and precious objects, a large amount of cash and a whole lot of other things.
The police have not been able to trace the thieves, and the two friends themselves are totally depressed to have lost so much, at a time when you can’t find anything in the shops and the little there is fetches incredible prices that you can do nothing about.
They had come here for the wedding of our nephew, Jean P…, the ceremony took place on 14th October in St Hilaire’s Church. He married a very nice girl who lived on the bridge – in the house where D… used to live. They are a family of manufacturers from the Nord department and they came seeking shelter here, because the pretty property they lived in had been completely razed to the ground, when they were bombed out.
The young couple live in Paris, to the delight of my sister and her husband. All my brothers and sisters came to the wedding – all of us are ageing well here. You will find us much changed, when you come to see us, my little Nancy. My sister (married name Baron) is extremely thin. Her beloved son, Michel, is a tall, good-looking, young man doing medicine. He volunteered as an army doctor which was a great sadness to his mother. Genevieve is still unmarried. Odette Médard had three children – she lost the youngest last summer, he died of convulsions. He was a good-looking two-year-old. Simone got married after the great exodus of 1940. She has a little girl aged two. Her first – a boy – died at fourteen days. My poor sister, Odette Médard has a big problem with one hip and she can hardly walk at all any more. She is in a lot of pain. That’s news of everyone, then.
My family joins me in wishing for improved health for Mr and Mrs Powell.
Much love and kisses from us to you.
PS See you soon, I hope. It’ll be wonderful to see you again.