Inspired by her household’s hero, a nine-year-old girl held a jumble sale in 1943 to play her own small part in the war effort against Nazi Germany.
A princely sum of £2 was raised in aid of the Red Cross ‘Aid for Russia’ campaign, and the schoolgirl wrote to 10 Downing Street with a postal order for the sum.
What happened next inspired her as she later embarked on a writing career which has, to date, seen her sell almost 90 million copies of her own stories.
Yorkshire’s best-selling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford was the girl in question and in return for her gesture she received a personal letter of gratitude from Clementine Churchill, the wife of Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
Dated April 1943, and on 10 Downing Street headed paper, the PM’s wife wrote: “I am most grateful to you for the trouble you have taken to help the heroic Russians in their terrible but heroic struggle against the wicked invaders of their country.”
While Sir Winston’s own writings remain world-famous, his wife’s literary endeavours are less well-known. However, as Taylor Bradford’s letter reveals, Lady Churchill played a key role in boosting morale on the Home Front - in this case bolstering the spirits of a schoolgirl from Leeds.
For Barbara Taylor, the letter has been a prize possession which until recently has been framed in Plexiglass in her New York home.
Today the author visited the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College in Cambridge where she handed over the letter so that it can be enjoyed by others.
She said: “When I was growing up in Yorkshire during the Second World War, I wanted to do something to help the war effort. Encouraged by my parents, Winston and Freda Taylor, I held a jumble sale in my mother’s garden.
“Small kitchen and household items, given to me by my mother, grandmother and aunts went on sale. At the end of the afternoon, everything had been sold for a few pennies each, but everyone was well pleased.
“Can you imagine the lovely surprise for this little girl to get a personalised reply from the wife of the iconic Winston Churchill?
“I have treasured that letter ever since. However, I wanted to ensure that this piece of history can be enjoyed by many more than those who visit my home.”
As a wartime child, Taylor Bradford has never forgotten the power of Sir Winston’s rhetoric.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “I was very much involved with Winston Churchill as a child because I grew up with another Winston, my father, and my grandmother always though Sir Winston was a fabulous young man. My father was born in 1900, just after Sir Winston had escaped from the Boer War so she called her son Winston.
“My grandmother and my mother both absolutely revered him so I wanted to do my bit and help with the war effort.
“He has always been my great hero. I don’t discuss him as a politician, he was a man the people loved; he understood them. With simple words, great words, he saved this nation with his oration and rhetoric.
“He galvanised the country and made people believe that we would win the war.”
At the Churchill Archives Centre, the author also got to see the original drafts of some of Sir Winston’s most famous speeches, books and journalism.
Born in Leeds in 1933, Barbara Taylor once worked at the Yorkshire Evening Post and has since gone on to pen 31 novels.