Troubador Ronnie and Hilda’s Romance

Released: 28/06/2019

ISBN: 9781789017977

eISBN: 9781789019902

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Ronnie and Hilda’s Romance

Towards a New Life after World War II

by

Ronnie and Hilda Williams met by chance aged 21 in Lancashire in November 1945, when Ronnie was home on his first leave after fighting in some of the most bitter campaigns of the Second World War in Italy.


With the uncertainty of the future and Ronnie’s obligation to return to active duty as a soldier abroad, Hilda and Ronnie took the ultimate leap of faith and became engaged after knowing each other for only ten days. Until Ronnie was demobbed in May 1947, their letters, over 250 of which remain, were their principal means of getting to know each other and form the main part of this heart-warming story.

These eloquent letters, which are in turn happy, sad, humorous, serious and informative, provide a fascinating and vivid glimpse of what life was like in the immediate post-War period, both for Ronnie, still suffering hardship in active service, and for Hilda in a Britain struggling to return to normality. Their determination to be together against all odds will stay with you until long after the final page.

Ronnie and Hilda’s Romance is a social and military history, a romance, and, above all, it is about hope for a new and better life after the long-awaited end of the Second World War.

"Ronnie and Hilda's Romance" is available for ordering from Troubador, as well as from all major booksellers and Amazon. The release date for both the paperback and ebook versions was June 2019.

Follow the YouTube link: https://youtu.be/Y48nsMzx9pA to watch Ronnie talking about how he and Hilda met, in a video dating back to 2009, four years after she died.

https://www.ronnieandhilda.co

Rochdale Observer

Middleton Guardian

That's Books

Rochdale Online

The Bookseller

'Ronnie and Hilda’s Romance' is precisely that: a heart-warming journey from a chance encounter and love at first sight through long periods of separation imposed by Ronnie’s army service overseas in the aftermath of the Second World War until he is finally discharged and they are at last able to marry in June 1947, 19 months after their first meeting. Yet this memoir is much more than its title might suggest. Author Wendy Williams’ decision to let her late parents’ extensive surviving correspondence speak for itself gives the two principal figures an extraordinarily vivid presence. Their copious letters, his frequently written at odd moments stolen from an almost ceaseless round of military duties, are a timeless evocation of a first love that was to endure for the rest of their lives. Yet the epistolary form means that we gain a first-hand impression of the background against which their romance developed. Hilda, in the first years of her teaching career, writes to her fiancé amidst the shortages and traumas of a post-War Britain struggling to heal its wounds and regain prosperity. The details she includes, at pains to share her day-to-day life with him in the only way she can, tell us much about the possibilities and limitations that ordinary people of her generation experienced. Entertainment, train travel and social pastimes were prominent, yet the practical challenges of setting up a home in readiness for their married life were huge.

The stark, unstated contrast with the deprivations that Ronnie experiences in continental Europe, rising rapidly through the military ranks but charged with mopping up the sometimes gruesome legacy of the Peace, is arresting. This is another world, and one too little known about today. He takes prisoners-of-war to the firing squad, fights chaotic organisation to bring a semblance of fairness to a detention camp; he tears down huts for firewood to keep himself warm in the freezing Austrian countryside. Longing only to return home finally to his wife-to-be, he applies all the skills and discipline that fighting in Italy had taught him to this no-man’s land of sinking morale as units are disbanded and prisoner escort duties deprive him of sleep. There are vivid impressions, too, of the places he sees, for he goes everywhere with eyes open and a mind curious to learn about this world so remote from his Rochdale home.

Wendy Williams has given her late parents the lasting voice – their own – that they deserve to have. Here are two young people in their early twenties, forced by historical and personal circumstances to grow up all too quickly. The skilful editing of the correspondence creates a sense of vivid dialogue between their two worlds. Ronnie and Hilda come alive for us, with all the sensitivities and foibles of real people, and, with them, they bring alive two worlds now all but lost to us. This is social history at first hand, and the well-judged annotations, introduction and appendices, complemented by an excellent range of photographic material, situate the personal story fascinatingly within the broader context of the period.

by Grahame Whitehead


This book promises much on the cover yet delivers ‘in Spades.’

As an insight to the hardships caused by administrative incompetence by HM command, by inference the failure of the 1945 government to honour its pledges to its troops, this is a sorry military record of failure which was buoyed-up by the total loyalty of those who had endured (and continued after) incredible deprivation in the service of King and Country.

