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By IH 24/05 Updated: 25/05 14:23
THE WARTIME diary of a Leek Wootton housewife is being opened to all more than 65 years after peace was declared.
Doreen Wright wrote her diary in the form of letters to her husband Gilbert, a Flying Officer in 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron, who was reported ‘Missing in Action’ on May 22 1940. Her main reason for writing the diary was so to keep her husband ‘up to speed’ on the lives of their three young children, who were five and twins of two at the start of the diary.
The diary is an unguarded and unaltered account of her life throughout the first half of the war, and reveals her intense love of Gilbert and her desperate hope he would soon return home.
She also recounts the ups and downs of living as a guest in the home of her parents-in-law - the family’s home in Chalfont St Giles being let out at the start of the war - and her various contributions to the war effort, which included driving a WVS canteen to bombed out areas, including Coventry, helping to run the Leek Wootton WI Preservation Centre and sewing and knitting for injured servicemen.
The diary also gives the perspective and opinions of an someone living in Warwickshire during a period when the world was in turmoil, the impact of worldwide events on her immediate community, including the London and Coventry blitz as well as the impact of a bomb on a small rural village, and her reaction to wider events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
Doreen keeps up the diary through the darkest days of both the war and her own grief, until December 1942, when she comes to terms with Gilbert's loss following reports received from France and packs away the diary.
The Leek Wootton History Group carried out the project to publish Doreen's Diary - The Life of an Indomitable Woman in Warwickshire During World War II. It was not until Doreen died in August 2003 aged 95 that the diary was discovered.
Paul Eldridge, Chairman of Leek Wootton History Group, said: “The life of Doreen Wright (nee Cooper) was a long and incredibly full one, and it will be clear to readers why, when we started on this project we incorporated into its title ‘The life of an indomitable woman’."
Chapters written by members of the Leek Wootton History Group, tell more of Doreen’s incredibly full life. She was a successful sportswoman in her youth, swimming at the British Empire Games in 1930, where she won a Gold Medal, and playing ice hockey for England.
She also trained in textile design at The Royal College of Art and was commercially successful, selling designs to Shell and Sandersons.
After her marriage, Doreen continued her interests through teaching and in later life was a founder member of The Lace Guild.
Her wartime activities, in addition to her role as a single mother, included taking on financial decisions for the family, and maintaining her husband’s interest in a small chain of garages in Buckinghamshire, where she also served as a local councillor.
Published with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Leek Wootton History Group is celebrating the launch of the diary with an exhibition at Leek Wootton Village Hall on Saturday (May 26) between 10am and 4pm. Entry is free.
Copies of the book, priced £9.99, will be on sale. The book will also be available from Kenilworth Books in Talisman Square, and Warwick Books in Market Place.
Visit www.doreensdiary.org.uk for further details.
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