Geoffrey Cotterell, Letters I, October 1945

These letters were written to the family home, Ham Frith, by Geoffrey Cotterell to his parents. All Geoffrey’s letters are addressed to his mother unless otherwise stated. 

Ham Frith, Wanstead, Anthony and Geoffrey’s family home

The letter sequence begins just as Geoffrey has been posted to Occupied Germany. He is an Army Major, with excellent language skills, including German.

Undated but probably around 20-22nd October 1945

Herewith the first note, although there is nothing to report yet. We went from Dover, had a perfect crossing and are now in a transit camp – presumably a former German Barracks – waiting to move on.

23 October

We moved from Ostend yesterday morning … Shops bright and marvellously lit. We are now at Lierre which is fairly close to Antwerp. I visited Antwerp last night. Marvellous lights, scents, fountain pens, etc: most enjoyable. More British about than Belgians. But the whole impression I found quite unreal; there is also still the same smell of cigar smoke everywhere, though of course not many cigars.

25 October, letter to Father

Geoffrey refers to article in News Chronicle which says that even British and American liaison officers have been refused admittance to the Russian zone in their search for British and American D.P.s [displaced persons]. ‘So that settles that … There are British people in Russia.’ At this stage in the search, one of the leading theories was that Anthony was being held by the Russians.

The food in the officers clubs is simply superb. My dinner last night was totally pre-war, though perhaps a little less in quantity. All the shops, which have beautiful displays, are lit up at night, and make me realise what a fantastic amount we haven’t got. All knick-knacks, of course, scent, grapes in millions, furniture, Frank Harris (in a brown cover), a great many shoe shops with lousy shoes. Not a soul has asked me for a cigarette or offered to exchange something! This is most disappointing. Para 4 of Leave Regulations puts all brothels out of bounds. Everything in the way of drink is vilely expensive once you leave the officers’ clubs, which are so good: they are simply hotels taken over by the NAAFI and mainly run by former staff.

The letter concludes that Geoffrey has not received the notification for his posting yet, and so he is going to take the chance to go to Holland where all the major incidents which surrounded Anthony’s disappearance took place. 

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