Paul Martin wrote a telegram to his beloved Enid on June 6, 1944.
The Transcona resident, who just turned 93 on March 25, penned the letter while on a ship to France as part of the Canadian infantry. Just hours after writing the letter, Martin was among 14,000 Canadians storming Normandy on D-Day.
The brief but heartfelt note is on display at the Transcona Historical Museum as part of its Love Letters to Transcona exhibit, which opened with a wine and cheese reception on March 21.
Interestingly, the letter provides some details about the mission Operation Overlord, which generally would have been caught and deleted by military censors, said museum curator Erin McIntyre.
Martin said most telegrams home were quite basic, and didn’t delve into much depth, making his message of love to Enid, who was based in England, a rare one.
"They gave us a little message, and you could only reply ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘I’m fine’," said Martin.
"Anything added, they would destroy it."
Three months after D-Day, Martin returned to England to attend the Royal Military College to receive his commission as lieutenant. He reunited with Enid, and they were soon married. Their first son, Peter, was born in England, and is now the president of the museum’s board.
The museum had put out a call for submissions from the community, and received 14 of them, which satisfied McIntyre as it was the first time the museum had made such a request.
"We received a great response from the community, and I’m really excited to see how they react to it," said McIntyre before the opening. "What we asked for were photographs that meant something – the only criteria was that they were meaningful to the person that was submitting them – and a little write-up about why they chose that photograph.
"There are recent photos, as recent as 2012 from the Hi Neighbour parade, and there are photographs dating back close to 100 years. There’s a huge range."
It’s also a chance for members of the public to enjoy highlights of the museum’s photo collection, which McIntyre estimated at 10,000. She said forms will be made available to anyone looking for a copy of any of the displayed photographs.
In addition to Love Letters to Transcona in the front part of the museum, an exhibit entitled Work – Life – Play: CN Transcona Shops, Celebrating 100 Years explores the influence of the Transcona Shops in all aspects of community life. The Transcona Shops marked their centennial on Jan. 18. As well, the Interactive Zone for kids has been expanded for the coming year.
The museum, located at 141 Regent Ave. W., is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.