A history-loving charity shop volunteer got more than she bargained for after unearthing a wartime journal buried in a box of donations. Sally Noble made the discovery while helping out at the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) shop in Hadleigh High Street.
The A5 journal was among a box of “very old and fragile” books and had been written by a French Scout making a pilgrimage through his homeland in 1942. Sally typed his name into a family history website and was stunned to find contact details for a relative living on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia.
The pair swapped emails and the journal has now been delivered via courier.
“I have a background in antiques and am interested in history and ancestry, so found this fascinating,” said Sally, who was speaking during EACH’s Be the Difference campaign – a fortnight-long drive to recruit more volunteers for its 46 shops.
“It’s a lovely discovery and I was amazed to find it, among a box of donations. I was able to translate parts of it as I speak some French. I established that it was written by a young man on a pilgrimage and it was clearly very personal to him.
“It’s more of a reflective journal than an account of daily happenings. At one point he says ‘I don’t know if Christianity will be a part of my life’, which is very profound given that he went on to become a Jesuit Priest.
“That much I’ve discovered since, along with the fact he didn’t ever marry. I also know that he died in 2003, aged 80. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and is absolutely fascinating, although what I can’t understand is how he was on this pilgrimage in 1942, during the Second World War.
“France would have been occupied, so that part is a mystery.”
After doing some digging, Sally made contact with the relative and she believes the writer was his great, great uncle.
“I went home and typed the writer’s name into my computer, using a family history website,” she said.
“Sure enough, a relative popped up and I subsequently swapped messages with him. He came back within 24 hours. I got the feeling he was a bit taken aback but certainly grateful to be contacted.”
Sally said the journal was in a box full of old books.
“They’re falling apart and I’d describe the journal as fragile,” she added.
“It’s beginning to show its age. The paper is deteriorating and pages are starting to tear. I wrapped it in tissue and looked after it with kid gloves until sending it to New Caledonia. Hopefully this shows how much care and respect we have for donations.
“We go through everything and value every item.”
EACH’s latest Be the Difference campaign runs until Sunday (21st May). The charity relies on voluntary donations for the majority of its income and, this year alone, needs to raise £6.5 million from its Retail operation, which includes stores across Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex and a busy Retail Distribution Centre, in Thetford.
For more information about volunteering, speak to a member of staff in-store or contact volunteer services on 01223 205183. Alternatively, email email@example.com