Love letters to Kim
The Australian Women's Weekly|June 2020
Earlier this year, a letter arrived on our editor’s desk, written by a reader, Carol Flanagan, about her much-loved elderly neighbour, Kim, and her correspondence with servicemen during the Second World War. We were so moved by Kim’s love letters and Carol’s reflections we decided to share them in full.
Carol Flanagan

I found the letters on the floor. I could easily have missed them, for the floor was deep in paper as though a burglar had visited (though a burglar might well have been more careful than the officers of the New South Wales Trustee and Guardian who were responsible for Kim’s affairs at the time).

They had sifted through the contents of her home with so much haste, or so little attention, that they had also missed an envelope full of cash, obviously Kim’s emergency funds, and Kim’s original advance care directive, both of which lay hidden amongst the years-old receipts and correspondence.

There was a dusty letter from Don Chipp, the former Liberal Cabinet Minister who had left Federal Parliament and founded a new political party, the Australian Democrats, in 1977.

Kim had evidently written to him and he had written back to thank her:

Dear Kim, What a beautiful person you must be …

He wasn’t wrong. Nor was he alone. Also consigned to the floor, were photos of Kim dining at a number of glamorous restaurants with a celebrated ABC newsreader of her time. She was exquisitely dressed in each. Her wardrobe was carefully stored in the front room of her Manly cottage – an entire clothes rack for long-sleeved silk blouses; another for sleeveless silk. She wore pearls and cashmere and kid gloves soft as satin. I only learned later that St Vincent de Paul was her boutique of choice.

The love letters were folded together in a manila envelope. I picked them up and they were in such good condition that it took a moment to register how old they were – they had all been written during the Second World War. They were from four different young men. The only thing that linked them was that each one contained a proposal of marriage.

It was clear that each had been part of a long correspondence, but Kim had kept only the letters in which her correspondents had proposed.

I feel that you have been very sweet writing so often to cheer me up and I think I shall do something about it although correspondence cannot help matters. I don’t know whether you have ever thought about making any arrangements about the future but I shall be delighted if you would consider my offer of an engagement which you might prefer to keep secret while this war lasts. I feel that a girl should not be tied up to anyone who might be incapacitated but I leave this entirely to you for your decision with your good judgement. As far as I am concerned you are the only girl who has ever thrilled me and I would love to have some sort of understanding between ourselves for the future.

Lots of love …

With the letters was a photograph of a young, 16-year-old Kim, smartly dressed in hat and gloves, snapped in a city street, and one of an equally good-looking man with a note on the back: “Mostar, Yugoslavia”. I can only guess the significance of the two photos. The man was probably Rolf, the German whom she married as soon as the Second World War ended and he was released from the internment camp where he had been imprisoned as an enemy alien. The one of Kim was probably the same one which she had sent to each of her correspondents, and which they all mentioned.

Your photo has taken the place of honour in the household on top of the wireless. Incidentally it has caused quite a commotion in the family. My cousin, who does quite a bit of model work … has told everyone about it. Of course they all want a look. It is really beautiful …

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