A whole set of letters and cards had clearly been sent by Nancy Powell to old friends from the pre-war Nogent days. And this gave rise to a number of responses.
A 279 Nogent, 25th October 1944 a postcard from Yvone (sic) Bagland
What joy it gave me, dearest Nancy, to receive your letter and my heart missed a beat when I recognized your handwriting (because I recognized it, all right). I have had news of you on three occasions, via the radio and when I was at Mrs Holman’s. We used to speak about a lot and we were very happy to hear that you were well. Number 29 is still standing firm (thanks be to God, we were spared that kind of thing). Maurice came back from the war in September 1940. We were bombed a lot, but our house didn’t suffer much damage. Your house is in one piece, but has people living in it, Germans and then homeless people, you had details of that from Mrs Holman. My two little ones are fine and very sweet. But Mummy is in a little less pain now…but three bouts of pneumonia in 18 months have aged her. However, like your mother, she has made a good recovery. Please remember her to your grandmother and give your parents our very best wishes. I have talked about you a lot with Duclos. Happy birthday for next month. I’ll write often, now that I have your address.
Very best wishes to you and yours from the bottom of my heart (and from Maurice, who sends his love too).
A 280 St André (Nord), 29th October 1944 Marie Béhaegel
I cannot tell you what joy it brought me to have good news of you and to know that you were all safe and well. I have often spoken of you here at home and I did not know who to approach for news of you, because I knew that you weren’t in Nogent, because in 1940 I wrote several times and never had a reply. Of course I wondered what had become of you and of course I feared the worst.
I am also very pleased to hear that Mrs Moody (Elizabeth Moody, Nancy’s maternal grandmother) is still with us. I would really love to see this dear lady who has reached such a grand age (100 years) and whom I remember with such affection. And I sincerely hope that you may have her with you for a long time to come.
I hope that you did not suffer much from the war and didn’t get bombed at all where you are over there. We are in good health and we didn’t get bombed, apart from some indirect damage caused by a bomb that came down about 100 m from the house and which just gave us a big fright.
For four years, you could say that we have been separated from Paul, who was first of all evacuated in 1940, then came back home from time to times after that, only to leave again in 1941…on his own initiative. He had no work and had to go off to the hills to find some. Then, finding none, he enlisted at 17 years 4 months in Périgueux (Dordogne), and in December 1942 he came back home again, because the army was disbanded as part of the armistice. In August 1943 Paul then received papers to go to Germany to work, so he disappeared again to the Deux-Sevres to a farm to hide out from the authorities and since June (1944) I have had no news of him at all. And then, just when I had your card, I got one from Paul and he has joined up again in Deux-Sevres (Niort) and heaven knows when I shall see him again. He says he’s very happy and hopes to be promoted to sergeant in a month’s time.
That’s plenty enough of me going on like this, Miss Nancy, and I think I shall close by asking you to be so kind as to remember me to Mr and Mrs Powell and tell them from me that I wish them all the best and to you I still have the fondest memories of when you were a baby,
A 281 Nogent, 30th October 1944 Y(vonne) Brizard
My dear Nancy,
I was very pleased to hear from you and I send you all my congratulations for the hundredth birthday celebrations. It really is magnificent to get a century under your belt. I am happy that Mr and Mrs Powell are still fit and healthy. I often speak about you to Mrs Holman and Mrs Landrier.
We are very well and have got through the last four years without too many mishaps. My cousin Fanny Chaudé P… who lived in Versailles died a painful death from cancer last year. Her young daughter has married a young man of British origin called Harry Hopkins. They have just had a baby called Martine. At the same time as your card came I had a note from Jean, which I replied to straight away. During September I was visited by Colonel Freddy Wintle, who passed on news of my nephew. This visit gave me great joy.
Also at the same time as your card, I had a card from F. Rossieu – it’s nearly six months since I heard anything from that quarter. To explain, there have been no trains running since the 4th June. And we haven’t been able to get down Station Road for three months and also you have to spend the night at Chartres, if you want to go to Paris. And the Maintenon viaduct is very badly damaged. We now have electricity – we were without until 12th September – but we still don’t have any gas or coal.
Life is certainly difficult and we have lost all the things that make it pleasant. We have had to bid farewell to the central heating and to all exotic produce – coffee, ‘tea’, chocolate, oranges, bananas have all completely disappeared. We don’t have leather any more, and no rubber, wool or cotton either. We live all the time in our old ‘togs’, I am very dowdy and so we’re not afraid to look terribly old but, compared with so many other people, we are fortunate. There have been so many countries ruined, people shot, driven out of their minds or deported that it would really be in bad taste for us to complain. Our houses are still standing and they are not damaged.
Yours is still standing too, and there’s no damage done to it. Unfortunately, it’s now empty and the “gentlemen” who lived there were great furniture removers, to the extent that they took nearly everything, because they occupied the house almost all the time. If your parents are not thinking of living here again, you would do well to sell it as soon as you can. At the moment, houses are fetching really good prices and I am certain that yours would fetch between 300 and 400,000 francs. If you can get across here, you should get in touch with a solicitor – Barraullon Remois Beauvais – and take him on to do the necessary. Because there is a lot of talk about changing the currency, so prices will fall automatically. It would be much better if you could come, but you will leave your journey over until the hostilities have ceased. Think on it and discuss the matter with your parents.
Perhaps Robert could make enquiries on your behalf, if you would like him to. Here, we don’t have any English people at all, only Americans who certainly lack history and traditions. They do not get billeted with the local population, unlike the Boches. I have no complaints, however. I had some only once or twice and took in ten on each occasion.
I am going on a bit in this letter. I’ve only got room left to tell you that your friends in Nogent have not forgotten you. And to say that I am sending very affectionate greetings to Mr and Mrs Powell and my best love to you, my dear Nancy, with the hope that I shall see you soon.
Dorothy has returned to Paris, she spent two years in a prison camp, then six months in an American hospital. She is recovered now.
A 282 Nogent, 30th October 1944 Yvone (sic) Bagland
My dear Nancy,
We can now send letters, so I’ll take the opportunity to give you some details about us and our lives. As you will know, we have lived under a lot of restrictions and we have often been in fear of our lives. But using our ingenuity a little, we slowly managed to make do and without resorting to the black market. Also, our fears came to nothing.
When the Germans arrived, we were staying with my aunt in Evron and, I assure you, it wasn’t great. On the first day I was standing right next to three Boches in the farm dairy, and I was expecting the worst, whether I was going to be friendly to him, and I felt terrible…well, how surprised was I to see the Boches salute me and speak politely to me…in correct French! They must have been told to do so, and when you think of what they’ve done and what was done in the camps and prisons…when they left as well…and when the SS committed those terrible atrocities in so many French towns and villages…poor, poor France !!!! During the occupation, we ignored them completely…though we had to have some lodging with us upstairs, but at the beginning they were very correct in their behaviour.
We were also frightened when there were air raids and bombing, a lot of it on the station, some of it on the Courtalain line and the rue St Lazare – all of that was terrible.
I can’t wait to see you again, you know, and to find out what happened to you after you set out (in June 1940) so suddenly for Evron.
We are often visited by a young American and I get on with him really well. Just talking, you understand…it’s really fun.
Abbé Thibault is still a great friend and he has come several times to raise our spirits and he has often seen to it that the children had what they needed.
Well, my dear, best friend, I shall end by sending you all my love and kisses.