years ago, a group of personal letters were written by men of the 1st
Suffolk Regiment, serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France
between 25th and 27th May 1940, during the British Armys retreat
For some, it would be the last message they sent to family and friends;
sadly not all of the letters made it home to their loved ones.
They went astray in France
and were discovered in an abandoned post van by a German officer. They
spent the next three decades in the officers loft, before he handed
them in at the British Embassy in Bonn in 1969.
The letters were subsequently stored
at the Suffolk Archives.
There are 41 undelivered letters in the archives, all of them
written by young men full of fear, hope and love.
Some of the soldiers would make it to
Dunkirk to be evacuated back home, but many sadly would not.
One of those letters was from Fred Minns
to his girlfriend Eva Willingham
Eva lived at Bolberry, High St, Bures
Fred Minns was born in 1911 in Gedding,
Bury St Edmunds, he was a regular soldier who had previously served
with the Suffolk
Regiment in India. He wrote a letter to Eva, full
of love and longing for home.
"It would have
been a beautiful day for one of our jaunts, you know right out along
the country lane, which must look lovely and green and full of flowers,
one never appreciates them so much as when one is torn from them"
Fred survived the evacuation of Dunkirk,
but unfortunately died in Somerset on September 1940 aged 29 years,
when the motor cycle he was riding was in a collision with an Army Lorry
Thses two newspaper reports, confirms
Fred was on official duty as a Despatch Rider.
Western Daily Press
1st October 1904
This fatal accident was only two months before Eva lost her parents
in the Nayland Rd tragedy
Eva must have been devastated by the loss of five loved ones.
Pvt Frederick Louis
DEATH 29 Sep 1940
St Andrew Churchyard
Great Cornard, Suffolk,
Service No: 5824862.
of Honour - Gt. Cornard
Frederick Louis Minns
1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment
Minns was born in Gedding, Suffolk in 1911. He was the son of
Isaac and Violet Minns. He had 2 brothers: Cecil and Dennis, and
3 sisters: Winifred, Dorothy and Freda. His father Isaac was employed
as a farm labourer and the family moved from Gedding to Spout
Lane, Little Cornard and later to 4 Prospect Hill, Great Cornard.
was a regular soldier and served with the Suffolk Regiment in
India. The photograph shows him in India in 1933. The Battalion
returned home and at the outbreak of war was sent over to France
as part of the British Expeditionary Force. Frederick survived
the evacuation of Dunkirk at the end of May 1940. In September
he was serving as a despatch rider when he was killed in a road
accident in Cheddar, Somerset.
died aged 29 on 27th September 1940. He lies buried in Great Cornard
his brothers served during the war. Cecil enlisted in January
1940 and served with the York and Lancaster Regiment, he sent
a letter home, which appeared on the front page of the Suffolk
and Essex Free Press on 5th November 1944. He had been in India
for 2 years before being sent to fight behind the Japanese lines
in March 1944. His brother Dennis served with the Royal Air Force
in South Rhodesia.
Smith - Sudbury & District Royal British Legion - November
Roll of Honour inside
St Andrews Parish Church, Great Cornard
Unfortunately, the Suffolk Regiment has
refused permission for me to publish Freds Letter, as they are the legal
and copyright owners
This is incorrect, the legal owner is Eva`s next of Kin, the current
The Records Office will not supply me
with a copy, as there rules state "it cannot be shown to a third
( Presumably not even my wife !)
Letter image and text reproduced courtesy
of Bury RO and Western Daily Press
Photo of Frederick - Courtesy of Mr. Robin Brown
Sudbury & District Royal British Legion
Cornard Information web site
Research by Alan Beales