Reading the letters from Lancashire one assumes all ‘tickety-boo’; read the book to realise the whole story.

Much recommended.

by John Keys


I began by browsing at random but quickly went back to the beginning and, two hours later, was still reading. It's a beautifully put-together account of a love story in late wartime but I was particularly gripped by what was going on in Hilda's life back in Lancashire - her day-to-day existence, living over the family shop and teaching in a secondary modern school, the outings to the pictures and evening classes that helped pass the time until she could be with her beloved Ronnie again, all the detailed hopes and plans for their subsequent marriage. These letters bring it all to life and helpful footnotes flesh out the background for us - a real first-hand social history.

by Kathryn Dews


Ronnie and Hilda’s Romance by Wendy Williams (their daughter) is a great love story written out by letters back and forth from Ronnie Williams and Hilda Cartwright during the early part of their relationship/courtship. The span was from when they first met in 1945 to when Ronnie was honorably discharged at the end of his service in the military.

Ms Williams also added a follow up including: their wedding, their married life, and their last years (together and apart).

I enjoyed reading all of the footnotes (as they added so many more fascinating tidbits) as well as the amazing pictures that were added.

I loved to be able to put faces with names. It was truly enjoyable to read a true romance blossoming and all of the fascinating things that happened on a daily basis in England at the post-war time.
Ms Williams is very lucky to have had such amazing parents with such a sweet, romantic story to tell.

by Rachel


Ronnie and Hilda’s Romance is told through a series of letters written over the course of eighteen months. After meeting and becoming engaged in a matter of ten days, Ronnie is posted overseas until he is demobilized from the army. For that reason, it is through these letters that their relationship, understanding, and love of each other developed and flourished.

The warmth and respect that these two people shared comes through with every word. I enjoyed reading the day to day happenings of Ronnie and Hilda dealing with life in the aftermath of WWII, it actually was very hard for me to put this book down once I started it. This is such a lovely book! An amazingly simple story, but it still had great depth.

by Laurie


A beautiful love story told through a series of letters, from 1945 it spans start of their courtship to marriage ( foot notes added include their wedding and married life which adds a lovely touch) this is a lovely true love story of a normal couple but an exceptional love. Well told and heartwarming, with pictures to accompany their letters.

by Tara


Ronnie and Hilda hit it off so well that within ten days, he proposed and the description here made me tear up for the first time. “He could only afford to buy a ring with the tiniest of stones, but she treasured it more than words could say.” That phrase recurs between the two of them in their letters as each sends the other little gifts during their long separation. It didn’t seem to matter what was exchanged – homemade cakes, stockings, toothpaste, a lipstick – the other was delighted and never hesitated to say so. I chuckled when it’s obvious that Ronnie’s army mates are teasing him a little when it’s clear he’s sitting and thinking of Hilda. And he never hesitates to spend what little precious free time he has writing long letters to her in between doing the 10,001 things the army orders him to do. Just thinking of her while he’s writing is reward enough for him.

The maturity shown in their correspondence is astounding but even at their young ages, Hilda was already an experienced, college educated teacher while Ronnie had been in the service for nearly five years. They clearly know their minds and give a lot of thought to their plans. But just because the war was won, it didn’t mean the tough times were over. Rationing and shortages were still the norm in Britain and Hilda must have been tickled to get those stockings that Ronnie found in Europe. Ronnie’s post war duties sounded horrible – guarding Nazi prisoners and conveying them to war trials – and the winter weather was atrocious.

But through the letters, we can see two level headed young people getting to know each other better and longing for their post war lives together to begin. It is indeed a world that is long gone but it – and their romance – come alive and warm my heart. And yeah, I enjoyed reading about Hilda’s two cats and her dog, too. Thank you for sharing their love and their story with the world. B

by Jayne


What a lovely book this is, giving us a glimpse into the lives of two ordinary people during the second world war. Their story is told via the numerous letters that flew back and forth between them while Ronnie was on active service.

These letters give us a rare portrait of what life was like during for war, both for those serving and those left waiting for them at home. Ronnie and Hilda's growing romance is an absolute joy to behold, and the couple are intensely likeable. The innocence shown in their letters made my heart ache at times, The respect and love they share is beautiful to see. For me it is the mundanities that stand out, the ordinary things they tell Eeach other, like Hilda buying some new powder, or what Ronnie had to eat. The footnotes giving you more information about subjects they talk about in their letters are great, because they give you a glimpse into their lives beyond the letters.

