Letters between young lovers paint picture of life and national service

The story of love and national service lives on through a collection of letters owned by a Staffordshire man.

John Spragg has saved every letter he received from his then-girlfriend Rose while he was doing his national service
John Spragg has saved every letter he received from his then-girlfriend Rose while he was doing his national service

John Spragg, from Cannock, was called up to do his national service between 1959 and 1961, spending the majority of his time at Guillemont Barracks in Hampshire.

It meant the then-21-year-old leaving behind his 18-year-old girlfriend Rose, who he said he had met through a church youth group at the Church of Christ in Erdington.

He said: "If you wanted to go to the youth club, you had to go to church, so I and all my mates did that and enjoyed it.

"We had a table tennis team and we went to play a club on Dyas Road, which Rose was a member of, and that's how I met her."

The couple wrote to each other every day during his time doing national service

The couple moved in together at Rose's mother's home in Great Barr and after Mr Spragg was called up, they agreed to keep in touch through writing letters to each other.

The 83-year-old has kept every letter he was sent by Rose and has a collection of several hundred letters, a collection he said was a valuable record of national service and his relationship with Rose.

He said: "I sent the first letter on the first day I arrived at the barracks to begin my 14-weeks of training and we wrote to each other every day, except Sundays and when I was on manoeuvres.

"What you get from these letters is a good record of what the cold war was like and how I was one of the last intakes for national service.

"There are some things that are just between me and Rose, but the letters are a journey through my life in the service."

John was based at Guillemont Barracks in Hampshire during his national service, which ran from 1959 to 1961

One of the letters, which was sent to Mr Spragg in November 1960, showed the love and affection the couple had for each other.

It reads: "My darling John. Good morning love, how are you? Alright, I hope, because I need you very much.

"As I lay reading your letter this morning love, I could have cried. You get so close to me sometimes, it's like it's real.

"Thank for a lovely letter anyway, those etchings made me laugh."

The letters are an invaluable record of time spent in the services

After leaving the army, Mr Spragg began working for H&FC Spencers as a bricklayer and construction worker, while Rose worked in various jobs, including spells as a postwoman and a carer.

The couple will celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary in March, having got married at Erdington Parish Church on March 3, 1962, the year after he completed his national service, and also have two children, 54-year-old Harvey and 53-year-old Linda.

Mr Spragg said the letters were a great reminder of his budding relationship with Rose and said national service was something he was thankful to have done.

He said: "I wouldn't have missed it, looking back, as I got to do things like winter warfare training, which including skiing, and advanced watermanship training, which including yachting on the Baltic sea.

"It was a bit of a bugbear at the time when I was 21 because I was an apprentice in building construction and on good money, but it was the making of me and a great experience."

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