“The Pen Knib Is a Bit Funny”

Restored 1933/4 Triang dolls’ house (not Brenda’s – her’s was a homemade ‘orange crate’ house). This model was still in production just before and straight after the War. During the War, the Triang factory was used to produce munitions.

More wartime letters found with a dolls’ house, abandoned on the pavement outside a charity shop. The letters came from an eight year old to her father, who was in the RAF and stationed many miles from home.  Children’s wartime letters are not easy to find and give us a fascinating glimpse into lives historians rarely cover.

Brenda’s father had worked as an upholsterer before the War. Their home was large, comfortable and ‘stockbroker’ belt.

Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

4.11.41 Nov.

My Dearest Daddy Pet. how are you Dear? Quite well I hope. Well I am very sorry I haven’t written to thank you for the very nice parcel and sweets  I can’t thank you enough for it. Exuse my bad writing won’t you, but the pen knib is a bit funny. I think Mummy will like the neckles [necklace] and I think you are very kind to think of shuch nice things. Fancy only forty days till Christmas. I am making my dollie a coat, sharf, and am making myself an apron. It is half past 7. Well I must say good bey for know so I hope you are quite [sic].

   Tons of love from your loving Deaghter Brenda 










[Ink. Addressed to dad in Hexham, Northumberland

“My pen knib is funny…”

29.9.42 September

To My Dearest Daddy Pet.

How are you to-day? Dear, quite well I hope. Isn’t it just lovely that you will be home tomorrow. Won’t we have a time to-gether. I should think Mummy will like her preasant. It is raining to-day. I hope you will like the bag I have made you a needle-case. It has left off raining. I can eat choclet. I hope you are quite well. Lots of love from Brenda. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[Ink. Envelope addressed to father at his billet in Blackpool, Lancashire.].

There were a great number of RAF personnel stationed in Blackpool.

Polish airmen receiving instruction in wireless telegraphy at the Polish Air Force Depot, RAF Blackpool, 27 August 1940. Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

Sewing kits/hussifs were issued to soldiers in WW2, but maybe as an upholsterer, who cared about his needles, Brenda’s father wanted something a little more special, or Brenda knew that a needlecase she made would be treasured. These simple letters speak eloquently of the loss and separation of family members during War. My own father once told me he only saw his own father once during the War – as grandad was in the Territorial Army so left home as soon as War was declared, and by the end of the War, dad was a soldier as well. My grandfather was in Europe; father in India. Their leaves coincided just once and they met up in Trafalgar Square.

When my dad was demobbed in 1947, and came home – his father walked right past him at Leeds train station. He didn’t recognise him. His mother, of course, knew him instantly. Brenda seems to have seen her father more often yet with sometimes hundreds of miles between this small, close family, it must have been incredibly difficult, for Brenda and millions of other children across Europe, to live without a loved one, for their formative years.

Brenda mentioned knitting for her dolls – whether these were tiny, dolls’ house dolls or larger ones, – we can’t know.

Wartime wool choices were more limited. Ad from ‘The Land Girl’ magazine, Yorkshire Museum of Farming.


2 replies on ““The Pen Knib Is a Bit Funny””

These blogposts are completely delightful and the letters reminds me of those written by my then 9 year old mother to her father when he was in a sanatorium.

The doll’s house connection is of particular interest to me because I have been collecting houses for over 40 years and now have a small private museum in the Czech Republic which is where my family originally hailed from….

Thank you for telling this tale…


Hi Penny,
I love reading your articles and snippets. I’ve retired now from Armley Mills but my interest in textile history goes on so I love to follow your findings.
Go well.


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