Wendy Williams has made her parents lives shine Brighton this book, and i feel very honoured to gave been able to get to know them through their letters. An absolute delight.

by Carolyn


The letters exchanged between this soon-to-be-married couple shortly after the Second World War illustrate beautifully both the social conditions in England at the time and the aftermath of the war in continental Europe. I admit I'm slightly biassed as I come from very close to where the couple were to live in Rochdale, but the detail of life at the time - really not that long ago - takes us into a very different world.

In parallel with Hilda's letters giving a flavour of life in England at the time, Ronnie's experience in the army are also an important reminder that the the war did not suddenly end in 1945. From his delightful comment on there being nothing worth seeing at the cinema, so he took in an opera at La Scala instead to chilling stories of guarding Nazis heading for war crimes trials, it's a salutary reminder of a very different time - but with an ultimately happy ending as the letters cease when the pair are finally united.

by Brian Clegg


(Amazon.com)
This biography was well researched and contained a lot of information that I hadn’t previously read in other books. The author’s attention to detail is evident in the writing. Highly recommend!

by Cristie


Very heart warming story. As a history buff, I found this story interesting because many people often forget about those stationed in Europe after the war. It was nice to get a glimpse into what took place afterwards. And who really doesn't love a good love story?!

by Kalina


(Goodreads and NetGalley)

It's a heartwarming book about love and the post-WWII era. Through the letters, one can sense the warmth and respect they have for each other. It was also a bit interesting looking at some of the photos, as it gives the story some faces.

by Kristin J.


Amazon.co.uk

A fascinating read for the history buff

So much detail about life in Britain immediately following the war from Hilda, while Ronnie's letters reveal as much about the aftermath of the war in Italy and Austria: the threat from Tito in Yugoslavia, the Russians making trouble with the Hungarians, all interspersed with the mundane detail of drills and kit inspections.
They give us insight into the political situation in Britain at that time: 'Yes, this Labour government made a grave mistake promising so many things', 'Stalin says Churchill is a warmonger'.
I highly recommend!

by Jennifer Douglas


(Goodreads)

What a wonderful,wonderful story of two people who loved each other! You don't see this kind of love story anymore! What a way to have lived how then and stayed with each other through anything! Net Galley gave this little love story of two separate people who became one! Such a nice read!

by Trick Wiley


What a wonderful,wonderful story off two people who loved each other! You don't see this kind of love story anymore! What a way to have lived how then and stayed with each other through anything! Net Galley gave this little love story of two separate people who became one! Such a nice read!

by Trick


An accurate history and a poignant read.....

An extraordinary experience to read about the past lives of people whom you grew up knowing just as your best friend's mum and dad into the spotlight! We have so much information about WW2 but perhaps not so many of us realise just how much the 'wind down' of the immediate post war years impacted upon the lives of soldiers and civilians. No wonder that in all the years I knew him, Ronnie could speak so fulsomely and eloquently about his army years. Hilda's mum, Mrs Cartwright, was a person my own mother and I honoured and respected, marvellous to see her memorialised and recorded in this way. What a life affirming book for all of us who seek to be connected with our past and what made us what we are.

Amazon.co.uk

by Amazon customer


This book can definitely go in the Romance section or even War. Ronnie and Hilda meet in 1945 and after a mere 10 days he proposes and she accepts. They had to wait until 1947 when he was demobbed before getting married and so what we have here is their letters to each other during this time - his experience in several countries in the aftermath of war and hers as an ordinary person coping in extraordinary times. This is a fantastic book, hard to put down especially as the author is their daughter. No loose ends here, we are told how life treated them, what they enjoyed doing and what happened to their friends and families. What a lovely couple they were! I defy anyone to read this and not have a tear in their eye afterwards.
(Goodreads)

by Irene


This collection of letters from 1945-47 between a soldier still serving abroad whilst awaiting demob, and his fiancée in Lancashire provide fascinating and often surprising insights into life in the posy-war years. Ronnie is stationed in various trouble spots in Europe: Italy, Austria, Hungary, where peace is still a long way off and the army must deal with crime, violence and vast numbers of displaced persons and PoWs. Hilda is a primary school teacher, living with her family and dealing with the problems of post-war Britain where everything was in short supply: housing, food, clothing.
This is an appropriate read for a commemorative year to remind us that D-day didn't mark the end of our troubles and left us with many unsolved problems.

