I laughed and cried like hell

Joan Wyndham in the 1960s.
Photo: JoanWyndham.com

In April of 1943, Joan Wyndham met Hans Gundersen, a six-foot tall Norwegian sailor with blonde hair and blue eyes who would feature regularly in her diary until they parted ways in January of 1945. This entry came half-way through their romance: Hans was away on duty, and Joan hadn’t heard from him for weeks. Then a letter arrived. Decades later, those diaries were published in two volumes, Love Lessons and Love is Blue, and the wartime escapades of Joan Wyndham—born in Wiltshire, England in 1921—were enjoyed far and wide.

The Diary Entry

5th February

I haven’t eaten for two days. After a night of bad dreams I crawled wearily down to see if I could swallow some breakfast and there was this amazing drunken letter. I laughed and cried like hell. His writing was almost unreadable but in the end I managed to make it out.

Beloved Joan,

I never died! However being away from you is a living death! I am drunk! Drunk! Very jolly drunk!

But in my drunken heart your sober picture glows as always, you bloody bastard! I love you as distracted – I will be down to you soon, I hope.

Later: I am still drunk! I never fucked anybody up here! I haven’t! Oh God, I wish I had you! I take sherry. Still drunk.

My gorgeous woman! – more sherry – I want you night and day. I need you, with dreams haunting my sleep, to have you here, to feel you here – oh maddening thought, it makes me xxxxxxxx—xxxxxxxx !!!! ????????

Darling Joan, Jenta me, I am so bloody fond of you. As ever, now and in eternity.



This was probably the nicest letter I had ever received in my life, and I was so crazy with relief that it gave me the most wonderful appetite for breakfast. I really do think I ought to marry him after the war. It would be the salvation of me, apart from the fact that I love him like hell.

Further Reading

If you are yet to meet Joan Wyndham, I’d advise starting with Love Lessons, the first of her diaries to published, and its “sequel,” Love is Blue. Both are wartime diaries; both are great. Should you want more, there are two other memoirs to her name: Anything Once, published in 1982, which chronicles Joan’s life beyond the war, and Dawn Chorus, published in 1994, in which she writes about her earlier years.

Diary entry reprinted by kind permission of her daughter, Camilla Shivarg from Love Lessons: A Wartime Diary.

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