Mini-series: Read letters sent home by 21-year-old Fusilier whilst based on Isle of Wight during WWII: Part Three

Third part of our mini-series, Billy’s letters to his family provide a great unfiltered insight into the life, thoughts, concerns and day-to-day duties of an everyman as he’s moved around the Island to protect it.

billy and his regiment of fusiliers

Continuing with our mini-series of letters written by a 21-year-old Fusilier Douglas William John Harmer, known as Billy, was posted to the Isle of Wight during WWII.

As Billy writes to his family describing his time posted to the Isle of Wight during the Second World War, his letters give a great unfiltered insight into the life, thoughts, concerns and day-to-day duties of an everyman as he is moved around the Island to protect it.

Transcribed by uncle
Billy’s letters have been shared with us and transcribed by his nephew, Ray Gaines, who says,

“In transcribing the letters I have kept the prose and grammatical errors in, to maintain the authenticity. As can be imagined Billy wrote his letters hurriedly and in not particularly favourable conditions.”


Fus. Harmer 6465127
W Company (8 Platoon)
2 Batt. Royal Fusiliers
Isle of Wight

Tuesday 7th July 1940

Dearest Mum

Hope you are all well at home. I received the parcel from…..?…..ok. I also got the 50 fags from the B2..?  

And have replied thanking them. I received your parcel ok with the pullover and the grub, it was alright. I am afraid it’s not much good sending me the wrist watch strap as I broke my watch the other night. I feel lost without it, as I relied on it a lot on sentry-go, so I wonder if you could get me a cheap reliable one with an aluminous dial.

I can put in for a big week, or if you could send my post office book I could send you the money, which ever way you think is best. I hope you won’t mind but I have no way of getting one down here.

Some of our chaps have already gone on leave, I hope my turn will be soon. Yesterday it was a lovely day and the sea was warm, so I went in for a couple of hours.

We had a raft there, actually it was a ship’s gang plank which we pushed a good way out and then rode back on the waves. Nearly every morning a few officers and civilians come down here for swimming.

Well dear Mum that’s about all I can say for now. So cheerio, love to all.

Your loving son Bill.


Fus. Harmer 6465127
W Company (8 Platoon)
2 Batt. Royal Fusiliers
Isle of Wight

Dearest Mum

Hope you are well at home. I received the watch ok and am very pleased with it and it is going alright.

Since I wrote my other letter I have been in the sea nearly every day trying to learn to swim. Sunday, 4th August we moved back to Brook House where we are doing a weeks training, only our platoon.

We start at 6 o/clock, have an hour for dinner, and finish at 4 o/clock. Then the rest of the day is ours. This afternoon the Duke of Gloucester visited Freshwater Bay but I did not see him.

Last Friday 2nd August a party of us went into Newport by coach, about 8 of us, we have two old ones attached to our company. The pictures were good and I look forward to going next week.

Newport is quite a larger town with two cinemas and big shops. We came out of the pictures at 6 o/clock, had tea, and wandered around the town until 8 o/clock, then the coach picked us up.

I am sorry I can’t get home to cut Dad’s hair, but I hope to be home soon, then perhaps Joan can get her holiday. Well cheerio dear Mum, love to all.

Your Loving son Bill.

Billy standing in a field

Fus. Harmer 6465127
W Company (8 Platoon)
2 Batt. Royal Fusiliers
Isle of Wight

Saturday 10th August 1940

Dearest Mum

Hope you are all well at home, I expect you have received my other letter by now, thanking you for the watch, it is going ok. Last week we were doing a weeks training at Brook House which is our company HQ. We did not keep the Bank Holiday up but I went bathing in the afternoon.

Yesterday we moved to Brook Bay, we are sleeping in a small holiday hut. I am not going in the sea today as it is rather windy and the water is rough, but it is a bright and sunny day, although there are too many rocks in the bay.

We have a café a few yards away called the Lifeboat Café. The boathouse has been panelled out and fitted up as a café, but the lifeboat oars and boat hook are still hanging up on the walls, and on the walls are printed the names of ships which the lifeboat has assisted. There is usually a café where there are bathers or holiday huts.

I am sorry to hear that Nell and Ron have lost ‘Old Bill’ a racing pigeon. I thought you said Nell was going to write, I haven’t had a letter yet. Ask her if she has any old books she can let me have, it’s a job to get books on the island.

I expect Dad has had his hair cut by now but I expect he’ll want a trim up when I come home on leave. I don’t know when I shall get my leave. About seven blokes have gone out of our platoon so far, but I will let you know directly I am told.

Well dear Mum that’s about all I can say for now so cheerio, remember me to everyone up the bungalow.

Love to all, your loving son Bill.


Fus. Harmer 6465127
W Company (8 Platoon)
2 Batt. Royal Fusiliers
Isle of Wight

Wednesday 14th August 1940 

Dearest Mum

Hope you are all well and that you have not had any air raids, although they seem to be bringing a lot of planes down. I expect you have read in the papers that the Isle of Wight was bombed but there have been none dropped near us, though we hear explosions and machine gun fire we don’t often see anything. Several planes have been brought down on the island.

Monday I went to get a new battle dress. A crowd of us went by coach.

We saw one of our ‘spitfires’ down, the engine had been hit by bullets and the pilot, a young Canadian, had brought the plane about thirty foot from the cliff edge. The wing was broken but the pilot had only injured his arm slightly. A German bomber came down near one of our other companies and they had to guard it. The gunner in the tail turret had been shot through the eye.

I have not been in the water lately as it is rather cold and rough. Three chaps are going home this week on leave. I think I should get my leave in about a months time.

The chap I knew at Southall, the Lance Corporal, was made up to a full Corporal and transferred to another company. I am glad to hear Joan’s kitten is getting on alright.

This morning we went down to Freshwater Bay to have a bath. There was some children playing with a black dog. They were stroking it and it rolled over on its back, reminding me of little ‘Tich’, it made me feel quite sad. I expect one of the chaps Joan saw at the dance in sailor’s uniform was Ginger May, he was a friend of George Waldren.

Well dear Mum that’s about all I can say for now, so cheerio.

Love to all, your loving son Bill.


Fus. Harmer 6465127
W Company (8 Platoon)
2 Batt. Royal Fusiliers
Isle of Wight

Sunday 18th August 1940

Dearest Mum

Hope you are all well at home. I expect you got Dad’s letter by now. I don’t suppose you have had any air raids at home.

Yesterday there was a mass air raid for about an hour, we could see and hear the planes diving over the top of us. One bloke jumped out in a parachute, another plane nearly dived into the sea but just pulled out of the dive in time, but they drove most of them off.

This morning we had a church parade at the local church. We do alright for a bit of grub at night.

Our outpost is on the cliff behind a big hospital. About three o’clock in the morning one of us goes down there and the matron puts us out 2 flasks of cocoa and some grub.

Last night we had 3 ham sandwiches and 2 lumps of cake each. Some nights when we go on we get a bag of oranges, so we don’t do too bad.

I think I should get my leave in about a fortnight. Nearly every night we go down to the pub which is only a few yards down the road. They have a piano and one of our chaps plays ok, so we have a good sing song.

Well dear Mum I must close now, if you have a few spare sweets or biscuits you can send them along.

Love to all, your loving son Bill.


Look out tomorrow for the final set of letters written by Billy Harmer to his family whilst stationed on the Isle of Wight during WWII in 1940.

Read Part One | Read Part Two | Read Part Four

Monday, 9th September, 2019 4:25pm

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Thank you, can anybody name the pub/cafe’s or anything else that’s mentioned???