by DoreenMarkam


This book can definitely go in the Romance section or even War. Ronnie and Hilda meet in 1945 and after a mere 10 days he proposes and she accepts. They had to wait until 1947 when he was demobbed before getting married and so what we have here is their letters to each other during this time - his experience in several countries in the aftermath of war and hers as an ordinary person coping in extraordinary times. This is a fantastic book, hard to put down especially as the author is their daughter. No loose ends here, we are told how life treated them, what they enjoyed doing and what happened to their friends and families. What a lovely couple they were! I defy anyone to read this and not have a tear in their eye afterwards.

by Irene


Ronnie Williams was the son of Thomas Henry Williams (known as Harry) and Ethel Wall. There's some doubt as to whether or not they were ever married or even Harry's birthdate: he claimed to have been born in 1863, but he was already many years older than Ethel and he might well have shaved a few years off his age. For a while the family was quite well-to-do but disaster struck in the 1929 Depression and five-year-old Ronnie had to adjust to a very different lifestyle. One thing he did inherit from his father was his need to be well-turned-out and this would stay with him throughout his life. He joined the army at eighteen in 1942.

Hilda was just six months younger than Ronnie. She was the daughter of Wilfred James Cartwright and the former Edith Ashworth: Wilfred and Edith were shopkeepers. Hilda met Ronnie in late 1945 when she went to someone else's house to have a bath: had she been half an hour earlier or later they might never have met. Ronnie had never had a girlfriend before but he knew that Hilda was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He proposed when they had only known each other for ten days - and Hilda accepted. There was just one problem: Hilda was in living in Rochdale and Ronnie had to return to the army, initially in Milan. He would not be demobbed until April 1947 and the couple got to know each other by sending letters every couple of days. Hilda and Ronnie's Romance is built on the content of those letters.

History is rarely written by the people who were there at the time and even if it is, it's unusual for what's written to be contemporaneous. Events are filtered through memory, which makes its own adjustments as time goes by. In Hilda and Ronnie's Romance we have two people, with few axes to grind, who simply want to get to know each other, to know what the other has been doing and to plan for their future. In reading what they have to say to each other we learn about the state of post-war Britain, with its shortages, privations and restrictions as well as the chaos of a Europe in the immediate aftermath of the surrender of Germany.

Hilda was a teacher and Ronnie rose from being a Private when we first meet him to the lofty heights of Staff Sergeant some sixteen months later. Both are mature for their age - just twenty one in 1945 - and Ronnie is particularly responsible, although neither is good with money. It's a tribute to author Wendy Williams that she allows the real personalities to emerge, only removing from the letters anything which was intensely personal.

Whilst Hilda and Ronnie are obviously wrapped up in each other, it's not to the exclusion of other people. Hilda provides news about her extended family and she's also conscious of the effect of war on the men who are sent to fight it:

Their minds and feelings have got hurt by what they've seen and experiences, and things like that take a long time to heal. I think that is one of the worst and most terrible effects of war - its effects on people mentally, morally and spiritually, even more so than physically.

That's particularly insightful for one so young. I did wonder too how Hilda and Ronnie would have felt about having their correspondence published, but, once again, Hilda provided me with an answer:

What Memories! I could write a book of them. I say, that's an idea. Maybe I will do some day. I'm sure I could produce an interesting life-story even now.

Hilda never got around to it, but her daughter has done an excellent job for her.

by Sue Magee - The Bokbag


I have read a lot WWII genre stories - fiction and non-fiction alike - but Ronnie and Hilda's Romance is different. Through a collection of letters, Ronnie and Hilda recount the daily goings on of their lives to one another during the time that Ronnie is serving overseas in Italy during the war and after he returns. A unique way to recount how the war affected those serving overseas and those waiting back at home.

by Kerrie


Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams is a translator and reviser, with academic qualifications in foreign languages, literature, and translation. Originally from Rochdale in Lancashire, she now lives in the East Midlands. Reading, writing, and social and family history are amongst her great passions. She is also a partner in a small music production business.


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