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Love letters from war with link to Max Miller
A BOOK of letters sent from the battlefields of World War II from a Brighton soldier to his sweetheart will feature in an exhibition When her mother Doreen died Jenny Hall discovered a chocolate box containing two hundred letters written from her late father Ray Harris to her mother between 1940 and 1945.
The letters reveal her dad’s unique link with Brighton Second World War comic Max Miller.
In 1930 Ray, aged 16, met Doreen while performing in his father’s travelling show at the Henderson Circus, named in the Beatles song Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite on the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
He survived the war and came home to Brighton.
Ray had a clown act and Doreen sold tickets for her parents’ wolf exhibit.
When the war began in 1939 Ray and Doreen were pen-friends and the letters will now be shown at the Brighton Museum in June.
Jenny, aged 66, of Fisher Close in Southgate, Crawley, said: “His letters were shy at first but later revealed more emotion and passion after they got engaged and then were married in Preston Park.
“Throughout the war they remained upbeat and reassuring, protecting Doreen from the horrors he faced.”
Ray served as a tank driver for the 7th Armoured Division, later known as the Desert Rats.
He was also a comedian and producer in a concert party of three called the Jerboa Strollers that entertained the troops.
In his act Ray told jokes and did Max Miller impressions.
To help his act Ray wrote to Max Miller, who he had never met before, and asked if he could send him some material, which, to his delight, he did.
Jenny said: “Max Miller was reputed to be mean but he wrote my father lovely letters and offered his help.”
Ray fought with his division in every major battle during the North African Campaign, and later in Italy and the D-Day landings in Normandy, before ending the war in Germany.
Ray’s last letter to Doreen before he returned safely home ended: “Won’t be long now. P.S Get that cup of tea ready. Brighton here I come!”
• Jenny’s book, A Desert Rat Entertains, is available from the Brighton Pavilion bookshop, City Books and Waterstones.
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